We still have more than a month to wait before Game of Thrones returns to rain fire and blood all over our Sunday nights, which means some of us might be going through a bit of fantasy withdrawal. There are lots of ways to treat this problem, of course, including loads of epic fantasy books, video games and films. Today, though, the ultimate cure may have arrived: A new J.R.R. Tolkien book.
A new Middle-earth tale edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher, Beren and Lúthien, was just published by HarperCollins. The book represents a century of revisions by father and son on one of the fantasy master’s most cherished stories, an epic romance inspired by Tolkien’s real life marriage.
Beren and Lúthien dates back to 1916 and Tolkien’s return from fighting in France during World War I. While walking in the woods with his wife, Edith, he watched her dance in a flower-filled glade. In that moment of perfect happiness and peace, he conceived the story of a mortal man (Beren) who fell in love with an immortal elf (Luthien). Their love was forbidden by Lúthien’s father, who forced Beren to undertake a seemingly impossible quest to win her hand. That quest and its consequences were more than just a great love story. They also eched throughout the history of Tolkien’s vast world, giving the tale a central place in the mythology of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien considered Beren and Lúthien one of the most important Middle-earth tales and his deeply personal connection to it persisted throughout his life. The names Beren and Luthien are inscribed next to J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien’s names on their shared gravestone in Oxford.
Versions of the story appear in other Tolkien books, including The Lays of Beleriand and The Silmarillion. It’s also retold by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) in the extended version of The Fellowship of the Ring, mirroring the human-elf romance between Aragorn and Arwen (Liv Tyler). Like The Children of Hurin before it, the new book is an adaptation by Christopher Tolkien, taking his father’s unfinished versions of the tale and shaping them into a standalone narrative.
Complete with illustrations by legendary Tolkien artist Alan Lee, Beren and Lúthien is essential for Tolkien completists, as well as a welcome summer reading surprise for those of us craving fantasy.