And I do mean love. This is THE love story of the Middle-earth.
The news dropped this week that we’d be getting our first new Middle-Earth based book since The Children of Hurin from 2007. This time around they cooked up something that speaks directly to, or at least more directly, to even non-diehard fans of JRR Tolkien, revealing that Beren and Luthien will be published next year. This is great news for me because The Silmarillion is perhaps my favorites of Tolkien’s writings.
— HarperCollinsUK (@HarperCollinsUK) October 19, 2016
That said, there are many fans that only go film deep or just have some passing experience with the trilogy or The Hobbit in literary form, so I thought I’d briefly cover some very general points that connect the story of Luthien and Beren to the greater fandom without relaying the story that you are going to get read, or at least aspects that will be pulled to the narrative of the upcoming book.
Tolkien wrote a LOT. Even beyond his published fiction there are volumes upon volumes of appendices and glossary material like his History of Middle Earth volumes, not to mention various letters and poems. Among all of that the story of Beren and Luthien was of particular significance to him, something he viewed as central to his entire legendarium. It was so important it marks his final resting place with his wife.
Luthien is incredibly relevant to the trilogy characters, especially the love story we see in the film between Aragorn and Arwen. Arwen’s father, Elrond, is Luthien’s great grandson. Further, the line of kings of Numenor, from which Aragorn comes from, now follow me, is descended from Elrond’s brother. Aragorn and Arwen are actually first cousins, sixty some odd times removed.
The story of Luthien and Beren mimics that of Aragorn and Arwen as these are two of four examples in history of a union between the immortal Elves and a mortal. I want to be clear to people that the films are distinctly different than the novel-canon but I do want to note that in the Fellowship of the Ring movie Aragon eludes to Luthien when he answers Frodo’s question about the song he is singing and tells him:
“the lay of Lúthien, an elf-maid who gave her love to Beren, a mortal.”
Obviously this relates to Aragorn and Arwen himself a great deal.
Arwen is viewed by her people as favoring Luthien, which is the best of compliments because Luthien is considered the most beautiful of all of Illuvatar’s children (meaning all men and elves ever). So Aragorn has exceptional taste.
As an aside, I know there is a faction of fandom that had issues with Arwen’s role in the films and by both extension and autonomously Liv Tyler’s portrayal. I’m a big book guy but I don’t fall in that category, I think Liv was magical in the role though I’m so happy she didn’t appear at Helm’s Deep like reportedly initially first planned. I think that scene ended up being a great cinematic moment anyway, as when the Elves arrive is one of my favorite moments of the film-canon.
So Beren and Luthien are kind of a Aragorn and Arwen 1.0, except their adventures together are way more hardcore (mind out of the gutter) and hands on together in major affairs of the time, and while I love the latter it very much so is supposed to be a reflection of a more primal, personal, and maybe even more powerful predecessor, though I have to admit the visual beauty and the accompanying perfect music of Peter Jackson’s adaptation really left an impression on me, even if in an alt-telling fashion.
Beren and Luthien is scheduled to come out next April and I will be getting it day one if I don’t get a review copy. I know some may have bad experiences or maybe just jump on bandwagons on social media about lackluster content coming from deceased legends but I think is one of the few cases where I have no worries.
Unlike other science fiction or fantasy classics that have heirs who have and continue to dilute the work of their predecessor’s that they have inherited, Christoper Tolkien is pretty unassailable as a custodian of Tolkien’s work. Look whose name is prominent on the book, look also that he takes the role of editor, as he curates his father’s copious amounts of aforementioned works, both published and unpublished.
Love that Alan Lee cover art too.