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Publisher's Summary

Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal elf. Her father, a great elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril.

Our Review

This novel portrays one of the greatest love stories ever told, and I do not say that lightly. Inspired by Romeo and Juliet, as well as several fairytales, this tale of Beren and Luthien is absolutely a must-read for fans of Tolkien’s work.

Tolkien’s ideas for the story of Beren and Luthien evolved over time, which is why this book assembles many of the different versions of the story, some of them incomplete, and assembles them in a rough chronological order. Christopher Tolkien also provides some much-needed commentary, explaining some of the inconsistencies and marking the evolution of his father’s thought process. So it doesn’t exactly flow like a single narrative. Instead, it jumps to various versions of the story, some of which are quite different from each other. I do appreciate, however, that there is an in-universe explanation for the inconsistencies. Christopher Tolkien makes it look like the different versions of the story stem from different accounts, adding to the mythical nature of Tolkien’s work.

The story itself is epic romance in its highest form. Beren and Luthien are a man and an elf who fall in love against the wishes of Luthien’s father. But her father does say that Beren could have her hand in marriage if he could take one of the Silmarils from the crown of Morgoth. The Silmarils are jewels of surpassing beauty and power, and function much like the ring in the Lord of the Rings. But getting it from Morgoth is essentially an impossible task. He is the dark lord of the story, and this is essentially like asking Beren to go into hell and steal something from Satan. But he agrees, thinking it a small task for the hand of Luthien.

He leaves, and eventually, Luthien does as well. And they have many adventures together. But I won’t spoil all of that for you, because it’s a really great story. I love that, while Luthien starts out as a sort of typical medieval maiden, she eventually becomes a heroine unparalleled in Tolkien’s work. She’s usually getting Beren out of trouble for the entire story. And with the help of a talking hound, she even manages to best Sauron himself.

So as far as the core story goes, I definitely recommend you read it. And if you’re a fan of Tolkien’s work, and want a more in-depth look at his thought process concerning this story in particular, you’ll want to pick it up.

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