The brand new just published (June 1) book Beren and Lúthien presents the story of the human (or should I say “Man”?) Beren Erchamion, or “The One-Handed” (AKA Beren Camlost, for “the Empty Handed”) and the Elf-maiden Lúthien Tinúviel.
If you read The Lord of the Rings you may recall Aragorn telling their story to Frodo.
This Man and this Elf-Maiden lived over 6,000 years before the time of the Lord of the Rings, and their story is told in several places throughout the LOTR literature, in books that, frankly, most people don’t read. Christopher Tolkien, heir of J.R.R. Tolkien, and mapmaker of the The Lord of the Rings, created Beren and Lúthien from those original texts, and the book, much delayed, is coming out right now. You can pre order it here.
The story is in the form of Hercules’ myth, with the quest set to Beren to steal a Silmaril, which is a special jewel, from the Ainur Melkor. That would be roughly like trying to steal Donald Trump’s tweeting device while he is under the protection of the United States Secret Service. Or maybe a little harder.
Beren is sent on this quest because it is the only way he can keep dating the Elf-Maiden Lúthien, according to her Elf-Lord father.
Tolkien, in his own tradition which was not as uncommon in, say, the 19th century as it is now, having slowly disappeared over time, played fast and lose with his stories, changing them quite a bit across published forms. This happened within some of the texts, like The Hobbit, but more pervasively, across different instantiations of the total lore-set. For this reason, the story of Beren and Lúthien changes a great deal across the full body of written work. This makes it impossible to simply extract the original story and make it into a single coherent book that is also “true” to a particular telling.
Personally, I would have been happy if Christopher Tolkien had just settled on a version of the story and made this into a regular novel, but I’m probably the only fan of Tolkien’s work that would accept that. Therefore, the new work is much more complicated, written from the point of view of the author JRR Tolkien, integrating text taken from the original work.
This new book also serves to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of The Children of Hurin. Come to think of it, you might want to read The Children of Hurin first, because it kinda sets up the context. (Since this is about LOTR, people will disagree!)
Yes, there are orcs.