I mean Beren and Lúthien, of course, the latest – and last – of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works edited and published by his son Christopher.
I love Alan Lee’s vision of Middle Earth 🙂
And I admire Christopher Tolkien’s lifelong work on his father’s legacy. He made it all available for us and, through his editing, accessible. I don’t believe we would be better off with several volumes of unsorted notes published instead of Silmarillion.
But should he have stopped after Silmarillion? I disagree 🙂 We got Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth, stories in various stages of completion. These are great reads for Tolkien fans, and a great source of knowledge about Tolkien’s world, but not very enjoyable for more casual readers.
A few of the tales from pre-LotR eras were very important for J.R.R. Tolkien, and almost completed by the time of his death. Not in a form he’d ever publish without major revisions, and in many version that had to be reconciled.
Christopher Tolkien decided that there is enough material to prepare definite versions of two of them, and publish medium–size novels for the benefit and enjoyment of wider audiences. It’s a must read for any fan of the main trilogy who found Silmarillion a bit too hard.
2007 saw the publication of The Children of Húrin, one of these stories, and in 2017 we have Beren and Lúthien. The first I liked well enough, although I’m big enough fan to also enjoy the rougher version hidden in these volumes:
Beren and Lúthien I will definitely read, and I believe Christopher Tolkien was right to publish it. For him, it will be the culmination of his work as the guardian of his father’s works. For us, a chance to read a definite (as definite as we’re ever going to get, anyway) version of a story that was personally very important to J.R.R., important enough to find its way here:
I will not go into the details of the plot, you all know the basics from the LotR, but I would like to point out two things. Firstly, War of the Ring was a story taking place very late in a history of Middle Earth, ages after it all began. Twilight of the world of the Elves, and even Dwarves, just before the final changing of the guard when the humans were to take full responsibility for the fate of the lands. All that really mattered already happened, and events we read about are like echoes of earlier stories. It’s easier to understand the melancholy of Elrond when we realise he had really seen it all before, several times. And I’m eager to explore these earlier ages of Middle Earth, in any way possible. Including this latest, and final, book.
Secondly, complaints about there being too few female characters in LotR are common. In Beren and Lúthien both protagonists are equally important. Lúthien is smart, strong and active. Way smarter and stronger than the love of her life, actually. And able to go against the will of her family and the norms of her society to live this life the way she wanted to. A true hero in a very modern sense.
On tor.com Jeff LaSala explores that in an essay aptly titled Lúthien: Tolkien’s Original Badass Elf Princess. Highly recommended! As is the book itself, c’mon, there won’t be any more of them from THE Tolkien 🙂