Beren and Lúthien

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Compa_Mighty 10/Dec/2006 at 11:07 AM
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Of Beren and Lúthien is by far my favorite part of The Silmarillion. I haven’t read HoME, so bear with me please if this turns out to be too obvious.

Does the Ballad of Beren and Lúthien exist as such? A condensed version of the tale (in prose) is the one that appears in The Silmarillion, and I guess there are many other notes in prose too, but the versed version, I haven’t seen it anywhere.

In a related topic, Adam Tolkien mentioned in an interview (http://www.dor-lomin.org/noticias/noticias.php?pagina=0&anillotolkien=1504 , scroll down for an English version) that the window for a complete volume of each, The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien, is kept open.

How do you think that one would turn out? Perhaps 300 pages of the story in prose and additionally  the Ballad, supposing it does exist?

What do you think?

Endril 10/Dec/2006 at 12:04 PM
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Compa: From what I know the ballad is only mentioned in LOTR but as a complete version is in prose only. I don’t know if the story could reach so many pages but it might be possible. If you’re thinking at the Children of Hurin, no one knows yet how many pages it contains. We’ll wait and see. 
geordie 10/Dec/2006 at 12:14 PM
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Compa Mighty - the Lay of Leithian does exist, [in two manuscripts] and is published in The Lays of Beleriand, being Vol.3 of HoMe. Manuscript A has no title, but Manuscript B bears the title:

                                          ’The
                                          GEST
                                           of
                                   BEREN son of BARAHIR
                                           and
                                    LUTHIEN the FAY
                                         called
                                 TINUVIEL the NIGHTINGALE
                                         or the
                                      LAYOF LETHIAN
                                    Release from Bondage


In a related topic, Adam Tolkien mentioned in an interview ... that the window for a complete volume of each, The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien, is kept open.

Not really - as Adam says, Tolkien never wrote much about those tales - I think that we might have all there is to say on those topics.
geordie 10/Dec/2006 at 12:17 PM
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simul with Legolas
Compa_Mighty 10/Dec/2006 at 02:30 PM
Master of Isengard Points: 196 Posts: 172 Joined: 16/Sep/2006
Thanks. Very helpful information.
Nieliqui Vaneyar 11/Dec/2006 at 10:43 AM
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Compa_Mighty, a while ago, I wrote a description of the Lay of Leithian which is now in the plaza Library.  Basically I covered the various times that Tolkien worked on it, who he gave it to for review, and a little on the various versions that exist.  It might give you a little background.  You can find it here> http://www.lotrlibrary.com/agesofarda/layofleithian.asp

Our library really is a wonderful resource and using it in conjuction with other resources can yield lots of information or give you direction on where to go for more.

Compa_Mighty 11/Dec/2006 at 11:59 AM
Master of Isengard Points: 196 Posts: 172 Joined: 16/Sep/2006

Interesting article, Nieliqui. Thanks for posting the link.

geordie 12/Dec/2006 at 10:21 AM
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Beren and Luthien first saw the light of day - that is, they first appeared in a publication - in June 1925; in a poem ’Light as Leaf on Linden-Tree’ pub. in the Leeds Univ. mag, The Gryphon. The poem had been composed in 1919-20.

The poem, revised, appears in HoMe III - The Lays of Beleriand. The original is very much like that which Aragorn sings to the hobbits. It was once woven into the Children of Hurin, where one character sings the lay to another. All this before LotR had even been thought of!

I wonder what Tolkien’s colleagues and students thought of the original - given, as it was, completely without context!

Battlehamster 12/Dec/2006 at 12:37 PM
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That would be interesting to know. Which part of the story was it? I’m assuming the whole story would be way too long to publish in a magazine. Was it the same story as in Silmarillion?
I remember a fruitless search through The Lays of Beleriand to try to find the text Aragorn says a few years ago.
Compa_Mighty 12/Dec/2006 at 01:35 PM
Master of Isengard Points: 196 Posts: 172 Joined: 16/Sep/2006

Interesting. Oh, geordie, I’ve read the interview again (now in English), and you’re right, Adam doesn’t really keep the window open for Beren and Lúthien.

I had only read it in Spanish, and the transalation conveyed a different sense. Anyway, he still says it is not unthinkable... one can only hope.

geordie 12/Dec/2006 at 02:54 PM
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Which part of the story was it? I’m assuming the whole story would be way too long to publish in a magazine. Was it the same story as in Silmarillion?

The poem - ’Light as Leaf on Lindentree’ is roughly the same length as the poem sung by Aragorn in LotR, that is, nine verses. It’s similar in wording and in style -

’The grass was very long and thin
The leaves of many years lay thick
The old tree roots wound out and in
And the early moon was glimmering.
There went her white feet lilting quick,
And Dairon’s flute did bubble thin,
As neath the hemlock umbels thick
Tinuviel danced a-shimmering’


In The Gryphon, the poem is preceded by a prologue in alliterative verse -

’Tis of Beren Ermabed brokenhearted
How Luthien the lissom he loved of yore
In the enchanted forest chained with wonder..
Tinuviel he named her, than nightingale
more sweet her voice, as veiled in soft
and wavering wisps of woven dusk
Shot with starlight, with shining eyes
She danced like dreams of drifting sheen,
Pale twinkling pearls in pools of darkness.’


note - the printer made an error in the first line - it should read ’of Beren boldhearted’, not ’brokenhearted’

The poem is inserted into The Lay of the Children of Hurin between lines 400 and 475 - pp.108-110 of The Lays of Beleriand [HoMe III]. Here it’s presented as a song sung to Turin by Halog. There are notes on pp.120-2. [Allen and Unwin hardback]

This not the only early glimpse that Tolkien let his Leeds readership have of what was to become Middle-earth - two years earlier, in June 1923, Tolkien had three poems published in a small book of verse called ’A Northern Venture’. One of these is called ’Tha Eadigan Saeliden’ or ’The Happy Mariners’ which begins

’I know a window in a Western tower
That opens on celestial seas,
And wind that has been blowing round the stars
Comes to nestle in its tossing draperies...’


This white tower is ’builded in the Twilight Isles’. The watcher; that is the speaker of the poem, watches the mariners setting out to the Western shores

’Past sunless lands to fairy leas
Where stars upon the jacinth wall of space
Do tangle burst and interlace.
Ye follow Earendel through the West,
the shining mariner, to islands blest...’


So, there you go. Tolkien liked the students he taught at Leeds; describing them as ’dull stodges’ but with the willingness to do some work!.

I still wonder what those ’dull stodges’ would have thought of his fairy poems of Earendel; and of Beren and Luthien.


From Scull-Hammond on the poem: ’The first and last of its several texts were published in The Book of Lost Tales part two [1984] pp.273-7.
NineFingered 16/Dec/2006 at 07:26 PM
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Compa, there’s a versed version of it in the "Lays of Beleriand". I read it aloud to myself (interesting, huh?) and the story was even more thrilling than in prose.