cover image Beren and Lúthien

Beren and Lúthien

J.R.R. Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-1-328-79182-5

Editor Christopher Tolkien successfully aims this latest version of Beren and Lúthien’s tale at two distinct audiences. This hybrid volume serves both as an introduction to a moving love story from the First Age of Middle Earth for fans who are not familiar with The Silmarillion and as a scholarly look at how Christopher’s father altered the tale over the years. Those in the first category should skip the spoiler-filled preface and go straight to the original version, which describes the love of the mortal Beren and the royal elf-maiden Lúthien. Lúthien’s father agrees to their marriage, but only if Beren retrieves a Silmaril jewel from the crown of Melko, the dark god who preceded Sauron as the embodiment of evil in Middle Earth. Despite that familiar fairy-tale setup, Lúthien herself plays an active part in the adventure. The prose isn’t always the elder Tolkien’s most polished, but the story works as a stand-alone tale. Those who have encountered it before will find that Christopher enhances their appreciation of it through his accessible illumination of how it evolved over the years. (June)