When J.R.R. Tolkien returned from the Battle of the Somme, he set out to write a story that might’ve lifted his spirits. The resulting fantastical fable ― Beren and Lúthien ― would take on several revisions and iterations before it would become a central story in The Silmarillion.
Today, a version of the story edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher goes on sale. In it, the original is kept intact, published alongside revisions and marginalia.
Beren and Lúthien will sound familiar to Tolkien fans ― even those who haven’t read The Silmarillion. Like Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, Beren and Lúthien are star-crossed lovers who must reconcile one huge difference that stands between them: Beren is a man, and Lúthien is an immortal elf. Lúthien’s father disapproves of Beren, and tasks him with an impossible challenge to win his daughter’s hand.
According to BBC News, the story was inspired in part by Tolkien’s wife, Edith. “On a walk in an East Yorkshire wood Tolkien’s wife Edith danced in a glade filled with white flowers, which became the key scene in Beren and Lúthien,” Tolkien specialist John Garth told the outlet. The names Beren and Lúthien are also engraved on the couple’s shared headstone.
This isn’t the only Tolkien story to be revised, updated and re-released recently. In 2015, The Story of Kullervo ― an unfinished work by the author ― was published along with ancillary materials.
So, for those who’ve read The Silmarillion from cover to cover, there’s plenty more of Tolkien’s world to explore.