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Christopher Tolkien recently edited and released Beren and Lúthien, a new book highlighting one of the central stories of the entire mythology. I was expecting this to be a novelization similar in form to The Children of Hurin, but I've heard, as Wikipedia implies, that it is more like an annotated collection of the different versions and fragments of the story that JRRT had written over the years. We've seen multiple such accounts already, from The Lord of the Rings to The Book of Lost Tales.

So what does this new book actually provide? Is there any new content that was not previously published, or is this just a repackaged anthology?

  • I've split your questions from your text to make it a bit clearer to see your answer. If you disagree you can rollback. It will just make it a little easaier on the eyes as it's not a solid body of text. – Edlothiad Jun 28 '17 at 16:12
  • There's nothing new. All stuff already published in HoME #2,3,4,5,11 and Silm. The unpublished prose version that Christopher found on the back of the Annals remains unpublished. – ibid Jun 28 '17 at 16:50
  • aw man, I was literally about to go pick this up from the library. – Kevin Milner Jun 28 '17 at 22:15
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Beren and Lúthien just collects different versions of the story and presents them in a way that shows the evolution of the tale from the earliest drafts to the latest. In the words of Christopher Tolkien in the preface,

this book does not offer a single page of original and unpublished work.

The book is just a nice way of having different versions together, with new commentary and explanations from Christopher, and the great illustrations from Alan Lee.

The way it was marketed is certainly confusing, and led many people to expect a complete story in more of a novel form.

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    Weird that his publishers give a point saying there is unpublished stuff, yet in the preface Christopher says he doesn't. I was just about to include this quote into my answer before yours popped up. – Edlothiad Jun 28 '17 at 16:11
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    @Edlothiad I’ve seen a lot of fans that expected it to be like Children. The book was marketed pretty poorly. – Neithan Jun 28 '17 at 16:12
  • Yes but this was the note from the publishers, claiming it had narrative that was lost. – Edlothiad Jun 28 '17 at 16:17
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    It's hard to be more clear than that. – Travis Christian Jun 28 '17 at 16:35
  • @Edlothiad - They may have assumed just been logically assuming that Christopher would include the unpublished prose version he's talked about. – ibid Jun 28 '17 at 16:51
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The new book is a compilation of Tolkien’s tales of Beren and Lúthien.

It is effectively in the same style as the History of Middle-earth. Wherein Christopher compiles various editions and notes on them.

From the publisher we have the following words (Emphasis mine):

Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a fully continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

[...]

In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.

The new book gives us a look into the story as it was formed and developed and how the prose and verse around the story changed as it developed and influenced it.

It is a non-essential book in the extending the knowledge of a Tolkien-ite but provides a glorious dip into the mind of the author and in understanding the development of his texts.

  • You beat me to it by a minute. :) – Neithan Jun 28 '17 at 16:11
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There is nothing new

The idea of a book devoted to the evolving story of ‘Beren’ that I ventured to mention to Rayner Unwin as a possible publication would have brought to light much hitherto unknown and unavailable writing. But this book does not offer a single page of original and unpublished work. What then is the need, now, for such a book?

(Beren and Luthien - Preface)

The book includes all or parts of five different versions of the story:

  • c1917 - The Tale of Tinúviel [complete]
    (published in HoME#2 - The Book of Lost Tales part 2)
  • 1926 - Sketch of the Mythology [short excerpt]
    (published in HoME#4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth)
  • 1925-1931 - The Lay of Leithian [3 excerpts, totaling ~2,800 lines, ~70% of the poem)]
    About 400 lines from the c1950 revision are given in an appendix.
    (published in HoME#3 - The Lays of Beleriand)
  • 1930 - Quenta Noldorinwa [long excerpt]
    (published in HoME#4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth)
  • c1937 - Quenta Silmarillion [short excerpt]
    (published in HoME#5 - The Lost Road and Other Writings and The Silmarillion)

These are followed by a series of short excerpts from Quenta Noldorinwa, Quenta Silmarillion, The Nauglafring (HoME#2), and The Annals of Beleriand (HoME#4) showing what happened after to the characters afterwards.

Significant versions of the story which aren't included:

  • The Annals of Beleriand (HoME#4 - The Shaping of Middle-earth))
  • The Annals of Beleriand (HoME#5 - The Lost Road and Other Writings)
  • The Grey Annals (HoME#11 - The War of the Jewels)
  • The unpublished prose version (still unpublished, see below)

As others have noted, it has been said that new text would be included. This was probably the result of people assuming that this would be done in a similar style to how Children of Hurin was done, and that Christopher would finally be publishing the prose version of story that he had talked about in HoME.

Thus at the time when he turned again to the Lay of Leithian (see III. 330), The Lord of the Rings being finished but its publication very doubtful, he embarked also once more on a prose 'saga' of Beren and Luthien. This is a substantial text, though the story goes no further than the betrayal by Dairon to Thingol of Beren's presence in Doriath, and it is so closely based on the rewritten form of the Lay as to read in places almost as a prose paraphrase of the verse. It was written on the verso pages of the text AB 2 of the Annals of Beleriand, and was not known to me when The Silmarillion was prepared for publication.

HoME#5 - The Lost Road and Other Writings - Part 2, III, pg295)

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