Monday, November 6, 2017

Beren and Lúthien (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

In 1916, J.R.R. Tolkien returned from France and the Battle of Somme of the First World War. Three million men fought in this battle and over one million were injured or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. Knowing these statistics, it is safe to say that the battle impacted Tolkien's life. This is evidenced by the fact that he penned Beren and Lúthien, a tragic tale of an ill-fated love between a mortal man and immortal she-Elf. In fact, you can see elements of The Silmarillion and other First Age tales of Tolkien's in Beren and Lúthien. Unfortunately, for Tolkien and us, he never finished it. He constantly tweaked the work and revisited it, but it was never completed. The 2017 release of this title shows just that.

Like all of the Tolkien books that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has produced lately, the presentation value is top-notch! The book is a dust-jacketed hardcover, so it matches the formatting of the other books. Alan Lee does the illustrations for the book and after Pauline Baynes, he is my go-to Tolkien illustrator. As for the contents of the book, it is what you have come to expect from the recent Tolkien releases. This means that there is a lot of background, history, and revisions. A lot of this information and text can be found in You won't find a completed work, but instead you will find different attempts by Tolkien at completing this work. What I found interesting is that the literary style changed as well, as there are manuscripts that show this work in both poetry and prose format. Reading through the book was not only interesting because Tolkien's works are brilliant, but it is simply fascinating to enter the mind of a genius and see the evolution of a work. Looking at all the unfinished works that Tolkien left behind, it is clear that the man was a perfectionist, who was always trying to perfect his works and make them the best they could be. He reminds me of one of his characters named Niggle from Leaf by Niggle, which is another fine work of his you should read. Sadly for him (and more sadly for us), if he had given us a 75% effort and finished a work, it would probably still better than 99% of the other works out there. If you are someone who hasn't read the History of Middle Earth or are a Tolkien completionist, I recommend picking up a copy. If you are just a casual fan of his, then you'd be better served with other works of his.

This copy was provided to me for free by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.

No comments:

Post a Comment