Their Names Are on Tolkien's Grave. Now, They're a Book

He wrote fairy tale while recovering from WWI
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2017 3:12 AM CDT
Tolkien Love Story Published After 100 Years
In this 1967 photo, J.R.R. Tolkien. author of "The Lord of the Rings" and an Oxford University Professor, is shown.   (AP Photo, file)

JRR Tolkien's fairy tale love story Beren and Luthien is now a book—100 years after he came up with the story as a 24-year-old WWI veteran traumatized by the horror of the trenches. The book was edited by Christopher Tolkien, the author's 92-year-old son, who includes Tolkien's three retellings of the story of Beren, a mortal man, and Luthien, the immortal elf he falls in love with. One version appears in The Silmarillion. Tolkien expert John Garth tells the BBC that Tolkien wrote during the winter of 1916-17 while recovering in England from trench fever and his horrific experiences at the Battle of the Somme. Garth says a moment of inspiration came when Tolkien's wife, Edith, danced for him in a glade of flowers in a Yorkshire wood.

Tolkien, who married Edith just a few months before he was deployed, "felt the kind of joy he must have felt at times he would never feel again," and the scene became a central part of the story, Garth says. In the book, Christopher Tolkien does a superb job of assembling the fragments, writes Liza Graham at NPR. "With eloquence and diligence and care, the son reconstructs and retraces the father's journey, pursuing the tale through draft after draft as Tolkien pursued his vision of Middle-Earth," she writes. In a preface, the son acknowledges that this will probably be his final edition of his father's writings and says this tale was chosen as a memorial. The names Beren and Luthien are inscribed on JRR and Edith Tolkien's graves. (Read more on how Tolkien's war experiences gave us his masterpiece.)

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