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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
My Review of Beren & L˙thien at The Journal of Tolkien Research


Sep 16 2017, 11:59am

Post #1 of 9 (2092 views)
My Review of Beren & L˙thien at The Journal of Tolkien Research Can't Post

My review of Beren & L˙thien was published yesterday at the online Journal of Tolkien Research, which is edited by Doug Anderson. For those who may be interested:


'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Sep 16 2017, 2:32pm

Post #2 of 9 (2049 views)
Thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

It's interesting to read the various reviews as they come in. I agree with your rough breakdown of B & L's audiences, perhaps characterized as Readers of the Light, Readers of the Twilight, and Readers of the Darkness. But I'm not sure I go along with your conclusion (if I've understood it correctly) that all three groups may find this new volume worth reading as a handy meta-narrative of Tolkien's greatest love story. I suspect the book will instead drop into the remainder bins as quickly as its intended readers discover, respectively, that they've already read all of it (in HoME) or that there's no story, just excerpts from HoME that must be rigorously assembled and ordered in the reader's mind. They may feel somewhat betrayed by having expected another Children of Hurin, which this book very deliberately has been published to resemble, largely by courtesy of the talented Alan Lee.

I remember going to Barnes & Noble to buy a copy of Beren and Luthien for myself this summer, and finding just one copy offered for sale on the famously extensive "All Things Tolkien" bookcase. It was not on the Recent Releases tables that front the store, the salesman had not heard of the book, and he had to work to find it for me. Zero marketing, in other words, for this latest product from the author of the century.

On a small note, I wonder if you should so casually refer to the New Line film adaptations of Tolkien's books as "bastardized". I believe I know what you mean, but I think the term is far too harsh, especially in the context of a review wherein you discuss the fans of the films as a potential audience for the most abstruse Tolkien book yet released for general readers.

Thanks also, by the way, for the link in your review to Noad's "Three By Tolkien" review of HoME commentaries on the LotR Plaza fansite from 2009.

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Sep 16 2017, 3:49pm

Post #3 of 9 (2038 views)
You may be right! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you, first of all, for taking the time to read the review and share your thoughts, which as always are well-considered and worthwhile. It certainly may be true that my review is colored by the fact that I expected to be disappointed by the book myself, and turned out to be pleasantly surprised. It is true that he response that I have seen at Tolkien sites that I frequent are mixed at best, and there does not appear to be the same interest in general in this book compared to CoH.

You probably are correct that the word 'bastardized' was ill-chosen. As people who have read my posts over the years know, I am a fan of the Jackson films (all of them) but I don't think there is any question that the stories they tell are changed from those that Tolkien told. That is all I meant by that.

I'm glad you appreciated the link to Noad's 3 reviews. I thought some of his observations in that piece were very interesting indeed.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Sep 16 2017, 6:46pm

Post #4 of 9 (2021 views)
The end or an uncertain future? [In reply to] Can't Post

I would probably fall into your category 1 of readers. The book did not add anything significantly new to me, unless one is truly intereseted in the way the changes of the story evolved, which I was not to any great degree, beeing not scholarly of mind.

For category 2 the book might be a realisation of Tolkiens poetic ambitions. Though the LotR:s have many short rhymes and poems they are usually, or so I think, not what people remember from the book. The excerpts from the Lay of Leithian in this book however demonstrate a whole different commitment from Tolkien to the art. That said I am not really qualified to say wether that poetry is actually any good.

For category three, I would guess the primary value of the book is simply the introduction of a new story by the same author which they may or may not, remember beeing referenced in the LotR:s. Their biggest dissapointment may be that the story feel unfinished, which it could be said to be.

Either way, I suspect this will be the last publication from Christopher Tolkien. Where the estate goes from here remains to be seen.

(This post was edited by InTheChair on Sep 16 2017, 6:47pm)


Sep 17 2017, 3:53am

Post #5 of 9 (1999 views)
Qualified? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for your thoughts, InTheChair. As for being qualified to say whether Tolkien's poetry is any good, I don't have any particular qualifications in that area, either. I can only say whether it seems any good to me.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire


Sep 18 2017, 5:43pm

Post #6 of 9 (1904 views)
Cloistered [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for this Voronwe. Your praise of Christopher Tolkien is well said and deserved; he shares his father's common touch, making accessible what ought to be considered high art.

Although I'm a fairly serious fan of Tolkien's, as I said previously, I haven't read B&L in its entirety elsewhere, so this publication was indeed welcome. However, I have read enough of CT's presentations of his father's manuscripts to appreciate his work in it's own right. This too, once again, is a chief value of this publication.

And, as always, it was a pleasure to read one of your articles.

(This post was edited by SirDennisC on Sep 18 2017, 5:46pm)


Sep 18 2017, 6:27pm

Post #7 of 9 (1891 views)
Cheers! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's always a pleasure to cross your path, Sir D! I'm glad that you enjoyed the review and even more that you find the book valuable.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

The Hall of Fire

N.E. Brigand

Sep 18 2017, 8:28pm

Post #8 of 9 (1874 views)
Rankin-Bass did me some good. [In reply to] Can't Post

Though the LotR has many short rhymes and poems, they are usually, or so I think, not what people remember from the book.

My first encounter with Tolkien's work was the record released to accompany the Rankin-Bass telefilm of The Hobbit. One blessing of that work is that it features a number of Tolkien's songs (plus one new song not by Tolkien) with catchy melodies. Thus I took to his poetry sooner than most readers might.

There are four lights.

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Sep 23 2017, 4:07pm

Post #9 of 9 (1804 views)
Of like minds... [In reply to] Can't Post

Your description and analysis of B&L was very apt and in agreement with my own thoughts and opinions. If only I were able to express myself as concisely and with as much insight and clarity. I am currently looking at my Tolkien shelves, notice the plural, a clear indication of my obsession. I looked forward to adding B&L to them, knowing that it contained nothing new, simply because I welcomed a consolidation of the tale, just as I enjoy a collection of related stories over seeking them in disparate sources. I agree that the presentation had merits beyond simply the notion of consolidation. I don't regret the purchase in the least.

As always I read with interest what Squire had on his commendable mind. His points were well worth considering. As far as Jackson's bastardizations go, I empathize with your description. Extremely skeptical as the release of his movies approached, I was pleasantly surprised by The Fellowship of the Ring. I thought it an excellent attempt at a cinematic representation, considering the challenges the books presented. Sadly, in my opinion, as he acquired a popular fan base and felt secure in the success of the franchise, Jackson and Co. seemed less concerned with faithful adaptation than exploiting the opportunity to tell their own story. My appreciation for Jackson diminished with each consecutive release. FYI I own the LOTR trilogy on DVD, I did not bother purchasing The Hobbit.

I am Khim akin to Mim.


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