One hundred years after first musing on, tinkering with, and ultimately leaving behind what may be his most personal work, J.R.R. Tolkien's Beren and Lúthien was finally released in bookstores across the globe on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Tolkien's tale of a forbidden love affair between man and elf was finally published Thursday, and is now waiting for eager Lord of the Rings fans snatch it up with Gollum-like glee. The book—comprised of a fairy tale, narrative poem, a bit of prose, and other fragments all centered on the same story—was edited by Tolkien's son Christopher, the legendary author's onetime literary partner.
Christopher Tolkien patched those disparate pieces into something cohesive to tell the story of Beren (the human) and Lúthien (the elf), who fall in love despite harsh disapproval from Lúthien's father. The tale's accompanied by illustrations from Alan Lee, who won an Academy Award for his artistic direction of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Beren and Lúthien might sound a little cheesy—there's true love, elvish songs, a magical dog, the whole nine rings—but it's a deeply personal work that's in many ways reflective of the relationship Tolkien shared with his wife, Edith. He fell in love with the then 19-year-old when he was just 16, but his guardian kept them from being together. They eventually married when Tolkien was 24, shortly before he was shipped off to the Somme to fight in World War I.
Back from the war after a brutal bout with trench fever, Tolkien reunited with his wife, and he began writing the tale just after getting home. He worked on the story for the rest of his life, slaving over it until he passed in 1973.
"In my ninety-third year this is (presumptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my father's writings," Christopher Tolkien wrote in the introduction to the book. "This tale is chosen in memoriam because of its deeply-rooted presence in his life."
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