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The Lays of Beleriand

(The History of Middle-Earth #3)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  3,043 ratings  ·  116 reviews
This is the third volume of the History of Middle-earth, which comprises here-tofore unpublished manuscripts that were written over a period of many years before Tolkien's Simlarillion was published. Volumes 1 and 2 were the Book of Lost Tales, Part One and The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two. Together, these volumes encompass an extraordinarily extensive body of material orn ...more
Hardcover, First US Edition, 393 pages
Published November 20th 1985 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published August 22nd 1985)
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3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,043 ratings  ·  116 reviews

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3 - 3.5 stars

_The Lays of Beleriand_ is a book that I’ve had on my bookshelf for many, many years and quite frankly never thought I’d get to. I think I probably got my copy around the time it was first published when I was but a wee sprat simply because it was by Tolkien and certainly at that time the likelihood that I would read a book comprised primarily of two long narrative poems accompanied by copious editorial apparatus was, to say the least, unlikely. As time went on and I got older I sti
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love Tolkien, but I was prepared to dislike this book, the third in his History of Middle-Earth series. After all, I thought, there's nothing new in this one: it's just a recap of the telling of the Tale of the Children of Hurin and the Lay of Leithian, about Beren and Luthien. Those have already been well covered, not only in the Silmarillion and in the standalone The Children of Hurin book, but in the previous two volumes as well. I'm happy to say I was wrong.

True, the bulk of this book is t
Nov 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkienites, Tolkienologists and students of midieval poetry
I don't completely agree with the synopsis of this book on this website. It is certainly a "treasure trove of lore", but I was never aware that Turin was looking for his father, and "the dark destiny" of Turin and Beleg is quite an understatement. But, The Lay of Leithian *does* have a hero! :)
I nearly gave this book 4 stars, but decided on 5, more for what could have been than what is actually in the book. It's not LOTR, by any means, but it could have rivaled it if Tolkien had ever written a
Nov 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: tolkien-lotr
This volume, while largely a (further) re-hash of Simarillion material, nonetheless adds a few interesting tidbits/concepts to the fold, while the style of writing is a nice touch, using [as some astute reviews already noted] verse rather than prose to give it a more funereal [IMO] feel.

So, while I'm enjoying (for the most part) this series thus far.... I'm also finding it somewhat wearing on me (akin to Bilbo holding the One Ring for so many years), and I find my interest in Tolkien scholarship
Tolkien repeats two stories found in other published (posthumous) works, found in this work, in poetic form: “The Children of Hurin,” and “Beren and Luthien.” C.S. Lewis calls this type of rhyming scheme a “geste” in his critical analysis, also found in this book. The poems give deeper insight into the stories, with more reality and description (more showing than telling).

Here’s my favorite passage:

The Lay of Leithian (3888 - 3893)

Beneath them ranged with spear and sword
Stood Morgoth’s sable-arm
Mary Catelli
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Not the earliest works of Middle Earth, but where he loses the bits of twee that were in the Book of Lost Tales.

Turin done in alliterative verse, in several variants. The basic bones of the story are down, but many interesting differences between here and the final version.

Luthein and Beren are done in rhyming verse, and come closer to the final version. It makes The Silmarillion version look terse. Some repetitionbetween this and Beren and Lúthien.
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
I adored these stories in this form, for me reading them in the rhyme and meter of older works of poetry made them so much more lyrical and enjoyable than the brief summaries found in The Silmarillion.
H.S.J. Williams
All right, I haven't read this book all the way through. Mainly, because a great portion of the book is the story of Turin, which is the most depressing story Tolkien ever came up with. But this also includes a great deal of the tale of Beren and Luthien, told in a beautiful way.

You see, the stories in here are written in leys, told in a poetic form that flows off the tongue and right into the heart. It's pure genius. I can get chills reading certain passages of The Ley of Leithian. Fantastic. T
Ahmad Sharabiani
Nov 12, 2015 marked it as to-read
The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-Earth #3), J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (Editor)
Octavia Cade
I am reminded of that old saying of law and sausages, and not wanting to see how either is made. I felt that way periodically while reading this. While I was interested to see how the different narratives developed, and while I did enjoy those narratives, some of the commentary was a little too detailed and abstract for me - I really do not care to read endless notes on minor spelling changes, for instance - and it's hard to deny that there's a lot of repetition here.

As always, the sheer depth o
Marko Vasić
Immense talent and genius of professor Tolkien emerged, once again, among this pages. This time in form of epic poems. Great, long and unfinished poem "Lay of Leithian", written in octosyllabic couplets, so many times mentioned both in official version of "The Silmarillion", as well as in "The Book of Lost Tales part 1&2" bursts of beautiful literary expressions and reveals how the story of Beren and Luthien was step-by-step developed and how the plot and characters were shifted in the long ...more
Clare Farrelly
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was really cool to read, especially being able to read the commentary by C.S. Lewis on the Lay of Leithian alongside an early version of it.Luthiens story is my favourite of all Tolkien's characters in the stories other than LOTR. There were quite a few bits and pieces that were quite cool, but it was not an easy read, as it is obviously not a story, but for the hard core fans.
An extensive & remarkable insight into the creation of Middle-Earth, captured in this comprehensive volume of a series.

This is the third volume within the collection of books that make up ‘the history of Middle-Earth’ which delves into JRR Tolkien’s great creation behind The Silmarillion, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. This fascinating, detailed insight delves into the mythology of his work, through the alliterative verse tales of two of the most significant and crucial stories in To
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I found this book very challenging. Christopher Tolkien has put together some poetic stories that his father worked on but never finished. "The Lay of the Children of Hurin" was difficult to read because of the often odd syntax. The "Lay of Leithian" was easier to follow because it was composed in rhyming couplets, and therefore flowed more smoothly. In "Lethien," a man named Beren meets and falls in love with the elf king's daughter, Luthien, ...more
Full review on my blog: Bookish Love Affair.
Truly a book for the nerds. Those who are interested in following the often quite convoluted creation of two of the more important tales in Tolkien's legendarium. The tales of Túrin son of Húrin and Tinúviel (more commonly known as the story of Lúthien and Beren) exist in many forms and in many diffeeent books, some of which I have yet to read. Christopher Tolkien does a quite good job of explaining the progress of the poems, or lays, in this book and
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's never quite accurate to categorize Tolkien as a "modern" novelist. He certainly did not match the trends of his time, and modern readers often struggle with his antique style, antique in the sense he is out of time by centuries. Tolkien is not exactly prose writer, he's really an out of place bard, and in his poetry especially you see his true skill as an author. To me "The Lay of Beleriand", which includes the unfinished epic poems of the the Lay of Leithian and the Children of Hurin, is T ...more
Flora Smith
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, sci-fi
Anyone who truly enjoys the works of JRR Tolkien will like this. Much of the story of Beren and Luthien is told here in prose. Their story is my favorite that is told in the The Silmarillion and being told in prose is beautiful. This book also has some of the earlier stories such as Thingol and Melian as well as further information about the construction and changes that these stories underwent. Much of the commentary can be skipped and the stories themselves enjoyed as they are.
May 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
We actually get the Lay of Leithian! The actual poem form! Yay! I mean, as usual, there's way too much commentary by Christopher Tolkien, but the purpose of the book is excellently served. The best of the History or Middle-earth books!
3 stars just because it's so darn difficult to read this kind of poetry...
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
At present my aim is to read all my books from cover-to-cover. It will be a great relief when that is accomplished and I then feel at liberty to go back and dip into a book and just read the parts which I really like. It will be great to revisit the History and Middle-Earth series and just read all the main pieces by JRRT, and skip all the commentaries by his son, which turns pleasure into drudgery.

I enjoyed both main pieces in this book. I can't claim to have understood the Lay of the Children
Jordan Waterworth
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
In this chapter of the History of Middle Earth are the bountiful and beautiful attempts by Tolkien to render his tales of the First Age into epic and lengthy poetry. The highlights are “The Children of Hurin”, the tragic tale of a legendary hero recounted in ancient Saxon metre, and “The Lay of Leithien”, the tale of Beren and Luthien told as a medieval romance. If these works had been finished, (and if a little work called The Lord of the Rings hadn’t got in the way) these pieces would have bee ...more
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans only
Recommended to D-day by: Author I like
Shelves: non-fiction
First of all a warning that, like all the volumes of A History of Middle Earth, The Lays of Beleriand is not for the casual Tolkien fan. At the least you should have read The Silmarillion before reading this installment.
Also this book requires another warning: as suggested by the title, The Lays of Beleriand contains Lays, that is poetry. So be warned, if you skip all the poems when you read Lord of the Rings then this book might not be for you.
The bulk of tLoB contains two long poems: The Lay
Jackson Compton
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a great read if you're looking for more stories within Tolkien's mythology. This book should be read after The Silmarillion, and The Book of Lost Tales Part 2. It contains really no new stories but tells two of my personal favorites, Turin's story and Beren and Luthien's story, in poem forms. They are both great but Beren's story was better in my opinion. It was more complete (though not completely finished) and was written in a rhyming verse that was easy to understand. Turin'a sto ...more
Tim Haley
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is not a book for the casual fan of the Hobbit or LoTR. It took me quite a long time to get through the first section of the book. It begins with metered prose telling the story of Hurin’s son, Turin. Very dense material that demands a lot of attention of the reader. This was at times excruciating for me. I even put the book aside for a long period.

Once through that and the focus turned to early poems and then Beren and Luthien (and switched to a rhyming meter) I started to enjoy it much m
Sarah Zama
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Totally loved it!
And I never expected it. I was actually hesitant to read this because I normally don't enjoy poetry. But I'm reading my way through the History of Middle Earth with a little group of readers and this was next and so I thought, well, let's try it.
Fantastic! Here are the many different drafts in the form of poems of The Children of Hurin and The Lay of Leithian (Beren and Luthien). Never did I imagine the power of the vision, the depth of feelings and emotions, the beauty of the
Acer Pseudoplantatus
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Since I do not have the time right now to do this book justice (but I hope to be able to soon), I will keep this review short and to the point;
J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the greatest and most underrated poets of the English language and a fantastic writer. With "The Lays of Beleriand" Christopher Tolkien allows us to read (sometimes multiple versions of) the poetic tellings of tales told in the Simlarillion and provides valuable commentary.
Dec 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I like poetry, but I can only read so much of it at one time before I can't concentrate. I would read a canto or so of 'The Lay of Leithian' every night, and I really enjoyed it. It flowed really beautifully and I could follow the plot line relatively well. There were some amazing lines and rhymes in there, I loved it, but I wish there had been more about what happened after they escaped. Now I need to read the Silmarillion again so I can remember what happens!
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Okay I'm cheating, as I'm currently translating Christopher's commentaries in III & IV. But I promised myself never to regard work as "non-pleasure" reading, and I have to admit, I actually quite like the Lay of Leithian. Christopher is still overdoing it with the commentaries, but that's his style, and I think I'm slowly warming up to it, actually.
Jul 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have never read such exhilarating poetry. I feel lucky to have read it and so disappointed neither poem was finished. In poem form both the Lay of the Children of Hurin and the Lay of Leithian are much richer and fuller than they are in The Silmarillion. I absolutely adored this.
Jowita Horbaczewska
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Mostly the children of Hurin an Beren and Luthien once more.. so I skipped most of the book, it was written earlier than the complete works on those 2 stories.
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J.R.R. Tolkien: January-March 2016 Group Read: The Lays of Beleriand 5 64 Apr 17, 2016 02:52AM  
too many editorial notes! 2 13 Apr 16, 2008 02:08PM  
  • Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology
  • The Atlas of Middle-Earth
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  • Meditations on Middle-Earth
  • Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
  • Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopaedia
  • The Origins of Tolkien's Middle-Earth for Dummies
  • The Map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English lang

Other books in the series

The History of Middle-Earth (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #1)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two (The History of Middle-Earth, #2)
  • The Shaping of Middle-Earth (The History of Middle-Earth, #4)
  • The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-Earth, #5)
  • The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #6)
  • The Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two (The History of Middle-Earth, #7)
  • The War of the Ring (The History of Middle-earth, #8)
  • Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-Earth, #9)
  • Morgoth's Ring (The History of Middle-Earth, #10)
  • The War of the Jewels (The History of Middle-earth, #11)
“As a lord was held
for the strength of his body and stoutness of heart.
Much lore he learned, and loved wisdom
but fortune followed him in few desires;
oft wrong and awry what he wrought turned;
what he loved he lost, what he longed for he won not;
and full friendship he found not easily,
nor was lightly loved for his looks were sad.
He was gloom-hearted, and glad seldom
for the sundering sorrow that filled his youth...
(On Turin Turambar - The Children of Hurin)”
“His hopeless challenge dauntless cried
Fingolfin there: 'Come, open wide,
dark king, you ghatsly brazen doors!
Come forth, whom earth and heaven abhors!
Come forth, O monstruous craven lord,
and fight with thine own hand and sword,
thou wielder of hosts of banded thralls,
thou tyrant leaguered with strong walls,
thou foe of Gods and elvish race!
I wait thee here. Come! Show thy face!”
More quotes…