The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth, #3)

ISBN: 0345388186
ISBN 13: 9780345388186
By: J.R.R. Tolkien Christopher Tolkien

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About this book

"The power of Tolkien's central characters . . . shines through." Library Journal.A treasure trove of lore for old and new friends of Middle-earth. Enter now, reader, and learn of the hero of the Lay of Leithian. Hear as well of the early years of Turin the Tall, as he journeys through darkness on his quest to find his father. Read of his rescue by Beleg the Brave, and of the dark destiny that haunts their friendship! Only the genius of Tolkien could create a fantasy more real than reality, a reality more fantastic than fantasy!

Reader's Thoughts

Jesse Booth

This book was a good read, but not nearly as good as the other works I've read from Tolkien's collection. The Children of Hurin lay was very hard to follow, and probably contained a lot of meaning I missed. However, the Lay of Luthien was amazing. I was very impressed by Tolkien's ability to rhyme over several hundred pages. Everything was straight and to the point. Overall it was a great addition to the Tolkien world.


This book differs from the other volumes of Tolkien's history in that it is primarily poetry. Because of that, I loved it. Tolkien isn't the best poet in the world, but because of the subject matter, who cares. He does want he does and does it better than anyone else ever did it. 'nuff said. Get the book and start reading. You'll never be able to say you are Tolkien's #1 fan until you polish off this book.

Steve Cran

this third installment makes it abundantly clear that some of Tolkien's tales may well havbe more then 3-4 versions, each one with different ending, character names and what not. None the less It is still enjoyable to read. Tolkien wrote several of his stories in poetry form. Now normally I am not a fan of reading poems as their meaning is totally lost on me. With JRR Tolkien I can grasp what he is saying. The explanatory notes by Christopher help fill in any gaps. Clearly Christopher is showing improvement in this area or I am just getting used to it. They were useful and painless.Every Tolkien fan should be familiar with the Children of Hurin. He tells it a little bit differently every time. In this version all of mankind abandon the elves to fight Morgoth alone, except for Hurin and his army. Thingol is the elven king I believe and he has an underground kingdom that or an enchanted kingdom that Morgoth cannot find. the names get confusing as not only are they elvish but in different versions they are quite interchangeable. Hurin is captured and Morgoth want him to reveal the location of turgon's kingdom but Hurin is steadfast. Hurin's wife is sick with worry and knows not where Hurin is whether alive or dead. Turin grows up in poverty and eventually the mother the mother sends him to Thingol's kingdom to grow up. Turin knows the pain of loneliness and being different. He still becomes and awesome warrior. Things go awry when a royal guest mocks him. Turin throws a drinking stein in his face thus destroying his face and killing him. Turin flees. He joins an individual hunter who and they hunt orcs and goblin. This unit of hunters will be betrayed. Vengeance will bee had. Turin gets captured and rescued by his hunter friend. Turin kills him on accident. The poem ends with him going to another kingdom and his mom visting Thingol's realm. The least complete of the versions.In the Lay of Lethian, Bern a Mortal comes to Doriath which Thingol is king and Melian is queen. Their daughter Luthien falls in love with the mortal Beren. This differs from the Tale of Tinuviel. Beren is not an elf and Queen Melian is not fae. Thingols does not approve of Luthien's love for Beren so Thingol sends Beren off on a suicide mission to get 0ne of the Simarrilion of Morgoth's crown. Beren and a group of people from Norgrothond ambush a bunch of orcs take their uniforms and infiltrate the Wolven island. they are discovered and imprisoned. The wolf Thu eats one of them every evening, In the Tale of Tinuviel there was no wolf but Teveldo the cat. Noorgrathond is lead by Cuiven and Celigwen stand inplace rulers while the king rots in Morgoth's prison. Needless to say Huam the hound kills the wolves rescues beren but the real king of Norgrthiond dies Luthien gets them back in and there is a battle with werewolves at the end with a wolf swallowing a Simaril along with Beren's hand. THey get the Simaril and in the end Beren and Luthien become Mortals.

Michael Davis

Harder to get through than the other volumes of the History so far, but well worth it once I got into the stories themselves. Anxious to continue the journey through the rest of them; his son's dedication and ability to sift through all the background material is staggering, and while some of the commentary is repetitive (understandable, given that the main stories here exist in at least 3 or 4 other versions throughout the Tolkien canon,) I learn something new with every reading. Not recommended for the casual Tolkienite, but very rewarding for the aficionado.I wrote about the experience of reading all 12 of these volumes here: (part 1) and here: (part 2). Much more detail about the series in those two pieces.


Few people have ever been able to tell a tale as elegantly and beautifully as Tolkien has. Having dedicated so much of his life to his literary work shines through in his writtings. Its a tragedy that there aren't more completed works, but perhaps thats part or the magic of it all.


I finished it!!! Okay so it wasn't all that hard to finish, but it's just taken me so long to even pick it up. It looked to be tedious at the beginning, but by the end it was much easier reading. I now move on to the fourth book, which also looks to be rather easy to go through. Hopefully the remaining books will be this easy to get through.

Asher Riley

A beautiful, brilliant and inspiring book. "The Lays Of Beleriand" is a truly wonderful work that shows us just how creative and talented J.R.R. Tolkien really was. from its passages chronicling the origins of Middle-Earth to its highly realized vision of a world that would soon fold into the unforgettable "The Lord Of The Rings" and the seminal "The Hobbit", "The Lays Of Beleriand" (like the other books in "The History Of Middle-Earth" series) is a read that refuses to be forgotten. It will probably stick with you for the rest of your life... I know it will for me.

Dave Maddock

The US Del Rey paperbacks are so much less satisfying than the UK trade paperbacks from Harper Collins. *sigh*There is some solid poetry in this volume which pairs with The Silmarillion nicely. Too bad they are unfinished. Whenever he came back to revise them he started over at the beginning so the best poems have no endings.

John Penn

If you get this book, be sure to read the Lay of Leithian (early version first) and then read the post-LotR rewrite of it at a later date. I read it aloud at a friends gathering recently in my best mead hall baritone. Great stuff! Right now I am working my way through "The Book of Lost Tales 1(The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 1)"


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 the retelling of these tales; but it's in verse, not prose, and some of the details are different and evolving enough that it is actually a joy to read. And I say that as someone who's never particularly enjoyed poetry.First the lays are written in alliterative verse, where the same sound is repeated two or three times on each line, e.g.,The summer slowly in the sad forestwaned and faded. In the west arosewinds that wandered over warring seas.As I read these lays, I was continually astonished that the Professor never failed to find words that began with the right sounds to keep the pattern, yet which never failed to be the perfect words to convey the mental image he intended. His obvious command of the English language has never been more wonderfully put to use.Then the lays are repeated in rhyming couplets, likeOnce wide and smooth a plain was spreadwhere King Fingolfin proudly ledhis silver armies on the green,his horses white, his lances keen...The ability to tell the same long tales in such different formats is astonishing; that he felt compelled to do it dismays me. After all, while I certainly enjoyed reading all three versions of each of the two long tales, the vast span of time and effort the professor spent creating and recreating them could have better, in my opinion, been spent writing more stories of Middle-Earth featuring, or amplifying, other times, places, and characters. And this in the end is what I took away from The Lays of Beleriand: awe at the man's sheer creativity and perseverance, but disappointment that there is so much about Middle-Earth we will never enjoy because of his obsession with these two tales and their forms.

Flora Bateman

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.

Fernando Perez

** spoiler alert ** what i think of this book is that this book is really interesting and not that much of a boring middle-age book. the lays of beleriand by J.R.R Tolkien mostly talks about this hero that starts on a journy to save his father on his journy he incounters mane foes that get in his way but he alwasy manage to escape not until he gets trap, then out of no where this stranger swoops in and helps turin the hero and thats all i can give now its your turn who ever is reading this to find this book and read it your self


Even though the poetry in this volume is incomplete, it is well worth reading. It beautifully retells portions of stories found in "The Silmarillion"...most notably about 1/3 of the tragic lives of the children of Hurin and 3/4 of the love/adventure story of Beren the mortal man and Luthien the immortal elf. The poems are some of J. R. R. Tolkien's earlier writings so some names and events do differ slightly from the later "Silmarillion" version of the stories.The editorial commentary by Christopher Tolkien (which takes up at least 1/3 of the page count) is tedious in the extreme. You should skip it unless you happen to be interested in how the story evolved through various rough drafts and earlier versions and how Christopher edited together the current version from various partial manuscripts. It breaks up the flow of the poetry and adds little or no additional information to the current form of the story.Overall: excellent fragments of dramatic poetry by a great author interspersed with tedious pontification by the editor.

Dave Mosher

The first two Book of Lost Tales warm you up to the series, and this is a great gem to work your way toward.It took my 1/10th the time to read this from cover-to-cover than the previous two books combined, because the stories/lays (poems) were longer, more developed and more reminiscent of the "feel" of the Lord of the Rings. When the annotations stopped and the stories began, I could not put this down.As usual with this series, you have to be a Tolkien nut to appreciate what Christopher Tolkien has done here, and not be annoyed by the academic-style literary commentary throughout.I'm learning to love being in a college literature course taught by J.R.R. Tolkien's son (figuratively speaking, of course), because you get the sense that you are looking over the shoulder of a giant in fiction as he labored over his tales. It's awesome.

Nicholas Whyte is the third volume of the History of Middle Earth; it contains two unfinished poems tackling the two key narratives of the Silmarillion. The first, a version of the tale of Turin told in alliterative blank verse, did not really appeal to me, and while I can see why Tolkien, with his background, wanted to give it a try, it's not very surprising that the effort did not come off. The Lay of Leithian, however, is a different matter - telling the story of Beren and Luthien in rhyming couplets of iambic tetrameter, it has a tremendous energy that Tolkien never quite managed in the prose versions of the story, despite its strong personal significance for him. Also I had forgotten, or had never realised, just how kickass a heroine Luthien actually is. The couplets are occasionally a little unpolished, but Christopher Tolkien reproduces a mock source-critical analysis by none other than C.S. Lewis suggesting that the least good bits are obvious interpolations by later scribes. J.R.R. Tolkien then revised the poem in line with Lewis' suggestions, but typically started expanding it from the middle again and never got around to finishing it.Years later, it was part of the disorganised bundle of papers submitted to Unwin as material for a potential sequel to The Hobbit. Unwin's reader, who clearly had not been given much background, found the poem indigestible and urged instead an expansion of the prose summary of the rest of The Silmarillion. Tolkien wasn't up for this at that point, and wrote The Lord of the Rings instead. And thus was history made.

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