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

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.


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.


I love this book. It's really magical to see these stories in this way, epic poems that really bring these corners of the Tolkien mythology to life. And faithfully recreated Old English metres, at that. You can almost imagine some travelling bard reciting these over a couple of nights in some lordly lord's hall.I've read this before, and usually, I'll end up skipping over a lot of the commentary and notes, as it detracts a bit from the magic. This time, though, I read it nearly cover to cover. It really provides a great deal of insight into how the mythology evolved, the transitional steps between the Lost Tales and the "finished" versions in the Silmarillion. If you're into that kind of thing (nerd alert), then I'd recommend it.

Richard Houchin

Like the Silmarillion, this book is only for those who are passionate not just about Tolkien's world -- but about the nuts and bolts behind that world. It reads like a dry, boring history book at times. Or like the bible. But it's got great stories and good insight to the world of Lord of the Rings.


This book contains the best poems I have ever read. I've always loved Tolkien, but his poetry out does his prose this time. None of the poems are finished, unfortunately, but what is extant is simply amazing. I haven't had this much pleasure reading a book, let alone reading poetry, in a very, very long time, probably not since I actually read the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings.

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.


Yes, I'm the nerd who read all the historical/extra components to Tolkien's writing. The Lay of Leithian is absolutely beautiful. Aragon's brief recitation of the story of Beren and Luthien (Tinuviel) in The Fellowship of the Ring is told at length here. It's definitely worth reading. It's like taking a medieval literature class, only it's far easier to understand than Middle English, and it's about nerdy things we've all enjoyed on the big screen.


This book's main attraction is Part III, “The Lay of Leithian,” the first draft of which runs for fourteen cantos and 4,220 lines. This is followed by a second draft, which I think to be superior poetry but which only runs for three cantos. It is, of course, the grand epic verse account of a story that was very dear to Tolkien's heart: that of Beren and Luthien.Read the rest of my review at my blog, In Which I Read Vintage Novels


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.


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.

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)"


The lays are… lays! They’re written as long poems. For some reason, I was not expecting that. I also wasn't expecting it to be so pleasant to read; I usually hate poetry. It reminds me of a fanfic drabble: every word chosen carefully, lots of rich details but nothing extraneous. Maybe when I have the house to myself I will read them aloud. {EDIT: I did, and it was amazing.}"The Lay of Leithian" is the familiar story of Beren and Lúthien. The rhyming couplets are perfect for this story; I prefer it over all the other prose versions. It also has a lot more detail. "The Lay of the Children of Húrin" is in alliterative verse, and I enjoyed it, although maybe not as much. I don’t know a lot about poetry, but alliterative verse was a much better choice than rhyming couplets, since it’s a much darker story.Favorites: (view spoiler)[Lúthien faces down Morgoth. She is brilliant as always, but it’s the characterization of Morgoth himself that gets to me: you can feel his hatred of the Valar, how convincing he can be, and how twisted his view of the world. (hide spoiler)]Least favorites: None of it is finished! Luckily we know how the stories end, but I would love to read them all the way through in verse.Writing style: Alliterative verse and rhyming couplets. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

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.

Kate Dutson

My expectations for this book of Lays were far exceeded. I read both poems aloud to myself, and was moved by the beauty of the verse. The Lay of Leithian came to ~ 4175 lines, arranged in octosyllabic couplets, whilst the Lay of the Children of Húrin was written in alliterative verse, which I'd never encountered before. A true joy to read.

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.

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