The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by JRR Tolkien
Edited by Verlyn Flieger
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien rejoice (or despair) for your Christmas list just got one item longer. The latest edition in the series of Tolkien's published posthumous works, The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, was published early-November, and it's just as beautiful as all that have come before.
Christopher Tolkien has long been known for his meticulous work cataloguing, annotating, analysing, and introducing his father's many unpublished works. At first the material was primarily related to The Lord of the Rings, or more accurately, Tolkien's 'Silmarillion' legendarium --- including the wonderful 12-volume The History of Middle Earth, which includes drafts, revisions, and countless extra material of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and more. However, Christopher's father was prolific, and over the years J.R.R. Tolkien wrote on a great many different topics, with great skill.
Subsequently, over the past decade, we have been blessed with numerous books including The Children of Húrin, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur, and The Story of Kullervo. (We're also hotly anticipating the next one, Beren and Lúthien, due out next year.) Each book includes an introduction, various draft-versions of the original work, annotations or commentary, and sometimes an essay or three thrown in relating to the work, or the field in which the work resides.
In short, for any true Tolkien fan, these books are a must read.
The latest, The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, fits the same mould – though like Kullervo, it is edited not by Christopher Tolkien, but rather preeminent Tolkien-scholar Verlyn Flieger. This beautiful little hardcover is thinner than the others, as we are dealing with a poem, or more accurately a lay. The book therefore includes the lay itself, commentary and introduction, as well as two smaller-but-related poems, and the multiple drafts of the poem.
The poem itself is fascinating, and though there are clues to future characters Tolkien would write, it is quite unlike most anything we have read of his. It is a darker tale, dealing with a witch who ensorcels a Lord (Aotrou) longing for a child for himself and his Lady (Itroun). The witch, a Corrigan, is similarly the focal point of the two shorter poems included in this edition.
The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun is a wonderful addition to any Tolkien fan's collection, and in a way other editions haven't, expands our knowledge of Tolkien's ability and interests.
This The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun book review was written by Joshua S Hill
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