Lord of the Rings Spinoff?

Back in October, Entertainment Weekly wrote about the upcoming publication of Beren and Lúthien. And, of course, the internet misunderstood, calling it a Lord of the Rings spinoff. Seriously.

What is Beren and Lúthien?

According to the publisher’s Australian site (no idea why I can’t find it on the American version), Beren and Lúthien will include several versions of the story:

To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father’s own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed.

Beren and Lúthien, then, will apparently tell the tale of Beren and Lúthien and also illustrate the textual history of the tale. The textual history has been published before, in various volumes of The History of Middle-earth, but this will be the first time it is published in a single volume.

Wait, Who Are Beren and Lúthien?

A careful reader of The Lord of the Rings will remember Beren and Lúthien and their connection to Aragorn and Arwen. Beren was a mortal man and Lúthien was the half-divine daughter of an Elven king–the most beautiful Elf-maiden ever to live. The two fell in love but Lúthien’s father wouldn’t hear of his daughter marrying a mortal. He sent Beren on a hopeless quest to retrieve a jewel (called a Silmaril) from the crown of the dark lord (basically Sauron’s boss) in exchange for Lúthien’s hand in marriage.

If you haven’t read the story, I won’t spoil the ending. It really is the central story in Tolkien’s mythos, both from within and without. Beren and Lúthien’s actions reverberated throughout Middle-earth for millennia. Tolkien’s love for this tale (partially because Lúthien was based on his wife, Edith) is evident from how many times he went back to re-write the story.

Is it a Lord of the Rings Spinoff?

So what about the internet’s claim that Beren and Lúthien is a Lord of the Rings spinoff? Well, that’s simply wrong. If anything, LotR is a spinoff of Beren and Lúthien.

I won’t get into the details, but the story of Beren and Lúthien (or the “Tale of Tinúviel” as it was called in its first draft) pre-dates LotR by quite a few decades. You can read the first versions of the story in Book of Lost Tales II. They were brought in as references in Lord of the Rings because they existed before the LotR story.

Is There a Lord of the Rings Spinoff?

Sort of? Tolkien started writing a Lord of the Rings sequel but, characteristically, didn’t finish it.

The closest thing to a Lord of the Rings spinoff is some of the content in Unfinished Tales, which features chapters like:

  • The Disaster of the Gladden Fields [delving into what happened to Isildur after he found the Ring]
  • Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan [detailing the history of their relationship]
  • The Quest of Erebor [how Thorin & company started their quest]
  • The Hunt for the Ring [notes on the Black Riders, Gandalf, and Saruman]
  • The History of Galadriel and Celeborn
  • The Drúedain [delving into the history of these mysterious men]
  • The Istari [about Gandalf’s peers, the other wizards of Middle-earth]
  • The Palantíri [the history and use of the seeing stones]

Of course, very few of these chapters are complete. (It’s a miracle he finished The Lord of the Rings, frankly.) But there’s still plenty of content that could comprise a Lord of the Rings spinoff.

Photo Credit: Stephen Pedersen

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