The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun.jpg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorVerlyn Flieger
ReleasedDecember 1945
Separate book: 3 November 2016
FormatHardcover; paperback

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is a long poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1930, first published in The Welsh Review in December 1945. It was published in its own volume in 2016, edited by Verlyn Flieger.[1]

Aotrou and Itroun are Breton words for "lord" and "lady". The poem is modelled on the genre of the "Breton lay" popular in Middle English literature of the 12th century, and it explores the conflict of heroic or chivalric values and Christianity, and their relation to the institution of marriage.


A major source for the poem has been identified as the Breton song An Aotrou Nann hag ar Gorigann (Lord Nann and the Fairy), which Tolkien probably knew through Wimberly's Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads (1928).[2] Tolkien adds to his source a stern moral – repudiation of all traffic with the supernatural.[3]


First folio of the manuscript

In the poem, Aotrou and Itroun are a couple of Breton nobility. They are childless, and Aotrou seeks the help of a witch. When Itroun is with child, the witch reappears, revealing herself as the Corrigan, and asks for Aotrou's love as payment. Aotrou sacrifices his knightly honour to Christian values, and breaks his word.

"I gave no love. My love is wed;

my wife now lieth in child-bed,
and I curse the beast that cheated me

and drew me to this dell to thee."

Cursed by the Corrigan to die in three days, Aotrou takes the consequences and places his trust in Providence:

In three days I shall live at ease

and die but when it God doth please
in eld, or in some time to come

in the brave wars of Christendom.

Aotrou died after three days, followed by his wife with a broken heart. They are buried together, and they do not live to see their offspring grow up.

Relation to the legendarium[edit]

While not being among Tolkien's works on the legendarium, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun includes aspects which appear to have inspired his tales of Arda:

Publication history and gallery[edit]

Initially The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun was published in The Welsh Review vol.IV, no.4 in 1945.[6]

More than 50 years later, the poem was first reprinted as a bilingual (Serbian/English) standalone book Pesma o Otruu i Itrun in 2002, in a limited edition of 500 copies.[7] An expanded edition of it was published in June 2015.[8]

The poem was published fully in English and edited by Verlyn Flieger on 3 November 2016.

1945 Welsh Review vol. IV, no. 4  
2002 Serbian/
English edition  
2015 Serbian/
English edition  
2016 hardcover  
2019 paperback  

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun", HarperCollins (accessed 11 July 2016)
  2. Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth
  3. Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  4. Alan Reynolds, "Tolkien Society Facebook group post" dated 5 December 2016, Facebook (accessed 5 December 2016)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger (ed), The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, "Introduction", p. xvi
  6. "Welsh Review. 1945", (accessed 22 June 2013)
  7. "Index Translationum (search result for Tolkien + Serbian)", (accessed 22 June 2013)
  8. PESMA O OTRUU I ITRUN – Dž.R.R. Tolkin on Art-Anima
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Of Arda Authorized by
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iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow ·
vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring ·
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The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
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Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fiction works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · Finn and Hengest ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays ·
Tolkien On Fairy-stories · A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages · The Battle of Maldon
Other The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Reference books The Complete Guide to Middle-earth
Scholarly books with Tolkien's writings J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · The Road to Middle-earth ·
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The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
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