The Lay of Leithian

From Tolkien Gateway
"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
This article or section is a stub. Please help Tolkien Gateway by expanding it.
This article is about the chapter in the third book of The History of Middle-earth series. For the lay within the legendarium, see Lay of Leithian.
The Lays of Beleriand chapters
  1. The Lay of the Children of Húrin
  2. Poems Early Abandoned
  3. The Lay of Leithian
  4. The Lay of Leithian Recommenced

The Lay of Leithian is the third chapter of The Lays of Beleriand. The full title is The GEST of BEREN son of BARAHIR and Lúthien the FAY called TINUVIEL the NIGHTINGALE or the LAY OF LEITHIAN Release from Bondage.

Development[edit | edit source]

Tolkien stated in his diary that he started the Lay during the time of summer examinations of 1925 at the University of Leeds. Confirming this, the first recorded date of the writing of the Lay was at Line 557: August 23, 1925. The next date is two and a half years later, 27-8 March, 1928, at line 1161. Over the next nine days he wrote fully 1769 lines, up to 2929. These dates are for the copying out of the manuscript, not for their writing, so Tolkien may have had many passages earlier before he put them together. In September 1931, he abandoned the Lay.[1] He sent it to C.S. Lewis, who wrote back the following:

I sat up late last night and have read the Geste as far as to where Beren and his gnomish allies defeat the patrol of orcs above the sources of the Narog and disguise themselves in the rëaf [ OE: 'garments, weapons, taken from the slain']. I can quite honestly say that it is ages since I have had an evening of such delight: and the personal interest of reading a friend's work had very little to do with it. I should have enjoyed it just as well as if I'd picked it up in a bookshop, by an unknown author. The two things that come out clearly are the sense of reality in the background and the mythical value: the essence of a myth being that it should have no taint of allegory to the maker and yet should suggest incipient allegories to the reader
—The Lay of Leithian introduction

Later he wrote a detailed criticism, which pretends to treat the Lay as if it were a historical document. Tolkien was influenced by Lewis' comments, and made several minor changes based on them.

After the completion of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien began a new version of The Lay, which Christopher Tolkien includes in the same book as The Lay of Leithian Recommenced.

Contents[edit | edit source]

Canto[edit | edit source]

Unwritten cantos[edit | edit source]

Appendix: Commentary by C.S. Lewis[edit | edit source]

Recycling the Lay[edit | edit source]

Tolkien recycled parts of the older version of the Lay, most notably in The Fall of Gil-galad and the Song of Durin, both poems included in The Fellowship of the Ring. Following are pieces found in both the Lord of the Rings and the Lay:

Original Lay

his silver lances long and keen;
the starlight in his shield was caught,

...There might and glory, wealth untold
Were wielded from his ivory throne
In many-pillared halls of stone.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale
And metal wrought like fishes' mail
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword
And gleaming spears were laid in hoard
All these he had and loved them less
Than a maiden once in Elfinesse...

Lord of the Rings

his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

...There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes' mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

See also[edit | edit source]