If you've been searching for a simple way to understand Tolkien's Silmarillion, hoping to dig deeper into its themes & mythology, or wanting to learn more about Beren and Luthien before the June release of the restored edition of their tale...
John Carswell's short but insightful book, Tolkien's Requiem, is the place to start.
A little about the text:
"The shared gravestone of J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife Edith bears two simple epitaphs: "Lúthien" for Edith and "Beren" for Tolkien himself. These highly significant names reference two characters from The Silmarillion. Beren and Lúthien are a pair of fated lovers who set out on a perilous quest to wrest a coveted Silmaril from the grasp of the demonic Morgoth. In the process they do battle with Sauron, the cruel antagonist of The Lord of the Rings.
In this in-depth exploration of the story, John Carswell brings together various threads of The Silmarillion and seeks to treat the tale of Beren and Lúthien as something like wisdom literature. Numerous insights are extracted in order to bring the reader to a deeper appreciation of one of Tolkien's greatest tales. In the process, a helpful introduction is provided to those seeking a start on The Silmarillion as well as to those seeking to understand how The Silmarillion relates to The Lord of the Rings. All readers will come away with a better understanding of the legend that Tolkien himself called "the kernel" of the Middle-earth mythology."
I have loved reading through Tolkien's Requiem, especially after struggling through the Silmarillion the first time I read it when I was 18. The book is short and easy to read, yet incredibly insightful. It makes a great companion or introduction to The Silmarillion for readers of any level. In the first chunk of the book, Carswell introduces common themes of Tolkien's writing as well as key characters and terms. After setting this great foundation, he then walks his readers through the story of Beren and Luthien within the context of the Silmarillion as a whole.
After discovering this book a few weeks ago, I ordered a few copies and requested them to be signed "To the Tea with Tolkien Community" by John, as a thank-you for being a part of this beautiful community! To enter to win one of two signed copies of Tolkien's Requiem, please use the Gleam widget below.
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Please note: Tolkien's Requiem is available on Amazon, but limited edition signed copies are also available directly through Carswell's website: TrueMyths.org.