A BOOK launch of the first Tolkien Middle-earth title in a decade will take place in East Yorkshire – bringing the story home to its birthplace, exactly 100 years later.
After taking part in the Battle of the Somme, the young writer spent 18 months from 1917 to 1918 recuperating from trench fever, much of it on the crumbling Holderness coastline.
Tolkien visited a wood full of flowering “hemlocks” in the village of Roos with his wife Edith in the late spring of 1917 – and was so enchanted by the sight of her singing and dancing that it became the “landscape” for the first meeting of the star-crossed lovers Beren and Lúthien.
“There are yet some (histories) in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures. And of these histories most fair still in the ears of the Elves is the tale of Beren and Lúthien,” wrote Tolkien in The Silmarillion.
Christopher Tolkien, the author’s son, has extracted the tale, which is being published in June, from his father’s manuscripts, presenting it for the first time as a continuous and standalone story.
The book is illustrated by Oscar-winning illustrator Alan Lee – who will be coming to an event at Waterstone’s in Hull, where he will be giving a talk and signing the new book.
Mr Lee worked on the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films for which he won an Oscar, and also worked on all three Hobbit movies.
Author Phil Mathison, who wrote Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917-1918, helped bring the event to Hull.
He is hoping to get as many as 300 people along to the event: “It’s in the middle of our City of Culture year and it is about staking East Yorkshire’s claim as part of the Tolkien mythology – this is where he started writing his Middle-earth mythology.”
The tale is about a mortal who fell in love with an immortal elf named Lúthien. Since her father didn’t approve, he sent the man on an impossible task, which he must perform before he can wed her. Eventually, Lúthien gives up her immortality so she can be with him.
Their characters had great personal significance for the author: having had ‘Lúthien’ engraved on Edith’s tombstone, when Tolkien died 21 months later he arranged for ‘Beren’ to be added under his own name.
Tolkien experts believe the wooded glade the author found so inspiring was Dents Garth, at the southern end of the village of Roos. At the time Tolkien was stationed at nearby Thirtle Bridge army camp, which housed nearly 1,500 soldiers.
The author immediately set to work weaving this event into his emerging Middle-earth mythology, writing the first draft while convalescing in Brooklands Officers’ Hospital, now the Dennison Centre at the University of Hull, in August and September 1917.
Illustrator Alan Lee has worked with the Tolkien estate since 1992, creating some of the most iconic Middle-earth imagery.
His appearance in Hull at 7.30pm on June 6 will be the grand finale of the national book launch tour. The tale is the latest to be “rediscovered” since the author’s death in 1973. Published by HarperCollins, it will be released 10 years after the global best-seller The Children of Hurin came out.