In The Lord of the Rings Beren and Luthien are frequently compared to Aragorn and Arwen. Arwen too has the choice of remaining immortal or marrying Aragorn. She chooses Aragorn and thus chooses death, a subject of much pain to her father, Elrond, who will live forever with only his recollection of her.

There’s a deeper, personal significance to Tolkien in the story of Beren and Luthien. Tolkien was frequently unhappy with people comparing his work to his own life. However, the story of Beren and Luthien has autobiographical origins, which Tolkien would not have denied.

Tolkien definitely compared his relationship to his wife, Edith Bratt, to the relationship between Beren and Luthien. When Tolkien first met Edith, she was a Protestant, and Tolkien, a devout Catholic was advised not to marry her. In fact, Edith did forsake her family by converting to Catholicism. So it is said that even the first meeting of Beren and Luthien is an echo of Tolkien’s life.

Beren spies Luthien dancing in the woods and falls deeply in love with her. On a romantic starry night, Edith danced for Tolkien and immediately entranced him. Edith was older than Tolkien; she was 19 and he was 16. This reflects Luthien’s agelessness and maturity, as compared to Beren’s relative youth.

Clearly the family struggle that ensued and the opposition Edith encountered in attempting to marry Tolkien was a source of pain to Edith. Luthien is shown as sorry for the family conflict she causes, yet resolute in her path to marriage. Tolkien’s words breathe a kindly sympathy to Edith’s family and an understanding of their pain, while celebrating Edith’s choice for his sake.

Tolkien’s relationship to Edith, and his deep love for her are perhaps even more romantic than his fictional treatment of the subject. To be Luthien, the most beautiful and desired of her people in Tolkien’s eyes, was the highest regard he could possibly give a woman. Further it expresses Tolkien as almost feeling he doesn’t quite deserve the grace that is Luthien, even though Beren, and Tolkien are worthy men.

Throught their long lives, Tolkien referred to Edith as Luthien, and to himself as Beren, this being even carried over to their gravestone in Wolvercote Cemetery.

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