When I first read The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, I wasn’t looking for a love story. After all, I was in second grade and ready to read about the adventures of hobbits, dwarves, and elves. I was content with stories of traveling, sword fights and good versus evil. Frankly, I could have done without that “love stuff.” But as I continued to revisit the books as I grew older, I discovered that, intermingled with stories of dragons and magical rings, Tolkien wove an incredible story of authentic love.
When I was in college, I had a new appreciation for the story of Aragorn and Arwen, whose love conquered seemingly impossible and daunting obstacles. But before Aragorn and Arwen’s romantic and inspiring story was the story of Beren and Lúthien, ancestors of Aragorn and Arwen who lived in the First Age of Middle Earth. For years, the love story of Beren and Lúthien remained incomplete until Tolkien’s son, Christopher, compiled and edited pieces of the story into a final product. Over two decades after Tolkien’s death, his book Beren and Lúthien was finally released in June, and readers are discovering how close the romantic story was to Tolkien’s heart. Before Tolkien penned the inspiring love story of Beren and Lúthien, there were John and Edith.
As teenagers, John and Edith fell head over heels in love with each other. They adventured out in the countryside and were sure that they were made for each other. But after his school grades slipped, John was told he would no longer be able to stay in touch with Edith. They drifted apart, but John never forgot Edith. After finding out that Edith was engaged to marry another man, John rushed home to declare his love for the woman of his dreams.
Does this story sound like a fairy tale? It’s actually the love life of J.R.R. Tolkien, who created Middle Earth, and the tale that inspired the romance found in The Lord of the Rings series. Without a doubt, the origins for the tales of romantic love and ultimate sacrifice were inspired by Tolkien’s deep love for Edith Bratt.
Years after I rolled my eyes through the romance of The Lord of the Rings as a second grader, John and Edith’s story resonated in my romantic heart, especially since I recently entered married life myself. Tolkien expertly writes about the reality of marriage in a poignant, striking tone: “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes in the sense that almost certainly … both partners might [have] found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.” Marriage is not all roses, and Tolkien also acknowledged that love is a deliberate decision that spouses choose, especially on the days when the emotional feelings have faded: “No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”
This article continues at [Aleteia] The secret love story behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s romantic characters in ‘The Lord of the Rings’