Mythical romance explored in previously unseen Tolkien works to be displayed in major exhibition

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth | Weston Library, Broad Street | 1 June - 28 October 2018

Tickets are now available for
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

The Bodleian Libraries have compiled an unprecedented selection of materials – many previously unseen – about Beren and Lúthien, lead characters in a love story by J.R.R.Tolkien about a mortal man and an elf maiden.

Circular image with a yellow and blue flower inside

The tale appears in several of Tolkien's works, in brief in the posthumously published novel The Silmarillion (1977) and more fully in the recent Beren and Lúthien (2017), both edited by the author’s son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien.

The mythical tale of romance sees mortal Beren and elf Lúthien embark on a quest together and fall in love. Following the final battle Lúthien revives the mortally-wounded Beren by renouncing her own immortality.

Original manuscripts and illustrations related to this under-explored story, including Tolkien's illustrations of heraldry for both Beren and Lúthien, will be displayed as part of the Bodleian Libraries' major forthcoming exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth (1 June – 28 October 2018). The exhibition will explore the full breadth of Tolkien's unique literary imagination, ranging from his creation of Middle-earth to his life and work as an artist, poet, medievalist and scholar of languages. Image of a map

The items related to Beren and Lúthien that have never been displayed publicly include:

  • Page from the Quenta Silmarillion which introduces the tale of Beren and Lúthien;
  • Beren's heraldic device; and
  • The Second Silmarillion map on which Beren and Lúthien are mentioned.
Catherine McIlwaine, Tolkien Archivist at the Bodleian Libraries and curator of the upcoming exhibition, said:

'The aim of this exhibition is to take visitors beyond what they may already know about the work of this extraordinary author – his talent as an artist, linguist and creator of the many different characters who lived in Middle-earth. The story of Beren and Lúthien resonates with us today more than ever because it speaks of the possibility that love can transcend the differences that sometimes separate us.'

Black and white photograph of Tolkien stood by a treeTolkien: Maker of Middle-earth will feature manuscripts, artwork, maps, letters and artefacts from the Bodleian's extensive Tolkien Archive, the Tolkien Collection at Marquette University in the USA and from private collections. The Bodleian Libraries houses the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world. The Tolkien Archive has been kept at the Bodleian since 1979.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated book, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth to be published by Bodleian Library Publishing on 1 June 2018. The book is available to pre-order via the Bodleian Libraries shop.

Entry to Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth (1 June - 28 October 2018) is by ticket only. Tickets can be reserved on the day or in advance online from 2pm Tuesday 13 February at


Image credits, top to bottom:

Lúthien Tinúviel heraldic device, MS. Tolkien Drawings 91, fol.9.
© The Tolkien Trust 1973

The second Silmarilion map, MS. Tolkien S 5/1, fols 93-96.
© The Tolkien Estate Ltd 2018

Photo of Tolkien in Botanic Garden, MS. Tolkien photogr. 8, fol. 122.
© The Tolkien Trust 1977

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