“The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun,” written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1930, and first published in 1945 in the literary journal The Welsh Review, is set to be re-released in November of this year after more than 70 years of being out of print. The 508 line poem tells of the childless couple Aotrou and Itroun (Breton: lord and lady), who are helped by a Korrigan, a Breton term for a fairy. When Autrou refuses to pay the price of marrying the Korrigan, he dies three days later and his wife, Itroun, subsequently dies of grief, leaving the twins she bore them to grow up as orphans.
From nothing more than this short description, fans will immediately be reminded of Tolkien’s gift for writing about, and romanticizing, tragic circumstances. Anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings knows of the sacrifices Frodo made, [big LOTR spoiler here]…
…ending in his bittersweet departure from Middle-earth. Fans who have delved into Tolkien’s other works such as The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin know of the impossible situations of some of his lesser-known characters, such as Hurin, Turin, Fingolfin and Finrod have found themselves in. Perhaps much more subtle in nature, The Lay of Autrou and Itroun sounds like its no less tragic in its ending.
An interesting side note is that sources such as Harper Collins, Tolkien’s publisher in the U.K., cite that the Korrigan in the poem may be the precursor for the character of Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings:
“The sequence shows the corrigan’s increasingly powerful presence, as she takes an ever more active role in the lives of Aotrou and Itroun, Lord and Lady. She would finally emerge, changed in motive and character but still recognizable, in The Lord of the Rings as the beautiful and terrible Lady of the Golden Wood, the Elven queen Galadriel.”
According to the Harper Collins website, harperreach.com, the book includes other ‘Corrigan Poems’ written by Tolkien, and is edited by well-known Tolkien scholar, Verlyn Fliegar, complete with prefactory note on the text by Christopher Tolkien. The release date has been announced as November 3 of 2016 in the U.K. with a similar release date in the U.S.
How lucky are Tolkien fans that we’re enamored by an author who was so prodigous that he still has unpublished and out-of-print works for us to enjoy over 40 years after his passing? Our thanks go out to The Professor, his son Christopher, and the many scholars who’s dedication brings us such treasures. On to November! (with a side-note that this is just in time to make it a smashing Christmas present – and, yes, that’s a blatant hint to friends and family)!