Happily Ever After?
Beren and Luthien, who both died but were brought back to life by Mandos, the judge of the Elven dead, were to have their happily ever after. One of their descendants was Elrond, who was immortalized in the Lord of the Rings while the couple was also the ancestors of the Numenorean Kings. After the Great War had ended, Tolkien and Edith were also free to settle down to enjoy the rest of their life together. They had four children, John, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla, the last being born in 1929. Tolkien settled into life as an Oxfordshire professor- and eventually as a much-beloved writer.
However, as Luthien had given up her immortality as an elf, along with her home and family, to dwell with Beren in the world of men, Edith seemed to be condemned to a similar exile. She had given up her religion, which she had found profoundly satisfying. Unfortunately she found that Catholicism was something she could not engage with. Additionally, while her husband went from strength to strength with his academic career, she had to give up any hope of developing her own musical talent to run a home and raise a family.
Worse yet, as Luthien must have felt lost in the world of men, so Edith did in Oxford. She found the academic atmosphere intimidating and felt her lack of academic education left her an outsider. For this reason, she did not return call from the wives of other academic members of staff. Tolkien, meanwhile, was spending more and more time with his male friends and colleagues, preferring to discussing his writing and intellectual interests with them rather than his wife.
Although the couple remained in love, a certain distance began to develop between them. Edith gave up going to mass to please Tolkien and the couple began to sleep apart because of Tolkien’s snoring. As the children grew older, they even went on holiday separately. Edith’s health began to decline and she started to suffer from headaches that could keep her in bed for days. It wasn’t until Tolkien’s retirement in 1959 that Edith probably felt she achieved her happily ever after, when Tolkien finally brought a new modern house for them in Bournemouth.
Edith had long seen Bournemouth as a haven. The new house was easier to manage and allowed her to enjoy the town she loved. It was also a haven for Tolkien from his growing army of fans. The last years of the couple’s life were spent dedicated to each other. However, when Edith died in November 1971, Tolkien returned her remains to Oxfordshire, inscribing her headstone: “Edith Mary Tolkien, Luthien, 1889-1971”. In 1973, his own name and dates, suffixed with the name Beren were added. Now the world knew that Edith “ she was (and knew she was)” Tolkien’s Luthien.
Where do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:
J.R.R. Tolkien’s other adventure: Courting and marrying Edith Bratt, Magda Origjanska, The Vintage News, January 18, 2018.
J .R . R Tolkien’s Love for his Wife Inspired “The Lord of the Rings” Newsweek, April 3, 2017
J R R Tolkien Biography: Edith Tolkien, The Council of Elrond
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch, David Doughan MBE, The Tolkien Society.