Tolkien’s Lays of Beleriand

Tolkien's Lays of Beleriand

Lúthien by Ted Naismith

In the summer of 2015, the Mythgard Academy and the Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen, return to the History of Middle-earth series for an eight-week open course on JRR Tolkien’s The Lays of Beleriand.

Earlier this year, we went back to the beginning stages of Tolkien’s created world with open classes on both volumes of The Book of Lost Tales. Written in his early twenties in the aftermath of WWI, the Lost Tales were Tolkien’s first attempt to bring his stories together into a consistent mythology. As he neared the end of the work, Tolkien’s ideas about the Lost Tales began to shift, and rather than reworking the whole collection, he abandoned it, turning instead to the fleshing out of the chief and most important of the stories from the collection, especially the tales of Turambar and Tinuviel. In The Lays of Beleriand, we will see Tolkien making his first attempt at developing a long story, and to make it even more fun, he was doing it in verse! The Lays of Beleriand is one of Tolkien’s least read and most underappreciated books; make sure to take advantage of this opportunity to read through it in good company!

As part of the Mythgard Academy series, the class is tuition-free and open to the public. The first 100 participants for each session are able to participate in the discussion live, and both video and audio recordings of the classes will be available on this web page, through the Mythgard podcast feed, and on our iTunes U course.

Like all Mythgard Academy classes, this course is made possible by the generosity of everyone who supported our fundraising campaign last fall. The topics of our Academy classes are nominated and elected entirely by our generous donors. After taking a tour through the land of Florin in The Princess Bride, the Mythgard Academy electors – also known as the Council of the Wise – have turned back to Tolkien, choosing to continue our exploration of the History of Middle-earth with The Lays of Beleriand.

If you missed our fundraising campaign but would still like to take part in our class voting process to decide our future topics for the rest of the year, it isn’t too late! Visit our donation page and help support our free classes!
– Dr. Corey Olsen

To help students support each other, Mythgard provides the following interaction opportunities:

  • A live chatroom is available at the bottom right of this page where you can converse with other students in real time during class.
    • There is a little icon on the bottom left pane of the chat widget to open the chat in a separate window, which you should find useful.
  • Also, we have a free forum open to all participants, where you can discuss topics related to this or any of our Mythgard Academy classes. (Registration required.)

Also, please “like” the Mythgard Academy Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to get updates and reminders about the class. If you live-tweet the class, be sure to use the hashtag #MythAcademy.

The History of Middle-earth, Volume 3 is available from Amazon. It can be purchased in hardcover, paperback and electronic formats.


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Schedule for The Lays of Beleriand

The Lays of Beleriand seminar originally took place from July 8 – September 2, 2015, on Wednesdays evening.

Week 1: Exploring the Epic

Read: Version 1, Parts 1-2 (1-56)

Week 2: Love and Loss

Read: Version 1, Part 3 (56-94)

Week 3: Of Increase and Digression

Read: Version 2 (94-130)

Week 4: The Epic Impulse

Read: “Poems Early Abandoned” (131-149)

Week 5: The Echo of a Spell

Read: Cantos I-IV (150-198)
Bonus: In Search of Asterisk-Poetry: The Lay of Leithian as Breton lai, by MA student Alyssa House-Thomas

Week 6: Release from Bondage

Read: Cantos V-VIII (198-248)

Week 7: Dungeons and Great Doom

Read: Cantos IX-XIV (248-308)

Week 8: The Great Escape

Read: Unwritten Cantos, C.S. Lewis Commentary, Recommenced (308-363)

Week 9: The Echoes of the Lays

Read: Unwritten Cantos, C.S. Lewis Commentary, Recommenced (308-363)

Artwork for The Lays of Beleriand

Artwork for The Lays of Beleriand was adapted from “Lúthien” by Ted Nasmith. Used with permission.

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