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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun.jpg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorVerlyn Flieger
PublisherHarperCollins (UK)
Released3 November 2016
FormatHardback; e-Book

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun is a 506-line poem written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1930. It was first published in The Welsh Review in December 1945, and was published in its own volume edited by Verlyn Flieger on 3 November 2016.[1]


[edit] The poem

Aotrou and Itroun are Breton words for "lord" and "lady". The poem is modelled on the genre of the "Breton lay" popular in Middle English literature of the 12th century, and it explores the conflict of heroic or chivalric values and Christianity, and their relation to the institution of marriage.

In the poem, Aotrou and Itroun are a couple of Breton nobility. They are childless, and Aotrou seeks the help of a witch. When Itroun is with child, the witch reappears, revealing herself as the Corrigan, and asks for Atrou's love as payment. Aotrou sacrifices his knightly honour to Christian values, and breaks his word.

I gave no love. My love is wed;
my wife now lieth in child-bed,
and I curse the beast that cheated me
and drew me to this dell to thee.

Cursed by the Corrigan to die in three days, Aotrou takes the consequences and places his trust in Providence:

In three days I shall live at ease
and die but when it God doth please
in eld, or in some time to come
in the brave wars of Christendom.

Aotrou passes away after three days, his wife dies of broken heart and they are buried together, and they do not live to see their offspring grow up.

[edit] Publication history

First folio of the manuscript

Since its publication in The Welsh Review in 1945, the poem was reprinted in a bilingual (Serbian/English) edition in 2002, entitled Pesma o Otruu i Itrun.[2][3] A new edition of the Serbian/English volume was published in June 2015.[4]

The poem was published in its own volume edited by Verlyn Flieger on 3 November 2016.[1]

[edit] Relation to the legendarium

While not being among Tolkien's works on the legendarium, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun includes aspects which appear to have inspired his tales of Arda:

[edit] From the publisher

Coming from the darker side of J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination, "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun" is an important non Middle-earth work to set alongside his other retellings of existing myth and legend, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur and The Story of Kullervo.

Together with Tolkien’s “Corrigan Poems”, which are included in this book, the Aotrou and Itroun texts comprise a sequence that was the outcome of a comparatively short but intense period in Tolkien's life when he was deeply engaged with Celtic languages and mythologies.

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.

The book is edited and introduced by Verlyn Flieger, and includes a new prefatory note on the text by Christopher Tolkien.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun", HarperCollins (accessed 11 July 2016)
  2. "Welsh Review. 1945", (accessed 22 June 2013)
  3. "Index Translationum (search result for Tolkien + Serbian)", (accessed 22 June 2013)
  4. David Emerson, "25843Fw: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun - New Separate Book Edition in June 2015" dated 9 May 2015, Mailing list for the Mythopoeic Society (accessed 3 November 2016)
  5. Alan Reynolds, "Tolkien Society Facebook group post" dated 5 December 2016, Facebook (accessed 5 December 2016)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Verlyn Flieger (ed), The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun, "Introduction", p. xvi