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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun Hardcover – November 3, 2016
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The poem is about 500 lines long, and concerns a lord whose lady is childless. He seeks out the Corrigan (a fairy of sorts), who gives him a potion and explains that she'll have her fee when he is satisfied. Well, the lady gives birth to twins, and the Corrigan shows up and, wouldn't you know it, the schmuck refuses to pay her fee (which is to have sexual union with her), so she curses him, and he dies, and the lady dies, and that's a pretty standard story of the Fair Folk This is presented with introduction and notes...
But wait! There's more! There are two "Corrigan" poems Tolkien wrote before the "Lay", plus drafts of the "Lay", plus some other ancillary, nay, tertiary stuff.
I enjoyed the "Lay" and the "Corrigan" poems quite a lot. The introduction and notes to them were interesting, too. But the drafts and ancillae grew a bit tedious for me.
Aotrou and Itroun are a noble couple, happily married but childless. Aotrou is able to obtain a potion to cure childlessness, but the fairy who gives him the potion will demand a price. Ultimately, that price will be very steep.
“The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun” was first published in The Welsh Review in 1945, and was republished in late 2016, edited by Tolkien scholar Verlynn Flieger, professor emerita at the University of Maryland. It includes two additional poems, both entitled “The Corrigan” and with similar themes but different subjects. A “corrigan” is a fairy who interacts with the human world, usually ending in some disaster. These two poems share a similar general theme with The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun.
The Lay is a long ballad, some 19 printed pages, but here is an excerpt providing an idea of how the poem is written and develops:
No child he had his house to cheer,
to fill his courts with laughter clear;
though wife he wooed and wed with ring,
who love to board and bed did bring,
his pride was empty, vain his hoard,
without an heir to land and sword.
This pondering oft at night awake
his darkened mind would visions make
of lonely age and death; his tomb
unkept, while strangers in his room
with other names and other shields
were masters of his halls and fields.
Thus counsel cold he took at last;
his hope from light to darkness passed.
A with there was, who webs could weave
to snare the heart and wits to reave,
who span dark spells with spider-craft,
and as she span she softly laughed;
a drink she brewed of strength and dread
to bind the quick and stir the dead…
You can see that this will not end well. A noble grieving for the lack of an heir, imagining a future forgotten and others owning his lands, and a witch looking to make mischief.
“The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun” provides insight into Tolkien’s fascination with folk tales and mythology, an area related but separated from the imaginary worlds of Middle Earth for which he’s best known.
Top international reviews
Para lectores hispanos, hay muchas palabras incomprensibles, así que es bueno tener un traductor a la mano