One of the oldest, longest and most influential works in the history of Old English will soon be experienced through the eyes of one of the world’s most beloved fantasy authors.
J.R.R. Tolkien was a prominent Beowulf scholar; his Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics was a turning point in the modern study of the poem, moving the focus from its historical to its literary significance. Tolkien also left two substantial unpublished manuscripts concerning Beowulf. The first, a more substantial version of the previously mentioned critical essay, was edited byMichael D.C. Drout and published as Beowulf and the Critics. The second is a partial poetic and full prose translation of the epic, including commentary. The latter was a minor media sensation on its ‘discovery’ in 2003 and was also to be prepared for publication by Drout. [ source ]
Tolkien’s version of the epic story is to finally be published for the first time in an edition which his son Christopher Tolkien says sees his father “enter[ing] into the imagined past” of the heroes.
Although the author completed his own translation in 1926, he “seems never to have considered its publication”, said Christopher Tolkien today, announcing the Tolkien estate’s new deal with HarperCollins to publish Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary on 22 May. The book, edited by Christopher Tolkien, will also include the series of lectures Tolkien gave at Oxford about the poem in the 1930s, as well as the author’s “marvellous tale”, Sellic Spell.
Tolkien’s “creative attention to detail” in his lectures gives rise to a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision”, said his son. “It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.”
Tolkien also closely considers the dragon which would slay Beowulf, writing of how the beast was “snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup” – an image reminiscent of his own thief Bilbo Baggins, sneaking into the lair of the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit – but, said his son, the author “rebuts the notion that this is ‘a mere treasure story … just another dragon tale'”.
“Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary,” including the translations, a series of lectures given about the poem, and a “marvelous tale” written by Tolkien, will be released on May 22 through HarperCollins.