JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait.
Telling of how the Geatish prince Beowulf comes to the aid of Danish king Hro[eth]gar, slaying the monster Grendel and his mother before - spoiler alert - being mortally wounded by a dragon years later, Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, and is dated to the early 11th century. It survives in a single manuscript, housed at the British Library, and has inspired countless retellings of the myth - recently and famously by the late Seamus Heaney, whose translation won him the Whitbread book of year award in 1999.
Tolkien himself called the story "laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination," saying that "the whole thing is somber, tragic, sinister, curiously real."
Although the author completed his own translation in 1926, he "seems never to have considered its publication," said Christopher Tolkien as he announced the Tolkien estate's new deal with HarperCollins to publish "Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary" on May 22. 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.'"
"He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is 'the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history' that raises it to another level," said Tolkien.
JRR Tolkien died in 1973, having seen "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" achieve success, and leaving behind him a swath of previously unpublished works. Several have been released over the last few years, including his poem "The Fall of Arthur," set in the last days of Arthur's reign and inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory, "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudr?n" in 2009 and his unfinished Middle-Earth story
"The Children of H?rin" in 2007.
John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War, said the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf had "a deep and detailed impact on what Tolkien wrote - from his earliest poem of Middle-earth,
'BEOWULF' is set to get a new translation from J.R.R. Tolkien, famously known for writing 'The Lord of the Rings.'