The 1926 J.R.R. Tolkien translation of Beowulf is set to be re-published by Harper Perennial as a newly edited edition of the epic poem. Christopher Tolkien, son of the fantastic author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has decided to release the book. Along with his late father’s lectures at Oxford University on the poem and a short story entitled “Sellic Spell,” the revised work will soon be available in stores.
J.R.R. Tolkien was said to have been fascinated with the language of the original Beowulf. First written in Old English in a time period of the 1th Century, it tells the story of a Scandinavian hero who was tasked with saving his countrymen from the terrible monster Grendel. The hero of the tale also eventually defeats Grendel’s mother, then returning to his homeland to battle with a hideous dragon. Tolkien’s son told the press that his father cherished the imagery of the verse and enjoyed thoroughly the vividness of the storytelling. Even the dragon in the fictional narrative draws a close comparison to the character of Smaug in The Hobbit. Christopher Tolkien intimated that his father probably did not ever contemplate having a published volume of the ancient lyric.
Present in the updated translation of Beowulf, J.R.R. Tolkien delivers a gifted study of the text amid his lectures and commentary on the subject. No stranger to bringing distant fantasy worlds to life, Tolkien makes contagious his love and adoration for an Old English mythology and the lexicon of the language with which it represents. From this sincerity and dedication comes a beautiful modern edition of what has since been passed down through the centuries.
The translation is one of the more recent publications of the poem. In the late 20th Century, Seamus Heaney published his own version of the work. Scholars have debated that Heaney, a Nobel Prize winner in Literature and a former teacher at Harvard University, has been the sole interpreter to correctly render the opening lines. The departed poet and late resident of Dublin passed away in September of last year from what was deemed a brief illness. He was 76 years old.
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentry reemerges as the contemporary translation of the 11th Century composition. The book is the latest in a circulation of other releases from the Tolkien estate which has previously included the incomplete tale of Middle-earth, The Children of Hurin (2007), and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun (2009). Although he died in 1973, J.R.R. Tolkien’s exceptionally unique and imaginative writings are still alive and well today. His books have been turned into highly ambitious and enormously successful Hollywood films. The rarity of this highly creative visionary remains in tact as his experimental crafting of other worlds has led to much inspiration and grandeur from page to screen. If his translation powers are anything like his talents for elucidating unexplored worlds and creating faraway lands, the reader of this book is sure to find within his or hands a poetic treasure.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s adaptation will be released by HarperCollins on May 22.
By Bryan William Myers