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Old 07-21-2015, 08:47 AM   #1
Mithalwen
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The Story of Kullervo

I have seen that Tolkien's "Story of Kullervo" is to be published next month, edited by Verlyn Flieger. I have to admit I haven't read or even bought all of the non-Middle Earth posthumous releases but I am interested in this due to the frequent references to the Kalevala as an inspiration particularly for the Tale of Turin Turambar (which was certainly the story that made most impact on me when I first read the Silmarillion.

I did read some stories from the Kalevala a few years ago when I first got a kindle but they were perhaps too heavily sanitised to be really helpful. However I am not sure if this is a translation or a rewriting. I was referred to a French website which says it includes drafts and notes and the HC release doesn't really say much. Does anyone know more?
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Old 07-21-2015, 08:58 AM   #2
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I suspect, but it is just suspicion based on the format of previous books, that the French website is correct and the books will contain drafts and various composition materials.

As far as translation or rewriting, quite probably a bit of both.
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Old 07-21-2015, 09:31 AM   #3
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Tolkien Best to look at the book itself or a good review of it

I heard about this book from the Tolkien Society's website. It's best for anyone wanting to acquire it to wait and see it for himself or herself, or to wait for reviews from people they trust who have read it.
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:33 AM   #4
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Well yes, but that wasn't really what I was asking, though no doubt I didn't express myself clearly enough. No doubt there will be reviews and I know where useful ones are likely to be found.

What I really wanted to know was what the central text is and I don't think it unreasonable to ask pre publication, I don't have a problem with it being supplemented by other material and drafts, I was just curious, since clearly it isn't an original story, as to whether it was Tolkien writing a version of the Finnish Legend based on his knowledge of the source legends (equivalent to say the Roger Lancelyn Green "Tales of the Greek Heroes" which inspired an interest in Classical Mythology in me as a child) or if it is a translation of an / the original Finnish text.

No doubt if I dig hard enough I can find out for myself I just thought someone might know and have interesting things to say about it, this being a discussion board and what have you... never mind eh
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Old 07-21-2015, 11:45 AM   #5
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Written while still an undergraduate, Kullervo was Tolkien's very first attempt at fiction; he conceived it as a William Morris-style retelling of a legend via a mixture of prose and narrative poetry, in the mode of Morris' Sigurd.
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Old 07-21-2015, 12:29 PM   #6
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Thank you. That is exactly what I was after.
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Old 07-21-2015, 03:00 PM   #7
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Also, Tolkien's early prose tale of Kullervo (with bits of poetry) has already been published in Tolkien Studies along with two versions of an essay by JRRT on the Kalevala. Anyone know if this new book will contain... more? More extensive notes from Flieger maybe? I have the TS volume already, so just wondering.

I'll probably get the new book in any case... but still, anyone know?
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Old 07-21-2015, 04:22 PM   #8
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http://www.tolkiendil.com/tolkien/biblio/kullervo

This is the French site. They have added a footnote referencine the publisher blurb that it with some drafts, and the conference essays were indeed published in Tolkien Studies in 2010. Don't know if the book length gives a clue as to how much new stuff you will get.
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Old 07-21-2015, 04:49 PM   #9
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I don’t know what version of the Kalevala Mithalwen read. I first read the two-volume Everyman’s edition, originally translated into English by William Forsell Kirby in 1907. Kirby’s poem translation reproduces with great care the trochaic tetrameter meter of his Finnish source. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trochaic_tetrameter. This was also the English version which Tolkien read. In Letter 163 Tolkien writes:
I mention Finnish, because that set the rocket off in story. I was immensely attracted by something in the air of the Kalevala, even in Kirby’s poor translation.
Indeed later writers to some extent seem to sneer at Kirby, as old-fashioned and out-of-date and annoyingly sing-songy. Keith Bosley in the introduction to his 1989 Kalevala poetic English translation for Oxford World’s Classics writes:
It is a pity that the common sense translators have applied to the question of alliteration in Kalevala poetry has not also been applied to that of metre, especially when the metre of their translations is a travesty of the original. As any reader of Hiawatha knows, the metre is not only monotonous, it restricts language to the point of triviality—in English at least. This matters little in a romance of Indians without cowboys, but it matters a great deal in an epic of world stature, most of whose readers approach it in translation.
Yet, though I purchased Bosley’s translation to provide myself with a more up-to-date and accurate rendering of the Kalevala, it is to Kirby’s translation that I return for the pure joy of reading. Nor have I been bothered by the language of Longfellow’s Hiawatha since I first discovered it. Personal taste is, as usual, unaccountable.

The Kalevala in the original Finnish is found on the web at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kvfin/index.htm and the taste of Quenya in Finnish may be seen. The original Kirby translation may be found on the web at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25953 (volume 1) and http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/33089
(volume 2), the story of Kullervo being found in Volume 2, Runno XXXI to XXXVI. It may be listened to at https://librivox.org/kalevala-the-la...lias-loennrot/ as read by “Expatriate”.

An earlier translation than Kirby’s by John Martin Crawford is found on the web at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/kveng. An audio of Keith Bosley’s English translation is to be found at http://www.naxosaudiobooks.com/0124.htm.

For an hilarious video summary of the Kalevala see https://dotsub.com/view/ba8059a7-0b6...d-270f2aa08995.

For the first six segments of a straight film based on the Kalevala see the 1959 Soviet Finnish film The Sampo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW4C-UZyb6s&list=PLPseHCTkSQZ0x208lQFycY_w-CCO9Vrdm. For the remainder of the film in German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riyh3BA7m4k.

Last edited by jallanite; 07-26-2015 at 05:21 PM.
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Old 07-22-2015, 04:20 AM   #10
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I would have to do a bit of digging to answer exactly since it is on my broken kindle, but it wasn't an academic or literary translation but IIRC a Victorian collection of prose "Stories from the Kalevala" for children, which I downloaded in the first excitement of being able to access free books. I doubt it was comprehensive and I think that the incest was probably omitted. I will have a look at the links you suggest and try to get beyond the trochees.
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Old 08-30-2015, 08:29 AM   #11
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34063157

This article may be of interest.
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Old 08-30-2015, 05:53 PM   #12
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I note that Verlyn Flieger is quoted as follows:
"Kullervo is the origin story for Shakespeare's Hamlet - a young man whose uncle kills his father and on whom he wreaks a terrible vengeance," says Verlyn Flieger. "It is likely that Tolkien knew that Shakespeare had used this tale."
Quite wrong, I think. The story of Hamlet has been traced to the end of Book III of Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum (https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_D...story/Book_III). Saxo lived about 1150 to 1220. The hero is mentioned under the name Amlˇ­Ý by the Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson in his Prose Edda around 1220, in his Skßldskaparmal, chapter XXV (http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/pre/pre05.htm). Shakespeare may have known the story through the popular retelling by Franšois de Belleforest in his Histoires Tragiques in 1576, which retelling may have at least inspired one earlier Elizabethan play before Shakespeare’s.

The story of Kullervo was part of the Kalevala, first compiled and published by Elias L÷nnrot in Finnish in 1835—36 as the Old Kalevala and published in its standard version in Finnish in 1849. I don’t think it at all “likely that Tolkien knew that Shakespeare had used this tale” not even written in Shakespeare’s day, because I don’t believe that Tolkien had any such belief or that Tolkien would have been right if he held it. Rulers who were slain by their nephews are reasonably common in stories and even real history. One ought to be able to support a belief with something more than, “It is likely,” especially when it isn’t.
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Old 06-27-2016, 08:51 AM   #13
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I saw this in the store this weekend when I was shopping for a present for somebody and thought, "Oh what the hey."

I have finished the existing story and see the aspects of Turin in the character re. the incest resulting from a curse and ultimate suicide of the characters in the same manner.

I found it noteworthy that the idea of the talking sword, which seems so incongruous with the rest of Tolkien's Middle-earth, was present from the very beginnings of the story.

A lasting holdover from the original Kalevala?

The real reason why I had to come post before finishing the book is that on page 42 (hmmmm) I discovered that the short version of my name is in some way associated with death.

EDIT: Now that I have finished reading, I feel more justified in adding a few more thoughts. I don't know that I exactly regret buying this, but it was certainly overpriced for not much content, and rather repetitive content at that. I also don't think that Dr. Flieger had much to add in the way of substantive commentary. I very much have the opinion that this book was published mostly in the hope of making a buck.

I also wonder if Tolkien himself would like having all of his early attempts at writing published for all the world to see. I'm not sure I would want that.
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