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Old 03-19-2014, 09:18 AM   #1
William Cloud Hicklin
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Tolkien's Beowulf to be published!

Long rumored, with a supposed edition reported ten years ago which vanished, it's coming! Tolkien's ca. 1926 prose translation of the great Old English epic, together with his detailed commentary. (No, the unfinished poetic translation isn't included)

Also, JRRT's unpublished story Sellic Spell, an attempt to envision the Beowulf legend as an A-S folktale without the historical and mythological freight.

http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/....WYKb6id8.gbpl
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Old 03-19-2014, 09:45 AM   #2
Faramir Jones
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White-Hand Thanks!

Thanks for letting us know, William!
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Old 03-19-2014, 09:56 AM   #3
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Kudos to CRT to still be preparing work for publication in his nintieth year. They say keeping the mind active helps stave off the effects of the passing years...
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Old 03-19-2014, 11:36 AM   #4
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Well, CRT comes of a long-lived family (elvish blood )?
Didn't one of JRRT's grandfathers live to almost 100.
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Old 03-19-2014, 02:28 PM   #5
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He does. Long may he continue!
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:16 PM   #6
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Glory, glory! Wonderful news!

I enjoyed The Fall of Arthur and Sigurd and Gudrun before that, but Tolkien's Beowulf is far bigger news--and thus more exciting--than either of those, even without the verse translation.

May just got that much more exciting for me.
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:26 PM   #7
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I'm genuinely excited.

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Kudos to CRT to still be preparing work for publication in his nintieth year. They say keeping the mind active helps stave off the effects of the passing years...
It's so refreshing to hear someone express that feeling, rather than the old "OMG even at 90 Chris Tolkien is still cashing in on every random scribble of his father's work!" or suchlike.
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Old 03-19-2014, 08:46 PM   #8
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Thanks. I do find the vitriol Christopher attracts baffling and I wouldn't have blamed him had he drawn stumps years ago and devoted his retirement to watercolours or rose breeding or whatever hobbies he may have rather than making yet more work available. The cashing in accusation is really quite ludicrous. Had he wanted to cash in it would have been infintessimally easier to sign a few licensing agreements rather than spend forty years with boxfuls of chaotic manuscripts - not to mention more lucrative.
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Old 03-19-2014, 11:24 PM   #9
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The cashing in accusation is really quite ludicrous. Had he wanted to cash in it would have been infintessimally easier to sign a few licensing agreements rather than forty years with boxfuls of chaotic manuscripts - not to mention more lucrative.
Indeed, and people who make these accusations also seem to fail to recognise that there are those of us who are actually interested in reading this material. Ought it to never see the light of day?

This publication is actually extremely timely for me, as a chapter of my PhD thesis, which I am to complete this year, looks at certain ideas present in Old English texts which I argue are reflected in Professor Tolkien's work. I realise that the connections between the Anglo-Saxon world and Middle-earth have been examined before, but I am actually dealing with very specific notions of an as yet unexplored nature that I'd rather avoid discussing anonymously online. Being able to reinforce my work on Beowulf with Professor Tolkien's own translation will be extremely useful.
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Old 05-31-2014, 12:19 PM   #10
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Any reactions yet from yall? I haven't yet read it, myself.

Warning: SPOILERS!

Joan Acocella's review in The New Yorker.
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critic...urrentPage=all

Katy Waldman in Slate.
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/b...eviewed.2.html
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:28 AM   #11
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I picked it up yesterday but so far have only read Christopher Tolkien's preface. I'm quite excited about it, though. It's a thicker volume than I was expecting, which is of course very nice. My only disappointment is the already mentioned fact that the unfinished verse translation is not included - why, I wonder, was it not?
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Old 06-03-2014, 07:47 AM   #12
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I picked it up yesterday but so far have only read Christopher Tolkien's preface. I'm quite excited about it, though. It's a thicker volume than I was expecting, which is of course very nice. My only disappointment is the already mentioned fact that the unfinished verse translation is not included - why, I wonder, was it not?
I am thinking CT considered the verse version so incomplete as to be unworthy of his father's legacy, and would leave him open to unjustified criticism that the son was "cashing in" on his father, and simply throwing out anything for publication.

In any case, I am looking forward to getting my copy any day now, Amazon willing.
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Old 06-04-2014, 08:49 AM   #13
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Picked up my copy today. Enjoying it so far. I've never been a particularly huge Beowulf enthusiast I must admit, so Professor Tolkien's particular choices of translation are quite engaging.
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Old 06-05-2014, 11:54 AM   #14
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I've not read my Seamus Heaney translation in a bit, but I do love to read about heroes. The chainmail cover is cool.
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Old 06-14-2014, 01:06 PM   #15
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The translation is enjoyable but perhaps a bit "dry;" this is clearly Tolkien the scholar at work, with accuracy of rendering taking precedence over "poetry." But that isn't to say it doesn't have its own compelling, sharp-angled impact. In particular, unlike Heaney's modern, almost conversational rendering (verse-form notwithstanding), Tolkien by design or as a byproduct of literalism has "forcibly removed the reader from his comfort zone," as one reviewer said of another JRRT work, and made us view this world from an A-S perspective. I'm reminded a bit of T's letter to Hugh Brogan on the semi-archaic language in "The King of the Golden Hall" and his assertion that people who talk like moderns also think like moderns; to express Theoden's way of thinking he has to speak as he does.

But the real prize here may not be the translation itself, but the voluminous excerpts from T's lextures inclded as the "commentary"- proof not only of Tolkien's nimble brain and vast learning, but a reminder that he was the world's leading Beowulf expert in his day. A master at the height of his powers.
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Old 06-28-2014, 01:50 PM   #16
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After savoring the book over several weeks, I've finally finished it.

I thought the translation was excellent. Despite being a prose translation, it preserves much of the rhythm of the Old English verse. And while the sentence structures are idiomatic modern English, the style is dominated by the retention of poetic inversions. The diction is especially good and suitable for the matter being translated; it is 'elevated', as seems only fitting in the translation of a poem that was, after all, written in an elevated and archaic style in its time. He also avoids the primitivist tendencies of some translators, who tend to use things like 'chieftain' and 'tribe' where Tolkien uses 'prince' and 'people'.

Comparison with Heaney's well-known translation is inevitable, and the difference of approach may be seen examples such as:

Original: Žęt węs god cyning
Heaney: That was one good king.
Tolkien: a good king was he.

Original: ecg-hete
Heaney: killer instinct
Tolkien: murderous hate

Original: Ša se ellen-gǽst earfošlice / žrage gežolode, se že in žystrum bad
Heaney: Then a powerful demon, a prowler through the dark / nursed a hard grievance
Tolkien: Then the fierce spirit that abode in darkness grievously endured a time of torment

Even though Heaney's is a verse translation, it is Tolkien's that, to me at least, comes nearer the feeling of the original. (I'm picking on Heaney, though I do actually like his translation in itself).

The commentary is the most substantial part of the book, and it is very interesting. Tolkien doesn’t hesitate to enter into detailed considerations of the relations among the various nations as imagined in the poem, the ways in which originally historical material was blended with folk-tale, the likely meaning of enigmatic passages, or even the chronology and relative ages of the characters. And it is, throughout, supported by a close reading of the Old English text. It is useful to read the commentary in conjunction with Tolkien’s ‘Finn and Hengest’, which enters into related questions.

‘Sellic Spell’ is Tolkien’s imaginary version of the original folk-tale that, in his view, must have lain behind ‘Beowulf’, presented along with an unfinished Old English version. Written in a deliberately simple and straightforward style, it tells the story of Beewolf and his battles with the monster Grinder and Grinder’s mother (the later battle with the dragon is not included). While I enjoyed it, I must say I don’t think its literary value is all that great. What is interesting, though, is the insight it gives into Tolkien’s view of the origins of the story.

Finally, there are two versions of the short ‘Lay of Beowulf’, another retelling (in verse this time) of the Danish portion of the Beowulf legend. I enjoyed this poem quite a bit. One bit I found particularly interesting and effective is the way Tolkien here links the ultimate destruction of Heorot with a curse placed on it by Grendel or Grendel’s mother. And Tolkien fans (I think there are a few of those around here...) will take note of the line ‘Far over the misty moorlands cold’, particularly since the poem seems either to predate or to be roughly contemporary with the writing of The Hobbit.

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Old 07-03-2014, 05:59 PM   #17
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Sounds cool. Nice review.
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Old 07-10-2014, 11:29 AM   #18
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One thing I do find fascinating is that even though Tolkien continued to revise and correct the translation for decades after it was written, nonetheless in some cases he retained interpretations of disputed lines which he later explicitly rejected.
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