Monday, June 23, 2014

Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Together with Sellic Spell by J.R.R. Tolkien; edited by Christopher Tolkien --- 425 pages

J.R.R. Tolkien and all of his works has been one of the greatest pleasures and influences on my reading life since I first chanced upon The Hobbit in high school. He was, for me, like finding manna in the desert.

For years some of my favorite British authors have written about their time at Oxford and the extraordinary experience of hearing Tolkien's lectures on Beowulf. Now so many years later, Tolkien's son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien, has at last published his father's 1926 translation of Beowulf along with excerpts from his written lecture notes from the 1930s. This is about as far from the dry and desiccated style of most academic writing as one can get.

Tolkien's comments on Beowulf cast a reflective light not just on the ancient heritage of Northern European myth, legend and history; they also reveal how these influenced Tolkien's own imagination and his grand design to create "a mythology for England" in his tales of Middle-earth. It will be interesting to compare Tolkien's translation with the more recent translation by the (late) celebrated Irish poet and scholar Seamus Heaney.

For those who love learning, world-building and ancient days, this will be a delight.

Click HERE to read an article about Tolkien's Beowulf in The Guardian (UK) and HERE to read an article from The Oklahoman (US).

Click HERE to read an appreciation of Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf.

The thousand-year-old manuscript of Beowulf is preserved in the British Museum .
Click HERE to read how the sole surviving manuscript of Beowulf was preserved against all odds.

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