Beowulf: A Translation And Commentary - Paperback
SKU
9760544570308
ISBN
9780544570306

Beowulf: A Translation And Commentary

$19.99
Author
Tolkien, J. R. R. & Christopher Tolkien

New York Times Bestseller

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary contains Tolkien’s complete translation into modern English of the epic poem of the legendary hero Beowulf, who defeated the monster Grendel and his mother before falling in battle with a great dragon. The translation is accompanied by Tolkien’s extensive and insightful commentary on the Old English poem derived from notes used as the basis of his lectures when he was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Edited by Christopher Tolkien, this magisterial work also includes "Sellic Spell," a "marvelous tale" written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folktale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the northern kingdoms.

“A thrill . . . Beowulf was Tolkien’s lodestar. Everything he did led up to or away from it.” —New Yorker

The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s, and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if Tolkien 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.

But the commentary in this book also includes much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, Tolkien expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf “snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup”; but he 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. “The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.”

"Sellic Spell," a “marvelous tale,” is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folktale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the “historical legends” of the northern kingdoms.

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