90 years after J.R.R. Tolkien translated the poem Beowulf, it will be published by Harper Collins.
Anyone who has taken an AP English class has been exposed to the story of Beowulf, who slays the monster Grendel. J.R.R. Tolkien translated the Anglo Saxon poem in 1926, but according to his son never thought to publish it. Christopher Tolkien has edited the translation for Harper Collins. The book will also include the series of lectures Tolkien gave at Oxford about the poem in the 1930s, as well as Tolkien’s Sellic Spell.
According to Christopher Tolkien his father’s vision of Beowulf “is as if he 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.”
This new translation is bound to be popular among Tolkien fans and scholars alike. Beowulf survives in a single manuscript, housed at the British Library.
Tolkien has called Beowulf “laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.” His translation will be interesting to compare to other versions, most recently the Seamus Heaney version that won the Whitebread book award in 1999.
The Tolkien translation of Beowulf will be released on May 22. Will you be buying a copy?
Thanks to The Guardian for the news.