Tolkien's new (May 2014) Beowulf book now out

Extollager

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Some of us should be getting copies in the mail or picking them up at a bookstore soon. Here's a place to discuss the book for those who are interested. I'm particularly interested in "Sellic Spell," a creative effort from Tolkien -- a short story retelling of the poem, or so I expect!
 

Extollager

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My copy came in today's mail. I'm pleased to see that "Sellic Spell" is 25 pages, and, so, looks to be a real addition to the body of Tolkien's creative work.
 

Extollager

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I've now read "Sellic Spell."

Tolkien thought it would be interesting to write a plausible reconstruction of a "folk tale" preceding Beowulf. Tolkien's story tells of the finding of a little boy in a bears'-den who grows to be a man of enormous power. Hearing of the haunting of the Golden Hall, he sets out and falls in with two companions, who unsuccessfully precede him in combat with the monster Grinder. Bee-wolf overcomes both monster and monster's mother and win's the king's daughter.

The story reads well; it is complete and there's no fumbling with details. I don't know what, if any, publication intentions JRRT had in mind for it. Christopher Tolkien dates it to the 1940s -- so it is something Tolkien worked on as a "break" from The Lord of the Rings, I guess.

I wouldn't say that only Tolkien could have written "Sellic Spell," but certainly it reflects his scholarly interest in the Old English masterpiece and his creativity too.

Yes: I could imagine an illustrated version of this story, published under a different name, as being a success with young readers, although it is just a bit gruesome.
 

HareBrain

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Here are some comments on the new book from an exceptionally knowledgeable source, Michael Drout:

Wormtalk and Slugspeak: J.R.R. Tolkien's Beowulf Translation
I had a look at the book yesterday and I have to agree with him that the translation itself is not a great piece of art. I was hoping for a more poetic, alliterative feel, and so didn't buy it. I hope we do get to see the poetic version one day. (I had no idea Tolkien did both a prose and poetic translation.)
 

GOLLUM

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I spotted this over the weekend at the local bookstore but won't be purchasing it.

Instead I'll rely on Extoallger's always interesting insights into Tolkien to keep me informed along with everyone else's musings.

I must admit I was tempted and it looks like a nice production the publishers have put together.

Interesting comments by Michael Drout too.
 

Hardlight

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Oh, it's out. I think we can get from this book how Tolkien got inspired to make Middle Earth. I read in places that Beowulf was his main inspiration for LOTR and all.
 

Corbier

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It's all rather disappointing, I'm afraid, though I will have to read Sellic Spell still.
 

Corbier

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I think "Sellic Spell" and "The Lay of Beowulf" are worth the buy.
 

Extollager

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Now I am reading it. At the least, this edition is a good buy for people interested in Beowulf because you get a translation very attentive to the original, and you get Tolkien's lecture notes on the poem -- where you can see him dealing, e.g., with the inconsistency between a Christian minstrel at Hrothgar's court and the text's statement some lines later that these people knew nothing of the true God. I'm not very far into the book, but maybe the situation will turn out to be like that regarding Dorothy L. Sayers's Penguin Classics translation of Dante's Divine Comedy: Read someone else's translation (e.g. Mandelbaum's), but keep at your elbow the Sayers for the wonderful notes.

One more review, by the outstanding Tolkien scholar John Garth:

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/05/j-r-r-tolkien-beowulf-one-mans-passion-threshold-between-myth-and-reality
 
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