As we all know, J R R Tolkien was, from an early age, fascinated by myth and heroic legend, reading all he could of the romances and epics of many nations. In a letter to Milton Waldman, which appears in the Preface to the second edition of The Silmarillion, he wrote that he was ‘grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own … Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with the English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing…’
The Professor, then, had little time for the legends of King Arthur; but he did make one foray into those tales, and we are about to be able to read for ourselves the results of those labours! Tomorrow, publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt release Tolkien’s narrative poem The Fall of Arthur, edited as ever by his son Christopher. HMH’s press release tells us:
‘The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur, king of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of Old English alliterative meter, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.’
Alas, Tolkien never finished his poem; but amongst his manuscripts were sketches and drafts, which included ‘significant tantalizing notes. In these notes can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.’
It’s a day of celebration for Tolkien fans whenever we have a chance to read more of the Professor’s work, and gain further insight into the explorations which lead to his great myth of Middle-earth. You can read Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s full information about the book here; and you can order your copy from Amazon by clicking here. The Fall of Arthur will also be available as an e-book. Happy reading!