Posts Tagged ‘beowulf’
Back at the start of the summer, staffer GreenDragon generously asked the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to send me a copy of Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf to review. While I started the book right away, this review has been delayed by producing Happy Hobbit and attending four conventions, along with writing two books and a script on top of daily life and work, which is a long-winded way to say that I apologize for my tardiness!
While still an undergrad, I took a course in Old English which was an introduction to the language, followed by a semester of translating Beowulf. A year isn’t enough time to master a dead language, and I was attempting to master two at once, for I was also taking Latin at the time (an alternate nickname for me could be Hermione), so I won’t be able to go into the nitty gritty mechanics of the language like Tolkien does in his notes, but I will offer what insight my education allows!
This is what studying two dead languages looks like.
To offer some context, I will say that Old English is the name we have given to the Anglo Saxon language, for after a strong French influence after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Old English morphed into Modern English. It is important to note, as well, that Anglo Saxon is the language of our (even if you aren’t of English descent, you’re reading this in English) conquerors, for the Nordic tribes of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded England after the withdrawal of the Roman Empire around 410 CE. They renamed the island Angle-Land. England. So while Beowulf is attributed as being the first great epic in English, it is significant that it is a story from the culture that conquered the island and that its setting is in the conquering nation’s homeland in the north, not England, even though the manuscript was recorded and found in an English monastery, hidden beneath pages of religious text. All of this would have been known to J.R.R. Tolkien at the time of his translation in the 1920s.
Firstly, I will say that my reason for taking Old English was driven by my obsession with Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. I was first exposed to Beowulf in seventh grade when I read a version of the poem for one of my classes. Enamored with the culture and the exciting, heroic tale, it lingered in my mind in a way that few stories read for school had. In the Humanities Honors Program in college, we were exposed to the literature that laid the foundations for Western civilization and I once again read a translation of Beowulf (picturing Aragorn as Beowulf this time around, of course) and while in my proceeding English courses I avoided the works I had already read, Beowulf was the one text I would read every time I was asked. As such, I have been exposed to three or four translations, including my own.
Posted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Tolkien, Uncategorized
Tolkien scholar John Garth reviews Tolkien’s long-awaited translation of Beowulf (together with the short story Sellic Spell) in The New Statesman.
J R R Tolkien’s Beowulf: one man’s passion for the threshold between myth and reality
by John Garth
In his story “Leaf by Niggle”, J R R Tolkien imagines an artist painting a picture he can neither complete nor abandon. “It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots.” In the end the picture is never put on show. (more…)
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien
There’s a lot of excitement floating round academic communities for J.R.R. Tolkien’s forthcoming Beowulf translation (which you can pre-order here) where the prevailing buzz seems to be “best thing since slices bread”. Here, writer Mabel Slattery outlines why.
EDIT: There is an error of fact within the article. Michael Drout did not actually re-discover Tolkien’s Beowulf translation.
I did not “discover” the Beowulf translation, not even in the sense that I found it in the Bodleian Library. This claim is a conflation of a story about one manuscript with information about a totally different text.
The real story is not quite as exciting.
You can read Drout’s explanation in full here.
Don’t forget to click the link to read the full article. (more…)
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien
Apparently there is some confusion floating around about Michael Drout’s involvement in the forthcoming publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf translation by Chris Tolkien.
(Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary will be published on May 22. You can pre-order your hardcover copy now from Amazon by going here.) (more…)
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Other Tolkien books, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, Tolkien, Tolkien Estate
Tolkien scholar John Garth previews the forthcoming publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf and outlines why the Professor’s expertise with the Anglo-Saxon epic means this new book is to be highly anticipated. Click through the read more link at the bottom to access the complete essay.
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Green Books, Headlines, J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien, Tolkien Estate
“Ac se wonna hrefin | But the black raven
fus ofer fægum | eager over the doomed
fela reordian, | speaking many things
earne secgan | telling the eagle
hu him æt æte speow, | how he is succeeding in eating,
þenden he wið wulf | when he with the wolf
wæl reafode.” | despoiled the slain.
Thus reads a section of the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, or at least, thus reads my translation of the section from my university studies. The epic is written in Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, the language of the invaders of Britain. Modern English (and German) is a direct descendant of this language because a people speak the language of their conquerors.
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, The Hobbit, Tolkien, Uncategorized
The opening line ‘Listen!’ is not a proclamation and should not have an exclamation mark, according to new research by an academic at the University of Manchester.
It is perhaps the most important word in one of the greatest and most famous sentences in the history of the English language.
Yet for more than two centuries “hwæt” has been misrepresented as an attention-grabbing latter-day “yo!” designed to capture the interest of its intended Anglo-Saxon audience urging them to sit down and listen up to the exploits of the heroic monster-slayer Beowulf.
According to an academic at the University of Manchester, however, the accepted definition of the opening line of the epic poem – including the most recent translation by the late Seamus Heaney – has been subtly wide of the mark. (more…)
Posted in Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien
One for Anglo-saxonists and lovers of poetry: BBC Radio 4 is set to air a recording of the late Irish poet Seamus Heaney reading his translation of Beowulf next week in 10 separate 15-minute installments. The first episode of 10 is set to air on BBC Radio 4 on Monday at 09:45 BST.
Heaney was an internationally recognised Nobel Prize-winning poet. He died earlier this month at the age of 74. Professor Michael Drout, noted Anglo-saxonist and author of Beowulf and the Critics by J.R.R. Tolkien has described Heaney’s translation as “the most poetic”. A publication of Tolkien’s own translation of has been in limbo for more than a decade. (more…)
Posted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Languages, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien