JRR Tolkien's Beowulf Translation to Be Published 90 Years Later

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 01:24 PM

By Nick Sanchez

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As a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, JRR Tolkien took pains to translate his own version of the 11th-century Old English poem Beowulf and now, nearly 90 years later, it's set to be published worldwide.

The Guardian UK reports that the final edition of the book, "Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary," was edited by Christopher Tolkien, JRR's son. He said the work is where his father "enter[ed] into the imagined past" of the heroes.

The 2,000-page, handwritten manuscript had been in the archives of Oxford’s Bodleian Library ever since it was created 88 years ago, with Tolkien only returning to it once to make corrections. Many efforts to get it published, printed, and distributed never prevailed until now.

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The published edition will be launched worldwide by HarperCollins on May 22, and will feature Tolkien's commentary on the subject, including his 1936 lecture "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics."

"From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision," said Christopher.

"It 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 Hereot."

After living long enough to see "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" achieve success, JRR Tolkien passed away in 1973 at age 81. He left behind many unpublished works, some of which have recently been published. In addition to the release of "The Fall of Arthur," a poem set in the last days of Arthur's reign, the recently published "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún" came out in 2009 and his Middle-Earth story "The Children of Húrin" was released in 2007.

The original Beowulf manuscript — of which there is only one — is held at the British Library.

A film adaptation of the epic poem starring Angelina Jolie and Ray Winstone was released in 2007.

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