Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Arthur eastward in arms purposed

his war to wage on the wild marches,

over seas sailing to Saxon lands,

from the Roman realm ruin defending.

Thus the tides of time to turn backward 

and the heathen to humble, his hope urged him,

that with harrying ships they should hunt no more

on the shining shores and shallow waters

of South Britain, booty seeking


So, the big news Sunday night was the announcement, forwarded to the MythSoc list by Douglas Kane (thanks, Doug!), that the most eagerly awaited of all unpublished works by JRRT has been scheduled or a May release. Here's the official release at the publisher's website:

And here, also courtesy D.K., is what someone thinks the cover will look like:

--its provenance is a little uncertain, but it does bear a strong 'family resemblence' to the cover for SIGURD & GUDRUN, which leads some credence to its authenticity.

I don't know why Australians get a break and apparently will be able to buy it three weeks sooner than the rest of us -- because it takes so long for the books to reach them, perhaps? I've put in a pre-order at amazon, myself.

The HarperCollins announcement includes the news that this volume will include three essays by Christopher Tolkien, which is good news indeed -- I thought his contribution to SIGURD & GUDRUN as good as the poem itself. And more can be learned about the forthcoming book via the following piece in THE GUARDIAN (thanks to Janice for the link):

Here we learn that the book is 200 pages plus (relatively brief, closer to FINN & HENGEST than SIGURD & GUDRUN): remember that the poem is just under a thousand lines long. Better yet, the opening lines are printed her in this piece for the first time ever (see them quoted above).

For those who don't have it handy, here are the only other previously published lines, from Humphrey Carpenter's TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY (1977), p. 168:

(of Mordred's lust for Guinever):

His bed was barren; there black phantoms
of desire unsated and savage fury
in his brain had brooded till bleak morning.

(of Guinever herself):

                        . . . lady ruthless,
fair as fay-woman and fell-minded,
in the world walking for the woe of men.

Of those last two and a half lines, I'd say much what Beren says of Luthien: just that fragment is so good that it justifies the existence of the whole. Here's hoping there are more lines that good, and that the fragment is large enough to get a good sense of the whole that Tolkien had planned.

For my part, I'm going to be re-reading Tolkien's obvious sources for his tale: THE ALLITERATIVE MORTE ARTHURE and THE STANZAIC MORTE ARTHUR.

Given that I first heard of this book as forthcoming back in 1985, I think it was, from Rayner Unwin, I really can't convey how pleased I am that another seven or eight months will see it in print.

And there was great rejoicing, and is great rejoicing, and will be great rejoicing in the land.

--John R.


John D. Rateliff said...

Test comments

Unknown said...

I'm definitely particularly excited about this release! I wish they would do an audiobook, but I guess that is unlikely, since the audiobook for Sigurd and Gudrun, although recorded by the actor Brian Cox, was apparently never released (as I learned in that MythSoc discussion).


Unknown said...

Oh, and I see that the cover is now confirmed as coming directly from HC. See:

John D. Rateliff said...

Hi Doug

Good news about the cover being confirmed. Has anyone identified the medieval source for this artwork yet?

I took would love an audiobook, since I find I prefer poetry in audiobooks than to on the page these days.

Nothing to prevent fans from reading it aloud, though, which is certainly what I'm going to do.

--John R.