Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tolkien's BEOWULF

Today is a good day to be a Tolkien scholar.

They just announced today that Tolkien's long-awaited translation of BEOWULF is coming out later this year -- in fact, just a little over two months from now, on May 22nd.

This edition includes the complete translation, which the news articles date to 1926 (I'd always thought it was a little later, in the early thirties), plus Tolkien's seminal essay "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics", which shifted Beowulf studies from a search for historical sources to an appreciation of the poem as literature, as well as some never-before-seen material drawn from Tolkien's OE lecture notes (given how good the comparable material was in the SIGURD book, I'm really looking forward to this part of the new edition). Here's the (one of many) link(s) re. the news:

This brief account seems to conflate Tolkien's two separate translations of BEOWULF: the (complete) prose translation and the earlier (incomplete) one in alliterative verse; I assume both will be included in this new edition. The part about a "2,000 page manuscript" I'm dismissing as usual journalistic hyperbole: certainly the texts deposited in the Bodleian are nowhere near that lengthy --BEOWULF itself being only a little over 3,000 lines.

No preorder page for it has shown up yet on amazon, the English amazon, or HarperCollins' Tolkien page, but I'm assuming that will follow in short order.

Here's a second link, which includes a brief quotation from Christopher Tolkien, presumably from his introduction:

Huzzah, and Hooray, and Hallelujah.

--John R.


Nelson said...

The Telegraph says it will include 'The Monsters and the Critics', but the original press release doesn't say anything like that - I'd be fairly surprised if that lecture was included.

Is it also confirmed that both translations will be included? The press release only mentioned one (apparently the prose). It would be great if the verse one was published as well, though!

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Nelson

You're quite right; reading the official (HarperCollins) posting about the book (, there's no mention in it of BEOWULF: THE MONSTERS AND THE CRITICS, so I'm probably wrong about that.

There's also no mention anywhere of its including both translations, but I think my saying "I assume" in my original posting makes it pretty clear this is my educated guess, nothing more. In any case, we'll soon know.

Particularly pleased to see that SELLIC SPELL will indeed be included. I got to see this briefly years ago and am eager for the chance to read it again slowly and carefully.

And only two months from tomorrow -- horray.

--John R.