Though the manuscript has been talked about for years, J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of the old English epic poem Beowulf will be published in May.
“The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work,” says the author’s son, Christopher, who also functioned as editor of the book, “very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication.”
But as special as a Tolkien translation of Beowulf would be, there’s more to this book even than that. “This edition is twofold,” says Christopher, “for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.”
And another treat, yet: the book also includes the story “Sellic Spell.” Written by Tolkien, it suggests “what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the ‘historical legends’ of the Northern kingdoms.”