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Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary Hardcover – May 22, 2014
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Top Customer Reviews
This is the good stuff. I'm already enjoying it as much as Seamus Heaney's verse translation (read alongside, not instead of: Heaney is more raw and emotional, Tolkien more beautifully complex, both are worth your time), and the commentary is amazing. My only beef is that it doesn't include The Monsters and the Critics, Tolkien's famous lecture about the poem's critics and its place in history, but as its quite long and is easily available both online and in a separate volume, I can over look it.
I read something like this, and I wish all writers could be so well served by their heirs. Brian Herbert, I'm looking in your direction...
The book contains an introduction by Christopher (from now on I will use Tolkien to refer to the father and Christopher to the son), Tolkien’s prose translation of Beowulf, “Notes on the text of the translation” (both Tolkien’s and Christopher’s), “Introductory note to the Commentary” (Christopher’s explanation of his editing of this father’s comments), “Commentary Accompanying the Translation of Beowulf” (drawn from Tolkien’s lecture notes), “Sellic Spell” (three versions of Tolkien’s attempt at telling what might have been the old source folktale for the legend as we have it), and “The Lay of Beowulf” (two short poems/songs by Tolkien).Read more ›
Christopher Tolkien states in his Preface that the translation was completed by 1926, when his father was 34 and still in the early years of his career. Over the next twenty years Tolkien continued to study and reflect on Beowulf, writing essays and giving lectures and classes. In preparing Tolkien's translation for publication his son had to choose between several different manuscripts and then deal with the truly arduous task of selecting from a vast body of work those notes and commentaries which would be most illuminating. The result is an amazing almost line by line analysis of the translation. As yet I've only had time to dip in here and there, but wherever I've looked I've found some fascinating insights and new information, such as that "Hwaet", the famous first word of Beowulf which Tolkien translated as "Lo!" is an anacrusis or "striking up" that derived from minstrels, or that Beowulf's "ice-bears" could not have been polar bears since that species was not known in Europe until much later.Read more ›
The verse translation: Tolkien made an unfinished/fragmentary alliterative verse translation of "Beowulf", but you will not find it in this book other than a dozen lines on page 9 and seven more on page 130. Given that Christopher Tolkien has published other partial/fragmentary verse by his father (e.g. The Fall of Arthur and The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 3)), I find this omission both surprising and very disappointing.
Preface & Introduction: These sections are fairly typical of Christopher Tolkien's work, featuring him describing/justifying his editorial process. Personally, I find his tendency to do this to be annoying, but maybe that is just me.
Prose Translation: In prose translations of poetry, a degree of artistry is usually sacrificed for the sake of a more formal (i.e. word-for-word) translation. Tolkien's skill as a wordsmith keeps this loss of artistry to a minimum. His prose rendering does lose the original poem's alliteration, but it still flows with a pleasing rhythm that gives much the same feeling as the original.
Notes on the text of the translation: In this section, Christopher Tolkien is back to pontificating about his editorial process and giving a number of readings from one of the early (i.e. rough draft) versions of the poem. Pretty much anything important in this section is repeated with greater skill in the commentary section.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
To have a classic tale be translated by one of the greatest authors ever is an amazing thing. I will cherish reading this.Published 1 day ago by Tony
Always a fascinating story and this edition is a treasure. I've seen the original in the British Library and have had many editions of my own. This one tops them.Published 5 days ago by shayes
This is a rich resource for fans of Tolkien's writing style. It probably isn't going to be very interesting for fans of Peter Jackson's movies, however.Published 7 days ago by M. Ashmore
Not what I'd hoped for. Tokien is THE modern authority on Beowulf. As a lifelong fan I was really looking forward to this one, and also because I loved the "Legend of Sigurd... Read morePublished 1 month ago by L. Filkins
I received Tolkien's translation of Beowulf as a gift recently and I think I am the only one on here that didn't like it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Steve C.
A grand effort by the Old King himself . If you are a fan of Beowulf , the background information and additional stories will satisfy and give you more of the view of the old... Read morePublished 2 months ago by John Dominguez
A very technical work, more suited to someone who has studied Old English, but still accessibly written and enjoyable. Filled with surprises. Definitely worth buying.Published 3 months ago by Philip J. Herman
Written in 1924 published in 2014, I have been waiting for this verse translation for 30 years.Published 3 months ago by Lisa H