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The Fall of Arthur Hardcover – International Edition, May 23, 2013

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Hardcover, International Edition, May 23, 2013
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Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún:

“This is the most unexpected of Tolkien’s many posthumous publications; his son’s ‘Commentary’ is a model of informed accessibility; the poems stand comparison with their Eddic models, and there is little poetry in the world like those” Times Literary Supplement

“The compact verse form is ideally suited to describing impact… elsewhere it achieves a stark beauty” Telegraph

About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 60 languages worldwide. He died in 1973 at the age of 81.
Christopher Tolkien is the third son of J.R.R. Tolkien. Appointed by J.R.R. Tolkien to be his literary executor, he has devoted himself to the publication of his father’s unpublished writings, notably The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth. This is his 21st book.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition edition (May 23, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007489943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007489947
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,862,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892.1973), beloved throughout the world as the creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. His chief interest was the linguistic aspects of the early English written tradition, but even as he studied these classics he was creating a set of his own.

Customer Reviews

The original story is so much diferent that the one we are used to hearing.
S. Cranow
Most of the English speaking world knows of Arthur through Sir Thomas Mallory's 15th century version of the stories.
John Raffauf
He *is* the J.R.R. Tolkien expert, and it is interesting to read his work here.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

119 of 127 people found the following review helpful By John Raffauf on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Readers who have an interest in Arthurian literature should find this interesting for its exposition of Tolkien's source choices. Those who are only interested in Middle Earth, may have trouble associating this book with the Tolkien they know. Christopher provides some help in bridging the gap. Those who are expecting a full-fledged Arthurian experience will be disappointed.

Most of the English speaking world knows of Arthur through Sir Thomas Mallory's 15th century version of the stories. With few exceptions, what appears in the popular media is based on Mallory. The exceptions generally ignore the vast earlier base of Arthurian literature, borrow a few names and incidents, and invent new relationships between the characters and create new narrative. The film King Arthur (2004) is a good example of this.

Tolkien made a conscious choice to focus on the most "English" aspects of the legends.

Arthurian literature before the 12th century would fit on part of one page. Geoffrey of Monmouth sparked interest in the Arthurian stories, starting around 1150, when Arthur was included in his History of the Kings of Britain. Monmouth gave us about 33 pages of Arthurian "history". This was followed by an avalanche of writing in French and German that lasted 100 years, until around 1250. The English versions of the stories first appeared 100 years later, in 1350. One of these was the West Midlands Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Tolkien and Gordon in 1925 while they were professors at Leeds. The other was the Stanzaic Morte D'Arthure. Gawain and the Stanzaic were used as sources for the Alliterative Morte D'Arthure around 1400. The Stanzaic and Alliterative were sources for Mallory.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
JRR Tolkien had a passion for ancient myths and legends. But for some reason, he never wrote much about the stories of King Arthur.

That isn't to say he didn't write anything about the Once and Future King. In the 1930s, he wrote "The Fall of Arthur," an epic poem that he abandoned in favor of his more famous Middle-Earth books. This is not the genteel, courtly Arthur of Thomas Malory -- this is a rough, ancient-feeling poem that follows the rhythm and flow of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

"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..." The malevolent Mordred convinces Arthur and Gawain to set out to war, during which he will take care of Arthur's kingdom. The two battle their foes to the east, and are wildly successful...

... until "from the West came word, winged and urgent,/of war assailing the walls of Britain." Mordred has treacherously turned against Arthur, and is even pursuing his beautiful queen Guinever, who flees the castle to avoid him. So Arthur heads back home to reclaim his throne, even as the exiled Sir Lancelot is drawn back to help the man he wronged.

Sadly, the poem was never finished, and it ends after a rousing little speech by Gawain. So to pad out the book, Christopher Tolkien wrote a multi-part essay about the poem and its depiction of Arthur -- the Saxon overtones, the presence of Rome and other countries, Tolkien's use of language, and comparisons to other works of medieval Arthuriana.

He also expounds on its connection to Tolkien's "Silmarillion" (aka the Elf Bible), the various notes that Tolkien left behind that indicate his intentions for the remainder of the poem, and the evolution of the poem, based on Tolkien's multiple drafts.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the publication of The Fall of Arthur one of J.R.R. Tolkien's most obscure works, mentioned briefly in a letter he wrote in the 1950s and referred to in a couple of paragraphs in Humphrey Carpenter's biography, at last sees the light of day. The Fall of Arthur is a fragment of a poem Tolkien apparently wrote in the early 1930s, according to Christopher Tolkien's excellent Foreword. At that time Tolkien had already been working for many years on the tales and poems which eventually became part of his best known legendarium dealing with Arda. Interconnected with and simultaneous to those tales was Tolkien's ongoing love of Norse and Anglo-Saxon poetry.

Tolkien's poem makes up only about 40 pages of this book of over 200 pages. The rest, all written by Christopher Tolkien, consists of notes clarifying some terms and place names, a lengthy essay "The Poem in Arthurian Tradition," an excellent study of "The Unwritten Poem" which connects The Fall of Arthur with elements from The Silmarillion, The Lost Road, and The Book of Lost Tales, another essay on "The Evolution of the Poem" in which Christopher analyzes the several manuscripts and fragments of The Fall of Arthur, and an invaluable Appendix on "Old English Verse." All of this material will provide grist for many hours of deep and rewarding study. I've only begun to scratch the surface but I've already found so much that excites me with new insights into both Middle-earth and Camelot.

Most people who buy and read The Fall of Arthur will do so because they want to read more of J.R.R. Tolkien's own poetry, and even though this is only a fragment it is still magical. The poem begins with Arthur and Gawain going to war against Mordred in the East.
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