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JRR Tolkien's translation of Beowulf is finally going to be published

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One of the major influences on The Hobbit was the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, which was the subject of many of J.R.R. Tolkien's lectures. Now, 90 years after Tolkien translated the poem, his version of Beowulf is finally coming to print.

Tolkien's estate has announced that HarperCollins will release Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, edited by Tolkien's son Christopher Tolkien, on May 22. The book will contain the elder Tolkien's translation of the poem, as well as the lectures Tolkien gave on Beowulf in the 1930s and Tolkien's short story "Sellic Spell," which was Tolkien's attempt to recreate a lost folk tale behind the Old Norse Saga of King Hrolf kraki.


Tolkien's view of Beowulf was distinct from that of his fellow literary scholars; while most of Tolkien's contemporaries looked to the poem for anthropological and historical information, Tolkien focused on Beowulf's more fantastical elements. He preferred to analyze Beowulf as a work of art rather than a mere historical artifact.

Why, then, has it taken so long for Tolkien's Beowulf to see the light of publication? Christopher Tolkien told the Guardian that his father never considered publishing his translation, and poet Simon Armitage wonders if the text is up to Tolkien's own standards. Still, if you've been dragging your feet on reading Beowulf, now might be a good time to give the poem a try.


JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait [The Guardian via Geekosystem]