Following on the heels of The Fall of Arthur, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, and Beowulf, the Tolkien Estate will be releasing another partially completed work by the professor based on northern European mythology. In this volume Tolkien's first "retelling" of the Finnish epic, The Kalevala will be featured. The work had a profound effect upon young Tolkien and its influence can be most directly seen in his story of Turin Turambar from 'The Silmarillion' legends.
Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.
Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates.
Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major matter in the legends of the First Age’. Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo – published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala – is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.
Serious Tolkien fans and academics will no doubt cherish this tragic tale as much as the previous three to be released this decade. I'm also particularly interested in the notes and commentary put together by Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger. Like in the other volumes, they should shed an interesting light on Tolkien's professional career and how that influenced his own stories (and vice versa).
And to think I thought all new Middle-earth news was nearly over!
|Kullervo Departs for the War by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1901)|
Update: Amazon.com seems to be a little confused at the moment as it says the title is "Out of Print". However, it does list the release date for the international edition - October 13, 2015. The Amazon page also includes an extra paragraph at the top of the blurb:
The world['s] first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who swears revenge on the magician who killed his father.
Update 7/17/15: Following the official press release by Harper Collins, the book's publication date is now listed as the 27th of August for the UK. The cover of the book, based on one of Tolkien's own illustrations, has also been revealed and can be seen at the top of this post.