The Story of Kullervo

J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Verlyn Flieger. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (192p) ISBN 978-0-544-70626-2
Aimed more at scholars than at the casual reader, this new edition of an early short story—which dates to the years 1912–1916—offers a taste of fantasies to come from the master of Middle-Earth. Tolkien adapted this fragment from an episode of the Finnish epic Kalevala, and his account of the young son of a fratricide and his tragic destiny would ultimately inform the characters and events of the Silmarillion, the narrative framework for all of his fiction. The story is muddled by name changes midway through its telling and completed from Tolkien’s sketchy notes, but it nevertheless evokes the mythic grandeur that would come to characterize his forays into the fantastic. Transcriptions of Tolkien’s Oxford University lectures on the Kalevala, and editor Flieger’s essay, “Tolkien, Kalevala, and The Story of Kullervo”—in which she describes the tale as “an essential step on Tolkien’s road from adaptation to invention”—provide context for appreciating the nascent genius of one of the 20th century’s greatest fantasists. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/05/2016
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-544-70632-3
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-544-94724-5
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