Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary

Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary


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Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary by J. R. R. Tolkien

The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf "snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup"; but he rebuts the notion that this is "a mere treasure story", "just another dragon tale". He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is "the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history" that raises it to another level. "The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The ‘treasure’ is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination."

Sellic spell, a "marvellous tale", is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the Northern kingdoms.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544442788
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/22/2014
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 259,973
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

J.R.R. TOLKIEN (1892–1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

CHRISTOPHER TOLKIEN is the third son of J.R.R. Tolkien. Appointed by Tolkien to be his literary executor, he has devoted himself to the editing and publication of unpublished writings, notably The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of Middle-earth.

Date of Birth:

January 3, 1892

Date of Death:

September 2, 1973

Place of Birth:

Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (South Africa)

Place of Death:

Oxford, England


B.A., Exeter College, Oxford University, 1915; M.A., 1919

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Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Dark-Elf More than 1 year ago
As with everything Tolkien touches, this book is golden. I have read several translations/interpretations of Beowulf, and this one is by far the best. Tolkien combines his solid command of English literature, and his comprehension of numerous European languages both modern and archaic, to produce an outstanding product. After reading this book, you will gain a better understanding of why he is considered one of the finest etymologists/philologists in modern history. One can only hope that Christopher Tolkien will continue to posthumously publish additional works from his father's notes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tolkien's translation is masterful. Even more exciting is the delightful re-telling of the tale that can be found in this book published as Sellic Spell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the story that Lord of the Rings etc. was inspired by! The time period, the mead halls, fighting garish monsters, bragging before a quest, impossible feats, and of course magic! Amazing, you'll see some connections. But general things. Tolkiens storiearall his own. It's even got Christianity, another thigs that were quietly woven into his stories. J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were friends! They'd share their ideas but they didn't think anything would ever come of them! Anyway. Read Tolkien's translation of Beowulf the epic. (For some reason his name means bear. Go figure.) I wish i could give you the whole history but can't, you'lk have to read it yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beowulf is a classic. I havent read it yet, but Im going to. I just want to know if it is worth 15 dollars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Introduction: <br> Agal&#228 was once a place ruled by man. Man hunted themselves to extinction, leaving the world to the dragonkind and lesser beings. The dragon population flourished, new customs and traditions appearing like wildfires. Agal&#228 returned to its former glory, unhindered by the scars of mankind. <p> The Culture and Traditions: <br> The king was orginally decided by a competion. Two male dragons fought to the death, the victor showing his dexterity and power. If the bloodline of the royals now ends, the same competion ensues, though the competators have the chance to give up and withdraw instead of being killed. Fatilities are still common. <br> The Bloodmoon is marked as a time of rememberance, as it signifies the time the great Aergana, son of Aerfae, fought the black lord, Kukan. No prey is killed; no blood is spilled until the time of the bloodmoon has passed. <br> The Champion, the trainer and general of the dragon army, is chosen by the taming of the white eagle. This only occurs if the current Champion is either killed or after a thousand years has passed. <br> The Summermoon marks the longest day. A great feast and celebration is held. <br> The Wintermoon marks the shortest day. It, too, is celebrated with a feast, though the feast serves as a purpose of gorging enough to last through the winter until spring, as prey is limited. <br> In the courting of a female, the males collect and display objects that catch the desire of the female. <p> Rules: <br> 1) No godmodding. <br> 2) Be active and try to have decent grammar. <br> 3) If you have multiple characters, be sure to use both consitently. <br> 4) Do NOT be an attention hogger. <br> 5) You cannot waltz in and declare yourself king/queen. You MUST win the specified competition. <br> 6) Your flames (nothing besides flames; no poisonous breath or whatnot) are the color of your scales. <br> 7) The king's word is law. <br> 8) You CAN be a villian. <br> 9) No outrageous colors. No neons or crazy patterns, either. <br> 10) Have fun!!!