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New Tolkien book: The Story of Kullervo

HarperCollins have officially announced that J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo will be released in an edition edited by Verlyn Flieger on 27th August this year in the UK.

Cover of The Story of Kullervo

Cover of The Story of Kullervo

“The Story of Kullervo” was written by Tolkien in 1914 and was his own reworking and re-imagining of part of the tale of the Finnish saga Kalevala. The story is significant in the development of Tolkien’s legendarium as it provided the basis for Túrin Turambar, a tragic hero of The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin.

Verlyn Flieger, who has also edited Smith of Wootton Major and Tolkien On Fairy-stories, first published “The Story of Kullervo” in 2010 in Tolkien Studies: Volume 7. This edition, available in hardback for £16.99 from the 27th August in the UK, follows the similar publications of The Fall of Arthur, Beowulf and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

It will be published in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 5th April 2016.

The official information from the publishers states:

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.

UPDATE: the BBC have posted a video featuring Verlyn Flieger discussing The Story of Kullervo. They have also posted an article on “Kullervo: Tolkien’s fascination with Finland“.

  • Gearóid

    Brilliant, can’t wait.
    I have spent a lot of time in Finland so look forward to learning more about its own mythology and its relation to Tolkien and how it inspired him as a writer.

  • James M

    *Really* looking forward to this.

  • Casey Goranson

    I look forward with great anticipation to this publication.
    Kullervo has inspired great work before; Jean Sibelius wrote an entire symphony (with chorus and soloists) based on his story. Granted, he then forbade its performance during his lifetime (for personal reasons), but I’ve heard it, and it’s excellent.

  • Chrille

    Have anyone read it yet? What do you think?

  • Erik Ochsner

    Is it truly coming out today? Amazon states April 5, 2016?

  • Looks like they’ve pushed the date back – I’ve amended the post.

  • Bill Lloyd

    Most if not all of the content of the new volume was published in ‘Tolkien Studies” volume 7 in 2010. It’s been a while since I read it — very interesting of course, but remember the story is UNFINISHED, though there are some notes for its conclusion.