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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.

“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“.

About the Author: The Tolkien Society
The Tolkien Society is an educational charity and worldwide membership organisation devoted to promoting research into, and educating the public in, the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Society organises regular events (such as Oxonmoot and Tolkien Reading Day), publishes regular books and journal (such as Amon Hen and Mallorn), and is working towards a permanent home to Tolkien in the UK.