HarperCollins has announced a new Tolkien book, The Battle of Maldon: together with The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, will be published on 30 March 2023. Edited by Peter Grybauskas, it features Tolkien’s prose translation of the Old English poem The Battle of Maldon alongside his own alliterative poem The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son and related essays.
First ever standalone edition of one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s most important poetic dramas, that explores timely themes such as the nature of heroism and chivalry during war, and which features unpublished and never-before-seen texts and drafts.
In 991 AD, vikings attacked an Anglo-Saxon defence-force led by their duke, Beorhtnoth, resulting in brutal fighting along the banks of the river Blackwater, near Maldon in Essex. The attack is widely considered one of the defining conflicts of tenth-century England, due to it being immortalised in the poem, The Battle of Maldon.
Written shortly after the battle, the poem now survives only as a 325-line fragment, but its value to today is incalculable, not just as an heroic tale but in vividly expressing the lost language of our ancestors and celebrating ideals of loyalty and friendship.
J.R.R. Tolkien considered The Battle of Maldon ‘the last surviving fragment of ancient English heroic minstrelsy’. It would inspire him to compose, during the 1930s, his own dramatic verse-dialogue, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, which imagines the aftermath of the great battle when two of Beorhtnoth’s retainers come to retrieve their duke’s body.
Leading Tolkien scholar, Peter Grybauskas, presents for the very first time J.R.R. Tolkien’s own prose translation of The Battle of Maldon together with the definitive treatment of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth and its accompanying essays; also included and never before published is Tolkien’s bravura lecture, ‘The Tradition of Versification in Old English’, a wide-ranging essay on the nature of poetic tradition. Illuminated with insightful notes and commentary, he has produced a definitive critical edition of these works, and argues compellingly that, Beowulf excepted, The Battle of Maldon may well have been ‘the Old English poem that most influenced Tolkien’s fiction’, most dramatically within the pages of The Lord of the Rings.
The Battle of Maldon will be published on 30 March 2023 in hardback for £19.99 (ISBN 978-0008465827) and on Kindle for £14.99. A deluxe version will be published on 27 April 2023 for £74.99 (ISBN 978-0008465834), which includes a colour frontispiece reproducing a page of Tolkien’s original manuscript of The Homecoming, and a digitally remastered recording of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth read by J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien, which is available on CD for the first time.