The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Story of Kullervo (16.07.15 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

HarperCollins have officially announced the world first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who swears revenge on the magician who killed his father.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo will be released in an edition edited by Verlyn Flieger on 27th August this year.

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. The Story of Kullervo was written when Tolkien was at Oxford at age 22, though it was never completed. It was his first piece of prose fiction.

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 expanded edition, available in hardback on the 27th August, follows the similar publications of The Fall of Arthur and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

The Story of Kullervo, which is only a few thousand words long, will be brought out this August by HarperCollins. The cover features one of Tolkien's own illustrations.
The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien,The Story of Kullervo

John Garth, a Tolkien biographer, was quoted as saying, “It’s a very important and significant book, but more for being vital in Tolkien’s development as a writer. Most crucially, it led to his Elvish languages for Middle-earth. So this book is key to him inventing languages of his own for later works. But, interestingly, he deliberately never completed it. He just knew he could write, but wanted to move on.”

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.

Title: The Story of Kullervo
J.R.R. Tolkien
Verlyn Flieger

Publication Date: 27 Aug. 2015

hardcover, 192 pages
ISBN-10: 0008131368
ISBN-13: 978-0008131364

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