August 8, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "Beowulf"

My ‘shelf exam’ is nearly at an end!

This week, I’ll be looking at Beowulf.

This is Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf. It’s in prose, as opposed to verse – though he partially worked on a verse translation. By that fact, many Beowulf scholars may not like this edition because of the fact it’s not in verse. This publication is more substantial and ‘complete’ than The Fall of Arthur was, and feels similar to Sigurd & Gudrun. The book features the complete prose translation, as well as other goodies, which showcase Tolkien’s love and knowledge on Beowulf. Also, because it’s a translation, it’s interesting to see how Tolkien saw or interpreted certain portions. The best example I can think of is at the very beginning: “hwaet!” is “lo!” to him.

So, let’s get into this book…..

The dustjacket features a dragon design by Tolkien, and is quite lovely and striking and definitely looks like a Tolkien book. It feels like one too, as it uses the matte, paper-y texture common with Tolkien hardback dustjackets. On the rear, is more of Tolkien’s artwork, Grendell’s mere. Inside the back flap, is another view of Grendell’s mere.  Removing the dustjacket, the book itself is blue, with Tolkien’s logo and the book title etc appearing on the spine in gold embossment.

Opening it, a few pages in, we’re treated to more of Tolkien’s artwork – this one showing a warrior with a shield and spear facing off against a dragon. Very well designed. The table of contents follows, as does, well, the book’s contents.

And that’s it!

Why did I get it: Tolkien’s version of Beowulf is long-awaited. Aside from the fact that it’s a new main Tolkien book, I wanted to get this as early as I could. Also, the abundance of Tolkien’s artwork and sketches on the dustjacket, and inside the book (1 inside, I believe, while the rest are on the dustjacket) was the icing on the cake to get this one in hardback. The only books I was initially on the fence about when first announced was Tales From the Perilous Realm and The Fall of Arthur (Once I saw the contents and page count for Fall of Arthur became hesitant. It went from excitement, hesitance, back to excitement. Perilous Realm was initially hesitance, followed by excitement as time went on and the book became published.)

Who Would I recommend this edition to: anyone who wants it in hardback. Sorry if that statement is too ‘simple’. Really, if you want to get this book, and you have the other Tolkien books I’ve covered so far in hardback (or even the exact same editions) then this will definitely go with them quite well. It’s very attractive ‘on the shelf’.

“Should I wait for a better one?” : As of writing this, the book is only about 2 years old. Future editions is unknown of some Tolkien books, so you may as well go for the hardback while it’s in print. This release feels so ‘complete’ I don’t see what the publishers could add or change in the future, much like some other Tolkien books I’ve covered. The ones most likely to get different content in any form would be The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and even then, it all depends on what one considers ‘better.’. With this edition, you get some of Tolkien’s artwork, as well.

Overall: Tolkien’s love of Beowulf is very clear with both this book, and this edition. Harper Collins has put together another fine hardback, and it’s jam packed with ‘extra’ goodies as well as the translation. If you like Tolkien, and you like Beowulf, don’t miss out on this one.

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