August 1, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "The Fall of Arthur"

Continuing my trend of examining the main, primary books that I have on ‘the shelf’ (which isn’t all of my Tolkien books, but all the main, or essential ones), we have one that is very similar in style, in terms of content and subject material, to The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. We have The Fall of Arthur. Which is not a translation, but an original poem by Tolkien.

The cover artwork matches the theme of Sigurd & Gudrun, as you can see if you compare the two books side by side. I also forgot to mention in previous posts going as far back as The Children of Hurin, that from that book onwards, the ‘layout’ on the dustjackjet cover matches. Also, all of the Tolkien books I’m covering, the size dimensions match, or are VERY close to it, so they are all of an equal height. Of course, the thickness of each book varies from book to book.

The Fall of Arthur, is a slimmer book compared to recent publications. Thickness wise, it’s about the size of one of the The Lord of the Rings hardbacks (excluding the Reader’s Companion), most likely The Two Towers.

So let’s go onto to holding and opening the book.

Like Tales From the Perilous Realm, and the Middle-earth books (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales) the dustjacket is made of the matte, paper-y texture or material. On the back of the dustjacket, is a sticker from the publisher. It has a barcode and price. Due to the type of material the dustjacket is made of, after what happed to Perilous Realm, I decided to leave it on and make no attempt to remove it.

Anyway, removing the dustjacket, the book itself is black. Like other Tolkien books I’ve covered, the black book has copper-brass embossment on the spine of Tolkien’s logo, the title etc. Opening the book, like Sigurd & Gudrun, we are treated to a facsimile page of Tolkien’s manuscript, printed on the plastic-y, glossy material of paper. The table of contents is to be expected, and there are chapter / segment illustrations, like Sigurd & Gudrun. Except in this book, they all feature the same image (the knight on the horse) whereas with Sigurd and Gudrun, each segment featured a different image.

So that’s about it, in regards to what the standard hardback edition has. There is also paperback edition, and a deluxe edition. The text for all editions is the same.

Why did I get it: it’s the newest main Tolkien book! When initially published, of course. Also, the book is quite lovely, and is a Tolkien epic poem (in verse, like Sigurd & Gudrun) about Arthur! Also interesting to think about, that if Tolkien completed the poem (it’s a fragment, sadly, however the other contents of the book point to closure) then it’s entirely possible that he may not have written The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings. In its place, then, what could have happened? Could he have completed and published The Book of Lost Tales? The Children of Hurin? The Fall of Gondolin? We may never know, but Tolkien stopped work on the poem because of The Hobbit
, and early roots of The Lord of the Rings…. The Fall of Arthur may have been published sooner, if not for The History of Middle-earth.

Who would I recommend this edition to: like before, and in the future, anyone wishing to own a hardback edition of this work. The book looks quite nice ‘on the shelf’ with the rest of the Tolkien books I’ve covered thus far, should you wish it to match your other Tolkien books in hardback by Harper Collins.

“Should I wait for a better one?” : the book was published in 2013, and most likely still in print. I can’t forsee a ‘better’ one coming along. It may be re-issued or republished, but I don’t see the contents changing, unless by way of a ‘repackage’ (like comparing Tales From the Perilous Realm to Tolkien Treasury box set, for example).

Overall: Harper Collins continues to print and publish fine editions of Tolkien’s works. This one definitely deserves it’s place on anyone’s shelf, though skepticism and reluctance is understandable: the book is thin, the main poem is an unfinished fragment, etc. I did not get it as ‘reluctant completist’, but there may be some who feel that way. It’s a great book (I’m focusing on the edition or format by way of these ‘on my shelf’ posts), though it does fall short in a few departments: I’m speaking ‘presentation’ wise (not how the book ‘looks’, and not in terms of the quality of the content, but it seems a bit lacking in terms of amount of content). The book could have been presented or edited a bit differently. Not the poem itself, but some of the additional or supplementary contents.

I am glad it exists, and what’s in the book is great. Ultimately, it will depend on what you want from this release. Content wise, it will definitely appeal to Arthurian fans, medieval fans, and those who enjoy epic verse poetry. Also, if you enjoyed Sigurd & Gudrun you’ll most likely enjoy this one.

Also, worthy of note, it’s very interesting to see an earlier attempt by Tolkien to introduce his own mythology. In that sense, this is a great window. Bottom line? It’s worth having but, not as perfect as some of the other Tolkien publications. It depends on what you want.   

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