August 15, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: "The Story of Kullervo"

Happy #TolkienTuesday all! Wherein I take a moment or two to ponder about Tolkien, and his works, his influences, and things that stemmed from his legacy.

Each week since I began this series of posts, I’ve ‘examined’ my reading editions of the main Tolkien books on ‘my shelf’. I’ve got a shelf on my wall dedicated to my core Tolkien books. Well, today, I’ve reached the end of that shelf. But, not the end of my #TolkienTuesday posts. Also, I own other Tolkien books (not too many others) that I call “supplementary books” which I don’t have on the shelf (amount of them to add to what’s on the shelf already, weight, size, etc) that I’ll go into at some point. Those will get one blog post for all of them. Things like art books, references, etc. However, next week I’ll tell you about my ‘other’ collection; but for the time being, let’s have a look at that last book.

This last book is called The Story of Kullervo. This newest book (publication date wise) that I (physically) own is actually one of Tolkien’s earliest writings, if not his first.  This is the Professor’s prose version of Kullervo, found within The Kalevala. Much like The Fall of Arthur, it is an unfinished fragment (and also a thin book as well). Despite this, the book also includes numerous  additional supplementary material. Some may feel that The Fall of Arthur, and this publication (especially this publication) are an attempt to earn money from the publisher by releasing something best left in one of Tolkien’s desk drawers, or possibly part of a larger volume. I myself do not think so. While I admit that not every single thing Tolkien’s pen put to paper should be published, there are some unheard of works that deserve to be looked at, or their existence known. As an author, I myself would not like some of my earlier drafts of the novel I’m working on to see the light of day. Some of my possible future fans may like to see those, but I’ll tell them how and what changed. But those early attempts? Not very good and should not be read.

This book is definitely excellent, however, like a few other books I’ve covered (namely Tales From the Perilous Realm, The Fall of Arthur and now The Story of Kullervo) it may not exactly appeal to everyone – whether it be the content itself, the size of the book, etc. However, I cover my format here, not the book itself. I wanted to provide a bit of insight if this is the first you’re hearing of it.

So let’s have a look at my hardback!

The dustjacket is made the paper-y matte type material, and features artwork by Tolkien (I believe this piece is titled “The Land of Pohja”). This book sits well with Beowulf, and matches it in design and style, but I’ve got to say that all my hardbacks ‘blend’ together quite well in terms of dimensions. Of course, the cover art and design style from The Hobbit compared to The Children of Hurin is different, but they still look great on the shelf, and as a whole I believe my shelf looks quite attractive.

Removing the dustjacket, the book itself is red underneath, with, as usual, the title, author and Tolkien’s monogram logo foil stamped in gold on the spine. Opening it, we are treated to a sheet of glossy paper which features the original image in which the cover art is based as a facsimile. Opening the book further, we get the table of contents as well as the text of the book. There are facsimiles included, though they are not in colour, and are printed on standard paper. I’ve got to say, it’s neat that Harper Collins chose to put in a few more images than is custom into this book. There’s nothing wrong with none, but it’s neat that they’re there. In future editions of some of the books I’ve covered, I can see little things like these added in, where appropriate to the book. That’s not a guarantee, however, just some thoughts aloud. And that’s pretty much it!

Why did I get it: They say not to judge a book by it’s a cover, but once I saw the book itself and had a quick (respectful) flip-through at the book store, I was sold on it by presentation, artwork, etc. Also, I didn’t plan it this way, but it seems fitting that most likely (because never say never!) the final title I’ll add to ‘the shelf’ would be one of Tolkien’s earliest writings.

Who would I recommend this edition to: Since this book is so new, aside from the ebook, this is the only edition that’s out at this time. However, the deluxe is out later this year, and the paperback next year. If you’ve enjoyed Sigurd & Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur and Beowulf, and you want a print copy of the book, and to see the artwork, facsimiles etc, then you should pick this up.  
“Should I wait for a better one?” : the book pretty much just came out, there most likely won’t be a better one for quite some time. When the book is reissued or republished, it could very well just be reprinted.

Overall: As mentioned, there are some books on my shelf that are not for everyone, and a bit trickier to recommend than others. This would be one of them. I say this because, like The Fall of Arthur, this is an unfinished fragment, and the book itself is fairly small. However, there’s lots of extra content to accompany what Tolkien did write. If you’ve been following my shelf as a I went along on it, or you own all the Tolkien hardbacks mentioned thus far (in the exact same editions as mine or different) and you’re missing this one, pick it up to round out your collection.

And that concludes my series of posts about what’s on my primary Tolkien shelf! There are other books I own which I’ll cover, and other Tolkien products I own which I’ll write about. Of course, not all of the Tolkien Tuesday posts will be about the material items I down, that’s just how I found best to kick off the weekly installments.

I hope you enjoyed, and that this series of ‘shelf posts’ may serve as “Which edition of The Hobbit should I get?” for example, or “what titles am I missing?”

Next week, I’ll tell you about what I own exclusively for collecting purposes…My “Do Not Read” editions.

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