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Beowulf: A translation and commentary by…
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Beowulf: A translation and commentary (original 2014; edition 2014)

by J.R.R. Tolkien (Translator), Christopher Tolkien (Editor)

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472921,929 (4.02)13
Member:donutage
Title:Beowulf: A translation and commentary
Authors:J.R.R. Tolkien (Translator)
Other authors:Christopher Tolkien (Editor)
Info:Boston: Houghton Mifflin Houghton. "First U.S. edition"
Collections:Moorestown
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Tags:poetry, old english, translation, epic

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Beowulf by J. R. R. Tolkien (2014)

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» See also 13 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Difficult to read even with translations. an excellent and highly important read for English/Literature class, but definitely recommended for Twelfth grade. This is thought to be one of the most important works in Old English Literature, and is the oldest surviving long poem. ( )
  alexishartline | Feb 5, 2017 |
I'M SO EXCITED

I JUST CAN'T HIDE IT

*frolics through a meadow of tiny pine trees and dragon scales*
  Stebahnree | Mar 13, 2016 |
I'M SO EXCITED

I JUST CAN'T HIDE IT

*frolics through a meadow of tiny pine trees and dragon scales*
  Stebahnree | Mar 13, 2016 |
The book is quite a bit more notes by his son than writing by him, but it's still a nice translation of one of my favorite stories. ( )
  unclebob53703 | Feb 21, 2016 |
It's strange that Tolkien is credited with kickstarting modern scholarship on 'Beowulf,' yet, until now, his translation was unpublished.
I've read other translations before, but I don't recall which ones specifically. I followed this reading up directly with the Heaney translation, which is apparently the standard in today's college classes. (It wasn't yet published either, last time I read 'Beowulf.') The Tolkien direct translation is more 'difficult,' but both (I cannot verify, but I got the feeling) more accurate and more lovely to the ear, with evocative and musical language. Tolkien's language and imagery is both vivid and elevated; and gives the reader the feeling of a glimpse into the past.

Reading the accompanying commentary (together with notes from Christopher Tolkien) is great because there's a lot of discussion of what the figures of speech mean and what words not only mean but what their implications are, considering the society using them. (Which kind of rubs it in that, "no, you really don't understand the original like Tolkien does, and very likely no one alive does.")
The 'commentary' is written rather informally, and indeed I could almost imagine myself in a classroom at Oxford,listening to Tolkien lecture. The book, as a whole is *almost* as good as taking a full-semester college seminar on the poem.

In addition to the translation, notes and commentary, this volume also includes two versions of Tolkien telling the story of Beowulf in the style of a folk tale; and two versions of it written as a ballad - which, IMHO, HAS to be recorded by some excellent bands very shortly! Seriously, one of the best pieces of poetry I've ever read. Gorgeous language; you can literally hear the music as you read. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Tolkien, though he wrote poetry, did not consider himself primarily a poet, and his “Beowulf” is a prose translation. In the words of Christopher Tolkien, his father “determined to make a translation as close as he could to the exact meaning in detail of the Old English poem, far closer than could ever be attained by translation into ‘alliterative verse,’ but with some suggestion of the rhythm of the original.” In fact, the alliteration is there throughout. Consequently, you can tap out the rhythm, with your foot, line by line.
added by eereed | editThe New Yorker, Joan Acocella (Jun 2, 2014)
 
This "new" Tolkien translation, originally composed in 1926, is in a prose that sticks as closely as possible to the meaning and clause-order of the original. It has great accuracy and a sense of rhythm. Its style is, like that of the original, archaic, and often has striking inversions of word-order. It has its own spell, though its movement is more crabbed than that of the equally accurate version made by GN Garmonsway in 1968
 
The first disappointment, then, of Tolkien’s Beowulf is that it is in prose – and long-winded prose at that. This literal rendering is faithful to the formulaic circumlocutions, inversions and amplifications of Old English poetry – a heroic style that evolved to while away a winter’s night, but which loses something when locked into the frigid grammar of a legal document: “Thereafter not far to seek was the man who elsewhere more remote sought him his couch and a bed among the lesser chambers, since now was manifested and declared thus truly to him …’
added by eereed | editThe Telegraph, Jeremy Noel-Tod (May 20, 2014)
 
Rather than considering Tolkien’s interpretation a work of art to take its place aside other respected translations — like the 1966 E. Talbot Donaldson version that was replaced by the Heaney in the “Norton Anthology of English Literature” — many scholars will mine it for Tolkien’s comments on “Beowulf” and glimpses into his decision-making as he waded into gray areas of translation.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Ethan Gilsdorf (May 18, 2014)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beowulf Poetmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, ChristopherEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Since the nature and purpose of this book could very easily be misunderstood I offer here an explanation, which I hope will also be a justification.
- Preface
The texts used by my father's prose translation of Beowulf are, superficially at least, easily described.
- Introduction to the Translation
Lo! the glory of the kings of the people of the Spear-Danes in days of old we have heard tell, how those princes did deeds of valour.
- Beowulf
Quotations
Thus bemourned the Geatish folk their master's fall, comrades of his hearth, crying that he was ever of the kings of earth of men most generous and to men most gracious, to his people most tender and for praise most eager.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0544442784, Hardcover)

The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its mode, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication. This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup ; but he rebuts the notion that this is a mere treasure story , just another dragon tale . He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history that raises it to another level. The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The treasure is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

Sellic spell, a marvellous tale , is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the historical legends of the Northern kingdoms.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:29 -0400)

Presents the prose translation of the Old English epic that Tolkien created as a young man, along with selections from lectures on the poem he gave later in life and a story and poetry he wrote in the style of folklore on the poem's themes.

(summary from another edition)

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