It’s taken 100 years, but one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest stories is finally being published for the masses. Get ready for The Story of Kullervo.
The manuscript was started by Tolkien while he was still in college at Oxford, and is based on the Finnish epic poem The Kalevala. It’s that epic that inspired Tolkien’s interest in legends, and he once called this work “the germ” that would eventually lead him to create the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the various other works that make up his Middle-earth saga.
It’s a fascinating peek into the development of Tolkien as a writer and his processes, and though the version here is technically unfinished (it comes with some of Tolkien’s notes in the margin), it’s still well worth a read for fans.
Here’s the official description for the story:
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.
It’s worth noting this isn’t technically the first time the piece has been published. A previous version was published included in 2010’s Tolkien Studies: Volume 7. But this new release marks the first time it’s been available for the general public to read.
(Via The Verge)