Posted in Book Reviews

Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur

The Fall of ArthurFans of J.R.R. Tolkien or Arthurian legend will want to have a look at The Fall of Arthur.  As you may know, before creating the world of Hobbits, the elder Tolkien was a linguist, teaching and studying at Oxford for decades.  His linguistic skills were on great display in his creation of the Elvish language—and to a lesser, but no less satisfying degree in this narrative poem. Tolkien apparently started this work in the 1930s but never finished, which is a shame because it is good.  The language has an antique feel, but it scans gracefully and never feels forced.

Christopher Tolkien, the book’s editor, is his father’s literary executor and has dedicated his much of his career to editing and publishing his father’s previously unpublished works.  He provides copious information about the vocabulary of the poem, the traditions from which it was drawn, and the relationship of The Fall of Arthur to Tolkien’s Silmarillion. There is even an appendix on Old English verse.

With its scholarly details, this book could easily serve as an academic text, but the general reader should give it a chance.  The Fall of Arthur is fine poem brimming with the glorious details of one of Britain’s greatest legends.

—Diane

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