JRR Tolkien novel The Story of Kullervo to be published a century after being written

It inspired many of the legends behind Lord of the Rings

Jack Shepherd
Wednesday 12 August 2015 10:59
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JRR Tolkien novel The Story of Kullervo front cover
JRR Tolkien novel The Story of Kullervo front cover

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth has become one of literary’s greatest fantasy worlds, and took decades of work to create. After a century of remaining relatively unseen by the public, one of the works that inspired the world of Lord of the Rings is being released.

The Story of Kullervo was started in 1914 while Tolkien was studying English at Exeter College, Oxford, and is loosely based on the Finish poem Kalevala. In the original epic tale, Kalevala is a tragic character with a terrible background that saw the character seek revenge for the death of his daughter, yet ends up committing suicide.

According to one of the many letters he wrote, the tale had a huge impression on the Lore of Middle Earth, and formed the basis of the story The Children of Húrin, with the tragic ending removed. From this foundation many of the stories we now love were formed.

Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf in the film adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy

This release will be the original manuscript, and tells the tale of Kellervo, son of Kalervo, a luckless orphan 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,” reads the books release. “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.”

JRR Tolkien in his study at Merton College, Oxford, in 1955

Túrin Turambar, hero of The Silmarillon, another Middle Earth tale, is actually a direct descendent of Kullervo.

It was originally published in an academic journal, but this is the first time it is getting a mass release. It comes out 27 August.

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