Tolkien Gateway

The Fall of Arthur

The Fall of Arthur
The Fall of Arthur.jpg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristopher Tolkien
IllustratorBill Sanderson
PublisherHarperCollins (UK)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US)
Released23 May 2013

The Fall of Arthur is a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien concerned with the legend of King Arthur and written in the Old English alliterative metre. It was published, along with three essays by Christopher Tolkien, on 23 May 2013.[2]

[edit] Contents

  • Foreword
  • The Fall of Arthur
  • Notes on the Text of The Fall of Arthur
  • The Poem in Arthurian Tradition
  • The Unwritten Poem and its Relation to The Silmarillion
  • The Evolution of the Poem
  • Appendix: Old English Verse

[edit] From the publisher

The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the extraordinary story of the final days of England’s legendary hero, King Arthur.

The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skilful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.

Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. In this case he evidently began it in the earlier nineteen-thirties, and it was sufficiently advanced for him to send it to a very perceptive friend who read it with great enthusiasm at the end of 1934 and urgently pressed him ‘You simply must finish it!’ But in vain: he abandoned it, at some date unknown, though there is some evidence that it may have been in 1937, the year of the publication of The Hobbit and the first stirrings of The Lord of the Rings. Years later, in a letter of 1955, he said that ‘he hoped to finish a long poem on The Fall of Arthur’; but that day never came.

Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.

[edit] Pre-publication history

The poem's existence was first revealed in 1977 when The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien was published. In a 1955 letter to Houghton Mifflin, Tolkien, discussing his use of alliterative verse, mentioned that he hoped to finish his "long poem" The Fall of Arthur.[3]

In his 1981 biography of Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter published a few brief extracts of the poem and commented that it "has alliteration but no rhyme [and] did not touch on the Grail but began an individual rendering of the Morte d'Arthur, in which the king and Gawain go to war in 'Saxon lands' but are summoned home by news of Mordred's treachery".[4] It was also revealed that "The Fall of Arthur" was read and approved by both E.V. Gordon and R.W. Chambers,[4][5] and that the writing of the poem was abandoned in the mid 1930s.[4]

[edit] Editions

[edit] Errata

There are some typos in the book:

  • According to Nelson Goering at Tolkien Society facebook group: "at line 182 we learn that 'hosemen hastened'. Now I'm wondering just what the role of the hoseman was. Perhaps it's a kind of squire, who travels with his knight to ensure he always has clean, dry, well-pressed trousers. Or perhaps it is something nobler, a high chivalric order marked out by their elegant legwear".[6]
  • Nelson Goering also said "Canto II, line 76 is mislineated. It says 'He hastens home, and his / host summons', but should be 'He hastens home, / and his host summons'".[7]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links


  1. "The Fall of Arthur", (accessed 10 October 2012)
  2. "The Fall of Arthur: J.R.R. Tolkien, Edited by Christopher Tolkien", HarperCollins (accessed 10 October 2012)
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 165, (undated, written June 1955)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (1977 ed.), pp. 168-8
  5. Verlyn Flieger, "Arthurian Romance", in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, pp. 34-5
  6. "The Tolkien Society group" dated 16 September 2014, Facebook (accessed 18 September 2014)
  7. "The Tolkien Society group" dated 16 September 2014, Facebook (accessed 18 September 2014)