The Fall of Arthur

From Tolkien Gateway
The Fall of Arthur
Publication Information
authorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristopher Tolkien
IllustratorBill Sanderson
PublisherHarperCollins (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released21 May 2013
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe edition
Pages240
ISBN0007489943

The Fall of Arthur is an unfinished poem by J.R.R. Tolkien that is concerned with the legend of King Arthur. It was published in 2013, together with three essays by Christopher Tolkien.

The poem is in an alliterative form, extending to nearly 1,000 verses imitating the Old English Beowulf metre in Modern English, and inspired by high medieval Arthurian fiction.

Background

The poem's existence was first revealed in 1981 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.[1]

In his 1977 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".[2] It was also revealed that "The Fall of Arthur" was read and approved by both E.V. Gordon and R.W. Chambers,[2][3] and that the writing of the poem was abandoned in the mid 1930s.[2]

Table of content

  • 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

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.

Publication history and gallery

UK editions
2013 hardcover
2013 hardcover  
2013 hardcover deluxe edition
2013 hardcover deluxe edition  
2015 paperback
2015 paperback  
2021 paperback
2021 paperback  

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".[4]
  • 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'".[5]

See also

External links

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 165, (undated, written June 1955)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (1977 ed.), pp. 168-8
  3. Verlyn Flieger, "Arthurian Romance", in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment, pp. 34-5
  4. "The Tolkien Society group" dated 16 September 2014, Facebook (accessed 18 September 2014)
  5. "The Tolkien Society group" dated 16 September 2014, Facebook (accessed 18 September 2014)
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The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
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The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
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Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
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Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
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A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
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