The world first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who swears revenge on the magician who killed his father.
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.
Tolkien wrote that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major matter in the legends of the First Age’; his Kullervo was the ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo – published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala, is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.
Praise for J.R.R. Tolkien:
‘One marvels anew at the depth, breadth and persistence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s labour. No one sympathetic to his aims – the invention of a secondary universe – will want to miss this chance to be present at the creation.’
About the author
J.R.R.Tolkien (1892-1973) was a distinguished academic, though he is best known for writing The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, plus other stories and essays. His books have been translated into over 60 languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.
Aimed more at scholars than at the casual reader, this new edition of an early short story which dates to the years 1912 1916 offers a taste of fantasies to come from the master of Middle-Earth. Tolkien adapted this fragment from an episode of the Finnish epic Kalevala, and his account of the young son of a fratricide and his tragic destiny would ultimately inform the characters and events of the Silmarillion, the narrative framework for all of his fiction. The story is muddled by name changes midway through its telling and completed from Tolkien's sketchy notes, but it nevertheless evokes the mythic grandeur that would come to characterize his forays into the fantastic. Transcriptions of Tolkien's Oxford University lectures on the Kalevala, and editor Flieger's essay, "Tolkien, Kalevala, and The Story of Kullervo" in which she describes the tale as "an essential step on Tolkien's road from adaptation to invention" provide context for appreciating the nascent genius of one of the 20th century's greatest fantasists.