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90 years later, J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf is getting published

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With five Lord Of The Rings-related movies down and one still on its way, Tolkien Fever is sweeping the world like an army of snarling goblins. Now the beloved fantasy author has a new book on the way, an especially notable feat since J.R.R. Tolkien died in the early ’70s.

As reported by The Guardian, Tolkien’s translation of the ancient Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf will finally be released to the public almost 90 years after he wrote it. Like most of Tolkien’s other posthumous publications, this book will be edited by his son, Christopher, who will also be including a series of lectures that his father gave about Beowulf and an unpublished story titled Sellic Spell. For those who haven’t taken enough literature classes, Beowulf is the story of how the titular world-renowned badass goes from helping a Danish king slay a monster called Grendel and its mother. He later goes on to live a long and heroic life before being killed by a dragon. The story—written in Old English—has all sorts of historical and mythological importance, and as the Guardian article points out, it dates back over a thousand years. With its emphasis on cool swords and monster-fighting, it’s easy to see why Tolkien—who described Beowulf as “sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real”—would see it as enough of an influence to translate it himself into a more-recognizable version of English.


It’s still unclear how Tolkien’s version differs from the current go-to translation, which was written by Seamus Heaney, but it probably won’t be as different as the most recent film adaptation that featured an almost-naked computer-generated Angelina Jolie and completely altered considerable portions of the third act. Of course, if they make a movie version of Tolkien’s Beowulf, they’ll just cut it into three separate films (which would actually almost work for this story).