Book Review: The Fall of Arthur by J R R Tolkien (four stars)

Book Review: The Fall of Arthur by JRR Tolkien (four stars)

“faith was refused him   who had faith broken”

Tolkien’s unfinished literary experiment in rendering the classic tale in alliterative verse, the style used by Old English author’s such as the writer of Beowulf.

Now in haste is hope!   While hate lingers,
and uncertain counsel   secret ponders,
as wroth as wind   let us ride westward,
and sail over sea   with sudden vengeance!’

The extra spaces midline indicate the division of the alliterative phrases. Not as hard to read as one might fear. Tolkien got a lot of meaning into a few words.

the ancient world   to its end falling,
and the tides of time   turned against him.

thou wilt find thy friends   as foes meet thee.

Tolkien’s text constitutes one-third of the volume. The rest is footnotes and reflections. His book Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell explains the mechanics of alliterative verse.

There was woe in Britain   and the world faded;
bells were silent,   blades were ringing
hell’s gate was wide   and heaven distant.


1 thought on “Book Review: The Fall of Arthur by J R R Tolkien (four stars)

  1. Tolkien loved verse and making it sound like the olden tales; not many of his modern readers would share that passion – so I’m not surprised to find I’d never heard of this (my ignorance on display).

    When he’s good, he is very, very good. I’m sorry he didn’t get a chance to finish this one – those final word choices, shadings, meanings make such a difference to the poet. Hard to judge when you don’t know what part he considered final. Not perfect, just done.

    I don’t know what it says about my process or me, but I go back and read my own fat volumes, and don’t need to change a word (except to note another one occasionally of those pesky typos). I’m comfortable with what’s there, after MANY years of writing, polishing, and publishing.

    I hope this gave him much pleasure to work on.

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