Story of Kullervo

Story of Kullervo

by J. R. R. Tolkien, Verlyn Flieger (Editor)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Trade Paperback, 168 pages
Price: $16.99

The Story of Kullervo was written by Tolkien in 1914 and was his own reworking and re-imagining of part of the tale of the Finnish saga Kalevala. The story is significant in the development of Tolkien’s legendarium as it provided the basis for Túrin Turambar, a tragic hero of The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin.

Verlyn Flieger, who has also edited Smith of Wootton Major and Tolkien On Fairy-stories, first published The Story of Kullervo in 2010 in Tolkien Studies: Volume 7. This edition follows the similar publications of The Fall of Arthur, Beowulf and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

It will be published in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2016.

The official information from the UK publishers states:

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 himself said 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’. Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it 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.

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