J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Beowulf' translation will finally be published (+video)

'The Hobbit' and the 'Lord of the Rings' fans will be thrilled with Tolkien's 'Beowulf,' but some scholars may not. 

By , Staff Writer

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    J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of 'Beowulf' will be published on May 22.
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A new work by “Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien is available, but it’s an old story.

Tolkien’s translation of the epic poem “Beowulf” is being released on May 22 for the first time. Tolkien completed the translation in 1926, according to the New York Times, 11 years before his book “The Hobbit” would be published. (“Rings” followed in 1954.)

According to the NYT, Tolkien himself called his translation “hardly to my liking” – he’d expressed his doubts before about how well the Old English of the poem could be translated to the present-day version of the language, saying that it could be an “abuse.”

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The translation is being published with some of the author’s notes about the poem and a story and poem written by Tolkien that were apparently inspired by “Beowulf.” Writings by Tolkien about the poem itself come from the writer’s school lectures about the work that he delivered in the 1930s.

Not everyone thinks the translation should be released, though. The author’s son, Christopher, who was the editor of Tolkien’s “Beowulf,” noted in a statement that Tolkien “seems never to have considered its publication,” and University of Kentucky English professor Kevin Kiernan told the NYT that he wouldn’t have wanted it, either.

“If Tolkien knew that was going to happen, he would have invented the shredder,” Kiernan said.

In the review of the translation by Publishers Weekly, the publication wrote that “scholars will no doubt continue to debate Tolkien’s interpretation” but that the publication of “Beowulf” will no doubt please Tolkien devotees.

“Lovers of Tolkien’s work will agree that this is a book long overdue,” PW wrote.

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