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Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell par [Tolkien, J. R. R.]
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Longueur : 449 pages Langue : Anglais

Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

"When it comes to considering Beowulf as a work of literature, there is one publication that stands out. In 1936, the Oxford scholar and teacher J.R.R. Tolkien published an epoch-making paper entitled "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" . . . Tolkien’s brilliant literary treatment changed the way the poem was valued and initiated a new era—and new terms—of appreciation." – Seamus Heaney

"Tolkien-as-guide is delightful, an irresistibly chatty schoolmaster in the Chaucerian mold . . . His learning and Beowulf’s patterns of gloom and fragile light feel intimately related . . . his noble translation joins the ranks of the narrowly saved." – Slate

"This rendition—edited by his son Christopher and published for the first time—will delight fans . . . lovers of Tolkien's work will agree that this is a book long overdue." – Publishers Weekly
"A marvel of vigor and economy . . . Essential for students of the Old English poem—and the ideal gift for devotees of the One Ring." — Kirkus

"A thrill . . . “Beowulf” was Tolkien’s lodestar. Everything he did led up to or away from it . . . Perhaps, in the dark of night, he already knew what would happen: that he would never publish his beautiful “Beowulf,” and that his intimacy with the poem, more beautiful, would remain between him and the poet—a secret love." -- New Yorker

"Both scholars and lay readers have long awaited Tolkien's "Beowulf" translation and its related materials, and everyone will find something of enduring interest in this collection. For Tolkien, "Beowulf" was both a brilliant and haunting work in its own right and an inspiration for his own fiction. It is a poem that will move us as readers, not forever but as long as we last. Or as Tolkien says, "It must ever call with a profound appeal—until the dragon comes." -- Wall Street Journal

"Tolkien-as-guide is delightful, an irresistibly chatty schoolmaster in the Chaucerian mold . . . His learning and Beowulf’s patterns of gloom and fragile light feel intimately related . . . his noble translation joins the ranks of the narrowly saved." – Slate

"This rendition—edited by his son Christopher and published for the first time—will delight fans . . . lovers of Tolkien's work will agree that this is a book long overdue." – Publishers Weekly
"A marvel of vigor and economy . . . Essential for students of the Old English poem—and the ideal gift for devotees of the One Ring." — Kirkus

Présentation de l'éditeur

The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but seems never to have considered its publication.

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This edition is twofold, for there exists an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given at Oxford in the 1930s; and from these lectures a substantial selection has been made, to form also a commentary on the translation in this book.

From his creative attention to detail in these lectures there arises a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision. It is as if he entered into the imagined past: standing beside Beowulf and his men shaking out their mail-shirts as they beached their ship on the coast of Denmark, listening to the rising anger of Beowulf at the taunting of Unferth, or looking up in amazement at Grendel’s terrible hand set under the roof of Heorot.

But the commentary in this book includes also much from those lectures in which, while always anchored in the text, he expressed his wider perceptions. He looks closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf ‘snuffling in baffled rage and injured greed when he discovers the theft of the cup’; but he rebuts the notion that this is ‘a mere treasure story’, ‘just another dragon tale’. He turns to the lines that tell of the burying of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is ‘the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad history’ that raises it to another level. ‘The whole thing is sombre, tragic, sinister, curiously real. The “treasure” is not just some lucky wealth that will enable the finder to have a good time, or marry the princess. It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.’

Sellic Spell, a ‘marvellous tale’, is a story written by Tolkien suggesting what might have been the form and style of an Old English folk-tale of Beowulf, in which there was no association with the ‘historical legends’ of the Northern kingdoms.

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  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 449 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 000811658X
  • Editeur : HarperCollins (22 mai 2014)
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  • Langue : Anglais
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x8d189288) étoiles sur 5 120 commentaires
128 internautes sur 132 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d246138) étoiles sur 5 Perfect to lose yourself in 23 mai 2014
Par Graham Tedesco-Blair - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Tolkien's translation of Beowulf dropped today, and goodness gracious is it a beautiful thing. Not only the poetic-prose translation itself (in prose form, but with an ear to how long sentences are and to alliteration), but copious footnotes by Christopher Tolkien about the translation and its composition from the existent manuscripts that JRR had left behind; a couple hundred pages of lecture excepts from JRR's famous lecture series on the poem that are just gorgeous in detail and scope; The Sellic Spell, a piece of Beowulf fan-fiction that JRR wrote about the early adventures of Beowulf/attempt to reconstruct the original tale from which Beowulf is a later version of; and The Lay of Beowulf, a shorter version of the story in verse for singing your children to sleep.

This is the good stuff. I'm already enjoying it as much as Seamus Heaney's verse translation (read alongside, not instead of: Heaney is more raw and emotional, Tolkien more beautifully complex, both are worth your time), and the commentary is amazing. My only beef is that it doesn't include The Monsters and the Critics, Tolkien's famous lecture about the poem's critics and its place in history, but as its quite long and is easily available both online and in a separate volume, I can over look it.

I read something like this, and I wish all writers could be so well served by their heirs. Brian Herbert, I'm looking in your direction...
68 internautes sur 70 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d246408) étoiles sur 5 read for right reasons, thoroughly enjoyable and informative. Liked the comments as much if not more than the prose translation 26 mai 2014
Par B. Capossere - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle
The last few years has seen the release by the Tolkien Estate of several hybrid books that combined original retellings/translations of ancient hero legends (Sigurd, Arthur) with further commentary by J.R.R. Tolkien (on the source material) and Christopher Tolkien (on his father’s work). The latest in this series is Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, which has perhaps incurred greater interest since outside of his fiction, Tolkien is perhaps best known for his famed essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” As with the prior two, one’s enjoyment of this new work will be dependent on one’s delight in /toleration of some pretty arcane scholarship. Personally, I enjoyed all of them, including this latest, but then, I’m a huge Tolkien fan, I’m an English teacher who owns several copies of Beowulf translations and teaches the legend every year, I love the song “Grendel” by Marillion and the book Grendel by John Gardiner, and give me a good footnote or twenty and I’m alight with joy. I couldn’t be more the target audience unless I threw myself into a dragon-prowed boat and laid waste to some English coastal towns. Your mileage therefore may vary.

The book contains an introduction by Christopher (from now on I will use Tolkien to refer to the father and Christopher to the son), Tolkien’s prose translation of Beowulf, “Notes on the text of the translation” (both Tolkien’s and Christopher’s), “Introductory note to the Commentary” (Christopher’s explanation of his editing of this father’s comments), “Commentary Accompanying the Translation of Beowulf” (drawn from Tolkien’s lecture notes), “Sellic Spell” (three versions of Tolkien’s attempt at telling what might have been the old source folktale for the legend as we have it), and “The Lay of Beowulf” (two short poems/songs by Tolkien).

It needs to be said at the outset that none of this meant for publication by Tolkien. The prose translation, for instance, is “finished” only in the sense that it runs from the beginning of Beowulf to the end; it is not “finished” in the sense that Tolkien thought it done. In fact, as he wrote to a friend, there was much “hardly to my liking.” Christopher explains in his preface that it is offered “as a memorial volume, a portrait (as it were) of the scholar in his time, in words of his own.” Tolkien certainly would have made changes in the text had he decided to continue working on it. That “in his time” is also important. Tolkien wrote the translation in his early 30s as a relatively young scholar (yes kids, 30 can be considered “young”) and beyond any stylistic changes he might have made, who is to say he wouldn’t have glossed certain passages or even the entire work differently in his later years thanks to personal experience or in relation to other scholarship on the topic.

It probably should also be stated early on that this is not a translation meant to compare with Seamus Heaney’s, probably the best known of modern translations. First, as mentioned above this is nowhere near a final work; it is rough and unfinished and was eventually abandoned. Second, Heaney is not simply a writer; he is a poet. And not just a poet but a Poet. Tolkien’s translation has more than its share of moments, but this is best read as a combination translation/gloss and, as Christopher put it, a “portrait” of the author, both of Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit.

So, the translation itself. First, it’s a prose translation, not a poetic one (though Christopher does print a very brief poetic translation Tolkien did for an introduction of someone else’s book that makes one wish for a lot more of the same, hard as it is to imagine him sustaining that for the entire epic). Tolkien keeps much of the poem’s linguistic stylistic notes—alliteration, inversion, etc.—but the prose can get bogged down more so than a poetic translation might since poetry relies so much on compression. As far as translations go, it is better than some I’ve seen and worse than others. The two areas I think he shines are in his battle scenes and in the sadder, more bleak moments where the poem looks back to a better time or looks ahead to a worse one. Here, for instance, is a passage describing the last of his people burying the treasure the dragon eventually takes as its own:

All of them death had taken in times before, and now he too alone of the proven warriors of his people, who longest walked the earth, watching, grieving for his friends, hoped but for the same fate . . . therein did the keeper of the rings lade a portion right worthy to be treasured . . . “Keep thou now, Earth, since might men could not, the wealth of warriors . . . Death in battle, cruel and deadly evil, hath taken each mortal man of my people, who have forsaken this life, the mirth of warriors in the hall. I have none that may bear sword or burnish plated cup . . The proud host hath vanished away. Now shall the hard helm, gold-adorned, be stripped of its plates; those who should burnish it, who should polish its vizor of battle are asleep, and the armour too that stood well the bite of iron swords in war amid bursting shields now followeth is wearer to decay . . . There is no glad sound of harp, no mirth of instrument of music, not doth good hawk sweep through the hall, nor the swift horse tramp the castle-court. Ruinous death hath banished hence many a one of living men. Even thus in woe of heart he mourned his sorrow, alone when all had gone, joyless he cried aloud by day and night, until the tide of death touched at his heart.

One can hear the echoes in this of the same sort of mourning for ages past or about to in Lord of the Rings—the passing of Lothlorien and the elves or of Gondor that was. That biting sense of loss comes out clearly in Tolkien’s Beowulf and is probably my favorite aspect of this translation.

Though it’s possible that my favorite part of the book is his commentary on the text, though as mentioned, the pleasure one takes from this part will be dependent on how much one enjoys long glosses on etymology, genealogy, verb form, and the like. Early on, for example, Tolkien takes issue with the oft-used “whale-road” kenning to refer to the sea, going on for a bit more for a page on this two-road phrase as to why “it is incorrect in fact,” including its unfortunate similarity to “railroad,” and ending with a quite snippy (for scholars) statement that its use “suggests a sort of semi-submarine steam-ending running along submerged metal rails over the Atlantic (I actually like the snippiness). There’s also this a bit later: “This is not, as it seems still universally stated, a weak adjective agreeing with (and thus solely applicable to) a singular noun. It is an adverb, which usually qualifies a singular noun, but does not necessarily do so. It can be found qualifying a group, separate from others . . . The verb móte naturally agrees with the adjacent ic.” Naturally!

There is a decent amount of this, and other similarly into-the-weeds discussion, but it would be wrong to paint it as all like this. Tolkien’s commentary delves into broader-scale analysis, say on theme or possible sourcing. For instance, he had a fascinating take on Unferth (one of the Danes), asking: To which book does he belong? The book of Kings [the historical aspect of the tale] or Tales of Wonder [the folk-tale aspect]? Unferth is the actual link between the two worlds. He is balanced precisely between them.” I did a good amount of marginal notation in these sorts of sections beyond what I wanted to mark for my review.

The short work “Sellic Spell” is an interesting if minor work, about 30 pages, about which Tolkien wrote, “This version is a story, not the story. It is only to a limited extent an attempt to reconstruct the Anglo-Saxon tale that lies behind the folk-tale element in Beowulf . . .. Its principal object is tot exhibit the difference of style, tone, and atmosphere if the particular heroic or historical is cut out.” That being its goal, it has some typical folk-tale tropes (the number three for example) and stands quite well as a folk-tale. It might stand even better in the Old English version Tolkien wrote and that is printed here after the regular version; feel free to let me know in the comments, those of you fluent in that language. The last two pieces, the Lays, total a bit under ten pages, and have a nice force and rhythm to them, though I have to chuckle at Christopher’s recollection of his father singing them as bedtime songs, considering lines such as, “The demon lurked at her cave’s dark door/her fangs and fingers were red with gore/and skulls of men lay on the floor

Finally, casual fans of Tolkien’s fiction will have a good time coming across some familiar names or actions (major fans will already have tracked down these source points), such as Eomer or Hama, or when riders ride round a burial mound or when a scene takes place that astute readers will recognize as being almost a direct parallel to Aragorn’s group entering Theoden’s home at Meduseld.

Tolkien completists will want this book to, well, complete their Tolkien collection. Beowulf fans—scholarly or casual—will want it to see not just another translation but for the insights into the text, no matter how old, by a major figure in Beowulf scholarship. But even casual fans, I’d say, could do worse than read a decently told story of a hero fighting demons and dragons; they can opt in or out on the scholarly notes. Recommended.
43 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d246648) étoiles sur 5 Tolkien As Academic Gives Us A New Treasure 23 mai 2014
Par John D. Cofield - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Had J.R.R. Tolkien never written The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or The Silmarillion his fame today would rest on his long career at Oxford University as professor of Anglo-Saxon. There he did pioneering work in philology, but his greatest renown would come from his life long labor of love: studying the great poem Beowulf. Much of Tolkien's work on Beowulf, especially his revolutionary essay "The Monsters and the Critics," has been widely available for many years. Now Christopher Tolkien, serving as his father's literary executor, has give us another treasure: J.R.R. Tolkien's own prose translation of Beowulf.

Christopher Tolkien states in his Preface that the translation was completed by 1926, when his father was 34 and still in the early years of his career. Over the next twenty years Tolkien continued to study and reflect on Beowulf, writing essays and giving lectures and classes. In preparing Tolkien's translation for publication his son had to choose between several different manuscripts and then deal with the truly arduous task of selecting from a vast body of work those notes and commentaries which would be most illuminating. The result is an amazing almost line by line analysis of the translation. As yet I've only had time to dip in here and there, but wherever I've looked I've found some fascinating insights and new information, such as that "Hwaet", the famous first word of Beowulf which Tolkien translated as "Lo!" is an anacrusis or "striking up" that derived from minstrels, or that Beowulf's "ice-bears" could not have been polar bears since that species was not known in Europe until much later.

If this edition contained only Tolkien's translation with his son's notes and commentary that alone would make it worthwhile, but it also includes another gem, Tolkien's story "Sellic Spell" in both modern English and Old English. Tolkien recognized that there must have been an original Anglo-Saxon tale that was a source for the poem Beowulf. "Sellic Spell" is an attempt (or attempts, as in his customary fashion Tolkien wrote several versions) to reconstruct that tale. So we have a tale taht begins "Once upon a time . . ." that tells the tale of a foundling child called Beewolf, his adventures with his companions Handshoe and Ashwood, and the monsters Grinder and his dam. It's an intriguing and beautiful tale which I've not yet had time to savor in full, but I already know it's one to which I will return many times. Finally, the book concludes with two poems, or two versions of the same poem "The Lay of Beowulf," which Tolkien noted were intended to be sung. They are short but very vivid, and it isn't surprising that Christopher Tolkien notes that he remembers his father singing one to him when he was a small boy in the early 1930s.

While this volume will never have the readership enjoyed by J.R.R. Tolkien's stories of Middle-earth, it makes a wonderful feast for those who,like me, were introduced to Beowulf and other treasures of Old English by him. Nor will those who pick up Beowulf seeking echoes of Middle-earth be disappointed, for there is much here to remind them of its denizens.
21 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d2467ec) étoiles sur 5 Tolkien's Beloved Beowulf 27 mai 2014
Par Joel E. Mitchell - Publié sur
Format: Relié
There is such a variety of Beowulf-related material in here that I decided to break it down by section.

The verse translation: Tolkien made an unfinished/fragmentary alliterative verse translation of "Beowulf", but you will not find it in this book other than a dozen lines on page 9 and seven more on page 130. Given that Christopher Tolkien has published other partial/fragmentary verse by his father (e.g. The Fall of Arthur and The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 3)), I find this omission both surprising and very disappointing.

Preface & Introduction: These sections are fairly typical of Christopher Tolkien's work, featuring him describing/justifying his editorial process. Personally, I find his tendency to do this to be annoying, but maybe that is just me.

Prose Translation: In prose translations of poetry, a degree of artistry is usually sacrificed for the sake of a more formal (i.e. word-for-word) translation. Tolkien's skill as a wordsmith keeps this loss of artistry to a minimum. His prose rendering does lose the original poem's alliteration, but it still flows with a pleasing rhythm that gives much the same feeling as the original.

Notes on the text of the translation: In this section, Christopher Tolkien is back to pontificating about his editorial process and giving a number of readings from one of the early (i.e. rough draft) versions of the poem. Pretty much anything important in this section is repeated with greater skill in the commentary section.

Commentary: This section consists of an edited version of J. R. R. Tolkien's lecture notes from his days of teaching Anglo-Saxon. They focus primarily on the first half of the poem and the difficult-to-translate passages, and deal primarily with issues of etymology, historical background, and technical translation issues. I am a language and history geek, so I enjoyed this section...some of the discussions get a bit technical for someone who (like me) does not actually know Anglo-Saxon, but overall it is very readable. One glaring omission was that there was no detailed discussion of the Finn and Hengest episode which Tolkien regarded as supremely important. I think that Christopher probably omitted this since some of it was published in a separate book entitled Finn and Hengest

Sellic Spell: This little gem is a fanciful reconstruction of what the original "Beowulf the monster-slayer" fairy tale might have sounded like before it was joined to the "historical legend" elements of the poem (conflict between Geats, Danes, Swedes, etc.). The story itself is a fun literary conjecture. However, after the story, Christopher once again drags out and pontificates about readings from the rough draft version of the story, much to my annoyance.

The Lay of Beowulf: The book concludes with two short rhyming poems that tell the story of Beowulf. The second one is obviously an expansion on the first, and both are entertaining enough.

Overall: This is an excellent book for fans of Beowulf and/or language/history geeks in general. It gives a glimpse into the world of Tolkien the Anglo-Saxon professor and lover of beautiful language. As for Christopher Tolkien, I am glad that he edits and publishes his father's work, but I wish he didn't feel the need to constantly describe the editorial process.
10 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8d246bc4) étoiles sur 5 A Peculiar Cuckoo 7 juin 2014
Par Mick McAllister - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I bought this book more as an act of solidarity than with any great hopes, and it's a good thing. It is a true hippogriff, as Christopher Tolkien points out rather shamefacedly in the preface. It is not an alternative to any of the other presentations of Beowulf. For the determined student of Beowulf and Old English, Klaeber remains necessary; in fact Tolkien's book requires a Klaeber on hand for its own use. It makes no pretence of competing with Heaney, which will probably remain the standard for translations, accessible to the layman and valuable for the serious student. It can't really compete with the Burton Raffel translation, which for all its limitations remains the best compact and readable approach to Beowulf, nor with the NCE now that Heaney is included as the translation.

Tolkien's translation is serviceable though reading it, you wish that Tolkien had prepared it for publication himself and made some of the decisions that Christopher was left to worry over. The commentary is interesting as far as it goes, but because only the Grendel portion of Beowulf was required reading at Oxford, Tolkien's lecture notes are painfully truncated. Another lack that only Tolkien himself could have remedied. Also unfortunately, Tolkien's commentary is on the original text, not his translation, so to follow it you must have at least the original Old English (not provided) and at best both the original and a line-for-line translation (which Tolkien's translation could be formatted to provide, but isn't).

So, what good is it? Well, it holds an interesting mirror to LotR, expecially the treatment of the Rohirrim. It's no surprise that Rohan was modelled on Anglo-Saxon England, but the details of that modelling are enjoyable reading. I'm re-reading LotR concurrently with the Beowulf and commentary, and it's fascinating. That, really, is as Christopher says a bit obliquely, the only indispensible task it serves. For those of us with more than a passing interest in Tolkien, it's another huge and entertaining text to add to our word hoard; and the three-page note on "whale road" is classic Tolkien, in which he finally, after paragraphs of learned objection, admits that the real reason he hates the word (which he says should be translated "dolphin road" -- although it's clear from his own evidence that the mammal in question is really the Orca or "Killer Whale" -- which is technically a species of dolphin, but not what most of us think of when using the term) is that it sounds like an infantile pronunciation of the abominable "railroad."

This is not as essential a book as The Fall of Arthur, The Children of Hurin, or The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, but it is a welcome addition to a shelf of fascinating literature from a unique scholar and writer. Now if only someone will collect Tolkien's Kullervo with a perceptive discussion of his use of Finnish and Finland.... [N.B.: Verlyn Fleiger has in fact edited Tolkien's "Finnish materials," including his version of "Kullervo," in Tolkien Studies Vol 7.]
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