Breaking News: New book by J.R.R. Tolkien to be released in May (06.01.09 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

HarperCollins is to publish a new book by the late Lord of the Rings author J R R Tolkien. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, edited and introduced by Tolkien’s son Christopher, will be published in hardback in May 2009.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun FAQ - for all latest info on the new Tolkien book

The previously unpublished work was written while Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University during the 1920s and '30s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The publication will make available for the first time Tolkien’s extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Völsung and the Fall of the Niflungs.

Title: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
Type: Hardback
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 30 April 2009

Language: English
ISBN-10: 0007317239
ISBN-13: 978-0007317233
UK RRP: not known yet
Europe RRP: 23,99 EUR
Title: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
Type: Deluxe Edition, Hardback, and slipcase

Extent: 384 pages
Format: 143x222mm
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date:
05/05/2009 (UK)

Language: English

ISBN-10:
0007317255
ISBN-13: 978-0007317257

David Brawn, the publishing director of HarperCollins UK, said: "It is an entirely unpublished work, dates from around the early 1930s, and will be published - all being well - in May this year. Otherwise the clue as to what the book will contain is in the title - THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRUN. You will surmise from this that it is not a Middle-earth book, but we are confident that Tolkien fans will be fascinated by it."

For those who are wondering about it, I can already tell that this new edition will not be illustrated by Alan Lee; but have not been confirmed who will be the illustrator.

Christopher Tolkien edited Tolkien's most recent title The Children of Hurin in 2007.

Further details about the contents of the book will be revealed closer to publication.

Speculations and info on the possible content of the new Tolkien book:

Jason Fisher, the Tolkien scholar, quotes note 3 from Letter #259 (Letters) at his blog Lingwë:
'A long unpublished poem entitled 'Volsungakviða En Nyja', probably written in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Tolkien described it, in a letter to Auden dated 29 January 1968, as 'written in fornyrðislag 8-line stanzas in English: an attempt to organize the Edda material dealing with Sigurd and Gunnar',
which is probably the first lead to the contents of this new book.

According to the Companion & Guide by Wayne Hammong & Christina Scull (Reader's Guide, p. 654), the poem, called ‘Völsungakviða En Nýja' ('The New Lay of the Völsungs'), consists of 339 eight-line stanzas. There is also written there exists a companion poem from the same period, called Guðrunarkviða en nýja ('The New Lay of Gudrun') of 166 eight-line stanzas. If this is the case we can speculate that both will be published together in this new book.

In 'Digging Potatoes, Growing Trees: A Selection from 25 Years of Speeches at the Tolkien Society's Annual Dinners: v. 2 (Peter Roe Booklets)',Digging Potatoes, growing Treeswe can read Rayner Unwin saying
'[...] in fact, when Christopher can have his sabbatical and get on with some of the other things that he needs to do - that I want him to do, rather - like the book of his father's long, non-Middle-earth poems, 'The Fall of Arthur' and the new 'Volsungasaga' and a few other things. These exist and need to be brushed up and put into a volume but, understandably enough, Christopher doen't want to get distracted from the stream of conciousness which HoMe obviously demands of him'.

Maybe this is the 'new Volsungasage' Rayner Uwnin talked about, and who knows that some of the other works might also someday see publication!?

Jason Fisher also speculates that the book might be very short, since Tom Shippey has written that there is an 8-page gap in the Codex Regius manuscript of the Poetic Edda, specifically in the Sigurðr cycle [Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien, p. 192]; and if Tolkien’s poem was meant to fill that gap, as Shippey supposes, then there is indeed a reason to think it must be fairly short. Let us hope that it is not!

[update: ] The contents of the new Tolkien book:

Many years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien composed his own version, now published for the first time, of the great legend of Northern antiquity, in two closely related poems to which he gave the titles The New Lay of the Völsungs and The New Lay of Gudrun.

The New Lay of the Völsungs
In the Lay of the Völsungs is told the ancestry of the great hero Sigurd, the slayer of Fáfnir most celebrated of dragons, whose treasure he took for his own; of his awakening of the Valkyrie Brynhild who slept surrounded by a wall of fire; and of his coming to the court of the great princes who were named the Niflungs (or Nibelungs), with whom he entered into blood-brotherhood. In that court there sprang great love but also great hate, brought about by the power of the enchantress, mother of the Niflungs, skilled in the arts of magic, of shape-changing and potions of forgetfulness.In scenes of dramatic intensity, of confusion of identity, thwarted passion, jealousy and bitter strife, the tragedy of Sigurd and Brynhild, and Gudrun his sister, mounts to its end in the murder of Sigurd at the hands of his blood-brothers, the suicide of Brynhild, and the despair of Gudrun.

The New Lay of Gudrun
In the Lay of Gudrun her fate after the death of Sigurd is told, her marriage against her will to the mighty Atli, ruler of the Huns (the Attila of history), his murder of her brothers, and her hideous revenge.

Tolkien's sources

Deriving his version primarily from his close study of the ancient poetry of Norway and Iceland known as the Poetic Edda (and from the later prose work the Völsunga Saga), Tolkien employed a verse-form whose lines embody in English the exacting alliterative rhythms and the concentrated energy of the poems of the Edda.
For those interested in "The Legend of SIGURD and GUDRUN", here is one version of the tale:

In Norse mytholgy, the warrior Sigurd is the mythical son of Sigmund and Hjordis, as depicted in the Volsung Saga. Sigmund dies in a battle, leaving his shattered sword to his unborn son. Hjordis eventually remarries, this time to Alf, the legendary Swedish king. Alf has Sigurd sent away to a a blacksmith, named Regin, who raises him and makes him a special sword, called Gram, from pieces of a sword owned by Sigurd's father. Sigurd used his sword to kill the dragon Fafnir and so acquire its golden treasure. Sigurd roasts Fafnir's heart so that Regin may eat it, but in doing so he burns his finger. He sticks his finger in his mouth, tasting the dragon's blood and granting him the power to speak to birds. The birds caution Sigurd that Regin will betray him, so Sigurd beheaded the blacksmith. Sigurd took the treasure and put a ring on his finger. He was unaware that the ring bore a curse, which brought misfortune to its wearer.
Sigurd and the dragon Fafnir
After slaying Fafnir, Sigurd came upon a castle where he awakened the warrior maiden Brunhilde, whom Odin had cast into a deep sleep. Sigurd gave his ring to Brunhilde and promised to return to marry her. But during his journey Sigurd was given a magic drink that made him forget Brunhilde, and he married the princess Gudrun instead.

The Sigurd myth has influenced numerous modern stories. Richard Wagner's opera Siegfried is a retelling of the Sigurd myth (using his Germanic name). Tolkien also used certain elements in his books, such as the sword reforged and the cursed ring, there are also numerous elements in The Children of Hurin.

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