Beowulf

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Lord of the Rings 06/Dec/2006 at 01:15 PM
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I am curious as to the nature and status of Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf. It is, I believe, currently being prepared for publication, correct? Does anyone happen to know what the deal is with that? And I have only the vaguest conception of what it is: a full translation? prose? composed when? I would be interesting to find out anything at all about this
Ankala Teaweed 06/Dec/2006 at 03:44 PM
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Prof. Drout had planned to run Tolkien’s two translations side-by-side--the prose and the poetic, so one is on all even folios (left facing pages) and the other would be on all odd numbered folios (right facing pages).

It is currently on hold legally, though we all hope to see it go to publication eventually.

KingODuckingham 06/Dec/2006 at 04:07 PM
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A third Pengolodh rank? How many of you are there?!?!
I am so excited to see this publication, the two different translations I own are rather lousy, in my opinion. Not that I am a Middle-English expert.
Bearamir 06/Dec/2006 at 04:11 PM
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KingODuckingham:  Do you have the Seamus Heany translation?  It is supposed to be one of the best...

And as for Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, I can’t wait (whatever form it takes).   If it is up to the caliber of his "Sir Gawaine" then it will quickly become the seminal translation of the work

Ankala Teaweed 06/Dec/2006 at 04:36 PM
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Tolkien’s translations are said to be the superior work, better than Heany’s.
Bear, yes, Tolkien’s poetic translation of Beowulf, as in Gawaine, is done in the proper meter of the language of its age. (I hope I put that right, but I think you will know what I mean.)

But it looks to be some time in the future before the ink meets the paper on the presses.

Dany 06/Dec/2006 at 10:58 PM
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Wow, when did Tolkien do a translation of Beowulf? I know that he wrote an essay (a rather good one, at that) on Beowulf, which is included in the Seamus Heaney version of the translation, but I was unaware that he had translated it.

KingODuckingham, just out of curiosity, which translations do you own, and what, in your opinion, makes them lousy?
geordie 07/Dec/2006 at 12:54 AM
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I am so excited to see this publication, the two different translations I own are rather lousy, in my opinion. Not that I am a Middle-English expert

Um.. Beowulf is written in Old English [Anglo-Saxon] not Middle English.

I have several editions of Beowulf, inc. the facsimile edited by Zupitza and published by the Early English Text Society in 1959. Not that I can read A-S, you understand - but it is a nice edition.

The main translation I have is by Clark-Hall: it contains the Prefatory remarks by Tolkien. Very valuable information. I also have one by Kevin Crossley-Holland [one of Tolkien’s former pupils] - it’s the Folio Society ed; ver’ nice book. And one by Magnus Magnusson. I’m not qualified to say whether these are good or bad; I just like them.

I also have an edition by Klaeber; and one by Wyatt & Chambers. In his lecture ’Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’, Tolkien praises Chambers as one of the best Beowulf scholars.

As to Tolkien’s translations - acc. to Scull-Hammond’s JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide, he completed these in 1926. He and Allen & Unwin discussed their publication on and off over the years. Tolkien did’nt want them published unless he could also publish a scholarly apparatus at the beginning of the book. As it happens, the piece he gave to the Clark-Hall ed. in 1940 would have been very close to what he had in mind for a book of his own. Odd how things turn out in the world of publishing. But then, that’s how Tolkien was - it was said of him that some of his best work was that which he gave freely to the works of others. Anonymously in at least one case. Nice bloke.

Just been looking at Chambers again. The 1941 reprint; a note at the rear of the book mentions that ’A burial ship apparently dating from the 7th century has been dug up in East Suffolk’. This is of course the Sutton Hoo burial - with a great treasure. The note is referring back to a passage on p.128 of the book, on the ship-funeral of Scheaf Scylding at the beginning of the poem. Chambers mentions several real-life examples of ship-burial, and also one or two in fiction, like a canoe-burial in ’Hiawatha’. He mentions that a real-life canoe ceremony occurred in Alaska in 1909. Now this immediately puts me in mind of Boromir’s funeral - the prince is placed in a boat by his fellow warriors, with his weapons and treasure [in this case the arms of his foes] - the warriors sing his praises, and the boat is cast adrift on the flood.

The same thing happens in Arthurian legend too of course. So all this went into what Tolkien called ’the leaf-mould of the mind’.

Sorry. Rambling there.


Lord of the Rings 07/Dec/2006 at 06:10 AM
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Sorry. Rambling there.

But what fascinating ramblings they are. Thank you all who have chimed in about this
geordie 07/Dec/2006 at 11:17 AM
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OOps. In my previous post, I said that the 1941 ed. was by Chambers. I was wrong; it was Klaeber. Sorry ’bout that.
halfir 07/Dec/2006 at 03:05 PM
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Iím sorry to have to point out that the Drout edition of Tolkienís Beowulf translation has been put on íholdí. I had an email from Michael Drout a couple of months ago to say that the Tolkien Estate had decided not to let him go forward with the project pro tem. He gave no reasons as to why.

Heís had a bad year. The new owners of Routledge- publishers of the Tolkien Encyclopaedia edited by Drout  -appear to have effectively ruined its chances of any sales significance (800 copies only are being printed) and botched the proofing process, cf.

http://www.lotrplaza.com/Archive5/display_topic_threads.asp?ForumID=24&TopicID=203056&PagePostPosition=1

Ankala Teaweed 07/Dec/2006 at 03:11 PM
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That’s a real shame about the Encyclopedia project.

Battlehamster 07/Dec/2006 at 04:37 PM
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Aw, I was looking forward to that coming out.  Though I already have 3 different translations of Beowulf...

About the Seamus Heaney translation (and this is just my personal peference): I really disliked it because I found it much too modernized.  Heaney says in the forward that he took out most of the kennings, which in my opinion is awful.  I really enjoyed in the others reading "the proud champion of the curling mane" with his "battle-seat" instead of his horse with his saddle and so on.