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The Fall of Arthur [Hardcover]

J. R. R. Tolkien , Christopher Tolkien
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
Price: £10.34 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

23 May 2013

The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the extraordinary story of the final days of England’s legendary hero, King Arthur.

The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skilful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.
Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. In this case he evidently began it in the earlier nineteen-thirties, and it was sufficiently advanced for him to send it to a very perceptive friend who read it with great enthusiasm at the end of 1934 and urgently pressed him ‘You simply must finish it!’ But in vain: he abandoned it, at some date unknown, though there is some evidence that it may have been in 1937, the year of the publication of The Hobbit and the first stirrings of The Lord of the Rings. Years later, in a letter of 1955, he said that ‘he hoped to finish a long poem on The Fall of Arthur’; but that day never came.
Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (23 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007489943
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007489947
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 91,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892. After serving in the First World War, he became best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 40 languages worldwide. Awarded the CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University, he died in 1973 at the age of 81.

Product Description


Praise for The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún:

“This is the most unexpected of Tolkien’s many posthumous publications; his son’s ‘Commentary’ is a model of informed accessibility; the poems stand comparison with their Eddic models, and there is little poetry in the world like those” Times Literary Supplement

“The compact verse form is ideally suited to describing impact… elsewhere it achieves a stark beauty” Telegraph

About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 60 languages worldwide. He died in 1973 at the age of 81.
Christopher Tolkien is the third son of J.R.R. Tolkien. Appointed by J.R.R. Tolkien to be his literary executor, he has devoted himself to the publication of his father’s unpublished writings, notably The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth. This is his 21st book.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Golden Summer in the Grey Winter 30 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"The Fall of Arthur" is J.R.R. Tolkien's unfinished contribution to the already considerable body of literature about the legendary British king. Composed as it is in imitation of Old English 'alliterative' verse, an often-used term Tolkien himself had reservations about, it is quite a challenge to read. At his best, Tolkien was capable of producing some truly great poetry, and he expended much thought and labour on "The Fall of Arthur", having, as his son describes in the Foreword, an "exact and perfectionist concern to find, in an intricate and subtle narrative, fitting expression within the patterns and rhythm and alliteration of the Old English verse-form." The result, while happily composed in modern English, is language so charged with meaning (and language charged with meaning is as good a definition of poetry as I can come up with) that I was only able to read it in short increments to have any hope of being able to take it in. While it may at first glance be of negligible appeal to any but Tolkien completists and those indiscriminately enamoured of Old English poetry, "The Fall of Arthur" may be found to have much to recommend it by those who make the effort to actually read it. Particularly striking in what is after all an archaizing work, and highly unusual in any work by Tolkien, is the treatment of the traitor Mordred's tormenting sexual desire for Queen Guinevere, as is his characterization of the famous queen herself, in very modern terms, as a woman of flesh and blood with her own needs, hopes and desires, caught between, and on unequal footing with, three men of power (Arthur, Mordred and Lancelot) in a story that can only end badly no matter what the outcome. Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It will all depend on what you want 25 Aug 2013
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is, to steal a line from elsewhere, a book of two halves. There is the poem itself, running to no more than a few hundred lines, and comprising a very slim section of the book. Secondly there is an "Introduction" and (for want of a better phrase) and "After" section written by Christopher Tolkien.

The poem itself, is interesting enough, and in fact begs to be read aloud. It adds another string to the already tightly woven threat of things Arthurian, and is of course interesting because of the style in which it was written - Alliterative Verse.

The second section contains the microanalysis of JRRT's ideas, motifs and motivations in writing the poem. This reads like the similar sections in the posthumous publications - ie serious, meticulous and soporific for all but the most dedicated of fans.

So, I think the poem itself is worthwhile, but at this price it may be better to wait for the paperback version. If the second section - the analysis - appeals to you, then this is the version to purchase.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read. Painfully Short. 8 Aug 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not accustomed to reading alliterative verse. So I can't really speak as to how well Tolkien pulled off that particular aspect of the writing.

However I can say that the story itself was engrossing and I found that the act of reading it in alliterative verse format gave it a certain quality of novelty which I found very appealing.

The only problem, which I knew going into it as the publisher makes no secret of the fact, is that the story is too short as Tolkien (like so many other works) never completed it before he died.

In my opinion a brilliant addition to any collection of Tolkien's work, or indeed of medieval literature.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The ode of Arthur 24 Feb 2014
JRR Tolkien had a passion for ancient myths and legends. But for some reason, he never wrote much about the stories of King Arthur.

That isn't to say he didn't write anything about the Once and Future King. In the 1930s, he wrote "The Fall of Arthur," an epic poem that he abandoned in favor of his more famous Middle-Earth books. This is not the genteel, courtly Arthur of Thomas Malory -- this is a rough, ancient-feeling poem that follows the rhythm and flow of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

"Arthur eastward in arms purposed/his war to wage on the wild marches,/over seas sailing to Saxon lands,/from the Roman realm ruin defending..." The malevolent Mordred convinces Arthur and Gawain to set out to war, during which he will take care of Arthur's kingdom. The two battle their foes to the east, and are wildly successful...

... until "from the West came word, winged and urgent,/of war assailing the walls of Britain." Mordred has treacherously turned against Arthur, and is even pursuing his beautiful queen Guinever, who flees the castle to avoid him. So Arthur heads back home to reclaim his throne, even as the exiled Sir Lancelot is drawn back to help the man he wronged.

Sadly, the poem was never finished, and it ends after a rousing little speech by Gawain. So to pad out the book, Christopher Tolkien wrote a multi-part essay about the poem and its depiction of Arthur -- the Saxon overtones, the presence of Rome and other countries, Tolkien's use of language, and comparisons to other works of medieval Arthuriana.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A book
Anything by J.R.R.Tolkien is in my humble opinion very good. The man was a genius and the book is excellent
Published 3 months ago by A N Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars ARTHUR
Like Tolkien's other books, have friends and historians who write on the subject too therefore I was quite interested in the comparison. Read more
Published 3 months ago by janet HAZLETT
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fall of Arthur (Deluxe Slipcase Edition)
Haven't actually read this yet so can't comment on the actual story. I bought it more because i have many of the other de luxe editions by Harper Collins and didn't wan't to be... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr Rohan Shah
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting literary exercise
If you love your Arthurian Legends, you are going to love this book. The poetry is fully developed in its intricate combination of rhymes and alliterations. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Alexis Ramon Paez
5.0 out of 5 stars a very good read
as a fan of Tolkien I had to buy it and was disappointed and really enjoyed it recommend to all Tolkien fans
Published 7 months ago by David
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Love this book very interesting and well edited if you like this kind of thing. Cover is hard back which I wished all my books were hard backs.
Published 8 months ago by hedgeclog
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!!
Love this book! I am a huge fan of Tolkien and King Arthur so to get both was exciting and I was happy to have another of his books to add to my collection.
Published 10 months ago by Meme87
3.0 out of 5 stars The Fall Of Arther
Very in-depth found it difficult to read because of how it is written.
I would only recommend to someone who loves this kind of thing.
Published 10 months ago by Paul
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I've always been a voracious reader, and my drug of choice is fantasy. Like many people, Lord of the Rings was my gateway drug. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lisa Stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent
Magnificent, marvelous, monumental, melodious telling of the fall of King Arthur, the legendary Once & Future King of Albion/Wales/Celtic Lands/England.
Published 10 months ago by Davan Deep Starwalker
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