Review – The Story of Kullervo

Posted March 1, 2016 by Nicky in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. TolkienThe Story of Kullervo, J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Verlyn Flieger

The Story of Kullervo is definitely a disappointing book, even for someone as interested in Tolkien’s legendarium and influences as I am. The actual content written by Tolkien is fairly slight and incomplete; the same talk is included twice with only minor changes, and the story isn’t that long. If his tale of the children of Hurin is something that really interests you, his interpretation of the Kalavala might be worth a look, but it feels honestly lacklustre. I’ve often felt that the Tolkien estate has been releasing stuff that J.R.R. himself would never have let into the light of day, and I felt that especially here — he loved the material, and he would’ve wanted to do better by it. The Silmarillion is one thing; his commentary on Beowulf was significant enough to be worth publishing, considering how important his ‘The Monsters and the Critics’ essay was. But this?

Still, there are glimmers of interest here; the way Tolkien tried to flesh out the story and fix some of the inconsistencies, like Kullervo’s family. I don’t know enough about the source material to really understand what he was doing with the names, but there are often glimpses of the kind of names and places that appeared in The Silmarillion et al. Musti is a forerunner of Huan, perhaps; Kullervo is a rather graceless model for Túrin…

But overall, I feel like I rather wasted my time here, which is saddening. J.R.R. Tolkien did amazing work, and I think his legacy is being rather diluted by the popular reissue of things like this — it should, of course, be accessible to scholars, biographers, etc. But please stop selling this stuff as a complete work ready for public scrutiny!

Rating: 2/5

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3 responses to “Review – The Story of Kullervo

  1. arbieroo

    Sounds like you’d have a much better time reading the Kalavala itself – I thought it was great, at least.

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