Early in his career, JRR Tolkien was fascinated by the tales of Finnish folklore known as the Kalevala. One in particular resonated with him strongly, the tragedy of Kullervo, and he essayed to retell that story. However, he never finished it.
This volume contains the unfinished text, notes on that text, two drafts (very similar) of an informal talk that Tolkien gave on the Kalevala, and a new scholarly essay that aims to convince readers that the Kalevala, particularly this story, was a significant inspiration to Tolkien, and that it specifically influenced several characters and tales which he was to write later (mostly in the Silmarillion.)
I’m not finding it possible to give a ‘star rating’ to this book, as the ‘story’ is not a completed work of literature that was intended for publication.
Is it worth reading? Yes, absolutely, especially for those interested in Tolkien’s writing process and the historical background of his completed works. It’s also of interest to anyone interested in the study of myth and folklore. (Both of those describe me, so I was personally delighted by the insights provided.)
Many thanks to HMH and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy. As always, my opinions are solely my own.