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The Fall of Arthur recounts in verse the last campaign of King Arthur, who, even as he stands at the threshold of Mirkwood, is summoned back to Britain by news of the treachery of Mordred. Already weakened in spirit by Guinevere’s infidelity with the now-exiled Lancelot, Arthur must rouse his knights to battle one last time against Mordred’s rebels and foreign mercenaries. The Fall of Arthur recounts in verse the last campaign of King Arthur, who, even as he stands at the threshold of Mirkwood, is summoned back to Britain by news of the treachery of Mordred. Already weakened in spirit by Guinevere’s infidelity with the now-exiled Lancelot, Arthur must rouse his knights to battle one last time against Mordred’s rebels and foreign mercenaries. Powerful, passionate, and filled with vivid imagery, this unfinished poem reveals Tolkien’s gift for storytelling at its brilliant best. Christopher Tolkien, editor, contributes three illuminating essays that explore the literary world of King Arthur, reveal the deeper meaning of the verses and the painstaking work his father applied to bring the poem to a finished form, and investigate the intriguing links between The Fall of Arthur and Tolkien’s Middle-earth.


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The Fall of Arthur recounts in verse the last campaign of King Arthur, who, even as he stands at the threshold of Mirkwood, is summoned back to Britain by news of the treachery of Mordred. Already weakened in spirit by Guinevere’s infidelity with the now-exiled Lancelot, Arthur must rouse his knights to battle one last time against Mordred’s rebels and foreign mercenaries. The Fall of Arthur recounts in verse the last campaign of King Arthur, who, even as he stands at the threshold of Mirkwood, is summoned back to Britain by news of the treachery of Mordred. Already weakened in spirit by Guinevere’s infidelity with the now-exiled Lancelot, Arthur must rouse his knights to battle one last time against Mordred’s rebels and foreign mercenaries. Powerful, passionate, and filled with vivid imagery, this unfinished poem reveals Tolkien’s gift for storytelling at its brilliant best. Christopher Tolkien, editor, contributes three illuminating essays that explore the literary world of King Arthur, reveal the deeper meaning of the verses and the painstaking work his father applied to bring the poem to a finished form, and investigate the intriguing links between The Fall of Arthur and Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

30 review for The Fall of Arthur

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barrs

    I've read a great many of Tolkien’s works, many of which were published posthumously. This does not always detract from the value of the work. The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien are both still fantastic pieces of writing despite the fact that Tolkien never really finished them. However, they were completely drafted; the entire stories were told and they just needed a final polish and an edit: they were almost ready. Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur was far from ready. What we have here I've read a great many of Tolkien’s works, many of which were published posthumously. This does not always detract from the value of the work. The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien are both still fantastic pieces of writing despite the fact that Tolkien never really finished them. However, they were completely drafted; the entire stories were told and they just needed a final polish and an edit: they were almost ready. Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur was far from ready. What we have here is but a fragment, the setting of the stage if you like, of what would have been a fully developed epic. This book, and the forty pages of poetry we are given, provides a mere curiosity for the most enthusiastic of Tolkien’s fans, and for the casual reader it would only provide bitter disappointment. This is not the only case of such a thing in the world of Tolkien fiction, thought it was the worse I have come across. Despite the small amount of original work some of the books contain, they still feel like they belong to Tolkien. This, on the other hand, felt more like a commentary on Tolkien’s work. The writing of his son dominates the book as he tracks the creation and history of the very small amount of writing his farther created here. All in all, Christopher Tolkien is the real author here. And that saddens me. He has dug deep into the treasure troves of his father’s work, and he has pulled out many shinny gems but on this occasion he has pulled out a piece of pewter, tarnished and grey, and not at all ready for fine company. The glimpse of the epic we see here provides just enough content to demonstrate how fully fleshed out it would have been had Tolkien wanted to finish it. And there’s the rub: it’s all one big tease. I truly would have loved Tolkien to write the entire thing, I think it could have been fantastic. The Fall of Arthur then is only worth it if you are really invested in Tolkien and even then I think most readers will be dissatisfied with it. Not one I recommend.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Who wrote this blurb? Seriously? "The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain" -- What's his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Chopped liver? "...his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre..." -- Old English metre? Not from what I've seen. Where're the half-lines? Not sure the stresses work either. I'm sure it is a wonderful, skillful work, but more likely in Middle English alliterati Who wrote this blurb? Seriously? "The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain" -- What's his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Chopped liver? "...his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre..." -- Old English metre? Not from what I've seen. Where're the half-lines? Not sure the stresses work either. I'm sure it is a wonderful, skillful work, but more likely in Middle English alliterative metre -- like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- which is rather more relaxed. I've been looking forward to this since I found out this poem existed, and once swore I could write my PhD on it. Guess we'll find out soon. -- Okay, I admit I seem to have been wrong -- it is Old English metre, the sample I looked at didn't reproduce the formatting. I'm still not sure the alliteration is right, though: I'll need to look it up to be sure, but I think there's too much alliteration. I could, however, be remembering the rules for Skaldic verse, which are not dissimilar, but more strict. I have my copy in hand and a dental appointment later, so I shall stick my nose into these pages studiously until I am dragged to the dentist's chair... -- Finished the poem itself, now to the additional matter. But why has he written a poem about the fall of the British (Celtic) Arthur in battle against the Saxons... in Saxon metre? Conquerors have certainly claimed Arthur before now, but... I wish he'd published this in his lifetime, with his own notes, with his attentiveness to every detail, his concern with the provenance of texts and his invented histories for them. Perhaps he would have recognised the irony in his choice of metre, even explained it. Onward, anyway, to Christopher Tolkien's bit. ...Which I found less than enlightening, really, since I wasn't interested in a play-by-play of the evolution of the poem and I don't need a primer on the Arthurian legends. Anyway, in summary: fascinating to me as an academic, but I'm not sure how it'll strike non-academics. I wish I could write a PhD on this, but there doesn't seem to be enough material.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alejandro

    It wasn't a book that I really enjoyed much. NEW MATERIAL BY TOLKIEN! I was really eager to read it since I found so awesome the idea of reading a "new" book by JRR Tolkien. Something that I'd never think that it could be possible. Of course, I know that it was thanks to the editing of his son, Christopher Tolkien. But still, it was a "new" book by Tolkien. A SWORD HARD TO TAKE OUT FROM STONE I found interesting some information of the legend of King Arthur in the further notes by Tolkien's It wasn't a book that I really enjoyed much. NEW MATERIAL BY TOLKIEN! I was really eager to read it since I found so awesome the idea of reading a "new" book by JRR Tolkien. Something that I'd never think that it could be possible. Of course, I know that it was thanks to the editing of his son, Christopher Tolkien. But still, it was a "new" book by Tolkien. A SWORD HARD TO TAKE OUT FROM STONE I found interesting some information of the legend of King Arthur in the further notes by Tolkien's son, however the verses themselves by JRR Tolkien were written in an English so old that I hardly could make some sense out of was happening in the narrative. In all cases, they were the afternotes by Tolkien's son were I understood what supposed to happening on the verses. Also, a key factor of reading this book was the mention that there was a connection between the events here and the epic saga of The Lord of the Rings. However, I was expecting something more insightful about the connection of Arthur's legend and the Middle-Earth's stories, but the connection mentioned here was something that I already figured it out before and I heard it in some other TV documentary about it. Nevertheless, it's great to add of some Tolkien's work in my list of already read books.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Will.J.R. Gwynne

    My full review for this wonderful creation is on BookNest - BookNest - The Fall of Arthur The Fall of Arthur is an epic poem recounting the end of the tale of Arthur, left unfinished, but still managing to feel complete and amazing. "Wild rode the wind though the West country. Banners were blowing, black was the raven they bore as blazon. Blaring of trumpets, neighing of horses, gnashing of armour, in the hoar hollows of the hills echoed . Mordred was marching; messengers speeding northward and eastwar My full review for this wonderful creation is on BookNest - BookNest - The Fall of Arthur The Fall of Arthur is an epic poem recounting the end of the tale of Arthur, left unfinished, but still managing to feel complete and amazing. "Wild rode the wind though the West country. Banners were blowing, black was the raven they bore as blazon. Blaring of trumpets, neighing of horses, gnashing of armour, in the hoar hollows of the hills echoed . Mordred was marching; messengers speeding northward and eastward the news bearing through the land of Logres. Lords and chieftains to his side he summoned swift to hasten their tryst keeping, true to Mordred, faithful in falsehood, foes of Arthur, lovers of treason and freebooters" This epic poem is about one of my favourite subjects and legends of all time. I have always been obsessed and enamoured by the tales of Arthur, and this is no exception. Tolkien's prose in this epic poem is purely exceptional. Inspiring, immersive, beautiful. Just so brilliant. I loved every page of it. Really cannot give it enough praise. The characters are instantly given an incredible depth that made me fall in love with the characters, despite the short time spent with them. This is a tale of heroism and tragedy, not made boring by the context of former tales. Tokien adds his own spin and image to the tale, making it different, while containing all that is brilliant and wonderful within the stories. To any lovers of Arthurian tales, which I imagine is most, I would recommend this poem. It is easy to comprehend, and is only short. Please read it! 5/5 STARS

  5. 4 out of 5

    Florencia

    This is the first time I read Tolkien. I'm one of those heartless people that haven't read The Lord of the Rings yet. This book caught my attention because I love the legend of King Arthur. I became a bit obsessed with it during my early years (actually, anything Middle Ages related; again, yes, I was a very popular kid at school, you can imagine...; I sang BSB songs to seem more normal—yes, that was normal back then!). I even created a website and wrote a couple of short stories that never saw This is the first time I read Tolkien. I'm one of those heartless people that haven't read The Lord of the Rings yet. This book caught my attention because I love the legend of King Arthur. I became a bit obsessed with it during my early years (actually, anything Middle Ages related; again, yes, I was a very popular kid at school, you can imagine...; I sang BSB songs to seem more normal—yes, that was normal back then!). I even created a website and wrote a couple of short stories that never saw the light of day (and never will). So, I thought this book was going to be an amazing ride. However, it was more like those little walks you take after eating an enormous amount of food and you can hardly move a toe. There are few pages written by Tolkien and the rest is all about notes, and footnotes and handnotes and necknotes written by his son, Christopher. I must admit I skipped some of those fascinating notes, but others were quite helpful. This was written in Old English and three verses contained a lot of words I've never heard of. So you can imagine how I suffered, considering that I can barely write a couple of coherent sentences in this language (or my language, for that matter). After reading those notes, I understood more. There are several aspects of the Arthurian legends that are not in the poem. Here we have Arthur, Gawain, his nephew and other knights that went to fight the Saxons but had to come back thanks to good old pal Mordred. Aww, family. Sweet Guinevere made an appearance also, like a beautiful woman "world walking for the woe of men" without shedding any tear. Something that interested Mordred, quite a bit. His bed was barren; there black phantoms of desire unsated and savage fury in his brain had brooded till bleak morning. The Fifty Shades of Grey of those days, apparently. All in all, the poem is beautiful, powerful and evocative. "Cold blew the wind, keen and wintry, in rising wrath from the rolling forest among roaring leaves. Rain came darkly, and the sun was swallowed in sudden tempest." It's like we're privileged witnesses of those detailed descriptions, those vivid images that Tolkien is narrating. I imagined every verse. I loved it; it's a shame he couldn't finish it. And, well... I kind of forgot about the rest of the book. I just can't help the feeling of being tricked. Jan 09, 14 * Also on my blog.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Not to make you jealous or anything, but I bought this at the Bodleian Library gift shop after going through the Tolkien art exhibit. I had no idea what it was, except that it was recently published, and was touted as the only time he "took on" the Arthurian legend. I am not at all disappointed in this purchase, just as I am not disappointed in the bookmark, bracelet, and print I also purchased . . . but that's another story! The first sixty pages or so are the poem, written in Saxon alliterative Not to make you jealous or anything, but I bought this at the Bodleian Library gift shop after going through the Tolkien art exhibit. I had no idea what it was, except that it was recently published, and was touted as the only time he "took on" the Arthurian legend. I am not at all disappointed in this purchase, just as I am not disappointed in the bookmark, bracelet, and print I also purchased . . . but that's another story! The first sixty pages or so are the poem, written in Saxon alliterative style, of the last days of Arthur. After there, son Christopher takes over and talks about the different drafts, where the ending might have headed, what the sources were, and so forth. Fascinating stuff, whether you're into Tolkien, poetry, Old English, King Arthur . . . there's really a lot going on for all kinds of people. I thought the little moments of Christopher's frustration (with his father quitting the poem, with his father's handwriting) were quite great. But what I really liked was the appendix, largely taken from one of Tolkien Senior's own lectures about Anglo Saxon poetry. That was truly fascinating stuff, and I had no idea about any of it. (And I say this as someone who has read the Norse sagas in the original language.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tudor

    Mirkwood is a forest in Saxon Germany NOT Middle-Earth contrary to popular belief. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO KNOW THIS, MIRKWOOD IN THIS BOOK IS IN GERMANY NOT IN MIDDLE-EARTH

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stefan Yates

    I really enjoyed the J.R.R. Tolkien portions of this book. Not to say that Christopher Tolkien is a bad writer, on the contrary, his analysis is very well thought out and interesting. It's just that when you are reading the pieces written by the master, you certainly know it. Fair warning to the casual reader out there, this offering is a poem purposely written to emulate the meter an feel of an old piece of English literature. Only about a quarter or less of the book is actually material produc I really enjoyed the J.R.R. Tolkien portions of this book. Not to say that Christopher Tolkien is a bad writer, on the contrary, his analysis is very well thought out and interesting. It's just that when you are reading the pieces written by the master, you certainly know it. Fair warning to the casual reader out there, this offering is a poem purposely written to emulate the meter an feel of an old piece of English literature. Only about a quarter or less of the book is actually material produced by J.R.R. Tolkien, the rest is an in-depth analysis of the poem and it's fit with other classic Arthurian literature by his son, Christopher Tolkien. Unless you get into the inner workings of literature and poetry and enjoy reading excerpts of Olde English, I wouldn't recommend this book to just anybody. Overall, I found this to be a fairly fascinating book. I think that Christopher does a very admirable job of breaking down and analyzing his father's work and tying it into the other classic literature. I also appreciate the connections that he makes to his fathers penultimate masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. Even thought this is a seemingly unrelated work, Christopher has managed to find some interesting similarities between it and his father's writings of Middle Earth. Where this truly shines is in allowing the Tolkien fan to read a previously unpublished piece of Tolkien literature that we may not have otherwise seen. Make no mistake, this is a piece of what would have been a larger work but was for one reason or another abandoned by the author. What we are offered is a fragment and may not have ever looked even remotely like the piece we are presented with in its final form, but we will never actually know. A huge thank you to Christopher Tolkien for bringing us what he could of this work. My only real complaint in the layout that Christopher presented is that I would have put the second study directly after the poem as it deals more with the notes of things that were to come and I think would have provided a more satisfying feel to read while the actual work was still fresh to my mind. On a side note one thing that I did find interesting is that, even though Christopher is a great analyst and very detailed in his research, he presents a small excerpt of a lecture that his father gave at some point. This small excerpt of lecture illustrates just how talented his father is as it literally jumps off the page. He's not talking about anything of particular interest unto itself, but the nuances and the wording make the excerpt come alive. Not to take anything away from his son, but this piece really made me realize what the difference is between someone who is an expert and very good at what he does and a true master of the written word.

  9. 5 out of 5

    L

    Impassioned nuances and provocative profundity pierce you to the core, as you plunge within the Arthurian mythologies and legends! Buried within these three highly illuminating essays, {which explore the literary world of King Arthur}, is the deeper meaning of each individual verse revealed with such sublime clarity. JRR Tolkien’s unfinished work is a treasure trove of revelatory, fascinating delights akin to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight -- or even other published masterworks such as the Silm Impassioned nuances and provocative profundity pierce you to the core, as you plunge within the Arthurian mythologies and legends! Buried within these three highly illuminating essays, {which explore the literary world of King Arthur}, is the deeper meaning of each individual verse revealed with such sublime clarity. JRR Tolkien’s unfinished work is a treasure trove of revelatory, fascinating delights akin to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight -- or even other published masterworks such as the Silmarillion or anglo saxon poetry Beowulf.. as it contains such intriguing links to his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy and entire mythology that he created, as a whole. As I assiduously study linguistics {and as a literature theoretician!}, I found Tolkien’s aspect on Middle-English and how our language has evolved over time, utterly intriguing to read. “Our language now has become quick-moving.. The language of our forefathers was slow, very sonorous, and was intensely packed and concentrated” - Quote Hence, this comprehensive compendium of factual erudition and mythological references will delight the astute philosopher in equal measure to the regular reader! What I revelled in most was JRR Tolkien’s representation of the Lady Guinevere; whose unwavering love and internal strength continues to embolden.. Dear she loved him with love unyielding, Lady ruthless/ for the woe of men From war she shrank not, / might her will conquer, Life both and love / with delight keeping To wield as she wished / while the world lasted; In storm of darkness / In pain they parted ..If you play with Fire you get burnt! (proverb)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sørina

    This is an AMAZING work that should change Tolkien and Inklings studies forever! Here are my three pieces on "The Fall of Arthur," all together in one place: http://theoddestinkling.wordpress.com.... There is a pre-review in which I predicted what I thought the book would be like, before reading it. There is a follow-up blog post in which I say how well I did in my predictions (not very well!). And then there's my official review. Enjoy! This is an AMAZING work that should change Tolkien and Inklings studies forever! Here are my three pieces on "The Fall of Arthur," all together in one place: http://theoddestinkling.wordpress.com.... There is a pre-review in which I predicted what I thought the book would be like, before reading it. There is a follow-up blog post in which I say how well I did in my predictions (not very well!). And then there's my official review. Enjoy!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Miles Cameron

    This is a brilliant evocation of the Arthurian, with shadows that are dark, presages of Middle-earth, and a stunning indictment of those who say that Tolkien cannot write women. My favorite book this year.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Terence

    I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Fall of Arthur. I’ve never been a fan of Tolkien as poet and, as a rule, skim through the examples that crop up in his prose or that are reproduced in the History of Middle-earth volumes. But I was intrigued by the subject and by what Tolkien may have made of the Matter of Britain (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight doesn’t count since it’s a translation of an existing poem). Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur is incomplete. Tolkien only completed four cantos I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Fall of Arthur. I’ve never been a fan of Tolkien as poet and, as a rule, skim through the examples that crop up in his prose or that are reproduced in the History of Middle-earth volumes. But I was intrigued by the subject and by what Tolkien may have made of the Matter of Britain (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight doesn’t count since it’s a translation of an existing poem). Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur is incomplete. Tolkien only completed four cantos (in several versions which Christopher Tolkien exhaustively presents) but what’s there suggests an original retelling of the war between Arthur and his son Mordred. The first cantos opens with Arthur fighting in the unmapped east when he learns of Mordred’s treachery; the second introduces Arthur’s son, his motivations for rebellion, and the queen and her motivations; the third cantos takes us to Lancelot, who languishes in Benwick mourning his fate; the fourth cantos describes Arthur’s initial landing at Romney in Kent and the ensuing battle with the rebels (not Camlann, though; Tolkien never got that far). I was especially interested in Tolkien’s portrayal of Guinever. As I read the poem, she’s a cold, grasping, shallow woman who even in the face of the ruin of the king’s dreams shows no remorse: / His heart returned To its long thralldom / lust-tormented, To Guinever the golden / with gleaming limbs, As fair and fell / as fay-woman In the world walking / for the woe of men No tear shedding…. In her blissful bower / on bed of silver Softly slept she / on silken pillows With long hair loosened, / lightly breathing, In fragrant dreams / fearless wandering, Of pity and repentance / no pain feeling, In the courts of Camelot / queen and peerless, Queen unguarded…. (II.25-30, 32-38) / But cold silver Or glowing gold / greedy-hearted In her fingers taken / fairer thought she, More lovely deeming / what she alone treasured Darkly hoarded. / Dear she loved him With love unyielding, / lady ruthless Fair as fay-woman / and fell-minded In the world walking / for the woe of men…. From war she shrank not, / might her will conquer, Life both and love / with delight keeping To wield as she wished / while the world lasted; But little liked her / lonely exile, Or for love to lose / her life’s splendour. In sorrow they parted. / With searing words His wound she probed / his will searching. Grief bewrayed her / and greed thwarted; The shining sun / was sudden shaded In storm of darkness…. / In pain they parted…. (III.49-56, 97-106, 109) I would recommend this for the Tolkien and/or Arthurian lit reader.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Roxana Chirilă

    "Thus Arthur in arms eastward journeyed, and war awoke in the wild regions. Halls and temples of the heathen kings his might assailed marching in conquest from the mouths of the Rhine o'er many kingdoms. [...] Foes before them, flames behind them, ever east and onward eager rode they, and folk fled them as the face of God, till earth was empty, and no eyes saw them, and no ears heard them in the endless hills" Like many other authors I've heard of, J.R.R. Tolkien had a lot of projects he never finished - " "Thus Arthur in arms eastward journeyed, and war awoke in the wild regions. Halls and temples of the heathen kings his might assailed marching in conquest from the mouths of the Rhine o'er many kingdoms. [...] Foes before them, flames behind them, ever east and onward eager rode they, and folk fled them as the face of God, till earth was empty, and no eyes saw them, and no ears heard them in the endless hills" Like many other authors I've heard of, J.R.R. Tolkien had a lot of projects he never finished - "The Fall of Arthur" among them. An alliterative poem about king Arthur started before "The Lord of the Rings" and later abandoned, it's now been edited and published by his son, Christopher Tolkien, based on his father's notes and manuscripts. "The Fall of Arthur" is nowhere near complete, and while the book itself is over 200 pages, the poem in itself only takes up 40 of them. 40 sonorous pages, with the ring of Anglo-Saxon saga to them, epic and a pleasure to read out loud (especially if you're in the sort of mood in which you'd want to read poetry out loud because it sounds cool). Christopher Tolkien fills in the blanks: he devotes a fairly long essay to the early history of the Arthurian legend, starting from "Historia regum Britanniae", a pseudohistorical account of British kings written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in 1136, in which King Arthur defeats the Roman Emperor and does other very unlikely feats of might (Apparently, making up stuff and claiming it really happened in history is a very old hobby.), and going through various texts called "The Death of Arthur", both prose and verse (apparently, writing about Arthur's death is also a very old hobby). It's quite interesting, if you don't know much about the literary development of Arthur and his knights (which indeed I didn't). He also delves into the connection that "The Fall of Arthur" has with the rest of Tolkien's works - like it being related to the Silmarillion in an early phase. Then there are also a bunch of older variations of the text, and notes J.R.R. Tolkien made for continuing it, as well as a bit of an explanation about alliterative poetry and how it works, in J.R.R. Tolkien's own words. The poem itself is rather a teaser for a greater work that will never happen, so that can be frustrating, but the book itself is interesting, both for the info about king Arthur's literary evolution, and for the process of creating a poem such as this, which is pieced together by Christopher Tolkien.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sara Saif

    Now that I’ve seen all five seasons of Merlin, it seemed like the perfect time to read this. Arthurian legend is fascinating and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I started watching the show. The creators of the show twisted all the legends into something completely different, that I realized after reading The Fall of Arthur. There is no mention whatsoever of Merlin. It concerns mainly Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain and Mordred. I didn’t know that it was in the form of poetry. It’s wri Now that I’ve seen all five seasons of Merlin, it seemed like the perfect time to read this. Arthurian legend is fascinating and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I started watching the show. The creators of the show twisted all the legends into something completely different, that I realized after reading The Fall of Arthur. There is no mention whatsoever of Merlin. It concerns mainly Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain and Mordred. I didn’t know that it was in the form of poetry. It’s written by J.R.R Tolkien and like most of his posthumously published works, it has a commentary by Christopher Tolkien. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have understood very little. He not only describes, briefly but concisely, the Arthurian myths and legends, but also the relation between The Fall of Arthur and other Arthurian works and a brief introduction to Old English and Alliterative poetry, in which it is written. We’re also given a few pages worth of the account of the changes made to the verses by Tolkien overtime. The poem itself is not that long because of the fact that it is unfinished. There are five Cantos about 200 verses each except for the last one that has only 60. Canto I: How Arthur and Gawain went to war and rode into the East. Canto II: How the Frisian ship brought news, and Mordred gathered his host and went to Camelot seeking the queen. Canto III: Of Sir Lancelot, who abode in Benwick. Canto IV: How Arthur returned at morn and by Sir Gawain’s hand won the passage of the sea. Canto V: Of the setting of the sun at Romeril. The added bits by Christopher Tolkien are what give the book its length. While reading it you get an idea of just how unimaginably MASSIVE J.R.R. Tolkien’s body of work really is. So, yeah. I definitely enjoyed it and got to learn a bit more about the legend of Arthur but constant references to and comparisons with Tolkien’s other works confused me sometimes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael F

    “In my view, one of the most grievous of his many abandonments.” Thus Christopher Tolkien concludes one of his commentaries on “The Fall of Arthur”, and I am inclined to agree with him. I don’t know how to rate this, as it’s an odd sort of book, so I’ll just give a brief summation of its contents, along with my thoughts. The main matter is Tolkien’s unfinished poem “The Fall of Arthur”, written in the Anglo-Saxon verse form, (but in modern English). It is 40 pages long, and is around a half or a t “In my view, one of the most grievous of his many abandonments.” Thus Christopher Tolkien concludes one of his commentaries on “The Fall of Arthur”, and I am inclined to agree with him. I don’t know how to rate this, as it’s an odd sort of book, so I’ll just give a brief summation of its contents, along with my thoughts. The main matter is Tolkien’s unfinished poem “The Fall of Arthur”, written in the Anglo-Saxon verse form, (but in modern English). It is 40 pages long, and is around a half or a third of the length it would have been if completed. It is magnificent and evocative poetry, and it’s fascinating to see Tolkien’s grand and melancholy style turned on the Arthur story. To my admittedly inexpert ear, the poem also manages to capture much of the sound and feel of Anglo-Saxon verse, with none of the jingly quality that plagues lesser alliterative poetry. The rest of the book consists of a series of commentaries on the poem by Christopher Tolkien. The first is a through and interesting look at Tolkien’s sources for the poem, and how it fits into the broader Arthurian tradition. The second is a tantalizing glimpse at Tolkien’s intentions for the unfinished part of the poem. Of interest to the Silmarillion buff, it also contains some examination of the connection between the Isle of Avalon in Arthurian legend and the Isle of Tol Eressëa in Tolkien’s mythos. The third is an examination of the development of the poem, in the ‘leave no scrap unpublished’ style familiar to readers of the History of Middle-Earth series. As my case of Tolkien nerdery is not quite advanced enough to make me want to read every draft of everything he ever wrote, I merely skimmed this section. It would be of interest to someone studying Tolkien’s creative process. Finally, there is a bit at the the end taken from a lecture by Tolkien on Anglo-Saxon poetry. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone obsessed with at least two of the following three things: Tolkien, Arthurian legend, or alliterative poetry. The poem itself in particular is worth reading; it’s just unfortunate that it was never completed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    There are several sections comprising this book and my responses to them were varied. Starting at the beginning there is the poem - or incomplete fragment there-of. It was never finished, like so many of Tolkien's projects. In my opinion, most of Tolkien's best work was left in an unfinished state at his death: The best stories are all in the Silmarillion, no complete version of which was extant at the time of Tolkien's demise. Instead a heap of fragments in prose and various verse forms co-exis There are several sections comprising this book and my responses to them were varied. Starting at the beginning there is the poem - or incomplete fragment there-of. It was never finished, like so many of Tolkien's projects. In my opinion, most of Tolkien's best work was left in an unfinished state at his death: The best stories are all in the Silmarillion, no complete version of which was extant at the time of Tolkien's demise. Instead a heap of fragments in prose and various verse forms co-exist, showing an enormous evolution over pretty much the whole of Tolkien's adult life. THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN CURTAILED IN PROTEST AT GOODREADS' CENSORSHIP POLICY See the complete review here: http://arbieroo.booklikes.com/post/67...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Well, I didn't finish my assignment that is due in two days but I did finish this book in one day :D and I do not regret it at all!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Garner

    I only read the poem. I couldn't be bothered to read the stuff by Christopher Tolkien as it seemed pointless, the poem should have been published on its own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sud666

    `Gawain loudly cried as a clarion. Clear went his voice in the rocks ringing above roaring wind and rolling thunder: 'Ride, forth to war, ye hosts of ruin, hate proclaiming! Foes we fear not, nor fell shadows of the dark mountains demon-haunted! Hear now ye hills and hoar forest, ye awful thrones of olden gods huge and hopeless, hear and tremble! From the West comes war that no wind daunteth, might and purpose that no mist stayeth; lord of legions, light in darkness, east rides Arthur!' Echoes were wakened. `Gawain loudly cried as a clarion. Clear went his voice in the rocks ringing above roaring wind and rolling thunder: 'Ride, forth to war, ye hosts of ruin, hate proclaiming! Foes we fear not, nor fell shadows of the dark mountains demon-haunted! Hear now ye hills and hoar forest, ye awful thrones of olden gods huge and hopeless, hear and tremble! From the West comes war that no wind daunteth, might and purpose that no mist stayeth; lord of legions, light in darkness, east rides Arthur!' Echoes were wakened. The wind was stilled. The walls of rock 'Arthur' answered. The Fall Of Arthur as done by J.R.R. Tolkein in Old English alliterative meter. To use Tolkein's own words : "...the ancient English measure which had descended from antiquity, that kind of verse which is now called 'alliterative'. It aimed at quite different effects from those achieved by the rhymed and syllable-counting meters derived from France and Italy..." Thus are we treated to not only The Fall of Arthur, which remains unfinished and to Chris Tolkein's interesting notes on his father's work and the differences between this version and that one by Geoffry of Monmouth and other versions. Plus there are notes on the unwritten poem and the evolution of the poem. This is not for everyone, but I truly enjoyed it. Tolkein's Fall of Arthur is grim and seems to lack the "too goodly" heroic version of Arthur. It is certainly worth a read for anyone who is interested in Tolkein's brilliance, outside of LOTR, or the Legend of Arthur. This version needs to be ranked up there with the best of Geoffry and Malory. It also has some very interesting notes and articles about the different versions and detailed end notes about the poem.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2873556.html This is minor Tolkien, an uncompleted epic poem about the end of Arthur's reign, not far from the version recounted by Malory - which I know only via T.H. White, who was working on The Sword in the Stone at about the same time. One would like to find a direct link, but Tolkien stopped working on The Fall of Arthur in 1937 and The Sword in the Stone was not published until 1938 (Tolkien had read it by April 1940) - and of course the later part of the Art https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2873556.html This is minor Tolkien, an uncompleted epic poem about the end of Arthur's reign, not far from the version recounted by Malory - which I know only via T.H. White, who was working on The Sword in the Stone at about the same time. One would like to find a direct link, but Tolkien stopped working on The Fall of Arthur in 1937 and The Sword in the Stone was not published until 1938 (Tolkien had read it by April 1940) - and of course the later part of the Arthur legend was not reached by White until the complete Once and Future King came out in 1958. The poetry is firmly rhythmic and alliterative - apparently R.W. Chambers, having been lent the manuscript, delaimed it with gusto to an empty railway carriage on his way back to London - and poor old Gunevere gets a lot more characterisation and agency than in most other versions of the story. But the most interesting part of the plot was never reached. The poem itself is only 44 pages; the rest of the book is bulked out with essays by Christopher Tolkien (who is now 92) on his father's approach to the Arthurian legends, and on the links between the unfinished Fall of Arthur and the Silmarillion - in particular, the motif of the legendary figure who sails off into the West, which it is argued is drawn directly from Arthur and/or Lancelot to Eärendil and/or Tuor. Another parallel that struck me is that in the part I of The Fall of Arthur, the king is fighting enemies to the East.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Carries the uniqueness and brilliance of Tolkien’s poetry and wrestling with legend and language.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

    SPOILER ALERT: Arthur dies at the end. The poem itself is lovely, with some really breathtaking language, which was clearly wrought with patience and and an eye for the aesthetic. Christopher Tolkien's extensive notes lend even more gravitas to the poem by demonstrating the amount of research that went into the composition. That said, I feel like Tolkien is the white Tupac. Seriously though, when is this family going to stop pillaging every single note the man ever left behind in an effort to wr SPOILER ALERT: Arthur dies at the end. The poem itself is lovely, with some really breathtaking language, which was clearly wrought with patience and and an eye for the aesthetic. Christopher Tolkien's extensive notes lend even more gravitas to the poem by demonstrating the amount of research that went into the composition. That said, I feel like Tolkien is the white Tupac. Seriously though, when is this family going to stop pillaging every single note the man ever left behind in an effort to wring a few more dollars out of a dead man's fantasy world? My primordial experiences with mythology, fantasy, and storytelling are of sitting while my father read the Hobbit to me, so I'm not being contrary for contrary's sake. There are a few reasons for my irritation, and in case anyone cares, here they are: C. Tolkien bemoans the state of his fathers handwriting so often that it makes you think this might just be the very last thing he found written on a bar napkin and had to publish it. Could it be that JRRT just didn't, oh, finish it? Then he bemoans the unfinished nature of the poem, calling it "One of the most grievous of his many abandonments". Drama queen. Maybe if the poem was finished, they could have charged more for the book? I personally find it poetic (zing!) that it's unfinished, since as the story goes, Arthur will one day return to lead the Britons/Welsh/western Christendom/ whoever is claiming him. The whole thing is melancholic and unfinished. Like, surely the story of Arthur the great couldn't have ended like that? But it did. At first, I found the copious notes really interesting and engaging. I've read the Morte d'Arthur and other renditions of the poem, and it was really interesting to see how the various versions differ in terms of composition and content. Tolkien clearly made wise choices in terms of plot and story development in his composition, and that was nicely couched within the greater tradition. But then the notes saunter into a lengthy discussion on The Silmarillion, because we haven't had enough of that yet. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Avalon *might* have inspired Tol Eressëa or the Undying Lands. Really, a magical land to the west where Arthur goes, crossing the sea, and carries on not-quite dead? There IS a really cool appendix on Old English verse at the very end, which I liked. I mean, I liked it. It was fun, informative, and well researched. I just feel like we're beating a dead horse.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Othy

    It is a pleasure to read Tolkien's alliterative poetry again. His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the unfinished Children of Hurin have always been some of my favorite pieces of Tolkien's work, and The Fall of Arthur is much in the same lines. There are certain parts that I don't particularly care for (the second canto is a bit slow and Mordred is rather stocky in character) but there are some lines that are unbelievably powerful. In particular the end of the third canto is ra It is a pleasure to read Tolkien's alliterative poetry again. His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the unfinished Children of Hurin have always been some of my favorite pieces of Tolkien's work, and The Fall of Arthur is much in the same lines. There are certain parts that I don't particularly care for (the second canto is a bit slow and Mordred is rather stocky in character) but there are some lines that are unbelievably powerful. In particular the end of the third canto is rather amazing, and the affinities it shares with the Anglo-Saxon poems The Seafarer and the Wanderer bring a new light to both the poems and the figure of Lancelot. The connections Tolkien's version of the tale makes between Arthur, Lancelot, and the Island to the West are also rather tantalizing although there is sadly not much to bite into. Besides the poem the text itself is difficult. The short essay on alliterative meter is (even to someone who has studied it in depth) a great deal of fun and very interesting in several respects; Tolkien has a firm grasp on the power of the verse-type but also in explaining that power. Christopher's essays, though, leave a little to be desired. While I enjoyed reading the connections between the tradition and Tolkien's poem (both in finished and unfinished form), the commentary is not as interesting as that in the History of Middle Earth (or even Sigurd and Gudrun). I would not say (as some on goodreads have) that it is merely 'filler' but I simply did not find it as engaging as I did that in Christopher's other editions of his father's work. Perhaps this is because there is so little to go on either in what Tolkien may have talked about and what he left upon his death. Even still the commentary is enjoyable and makes links that (even though they have been made before in earlier editions) are always good to go over again.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    This was my first time reading one of the books that Christopher Tolkien edited and published. The actual poem makes up only about a quarter of the book. The other 75% walks through the evolution of the Arthurian legend in general and Tolkien's drafts of this poem in particular. Honestly, I skimmed quite a bit. Christopher goes into meticulous detail demonstrating Tolkien's changes and notes and offering his own conjectures on the cause. I realized that I had looked at all of these posthumous pu This was my first time reading one of the books that Christopher Tolkien edited and published. The actual poem makes up only about a quarter of the book. The other 75% walks through the evolution of the Arthurian legend in general and Tolkien's drafts of this poem in particular. Honestly, I skimmed quite a bit. Christopher goes into meticulous detail demonstrating Tolkien's changes and notes and offering his own conjectures on the cause. I realized that I had looked at all of these posthumous publications as something of a money grab to sell as many books as possible. Now, they seem like labors of love to get Tolkien's massive body of work as much into the light of day as possible. I don't see myself rereading this one, but it was interesting and enlightening. "A book by an author who is no longer alive"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mihai Zodian

    A well-known story, and yet it manages to impress. This review is, of course, about the work itself, which remained unfinished. But it is also about Christopher Tolkien`s impressive effort to interpret his father perspective. First, the significance. There is a contemporary line of study which compares Tolkien`s major works with the Arthurian universe. See here The Inklings and King Arthur: J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain. The Fall of A A well-known story, and yet it manages to impress. This review is, of course, about the work itself, which remained unfinished. But it is also about Christopher Tolkien`s impressive effort to interpret his father perspective. First, the significance. There is a contemporary line of study which compares Tolkien`s major works with the Arthurian universe. See here The Inklings and King Arthur: J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain. The Fall of Arthur was important in this aspect. Next, Christopher Tolkien`s contribution was twofold. He reconstituted the overall of his father poem. This required full knowledge of both manuscripts and Arthurian works. The second contribution, an important, somehow famous chapter on the Round Table`s legendarium influence upon Middle-Earth, especially on Silmarillion. There are two kinds. One, direct, in some names and plots, and a mediated, in the outline. Whether you enjoy myths, the fantasy genre, maybe the Fate anime and visual novels, The Fall of Arthur offers an interesting reading. It is an unfinished poem, based somehow on an older version of the legend, modified by J.R.R. Tolkien, and a modern reader may have an issue with the Old English alliterative verse. But it has beauty and vision.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Bartel

    Is this the best poetic work Tolkien wrote (not counting his translations)? I'm tempted to say so. His portraits of Mordred and Lancelot are especially strange and haunting, and his battle scenes rival Chesterton's "Lepanto" in force and image. Christopher Tolkien's notes and annotations in this edition are interesting, if overlong. I look forward to a little, pocket sized version of this work without all the notes, something I can slip in my backpocket and read by the ocean.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Terrington

    Ah, something new by J.R.R Tolkien - or rather one of his edited unfinished works. I hope it's better than The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún which while fine lacked a little polish in my eyes. Ah, something new by J.R.R Tolkien - or rather one of his edited unfinished works. I hope it's better than The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún which while fine lacked a little polish in my eyes.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    5% Poem. 95% Foreword, Notes, Appendix, Essay. (The poem itself was enjoyable)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ben De Bono

    Tolkien leaving this incomplete is a literary tragedy. This is - in both style and themes - very much Arthur through a Tolkien-lens, which is every bit as fantastic as it sounds

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schrecengost

    I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to read some of Tolkien's poetry and that loves the stories surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the round table. I enjoyed this!

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