Book review: The Fall of Arthur
The Fall of Arthur
by J.R.R. Tolkien
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
J.R.R. Tolkien never ceases to amaze me, with unpublished work still surfacing 40 years after his death.
The Fall of Arthur, like most of the "new" Tolkien published of late, is incomplete, but there is enough of this poem in alliterative metre to both appreciate the legend of King Arthur and Tolkien's skill with words.
About half of the book features the incomplete poem, which details King Arthur's overseas expedition and his great sea battle against the traitorous Mordred upon his return to England.
It almost comes across as a Shakesperean tragedy. The language is more accessible than the Bard, but equally lyrical.
A lot of it is weighted with doom.
"You simply must finish it, " a friend wrote to Tolkien in 1934 after reading the draft. Then The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings got in the way.
The other half of the book is full of Tolkien's son Christopher's musings on his father's writing process. He draws on various drafts trying, in some cases, to ascertain which is the latest.
Christopher Tolkien's contribution to the book is scholarly and will appeal more to those with a scholarly bent.