Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Tolkien's Elusive Beowulf Translation

While discussing the Beowulf movie earlier this week, lindahoyland mentioned JRRT's translation of Beowulf. I confess that I had never come across it, though I own a small collection of Beowulf translations. An Internet search revealed that a translation had been unearthed from Tolkein's papers and the estate had authorized a Dr. Drout to prepare the translation for publication. However, nowhere could I find the book, so I rather cheekily wrote to the good professor.

Dear Dr. Drout,
Please forgive the intrusion, but an acquaintance mentioned the existence of a
prose translation of "Beowulf" by J.R.R. Tolkien and an Internet search
quickly led me to your name. I see that the volume of commentaries,
"Beowulf and the Critics," has been published. Are there plans to
publish the prose translation?
Thank you for your consideration.

Dr. Drout sent a swift and courteous response (I wonder how often the poor man is pestered about this.)

Dear Jane,

Unfortunately the Tolkien Estate is not moving forward with the translations project at this time. I hope that this will change, but I don't know when that might happen.


Mike Drout
Michael D.C. Drout

Wm. C.H. and Elsie D. Prentice Assoc. Prof. of English
Millicent C. McIntosh Fellow
Wheaton College
Norton, MA 02766

So no Tolkien translation, darnit! I can't imagine why they don't go ahead with the project. I would buy it!


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 13th, 2006 12:57 am (UTC)
I wonder how often the poor man is pestered about this.)

Are you serious? I bet you made the man's day.
"Honey, honey, guess what! Someone's heard of me! I got a letter from somebody who is NOT in academia! About Beowulf! I have a *gasp* fangirl!"

*chortling* Oh, it does my heart good. Literary geeks need love too.
Sep. 13th, 2006 01:07 am (UTC)
I am genuinely surprised that they don't publish it, especially after Seamus Heany's translation of Beowulf (published in 2000) was on the New York Times bestseller list.
There are references to this professor and the Tolkien Beowulf on LOTR websites, so I suspect he gets his share of fanmail. Hee!
Sep. 13th, 2006 01:17 am (UTC)
Wasn't the guy who did the Elvish translations, David Salo, originally an Elvish-language fanboy who (maybe I'm garbling the story) just showed up on Peter Jackson's doorstep one day? (If I am garbling the story, I hope he doesn't read your journal).
Sep. 13th, 2006 01:21 am (UTC)
I don't know, but that sounds about right for PJ. I am sure that he doesn't read my journal. :-D
Sep. 13th, 2006 01:31 am (UTC)
I am sure that he doesn't read my journal. :-D
You never know! He might google himself someday. I can just imagine the wankery: I am not a fanboy! I am a Serious Scholar! Just like the guy who invented the Klingon language (*Ann ducks from onslaught of rotten vegetables thrown by ramdomly-googling Elvish scholars*)

(Yes, "Randomly Googling Elvish Scholars" does sound like a great name for a band. Remember you heard it here first!)
Sep. 13th, 2006 02:04 am (UTC)
I've heard the Estate are fiendishly protective of his work and will only let one or two scholars at a time work on the papers, which may be why they're stuck.

But also, when I did my Uni access year in '96, we did middle-english including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I got excited because I thought I could use Tolkien's translation, but the lecturer, an Oxford Anglo-Saxon scholar was rather dubious about it - and frankly, she was right - it's not a very good translation. At least, it doesn't read very well. Perhaps this is the hold up with Beowulf - they don't want to tarnish the Prof's image.
Sep. 13th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
I also wondered if the Beowulf translation was incomplete or a hash of scribbled notes. I thought that some of his ME translations were still held in high regard, specifically "The Pearl." Though it is also possible that that one doesn't get translated often. :-P But Beowulf translations are legion.
Sep. 13th, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
What a shame the Tolkien EState don't seem interested in publishing. Let us hope that one day they will change their mind.
Sep. 14th, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)
Just testing an e-mail account.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )