Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Don't Bother Bin - The Fall of Arthur

by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien - 2 stars

It kills me that I'm doing this, it really does, but I can't let my being a fangirl blind me to the truth and so, here we are.

I've always been a voracious reader, and the more eagle-eyed among you will know that my drug of choice is fantasy (with a sprinkling of paranormal). Like many people, Lord of the Rings was my gateway drug. Most people I know read LOTR when they were growing up. Unlike most people, I was rather a late starter and so it wasn't until I was nearly 20, when NikNak passed me a copy of Fellowship of the Ring with an exasperated "I can't believe you've never read this", that my reading world opened up.

After yearly re-reads and losing myself in the many supplementary works of Tolkien, I've since moved on to other fantasy worlds, but LOTR will always remain my first love. So it should come as no surprise that, some time last week, I lost my shit when someone posted a link to this release. I'd had no idea it was in the offing, and sped on over to Amazon where I spunked away £9 for instant delivery to my Kindle. That's right, £9. And I still felt like The Dude.

I feel a little swindled, as it turns out that the long abandoned, unfinished and previously unreleased work only took up about 30% of the book, with the rest being essays and notes by his son Christopher, designed to shine a little light on and place the poem in context (and pad the book enough to justify the price - but a rant on the great Kindle Swindle is probably best left for another day).

Apparently an alliterative Old English poem, I wouldn't know one of those if it walked up and alliterated in my face, but I can say it was somewhat effective (when I understood it) - Arthur seems to be battling some desolate, wind-driven landscape in a foreign campaign while Guinevere (who's given short shrift for being such a tempting slut) is menaced by Mordred, who is trying to take over Arthur's kingdom. Meanwhile Lancelot sulks across the water, waiting for a summons from King or Queen that never comes. If the poem had been finished I imagine it would have made for a good telling of the back-end of the Arthur legend. But it's not finished, and so didn't really do much else for me.

Reading the other 70% felt a little like this:

While Christopher's contributions were helpful when it came to looking at the poem in the context of the Arthurian tradition, and the similarities between Avalon and Tol Eressea, when it came to the evolution of the poem it nearly sent me to sleep.

Oh well, one to learn from then....and I'll head to the library for any future releases from the Tolkien estate.

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