The Story of Kullervo

Thanks to I discovered that a formerly unpublished Tolkien story came out last year and NO ONE TOLD ME.

Well its a thing. Its called The Story of Kullervo and it sounds pretty great. It has an almost 4 star review on Goodreads, so I hope its pretty good. I’m definitely going to try and get my hands on it to find out.

Its not set in Middle Earth, unfortunately, but I can survive that disappointment because of how excited I am just to read more Tolkien.

The world first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who swears revenge on the magician who killed his father.

Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.

Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates.

Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major matter in the legends of the First Age’. Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo – published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala – is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.


I almost called this post “Emergency Tolkien Appreciation Post” but given the fact that I was in the hospital last weekend I was afraid some people would see the word ’emergency’ and worry.


2 thoughts on “The Story of Kullervo

  1. I was lucky enough to get an e-ARC of this from Netgalley. I’m almost done with it; I just haven’t read the essay at the end (or, the two different drafts of one essay). I have to say, I’m a HUGE Tolkien fan, but I think this one is going to have trouble finding an audience. It assumes reader familiarity with the Kalevala, and I think that’s unreasonable. I know this one isn’t edited by Christopher Tolkien, so maybe it’s not fair to compare it to Beowulf and The Fall of Arthur. However, i think the recently released Tolkien books have been walking a fine line between appealing to an academic audience and a popular one, and The Story of Kullervo might just have gone over the line. I have a pretty strong background in literature, so I really like the academic bent of Beowulf and The Fall of Arthur, but I also think English readers are generally at least passingly familiar with, say, Arthurian legend. Not so much with Finnish classics.


    1. Oh! Thanks for letting me know, I’ll keep that in mind if I read it. I have read some of Tolkien’s non-Middle Earth works and enjoyed them, but I was a little surprised and worried when I saw that Christopher Tolkien wasn’t the editor. Thanks for your input!


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