The Story of Kullervo is a first time release of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The introduction to The Story of Kullervo lets us know that the story itself was taken from Tolkien’s unfinished notes written somewhere around 1916. Tolkien was quite taken with the tales of the Finnish and this story is based on the Finnish folktale, The Kalevala.
A dark magician named Untamo kills his own brother out of hatred and takes his brother’s wife and children into his household to be his slaves. The two youngest children are Kullervo and Wanona. Kullervo’s evil uncle Untamo makes numerous attempts on his life, but Kullervo has a supernatural protector in form of his father’s dog, Musti. When Untamo fails in every attempt at killing Kullervo, he then sells him into slavery. Kullervo’s story is a dark and brooding tale of revenge and tragedy.
The story itself is only a small portion of the finished product. It is written in a beautiful prose befitting the work that Tolkien is best known for. It is clear that some of Tolkien’s later works consisted of ideas that were originally formed in the outline of the story of Kullervo. Kullervo’s story falls before that of Turin Turambar, whose story is told in Tolkien’s book, The Silmarillion.
The majority of the book consists of the introduction, Tolkien’s outlined notes and essays, the afterword and bibliography. This is yet another fascinating study on how Tolkien formed his ideas and executed them. A must-read for die-hard Tolkien fans but most others will probably only read about a quarter of the book, that which consists of the actual story.
I want to thank the publisher (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for providing me with the ARC through Netgalley for an honest review.