Friday, May 20, 2016

The Story of Kullervo (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The Story of Kullervo is the most recent release from the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. It is considered one of his earliest works and was never published until very recently. The book is approximately 200 pages long, but the actual story is only 40 pages. The remainder of the book is a lengthy introduction, notes and commentary, two different essays on "The Kalevala, and an essay on Tolkien and "Kullervo" by the editor Verlyn Flieger.

The actual "Story of Kullervo" was one of Tolkien's darker tales. His uncle was evil and murdered his father, before Kullervo was born, which sounds a bit like Hamlet to me. To make matters worse, his older siblings are also wicked towards Kullervo and try and kill him as well. In typical hero fashion, Kullervo plans revenge, but before he can exact that revenge, he is sold off and again horribly mistreated. Unfortunately, Kullervo is no hero. The story doesn't finish, but we are left with notes on the conclusion of the story. In a nutshell, Kullervo becomes more evil than his uncle ever was. There is a lot of killing, and Kullervo finally takes his own life "and finds the death he sought for."

You can definitely see elements of Tolkien in this writing, but reading through the story itself, you can see why it was never finished and took so long to be published. The essays by Tolkien and Flieger are something that should be read before reading the actual story. It provides background and context that will make you appreciate the story more. So should you buy this book? If you are a hardcore Tolkien fan who wants to own everything of his, then you'll buy this book regardless of what I say. If you are merely a semi-casual fan, wait until the book is around $15 (like it currently is on Amazon), because the book is not worth the list price of $25. Overall, I am glad I own this book, and I recommend it with reservations, but I am left wondering how many more unfinished stories of Tolkien we are going to see after this one.

This book was provided to me for free by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!