Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf

"We are companions of Hygelac's table; Beowulf is my name" (277-78).
Lo! I've been reading Tolkien's new old translation of Beowulf. When I received the volume I immediately liked the design and feel of the book.

Something I didn't initially realize is that all the drawings in this volume are from The Professor's own hand. He painted more than word pictures.

Grendel graces the cover of the book (in our heated discussion about the ostensive referent of the depicted creature, it was impossible for me to convince Kate that it wasn't a "snake lizard"):

On the title page, the epic battle rages on the margins:

Two drawing's of Grendel's mere grace the back dust jacket and back cover:

The editors give the details (xiv):

"The four illustrations that are reproduced as part of this book are all the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Beneath the painting of the dragon on the front cover he wrote these words from Beowulf, line 2561, hringbogan heorte gefysed, which he translated as '(now was) the heart of the coiling beast stirred (to come out to fight)' (2153-54). The drawing on the back cover is of Grendel's mere: the words wudu wyrtum faest that appear beneath this are from Beowulf, line 1364; in the translation (1136-39) 'It is not far hence . . . that that mere lies, over which there hang rimy thickets, and a wood clinging by its roots overshadows the water.' Another drawing of the mere, made at the same time (1928), is reproduced on the rear flap. The drawing on the first page of this book, showing a dragon attacking a warrior, was done in the same year."
Thus bemourned the Geatish folk their master's fall, comrades of his hearth, crying that he was ever of the kings of earth of men most generous and to men most gracious, to his people most tender and for praise most eager" (2662-65).

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