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Tolkien’s fantasy tale to be published 100 years on

'The Story of Kullervo' was written when Tolkien was at Oxford in 1914 as a 22-year-old, though it was never completed.

 that 'The Story of Kullervo' was "the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own."(Source: Thinkstock Images)
‘The Story of Kullervo’ was “the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own.”(Source: Thinkstock Images)

A mystical orphan tale penned by JRR Tolkien, the author of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ books that have become popular film series, is set to be published over a 100 years after he wrote it.

‘The Story of Kullervo’ was written when Tolkien was at Oxford in 1914 as a 22-year-old, though it was never completed. It was his first piece of prose fiction.

It tells the story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and swears revenge on the magician who killed his father.

Tolkien alighted on the subject matter when he was studying Finnish grammar — he was a philologist — and was intrigued by the character Kullervo, a vengeful and misguided youth, from The Kalevala, a 19th-century Finnish epic, The Sunday Times reported.

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Kullervo is perhaps the darkest of all Tolkien’s characters, later called by the author “a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny”.

John Garth, a Tolkien biographer, was quoted as saying, “It’s a very important and significant book, but more for being vital in Tolkien’s development as a writer. Most crucially, it led to his Elvish languages for Middle-earth. So this book is key to him inventing languages of his own for later works. But, interestingly, he deliberately never completed it. He just knew he could write, but wanted to move on.”

Tolkien, whose The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books have become popular film series, admitted in letters, published in the early 1980s, that ‘The Story of Kullervo’ was “the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own.”

Tolkien’s Kullervo is also the clear ancestor of Turin Turambar, the tragic, incestuous hero of his tale The Silmarillion..

The Story of Kullervo, which is only a few thousand words long, will be brought out in August by HarperCollins, the publisher of his novels. The cover features one of Tolkien’s own illustrations.