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Tolkien & the Matter of Britain

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  • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
    I was reading some of John Rateliff s old blog posts this weekend and stumbled on one concerning TH White. I ve been rereading Mary Stewart s superb Merlin
    Message 1 of 6 , May 14 6:07 AM
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      I was reading some of John Rateliff's old blog posts this weekend and stumbled on one concerning TH White. I've been rereading Mary Stewart's superb Merlin trilogy, and starting White's own Book of Merlin and found John Rateliff's post as thought-provoking as ever. Particularly, I was struck by a comment he made, stating that Tolkien started to retell the Matter of Britain, and this exists in an unpublished manuscript? I don't recall anything in it in the published works I've read.

      Can anyone tell me more of this? As a huge Tolkien fan, and a huge fan of the Matter of Britain, I'd love to read this!
    • John Rateliff
      Hi Paul Glad you liked the post I was alluding to Tolkien s unfinished narrative poem THE FALL OF ARTHUR. Unfortunately, it s still unpublished, except for two
      Message 2 of 6 , May 14 7:35 PM
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        Hi Paul
           Glad you liked the post
           I was alluding to Tolkien's unfinished narrative poem THE FALL OF ARTHUR. Unfortunately, it's still unpublished, except for two tiny snippets in Humphrey Carpenter (see below).


        Here's a description of Mordred from the poem (Carpenter excerpt #1):

        His bed was barren;  there black phantoms

        of desire unsated  and savage fury

        in his brain had brooded  till bleak morning.



        and here's Tolkien's description of Guenevere (Carpenter excerpt #2):

         

                                lady ruthless,

        fair as fay-woman  and fell-minded,

        in the world walking for the woe of men.


        I think this last passage is particularly impressive.  Unfortunately, the whole poem's less than a thousand lines (Wayne & Christina's COMPANION & GUIDE gives its total as 954 lines).

        As for more about the work, in the piece I gave at Kalamazoo the year before last  I devoted several paragraphs (about 750 words) to a discussion of what we can tell about the poem from just the available bits. It's obvious, for example, that the 14th century ALLITERATIVE MORTE ARTHURE is among Tolkien's major sources for the poem. 

        Hope this helps

        --John R.


        On May 14, 2012, at 6:07 AM, Westermeyer GS11 Paul W wrote:
        I was reading some of John Rateliff's old blog posts this weekend and stumbled on one concerning TH White. I've been rereading Mary Stewart's superb Merlin trilogy, and starting White's own Book of Merlin and found John Rateliff's post as thought-provoking as ever. Particularly, I was struck by a comment he made, stating that Tolkien started to retell the Matter of Britain, and this exists in an unpublished manuscript? I don't recall anything in it in the published works I've read.

        Can anyone tell me more of this? As a huge Tolkien fan, and a huge fan of the Matter of Britain, I'd love to read this!

      • Mike Foster
        Dear John & Paul, Thanks to you for sending this. Missed Ka’zooing with you all this weekend past. Ph.Difications are good, however. They gladden moms &
        Message 3 of 6 , May 14 8:05 PM
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          Dear John & Paul,
          Thanks to you for sending this.
           
          Missed Ka’zooing with you all this weekend past.  Ph.Difications are good, however.  They gladden moms & dads.
           
          Next year for sure, as Cub fans always say.
           
          Cheers,
          Mike
           
          Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 9:35 PM
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien & the Matter of Britain
           
           

          Hi Paul
             Glad you liked the post
             I was alluding to Tolkien's unfinished narrative poem THE FALL OF ARTHUR. Unfortunately, it's still unpublished, except for two tiny snippets in Humphrey Carpenter (see below).
           
           
          Here's a description of Mordred from the poem (Carpenter excerpt #1):
           

          His bed was barren;  there black phantoms

          of desire unsated  and savage fury

          in his brain had brooded  till bleak morning.

           
           
          and here's Tolkien's description of Guenevere (Carpenter excerpt #2):

                                  lady ruthless,

          fair as fay-woman  and fell-minded,

          in the world walking for the woe of men.

           
          I think this last passage is particularly impressive.  Unfortunately, the whole poem's less than a thousand lines (Wayne & Christina's COMPANION & GUIDE gives its total as 954 lines).
           
          As for more about the work, in the piece I gave at Kalamazoo the year before last  I devoted several paragraphs (about 750 words) to a discussion of what we can tell about the poem from just the available bits. It's obvious, for example, that the 14th century ALLITERATIVE MORTE ARTHURE is among Tolkien's major sources for the poem.
           
          Hope this helps
           
          --John R.
           
           
          On May 14, 2012, at 6:07 AM, Westermeyer GS11 Paul W wrote:
          I was reading some of John Rateliff's old blog posts this weekend and stumbled on one concerning TH White. I've been rereading Mary Stewart's superb Merlin trilogy, and starting White's own Book of Merlin and found John Rateliff's post as thought-provoking as ever. Particularly, I was struck by a comment he made, stating that Tolkien started to retell the Matter of Britain, and this exists in an unpublished manuscript? I don't recall anything in it in the published works I've read.

          Can anyone tell me more of this? As a huge Tolkien fan, and a huge fan of the Matter of Britain, I'd love to read this!

        • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
          ... Thank you for the explanation (and sorry for the belated response!). It sounds like there is a great deal of such miscellanea available still to be
          Message 4 of 6 , May 22 12:40 PM
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            > Posted by: "John Rateliff" sacnoth@... sacnoth32
            > Date: Mon May 14, 2012 7:35 pm ((PDT))
            > I think this last passage is particularly impressive. Unfortunately,
            > the whole poem's less than a thousand lines (Wayne & Christina's
            > COMPANION & GUIDE gives its total as 954 lines).
            >
            > As for more about the work, in the piece I gave at Kalamazoo the year
            > before last I devoted several paragraphs (about 750 words) to a
            > discussion of what we can tell about the poem from just the available
            > bits. It's obvious, for example, that the 14th century ALLITERATIVE
            > MORTE ARTHURE is among Tolkien's major sources for the poem.

            Thank you for the explanation (and sorry for the belated response!). It sounds like there is a great deal of such miscellanea available still to be published, I really hope it is, I really enjoyed the Sigurd book and would love to see more of his translations and other works published in such editions.

            Returning to the Matter of Britain, I wonder what folk on the list think of Mary Stewart's Merlin series. I've just finished rereading the series, which I've always really, really enjoyed - it reminds me in many ways of Tolkien and seems like the sort of work he might have liked (especially since he expressed admiration for Mary Renault's work).

            Paul Westermeyer
            paul.westermeyer@...

            “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
            J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring_
          • Gerry Blair
            PaulI agree entirely about Mary Stewart I read these way back in the late 1960 s, after having them recommended to me by my mom. This was before I had read
            Message 5 of 6 , May 24 4:00 AM
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              Paul
              I agree entirely about Mary Stewart I read these way back in the late 1960's, after having them recommended to me by my mom. This was before I had read Tolkien, the descriptions of Merlin's experiences in the Crystal Cave are something I remember as really impressing me. I believe when I read Tolkien it was because I hoped this would be something else that could have the same kind of enchanting power as the Merlin series, and it did. Over the past few years I keep thinking how I should reread these books and now you have given me another reason to do so.Thanks for the reminder.
              Gerry

              --- On Tue, 5/22/12, Westermeyer GS11 Paul W <paul.westermeyer@...> wrote:

              From: Westermeyer GS11 Paul W <paul.westermeyer@...>
              Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien & the Matter of Britain
              To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 12:40 PM

               

              > Posted by: "John Rateliff" sacnoth@... sacnoth32
              > Date: Mon May 14, 2012 7:35 pm ((PDT))
              > I think this last passage is particularly impressive. Unfortunately,
              > the whole poem's less than a thousand lines (Wayne & Christina's
              > COMPANION & GUIDE gives its total as 954 lines).
              >
              > As for more about the work, in the piece I gave at Kalamazoo the year
              > before last I devoted several paragraphs (about 750 words) to a
              > discussion of what we can tell about the poem from just the available
              > bits. It's obvious, for example, that the 14th century ALLITERATIVE
              > MORTE ARTHURE is among Tolkien's major sources for the poem.

              Thank you for the explanation (and sorry for the belated response!). It sounds like there is a great deal of such miscellanea available still to be published, I really hope it is, I really enjoyed the Sigurd book and would love to see more of his translations and other works published in such editions.

              Returning to the Matter of Britain, I wonder what folk on the list think of Mary Stewart's Merlin series. I've just finished rereading the series, which I've always really, really enjoyed - it reminds me in many ways of Tolkien and seems like the sort of work he might have liked (especially since he expressed admiration for Mary Renault's work).

              Paul Westermeyer
              paul.westermeyer@...

              “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
              J. R. R. Tolkien, _The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring_


            • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
              ... It really is an excellent series, though I can see how it could be problematic for Tolkien. The latter legends are heavily influenced by the French, and
              Message 6 of 6 , May 24 6:28 AM
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                > Posted by: "Gerry Blair" gerryblair68@... gerryblair68
                > Date: Thu May 24, 2012 4:00 am ((PDT))
                >
                > Paul I agree entirely about Mary Stewart I read these way back in the
                > late 1960's, after having them recommended to me by my mom. This was
                > before I had read Tolkien, the descriptions of Merlin's experiences in
                > the Crystal Cave are something I remember as really impressing me.
                > I believe when I read Tolkien it was because I hoped this would be
                > something else that could have the same kind of enchanting power as the
                > Merlin series, and it did. Over the past few years I keep thinking how
                > I should reread these books and now you have given me another reason to
                > do so.Thanks for the reminder.Gerry

                It really is an excellent series, though I can see how it could be problematic for Tolkien. The latter legends are heavily influenced by the French, and when you try to sweep back to origins, then the Anglo-saxons become the 'horde from the east.' Stewart very much presents the British, and especially the Romano-British as those 'sunk into the soil' of Britain.
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