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Tolkien's The Story of Kullervo to be published this fall

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J.R.R. Tolkien's The Story of Kullervo, an unfinished retelling of a Finnish myth from very early in the author and academic's career, will posthumously hit shelves in a stand-alone edition for the first time this fall.

The Story of Kullervo

The Story of Kullervo is Tolkien's retelling of The Kullervo Cycle, one section of the Kalevala, a 19th-century work of epic poetry based on Finnish folklore. The pre-Christian mythology of Northern Europe was the writer's area of expertise and fascination, and he spoke often about how the details of Middle-earth were born out of a desire to recreate the thrill he felt when encountering those stories for the first time. Begun while he was in college in 1914 and struggling with the stigma of being a young man who hadn't immediately enlisted, Kullervo was never finished and, until now, has never been published as its own volume.

There's special interest in The Story of Kullervo for fans of Middle-earth, outside of mere completionism: The Kullervo Cycle was the inspiration for one of the more complete and novel-like sections of The Silmarillion. That is, a section of the posthumously published legends of the creation and pre-history of Middle-earth before The Hobbit.

The story of Túrin Turambar, a prideful and ill-fated hero, was Tolkien's way of incorporating Kullervo into his world directly. Both stories involve a hero adopted into a house where they are unjustly bullied and eventually wreck a bloody death on their tormentor, not to mention the hero unknowingly seducing his own sister and the whole thing wrapping itself up with suicide.

HarperCollins will publish The Story of Kullervo in the United Kingdom on Aug. 27 and in the United States on Oct. 27.