The Story of Kullervo

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Story of Kullervo
Tolkien kullervo.jpg
Front cover of the 2015 hardback edition; detail from painting "The Land of Pohja" by Tolkien.
EditorVerlyn Flieger
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
Verlyn Flieger
Cover artistJ.R.R. Tolkien
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectFinnish mythology
Literary analysis
Published27 August 2015 (U.K.)
PublisherHarperCollins (U.K.)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (U.S.)
Preceded byBeowulf: A Translation and Commentary 
Followed byA Secret Vice 

The Story of Kullervo is a collection of several texts, including a prose version of the Kullervo cycle in Elias Lönnrot's Karelian and Finnish epic poem Kalevala, written by J. R. R. Tolkien when he was an undergraduate at Exeter College, Oxford, from 1914 to 1915. That was an unsettled period for the author and this is thought to be reflected in the story's dark subject matter.[1]

It also marks "the first time that J. R. R. Tolkien, who had been a poet until then, began writing prose".[2] Known as a source (among others) for Túrin Turambar, "The Story of Kullervo" was the centre of Tolkien's efforts in 1914, as he was "trying to turn one of the stories [of the Kalevala] — which is really a very great story and most tragic – into a short story" (Letters, October 1914, #1). As well as Tolkien's treatment of the Kullervo cycle, the book also contains three essays: two by Tolkien from the same period and the third by Flieger – the two essays by Tolkien are (as is the story) accompanied by notes and commentary by the editor.

The first of Tolkien's essays (On The Kalevala or Land of Heroes) was written in 1914 and was delivered as a talk to the Corpus Christi College 'Sundial' club at Oxford in November 1914 and again at the Exeter College Essay Club in February 1915; his second essay (The Kalevala), a revised version of the first, is unfinished and is unknown to have ever been delivered. Verlyn Flieger suggests a date of circa 1919 for the revised essay; she notes but disagrees with Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond's estimate of 1921–24.

The main parts of the book are:

  • The Story of Kullervo
    • Notes and commentary
  • On 'The Kalevala' or Land of Heroes
    • Notes and commentary
  • The Kalevala
    • Notes and commentary
  • Tolkien, The Kalevala, and 'The Story of Kullervo' by Verlyn Flieger

The Story of Kullervo was edited by Verlyn Flieger, published in 2010 in Tolkien Studies, and republished in book form in August 2015 by HarperCollins.[3]


  1. ^ "The Story of Kullervo | Quadrapheme". Archived from the original on 25 December 2015. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  2. ^ Vincent Ferre, quoted in "JRR Tolkien's first story is 'undeniably his darkest work' say experts". The Telegraph. 26 August 2015.
  3. ^ Oliveira Ferreira, Eduardo (28 July 2015). "The Story of Kullervo and the Brazilian contribution to its publication". Tolkien Society. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
Works cited