He wrote it when he was just 22. Now, a century later, a fantasy work by J.R.R. Tolkien is finally to be published, telling the story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and swears revenge on the magician who killed his father. Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.
The Story of Kullervo is the title of J.R.R. Tolkien’s reworking of one of the Kalevala stories. In a 1914 letter to Edith Bratt, Tolkien mentions that he is “trying to turn one of the stories [from the Kalevala] — which is really a very great story and most tragic – into a short story”. Humphrey Carpenter notes that “‘The Story of Kullervo’, was never finished, but proved to be the germ of the story of Túrin Turambar in The Silmarillion”
“The germ of my attempt to write legends of my own to fit my private languages was the tragic tale of the hapless Kullervo in the Finnish Kalevala. It remains a major matter in the legends of the First Age (which I hope to publish as The Silmarillion)”― J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 257
Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo – published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala – is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.
Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruellest of fates.
Praise for J.R.R. Tolkien:
‘One marvels anew at the depth, breadth and persistence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s labour. No one sympathetic to his aims – the invention of a secondary universe – will want to miss this chance to be present at the creation.’
Publishers Weekly —
Published by Harper Collins