The translation of Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien was an early work, very distinctive in its way, completed in 1926: he returned to it later to make hasty corrections, but it seems he never considered its publication.
This edition is twofold, as there is an illuminating commentary on the text of the poem by the translator himself, in the written form of a series of lectures given in Oxford in the 1930s; and a substantial selection has been made from these lectures, to form a commentary on the translation in this book as well.
From his creative attention to detail in these lectures comes a sense of the immediacy and clarity of his vision.
It is as if he had entered the imaginary past: standing next to Beowulf and his men shaking their shirts as they stranded their ship on the Danish coast, listening to Beowulf's growing anger at Unferth's mockery, or watching in awe the terrible hand of Grendel placed under Heorot's roof.
But the commentary to this book also includes much of those lectures in which, although always anchored in the text, he expressed his broader perceptions.
Look closely at the dragon that would slay Beowulf's snuffling in bewildered rage and wounded greed when he discovers the theft of the cup'; but he refutes the idea that this is'a mere story of a treasure','just another dragon's tale'.
He goes to the lines that speak of the burial of the golden things long ago, and observes that it is "the feeling for the treasure itself, this sad story" that raises it to another level.
All this is grim, tragic, sinister, curiously real.
The "treasure" is not only a wealth of luck that will allow the one who finds it to have a good time, or to marry the princess.
It is full of history, which takes the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of the imagination.
Sellic Spell, a "wonderful tale", is a story written by Tolkien that suggests what might have been the form and style of an ancient English folk tale from Beowulf, in which there was no association with the "historical legends" of the northern kingdoms.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, licenciado en lengua y literatura inglesa, profesor y escritor, se incorporó al ejército británico de joven y participó en la Primera Guerra Mundial.
Creador de una teoría crítica de la fantasía, su interés por el lenguaje y los mitos le llevó a inventar lenguajes y personajes heroicos, que más tarde retrataría profusamente en gran parte de su producción literaria, en la que El Hobbit y El Señor de los Anillos brillan con luz propia, obras que se han convertido en verdaderos clásicos de la literatura épica y fantástica, perdurando en el tiempo y con múltiples generaciones de lectores.