Bringing J.R.R. Tolkien Back: ‘Hobbit’ And ‘LotR’ Rare Prequel Story To Be Published [Update]

HarperCollins is bringing J.R.R. Tolkien back all the way to the “First Age” of the Lord of the Rings universe, according to the Daily Dot. As the voracious reading masses devour new finds, first by Harper Lee, then by Dr. Seuss, an unfinished story by J.R.R. Tolkien that pre-dates The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is set to hit U.K. bookstores on August 27. The American release is a month later, on October 27.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien did not complete this dark story, which he based on the Finnish epic poem “The Kalevala.” The unfinished work of prose is called The Story of Kullervo. The August U.K. release will occur more than a hundred years since the work was originally written. Tolkien, posthumously considered a major scholar of the English language, began The Story of Kullervo at Oxford in 1914 when he was 22-years-old and studying philology at Oxford, per Vulture.

Amazon lists the book with the following description.

“The world first publication of a previously unknown work of fantasy by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the powerful story of a doomed young man who is sold into slavery and who 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.

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 cruelest of fates.”

Tolkien referred to The Story of Kullervo as “the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own,” and he called it “a major matter in the legends of the First Age.”

The “First Age” might strike a cord of memory for Tolkien book and/or movie fans. It is the “Third Age” in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place.

According to Harper Collins, Tolkien’s Kullervo is the “clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion.” The Silmarillion is a complicated book published by J.R.R.’s son, Christopher, in cooperation with select fantasy authors extrapolating content from the late J.R.R.’s notes. The massive work of Middle-Earth histories was fictitiously translated from Elvish into three volumes of written text by the Hobbit Bilbo.

The Story of Kullervo is not part of The Silmarillion and is being marketed as a completely unknown story. That is not entirely accurate, as it was published in 2010 within one of the volumes of the Tolkien Studies, an obscure journal for Tolkien scholars, according to the Daily Dot.

It is a relatively unknown story, and a significant read for Tolkien addicts. Famed Tolkien biographer John Garth offered his expert knowledge to the Sunday Times, stating that The Story of Kullervo “led to [Tolkien’s] Elvish languages for Middle-Earth.”

Garth added that this book is key to J.R.R. “inventing languages of his own for later works.” However, Tolkien “deliberately never completed it.”

The HarperCollins release, which the publishing company is calling a “foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world,” will feature author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source work, The Kalevala.

Ninety-year-old Christopher Tolkien has been very vocal in his dislike for Peter Jackson’s blockbuster movie adaptations of his father’s work. Therefore, it is impossible to say whether The Story of Kullervo or features of The Silmarillion will make it to the big screen.

Update: originally stated that HarperCollins will be publishing the U.S. edition this October. In actuality, as reported by Vulture,”HarperCollins is publishing the overseas edition this fall. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing the U.S. edition next spring.” The Kindle edition will be available internationally on August 27.

[Image by Jeff Hitchcock (Flickr: Butterfly Catcher) / CC BY 2.0 / Wikimedia Commons]