The Battle of Maldon. HarC, 2023

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HarperCollins, 2023. 1st edition/1st impression. Hardback.

The first ever standalone presentation of one of J.R.R. Tolkien's most important poetic dramas, that explores timely themes such as the nature of heroism and chivalry during war, and which features unpublished and never-before-seen texts and drafts. In 991 AD, vikings attacked an Anglo-Saxon defence-force led by their duke, Beorhtnoth, resulting in brutal fighting along the river Blackwater, near Maldon in Essex.

The attack is widely considered one of the defining conflicts of tenth-century England, and is immortalised in the poem, The Battle of Maldon. Written shortly after the battle, the poem survives only as a 325-line fragment, but its value to today is incalculable. 

Tolkien considered The Battle of Maldon 'the last surviving fragment of ancient English heroic minstrelsy'. It would inspire him to compose, during the 1930s, his own dramatic verse-dialogue, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son, which imagines the aftermath of the great battle when two of Beorhtnoth's retainers come to retrieve their duke's body. Leading Tolkien scholar, Peter Grybauskas, presents for the first time Tolkien's own prose translation of The Battle of Maldon together with the definitive treatment of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth and its accompanying essays; also included and never before published is the lecture, 'The Tradition of Versification in Old English'.

Illuminated with insightful notes and commentary, he offers a definitive critical edition of these works, and argues compellingly that, Beowulf excepted, The Battle of Maldon may well have been 'the Old English poem that most influenced Tolkien's fiction', most dramatically within the pages of The Lord of the Rings.