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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

Автор J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun

Автор J.R.R. Tolkien

оценки:
4/5 (2 оценки)
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128 страниц
1 час
Издатель:
Издано:
7 нояб. 2017 г.
ISBN:
9781328834515
Формат:
Книга

Описание

Unavailable for more than seventy years, this early but important work is published for the first time with Tolkien’s "Corrigan" poems and other supporting material, including a prefatory note by Christopher Tolkien.

Set ‘In Britain’s land beyond the seas’ during the Age of Chivalry, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun tells of a childless Breton Lord and Lady (the ‘Aotrou’ and ‘Itroun’ of the title) and the tragedy that befalls them when Aotrou seeks to remedy their situation with the aid of a magic potion obtained from a corrigan, or malevolent fairy. When the potion succeeds and Itroun bears twins, the corrigan returns seeking her fee, and Aotrou is forced to choose between betraying his marriage and losing his life.

Coming from the darker side of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, together with the two shorter ‘Corrigan’ poems (which lead up to it and are also included in this volume), were the outcome of a comparatively short but intense period in Tolkien's life when he was deeply engaged with Celtic, and particularly Breton, myth and legend.

Originally written in 1930 and long out of print, this early but seminal work is an important addition to the non-Middle-earth portion of his canon and should be set alongside The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur and The Story of Kullervo. Like these works, it belongs to a small but important corpus of his ventures into ‘real-world’ mythologies, each of which in its own way would be a formative influence on his own legendarium.

Edited with notes and commentary by Verlyn Flieger and a prefatory note on the text by Christopher Tolkien.

Издатель:
Издано:
7 нояб. 2017 г.
ISBN:
9781328834515
Формат:
Книга

Об авторе

J.R.R. TOLKIEN (1892–1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.


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The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun - J.R.R. Tolkien

TOLKIEN

INTRODUCTION

Coming from the darker side of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination, The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, as well as the two shorter poems that precede and lead up to it, are important additions to the non-Middle-earth portions of his canon and should be set alongside his other retellings of existing myth and legend, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur and The Story of Kullervo. While Tolkien’s title makes no reference to the ‘beautiful fay’ that is the epigraph for this volume – focusing instead on the Lord (‘Aotrou’) and Lady (‘Itroun’) who are her victims – the character plays a part in several of Tolkien’s poems in his middle years. In addition to the Lay, she appears in ‘Ides Ælfscýne’ (Elf-bright Lady), one of his contributions to the Songs For The Philologists, a collection privately printed in 1936. Here an elf-maiden beguiles a mortal man into fairyland; when he returns fifty years later, all his friends are dead. Although Tolkien’s poem is in Old English, the character is a commonly recurring one in Celtic folklore, the seductive otherworld female who lures a mortal man.

In the Lay she represents a particular subset of this type, a continental Celtic female fairy called a corrigan, malevolent, sometimes seductive, whose dangerous attraction embodies both the lure and terror, the ‘fear of the beautiful fay’ of my epigraph. The corrigan figures prominently in all the poems in the present volume, moving from behind the scenes in the first poem, ‘The Corrigan’ I, based on a Breton ballad, to take centre stage in ‘The Corrigan’ II, derived from a Breton lay. She becomes an increasingly ominous presence in the two longer versions that Tolkien developed out of ‘The Corrigan’ II. The sequence charts her increasingly powerful presence as, poem by poem, she takes an ever more active role in the lives of human beings. And finally she foreshadows the greatest and best-known of Tolkien’s magical, mysterious ladies of the forest, one also linked to a fountain and a phial: the beautiful and terrible Lady of the Golden Wood, Tolkien’s Elven Queen, Galadriel, of The Lord of the Rings.

All the poems in this volume are the products of a comparatively short but intense period in Tolkien’s life when he was deeply engaged with Celtic languages and mythologies. All the poems derive to a greater or lesser degree from a single source: Theodore Claude Henri Hersart de la Villemarqué’s dual-language (Breton and French) folklore collection, Barzaz-Breiz: Chants Populaire de la Bretagne, first published in 1839 and reprinted in 1840, 1845, 1846, and 1857. Villemarqué’s work was a part of the nineteenth-century folklore movement in Europe and the British Isles, a last-minute effort to capture and preserve the indigenous folk and fairy tales and ballads that were even then rapidly disappearing. What the Grimms’ Kinder- und Hausmärchen did for Germany, the Child collection of English and Scottish Popular Ballads and Percy’s Reliques of Ancient Poetry did for Britain, and Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala did for Finland, Villemarqué intended Barzaz-Breiz to do for Brittany (and, it might be added, Tolkien wanted his ‘Silmarillion’ legendarium to do, imaginatively, for England). This was to recover (or, in Tolkien’s case, supply) a folk tradition that would contribute to and validate a cultural identity. Particularly in the cases of the Grimms and Lönnrot the underlying effort was not just to preserve the stories but to discover their lore, and especially their language, the often archaic regional vocabulary or dialect containing the remains of a lost or submerged mythology and worldview, the roots of a native culture.

So it was with Villemarqué. Although Brittany had been a part of France since 1532, it was the Breton identity celtique of the anciens bardes, as well as the Breton language, that he sought to preserve, and so he was careful to note the regional sources and indigenous dialects for his material, chiefly Léon, Cornouaille, and Tréguier. Immensely popular when it was first published, the Chants Populaire was immediately translated into German, Italian, and Polish. An English translation by Tom Taylor was published in 1865 as Ballads and Songs of Brittany. Villemarqué was later accused, as were Lönnrot and the Grimms, of tampering with the originals, of ‘improving’ on the sources. Although the accusations are to some extent true, the underlying myth and folklore elements are authentic, and such accusations have not markedly reduced the popularity of the works in question. Barzaz-Breiz has been continuously in print since it first appeared.

Tolkien owned the 1846 two-volume edition, and his signature, John Reuel Tolkien, and the date of purchase, 1922, are written on the flyleaf of each volume. They are listed in a catalogue of his books now held in the English Faculty Library in Oxford, which shows over a hundred entries for Celtic books, histories, grammars, glosses, and dictionaries, as well as primary mythological texts. Many of these, like the Villemarqué, were purchased in the early 1920s. Tolkien was also in this period working on the stories of his own mythology, so it is not surprising that one activity should influence the other, the Celtic content of his studies affecting the form and subject matter of his creative work. Among other efforts, he was at work on The Lay of Leithian, a long poem in rhymed octosyllabic couplets that tells the great love story of Beren and Lúthien, a story whose textual history has been edited and published by Christopher Tolkien in The Lays of Beleriand.

Christopher’s Note on the Text of Aotrou and Itroun (see here) cites the ‘fair copy’ on which, as he writes, ‘my father wrote at the end a date: Sept. 23, 1930. This is notable,’ Christopher continues, ‘for dates on the fair copy manuscript of The Lay of Leithian run consecutively for a week from September 25, 1930 (against line 3220), while the previous date on the manuscript is November 1929 (against line 3031, apparently referring forwards).2 Clearly then

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  • (4/5)
    Another “from the depths of Tolkien's file cabinet” piece, offered up to tempt fans by Christopher Tolkien and, this time, the Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger. This one is, indeed, slight, but still, as an “appetizer” while I wait for the publication of Beren and Luthien next year, it did not disappoint. Lots of editorial filler here, as usual, but the title poem has that distant, high sounding, archaic thing going that Tolkien fans find so satisfying. The rhythm and the language are unmistakeable, and the romance of noble (if flawed) lovers tragically doomed would be nicely suited for a bard to declaim to an audience of lords and ladies in front of a roaring fire, with dogs rummaging for scraps in the rushes and distracted pages slopping wine about. See what Tolkien does to me? Sigh. Still, it's a fine story, and the other two poems included, “The Corrigan” and “The Corrigan II,” really do, as intended, show us how Tolkien adapted pieces of ballad, folklore, and myth to suit his ideas. The first two parts of the book, up to page 55, are worth reading. The second half of the book is pretty much bald-faced filler. We get the poems again, in various drafts, and comments on really minor changes. I suppose fifty-five pages just seemed to short to publish as a “book,” but it would have been more honest. I enjoyed this, and the value added by the Corrigan poems and Flieger's commentary was enough to make me glad that I didn't just read the PDF of The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun which is available, free, online.
  • (4/5)
    Two are better than one only if the lesser item does not detract from the better."The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun" was published in a minor journal early in J. R. R. Tolkien's career, and then left to wither. This was truly sad, because "Aotrou" is a work in the style of the Breton Lay -- a kind of romance associated with Brittany, but still a medieval romance, and The Lord of the Rings is a medieval romance on a grand scale. "Aotrou" is, in a very real sense, practice for The Lord of the Rings.The Breton Lays were not in Breton; rather, they were matters of Brittany; the best and most famous are the French works of Marie de France. But the form came into English, and they gave us two of the three best English romances, "Sir Orfeo" (another piece Tolkien worked on, note) and Chaucer's "The Franklin's Tale" (from which Tolkien adopted a tag as his motto). The Breton Lays are vital to understanding Tolkien, and "Aotrou" is his one original work in the field.It is a noble addition to a small genre; most scholars count only eight Breton Lays in Middle English. It is also a fascinating addition -- because Breton Lays usually end well, and "Aoutrou" hardly does that -- Aoutrou and Itroun both end up dead, and their castle abandoned. And yet, there is a (limited) eucatastrophe: Aotrou, by rejecting to Corrigan, can save his soul if not his life.. I truly think "Aoutrou" an excellent piece of work. So, for the poem, give four and a half stars. And the inclusion of the "Corrigan Poems" is a nice addition.But, as another reviewer noted, a lot of the book is filler to turn a short poem into something publishable. That's not great, but what is depressing is how much Verlyn Flieger fails to add.Almost all the additional notes are based on Breton folktales. That files under "all well and good, but this is Tolkien." Tolkien sometimes retells tales (as when he translated "Beowulf" and modernized "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "Sir Orfeo") -- but usually he adapts. There is more to "Aotrou," and to the Corrigan poems, than is found in Taylor's Ballads and Songs of Brittany. The bibliography shows how little work Flieger did. She cites Katherine Briggs's The Vanishing People, but not the much more important Dictionary of British Folk-Tales or even Briggs's lesser work on fairies. She doesn't cite Francis James Child's The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, which are vital sources for fairy-ballads we know Tolkien used -- "Tomas Rymer" (Child #37), "Tam Lin" (Child #39); also "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" (Child #40) and "King Orfeo" (Child #19) and "Willie's Lady" (Child #6) -- the first Corrigan poem looks to me almost like a composite of "The Queen of Elfan's Nourice" and "Willie's Lady" (although he used a terminal bob that is more like the romances than the ballads; an analysis of the form of the poems, compared to medieval works, would have been useful). And as for calling fairies "fair folk" when they are ugly -- wouldn't you want to butter up powerful people who weren't very attractive?Tolkien knew all of this; he was a great folklorist as well as a great linguist. To understand him, you have to know the folklore -- all the folklore, not just the immediate source. In this case, not just the Breton-language sources, but the Breton Lays (at minimum, Marie de France plus, in English, "The Franklin's Tale" and "Sir Orfeo" and "Sir Launfal" and "Emaré"; the others aren't as good and can perhaps be skipped), and the supernatural ballads (especially the Scots ballads), and the Grimm collection, and (Tolkien being Tolkien) the Kalevala. Since what Flieger produced as commentary is what I could produce with half my library tied behind my back, that part gets two and a half stars, giving an average rating for the book of three and a half.The bottom line: The Tolkien part of this book is great. But it's sad to pay $20 for 18 pages of "Aoutrou" and then have to do one's own research on the rest....