Oh, don’t worry, Python!Arthur, there’ll always be a special place in our hearts for you.
It’s long been known by Tolkien scholars that the professor worked on a version of the King Arthur legend, specifically about the last few days of the legendary king’s life. It’s mentioned by title in the work of biographer Humphrey Carter, and in several of Tolkien’s letters, but a version of it in any finished state has never come to light. Until now, that is, with HarperCollins bringing the epic to a bookstore near you.
The Guardian doesn’t have any specific information on where or how the manuscript was found, but all two-hundred pages of it will be released next May, with editing and commentary by who else but Christopher Tolkien. In terms of timeline, Tolkien’s work on The Fall of Arthur predates his conception of Middle-Earth and his work on The Hobbit. In it, Arthur and Gawain saddle up for war against Mordred, with the fate of all England at stake.
Before he became known as an author, Tolkien was probably most famous for being the world’s foremost expert on the old english epic of Beowulf, a verse epic from a time when the English language was a lot harder to rhyme in then now, and poetry generally alliterated instead. His Arthur looks to have been born partly out of his affection for such a way of writing. Tolkien fans will have to wait until next year to get their hands on this epic lay, but for now HarperCollins has leaked its first two sentences:
Arthur eastward in arms purposed
his war to wage on the wild marches,
over seas sailing to Saxon lands,
from the Roman realm ruin defending.
Thus the tides of time to turn backward
and the heathen to humble, his hope urged him,
that with harrying ships they should hunt no more
on the shining shores and shallow waters
of South Britain, booty seeking.
Look, I already made one pun on “lay” here, The Fall of Arthur. Don’t try and do it with booty.