Monday, June 17, 2013

The Fall of Arthur: The Platypus Reads Part CCXVI

The well of Tolkien's unpublished writings seems never to run dry.  This May, Christopher brought the bucket up once more with a short but game-changing fragment.  That fragment is a poem in alliterative verse called The Fall of Arthur.

The Fall of Arthur, abandoned some time around 1937, runs some forty pages detailing Arthur's campaigns against the Germanic tribes, Mordred's treachery, Lancelot's remorse, Guinever's pride, and the intial assault on the beaches as Arthur returns to reclaim his crown.  The overall effect is breath-taking and I whole-heartedly agree with Christopher that this is one of the few scripta minora whose unfinished state is a real loss.  What there is is excellent and the supplementary essays provided by Christopher only increased my appreciation of the work.

So what's game-changing about this new piece.  After reading the fragment and Tolkien's further notes on its planned development, we can now safely say that Tolkien did not reject the Arthur legends as "too French" for his mythology.  Indeed, knowing that he was already weaving the matter of Britain into the greater fabric of the Silmarillion should cause us to re-evaluate the apparent Arthurian resonances in The Lord of the Rings with renewed critical vigor.  Frodo does pass to Avalon.  Aragorn is Lancelot, Lancelot as he should have been, come back to Middle Earth at the turning of the tide.  Am I not making sense?  Tolle lege!

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