|Author||J. R. R. Tolkien|
|Cover artist||Bill Sanderson|
|Genre||Alliterative verse epic|
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
|21 May 2013|
|Media type||Print (hardback); Kindle ebook|
978-0-007-48989-3 (deluxe edition)
|Preceded by||The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún|
|Followed by||Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary|
The Fall of Arthur is the title of an unfinished poem by J. R. R. Tolkien that is concerned with the legend of King Arthur. A first posthumous edition of the poem was published by HarperCollins in May 2013.
The poem is alliterative, extending to nearly 1,000 verses imitating the Old English Beowulf metre in Modern English, and inspired by high medieval Arthurian fiction. The historical setting of the poem is early medieval, both in form (using Germanic verse) and in content, showing Arthur as a Migration period British military leader fighting the Saxon invasion. At the same time, it avoids the high medieval aspects of the Arthurian cycle, such as the Grail and the courtly setting. The poem begins with a British "counter-invasion" to the Saxon lands (Arthur eastward in arms purposed).
Tolkien wrote the poem during the earlier part of the 1930s when he was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford. He abandoned it at some point after 1934, most likely in 1937 when he was occupied with preparing The Hobbit for publication. Its composition thus dates to shortly after The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (1930), a poem of 508 lines modelled on the Breton lay genre.
The poem had been abandoned for nearly 20 years in 1955, and the publication was complete of The Lord of the Rings when Tolkien expressed his wish to return to his "long poem" and complete it. But it remained unfinished, nonetheless.
Carpenter also cited a passage from the text of the poem, to make the point that it is one of the very few instances in Tolkien's expansive work where sexual passion is given explicit literary treatment, in this case Mordred's "unsated passion" for Guinever:
His bed was barren there black phantoms
of desire unsated and savage fury
in his brain had brooded till bleak morning
After Tolkien's death, his Arthurian poem would come to be one of the longest-awaited unedited works of his. According to John D. Rateliff, Rayner Unwin had announced plans to edit the poem as early as 1985, but the edition was postponed in favour of "more pressing projects" (such as The History of Middle-earth edited 1983–1996), answering the demand for background on Tolkien's legendarium more than his literary production in other areas.