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The Fall of Arthur

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  5,853 ratings  ·  418 reviews
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The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur, king of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of Old English alliterative meter, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedit ...more
Hardcover, 233 pages
Published May 23rd 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  5,853 ratings  ·  418 reviews

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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
I've read a great many of Tolkien’s works, many of which were published posthumously. This does not always detract from the value of the work. The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien are both still fantastic pieces of writing despite the fact that Tolkien never really finished them.

However, they were completely drafted; the entire stories were told and they just needed a final polish and an edit: they were almost ready. Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur was far from ready. What we have here
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Who wrote this blurb? Seriously?

"The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain" -- What's his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Chopped liver?

"...his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre..." -- Old English metre? Not from what I've seen. Where're the half-lines? Not sure the stresses work either.

I'm sure it is a wonderful, skillful work, but more likely in Middle English alliterati
It wasn't a book that I really enjoyed much.


I was really eager to read it since I found so awesome the idea of reading a "new" book by JRR Tolkien.

Something that I'd never think that it could be possible.

Of course, I know that it was thanks to the editing of his son, Christopher Tolkien.

But still, it was a "new" book by Tolkien.


I found interesting some information of the legend of King Arthur in the further notes by Tolkien's son,
Jul 16, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Arthurian fans, Tolkien fans, people that love notes
Shelves: poetry
This is the first time I read Tolkien. I'm one of those heartless people that haven't read The Lord of the Rings yet. This book caught my attention because I love the legend of King Arthur. I became a bit obsessed with it during my early years (actually, anything Middle Ages related; again, yes, I was a very popular kid at school, you can imagine...; I sang BSB songs to seem more normal—yes, that was normal back then!). I even created a website and wrote a couple of short stories that never saw ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, poetry, own
Not to make you jealous or anything, but I bought this at the Bodleian Library gift shop after going through the Tolkien art exhibit. I had no idea what it was, except that it was recently published, and was touted as the only time he "took on" the Arthurian legend. I am not at all disappointed in this purchase, just as I am not disappointed in the bookmark, bracelet, and print I also purchased . . . but that's another story!

The first sixty pages or so are the poem, written in Saxon alliterative
Stefan Yates
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the J.R.R. Tolkien portions of this book. Not to say that Christopher Tolkien is a bad writer, on the contrary, his analysis is very well thought out and interesting. It's just that when you are reading the pieces written by the master, you certainly know it.

Fair warning to the casual reader out there, this offering is a poem purposely written to emulate the meter an feel of an old piece of English literature. Only about a quarter or less of the book is actually material produc
Jan 04, 2013 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Mirkwood is a forest in Saxon Germany NOT Middle-Earth contrary to popular belief. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO KNOW THIS, MIRKWOOD IN THIS BOOK IS IN GERMANY NOT IN MIDDLE-EARTH

May 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-r-r-tolkien

Impassioned nuances and provocative profundity pierce you to the core, as you plunge within the Arthurian mythologies and legends!

Buried within these three highly illuminating essays, {which explore the literary world of King Arthur}, is the deeper meaning of each individual verse revealed with such sublime clarity.

JRR Tolkien’s unfinished work is a treasure trove of revelatory, fascinating delights akin to Sir Gwain and the Green Knight -- or even other published masterworks such as the Silm
Miles Cameron
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant evocation of the Arthurian, with shadows that are dark, presages of Middle-earth, and a stunning indictment of those who say that Tolkien cannot write women. My favorite book this year.
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien and/or Arthurian lit fans
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Fall of Arthur. I’ve never been a fan of Tolkien as poet and, as a rule, skim through the examples that crop up in his prose or that are reproduced in the History of Middle-earth volumes. But I was intrigued by the subject and by what Tolkien may have made of the Matter of Britain (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight doesn’t count since it’s a translation of an existing poem).

Unfortunately, The Fall of Arthur is incomplete. Tolkien only completed four cantos
Roxana Chirilă
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Thus Arthur in arms eastward journeyed,
and war awoke in the wild regions.
Halls and temples of the heathen kings
his might assailed marching in conquest
from the mouths of the Rhine o'er many kingdoms.


Foes before them, flames behind them,
ever east and onward eager rode they,
and folk fled them as the face of God,
till earth was empty, and no eyes saw them,
and no ears heard them in the endless hills"

Like many other authors I've heard of, J.R.R. Tolkien had a lot of projects he never finished - "
Sara Saif

Now that I’ve seen all five seasons of Merlin, it seemed like the perfect time to read this. Arthurian legend is fascinating and I knew absolutely nothing about it when I started watching the show. The creators of the show twisted all the legends into something completely different, that I realized after reading The Fall of Arthur. There is no mention whatsoever of Merlin. It concerns mainly Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain and Mordred.

I didn’t know that it was in the form of poetry. It’s wri

There are several sections comprising this book and my responses to them were varied.

Starting at the beginning there is the poem - or incomplete fragment there-of. It was never finished, like so many of Tolkien's projects. In my opinion, most of Tolkien's best work was left in an unfinished state at his death: The best stories are all in the Silmarillion, no complete version of which was extant at the time of Tolkien's demise. Instead a heap of fragments in prose and various verse forms co-exis
Michael F
“In my view, one of the most grievous of his many abandonments.” Thus Christopher Tolkien concludes one of his commentaries on “The Fall of Arthur”, and I am inclined to agree with him.

I don’t know how to rate this, as it’s an odd sort of book, so I’ll just give a brief summation of its contents, along with my thoughts.

The main matter is Tolkien’s unfinished poem “The Fall of Arthur”, written in the Anglo-Saxon verse form, (but in modern English). It is 40 pages long, and is around a half or a t
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inklings
This is an AMAZING work that should change Tolkien and Inklings studies forever! Here are my three pieces on "The Fall of Arthur," all together in one place: There is a pre-review in which I predicted what I thought the book would be like, before reading it. There is a follow-up blog post in which I say how well I did in my predictions (not very well!). And then there's my official review. Enjoy!
Well, I didn't finish my assignment that is due in two days but I did finish this book in one day :D

and I do not regret it at all!
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, classics
`Gawain loudly cried as a clarion. Clear went his voice
in the rocks ringing above roaring wind
and rolling thunder: 'Ride, forth to war,
ye hosts of ruin, hate proclaiming!
Foes we fear not, nor fell shadows
of the dark mountains demon-haunted!
Hear now ye hills and hoar forest,
ye awful thrones of olden gods
huge and hopeless, hear and tremble!
From the West comes war that no wind daunteth,
might and purpose that no mist stayeth;
lord of legions, light in darkness,
east rides Arthur!' Echoes were wakened.
Nicholas Whyte
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is minor Tolkien, an uncompleted epic poem about the end of Arthur's reign, not far from the version recounted by Malory - which I know only via T.H. White, who was working on The Sword in the Stone at about the same time. One would like to find a direct link, but Tolkien stopped working on The Fall of Arthur in 1937 and The Sword in the Stone was not published until 1938 (Tolkien had read it by April 1940) - and of course the later part of the Art
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Carries the uniqueness and brilliance of Tolkien’s poetry and wrestling with legend and language.
SPOILER ALERT: Arthur dies at the end.

The poem itself is lovely, with some really breathtaking language, which was clearly wrought with patience and and an eye for the aesthetic. Christopher Tolkien's extensive notes lend even more gravitas to the poem by demonstrating the amount of research that went into the composition.

That said, I feel like Tolkien is the white Tupac. Seriously though, when is this family going to stop pillaging every single note the man ever left behind in an effort to wr
It is a pleasure to read Tolkien's alliterative poetry again. His translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the unfinished Children of Hurin have always been some of my favorite pieces of Tolkien's work, and The Fall of Arthur is much in the same lines. There are certain parts that I don't particularly care for (the second canto is a bit slow and Mordred is rather stocky in character) but there are some lines that are unbelievably powerful. In particular the end of the third canto is ra ...more
This was my first time reading one of the books that Christopher Tolkien edited and published. The actual poem makes up only about a quarter of the book. The other 75% walks through the evolution of the Arthurian legend in general and Tolkien's drafts of this poem in particular. Honestly, I skimmed quite a bit. Christopher goes into meticulous detail demonstrating Tolkien's changes and notes and offering his own conjectures on the cause. I realized that I had looked at all of these posthumous pu ...more
Timothy Bartel
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Is this the best poetic work Tolkien wrote (not counting his translations)? I'm tempted to say so. His portraits of Mordred and Lancelot are especially strange and haunting, and his battle scenes rival Chesterton's "Lepanto" in force and image. Christopher Tolkien's notes and annotations in this edition are interesting, if overlong. I look forward to a little, pocket sized version of this work without all the notes, something I can slip in my backpocket and read by the ocean.
Sarah Garner
I only read the poem. I couldn't be bothered to read the stuff by Christopher Tolkien as it seemed pointless, the poem should have been published on its own.
Jonathan Terrington
Jan 03, 2013 marked it as to-read-fantasy  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: Michael
Shelves: tolkien
Ah, something new by J.R.R Tolkien - or rather one of his edited unfinished works. I hope it's better than The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún which while fine lacked a little polish in my eyes.
Esther | braveliteraryworld
Okay, I feel stupid now, but I didn't know this was a poem until I picked it up lol. It was a pleasant surprise though. This read reignited my interest in the Arthurian legend (I started reading Mists of Avalon after finishing this). However, I have to say that I found his son Christopher's literary analysis and explanation of the novel's composition much more interesting. I had no idea how intelligent Christopher was too. Definitely his father's son.

Only three stars bcs I'm not a big poetry per
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book reminded me of three things

1. I love Tolkien's poetry even more than I love his prose, and that's saying a lot.

2. How much I enjoy Christopher Tolkien as a writer in his own right, apart from his father, and I want to read more of his stuff

3. Anglo-Saxon poetry is so freaking cool, guys.

Also, this is now the only version of the Arthurian legend I'm willing to accept.

That is all.
Sarah Oldland
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to read some of Tolkien's poetry and that loves the stories surrounding King Arthur and his Knights of the round table. I enjoyed this!
Rick Davis
From the apparently inexhaustible depths of J.R.R. Tolkien’s papers comes another gem brought forth for the public by Christopher Tolkien, The Fall of Arthur. Being a longtime fan of all things King Arthur and a huge fan of Tolkien, I’ve wanted to read this book since it was published three years ago. I finally got my hands on a copy and here are my thoughts.

The poetry here is breathtaking. There aren’t many people who laud Tolkien as a great poet, though I think he is, but this poem by far exce
Anne Hamilton
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
A true Tolkien treat - - - for alliterative aficionados
awaits in these Saxon - - - styled stanzas
of Arthur's wars and woes.

Four and a half stars. Maybe even four and three-quarters.

Yeah, well I'd like to have done the above in the right rhythm and mood, but 'alliterative' killed any chance of that, so I hope the thought counts. (Sorry about the dashes, but my spacing refused to appear!)

Unfortunately unfinished, as so many of Tolkien's projects were, this often majestic poem builds towards a clim
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English lang
“Our language now has become quick-moving (in syllables), and may be very supple and nimble, but is rather thin in sound and in sense too often diffuse and vague. the language of our forefathers, especially in verse, was slow, not very nimble, but very sonorous, and was intensely packed and concentrated - or could be in a good poet.” 3 likes
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