In the 1930s, Tolkien began work on an epic alliterative poem about King Arthur’s downfall. It was never finished, but Christopher Tolkien provides notes and explanations about the lines that we do have.
The actual poem only takes up about 45 pages in this book. It is beautiful and haunting and wild. The patterns in the alliteration are woven together in this tapestry of words that powerfully tell the story of Arthur and his knights, of Mordred and Lancelot and Guinevere, and the last days of the Round Table. I read most of it out loud to myself, because the words drip like honey, rich and resonant. It is meant to be read out loud!
I remain unimpressed with the entire Once and Future King series. I love Arthurian legends, but I just can’t stomach all the stupid philosophy and the ramblings about nothing. If only White would just tell a story! But no, he has to go off on these rabbit trails of stupidity. Continue reading →