A lost "Lord of the Rings" story is about to be published

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A lost story set in the “Lord of the Rings” universe is about to see the light of day in a new book out later this summer.

“The Story of Kullervo” is about the titular Kullervo, a boy sold into slavery who vows revenge on a cruel wizard who killed his father. Here’s how the novel’s Amazon listing describes it:

Kullervo son of Kalervo is perhaps the darkest and most tragic of all J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters. ‘Hapless Kullervo’, as Tolkien called him, is a luckless orphan boy with supernatural powers and a tragic destiny.

Brought up in the homestead of the dark magician Untamo, who killed his father, kidnapped his mother, and who tries three times to kill him when still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanona, and guarded by the magical powers of the black dog, Musti. When Kullervo is sold into slavery he swears revenge on the magician, but he will learn that even at the point of vengeance there is no escape from the cruelest of fates.

Tolkien himself said that The Story of Kullervo was ‘the germ of my attempt to write legends of my own’, and was ‘a major matter in the legends of the First Age’. Tolkien’s Kullervo is the clear ancestor of Túrin Turambar, tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. In addition to it being a powerful story in its own right, The Story of Kullervo — published here for the first time with the author’s drafts, notes and lecture-essays on its source-work, The Kalevala — is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.

It should be noted that this is far from the first unpublished “Lord of the Rings” related work of Tolkien’s to be repurposed and printed posthumously. “The Silmarillion,” a refurbished collection of myths from the earliest days of Middle Earth (and arguably the only posthumous work with material Tolkien himself intended to publish) was released four years after Tolkien’s death in 1973. This was followed by a 12-volume “History of Middle Earth” compiled by his son Christopher Tolkien, and most recently the apocryphal tale “The Children of Hùrin” released in 2007.

While not a momentous occasion, “Kullervo” sounds like a relatively self-contained tragedy set in a little-explored era in the history of Tolkien’s famous fantasy setting: The First Age (for context, both “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” take place at the end of the Third Age), making it less a prequel and more a tale from the history of the world full of hobbits and elves fans know and love.

“The Story of Kullervo” will be available in the UK and for Kindle devices August 27. The HarperCollins’ book goes on sale in the US October 13, 2015.

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