The Story of Kullervo

Houghton Mifflin Harcour, 2016

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 tried three times to kill him when he was still a boy, Kullervo is alone save for the love of his twin sister, Wanōna, and the magical powers of the black dog Musti, who guards him. 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, the tragic incestuous hero of The Silmarillion. Published with the author’s drafts, notes, and lecture essays on its source work, the KalevalaThe Story of Kullervo is a foundation stone in the structure of Tolkien’s invented world.