21 May 2014

Tolkien's Beowulf: A price and shipping comparison between Italy and the United Kingdom

In case you have forgotten since I first passed on the news, tomorrow will be a particular happy day for Tolkien enthusiasts throughout the world as his translation of Beowulf, which he finished in 1926, is finally published.

Not wanting to wait until I return to the United States of America at the end of June for a bit of a summer break - and not wanting to wait and wait and wait to find it in Rome - I went to the Italian Amazon web site today to pre-order the book. I was quite surprised that it sells there for 23,46 € (the equivalent of $32.05) and that it would not likely arrive until until June 2nd.

This, I thought, was a bit ridiculous and so I made my way over to the United Kingdom Amazon web site where I found the book sells for £13.40 (the equivalent of $22.61). Why such a price difference? I'm not sure.

Since this was a much better price (in the U.S.A., the book sells for $20.40 [it would take too long and cost too much to get it across the Atlantic]) I opted for the 2-4 shipping method, which meant it should arrive here at the Casa Santa Maria between May 24th and 26th. Curiously, the confirmation e-mail estimated delivery between May 29th and 31st. I can only suppose the Brits are familiar with the Poste Italiane.

Imagine my surprise then when I received an e-mail just a few minutes ago that my copy of the book has already shipped (I'm not sure how since it isn't released until tomorrow) and is estimated to arrive on May 26th!

I'm very much looking forward to its arrive because I have not read Beowulf since I read it in high school in a class on British literature. I may have been the only student in the class who enjoyed the poem and have been meaning to read the last several years.

It was not too long ago that a friend sent a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. Of his own The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote: "It is mainly concerned with Death, and Immortality; and the 'escapes': serial longevity, and hoarding memory" (Letter 211). This same theme he found in Beowulf.

Tolkien believed the author of Beowulf "is still concerned primarily with man on earth, rehandling in a new perspective an ancient theme: that man, each man and all men, and all their works shall die." He went on to suggest, in his classic essay "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics":
Almost we might say that this poem was (in one direction) inspired by the debate that had long been held and continued after, and that is was one of the chief contributions to the controversy: shall we or shall we not consign the heathen ancestors to perdition? What good will it do posterity to read the battles of Hector? Quid Hinieldus cum Christo? The author of Beowulf showed forth the permanent value of that pietas which treasures the memory of man's struggles in the dark past, man fallen and not yet saved, disgraced but not dethroned. It would seem to have been part of the English temper in its strong sense of tradition, dependent doubtless on dynasties, noble houses, and their code of honour, and strengthened, it may be, by the more inquisitive and less severe Celtic learning, that it should, at least in some quarters and despite grave and Gallic voices, preserve much from the northern past to blend with southern learning, and new faith.

As I re-read Beowulf, I shall keep a close watch for what Tolkien saw therein.

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