Review: The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm’s Son, J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 5 out of 5

Beorhtnoth… Who doesn’t know of Beorhtnoth? An Anglo-Saxon noble of great renown for his part in the battle of Maldon, this take on the supposed hero is eye-opening. I went through it relatively fast, but like much of the commentary on Anglo-Saxon poetry, it’s well worth a second and third visit. My first visit primarily concentrated on the thematic aspects that Mr Tolkien described and not as much on the fiction.

Why? Not only does the author investigate in good detail the story of Maldon from a different view, the essay on the most important word – the word that characterizes why Beorhtnoth made his stand – allows for a critical assessment of a translator’s quality and the possible connotations of a statement.

In this case, Mr Tolkien describes how the only other cases where the word is used are negative, indicating that the poem’s author did not mean to praise the Anglo-Saxon lord for his stand. For the casual reader of an unknown translation, this idea might remain absent – until of course, going through a helpful addendum.

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