Professor J.R.R. Tolkien is most widely known as the author of The Lord
of the Rings, but he was also a distinguished scholar in the field of Mediaeval
English language and literature. In Anglo-Saxon studies, his celebrated lecture
Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics is widely recognized as a turning
point in the criticism of the poem.
The story of Finn and Hengest, two fifth-century heroes in northern Europe,
is told both in Beowulf and in a fragmentary Anglo-Saxon poem known as
The Fight at Finnsburg, but so obscurely and allusively that its interpretation
had been a matter of controversy for over 100 years. Bringing his unique combination
of philological erudition and poetic imagination to the task, however, Tolkien
revealed a classic tragedy of divided loyalties, of vengeance, blood and death.
The story has the added attraction that it describes the events immediately
preceding the first Germanic invasion of Britain which was led by Hengest himself.
This book will appeal not only to student of Old English and all those interested
in the history of northern Europe and Anglo-Saxon England, but also admirers
of The Lord of the Rings who will be fascinated to see how Tolkien handled
a story which he did not invent.