University of Oulu

Korpua, J. (2022). "Master of Fate, yet by fate mastered" : Tolkien's Turin Turambar and Kalevala's Kullervo. In F. T. Barbini (ed.), Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome!. Luna Press Publishing.

“Master of Fate, yet by fate mastered” : Tolkien’s Túrin Turambar and Kalevala’s Kullervo

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Author: Korpua, Jyrki1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Luna Press Publishing, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-02-03


Perhaps the most classically tragic tale in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium is from the Elder Days of Middle-earth, the story of a human warrior Túrin, or Turambar, “The Master of Fate”, a name Túrin took as an outlaw. In the story, Túrin’s life is a struggle between acts of heroism and on a larger scale of antiheroic tragedy of incest and murder. One of the central human heroes of the Elder Days, Túrin’s name is mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings as “the Mighty Elf-friend of old”, but his whole tale is told as excerpts in posthumous works The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth, and in a longer finalised form in The Children of Húrin, published in 2007.

Túrin is an anti-hero, whose life is tragic from start to finish. Turin’s tale is closely connected to 19th century Finnish national epic Kalevala’s story of Kullervo, both dealing with cautionary tale of incest. But Túrin, unlike Kullervo, is a dragon slayer, following the footsteps of mythic dragon slayers from Medieval Scandinavian and Germanic myths. As we know, Tolkien knew all these literary traditions well. He even wrote a prose version of Kalevala’s Kullervo, which was published posthumously in 2015 as The Story of Kullervo, functioning in a way as a pre-version of his own Túrin writings.

This chapter focuses on the story of Tolkien’s Túrin and its clear connections with Kalevala’s Kullervo cycle. Túrin and Kullervo are both at first described as orphans, who become slaves and are tormented terribly by their oppressors. Both seek revenge and find it. Both end up unknowingly in an incestuous relationship with their sister. Also, the stories end with a series of suicides of both the heroes and their sisters.

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ISBN Print: 978-1-913387-98-3
Pages: 96 - 104
Host publication: Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome!
Host publication editor: Barbini, Francesca T.
Type of Publication: B2 Book chapter
Field of Science: 6122 Literature studies
Copyright information: © Luna Press Publishing