Michael Drout, an assistant professor of English at Wheaton College, has discovered the manuscript of a complete translation of Beowulf, with commentary, by J.R.R. Tolkien. It will be published this summer and will presumably sell quite a few copies. [Via Pat.]
Addendum. Having now discovered Drout’s blog (via Mind-Numbing), I must retract the last statement; apparently the translation won’t be published this year, as can be seen from this entry (from an increasingly exasperated series):
First, though the Sunday Times calls it a “discovery,” I’m a little uncomfortable with the term, since the material was right there in the Bodleian the whole time. The Bodleian’s librarians and Christopher Tolkien certainly knew what it was. Second, there is almost no way I can see the Beowulf translations being published in 2003. While I’ve already done a lot of work on the translations (and they are pretty “clean” manuscripts, anyway), I really have to finish the volume of commentaries before I can publish the translations, since the commentaries explain the translations and I need to be clear in my own mind about Tolkien’s intent before I make major editing decisions. I think I unintentionally confused the reporter when I said that I would probably be done with the translations at the end of the summer. That’s true as far as it goes, but being done won’t be enough, unfortunately.
All that said, the Beowulf translation is great and lovers of Tolkien will love it.
Update (July 2014). The translation has been published, and unfortunately, it sounds terrible. Dave Wilton reports:
I’ve finally obtained and read a copy, and I must, sadly, state that this is a book that no one should buy. The translation is stilted and unidiomatic at its best—and at its worst it is incomprehensible. The formatting and editorial choices make it difficult to use as an academic resource. And Tolkien’s commentary on the poem, which is perhaps the most valuable portion, is old, incomplete, and undated—this last a significant problem given that it is taken from lectures he gave across the length of his forty-year career.
The casual reader, a person who would be most attracted by the cachet of Tolkien’s name, who simply wants to read a version of the Beowulf story without learning Old English, will find little of value in this translation.
Read the details at the link.