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

Luna's sixth Call for Papers, Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome! is now in pre-order and will be released on Tuesday 14th of June. Artwork, by Jay Johnstone. Here is a chance to discover the 11 brilliant papers you will find in the book, in reverse order of appearance.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Jyrki Korpua, presenting the paper: "Master of Fate, yet by fate mastered” – Tolkien’s Túrin Turambar and Kalevala’s Kullervo"


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 epicKalevala’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.

About Jyrki Korpua:

PhD, Docent (Associate professor) Jyrki Korpua is a reseacher of literature and cultural studies at the University of Oulu. He has edited many special issues of journals and published articles on literature, video games, graphic novels, and film studies. He is the author of non-fiction books “The Bible and Literature” (2016, in Finnish, published by Avain), “Kalevala and Literature” (2017, in Finnish, Avain), and The Mythopoeic Code of Tolkien: A Christian Platonic Reading of the Legendarium (2021, McFarland). He is one of the editors with Saija Isomaa & Jouni Teittinen of the antology New Perspectives to Dystopian Fiction (2020, Cambridge Scholars Publishers).

For Luna Press, Korpua wrote an article on the female roles in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptation for Gender Identity and Sexuality Current Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2017, on representation of evil in television series Babylon 5 and Mass Effect game series for A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2019, and on Nordic Countries in worldbuilding of Frozen and Frozen II movies for Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2021, all edited by Francesca T. Barbini.

Not the Fellowship. Dragons Welcome!

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