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Tolkien and Julian of Norwich

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  • David Simmons
    Hello all, I m new to the society and have a question that hopefully someone will be able to answer. As an avid reader of both Tolkien and the 14th-Century
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 23, 2007
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      Hello all,

      I'm new to the society and have a question that hopefully someone will
      be able to answer.

      As an avid reader of both Tolkien and the 14th-Century mystic Julian
      of Norwich, I have noticed certain commonalities in their eschatology.
      Julian's assertion that "All Shall be well" sounds very similar to
      Tolkien's passage in the Silmarillion, "And thou, Melkor. shalt see
      that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me,
      nor can any alter the music in my despite." Both allow for present
      evil, but assert the ultimate conquest of good. The desperate
      struggle of good even in the face of overpowering evil so present in
      Tolkien can likewise be found in the struggle of the servant in the
      parable of the servant in Julian's Showings.

      Considering the work Tolkien did on the Ancrene Rule, he must surely
      have been familiar with Julian's writings. I am wondering if anyone
      is aware of any research on a possible connection.

      Thanks! And I've loved lurking on the list.

      --------------
      "Of Course", said Gandalf. "And why should not they prove true? Surely
      you do not disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in
      bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you, that
      all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for
      your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am
      very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide
      world after all!"
      --Gandalf
      ---------------
      The Very Rev. David Simmons, AOJN
      Vicar, St. John's Episcopal Church
      Murray, KY
      Chaplain, Murray State University
      Dean, Four Rivers Area Deanery
      Associate of the Order of Julian of Norwich
      http://holycow.askthepriest.org
      My Blog - http://www.ayiailuvatar.org
      Trainer - Via Media Evangelism Curriculum
      http://www.everyvoice.net/viamedia
      |30+|Ehud ehud@...
      http://battlefield.30plus.org/
    • Merlin DeTardo
      Without pretending to be comprehensive, I can at least offer some negative responses. Based on their indices, there are no references to Julian of Norwich in
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 23, 2007
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        Without pretending to be comprehensive, I can at least offer some
        negative responses. Based on their indices, there are no references
        to Julian of Norwich in the _J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia_ or the
        collections _Tolkien the Medievalist_, _Tolkien and the Invention of
        Myth_ or _Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages_. Nor does her name turn up
        in a search of only the *titles* on the online "A Bibliography of
        Scholarly Studies of J.R.R. Tolkien and His Works" for 1984-2000,
        prepared by Michael Drout and eight others. And Tom Shippey doesn't
        mention Julian in his chapter on the "True Tradition" of Tolkien
        sources (or elsewhere, apparently) in _The Road to Middle-earth_
        (2003 edition). Obviously this only scratches the surface.

        However, your reasonable supposition that Tolkien would have been
        well acquainted with Julian of Norwich finds support in the second
        volume (_Reader's Guide_) of Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond's
        _The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion & Guide_, where on p. 742, in a long
        entry on the "Oxford English School", they note that in 1946 Tolkien
        supervised John Lawlor's thesis on Julian. Is Lawlor still alive?
        He could say whether Tolkien ever mentioned the "Ainulindalë" in
        connection with Julian.

        By the way, the _Silmarillion_ passage you cite, in slightly
        modified form, dates to about 1920: it appears on p. 55 of _The Book
        of Lost Tales Part I_ as: "Thou Melko shalt see that no theme can
        be played save it come in the end of Ilúvatar's self, nor can any
        alter the music in Ilúvatar's despite". Perhaps it would be
        possible to determine when Tolkien could first have encountered
        Julian's writings, independently or through his study of
        the "Ancrene Wisse"? Possibly as a student, well before 1920,
        though his major work on the _Ancrene Wisse_ appeared in 1929;
        perhaps he also refers to it (or Julian) in his 1922 _A Middle
        English Glossary_. Sadly I've read neither work.

        Concerning the ideas Tolkien expresses in this section of
        the "Ainulindalë", it may not be necessary to cite Julian. Shippey
        (_Road_, 235-6) says that Tolkien is writing a calque on _Genesis_;
        Shippey also notes similar themes in Milton (and C.S. Lewis's
        comments on Milton) and in Boethius.

        I hope that serves for a beginning, until someone more knowledgeable
        chimes in.

        -Merlin DeTardo


        ---"David Simmons" <dsimmons@...> wrote:
        > As an avid reader of both Tolkien and the 14th-Century mystic
        Julian of Norwich, I have noticed certain commonalities in their
        eschatology.
        > Julian's assertion that "All Shall be well" sounds very similar
        to Tolkien's passage in the Silmarillion, "And thou, Melkor. shalt
        see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source
        in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite." Both allow for
        present evil, but assert the ultimate conquest of good. The
        desperate struggle of good even in the face of overpowering evil so
        present in Tolkien can likewise be found in the struggle of the
        servant in the parable of the servant in Julian's Showings.
        > Considering the work Tolkien did on the Ancrene Rule, he must
        surely have been familiar with Julian's writings. I am wondering if
        anyone is aware of any research on a possible connection.
      • David Bratman
        ... Tending to doubt Tolkien would have been discussing his mythology with his grad students under such circumstances. - David Bratman
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 23, 2007
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          At 04:01 AM 1/24/2007 +0000, Merlin DeTardo wrote:

          >In a long
          >entry on the "Oxford English School", they note that in 1946 Tolkien
          >supervised John Lawlor's thesis on Julian. Is Lawlor still alive?
          >He could say whether Tolkien ever mentioned the "Ainulindalë" in
          >connection with Julian.

          Tending to doubt Tolkien would have been discussing his mythology with his
          grad students under such circumstances.

          - David Bratman
        • Merlin DeTardo
          You re probably right, and yet on the same page (742) of the _Reader s Guide_, Scull and Hammond quote another of Tolkien s students, Robert Burchfield, from
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 23, 2007
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            You're probably right, and yet on the same page (742) of the
            _Reader's Guide_, Scull and Hammond quote another of Tolkien's
            students, Robert Burchfield, from "My Hero: Robert Burchfield on
            J.R.R. Tolkien":

            "I saw Tollers (as he was known) at weekly intervals in the academic
            years 1951-2 and 1952-3, sometimes in Merton College, sometimes at
            his home in Holywell. He puffed at his pipe while I told him of my
            work. He made many acute observations. I followed them all up. He
            beamed when I made some discoveries. Now and then he mentioned the
            hobbits, but he didn't press them on me, spotting that my interest
            lay in the scraped-out o's and double consonants of the _Ormulum_
            rather than in dwarves... Orcs, and Mr Bilbo Baggins."


            >---David Bratman <dbratman@...> wrote:
            > At 04:01 AM 1/24/2007 +0000, Merlin DeTardo wrote:
            >>In a long entry on the "Oxford English School", they note that in
            1946 Tolkien supervised John Lawlor's thesis on Julian. Is Lawlor
            still alive? He could say whether Tolkien ever mentioned
            the "Ainulindalë" in connection with Julian.

            > Tending to doubt Tolkien would have been discussing his mythology
            with his grad students under such circumstances.
            >-David Bratman
          • William Cloud Hicklin
            ... some ... references ... the ... Invention of ... However, I find it difficult to believe that Tolkien would not have read Julian (or any other Middle
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 24, 2007
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              --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin DeTardo" <emptyD@...>
              wrote:
              >
              > Without pretending to be comprehensive, I can at least offer
              some
              > negative responses. Based on their indices, there are no
              references
              > to Julian of Norwich in the _J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia_ or
              the
              > collections _Tolkien the Medievalist_, _Tolkien and the
              Invention of
              > Myth_ or _Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages_. .....

              However, I find it difficult to believe that Tolkien would not
              have read Julian (or any other Middle English author)at some
              time: and although I'm not very conversant with the Ancrene
              Wisse nor with the related St Catherine group of manuscripts, I
              wouldn't be surprised if they influenced Julian to a certain
              extent; some recent feminist scholars have postulated a female
              textual tradition in medieval England, copying and circulating
              these feminine texts among convents and anchoresses.

              On the other hand, Julian naturally could not have influenced
              the AW, and the East Anglian dialect of Middle English was not
              Tolkien's particular speciality. Googling Julian, the Cloud of
              Unknowing, and Margery Kempe, I can't find any edition by a
              scholar associated with Tolkien.

              Does anyone know whether Julian was an influence on Cardinal
              Newman's theology? I'm inclined to doubt it, since the
              impression I get of Oratory Catholicism is that it tended to
              regard Mertonish mysticism with some suspicion - certainly Lewis
              the "Newmanite Anglican" did.
            • Larry Swain
              I m in a rush and had meant to respond to this thread earlier, but....Julian s statement is not unique in patristic and medieval thought. More to the point
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 24, 2007
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                I'm in a rush and had meant to respond to this thread earlier,
                but....Julian's statement is not unique in patristic and medieval
                thought. More to the point though, Iluvatar's statement to Ulmo
                mentioned by the original poster has more in common with
                Augustine's City of God and other places where he speaks of even
                those who intend things for evil will have those things turned for
                our good. This is in part based on Romans 8:28 in the New
                Testament. That is, I doubt very much that Julian is a direct
                source or inspiration for the passage in question.

                On the question of whether Tolkien had read Julian of Norwich, I'd
                have to say that yes he did, though I have no proof for it. But
                for someone who worked on the texts that he did and produced a
                Middle English glossary for the 14th century to have overlooked a
                well known and widely available text boggles my mind. That isn't
                to say that he was intimate with the text or studied/taught it
                frequently, but just to say that given his field and his work, the
                probability is high that he had at least read Julian of Norwich.

                I'll have to return to the question of the influence of the Ancrene
                Wisse and the Katherine Group on Julian......

                Larry Swain


                > ----- Original Message -----
                > From: "William Cloud Hicklin" <solicitr@...>
                > To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                > Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Tolkien and Julian of Norwich
                > Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2007 19:20:37 -0000
                >
                >
                > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin DeTardo" <emptyD@...>
                > wrote:
                > >
                > > Without pretending to be comprehensive, I can at least offer
                > some
                > > negative responses. Based on their indices, there are no
                > references
                > > to Julian of Norwich in the _J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia_ or
                > the
                > > collections _Tolkien the Medievalist_, _Tolkien and the
                > Invention of
                > > Myth_ or _Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages_. .....
                >
                > However, I find it difficult to believe that Tolkien would not
                > have read Julian (or any other Middle English author)at some
                > time: and although I'm not very conversant with the Ancrene
                > Wisse nor with the related St Catherine group of manuscripts, I
                > wouldn't be surprised if they influenced Julian to a certain
                > extent; some recent feminist scholars have postulated a female
                > textual tradition in medieval England, copying and circulating
                > these feminine texts among convents and anchoresses.
                >
                > On the other hand, Julian naturally could not have influenced
                > the AW, and the East Anglian dialect of Middle English was not
                > Tolkien's particular speciality. Googling Julian, the Cloud of
                > Unknowing, and Margery Kempe, I can't find any edition by a
                > scholar associated with Tolkien.
                >
                > Does anyone know whether Julian was an influence on Cardinal
                > Newman's theology? I'm inclined to doubt it, since the
                > impression I get of Oratory Catholicism is that it tended to
                > regard Mertonish mysticism with some suspicion - certainly Lewis
                > the "Newmanite Anglican" did.
                >
                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >

                >


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