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Inspiration the other direction?

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  • Morlin Saarinen
    Hello all, We are all familiar with how Tolkien s scholarship influenced his fiction, but recently a thought occurred to me: Is it possible that the influence
    Message 1 of 4 , May 10, 2008
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      Hello all,

      We are all familiar with how Tolkien's scholarship influenced his
      fiction, but recently a thought occurred to me: Is it possible that the
      influence went the other direction as well?

      Specifically, I am thinking of "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics"
      essay. Is it possible that it was the experience of writing what would
      become "The Silmarillion" that gave Tolkien the insight that
      revolutionized Beowulf scholarship?

      Has anyone else had this thought, or is there any evidence that might
      suggest if that is what happened? Or am I just being daft?
    • Merlin DeTardo
      ...
      Message 2 of 4 , May 10, 2008
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        >>---"Morlin Saarinen" <ebadams2000@...> wrote:
        << Specifically, I am thinking of "Beowulf: The Monsters and the
        Critics" essay. Is it possible that it was the experience of writing
        what would become "The Silmarillion" that gave Tolkien the insight that
        revolutionized Beowulf scholarship? >>

        Can you be more specific? What in the "Silmarillion" are you thinking
        of, that might have influenced the "Beowulf" essay?

        It has certainly been argued that "On Fairy-Stories" grew from
        Tolkien's experience writing fiction, and I vaguely remember that there
        may be something similar written about "The Monsters and the Critics",
        but nothing in particular is leaping to mind. Maybe Randel Helms, in
        _Tolkien's World_? (However, Helms wouldn't have been discussing _The
        Silmarillion_, which hadn't yet been published.)

        -Merlin DeTardo
      • Morlin Saarinen
        ... writing ... that ... thinking ... there ... Critics , ... in ... _The ... As I understand it, prior to Tolkien, the norm for Beowulf scholarship was to
        Message 3 of 4 , May 11, 2008
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          --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Merlin DeTardo" <emptyD@...> wrote:
          >
          > >>---"Morlin Saarinen" <ebadams2000@> wrote:
          > << Specifically, I am thinking of "Beowulf: The Monsters and the
          > Critics" essay. Is it possible that it was the experience of
          writing
          > what would become "The Silmarillion" that gave Tolkien the insight
          that
          > revolutionized Beowulf scholarship? >>
          >
          > Can you be more specific? What in the "Silmarillion" are you
          thinking
          > of, that might have influenced the "Beowulf" essay?
          >
          > It has certainly been argued that "On Fairy-Stories" grew from
          > Tolkien's experience writing fiction, and I vaguely remember that
          there
          > may be something similar written about "The Monsters and the
          Critics",
          > but nothing in particular is leaping to mind. Maybe Randel Helms,
          in
          > _Tolkien's World_? (However, Helms wouldn't have been discussing
          _The
          > Silmarillion_, which hadn't yet been published.)
          >
          > -Merlin DeTardo
          >


          As I understand it, prior to Tolkien, the norm for "Beowulf"
          scholarship was to concentrate on the possibly historical elements
          and de-emphasize the fantastical elements. Tolkien realized that the
          fantastical elements were as central to the story as anything else,
          and that the whole poem should be examined as a whole, unified epic.
          It seems not unlikely to me that he may have come to this realization
          while writing his own epic(the pre-Silmarillion writings), in which
          one certainly would not be able to ignore the fantastical and
          understand anything of it.
        • David Emerson
          ... Coincidentally, I was just finishing re-reading Verlyn Flieger s Interrupted Music when I read this query. Near the end of her book she quotes The
          Message 4 of 4 , May 12, 2008
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            >We are all familiar with how Tolkien's scholarship influenced his
            >fiction, but recently a thought occurred to me: Is it possible that the
            >influence went the other direction as well?
            >
            >Specifically, I am thinking of "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics"
            >essay. Is it possible that it was the experience of writing what would
            >become "The Silmarillion" that gave Tolkien the insight that
            >revolutionized Beowulf scholarship?

            Coincidentally, I was just finishing re-reading Verlyn Flieger's "Interrupted Music" when I read this query. Near the end of her book she quotes "The Monsters and the Critics" where JRRT says:

            "It [Beowulf] is a poem by a learned man writing of old times, who looking back on the heroism and sorrow feels in them something permanent and something symbolical."

            Flieger then points out that the same could have been said about Tolkien himself. Quoting a further passage, she says: "...his own mythology is meant to give its readers 'the illusion of surveying a past, pagan but noble and fraught with deep significance -- a past that itself had depth and reached backward into a dark antiquity of sorrow.'"

            Coupling this observation with the knowledge that JRRT began work on the legendarium decades before he delivered that Andrew Lang lecture, it certainly seems *possible* that he had drawn on his own experience of his attempts at telling a story meant to be perceived as already ancient, and possibly projected his own feelings about it onto the unknown Beowulf poet.

            Nothing can be proven, of course, but it's a plausible speculation.

            emerdavid

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