J.R.R. TOLKIEN AND HIS “FALSE” EPIC
John Ronald Ruel Tolkien (03.01.1892 – 02.09.1973) was an English philologist, writer and university professor who is best known as the author of the Trilogy of the Lord of the Rings (The Company of the Ring; The Two Towers; The Return of the King), as well as many other work.
In fact, in addition to the Trilogy, Tolkien’s published fiction includes The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and other posthumously published books (most of them were compiled from Tolkien’s notes by his son Christopher) covering a period that goes from 1917 (the first version of The Sirmarillion) to the death of the author in 1973.
Together, all books, are a connected body of tales, fictional histories, invented languages and literary essays about an imagined world called Arda, and Middle-earth (derived from Old English word “middangeard”, that is the land inhabitable by human), in particular, loosely identified as an “alternative” remote past of our own world.
Tolkien applied the word “legendarium” to the totality of these writings.
The great success and enduring influence of his work have led to him being popularly and identified as “the father of modern fantasy literature'.
Tolkien was an
imitative will is obvious in many details, first of all in the choice of some
characters as the Elves, the Dwarves, the Ogres, the Dragons, all typical ones
of the Nordic sagas, and also, for example, in the choice of many names, like
some Ogres’ names, that are taken by Nordic poems, or as the Middle-Earth,
where the vicissitudes of The Lord of the Rings happened and that it is so
called because situated between the tenebrous West of the Gentlemen of Badly,
Sauron, and the luminous East of the Gods, Valars,
rulers of the world, that recalls very close Midgar,
the ancient Scandinavian word meanings “Earth”, situated between Hel (hell) and Asgard, the
fabulous city of
Remarkable are loans from the Arthurian cycle: Gandalf , the wizard, is a kind of Merlin;
Also the long and dangerous search of the volcano in Mordor’s land, where the ring must be destroyed, recalls the hard search of the Holy Graal in the Arthurian cycle and similarly who will find the Holy Graal (Galaad, Lancelot’s son) ascend the sky near God, at the end of Tolkien’s work the ring- bearer, Bilbo and Frodo, will sail on Elves’ ships towards the luminous East.
Another very important element is the language used by Tolkien, imitating the Anglo-Saxon and so giving a patina of ancient epic to the modern es of the whole cycle of works.
On the base of these revivals and basing himself to other universal elements (such as the ht between the Good and the Evil), Tolkien has carried out his story, inventing new vicissitudes that result well constructed and interlaced.
The author has done what medieval ballad singers already did: they invented new interlaces and new characters inserting them in an epico- mythological general view already preconstructed by others.
Moreover they asserted to tell true stories.
Tolkien has done that. How? He gives notice about languages of the characters, he tells the story of various eras, he reconstructs genealogies.
Moreover he was very accurate in the elaboration of his world: he worked 14 years to complete The Lord of the Rings and the whole cycle covers nearly 60 years.
In effects, the most surprising element of The Lord of the Rings isn’t the interlace, but the numerous and complicated appendixes: Appendix A that collects The Annals of the king and governors (history of men’s reigns from the first to the fourth era); Appendix B that contains the Chronology of the West (four eras); Appendix C with the genealogical tree of the main Hobbit families; Appendix D with the Calendar of the County; Appendix E containing notices about alphabets, writings and pronounces of the several languages spoken by Tolkenian characters; Appendix F with linguistic and ethnographic News on people and languages of the third era and at the end a very detailed map of the Middle-Earth.
As medieval ballad singers, the author has therefore composed an epic poem, but there are two fundamental differences: his one is a “false epic poem”, because it has not been composed in the Middle Age but in modern age, and Tolkien isn’t a medieval ballad singer but an university professor.
Tolkien has “imitated” like a forger the ancient epic poem describing scenes and languages that give an impression of authentic antiquity.
But the writer isn’t a fraudulent forger who wants to spread his work for authentic medieval epic poem (like for example Macpherson made in the 1700’s with his Ossian’s Songs: another “false” epic that the author wanted to make people believe it was an authentic Celtic poetry written by the ancient bard Ossian).
Tolkien published the false epic poem under his name, so the work was showed without any possible deceit for the readers.
But the writer’s success, in addition to the fantastic-epic collocation of his work, consists in this: Tolkien was good to create a parallel universe to ours, with its precise history , its people, its languages, its use and customs.
The author’s worlds is so exact in the least detail to seem absolutely true and not few readers believe to meet stories that are quite true.
J.R.R. Tolkien - A Biography
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, as he was
christened, was born in
They soon moved to
An avid reader, Tolkien was influenced by some of the great writers of his day including G.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells. It was during this period of financial hardship, but intellectual stimulation that Tolkien suffered the loss of his devoted mother. She succumbed to diabetes in 1904 when Tolkien was only 12 years of age.
Father Morgan took over as his guardian, placing him first with an aunt and then at a boarding house for orphans. It was at this boarding house, at the age of 16 that he would meet and fall in love with Edith Bratt. Naturally, their relationship was frowned upon. Tolkien and Edith were caught in affectionate circumstances - they bicycled together out to the countryside surrounding the city and had a picnic.
Edith became somewhat of an obsession for
Tolkien, and his guardian, Father Morgan, determined to separate the young
couple. For, it seemed that their relationship was interfering with Tolkien's studies and leaving him ill-prepared to take exams
to enter college. This was driven home to him when he failed to enter the
college on his first try. Tolkien temporarily swore off the love of his life an knuckled down to the work at hand. On his second try he
succeeded in obtaining a scholarship to
Throughout his life, Tolkien had cultivated a
love of language, especially ancient languages. At
Having reached the age of maturity in 1914, while still attending college, he looked up his lost love, Edith Bratt, and proposed marriage. She had accepted a proposal from another quarter, but in the end was persuaded to return to Tolkien. They would marry in 1916.
World War I, the war to end all wars, came in
1914. It would forever mark the end of many of the Empires of Europe and would
unleash death across the European Continent. Tolkien lost many of his friends
in the war, and he himself would serve as an officer on the front lines at the
Throughout his schooldays he had been a
determined poet and scholar. His interest in language was such that he had even
developed his own languages based loosely on Finnish and Welsh. It was while
It was about this time that Tolkien was blessed
with the first of his four children. After the war he was offered a
professorship at the
In 1925 Tolkien with a colleague published a
translation and analysis of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.' It was
a turning point in his career. It brought him notice at
'The Hobbit', the work that would make him famous, came out in 1936. He began it one evening while grading exam papers. Seated at his desk, he opened up an exam booklet to find the first e blank. He was surprised and pleased that the student had somehow entirely skipped the e. It seemed an invitation to write, and in that space he began his work on 'The Hobbit'.
The finished manuscript of 'The Hobbit' fell into the hands of George Allen and Unwin, Publishers. Unwin paid his ten year old son a shilling to read the story and report on its publishability. The young man lavished praise on the book, and Unwin decided to take a risk on it.
'The Hobbit' soon became a best seller and made Professor Tolkien famous. He was already well-known as a scholar for his work in Philology, and he was also part of a group of friends who called themselves the Inklings. The center of this group was C.S. Lewis who would long be one of Tolkien's best friends and admirers.
In the late 1930's Tolkien began writing the
'Lord of the Rings'. Work on the story would go on for ten and a half
years. He gave first chance at publication to Allen & Unwin,
the publishers of 'The Hobbit'. But it was rejected by a staff editor
when Unwin was away on business in
'The Lord of the Rings' was published in three parts and would become a huge publishing success.
Fame and fortune were both a blessing and a
bane for Tolkien. He enjoyed the popularity of his work. Yet, he was burdened
with work responding to his adoring public. After his retirement at