International Medieval Congress

IMC 2021: Climate

28th annual International Medieval Congress

J.R.R. Tolkien: Medieval roots and Modern branches

8 July 2021 13:15 utc — view in local time

This session will address wider topics and new approaches to Tolkien’s medievalism, ranging from source studies and theoretical readings to comparative studies (including Tolkien’s legacy).


№ 1: Borders of the otherworld: Warrior maidens, mounds, and ancestral swords in The Lord of the Rings and in the Old Norse Hervarar Saga

Jan A. Kozák

The Old Norse Hervarar Saga is unique among the so called fornaldarsögur (‘sagas of antiquity’) for a number of reasons; e.g., it is the only saga named after a female heroine — Hervör — who is a warrior disguised as a man; the saga also contains some of the oldest poems of the eddaic type with toponyms and anthroponyms dating back to the Migration Period; and it also contains the only attested collection of riddles from the Old Norse literature. These are probably some of the reasons why Christopher Tolkien chose to work on this saga as a subject of his master’s thesis. I followed his footsteps and prepared a two-volume bilingual edition (Old Norse/​Czech) while doing my PhD. in Prague. In my commentary to the saga I thoroughly analysed many topics that connect the saga to the Tolkien opus. In my presentation I will focus on one specific scene in the saga, which unites three motifs found also in the LotR: waking of a mound-ghost, female presenting herself as a male warrior, and an ancestral sword which serves as symbol of a bloodline and its fate. I will show how are these motifs integrated into the structure of the saga and compare that to the role of the motifs in The Lord of the Rings in an attempt to shed light on the possible contexts of Tolkien’s imagination.

№ 2: Flocking to the serpent banner: Decolonising The Lord of the Rings Workshop’s tabletop war-game?

Brian Egede-Pedersen, independent scholar

In August 2004, the Games Workshop company released the The Battle of Pelennor Fields” expansion to their The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. This expansion differs from much of the main game, since much is told from the point of view of the Haradrim leader. How, then, are the Haradrim portrayed, and why was this approach chosen? This depiction is mostly sympathetic, with Gondor seen as occupiers; no doubt influenced by the context of the unpopular war in Iraq. The conclusion is that Games Workshop became an unorthodox and political voice attempting to decolonize the world of Tolkien.

№ 3: Tolkien’s alliterative styles in The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

Anna Smol, Professor of English, Mount Saint Vincent University

Tolkien’s alliterative verse drama The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth” has medieval roots in that Tolkien uses an Old English style of alliterative metre and alludes to the events recounted in the early medieval poem, The Battle of Maldon,” but he also brings alliterative poetry into the twentieth century in order to present something new to modern readers and scholars. Tolkien advocates for the use of alliterative metre by modern poets. In his verse drama, he demonstrates the potential of alliterative verse in modern poetry by creating distinct characters with different styles of speech and different attitudes to illustrate the tensions between medieval idealization of heroism and modern critiques of the waste of war. But more than that, The Homecoming” is an impressive achievement of original alliterative art by a modern poet.

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