‘Pearls’ of Pearl: Medieval appropriations in Tolkien’s mythology

— Kristine Larsen, Professor, Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University

Paper given 4 July 2022 at IMC 2022 Session 241

Among the medieval masterpieces that played an influential role in J.R.R. Tolkien’s life is the dream vision poem Pearl. Tolkien was introduced to the complex elegiac work as a student, taught it as a professor, and translated it into modern English as a scholar. He also crafted a poem in the style of Pearl, The Nameless Land (later The Song of Ælfwine), based on characters in his grand mythology of Middle-earth. The question remains, however, as to what additional impact Pearl had on his own writing. A close parallel reading of Tolkien’s translation of Pearl alongside his early mythology (prior to The Lord of the Rings) was motivated by the possibility that one of his mysterious minor original characters, the Sleeper in the Tower of Pearl, was an homage to Pearl. But as this paper will describe, additional pearls’ of Pearl can be found throughout Tolkien’s writings of the so-called Blessed Lands and the story of Eärendil the Mariner.

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date recorded 📅2022-01-24
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