This essay looks at world-building in reverse: the process of transforming a desirable fantasy world into a familiar mundane one. Focusing on the tools he had on hand to effect this transformation, particularly on Tolkien’s use of what he calls Faërian Drama, helps explain some of Tolkien’s more cryptic remarks in his late metaphysical writings — e.g., that what was once Valinor is now the Americas.
One of Middle-earth’s Primary World connections is its position as a written history of events in the distant past. Tolkien actively adopted the medieval traditions of annals, chronicles, and histories, especially in his writings concerning the First Age of Middle-earth, developing a fictional medieval historiography. This paper focuses on annalistic descriptions of three battles pitting Melkor against either the Valar, the Elves, or the united forces of both groups, and compares Tolkien’s descriptions of heavenly battles to depictions of astronomical events in Primary World medieval annals.
This paper examines the connection between the motif of the Old English warrior woman and Tolkien’s female characters. It provides a critique of Leslie Donovan’s paper “The valkyrie reflex in J.R.R. Tolkien´s The Lord of the Rings: Galadriel, Shelob, Éowyn and Arwen” and contrasts previous research on Tolkien’s female characters focussed either on gender-studies or on a “Germanic” influence with a more direct and specific connection between Medieval English and his works. The motif of the Old English warrior woman is established by investigating the female characters Judith, Elene, and Juliana from the Old English poems Judith, Elene, Juliana. The main character traits of the motif are beauty, radiance and leadership in combat. Tolkien’s characters Lúthien, Idril, Galadriel, and Éowyn are modelled on this motif.
This essay review interrogates the polemical style of rhetoric in Holly Ordway’s Tolkien’s Modern Reading. It critiques her use of a fictional narrative to represent an adolescent Tolkien, her intertextual criteria, and her dating of Victorian fantasists and their historical moment. It questions her claims about entrenched notions concerning Tolkien, her use of evidence, and her assumptions about her audience. It concludes that Ordway is less interested in Tolkien’s contemporary reading and more interested in creating a new narrative about Tolkien the author.
Following the Great War (1914 – 1918), J.R.R. Tolkien edited the poetry collection A Spring Harvest (1918) by his close friend, Lieutenant Geoffrey Bache Smith (October 18, 1894 – December 3, 1916), who died of wounds from shrapnel while stationed on the Somme. According to John Garth, it was “one of the many slim, sad volumes of poetry published posthumously as a memorial of those who died in war.” A spring harvest is a barren harvest, but even at his young age, Smith left a number of stirring poems on life, death, and destiny that seem, in retrospect, to have prophesied his own brief lifetime and the sacrifices of his generation. The poems also illustrate several motifs and even phrases which Tolkien used in his own legendarium. This conference paper delivered at the 2021 Tolkien Symposium examines a few of Smith’s poems in the context of Tolkien’s work, and is derived from Kris Swank’s doctoral research at the University of Glasgow.