Following the formula in Beowulf, Örvar-Odds saga, and Tolkien: by Michael Fox

— review by Richard Rohlin

21 December 2021 | Mallorn, Winter, 2021, 49

A recent trend in Tolkien studies has focused on reading and understanding Tolkien as a modern or even a postmodern author, reading his works in conversation with other authors of his time. Works along these lines include both Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien: The author of the century as well as Ordway’s recent Tolkien’s modern reading. Ordway’s book in particular offers a major corrective” to the reading of Tolkien as fundamentally medieval and nostalgic.” While such a corrective is valuable, it is possible that in addressing this misconception about Tolkien’s works we create a false dichotomy. Fox’s Following the formula offers a way through the Scylla of medievalism and nostalgia and the Charybdis of modernism: Tolkien, like the author of Beowulf, employed a scheme of formula and variation in interacting with his medieval sources which imbued old words and formulae with fresh perspectives. In doing so, he bridged the gap between the medieval and the modern by employing a freedom of referent and variation shared both by the authors of the Beowulf poem and Örvar-Odds saga.…

permalink 🔗︁
date recorded 📅2022-01-01
scribe 🖋worblehat