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Tolkien's Art

Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England

Jane Chance
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Tolkien's Art
    Book Description:

    " J.R.R. Tolkien's zeal for medieval literary, religious, and cultural ideas deeply influenced his entire life and provided the seeds for his own fiction. In Tolkien's Art, Chance discusses not only such classics as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, but focuses on his minor works as well, outlining in detail the sources and influences--from pagan epic to Christian legend-that formed the foundation of Tolkien's masterpieces, his "mythology for England."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7086-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Before the publication of Tolkien’s biography and his letters, it was popularly believed that the Hobbit stories narrated to his children “conquered and remade Tolkien’s imagination” to the point of “reshaping even his responses to the literature he studied as Rawlinson Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford,” as well as influencing his theories of mythological imagination implemented in his later creative works.¹ But with the publication of these and other works by and about Tolkien, it has become clearer that the relationship may have operated the other way around, that is, with his fictional stories and his own developing mythology of...

  5. Chapter 1 The Critic as Monster: Tolkien’s Lectures, Prefaces, and Foreword
    (pp. 12-47)

    When Tolkien delivered the Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture of 1936, he changed the course ofBeowulfstudies for the next sixty-five years and also permanently altered our understanding of the Old English poem. As a scholarly essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” sought to demonstrate the coexistence of Germanic and Christian elements in the poem, especially in the figures of its monsters, Grendel and the dragon, formerly viewed as peripheral to the work’s main theme and structure. By so arguing, the essay provoked a controversy over its Germanic and Christian aspects that continues to be debated today, although...

  6. Chapter 2 The King under the Mountain: Tolkien’s Children’s Story
    (pp. 48-73)

    A story about growing up or maturation,The Hobbithas been regarded by some critics as merely a work of children’s literature¹ and by others as a badly muddled mix of children’s literature and adult literature.² In part readers’ confusion over its genre and meaning may have stemmed from its changing form, in that Tolkien revisedThe Hobbitthree times: first in 1937, the year it was published in Great Britain; then in the second edition of 1951, with chapter 5—when Bilbo finds the Ring and participates in the riddle game with Gollum—having been revised earlier, in 1947,...

  7. Chapter 3 The Christian King: Tolkien’s Fairy-Stories
    (pp. 74-110)

    In the nineteenth century, fairy tales were regarded as fantastic and trashy and found little support from moralists and educationalists concerned with informing young minds: “[I]t would be absurd in such tales to introduce Christian principles as motives of action.”¹ In the twentieth century, in part due to the efforts of the Victorian compiler of fairy tales Andrew Lang, fairy-stories became for many parents and educators acceptable entertainment for children, but received little support from critics concerned with analyzing great literature, if only because such stories were intended for children and not for adults. Tolkien attempted to change this modern...

  8. Chapter 4 The Germanic Lord: Tolkien’s Medieval Parodies
    (pp. 111-140)

    That Tolkien had a taste for parody is clear from the existence of thirteen early poems using medieval languages, verse, and metrical forms, written at Leeds in the twenties with E.V. Gordon and in 1936 appearing in an unpublished University College of London anthology of thirty pages entitled “Songs for the Philologists.”¹ In part also an indication of Tolkien’s propensity for satirizing his own field of English language and literature, these poems point to a direction he will pursue in other venues: humorous criticism of the eccentricities—particularly pomposity, intolerance, and pride—of those judgmental and narrow-minded professors and scholars...

  9. Chapter 5 The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s Epic
    (pp. 141-183)

    The epic form has proven useful in reflecting the clash of value systems during periods of transition in literary history. In the Old EnglishBeowulf,Germanic heroism conflicts with Christianity: the chivalric pride of the hero can become the excessivesuperbiacondemned in Hrothgar’s moralistic sermon. Similar conflicts occur in other epics or romance-epics: between the chivalric and the Christian in the twelfth-century GermanNibelungenliedand in Sir Thomas Malory’s fifteenth-centuryLe Morte d’Arthur;between the classical and the Christian in the sixteenth-centuryFaerie Queeneof Edmund Spenser; and between chivalric idealism and modern realism in the late-sixteenth-century Spanish epic-novel...

  10. Chapter 6 The Creator of the Silmarils: Tolkien’s “Book of Lost Tales”
    (pp. 184-199)

    The Silmarillionmay be considered a “lost book” in at least six senses. Originally entitled “The Book of Lost Tales,”The Silmarillionin its earliest incarnation contained only the three stories written in 1917 (or earlier), “The Fall of Gondolin,” “Of Túrin Turambar,” and “Of Beren and Lúthien.”¹ In a second sense, as if it had been lost and then discovered as a “mythologyfor England,” “The Book of Lost Tales” represents yet another attempt by Tolkien to pretend that he is the editor or translator of work belonging to a previous era, as he does inFarmer Giles of...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 200-228)
  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 229-242)
  13. Index
    (pp. 243-263)