Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tolkien's Mythology

Certainly, Tolkien's works are influenced by the mythologies of other cultures, places, and times. Mythological elements from Old Norse, Old English, Celtic, Finnish, and even classical Roman and Greek sources influenced his mythology as it is found in works such as The Silmarillion. But, most scholars agree that Tolkien's mythology is distinctively his own. In particular, Tolkien's officla biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, called it "a mythology for England."

So, what do you think Tolkien was trying to create with his own mythology? How is it similar to or different from other mythologies of earlier peoples? Why has the term "a mythology for England" seemed to resonate with so many scholars?


Ashley Cauley said...

I think that Tolkien's "Mythology for England" resonates with so many readers because it's altogether new. Tolkien's motivations for trying to create a mythology for his country probably stem from the fact that England doesn't really have a mythology all it's own (that I know of). King Arthur is fine, but doesn't have as much detail and simple aesthetic value as Tolkien's legendarium.

One of the main reasons I love his work so much is because he created more than just a series of stories (like the myths of Greek/Roman tradition) or poems about a lost culture (like Beowulf). He found a way to bring readers into his subcreated world (that could convincingly be a mythology for England) that has such a feeling of realness to it. He took his time to think of every little detail that might be relevant. We as readers know it is fiction, but we'd like to think that it was real.

Austin M. said...

Most people think of the Arthurian legends as the 'mythology' of England, but despite the fact that some of these tales take place geographically in England, the tales themselves are mainly a French tradition. I believe Tolkien understood this and wanted to create a mythology for his beloved country, a mythology that was unique and solely British at its very core.

Lorin said...

Maybe this is too simple, but the fact that there *are* so many different mythological elements in Tolkien's work perhaps speaks to its power and uniqueness as "a mythology for England." Like, because Tolkien was able to successfully and compellingly tie together so many different themes and ideas, his mythology is now considered something very different - when I read the Silmarillion, for example, I found it different from any other mythology I knew of.

Also, I think there are some uniquely English elements to Tolkien's work. I've been reading a lot about industrialization in a Victorian studies class I'm taking, so it's easy to see comparisons between that and some of the events in LOTR (i.e., Saruman's burning of Fangorn, etc.).