Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tolkien's foreshadowing through allusion

Alright, so I know I freaked out about this in class, but I wanted to more formally discuss it on the blog.  I mentioned the parallel in language between Morwen and Nienor when they are arguing about Nienor following Morwen to look for Turin, and Naomi and Ruth when Naomi tells Ruth to go back to her homeland and Ruth refuses.  Here are the passages:

"Go back! Go back! I command you!" [Morwen] cried.
"Mourning you named me, but I will not mourn alone, for father, brother, and mother.  But of these you only have I known, and above all do I love.  And nothing that you fear not do I fear."
(...)
"What would you do?" said Morwen.
"Go where you go," said Nienor.  "This choice indeed I bring...Or to know that I shall go into peril, if you go."
                                                                    (The Children of Hurin, pgs. 202-203)

Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home..."
But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay...Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried."
                                                                   (Ruth 1:8,16-17)

In the Bible, Naomi is Ruth's mother-in-law.  This is some sneaky allusion and foreshadowing by Tolkien to the fact that Morwen technically does become Nienor's mother-in-law as well as mother because she marries Turin, her brother.  Complex family tree to say the least!  But what I'm wondering is if Tolkien does this in his other works?  Are there other instances where he uses Biblical or classical allusion/parallelism as foreshadowing?

2 comments:

Julie Lautenschleger said...

I think it's kind of hard to pinpoint very overt religious allusions in Tolkien's work. I wouldn't have even noticed this one if you hadn't seen it! I'm sure that Tolkien was aware that the allusions he might make to Catholicism needed to be very subtle so as not to be off-putting to the reader.

There are some very easy to see overall themes that parallel that of the Bible, however. Iluvatar is very similar to God in the Silmarillion, in the role of creation and giving man a special role in said creation. In the Lord of the Rings, there is a very clear theme of man's imperfection and need to work towards the greater good.

Of course, there are probably other very specific allusions, like this one, but I couldn't think of any! Maybe someone else can!

Megan said...

This is a really good point! And it is both beautiful (it's a sweet thing to say to your mother) and completely freaky and icky (because she is also going to become her mother-in-law).

Christ figures abound in Tolkien's works, I think--from Gandalf's resurrection to Frodo's sacrifice to Earendil's position as mediator (or does that make him Mary? hmm). Those are the ones that come to me off-hand, but I feel that there are more. Of course the fate-free will thing we dealt with in class last time is a very Christian theme, though I admit it's not an explicit reference. If I think of more I will post them.