Thursday, August 27, 2015

Unfamiliar Items from "Tolkien's Middle Ages"

Post your research on one of the items with which your were unfamiliar in your section from Snyder's chapter “Tolkien’s Middle Ages” as a comment to this post.

6 comments:

Varda said...


Upon further research of the poem "Pearl," I discovered that it is believed the unknown author of this poem composed three other poems. The poem was essentially dated due to its content, as it references otherworldly things similarly to other works of the Middle Ages.

Originating with a basic story of a man who loses his "pearl," or his daughter as Snyder notes, the poem transforms into the man's vision of a woman who vaguely alludes to being the lost "pearl." The woman eventually leads the man to see her home in the New Jerusalem, which illustrates to the man that his deceased daughter is essentially at peace.

The second source link below leads to the actual poem itself, as translated by Sarah Stanbury, with relevant interpretations on the right side of the page. While I didn't read the whole poem, I did read a few stanzas to the best of my ability and found the poem to be beautifully written and even endearing. The man compares his daughter's beauty to a pearl through simple metaphor, and then enters into telling the story of how his "pearl" was lost to the earth.

Research Sources:
http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/stanbury-pearl-introduction
http://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/text/stanbury-pearl

Lórien said...

Snyder mentions Tolkien's interest a book called Mabinogi on Mabinogion. Tolkien's interest in it originated with his interest in the Welsh language. Mabinogi is a collection of Welsh myths, constituting the earliest piece of prose literature in Britain. The tales were found in two manuscripts, White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest.

The book consists of eleven stories (twelve with the edition of Tale of Taliesin in Lady Charlotte Guest's edition), varying widely in nature. There are three sections to Mabinogi. The first, called the four branches of the Mabinogi, contains four tales considered to be the proper Maginogi. The second is known as the native tales, and contains native Welsh legends. Some of these tales include stories of King Arthur not found in proper Arthurian legends. This is also the section in which Tale of Taliesin found in some editions. The thirds section, the romances, also contain Welsh versions of Arthurian legends believed to have been inspired by the French poet Chretien de Troyes.

Vana said...

The Vikings have always seemed to be, in my mind, some sort of vague common knowledge. That is, I knew what Vikings were without being able to explain much about them. I didn't know until I did some research that Vikings were originally Scandinavian, and that their "reach of terror" included most of Europe, a lot of Russia and Africa, and even parts of the Americas. Their mark on the world included lots of established cities and trade routes in conquered areas. They also left a rich cultural heritage in art, archeology, and mythology.

Another FAR more interesting tidbit I discovered while researching Norse mythology was that of Sleipnir. Sleipnir is an eight-legged horse described as "the best of all" and the choice steed of Odin. As if having eight legs wasn't weird enough, the horse is also the son of Loki... however, Loki is actually Sleipnir's mother, as he gave birth to the horse while in the form of a mare.

Nienna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nienna said...

In the section about medieval influences Snyder writes about how the poem 'Kalevala' was influential for Tolkien's later works. The "Kalevala" is an epic poem compiled by Elias Lonnrot. It is compiled from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology. This poem is an integral part of Finnish national identity and is regarded as the national epic of Finland.

The name "Kalevala" is the homeland of the heroes in the book. The story begins with the Finnish creation myth. It also includes various stories about magic, spells, and romance. The "Sampo" is an important element throughout the work. The "Sampo" is described as a magical talisman that brings good fortune. One character in the story, Kullervo, bears a strong resemblance to the Greek Oedipus and was highly influential on Tolkien's later works.

Tolkien reworked part of the "Kalevala" in his work "The Story of Kullervo". He was also inspired by the tragic nature of the Kullervo story and worked this theme into his legends of the First Age. This includes the story of Túrin Turambar in "The Children of Húrin" whose tragic story closely resembles the nature of the Kullervo tale in the "Kalevala".

Nessa said...

I had never realized how distant German, English, Norse, and Cornish are! I had always thought that they were more directly related (sister-languages, if you will, rather than second-cousins and great-great-great uncles). In fact,
I had always thought Cornish to be a sort of morphed version of English, as English is, to some degree, of German. However, after some research, I realized that Cornish stemmed from the Brittonic peoples whereas English came from the Anglo-Saxon side of things. It shares no ties with Cornish whatsoever. This is very interesting since, historically, English tends to be a very invasive language, essentially driving most indigenous languages into extinction.
The fact that Cornish has survived so long as a minority language and even undergone a revival is quite amazing, really.