This session will address wider topics and new approaches to Tolkien’s medievalism, ranging from source studies and theoretical readings, to comparative studies (including Tolkien’s legacy).
When Frodo awakens in the House of Elrond and inquires about his injury, Gandalf tells him ‘Elrond is a master of healing, but the weapons of our Enemy are deadly. To tell you the truth, I had very little hope; for I suspected that there was some fragment of the blade still in the closed wound. But it could not be found until last night. Then Elrond removed a splinter. It was deeply buried, and it was working inwards’ (234). Obvious potential source stories for this splinter include Sleeping Beauty and The Snow Queen, Troylus and Zellandine. This paper will trace the motif from its roots in the 14th-century story of Troylus and Zellandine to a couple of its 19th and 20th-century branches.
Tolkien’s verse drama, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, is his only published play and historical fiction, which has been influential among Old English scholars interested in Tolkien’s interpretation of the word ‘ofermod’ in the Anglo-Saxon ‘Battle of Maldon’, a poem that inspired this drama. Critics often describe the play incorrectly as a sequel to ‘Maldon’ and focus on Tolkien’s views on heroism while overlooking his achievement in alliterative metre. Tolkien, an advocate for the use of alliterative metre by modern poets, uses an old style in new ways and should be considered one of the ‘New Old English’ poets.
Jerzy Czerniawski’s illustrations for Maria Skibniewska’s 1981 revised Polish translation of The Fellowship of the Ring (Wyprawa ‘Expedition’) feature a symbolic language unique in global Tolkien visual culture. Employing motifs redolent of Dutch Vanitas painting, and the iconographic traditions of the Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance worlds, Czerniawski approximates the physical and metaphysical states imposed upon Tolkien’s characters by the deleterious act of Ring-bearing. Focussing on depictions of Frodo, Galadriel, and Gandalf, my paper will examine Czerniawski’s use of the dewdrop, apple, and pomegranate as symbols of both these imposed states and concurrent Tolkienian themes of temporality, salvation, and rebirth.
In view of Jason Fisher’s (2011) principles for a rigorous study of J.R.R. Tolkien’s sources, this paper aims to demonstrate that the relationship between Sir Orfeo (c.1330) and The Hobbit (1937) is of influence and not of mere similarity. Firstly, by showing that 21 years (1915-1936) of devotion passed since Tolkien encountered Sir Orfeo in Oxford, till the finished typescript of The Hobbit was sent to Allen & Unwin. Secondly, by taking other scholar’s studies further (Shippey, Anderson, Honegger, Rateliff, Wickham-Crowley, and Hillman) and unravelling how the themes of abduction and otherworld, as taken from Sir Orfeo, are incorporated into Mirkwood.