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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1536: J. R. R. Tolkien: Medieval Roots and Modern Branches

Thursday 6 July 2023, 09.00-10.30

Sponsor:Centre for Fantasy & the Fantastic, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
Organiser:Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton
Moderator/Chair:Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton
Paper 1536-aRiddles in the Mark: The Usage of 'Riddle' in Book III of The Lord of the Rings as Micro Level Interlacing
(Language: English)
Christian S. Trenk, Theologische Fakultät, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1536-b'This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party': Travel and the Quest Motif in Tolkien's Work
(Language: English)
Eva Lippold, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Open University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1536-c'We swears on the precious': Oath-Making and Oath-Keeping in Tolkien - Literary Devices or Spiritual Statements?
(Language: English)
Gaëlle Abaléa, Centre d'Etudes Médiévales Anglaises (CEMA), Université Paris IV - Sorbonne
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism

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).

Paper -a:
The word 'riddle' appears just over thirty times in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings with half of the occurrences being found in just three chapters of Book III. Books III and IV have long been noted as an intricate modern application of the medieval narrative technique of entrelacement. This paper will show that Tolkien's usage of 'riddle' is not only a key device in interlacing the contrasting narratives of Book III but also at the heart of the Free Peoples' disentanglement from the web of deceit and uncertainty, marking the pivotal moment in The Lord of the Rings where Gandalf's return at Fangorn links together the forces needed to eventually overthrow the Enemy.

Paper -b:
Travel, and the idea of journeys, is a major theme in Tolkien's works. Both the framing of his stories as 'there and back again' narratives and the importance of travel in his character - and world-building are clearly inspired by his understanding and enjoyment of the medieval quest narrative. This paper will consider the idea of travel and the 'hero's journey' in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It will also argue that the traditional quest narrative had already been reframed by Romantic-era writers in order to represent their own society and ideas, and that Tolkien's work draws equally from medieval inspiration and the Romantic-era conception of the quest. It will thus provide a perspective on travel as a continuing motif in literature, and show Tolkien's nuanced and complex interaction with the quest story, charting the development of this motif from medieval to 20th-century literature.

Paper -c:
From Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales, medieval literature has made use of oath making. Heroes and villains alike may be forced to take oaths that will bind them to others but also to the forces of destiny, some oaths flirting with prophecy. Fate, providence, or God will keep them to their words under pain of calamities, as the ring keeps Gollum to the oath he made to the Hobbits. Indeed, Tolkien used oaths and promises in order to make the plot advance or to allow a character to evolve. Yet they were not mere plot devices but also statements of morality and spirituality.