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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1636: Tolkien's Medieval Entanglements

Thursday 6 July 2023, 11.15-12.45

Sponsor:Centre for Fantasy & the Fantastic, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow
Organiser:Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar, Brighton
Moderator/Chair:Kristine Larsen, Department of Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University
Paper 1636-aThe Interlaced Entanglement of 'The King's Touch'
(Language: English)
Amy Amendt-Raduege, Department of English, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham, WA
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1636-bThe Theme of Decay and Fall in Tolkien's Works and its Medieval Entanglements
(Language: English)
Andrzej Wicher, Zakład Dramatu i Dawnej Literatury Angielskiej, Uniwersytet Łódzki
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 1636-cSam the Scop: The Entanglements of Poetry in Beowulf and The Lord of the Rings
(Language: English)
Kirsten Ogilby, Institut for Engelsk, Germansk og Romansk, Københavns Universitet
Index terms: Language and Literature - Other, Medievalism and Antiquarianism

Throughout his life and academic work Tolkien explored and grappled with some of the most perplexing and interesting cruxes and entanglements of medieval literature and language. This sessions will explore some of these entanglements and how Tolkien sought potential solutions.

PAPER ABSTRACT A: Near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, Celeborn reminds Boromir that he should 'not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know' (FR, II, viii, 365). His words prove prophetic, for near the end of the story it is indeed a proverb uttered by a healing woman of Gondor that first reveals Aragorn the Ranger as Elessar the King. There, an actual 'old wife' utters a proverb which reveals how a true king demonstrates his power: through touch. In so doing, Elessar recalls the medieval tradition of the King's Touch, when the hands of the king were believed to heal scrofula. Using the medieval technique of interlace, Tolkien binds the two parts of the story together, and then weaves in real history to create a complex web of medieval lore, legend, and literature.

PAPER ABSTRACT B: The network I propose to examine is the tradition of the fall of Troy, the so-called Matter of Troy, as it appears in medieval texts and its possible echoes in Tolkien's works. As far as the latter are concerned, I have in mind, particularly the Fall of Gondolin, the Sack of Doriath and the Drowning of Numenor. By the former I mean such texts as Dares' De excidio Troiae historia, Dictys' Ephemeris belli Trojani and Benoît de Sainte-Maure's Roman de Troie. The main difference between the medieval vision of the fall of Troy and the classical approach to this subject represented by Virgil's Aeneid and Homer's Illiad seems to consist in the lack of pagan gods and the moralization of the fall as a result of godless hubris. It seems that Tolkien shares fundamentally the same attitude. There are, however, some significant differences connected, for example, with the recurrent theme of a hidden paradise, which is particularly observable in the visions of Gondolin and Doriath.

PAPER ABSTRACT C: In The Lord of the Rings-trilogy, Tolkien reproduces full poems which the characters sing or speak aloud. This paper examines how Tolkien's use of this narrative device both replicates and deviates from the manner in which it is used in Beowulf. While both works use embedded poems to provide chronological depth and foreshadowing, the manner in which the texts employ poetry are, at their core, fundamentally opposed. The poems in Beowulf underscore that the characters are subordinate to fate, which 'gæð […] swa hio scel', leaving them trapped in a recursive series of narratives which they can neither learn from nor escape. Meanwhile, poetry in The Lord of the Rings allows the characters to distance themselves from difficult circumstances, or even wield verse in order to gain freedom directly. The two works use the same narrative device to present two fundamentally different representations of the relationship between reader and text.