reviews (but not of MC)

Ven vendersleighc at
Thu Dec 11 21:26:40 EST 2003

Charlie wrote
<Snipping from the Telegraph article:

<[Tolkien's Middle Earth, as he saw it] "was not
name of a never-never land
without relation to the world we live in... The 
theatre of my tale is this
Earth, the one in which we now live, but the 
historical period is

<This quotation intrigues me. What does it boil 
down to? I'd have thought
there are quite a few other imaginary elements 
there than just the
historical period (elves, dwarves, ents, etc 
etc). And the continent where
it's set bears no obvious relation to any I know.

Nor is magic anything like
such a prominent element in our world as it is in

his fictionalized version.
I'd like to think that Tolkien was making a more 
interesting point than that
the themes of LotR are relevant to our own lives,

but I can't see how else
to parse it.>

I found a fuller version of this quote, which may
make things a bit clearer:

Apparently taken from some notes JRR Tolkien
jotted to himself after reading W.H. Auden's
review of The Return of the King in 1956: 
Tolkien wrote:

 "I am historically minded. Middle-earth is not
an imaginary world. The name is the modern form
(appearing in the 13th century and still in use)
of midden-erd > middel-erd, an ancient name for
the oikaumene, the abiding place of Men, the
objectively real world, in use specifically
opposed to imaginary worlds (as Fairyland) or
unseen worlds (as Heaven or Hell). The theatre of
my tale is this earth, the one in which we now
live, but the historical period is imaginary. The
essentials of that abiding place are all there
(at any rate for inhabitants of N.W. Europe), so
naturally it feels familiar, even if a little
glorified by the enchantment of distance in

This quote from Peter Jackson expresses commonly
held beliefs about Tolkien's aim.

'I felt a strong connection between Tolkien and
England. He wrote English mythology which he felt
had been lost in 1066. 
'Whatever oral stories existed in the spirit of
the Norse sagas and Greek myths were presumably
wiped out by the Norman invasion, so he set about
trying to create a mythology for his country." 

However it is worth remembering that he set out
to do this by way of the Silmarrilion and all
those stories collected as Lost Tales etc, long
before any little hobbits  ventured onto
someone's exam paper. I should put my hand up
here and say that I have read the Silmarillion
and three or volumes of the aforesaid but it was
a long time ago.

Charlie then said 
<Nor is magic anything like such a prominent
element in our world as it is in his
fictionalized version.>

Minnow replied:
<But it was, in the culture he gave his heart to:

the Northern mythology has
all the things his Middle Earth has apart from 
Ents, which he did
specifically invent, and hobbits, ditto.  He has 
ignored the squabbling
bloodthirsty Asgardians, but the rest is a dead 
lift, and why not?  > snipped

. As well as drawing on the Scandinavian/Germanic
mythology of Northern Europe Tolkien lifted a
great deal from the Finnish Kalevala. I
recognised quite a few plot elements in the Lost
Tales (although all I remember is a guy who
manages to do everything wrong, including
accidentally sleeoing with his sister). One of
the most striking parallels is with the stories
of the smith Ilmarinen, who makes, among other
things, a replacement Sun and Moon, and a
marvellous prosperity generating device called
the Sampo, devices which compare with the
Silmarils themselves  as well as the one ring.   
So I don't think it was a dead lift, more of a
synthesis of mythical elements which had a
distinctly synergetic effect.

This is a link to an article about Tolkien and
the Kalevala

And this is a summary of the Kalevala, my search
slills failed to locate the entire text (which is
very long and I failed to finish).*

*Finish ouch


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