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”Beowulf” and the Influence of Old English on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings

Hugo Joly-Morin

It is uncommon for a popular work of art to take roots in an academic context. Many popular novels and films, possibly the two most common mediums of art we encounternowadays, are written by talented creative writers and aim to achieve a high level of realism tohelp the reader connect with the work. An exception to this came to popularity nearly sixty yearsago. J.R.R. Tolkien, then an Anglo-Saxon professor in the University of Oxford, published hissecond novel, titled The Lord of the Rings, in 1954. It is while being a full-time professor thatTolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings, an uncommon fact for the third best-selling novel everwritten at more than 150 million copies sold. Reading The Lord of the Rings, however, it is clearthat the academic context in which the novel was written contributed greatly to the complexity,depth and aesthetic prowess of the novel. Tolkien being an expert in Anglo-Saxon, nearly all of the names employed in the novel share Old English roots. Moreover, perhaps the greatest andbest-known work written in Old English was the heroic epic poem Beowulf . Tolkien is often said to ‘‘have helped to rescue the poem for posterity’’ by not only writing one of his most importantessays on the subject, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, but by basing a lot of The Lord of the Rings on the Anglo-Saxon poem. It is clear then that Old English has had an enormousinfluence on the novel and greatly provided its verses with an injection of timeless beauty andgrace.

Click here to read this article from Academia.edu