sábado, 26 de março de 2011

Tolkien and Beowulf

J.R.R. Tolkien, writer and Professor of Philology at Oxford University.

Tolkien was a philologist. Commonly known by his wonderful literary woks, his linguistic and philological works are closely related to novels like The Lord of The Rings for a simple reason: it was all his historical, mythological and linguistic knowledge that made him able to create that amazing paralel world.
He was also the first one to recognize the literary importance of the poem Beowulf, at first it was considered only linguistic corpus to the angle-saxon language investigation.

"Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" was a 1936 lecture given by J. R. R. Tolkien on literary criticism on the Old English heroic epic poem Beowulf. It was first published in that year in Proceedings of the British Academy, and has since been reprinted in many collections, including in The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, the 1983 collection of Tolkien's academic papers edited by Christopher Tolkien.
This paper is regarded as a formative work in modern Beowulf studies. In this talk, Tolkien speaks against critics who play down the fantastic elements of the poem (such as Grendel and the dragon) in favour of using Beowulf solely as a source for Anglo-Saxon history. Tolkien argues that rather than being merely extraneous, these elements are key to the narrative and should be the focus of study. In doing so he drew attention to the previously neglected literary qualities of the poem and argued that it should be studied as a work of art, not just as ahistorical document. Later critics who agreed with Tolkien on this point have routinely cited him to defend their arguments.
The paper remains a common source for students and scholars studying Beowulf and was praised by Seamus Heaney in the introduction to his translation of the poem. Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson call it in their Beowulf, An Edition (1998) "the most influential literary criticism of the poem ever written". The paper also sheds light on many of Tolkien's ideas about literature and is a source for those seeking to understand his writings.
The lecture is based on a longer lecture series, which exists in two manuscript versions published together as Beowulf and the Critics (2002), edited by Michael D. C. Drout.

To know more about Professor Drout work you can click here.

A curiosity

Tolkien was a genius. And one of the demonstrations of his brilliacy are the languages he created alone. The most complex of them are the Quenya and the Sindarin talked by the elves in his mythology. To know all the genesis of the Middle Earth, I would recommend the book The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, after that there is a big number of books telling particular parts of the story.
His languages are clearly influenced by his knowledge of Greek, Latin, German and Old English. But the elvish languages are also very strongly influenced by Old German and Gothic language but mainly by Finish language:

The ingredients in Quenya are various, but worked out into a self-consistent character not precisely like any language that I know. Finnish, which I came across when I first begun to construct a 'mythology' was a dominant influence, but that has been much reduced [now in late Quenya]. It survives in some features: such as the absence of any consonant combinations initially, the absence of the voiced stops b, d, g (except in mb, nd, ng, ld, rd, which are favoured) and the fondness for the ending -inen, -ainen, -oinen, also in some points of grammar, such as the inflexional endings -sse (rest at or in), -nna(movement to, towards), and -llo (movement from); the personal possessives are also expressed by suffixes; there is no gender.

The alphabet looks much like the germanic languages old letters, and here you can see in the left, the first page of Beowulf and in the right, the longest poem in Sindarin found in The Lord of the Rings trilogy:

 A Elbereth Gilthoniel is an Elvish hymn to Varda in J.R.R
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
First page of Beowulf in Cotton Vitellius A. xv.



 And that's all, folks!
by Bárbara Prado.


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