Author Topic: A name destined for philological studies and the creation of imaginary worlds  (Read 12086 times)

Joe Carillo

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Fans of JRR Tolkien’s Old and Middle English fictions, among them the bestselling The Lord of the Rings, may be surprised to discover that he was an obsessive skeptic about the value of William Shakespeare's plays and other “modern” or post-Chaucer literature. Indeed, John Mullan, the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College London, writes in his review of the forthcoming biographical film Tolkien that philologically speaking, Tolkien passionately believed that there should be less focus on post-Chaucer literary works “in order to make room for the proper study of Old and Middle English, and potentially Old Icelandic.”

                   IMAGE CREDIT: POTTER/CAMERA PRESS
JRR TOLKIEN AGED 80 IN 1972, A YEAR BEFORE HIS PASSING


Mullan observes that much of the magic of The Lord of the Rings is linguistic: “Tolkien filled it with resonant fragments of invented older tongues: rhymes and curses and riddles and strangely evocative names. Its characters speak to us in an English larded with older-sounding words from other, invented languages. Generations of fantasy novelists have tried to follow his language trickery, though most devotees of the genre will know or guess that Tolkien’s verbal inventions have a rigour that George RR Martin can never match.”

Read John Mullan's "Tolkien’s first words" in the April 17, 2019 issue of NewStatesman.com now!    

Check out this 2002 essay of mine in the Forum, “Giving justice to J.R.R. Tolkien: A Retrospective”

« Last Edit: April 25, 2019, 11:23:21 PM by Joe Carillo »