How Did J. R. Tolkien Use European Mythology?

Decent Essays
This paper seeks to highlight the various mythologies used as source material by J.R.R. Tolkien, and how he attempts to create a mythology of his own through using various aspects from the myths and epics he studied. His desire to create a new and inventive mythology led to borrowing heavily from the myths and epics of Europe. This paper will show that through using the basis of other mythologies and epics, Tolkien creates an understandable and accessible mythology for his books. Throughout his writings, Tolkien weaves in various objects, aspects, and storylines from myth in order to provide readers with an understandable fantasy realm, while also providing a look at how these aspects can mesh together in a unique and fresh way. His use of…show more content…
The key question of this paper is: why did J.R.R. Tolkien decide to use European mythology as a basis for his own writings and mythology? The first aspect of this question is tied to the fact that he fixated on European mythology, which set the trend for many fantasy writers to look toward these myths and largely ignore the myths of other cultures and societies. Part of the decision to focus on these myths appears to stem from the desire to have his mythology seamlessly belong within the pantheon of myths which had already existed in Europe. The second aspect of this question is Tolkien’s choice to use myths at all which this paper hypothesizes was due to his desire to create an understandable and accessible mythology for his readers. Most scholars agree that his decision stemmed from what Humphrey Carpenter suggested was that Tolkien desired to “create a mythology for England” (97). This is also why he largely favored Norse mythology and the epic, Beowulf. The third aspect to consider is that he wanted the writings to be recognizable to those in Europe as a country’s mythology and not just simply as another piece of fantasy…show more content…
The sources considered for this paper will come from a range of databases that are either multi-subject or specialize in literature. Some of the databases that have already shown to have articles to consider are Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, Literary Reference Center, and Project Muse. Other databases that have proven to have a mixture of both books and articles are the MLA International Bibliography and ebrary. These databases have various articles and books on the topic of J.R.R. Tolkien and his mythology as well as information on the myths that have inspired his writings. The current research plan for the paper is as follows, first, search for the myths that inspired Tolkien; second, search for the different things that were evidently taken from these myths; and third what things were unique to Tolkien’s mythology. When looking beyond the databases, there has proven to be a plethora of books on the topic of Tolkien’s mythology and some prove to be more useful than others when investigating the topic of this paper. Some of these books are The Making of Middle-Earth: A New Look Inside the World of J.R.R. Tolkien by Christopher Snyder, The Magical Worlds of Lord of the Rings: The Amazing Myths, Legends, and Facts Behind the Masterpiece by David Colbert, and Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader edited by Jane Chance. These books have provided both a good
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