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  • The Road to the Misty Mountains and beyond
    to the cavern from which a fast stream issues much as the River Running does from the Lonely Mountain looks familiar to any fans who have seen The Fellowship of the Ring movie directed by Peter Jackson as it bears striking similarity to the Last Homely House in Rivendell This may be no surprise when one realises that John Howe one of the concept artists on the Lord of the Rings movies although being Canadian lives in Switzerland Tolkien himself tells us that the Silberhorn is his Celebdil or Silvertine and the three peaks of the Jungfrau Silberhorn and Rottalhorn are a trio that could well have inspired him to imagine his own three peaks in the Misty Mountains Barazimbar Zirakzigil and Bundushathur which sat above Khazad Dum The tour visited the Jungfraujoch and we came higher up than Tolkien could have done as the final stage of the railway was completed in 1912 But he and his friends would most likely have gone to the second level as it was all open with trains running as far as they could go Then there is the Lauterbrunnen valley it has been cited as being the inspiration for the valley of Rivendell and when you reach it you can immediately see why It has 72 waterfalls that run into it and it resembles Tolkien s own watercolour from The Hobbit as well as many features that remind one of Ted Nasmith s famous painting of Rivendell which has been on the cover of The Hobbit as well as in a calendar The hidden waterfalls of the Trümmelbach which are to be accessed from the valley seem to suggest a connection with the hidden entrance to Gondolin of which more will be explained in our forthcoming book From there the village of Mürren is said to resemble Tolkien s sketch of Dunharrow for me it was a charming and interesting place with spectacular views One comes to Grindelwald overlooked by the Eiger or Ogre Grindelwald has the wald element which means wood or forest but the first part is obscure could perhaps Tolkien have considered it to be a corruption of Grendel If so then Grendel s wood overlooked by the ogre might be an attractive back story to the story of Beowulf perhaps And high up on the upper flanks of the North Face of the Eiger sits the White Spider Heinrich Harrer who was the first man to scale the North Face in 1938 called his book of the climb The White Spider A gigantic spider on the top of a mountain waiting to capture any climber foolish enough to come to her lair do we have the beginnings of Shelob and the pass at Cirith Ungol It is tempting to think so Going over the Grosse Scheidegg to Meiringen the route Tolkien and his friends walked over brings breathtaking views of the Wetterhorn or weather mountain It is so large that it has its own weather systems We saw

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  • J.R.R. Tolkien interest slowly rising again according to Google Trends
    been impressive and in fact much higher then now with The Hobbit movies According to Google the numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time They don t represent absolute search volume numbers because the data is normalized and presented on a scale from 0 100 Each point on the graph is divided by the highest point or 100 When we look at the averages we can clearly see that The Lord of the Rings scores far better then The Hobbit and that the author J R R Tolkien is far less searched for compared to the works he created The good news however is that The Hobbit and Tolkien are getting trendy again and so interest is slowly rising once more The release of The Hobbit movie caused a big spike of interest but as you can see interest dropped like a bomb after people saw the film That probably also explains why this time around we don t see hundreds of fan sites being created thousands of discussions going on and massive fan events being organized While interest is rising again we can not say it has the same impact as we saw during The Lord of the Rings movie period Interesting however we can see that interest in The Hobbit book sort of follows interest in The Hobbit movie If there are actually more people reading the books we don t know but we can see that when The Hobbit trailer was released a lot more people searched for the book and the same happened when the movie came out According to Google Trends we have on average 7 1 searches for the movie versus the book That alone is very interesting What I m however most interested in is where the Tolkien fans are living According to Google Trends the biggest Tolkien fans live in Norway followed shortly by Czech Republic Poland Sweden Finland Croatia and United States One would expect a country like United Kingdom to top the list but this is not the case The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings show however similar results with most searches done in New Zealand followed to the United Kingdom and United States clearly these countries are far more into movies then authors The bigger question is how will J R R Tolkien do in several years How does he as an author compare to for example the English poet William Shakespeare the second most popular author after Martin Luther King according to Google Well also here Google Trends can give us answers On average we can see for every 46 searches for Shakespeare there is 1 search for Tolkien however interest in Shakespeare is getting lower of the last few years and Tolkien is very slowly closing the gab One could argue whether Shakespeare is slowly getting less popular or Tolkien is getting more interesting Only

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  • A passport to Faery
    then proceeds to welcome him and invites him to dance Smith returns home bearing an heirloom flower of Faery which his family preserves in a small casket His family marvel at the flower and they can see the star on his brow 5 Smith returns one last time to Faery only to meet the Queen herself and finds in dismay that it was with her in other guise that he had danced before He is filled with shame as he remembers the tiny fairy doll with a wand atop the Twenty Four Feast cake in light of the terrible beauty of the actual Queen of Faery But the Queen simply laughs and tells him Better a little doll maybe than no memory of Faery at all For some the only glimpse For some the awaking The Queen speaks to Smith at length of many things mostly without words but once she lays her hand upon Smith s brow he realizes that he must now return to mortal lands in bereavement Smith is left to reflection walking homeward among fallen leaves He is joined on the way by a stranger who calls him Starbrow none other than Prentice Alf Alf asks Smith whether the time is not now ripe for him to give up the star In the Great Hall the star falls from Smith s brow into his hand and Smith returns it to the spice box whence it came He feels a stab of pain and the tears run down his face as he realizes what precious passport he is losing forever Alf reveals to Smith which child shall next receive the star of Faery In the end humble Prentice Alf is revealed in terrible glory as the King of Faery And the star that had belonged to Smith s maternal grandfather and later to Smith himself is passed on to another child The gilding and vivid emblazoned colors of Wootton Major s Great Hall have faded because its society s connection to Faery is but dimly remembered One divines this from the modern attitude of the pompous and blustery Master Cook Nokes who summarily dismisses Alf s talk of Faery as childish fairytale nonsense Tolkien is reminding us how today if knowledge has grown understanding is diminished for men in earlier ages had infinitely more awe of Creation just as he has told us more than once how old wives tales contain many things it was once good for the wise to know Another reviewer gives us an intriguing and knowledgeable interpretation of Smith of Wootton Major This interpretation invokes allegory i e that the Great Hall is the village church or the Master Cook is the priesthood or that the denuded birch reflects how the B scheme of education would truncate and wither Oxonian English philology Yet he also asserts how Tolkien might be arguing with himself as to its allegorical nature 6 However this reader s very first edition of Ringlore Ballantine 1965 contains Tolkien s

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  • Concerning Hobbits: Welsh Fairies in Oxford
    Englishmen established Tolkien could now posit an Anglo Saxon transmission of fairy stories sagas poems songs and lore through to our own day An individual Anglo Saxon voyager at first named Eriol but subsequently reconceived along with other elements of the conceit as Ælfwine 29 was said to have received this body of mythology from the fairies and passed it down the generations so that it reached the modern English The implication of all this was that the English today have the true traditions of the fairies of whom the Íras and the Wéalas the Irish and Welsh tell garbled things As Christopher Tolkien concludes Thus a specifically English fairy lore is born and one more true than anything to be found in Celtic lands 30 English Scholarship It might be hazarded that in his later life as a scholar Tolkien would have come to object to the very fact that Rhys had analysed the Welsh fairy tales rather than explored their literary integrity as stories 31 Certainly and as is well known by the 1930s Tolkien had become extremely critical of scholars who approached fairy stories purely as a source of historical information This was a primary message of his famous lecture On Fairy stories delivered at the University of St Andrews in 1939 Indeed one might be forgiven for suspecting that Tolkien had Rhys firmly in mind when he lambasted scholars who treat fairy stories not as they were meant to be used but as a quarry from which to dig evidence or information about matters in which they are interested 32 And yet it seems most improbable that Tolkien did here have Rhys in mind and this because he seems to have shared the attitude of both Rhys and Matthew Arnold as to the literary merit of the Welsh stories Consider the analogy that Tolkien had developed three years earlier in his 1936 lecture Beowulf the Monsters and the Critics A man inherited a field in which was an accumulation of old stone part of an older hall Of the old stone some had already been used in building the house in which he actually lived not far from the old house of his fathers Of the rest he took some and built a tower But his friends coming perceived at once without troubling to climb the steps that these stones had formerly belonged to a more ancient building So they pushed the tower over with no little labour in order to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions or to discover whence the man s distant forefathers had obtained their building material Some suspecting a deposit of coal under the soil began to dig for it and forgot even the stones They all said This tower is most interesting But they also said after pushing it over What a muddle it is in And even the man s own descendants who might have been expected to consider what he had been about were heard to murmur He is such an odd fellow Imagine his using these old stones just to build a nonsensical tower Why did not he restore the old house He had no sense of proportion But from the top of that tower the man had been able to look out upon the sea 33 In the context of the 1936 lecture in which it was delivered the meaning of this analogy is fairly straightforward The man who inherits the ancient stones and builds a tower is the poet who drawing upon a corpus of now lost Teutonic literature composed the poem known today as Beowulf The various critics who push over the tower to search for hidden inscriptions or even coal fail to appreciate that the new poem has literary value in its own right that the tower provides an ocean vista Such critics might include the likes of Stopford Brooke who in his English Literature from the Beginning to the Conquest 1898 identified the original germ of the idea of Grendel the first monster encountered in Beowulf with the primeval indwellers of the sea coast who were driven back by the first invaders into the wild moors and rocks of the inland 34 Now at first sight this analogy may be readily redeployed to embrace Celtic fairy stories as well as critics of these Celtic tales such as Rhys The builder of the tower now becomes perhaps one of the fourteenth century Welsh bards who contributed to the Red Book of Hergest Rhys is one of the critics who knock over the towers of Celtic folklore in their search for the meaning of the ancient stones found within these towers or the coal buried beneath them searching in the particular case before us for those aboriginal fairies taken to be the Welsh equivalents of Grendel thereby failing to see the sea let alone any far green country or sunrise beyond it But Tolkien would surely have resisted such a Welsh redeployment of his analogy In his considered opinion the Beowulf poet had known what he was about he had understood his material and he had crafted from it something wholesome and grand The Welsh bards by contrast had neither understood their material nor brought to it an intelligible design As Matthew Arnold had said and Rhys had repeated see the epigraph to this essay the Welsh bards had used materials taken from a tradition of which they were ignorant And to change the metaphor slightly as did Tolkien in a letter of 1937 the productions of the Welsh bards were like a broken stained glass window reassembled without design 35 The Beowulf analogy had made the point that modern scholars had failed to see that from ancient materials an Anglo Saxon poet had made something new and beautiful But Tolkien did not believe that the same praise could be bestowed upon the Welsh bards he regarded their literary compositions as he put it in the same letter with a certain distaste largely for their fundamental unreason And the implication of this was that the chief value of the Welsh fairy stories must indeed reside in the individual and ancient elements out of which they were constructed Rhys in other words was not to be faulted for his scholarly method of analytical demolition This does not mean of course that Tolkien necessarily agreed with Rhys s specific scholarly conclusions a point on which we must now reflect further Hobbits Rhys s demolitional approach to the Welsh fairy stories then had been correct But if the most ancient dwellers in Britain were fairies or Elves rather than as Rhys had claimed small mound dwellers what from the perspective of Tolkien s fiction was to be made of Rhys s reading of the Welsh fairy stories Had Rhys simply produced a garbled account of Elves or was his picture of aboriginal mound dwellers a hazy glimpse of something else altogether The subsequent development of Tolkien s literary imagination suggests the latter As any Tolkien aficionado will already have spotted Rhys s reading of the literary and archaeological evidence of respectively Wales and Scotland points neither to Elves nor to primordial inhabitants of the land but to hobbits In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit begins Tolkien s masterpiece of children s literature This particular hole in the ground turns out to be a comfortable hobbit hole built into the side of a hill and filled with handsome furnishings and numerous pantries What is a hobbit In the first pages of The Hobbit Tolkien observes I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays since they have become rare and shy of the Big People as they call us They are or were a little people about half our height 36 If the English fairy stories provide the true tradition of the first people to walk upon England s pleasant pastures and mountains green that is the Elves then the source of the little people found in Rhys s interpretation of the Welsh fairy stories is not an aboriginal race of men but hobbits Hobbits certainly bear some resemblance to the aboriginals that Rhys read into the Welsh fairy tales As we have just seen they are a little people at least one of whom lives in a dwelling rather similar to those that Rhys describes as hillocks covered with grass In Concerning Hobbits 37 the prologue to The Lord of the Rings Tolkien provided a fairly detailed anthropological survey of hobbits and his discussion may be profitably compared with Rhys s account of an aboriginal population of small mound dwellers of an unwarlike disposition much given to magic and wizardry and living underground On some points the two accounts coincide At no time had Hobbits of any kind been warlike states Tolkien no scholarly qualifications here Regarding dwellings however Tolkien introduces a note of learned pedantry It is true that all hobbits had once lived in holes in the ground but over the course of time many had adopted other forms of abode In fact by the time in which Tolkien s narratives are set only the poorest and the richest of hobbits maintained the old mound dwelling custom the pseudo sociological observation introducing an illusion of realism What of magic and wizardry Well as any reader of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings knows the two most famous hobbits in history Bilbo and Frodo Baggins both went on adventures with the great wizard Gandalf and one may surmise that as their stories were retold down the ages the attribute of wizardry came to be transferred to the hobbits themselves But hobbits have never in fact studied magic of any kind Nevertheless they may seem magical which is to say that hobbits are practiced in the art of disappearing swiftly and silently and as such possess a power which we sometimes confuse with real magic 38 Here Tolkien can be seen as not merely contradicting the idea that hobbits practice magic but also explaining how both Rhys and the tellers of Welsh fairy stories mistakenly came to associate the little people with magic in the first place Not all hobbit characteristics can be read from and into the Welsh fairy tales as Rhys interprets them Hobbits are not native to the Shire where most are said to dwell at the time of Tolkien s stories Nor does the society found in the Shire appear matriarchal More generally hobbits are almost completely devoid of those nefarious and sinister qualities attributed to so many of the denizens of the Welsh fairy stories Yet all these qualities can be associated with at least one hobbit if only we know where to look Having left his comfortable hobbit hole far behind Bilbo Baggins the hero of The Hobbit receives a knock on the head and wakes to find himself in a cave deep under the Misty Mountains Here he encounters Gollum a small slimy creature While the narrator immediately declares I don t know where he came from nor who or what he was it soon becomes clear that Gollum is not so very different from Bilbo as Gandalf would remark of this meeting in The Lord of the Rings There was a great deal in the background of their minds and memories that was very similar They understood one another remarkably well 39 As Tolkien meditated upon a sequel to The Hobbit he made this implicit kinship explicit In early drafts of The Lord of the Rings Gollum is already described as an ancient sort of hobbit and of hobbit kind or akin to the fathers of the fathers of the hobbits 40 Gollum thus becomes a survival from a distant hobbit past kept alive unnaturally by his possession of a magical but evil ring the power of which has almost totally corrupted his character Gollum bridges much of the gap between Bilbo Baggins and the aboriginal origin of fairies described by Rhys In general terms he can appear as the archetypal evil ghoul of folk legend After losing his ring to Bilbo Gollum ventures out of his deep dark cave whereupon the woods are filled with rumours and dreadful tales The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad a ghost that drank blood It climbed trees to find nests it crept into holes to find the young it slipped through windows to find cradles 41 But his particular story also includes several of the features that Rhys attributed to the little people as a whole Gollum began his life by the banks of the River Anduin where he was known as Sméagol and where he lived among a large family ruled by a grandmother of the folk stern and wise in old lore 42 Thus Gollum appears to have been born into a matriarchal society 43 In Concerning Hobbits we further learn that the lands around the River Anduin were the original home of the hobbits or at least the land of which their earliest tales tell 44 Thus Gollum is an aborigine at least in relation to Bilbo Baggins After turning to evil ways Gollum s grandmother had banished him from the ancestral home and he had sought refuge deep under the mountains where he had vanished out of all knowledge Thus like the little people of the Welsh fairy stories Gollum has been driven into the hills albeit on the command of his grandmother rather than by the swords of Aryan invaders As with the mistaken association of hobbits and magic Tolkien here provides a euhemeristic explanation of the fairy stories collected by Rhys in this case pointing to an original source the story of which seems to have been generalized rather than confused in its telling over countless generations Tolkien did not merely provide a source for Rhys s stories of little aboriginal people his reading also contains within it the germs of an explanation for Rhys s mistakes and confusions In the description of Bilbo s encounter with Gollum to take but one example Tolkien can be seen projecting the relationship between ourselves and the aboriginal race posited by Rhys into a fictional encounter between a bourgeois hobbit and his ancient aboriginal racial self But at the same time and true to character Tolkien can be seen suggesting within his fiction the true story behind the various fairy tales collected and interpreted by Rhys Bilbo s encounter with Gollum gives rise eventually to a myth of a primitive cave dwelling aboriginal little people 45 But in so providing both the true stories and the explanations of Rhys s false scholarly turns Tolkien was not reiterating Rhys s presuppositions in a different guise Rhys s aborigines are primitive in relation to us perhaps a rung lower on the evolutionary ladder and perhaps only a smidgeon of their blood flows in our veins for it has now been much diluted by the infusions of later racial invasions Gollum is indeed an aboriginal survival from ancient times but he is essentially of the same folk as Bilbo and his savageness is the result of degeneration due to the ring not lack of evolution Tolkien is telling this fairy story in his own terms and he connects his own account with that of Rhys not by conceptual links but by the shifts and manglings that he knows to be endemic to the transmission of an originally oral body of stories and legends Conclusion two Red Books It remains to note one further step in Tolkien s literary development As we have seen the young Tolkien initially posited an Anglo Saxon transmission of his elvish tales of the elder days Eventually however the scribes who transmitted this material were transformed from Anglo Saxons into hobbits from Ælfwine to Frodo Baggins as it were with the Red Book of Westmarch becoming the imagined medium of transmission Tolkien declares the Red Book to be our primary source for the history of the War of the Ring that ended the Third Age but it also contains much scattered information concerning the Second and even the First Ages This Red Book is said to be a manuscript compiled by several hobbit hands the first of which belonged to Bilbo Baggins the original has long since been lost but several copies have supposedly come down to us In essence the Red Book is the imagined manuscript source for the published books that we hold in our hands as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings 46 As has often been pointed out Tolkien derived the title of this hobbit Red Book from the fourteenth century Welsh manuscript known as the Red Book of Hergest This historical Red Book we may note was edited by Rhys together with John Gwenoryn Evans and published in two volumes The Mabínogían 1887 and The Bruts 1890 both of which were owned by Tolkien 47 Now we have seen that Tolkien shared the mainstream Victorian distaste for these medieval Welsh stories likening them to a broken stained glass window reassembled without design But we have also seen that examination of some of these broken shards had provided Tolkien as well as Rhys with valuable insights concerning those people who dwelled long ago in the quiet of the world when there was less noise and more green And having identified hobbits as depicted in some of these broken shards it would appear that Tolkien set a few of these hobbits to work reconstructing the rest of this broken window and indeed building much else besides which is to say writing the Red Book anew albeit according to a newly coherent design This conclusion raises some interesting questions concerning Tolkien s relationship to Wales and its cultural heritage a subject upon which it is easy to take a wrong step Tom Shippey has noted that Tolkien felt a deep affinity with the Anglo Saxon Beowulf poet 48 Certainly it is striking to observe how readily

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  • If the name fits: names in J.R R. Tolkien's fiction
    sense Celebrated fantasy writer and scholar J R R Tolkien is best known for his literary works The Hobbit The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion New research in Names A Journal of Onomastics examines what makes the personal and place names of Tolkien s Middle Earth so fitting In addition to his literary work Tolkien was a research associate for the Oxford English Dictionary and was Professor of English at Oxford University for nearly 35 years He had an affinity with words and language in particular Old and Middle English As a linguist interested in linguistic aesthetics Tolkien eventually created fourteen languages for Middle Earth The nomenclature within Tolkien s novels is very carefully done taking into consideration attributes such as etymology symbolism and onomatopoeia In some instances the author has drawn from Anglo Saxon and Old Norse but most of his creations emerged from his own invented languages Quenya and Sindarin the two main tongues spoken by elves Aragorn the name of the king who returns to claim the throne of Gondor signifies Lord of the Tree in elven speech His name thus alludes to the White Tree in the Court of the Fountain at Minas Tirith which serves as the royal emblem of Gondor The example of Aragorn illustrates how each name used within Middle Earth is befitting of the individual it designates Each name is also fit to the particular linguistic style culture and moral character that Tolkien has assigned to the different peoples of his imaginary world Names in Sindarin and Quenya for example reflect the dignity and grace of the elves Tolkien has modelled their sounds upon languages he found aesthetically pleasing such as Greek Finnish and Welsh A good example is the name of Aragorn s elven bride Arwen Undomiel Signifying Daughter of Twilight or Evenstar the name is both euphonious in sound and poetic in meaning At the opposite extreme are names in the Black Speech of Mordor such as that of the terrible ring wraiths the Nazghûl Tolkien here employs sound combinations that run counter to the typical patterns of both English and Latin tongues with the intention that the name strike his readers as sounding awkward and unpleasant According to author Christopher L Robinson a professor of English at HEC Paris onomastics or the study of names dates back to Plato Comparing the work of the namemaker to that of a blacksmith or weaver he treats names as functional objects created for the purpose of designating people places or things in a fitting manner Today we continue to speak of a namesmith or of coining a new word Tolkien has enriched this metaphor by reminding us that a name should not only serve a useful purpose such as designating a character it should also appeal to the senses Download the full article The article is available via ingentaconnect and is free to download until 03 September 2013 at http www ingentaconnect com content maney nam 2013 00000061 00000002 art00002

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  • Where Do Tolkien Fans Go to College?
    obsession with fiction become a career Literary Degrees You can get a degree in English Literature This degree is marked by classical reading classes the study of writing and the interpretation of some of the world s greatest works This bachelor of arts degree in English Literature is right for you if you re into writing want to be a teacher or desire a job that requires a great deal of research You may be called upon to write a thesis paper evaluating a great work of literature This may be the perfect time to start thinking critically about The Lord of the Rings If you choose to major in English Literature you can look forward to any of these interesting jobs Publishing Writing Education Marketing sales or advertising Social worker Researching for any number of businesses Saving for College No matter what degree program you choose you ll need to start thinking seriously about saving for college It s not going to be easy setting off into the unknown and just like Frodo you re going to need to constantly be thinking ahead You don t want to be left out of extra curriculars or run out of money before affording the things you need It s important to know what a college is offering like 529 plans College tuition planning is essential You ll want to sit down with your parents and budget for everything You ll want to know what your fees and bills are going to look like but also include your spending and food money Creating a budget is essential as this is a great place to start thinking about spending You have to know the college you want is the college you can afford The Highly Sought After Tolkien Class Like the One Ring

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  • On The Fall of Arthur: Pre-Publication Speculation By a Longtime Student
    of the Brut or versified version of Geoffrey of Monmouth s History of the Kings of Britain Layamon was writing in a mode far more like Old English alliterative verse than that of the high medieval revival of the form His links backward were early recognised and his probable influence forward on writers who can t possibly have used the manuscripts we have is a telling warning of the unpredictability of survival Hamel 1984 ALMA etc It would have been far less easy for JRR Tolkien to get hold of a good text of Layamon than of the alliterative Morte as the Brut had then been published less often but not impossible As with the alliterative Morte some evidence for Tolkien s interest in Layamon appears in a volume dedicated to him an essay on Layamon appears in the posthumous Festschrift volume co edited by by Mary Salu JRR Tolkien Scholar and Storyteller of 1979 while there is direct evidence of knowledge in the notes to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Tolkien and Gordon 1925 n 39 p 81 etc Layamon s work is far harder to read in the original than the alliterative Morte but in this area Tolkien would have definitely had an advantage with his knowledge of both Middle and Old English At times Layamon s Arthur cheerfully mixes Celtic and Germanic attributes In a set piece arming of the hero scene in the run up to the Battle of Bath we find that alongside the Welsh shield Pridwen misnamed from Arthur s ship spear Ron and sword Caliburne which were known both to the author of Culhwch and Olwen and to Geoffrey of Monmouth Arthur is wearing a hauberk of elvish make possibly forged by Weland s son and a helmet named Goosewhite which looks suspiciously like Beowulf s another product of the Weland workshop Between them we think it very likely that the Arthurian section of Layamon s Brut and the Alliterative Morte Arthure were the major sources for JRR Tolkien s The Fall of Arthur However also from the beginning it was clear that if JRR Tolkien was using the Alliterative Morte as any kind of pattern or source he had made at least one radical change Carpenter gave us that information with his thumbnail description the King and Gawain go to war in Saxon lands Not the anti Roman southern European adventures of the Alliterative Morte and every other writer from Geoffrey of Monmouth on through Layamon to Malory but a northern venture And one moreover which answers the criticism of Arthur and the Arthurian legends by one of the greatest writers in the English language In his The History of Britain first published in 1670 John Milton was particularly sceptical about Arthur s Continental conquests challenging the usual accounts on the grounds not just of historical plausibility but of military sense saying thatArthur much better had made War in old Saxony to repress thir flowing hither than to have won Kingdoms as far as Russia quoted in Lupack 2005 p 44 Now Tolkien s own knowledge of Milton may be debateable but that of CS Lewis surely is not And The Fall of Arthur was probably started at the very time when the two men were closest and collaborating most fruitfully and when Lewis was either working on his own Arthurian narrative poem Launcelot or had very recently been doing so We do tend to forget that both men were First World War veterans former Army officers with whom such a practical criticism would weigh heavily and to whom it might provide an imaginative challenge a what if of considerable interest Therefore I would suggest Milton s criticism could indeed have been a source of this known plot thread in The Fall of Arthur Nowadays we tend to think of historical Arthurs as a post Second World War phenomenon the province of the likes of Rosemay Sutcliffe Alfred Duggan and most recently Bernard Cornwell There were however writers taking an interest in this area between the two wars The poet John Masefield who was then important and much read used the idea in his Midsummer Night and Other Tales in Verse of 1928 This group of poems were deeply informed by a knowledge of the Welsh Arthuriana which few at the time could have matched They included besides works which attempt to create a realistic historical setting for Arthur others on the theme of Arthur as ship king which resonate with some of JRR Tolkien s most persistent yet elusive ideas If I may borrow a quote In Badon Hill and The Sailing of Hell Race Arthur s prowess as war leader and sea captain is established and Masefield is in his element In the second of these poems in particular realistic details of the voyage combine with the supernatural in a manner reminiscent of Coleridge s The Ancient Mariner as Arthur visits the three kingdoms of hell Taylor and Brewer 1983 ch 7 pp 228 9 As far as academic attitudes go a less dramatic version of Collingwood s ideas was taken up by S Frere and presented as established fact in the next great survey of Roman Britain Britannia in 1967 By then the Camelot Research Committee had been in existence for two years formed by archaeologists and Arthurian enthusiasts to promote archaeological exploration of the sub Roman period The high water marks came with the dig at South Cadbury hillfort from 1966 70 given popular publication by Leslie Alcock in his 1972 book By South Cadbury that is Camelot and the publication of J Morris s The Age of Arthur in 1973 the author was a highly respected historian but the result was closer in spirit to Geoffrey of Monmouth than anyone else From the later 1970 s onwards this enthusiasm was replaced with an equal and opposite reaction which eventually led to the virtual disappearance of Arthur from academic studies of Britain between the Romans and Anglo saxons which we see today Dumville 1977 and Hutton 2003 Choosing a more historical setting for Arthur and his knights was therefore an option for JRR Tolkien even in the 1930 s At the time too mythic accounts of Arthur were quite possible If Tolkien was doing any work at all on The Fall of Arthur after the Second World War any personal preference for a fifth sixth century setting and any wish to present a more realist historically grounded view of the legends would have been reinforced by the academic and literary attitudes which Tolkien would have seen around him So we have seen what little we do know about The Fall of Arthur right now and begun to explore what inferences can be drawn from this I have explained that The Fall of Arthur is potentially an important piece for itself and also for the links between it and Tolkien s more familiar works We can I believe say that the poem has likely sources exactly where we should look for them in medieval English alliterative verse I have also explained that how JRR Tolkien used this material would have been an individual response to the Arthurian theories of his own lifetime changing in step wth the changes in his ideas which we can see in his already published works In the next section of this article I go on to look at what we know about which characters Tolkien used and what else we can guess from our knowledge Part Two The Cast of Characters Carpenter s Biography gives us a basic cast list for The Fall of Arthur Gawain Mordred Guinever and Arthur himself However these characters may not be the people we re expecting What everyone knows about the Arthurian legends these days comes almost inevitably from Malory who was working mainly though not exclusively with the French tradition JRR Tolkien was a lot less Francophobe than he liked to make out as Verlyn Flieger showed in a lecture of singular verve at The Return of the Ring in August 2012 However all the signs are that as far as characters rather than methods go his heart was with the English tradition As Dimitra Fimi has shown us recently JRR Tolkien also knew the Welsh Arthuriana very well indeed and among this material the oldest tale of all Culhwch and Olwen is of particular interest as being very little affected by Geoffrey of Monmouth s ideas in that other fiction bestseller from an Oxford scholar The History of the Kings of Britain We can say for sure that Tolkien knew Culhwch and Olwen as he cites it in his lectrue English and Welsh Tolkien ed Tolkien 1983 p 181 Further again if Tolkien was in any sense looking at Arthur through historical lenses even the soft focus ones of the Beowulf poet then he had options which most of us might not guess at despite the recent popularity of historical Arthurs Gawain has always been associated with the North with Scotland in general and Galloway in particular Clear through to Malory he retained the peculiarity of increasing in strength until noon then declining afterward it s no wonder an older generation of scholars called him a solar hero a legendary figure debased from a onetime sungod Gawain s great medieval characteristic was his courtesy not mere politeness but an unfailing sense of how to behave properly in dificult situations In Culhwch and Olwen Gwalchmai our Gawain is called the best of footmen and the best of knights a man who never fails in achieving what he sets out to do In the alliterative Morte Gawain is the secondary hero of the piece Through much of the poem Gawain is a moderate and moderating influence an icon of knightly virtue honourable valiant yet speaking for peace if war is not justified a picture matching that of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight In his main personal adventure Gawain does not kill his chief opponent instead the two fight to a draw become friends and Gawain persuades the other man to switch allegiances and join Arthur s forces Toward the end of the poem Gawain lets excessive revulsion at his brother Mordred s treachery unbalance him This is a reaction again paralleling events in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight where Gawain cannot quite believe his flaws can be forgiven by God let alone man It is when his own self image as honourable knight as brother is thrown into question that Gawain loses his moderation The Morte poet s description of Gawain s anger pride and folly in battle and the dreadful cost to his men found dead around him in the morning finds echoes in JRR Tolkien s commentary on the Battle of Maldon The Homecoming of Beorthnoth Beorthelm s son That makes it very likely that something of this will appear in Tolkien s depiction of Gawain in The Fall of Arthur It must be almost certain that Gawain will be accompanied in Tolkien s poem by the other two men who are among Arthur s earliest companions in the Welsh traditions Kay Kei son of Kenyr and Bedivere Bedwyr son of Bedrawt or Pedrawc as well as two of the most constantly appearing characters in the later medieval romances and chronicles Kei was the leader of Arthur s men and the not always courteous steward of his hall a mighty hero with magical abilities In Culhwch and Olwen it is said that He had this talent nine days and nine nights his breath would last under water and nine days and nine nights he could go without sleep No doctor could cure the wound from Kei s sword He could be as tall as the tallest tree in the forest when he pleased while when the rain was heaviest a hand s span about what was in his hand would be dry by reason of the heat he generated and when his companions were coldest that would be kindling for the lighting of a fire During Tolkien s lifetime Kay s name was taken straightforwardly as the very Roman one of Caius or Gaius which in a 5th 6th century context could be taken as associating him with the more Romanised lands in the east of Britain rather than the west or the north Kay was never simply one of Arthur s knights but often an ambiguous figure not all that securely linked to the king In Culhwch Arthur and Kay fall out over a casual insult and Kay leaves Arthur s court Later on in the medieval period Kay s reputation declined to the point that he was said to have murdered a son of Arthur In a number of respects Kay almost parallels Hagen from the Volsung legends another ambiguous dangerous character of possible Roman origins with a marked supernatural aspect Bedwyr who was often Kei s companion in Culhwch it is said that he never avoided any errand on which Kei went was according to the Welsh Triads one of the three fairest men in Britain Bedwyr was renowned as a skilful warrior better than Drystan son of Tallwch our Tristran or Hueil son of Caw the writer Gildas s supposed brother though he was one handed no warrior in the same field could draw blood more swiftly or defend himself better an idea reminiscent of Tolkien s character Maedhros son of Fëanor in the Silmarillion tradition who lived to wield his sword with left hand more deadly than his right had been QS ch 13 During Tolkien s lifetime there was no satisfactory explanantion for Bedwyr s name in Welsh and the presence of non Welsh heroes from as far afield as Ireland and Greece among Arthur s champions in Culhwch and Olwen led to suggestions that Bedwyr too was an alien The once notable Danish critic Axel Olrik pointed out that Geoffrey of Monmouth called him Beduerus which is close to Anglicised transcriptions of the Norse name Bothvar Its best known bearer was Bothvar Biarki the bear shapeshifter at the court of Hrolf Kraki otherwise known as Hrothulf the treacherous nephew of Hrothgar of Beowulf fame Given that the Mabiongion s other puzzling Arthurian piece The Dream of Rhonabwy says that there are many men from Norway and Denmark and Greece besides among Arthur s court the idea of a Dane a man of peninsular origin and Germanic speech whatever his exact tribe being one of the great heroes is creatively defensible Whichever way Tolkien chose to treat Kay Gaius Bedivere as a man of Danish origin could readily be envisaged as a close companion to someone with such a Roman name which as I said above suggests not the western half of Britain in Arthur s time but rather the east close to the earliest Anglian and Saxon settlements and bounded by the famous Saxon Shore military zone It is worth suggesting that however much or little Humphrey Carpenter saw of The Fall of Arthur and it is not unreasonable to assume that to quote passages he must have seen something not just heard of it the absence of Kay and Bedivere from his admittedly condensed account of the poem would be neatly accounted for if they appeared under the unfamiliar names of Gaius and Bothvar There may well be other heroes of lost legends and gods of forgotten religions among the supporting cast of Tolkien s The Fall of Arthur but too much hinges on the sheer size of the work to be too bold in guessing In the Silmarillion tradition JRR Tolkien adds characters where he has the space and reduces their numbers where he is condensing stories So there might well be the likes of Arthur s son Llacheu Unwin and Widia Horsa and Hengist Waldere and Hama and even Grendel s father but I would not care to bet on anyone in particular Contrariwise I think that some characters are unlikely to have appealed to Tolkien unless either as in the alliterative Morte they receive passing mention in larger catalogues or they could be altered to suit his purpose Among the best known French Tradition heroes Tolkien might have felt that Tristan and Lancelot fell into that latter category It is quite possible that JRR Tolkien would have known the matter being at least partly philological that Tristan was originally a Welsh or even Pictish Scottish hero Drustan with a good British Isles pedigree Bromwich 2006 p 331 s v Drystan mab Tallwch Similarly there was a good deal of contemporary or earlier speculation about Lancelot s antecedents some of it inclining towards Celtic origins Bromwich 2006 p 406 s v La6nslot y Lac and he does have legendary associations with the far north east of England an area of early Anglian settlement Malory 1485 repr 1996 bk21 ch 12 Caxton s edition preferred as the one Tolkien could have used says of Lancelot s castle of Joyous Gard that Some men say it was Alnwick and some men say it was Bamborough Of the Grail Knights I would be very surprised indeed to see Galahad but not at all surprised to see Perceval also known as Peredur in Welsh versions the very name which Tolkien used about his own reaction to seeing Arthur s knights in a quote I gave above Bromwich 2006 p 477 s v Peredur m Efra6c Iarll Peredur is another hero with north eastern English links this time to sub Roman York as well as the Old North of the very earliest Welsh poems and we have written elsewhere Lewis and Currie 2009 about the connections between his tale and Tolkien s writings Guinever e poses us some interesting problems The lines Carpenter quotes look as if they re running straight down the line in the classic English medieval anti Guinevere and anti feminine strain It would be very easy to suppose from all this that just for once JRR Tolkien was creating a female character who is that classic late 19th early 20th century stereotype the femme fatale However we should be slow to make large assumptions about Tolkien s attitude to a character from small quotes There is a considerable wordage from The Lord of the Rings saying similarly misogynistic things about Galadriel but when it is looked at overall Tolkien s depiction of the Lady of Lothlórien is anything but stereotypical We should therefore be very careful indeed about drawing conclusions on Guinever from scanty evidence which lacks all context King Arthur s famously difficult marriage offers more interesting possibilities for a writer than we may think Elsewhere Tolkien prefers to show male female complementarity as the key to marital and political success so there is every reason to think that either Guinever and Arthur will form such a pair and hold true to each other or that they will fail as complements with disastrous results Some medieval versions do show the positive situation Malory for one where Guinevere actually holds London and the Tower for Arthur against Mordred In other cases however the alliterative Morte among them Guinevere is actively on Mordred s side there she marries him bears him a child and fosters his other children and is willing to join him in exile A Guinever markedly younger than Arthur who is not listened to by him not accorded the respect she feels she deserves and or not given the help she needs and therefore ends up working against him would fit well with JRR Tolkien s other difficult female characters When the medieval author Gerald of Wales describes the discovery of the supposed bodies of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury Abbey he includes a version of the inscription on a cross discovered with the bodies which names Guinevere and calls her Arthur s second wife If Tolkien picked up this idea of Guinevere as second wife and ran with it then this might well be one case where we could see clear cross influence from JRR Tolkien s Arthurian work to the Silmarillion tradition Arthur s marriage problems in such a scenario would be markedly similar to those of Finwë King of the Noldor who lost his first wife and married again creating all manner of personal and political problems for his family and people These ideas did not appear until the Later Silmarillion of 1951 2 around the time when Tolkien seems to have been thinking of taking up The Fall of Arthur again Overall then we can say that Tolkien s Guinever is likely to be an active rather than passive character within the bounds of medieval queenship and that her role in Arthur s court makes her ambiguous seen by some as dangerous if not worse Guinever might be Arthur s second wife Whilst Tolkien s likeliest medieval sources would point to her being actively involved with Mordred in working against Arthur it is not certain that Tolkien will follow this path It is equally likely that Guinever will hold true to Arthur in the face of Mordred s illicit desire and may even escape the final downfall with Arthur s children or grandchildren Mordred is to all appearances the villain of the piece in The Fall of Arthur In Carpenter s summary it is news of Mordred s treachery that draws Arthur and Gawain and presumably the rest of their army home from war in Saxon lands A strong impression is created that the motive for this treachery is Mordered s lust for Guinever However this leaves all sorts of questions begging What sort of treachery Is Guinever the only reason Who is this Mordred fellow anyway Before my readers say we know that no we don t Our usual idea culled from Sir Thomas Malory via Alfred Lord Tennyson and possibly TH White is only one of a wide range of options for who Mordred might be in the Arthurian legends Mordred frequently isn t Arthur s son born of incest with Arthur s half sister He needn t be Arthur s nephew He isn t always the person who deals Arthur a mortal wound in the last battle between the pair It isn t even certain that Mordred has always been Arthur s implacable enemy In the oldest Welsh sources material which we can be practically certain that Tolkien knew and was interested in Mordred Medraut appears to have been an honourable and chivalrous character Arthur s helper rather than the source of his downfall It seems likely to me that JRR Tolkien would keep the uncle nephew relationship between Arthur and Mordred but diminish or remove the element of incest This is what Layamon and the poet of the alliterative Morte and indeed his sources among the chronicles that mention Arthur all choose to do Such an attitude would fit with JRR Tolkien s choice to greatly diminish the importance of incest in the Tale of Túrin compared to most of its multifarious analogues in Northern European legend and folklore A child born of incest is already marked out as weird whereas a Mordred who is only Arthur s nephew can be a complex interesting character He can be someone in a situation where other people s plans intersect with his ideas and actions someone faced with a range of possibilities rather than going down a fixed track someone who might almost be a tragic hero in the Greek dramatic sense of the term making all the wrong choices for what seem to be the right reasons If we look at characters such as Túrin Túrambar we can I believe see that that Tolkien could write a Mordred of this sort following up the ideas of the alliterative Morte s poet rather than Layamon s simpistic depiction Last but not least there is Arthur himself The title which JRR Tolkien chose The Fall of Arthur contains a double meaning fall can mean physical death or moral decline To my mind this strongly suggests that Tolkien was following the alliterative Morte in his depiction of the character of Arthur In that poem Arthur appears to be a perfect king meets a series of moral challenges which show him turning into a tyrant and redeems himself at the last moment Again if we look at The Lord of the Rings the character of Denethor shows that Tolkien could write such a figure and would find such a story interesting So we can guess that Tolkien could well follow the line laid down by the poet of the alliterative Morte This would have been backed up by Layamon s version since he makes Arthur a hard ruler not afraid of difficult choices or drastic action There is a less obvious question about Tolkien s Arthur which is worth askign but hard to answer In any version of the stories which takes account the historical background of the Arthurian legends the origin of Arthur himself has to be an important point It is worth noting that this is the very same period in which most of the specifically Old English and wider Germanic language legends which Tolkien took such interest in were being shaped The two centuries from 400 to 600AD span the careers not only of King Arthur but of Beowulf the Geat Attila the Hun and Theoderic the Ostrogoth This was a time when all across Europe political economic linguistic and cultural changes were happening at a rate and on a scale rarely seen before or since Even the environment may have been in turmoil surely affecting the whole situation if it was We have two pieces of writing which I think are relevant here Firstly Tolkien and Gordon s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of 1925 gives us something which we can take as being Tolkien s own account of the name Arthur and what he was then willing to print in an academic publication about the man 26 Arthur the name is direct from Welsh whereas most of the Arthurian names found in middle English are derived from Old French sources though they may be ultimately of Celtic origin But Arthur in Old French is called Artu nom Artus According to some it is a name of Celtic origin and in a tenth century gloss on Nennius it is interpreted ursus horribilis or malleus ferreus as though it were composed of Welsh elements but it is just as likely that Arthur is a Welsh form of Latin Artorius He is represented by Nennius not as king but as dux bellorum He may well have belonged to a romanised British family as did the other successful leader of the Britons against the Saxons Aurelius Ambrosius whose name also apears in a Welsh form Emrys If Nennius can be taken as an authority Arthur won twelve great victories over the English the ninth named by him the battle of Mount Badon is undoubtedly hsitorical and was fought about A D 496 Arthur s final battle with Modred on the Camlan is dated by the Annales Cambriae 537 but these annals also date Mount Badon 516 which is certainly too late Arthur s activities appear to have been in the north of England to judge by the battlefields named by Nennius though they cannot be identified with certainty Tolkien and Gordon 1925 p 80 On the basis of names then by his own account Tolkien s Arthur could be either Latin for which read Roman or Welsh for which read British Those may be the commonest takes on King Arthur s background but they are not the only possibilities and Tolkien was certainly aware of one of the more radical and interesting alternatives In his lecture English and Welsh Tolkien mentioned the not so small problem that the founder of the royal line of the impeccably English Saxon kingdom of Wessex had a Welsh name Cerdic anglicised from Caradoc Tolkien ed Tolkien 1983 p 169 n 2 p 195 The qualification I made above about academic publication is not mere quibbling but could be important As The Adventures of Tom Bombadil show with their creative resetting of known English folklore to a distinctive Oxfordshire environment Tolkien was certainly willing when working as a creative writer to use ideas which he must have felt were right yet for which there was too little hard evidence for them to appear in a professional publication The careers of the dubious Cerdic very possibly half Romano British and half Saxon and the well known Theoderic whose Italian subjects politely ignored his Gothic origins in favour of referring to him by the impeccably Late Roman name of Flavius Theodorus Maximus tell us that King Arthur may have been the last champion of a recognisably Roman Britain but that does not necessarily make him either Roman or British For JRR Tolkien with his love of the ancient English and conflicted relationship with Celtic I think it might well have been an attractive option to make Arthur an English Theoderic a man of at least partly Germanic descent who nonetheless wishes to preserve and reinvigorate Romano British civilisation rather than destroy it There is however one last wild card in this discussion One of the major points which was certainly changing over the timespan when JRR Tolkien was or could have been writing The Fall of Arthur was the weight which he gave to the strictly historical and realistic versus the mythological and fantastic We know that Tolkien was interested in the weird figure of Scyld Scefing from Beowulf and there is one version of Arthur which make him too into just such a changeling prince One of the strangest and most memorable passages in the whole of Alfred Lord Tennyson s Idylls of the King describes the arrival of Arthur as a baby carried to Merlin s feet on Tintagel sands by a wave straight out of Lady Gregory s wildest West Irish sea stories breaker and babe alike apparently sent by the shining crew of an eldritch ship Tennyson 1898 2004 pp 11 12 Given the vast importance of Tennyson s work in general and his Arthuriana in particular to Victorian and Edwardian culture it is virtually impossible that Tolkien did not know of this even if we have no direct evidence for it The abiding importance of the sea and the figure of Scyld in Tolkien s writing makes the idea of such an Arthur a possibility worth remembering Part Three Falling Arthurs In the preceding sections I have described the ideas and the reasoning which Alex Lewis and myself have reached with regard to The Fall of Arthur More than five years ago now we drew our research together into an outline reconstruction I think it s worth setting this before the public as that hypothesis which I have mentioned repeatedly Is this right in any of its parts and if so how many Publication is imminent scheduled for May this year even if put back it is unlikely that we have long to wait to see the real thing Information is starting to emerge against which some points can already be checked So here goes Looking at the background we think it is practically certain that Tolkien s Fall of Arthur will have a historical late 5th early 6th century setting in which Arthur s story will be interwoven with those of other notable heroes of the day There will be close links between Arthur and his court and the events and characters in the Old English poem Beowulf which Tolkien worked on so much and was so attached to The known setting of The Fall of Arthur in Britain and in Saxon lands backs this up because it puts Arthur into exactly the same North Sea setting as Beowulf Hygelac Hrothgar and the others There may well be less important connections between Arthur and the other three great centres of legend from this time the court of the Burgundian kings on the French Swiss border which became the focus for the Volsung legends the court of Attila the Hun in Hungary and the court of Theodoric the Great in Italy This matches the pattern of late medieval compilations such as the Norse Thidhrek s Saga af Bern Moving on to the poem itself we think that based on what we know and on what we can reasonably guess we can offer a reconstruction of the background and storyline of The Fall of Arthur Tolkien s poem will almost certainly interlace with Beowulf featuring many of the same places characters and peoples and having some of the same events mentioned perhaps in digressions from the main theme which might be similarly structured to those used in Beowulf Since the kinship and heritage among the Geats and Swedes of the hero Beowulf is clearly set out in the poem that carries his name he is unlikely to be drawn directly into Arthur s orbit The two Bears will almost certainly not meet or be close kinsmen It is highly probable that there will however be strong links between them For instance Kay with his surly bearish nature and Beowulfian ability to survive under water might be depicted as a Waymunding and so a cousin of Beowulf or Bedivere could be connected with the Danish royal family through his near namesake the hero Bothvar Biarki who served Hrothulf Hrolf Kraki the usurping nephew and successor of that King Hrothgar who suffered Grendel s attentions It is possible that Tolkien would use the Wulfings of Scandinavia and East Anglia as a more remote link between Arthur and Beowulf especially in any post Sutton Hoo phase of work on The Fall of Arthur When the discovery was published and discussed after the Second World War it was suggested that the East Anglian royal house might actually be descended from Geatish nobles who fled to Britain after Beowulf s death They could therefore also take over part or all of Arthur s realm after his demise especially if they had kinsmen in his service The Fall of Arthur itself will most likely start with an incident which causes Arthur to declare war on the continental Saxons probably either a raid or the sending of an insulting message This is likely to be followed by scenes of council of setting up temporary government while Arthur is away and of summoning the army in the course of which we will be introduced to Arthur Gawain Mordred and Guinever and probably other characters as well Kay and Bedivere are nearly certain to be present though very possibly under unfamiliar names There is a strong probability that the council scene will be set in an old Roman building both Layamon and the alliterative Morte mention structures that can be read this way This might be either one of the Late Roman forts of the Saxon Shore or a surviving structure in the city of Lincoln It will be partly refurbished in more Germanic style but still betray its origins not least through its main structure being of stone A mosaic floor is also a strong possibility as firstly in a review of a place name book Tolkien pounced with glee on the discovery that Anglo saxon comment on one such floor was the origin of the English placename Fawler Shippey 1982 1992 p 30 secondly the great Old English poem Beowulf also contains such a fág flór as the mark of one of the mightiest of all possible halls Heorot home of a court which Tolkien himself compared in On Fairy stories to that of Arthur and thirdly similar mosaics occur in significant places in Tolkien s published writings Tolkien s Arthur is likely to be getting on in years but not actually old with a strongly ambivalent character at once authoritative and benevolent ruthless and generous This Arthur is almost certain to be a man of both

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  • The Jackson Quibble: Is the new Hobbit flick harming the greater good?
    back of the movies should have the right to bemoan them It s no secret that over 25 million copies of Lord of the Rings were sold in the three years after the Fellowship hit the silver screen What most people don t understand is that the movie rights were sold by JRR himself some forty years ago and there s not a thing the Tolkien estate can do about it As nobody on the planet has worked more fastidiously to preserve the integrity of the body of works we have no reason to disbelieve that Christopher wouldn t use every penny of the royalty money to undo the movies if such a thing was possible I m certain he rues the day his father sold the movie rights for a retrospectively feeble 100 000 Still it can be argued that the movies have not actually tarnished anything The books are still sitting in shelves and in bookstores unmolested and being picked up by a massively increasing number of hands following the mainstream popularity of the movies A legend as entrenched in our culture as Lord of the Rings is always going to propagate itself in other media outside of the books it already began with the Hobbit animation in 1978 long before Peter Jackson was shooting splatter horrors in his free time and will continue to do so long after Christopher will be able to argue for purism If a budding student at the New York Film Academy animation school wants to take on the daunting task of turning The Silmarillion into a six hour long cartoon epic they should be applauded and wished the very best of luck And despite their quarry with Jackson the Tolkien children who it s worth pointing out have all had immensely successful careers away from their father s work have amassed more money to pass on to future generations as a result even if they had to fight New Line tooth and nail to get what was owed and even if they didn t want the cash So What s The Harm The original Lord of the Rings movie trilogy had a demonstrably big effect on bringing new readers to the books If we re honest pre 2001 there was a real dichotomy between those who considered Tolkien s works as a culturally rich family classic and those who only saw a dusty tome of fantasy geekdom The movies helped break that stigma and reached people who otherwise wouldn t have touched the franchise with a bargepole My worry is that with the latest Hobbit movie things may go the other way There s already a sense of fatigue in the air over An Unexpected Journey with more people than not wishing things had been left at Lord of the Rings or at the very least that Jackson had not drawn the Hobbit out into three parts Just as the mid 2000s saw excitement spill back to the books the current boredom

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