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Imagine fighting alongside the armies of men at the stronghold Minis Tirith, or having a council meeting with elves and dwarves, or even obtaining the most powerful and magical ring known to exist. J.R.R. Tolkien conveys these images along with many others in his fantastic writings. His creative and fascinating style of writing has been influenced by many historical writing styles and has been used to produce some of the most epic magical and adventurous stories known to this day. From "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit", J.R.R.Tolkien depicts great imagery through his original style. Anglo-Saxon and Celtic literature are very prevalent in Tolkien's writing style.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J.R.R.Tolkien) was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa to Arthur and Mabel Tolkien. J.R.R.and his brother, Hilary, moved to Birmingham, England with their mother in 1894 because J.R.R.was ill (Heydt). His father had passed away while in South Africa (Wayne). Mabel then passed away in 1904 and J.R.R.and Hilary were left in the care of Father Francis Morgan, a Roman Catholic priest in Birmingham (Birzer). J.R.R.would eventually attend King Edward's School and then move on to Exeter College and would earn a bachelors and masters degree (Wayne). After college, Tolkien joined the British Military. Tolkien was part of the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment, which suffered drastic casualties during World War I. Tolkien fought in the war and witnessed the horrors of mechanized warfare first-hand. This was when J.R.R.first envisioned the mythology of Middle-earth. After the war, John married Edith Bratt and had four children: John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla. J.R.R.Tolkien would continue to expand on his works and mythologies as well as teach at Leeds University and Oxford until his death in 1973(Birzer).
Ever since J.R.R.Tolkien was a little boy, languages were a passion of his. Tolkien said, "As a child, I was always inventing languages" (Birzer). John continued to create languages throughout his lifetime and many of them have been incorporated in his stories like "Lord of the Rings". Tolkien created these languages along with an alphabet to go with it for the mythical beings in his stories (Heydt). Tolkien studied many languages throughout his earlier years. Some of those languages include Latin, Greek, Welsh, English, and Finnish (Birzer). In addition to these languages, J.R.R.Tolkien added in some Old Norse and German. While attending King Edward's School, John learned Middle English and eventually would teach himself Old English through an Anglo-Saxon primer (Heydt).
After walking through the door of language Tolkien would discover the world of myth that was lying behind it. The stories of Beowulf, the Red Fairy Book, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight fascinated J.R.R.Tolkien (Heydt). Tolkien would amuse himself by writing detailed series of fantasy tales and eventually he would create "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings. These stories were set in a world of his imagination and often had ties to ideas from the Anglo-Saxon era. J.R.R.Tolkien first conceived his idea of the fantasy world, Middle-earth, while in the trenches during his time in World War I (Birzer). Many of these ideas included mythical creatures like dragons, epic heroes like in Beowulf, and the search for great treasure (Wayne).
The stories composed by J.R.R.Tolkien all have their own ideas and styles in which they have been written. "The Hobbit" has ideas that differ from "Lord of the Rings" and it also is different from "The Children of Húrin". Yet, these stories all incorporate many similar ideas from the time period of the Anglo-Saxons. The idea of an epic hero, great treasure, and dragons are all present in many of Tolkien's stories. These stories also all include many of Tolkien's created languages, world, and ideas.
J.R.R.Tolkien's first major story, "The Hobbit", was his longest story ever created. This story was not written for the world to read but instead it was to entertain his four children (Wayne). When asked what inspired him to begin writing it Tolkien said, "On a blank leaf I scrawled, 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' I did not and do not know why" (Heydt). This story was more lively and humorous and had a lighter fare compared to his other tales. "The Hobbit" tells of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who goes on a quest with dwarves and a wizard to search for a dragon's treasure (Wayne).
At the beginning of the story, Bilbo meets Gandalf, the wizard, who asks Bilbo to join him on an adventure. Bilbo wants nothing to do with the adventures that Gandalf goes on so Bilbo declines his offer. Not long after this encounter, Gandalf returns to Bilbo's house and barges in with thirteen dwarves. Bilbo learns about the dwarves and their leader, Thorin, and why they all have stormed into his house. Gandalf volunteered Bilbo as the "burglar" for the adventure and he protests going with them (Tolkien, The Hobbit). After hearing the stories of a grand treasure and the dragon named Smaug, Bilbo eventually accepts to join them on their quest. Bilbo learns that being the "burglar" means that his job will require him to sneak into the mountain and take the treasure from the dangerous dragon. Shortly after their departure from Bilbo's town, everyone in the group except Gandalf is captured by three nocturnal trolls. Gandalf using his magical abilities to persuade the trolls into staying outside when the sun comes up and the sun would turn the trolls into stone. The party discovers a large collection of weapons in the troll den and takes some of them to use for themselves. Bilbo takes a sword for himself which will help him later in the quest when the company encounters giant spiders (Tolkien, The Hobbit).
They eventually arrive at elfish stronghold of Rivendell where they stop and rest for a while. While also at Rivendell, Elrond, the great elf lord, bestows upon them some very helpful advice to use on their adventure for treasure. Bilbo and the group set off from Rivendell and travel through the Misty Mountains where they setup shelter in a cave for the night. While in the cave, a group of goblins that live in the caverns below the mountain take the party as prisoners. Gandalf eventually helps Thorin and the dwarves escape and leads them out of the mountain but they unintentionally leave Bilbo behind in the mountain. While still in the mountain, Bilbo comes across a very peculiar golden ring that possesses the magical power of invisibility (Tolkien, The Hobbit). Not much later Bilbo comes across the creature Gollum who wants to kill Bilbo and eat him. The two decide to have a game of riddles to determine Bilbo's fate and whether or not Bilbo lives. Bilbo eventually wins the game and Gollum runs off to look for his ring, the same ring that Bilbo has on him. Bilbo uses the ring to help flee from goblins that find him in the mountain. The hobbit eventually finds his way out of the mountain and discovers that Gandalf and the dwarves have already made it out as well. But they still haven't escaped the danger yet because a pack of wargs, evil wolves, start to pursue them. They are saved from the wargs by a band of great eagles and a creature known as Beorn who can transform from a bear into a man.
After the run-in with the wargs, the party enters the dark forest Mirkwood. At this time, Gandalf has to leave the group to go and attend other urgent business which is a sign that the gang is going to encounter new dangers (Tolkien, The Hobbit). While still in the forest, the group comes across giant spiders and the dwarves become entangled in the webs. Bilbo has to save the dwarves and uses the magic ring along with the sword that he took from the trolls. After the company finally escapes the giant spiders, they soon get right back into trouble. This time the dwarves are captured by a gang of wood elves that live along the river that happens to run through Mirkwood. So yet again Bilbo has to rescue his companions from trouble and sneaks into the camp where the wood elves live. Bilbo uses the magic ring to help them escape by sneaking them into wooden barrels and then floating them down the river where they will eventually end up at the human settlement of Lake Town. This town is located near the bottom of Lonely Mountain, the mountain which Smaug lives in and where the treasure is located (Tolkien, The Hobbit).
Soon after they reach the Lake Town, Bilbo ventures up to the mountain and sneaks in and finds Smaug. The hobbit talks to the dragon who unintentionally reveals to Bilbo a weakness in his scale armor which is located near his heart. On his way out, Bilbo steals a golden cup from the dragon's treasure stash which infuriates the dragon who then flies out to Lake Town to burn it to the ground. But little does Smaug know, a heroic archer, Bard, has learned about the dragon's weakness from Bilbo and fires an arrow into the dragon's heart which eventually kills him but not before Smaug burns Lake Town to the grounds. The wood elves of Mirkwood along with the humans from the now destroyed town, Lake Town, travel up to Lonely Mountain seeking to receive a share of the dragon's hoard as compensation for the aid in defeating the dragon and their losses (Tolkien, The Hobbit). Thorin greedily withholds the treasure from the elves and humans who in turn lay siege to Lonely Mountain and trap Thorin and the dwarves along with Bilbo inside the mountain. Bilbo sneaks out of the mountain and tries to help the humans come to peace with the dwarves. This act enrages Thorin and is about to unleash his wrath upon Bilbo but is stopped when Gandalf un-expectantly returns.
At the time of the feud over the treasure, the wargs and goblins have formed an army that is marching on the mountain and the only way that the elves, men, and dwarves will survive is to join forces. The three factions join together to fight against the goblins and wargs so that they are not killed. The allies are almost defeated by the wargs and goblins on the mountain but Beorn and the great eagles surprisingly show up to help them defeat the opposition (Tolkien, The Hobbit). After the battle, Bilbo returns back to his home where society no longer accepts him. Bilbo is very content to be home at this point and does not care that his people do not accept him since he prefers to talk to wizard and elves anyways.
Throughout the entire story of "The Hobbit", there are many instances where Anglo-Saxon and Celtic myths and tales ideas can be seen. Probably the most notable example in "The Hobbit" is Bilbo's incredible adventure. In Celtic stories, eccentric journeys were quite relevant and were a big role in the story (Leeming). In "The Hobbit", Bilbo goes on an epic quest to a land far away in search of a great treasure. "The Hobbit" also depicts very unique and interesting animals. For example, the great eagles depicted in "The Hobbit" are enhanced forms of a typical eagle but are protectors of friendly people that are being attacked by evil beings. Creative animals were part of the Celtic way and were very important to their stories they told. There are also times when Anglo-Saxon ideas are depicted in the story. One big example of Anglo-Saxon roots in "The Hobbit" is the dragon, Smaug. In Anglo-Saxon stories, the dragon always seems to be a protector of a great treasure (Leeming). Epic heroes also played a large role in the Anglo-Saxon literature. There are parts of the story in which an epic hero could form but not all parts lead to one person. For example, in Anglo-Saxon literature, an epic hero has a resurrection. In "The "Hobbit", the armies of the humans, dwarves, and elves are almost defeated by the wargs and goblins, but at the last moment they are saved by Beorn and the great eagles. This allows for the allies to become victorious and defeat the evil forces.
J.R.R.Tolkien's other great novel was the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "The Fellowship of the Ring" is the first installment of Tolkien's trilogy. It begins with the one-hundred and eleventh birthday of Bilbo Baggins, the protagonist of "The Hobbit". At Bilbo's birthday party, Bilbo gives the ring that he found during his adventure to Lonely Mountain to his relative, Frodo Baggins. Little do either of the hobbits know, the ring is actually very dangerous because it belonged to the Dark Lord, Sauron, who's powers are growing deadly again. Bilbo is oddly unwilling to give the ring to Frodo at first but ultimately give it to him after the wizard, Gandalf the Grey, convinces him to. Because of this unusual event, Gandalf believes that this ring happens to be the One Ring that Sauron is looking for. The great wizard confirms his notion and tells Frodo that ring must be taken out of the Shire because Sauron has minions coming to take it.
So Frodo listens to Gandalf and leaves the Shire with three other hobbits. Samwise "Sam" Gamgee, Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck, and Peregrin "Pippin" Took are the hobbits who join Frodo on this journey. Once out of the Shire, they are pursued Black Riders, the nine Ringwraiths that are evil servants of Sauron. The four hobbits soon encounter a company of wandering elves who allow the hobbits to spend a night with them and also assure that they will send word to allies to help protect the hobbits. The hobbits soon get stuck in the Old Forest and cannot seem to find a way out. The mysterious creature Tom Bombadil helps the hobbits escape from the Old Forest.
The gang eventually winds up at a town called Bree where they meet Aragon, a Ranger. Everyone who does not know Aragon's true name calls him Strider. While at the inn, Frodo accidentally slips the ring on and turns invisible causing a scene. After this incident, Aragon insists that the hobbits do not sleep in their room at the inn tonight. This is just the first of many times that Aragon saves the hobbits from death. They soon receive a letter from Gandalf that had been left at the inn months before that informs them that they should travel to Rivendell, which is a dominion of the elves. Aragon travels with the hobbits on this journey and helps them avoid the Black Riders as much as possible. But the Ringwraiths eventually catch them at Weathertop, and the group has to defend themselves from the evil minions. During the conflict, Frodo is injured by one of the Black Riders. The weapon that injures Frodo was created by Sauron and has a poisonous effect on Frodo's health as they move closer towards Rivendell. The gang eventually encounters Glorfindel, an Elf-lord, who takes Frodo and outruns the Black Riders that get washed away by a flood that is created by the master of Rivendell, Elrond.
Once at Rivendell, Frodo is healed by Elrond who then holds a gathering to discuss the matter of the One Ring. Frodo learns the entire history of the Rings during this meeting and decides that it is his job to take the Ring and destroy it at the place it was created, in the Cracks of Doom, in the mountain Orodruin, in Sauron's land of Mordor. This quest is next to unbearable and will be extremely lengthy, but Frodo will not being going alone. The committee at the gathering forms group that will join Frodo through the duration of his journey. The group includes Gandalf, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragon, Legolas the elf, Gimli the dwarf, and Boromir the human.
The company sets off to cross over the Misty Mountains, but their path is not navigable so they divert to Mines of Moria, the land of the dwarves. While in the Mines, Gandalf falls into an abyss while defending the fellowship from a Balrog. The remaining members continue to the forest of the Galadrim Elves, Lórien. Lady Galadriel tests the hearts of each of the party members and then presents each one a gift when they leave. The company leaves Lórien by boat on the Anduin, Great River. During the trip down Anduin, the company notices that the creature Gollum, the one from "The Hobbit", has been following them. They eventually reach the Falls of Rauros and have to choose whether to go to Minis Tirith or to Mordor. Boromir, overwhelmed by the Rings power, tries to take the Ring from Frodo because he wants it for himself. Frodo gets away from Boromir and then chooses to go on alone to Mordor because he does not want to endanger the rest of the fellowship. But as he is trying to leave, Sam finds him and will not let him leave alone, so Frodo allows Sam to accompany him to Mordor.
This was only the first installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, yet there are so many examples of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ideas in it. There is the use of an epic hero in the trilogy. Epic heroes are a very important role in Anglo-Saxon literature. The epic hero in "The Lord of the Ring" is Aragon. Aragon is a very strong man that possesses certain super-human qualities. He is also charged with a quest, which is to protect Frodo on his journey to destroy the Ring. There is also a test to prove that he is worthy. The test for Aragon comes when he is tempted by the Ring (Tolkien, The Two Towers). Aragon passes his test because he refuses the Ring's power and is not corrupted by it. Aragon also is in the presence of multiple mythical beings such as Gandalf, Elrond, and Saruman. He also has companions and human helpers like Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli. This epic hero is taken to a supernatural world throughout his travels. Aragon has to travel through Middle Earth and also has to travel to Mordor where no being could survive alone. Aragon also suffer a low point later in the trilogy ("The Return of the King") and is pinned down by a troll who is about to kill him. But He has a resurrection and is saved at the last second when Frodo destroys the Ring and all evil creatures are destroyed (Tolkien, The Return of the King). Finally, Aragon has his restitution and becomes the king of the human people.
There is also the use of many great creatures, an incredible journey, and a love affair. All of these pieces are parts of Celtic literature. In "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, Aragon has a love affair with Arwen who is an elf princess. The incredible journey in the trilogy is the one Frodo must take to the Cracks of Doom where he has to destroy the One Ring. Throughout this journey, many fantastic creatures appear. Some of these would include great eagles, Ents, dragons, living dead, and many more. There is also the presence of enchanted weapons. In Anglo-Saxon literature, there were times when weapons that possessed magical abilities were used to help fight evil (Lemmings). One example of this is the blade that Aragon receives, Anduril. Anduril was made from fragments of the blade Narsil which removed the Ring from Sauron's hand. This sword has the power to summon the king of the Dead and his army to fight only for the king of Gondor. Aragon uses the sword to recruit the undead army to help him defeat Sauron's forces at Minis Tirith (Tolkien, The Return of the King).
Throughout all of Tolkien's novels and stories, depictions of the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ideas are very prevalent. John was influenced and thoroughly educated in Anglo-Saxon literature. Tolkien depict an extremely elegant story and setting in all of his novels. J.R.R. Tolkien could not do this without the help of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic ideas. Tolkien's stories included a magical ring that rules over all, a quest that spans across an entire world only those with special abilities could endure, and fantastic creatures that ranged from great eagles to ents. Remember that all of these ideas J.R.R. Tolkien had, came from the ideas that were created in the Anglo-Saxon era.