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The medieval and dark ages in jrr tolkiens the hobbit and lord of the rings

Joseph Pearce 4 11115 Arguably the most important literary influence on The Lord of the Ringsthe Anglo-Saxon epic, Beowulfhelps us understand the way in which Tolkien both conceals and reveals the deepest meaning in his own work. Probably dating from the early eighth century, making it contemporaneous with the lives of Saints Boniface and Bede, Beowulf is a wonderful and wonder-filled narrative animated by the rich Christian spirit of the culture from which it sprang, brimming over with allegorical potency and evangelical zeal.

  • Northwestern Europe in the early and central middle ages;
  • Beowulf is divided into three sections in which the eponymous hero fights three different monsters;
  • He was also deploying those same clues to signify that The Lord of the Rings was working its magic most profoundly on the level of theology;
  • Frodo and Sam struggling to reach Mordor is a cracked mirror reflection of the young soldiers caught in the blasted landscape and slaughter of trench warfare on the Western Front;
  • Northwestern Europe in the early and central middle ages;
  • Who would think a figurehead for this social upheaval would be a tweedy Christian philologist at Oxford?

Clearly, Tolkien knew Beowulf well, perhaps better than anyone else of his generation, and there is no denying its seminal and definitive influence on his own work. Most obviously are the inescapable parallels between the dragon episode in Beowulf and the similar episode in The Hobbit. It is, however, in a more subtle way that the Anglo-Saxon epic can be seen to have left its inspirational fingerprints on The Lord of the Rings.

Beowulf is divided into three sections in which the eponymous hero fights three different monsters. This is presumably an orthodox riposte to the heresy of Pelagianism, [1] which plagued Saxon England and which is a major preoccupation of Bede in his Ecclesiastical Historyprobably written at around the same time as Beowulf. It is, however, the allegorical technique that the Beowulf poet employs in the final section of the epic which most illumines the technique that Tolkien will himself employ in his own epic, emulating the anonymous poet who had taught him more than anyone else about the art of storytelling.

Equally clearly, Beowulf is not a formal or crude allegory because no character in the epic is merely a personified abstraction. Beowulf is not literally Christ, though he could be called a figure of Christ, one who is meant to remind us of Christ; the dragon is not literally Satan, though he or it is clearly intended to remind us of the Devil himself.

Beowulf is always Beowulf, even though he is meant to remind us of Christ.

  • Tolkien does something very similar in his own work, emulating the work of his Anglo-Saxon mentor;
  • Apart from being ancient, the blades are imbued with magical properties;
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After his death, ten shamefaced warriors emerge from the woods, indicating that the thief was not among them. Matthias to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. For the Christian, the Beowulf poet was indubitably Christian, all acts of genuine love involve the laying down of our lives for another.

Furthermore, all those who genuinely love in this way are ipso facto figures of Christ, from whom all genuine love flows and towards whom all genuine love points. In true life as in true literature, all those who live and love like Christ are Christ-like and, as such, can be said to be figures of Christ. Christ is the archetype of which all virtuous men, in fact and in fiction, are types.

The Beowulf poet shows this through the use of numerical clues.

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Tolkien does something very similar in his own work, emulating the work of his Anglo-Saxon mentor. Tolkien signifies the deepest meaning of The Lord of the Rings in the clue he supplies with regard to the specific date of the destruction of the Ring.

The Ring is destroyed on March 25, the most significant and important date on the Christian calendar. This is the feast of the Annunciation, the date on which the Word is made flesh, when God becomes man. It is also the historic date of the Crucifixion, a fact which is all too often forgotten by modern Christians because of the fact that Good Friday is celebrated as a moveable feast which falls on a different date each year. This is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says about the significance of March 25: He would have known of the symbolic significance of this date and his ascribing of this particular date as that on which the Ring is destroyed has palpable and indeed seismic consequences with regard to the deepest moral and theological meaning of The Lord of the Rings.

Middle Earth from Middle Europe: Medieval Manuscripts and an Inspiration for Tolkien

In following his mediaeval mentors in their employment and deployment of allegorical clues to deepen the theological dimension of their stories, Tolkien was infusing the genius of Christendom and its literary giants into his own timeless epic. In doing so, he was thereby situating his own work firmly within that tradition. He was also deploying those same clues to signify that The Lord of the Rings was working its magic most profoundly on the level of theology.

Since Original Sin and the One Ring are both destroyed on the same theologically-charged date, they become inextricably interwoven so that the Ring is synonymous with Sin itself. With his Ring, Tolkien weds his own work morally and theologically to the deepest truths of Christianity, forging it in the flames of his lifelong faith. A version of this essay originally appeared in Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition Fall 2014 and is republished here with gracious permission.

Such a belief denied the need for grace and therefore denied the need for the Church and her sacraments. The present author agrees with those, including Tolkien, who believe it was written sometime between the mid-seventh and mid-eighth century. The purist, I hope, will forgive me.