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Old 02-01-2002, 06:01 AM   #1
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Tolkien J. R. R. Tolkien and William Blake.

Hallo!

How do you think, is there some relations between mythology of Tolkien and "Prophesy Books" of Blake?

For instance. Orc of Blake AFAIR is a one of gods and a symbol of rebellion, war, ferocity and slaughter. Orcs of JRRT IMHO have similar character.

But I don't have read that Tolkien sometime have meet Blake's books or use it.

Sincerely yours.
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Old 02-01-2002, 08:45 AM   #2
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Sting

I doubt if the link is very direct. Tolkien definitely wanted to write a story that was very much his own. His main conscious influences were the myths of north western Europe, and I don't remember seeing any of Tolkien's letters that mention Blake. The word orc I think comes from a Scandanavian word for goblin. Maybe someone more learned can confirm that. If Blake used the word, it is probably from the same source. Tolkien didn't get it from Blake. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 02-01-2002, 10:25 AM   #3
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There are quite a lot of similarities between Tolkien and Blake. Both have produced a very singular body of work, very different from what was popular in their own time. Both have tried to build a completely new mythology from scratch. Both were world-builders, authors, poets and illustrators.

Tolkien, as an English scholar, probably knew about Blake and we can't completely exclude that he was influenced by his poems, although that influence, if it existed, was probably extremely limited.

Tolkien and Blake were very different men. Tolkien loved the beauties of nature and was deeply irritated by industrial progress. He was a philologist and was fascinated with the past, with the history of mankind and the evolution of language and society. He built his imaginary world on these concepts and methods. He was also a Monarchist and a Catholic.

He wrote timeless classics, loved by millions of readers, and was already very popular in his lifetime. Although his world is an extremely impressive creation in its own right, one might argue that it doesn't have enough symbolic depth to be a successful mythology, the probable consequence of Tolkien's hatred of analogies and traditionalist outlook on life.

Blake was a non-comformist, a visionary in every possible meaning of the word. He believed in free love and supported the revolutions in America and France. He wanted to create his own mythology because he rejected every traditional forms of religion in favour of an alternative spirituality which delved into Eastern and ancient beliefs, although it heavily borrowed from Christian imagery.

Blake wrote very complex, mad, unreadable poems that do not appeal to a large audience. He received very little recognition in his lifetime. The world of the Four Zoas is less coherent and convincing than Tolkien's Middle-Earth, but it's an undeniably powerful mythological creation, full of vivid imagery and successfully capturing the soul of his era.
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Old 02-01-2002, 12:52 PM   #4
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I hadn't considered it before, but I can see a similarity. Blake was also a lover of nature, and was mistrustful of the Industrial Revolution. Songs of Innocence and Experience is very much a reflection on the evils of the industrial revolution, as well as everything else in touches on.

Also, reading another thread here reminds me of a Blake theme - everyone is innocent and good to start with, until they are corrupted by something (whether it's life, humans, the industrial revolution or Melkor.)
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Old 02-02-2002, 03:27 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by Elanor:
I hadn't considered it before, but I can see a similarity. Blake was also a lover of nature, and was mistrustful of the Industrial Revolution.
That's right, but Blake lived in the 19th Century, right in the middle of the Industrial Revolution. His mistrust of the changes around him made him a militant. Tolkien adopting the same point of view more than one century later had of course a different resonance. The battle had already been lost: Tolkien was longing for a world that did not exist anymore.
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Old 02-03-2002, 06:54 AM   #6
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True [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 06-29-2005, 06:32 PM   #7
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Blake created a mythology of new perspective that cut away from traditional orthodox Christianity and which was Romantic in origin. (Yet today, at St. Paul's cathedral, he is named 'visionary' rather than poet.) Tolkien created a mythology out of philology, the study of the origins, derivations, and development of languages. Previous mythologies play a part in Tolkien's vision, although his use of them is unique. Philology is an academic discipline which looks back and posits origins.
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Old 03-07-2016, 07:59 AM   #8
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Evening all,

Could I briefly revive this 11-year-dormant thread to post something? I was reading some Blake today and I observed an interesting item in the Poetical Sketches:
Quote:
TO WINTER.


O WINTER! bar thine adamantine doors:
The north is thine; there hast thou built thy dark
Deep-founded habitation. Shake not thy roofs
Nor bend thy pillars with thine iron car.

He hears me not, but o'er the yawning deep
Rides heavy; his storms are unchain'd, sheathed
In ribbed steel; I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear'd his sceptre o'er the world.

Lo! now the direful monster, whose skin clings
To his strong bones, strides o'er the groaning rocks:
He withers all in silence, and in his hand
Unclothes the earth, and freezes up frail life.

He takes his seat upon the cliffs, the mariner
Cries in vain. Poor little wretch! that deal'st
With storms, till heaven smiles, and the monster
Is driven yelling to his caves beneath Mount Hecla.
I'm not trying to draw too strong a link, but are there not a few minor similarities between the figure of Winter here and that of Melkor, especially as he occurs in very early texts such as The Book of Lost Tales? Again, I must stress that I am not perceiving strong links here by any means.

I believe the figure of Winter in this poem may have connections to Blake's later mythological figure of Urizen, who has some comparability with certain conceptions of a Gnostic deimurge, but I'm not up to that yet. I'm interested in exploring this further as I continue to read Blake's works.

Just to be absolutely clear, I am not trying to draw strong links here ("Tolkien was clearly inspired by Blake!"), just making an observation.
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Old 03-08-2016, 07:02 AM   #9
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Not sure. I only think of the ice pillars Melkor duped the Valar into building. Haha, damned obstructionist.
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Old 03-08-2016, 08:09 AM   #10
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The "Deep-founded habitation" evoked Utumno to my mind for some reason.

"I dare not lift mine eyes;
For he hath rear'd his sceptre o'er the world."
He would have liked to have done that. Extreme colds were also in his domain.

It's a nice piece of imagery but I daresay any similarities are coincidental or derive from common sources.
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Old 03-09-2016, 02:32 PM   #11
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I was reminded of Utumno as well reading the first stanza, and Angband too; also of the 'bitter cold immoderate' wherewith Melkor made war on Ulmo's province in the Ainulindalė (but couldn't destroy its beauty).

If I remember my Blake well, Urizen is a spirit of measuring, limiting, constraining (which is why his name is reminiscent of horizon as well as the more obvious Your Reason, and he is iconically portrayed with a pair of callipers), which fits the immobilizing cold of winter described in the poem but makes him kind of an antipode to Melkor, the spirit of rebellion and extremes. Both are tyrants, but Urizen's tyranny is one of scientific positivism, political absolutism and religious orthodoxy - in short, he's the patron saint of all Blake's pet peeves.

All this has to do with the difference in Tolkien's and Blake's religious views. Eru Ilśvatar is, shall we say modelled? on the God of Christianity in whom Tolkien believed himself - a benevolent creator, rebellion against whom could ultimately only end in self-destruction; whereas in Blake's eyes the God worshipped by his Christian contemporaries was Satan the Accuser and rebellion against him absolutely necessary. Pullman's war against the Authority in His Dark Materials is pure Blake.

Since the thread starter mentioned Orc - yes, he is the spirit of 'rebellion, war, ferocity and slaughter', but this is only his fallen form, taken in reaction to Urizen's tyranny, and in his unfallen form he is Luvah (think of English lover with a northern accent!) - something like Eros or libidinous energy. In any case he's the most dynamic and kinetic of the Four Zoahs. There is nothing quite like him among Tolkien's Valar, except maybe - Tulkas?
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