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Old 03-17-2002, 10:03 PM   #1
Thingol
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Pipe The originality of Tolkien's works

Recently I finished reading the epic poem Beowulf. When I read the scene where Beowulf fights the Dragon I was surprised to find quite a number of similarities between Smaug and the Dragon in Beowulf. For example the dragon is Beowulf is roused by a man who steals a jeweled cup from the dragon's hoard, just as Smaug is roused by Bilbo stealing a jeweled cup. In addition the description of the Dragon in Beowulf bears a striking similarity to the description of Smaug in The Hobbit. I asked my English teacher about this and he told me that it used to be common practice for authors to use the works of other authors in their writings. He said that the idea that something must be original to be considered good is purely a development of the last fifty years or so. Authors like Shakespeare, Milton, Melville, Byron, Chaucer, Dante, Dickens etc... all borrowed much of their writings from Greek mythology, the Bible and even from each other. It was not uncommon for authors to directly take passages from other authors and place them into their writings without even an acknowledgement. He went on to say that since Tolkien's writing style was closer to that of the 19th century and not of the 20th that I should not be surprised if I find out that Tolkien did a considerable amount of "borrowing" from other sources. I am curious if anyone has any ideas as to how original Tolkien's works actually are?
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Old 03-18-2002, 05:32 AM   #2
Birdland
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Thingol, if you check out the Old Norse mythology, you will see many similarities to tales from the Silm and LOTR. You'll even find some familiar names.

also check
this thread
for Tolkien's tip-o-the-hat to Shakespeare.

I'm sure there are many more similarities talked about in earlier threads.

[ March 18, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 03-18-2002, 10:19 AM   #3
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Tolkien

Oh.. I hope that this is the right place to do what I'm supposed to do.. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
I'm reading Kalevala at the moment, and it's so much like the Silmarillion, and no wonder, Tolkien loved Kalevala. And to me it's an honor as a Finn, that He liked it so much, because Kalevala is the heirloom of our people! I don't read any other fantasy books, because to me Tolkien is the only one who can do it right. No one else can't do it the way it's supposed to. And Kalevala isn't fantasy, really happened, well, most of it... [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]
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Old 03-18-2002, 12:14 PM   #4
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Hmmm... I'v read some old norse mythology and what strikes evry time is that Ainur and the Nordic gods are like exactly the same thing! It seems like he just took the Norse gods and changed their names (excpet that the nordic gods are many more than the Ainur).
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Old 03-18-2002, 12:51 PM   #5
Kuruharan
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Back on the Dragons vs. Balrogs thread the comment was made that Tolkien's works are totally independent of any other mythology. I thought that it would be more appropriate to post my reply to that here.

I would say yes and no. Yes, Tolkien's writings were his own and different from other myths.

However (and this is just a thought) I think maybe there could be a way of looking at them as being related. Since Tolkien's world is this one in a much earlier stage I think that perhaps you could look at other mythologies as being attempts to recall those days or look at them from another perspective. Thus, the differences are because of distance and interpretation. (Ever wanted to know what the Easterlings thought about things? Maybe we do...)

Yes, I know that this idea is backwards chronologically speaking, but it was just a thought.
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Old 03-18-2002, 02:27 PM   #6
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From Book of Lost Tales II, chapter VI:

"It is then said, somewhat inconsequentially (though the matter is in itself of much interest, and recurs nowhere else), that Eriol told the fairies of Woden, žunor, Tķw, etc. (these being the Old English names of the Germanic gods who in Old Scandinavian form are Ošinn, žórr, Tyr), and they identified them with Manweg, Tulkas, and a third whose name is illegible but is not like that of any of the great Valar" [I guess Fionwe could be equated with Tķw-Tiwaz-Tyr for a couple of reasons -- Sharkū].
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Old 03-19-2002, 02:20 PM   #7
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I liked that opinion Kuruharan. And I'll keep it in my mind. Thx, oh Wight. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 03-19-2002, 03:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
I'm reading Kalevala at the moment, and it's so much like the Silmarillion, and no wonder, Tolkien loved Kalevala.
Welcome to the Downs, Ansu. Looks to me like you got the knack of it. Would you mind checking out the third page of the Dragons versus Balrogs thread on Book 1? I made some comments there about Lemmenkainen, and I'd be interested to know your ideas.

Also, can you say a little more about the similarities you find between the Kalevala and the Silmarillion? I'm all ears.
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Old 03-19-2002, 04:02 PM   #9
littlemanpoet
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Quote:
[Your English teacher] went on to say that since Tolkien's writing style was closer to that of the 19th century and not of the 20th that I should not be surprised if I find out that Tolkien did a considerable amount of "borrowing" from other sources.
Thanks, Thingol, for bringing this up. It was buried deep in my memory banks when I asserted that Tolkien's dragons are based on Germanic myths (I refer the curious to the Balrogs versus Dragons thread).

An awesome list of Tolkien's borrowings is contained in this website:
Lord of the Rings sources

It may tell you that you have to click on sacred texts. Do that then choose Legends and Sagas. Finally the blinking thing will come up: "The Lord of the Rings". sheeesh.

I think it's just what you have in mind, Thingol.

[ March 19, 2002: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]

[ March 19, 2002: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]
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Old 03-19-2002, 04:33 PM   #10
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Kuruharan, I think you & I are twins! We think too much alike (which to me is a good thing! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img])! I agree with you, Kuruharan. I think Tolkien took known mythologies and expanded on them with his own creations. I have no problem with the similarities, as I am sure the rest of you all do not as well.
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Old 03-19-2002, 10:05 PM   #11
Kuruharan
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Kuruharan, I think you & I are twins!
Wait'll Mom finds out!

But, in all seriousness, I think that's sort of the way that Tolkien viewed his subcreation. I'm afraid that I don't have all the books right now, but it seems like he indicated something like this in several places.

He was looking to return to a "grander" style of myth, and he drew inspiration from the tales of the "Dark Ages" (which is actually a terribly inaccurate term, but never mind) so I don't think that it's unreasonable to look at other myths as being related to Tolkien's in a "different way of looking at the same (or related) event" sense (even though I said that very badly.)
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