Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

onions
Posts: 3

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#1 » Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:55 am

I think that in his efforts to create a new 'English' mythology that Tolkien took inspiration for much of his work not only from the Norse mystologies but also the Celtic. In particular the Irish mythologies which are well documented (Check out http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/index.htm.) and also the iris language which is the oldest vernacular in Europe.

Of the Iris mythology and language Tolkien had this to say:
"I go frequently to Ireland (Eire: Southern Ireland) being fond of it and of (most of) its people; but the Irish language I find wholly unattractive." This is a lie on Tolkiens part to throw us off the trail. Politically and culturally, at the time he felt it unwise to admit that his 'new' English mythology was largly influenced by Irish Celtic language/mythology.

Think about it - Do you think that Tolkien as a linguist would not be interested in the oldest and best preserved of the ancient Celtic languages? Much of the themes throughout LOTR such as warrior chivalry, symbolism and even actuall names appeared in irish sagas written centuries ago. Even the word 'Orc' appears in the ancient stories of 'Cuchulain of Muirthemne' as a term meaning dwellers of the Orkney islands.

The concept of the 'ever-living ones' being the most graceful and enlightened people was fully developed in Celtic literature as the Tuatha De Dannan (or Aes Sidhe) - Check out 'http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/gafm/index.htm'. Look at the names in this manuscript 'The FirBolg', 'Midhir and Etain' etc, If you do anything read 'Part I Book II: The Coming of Lugh', after a while you will think that you are reading the 'Silmarillion' and Lugh the Ildánach is an Elven warrior.

Other Irish legends develop the concept of 'the one eye'. Check out 'Balor of the evil eye'. He was a Fomorian, a race that could change form, especially to half human/half boar (orcish) form. I think that Tolkien spent much time studying Irish language and mythology (in his scholarly and linguistic capacities) but would never admit that his own writings were so heavily influenced by them.

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Amarië
Posts: 2785

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#2 » Thu Dec 23, 2004 7:03 am

I think that Tolkien spent much time studying Irish language and mythology (in his scholarly and linguistic capacities) but would never admit that his own writings were so heavily influenced by them.

I don't think he made much of an attempt to hide where he got his influence. But there are many people more knowledgeable than me on that topic. I don't know much about other mythogogies around the world, but his inspiration from Norse mythology is too obvious to hide. Especially in the Hobbit. All the dwarven names are from a norse poem where they are listed one by one. Gandalfs name is if from that poem too. It's really a dwarf name and it means 'wand elf'. The part about the trolls in the Hobbit could have easily been a good old Norwegian fairy tale. Norwegian elves (or scandinavian I suppose) sounds a lot like faded wood elves. They live in the woods, are very beautiful and sing and dance beautifully.

I could go on and on and on with examples form both the hobbit, lord of the rings and the silmarillion, but since it's Christmas I won't bore you poor members with it. (unless you want me too. ;) )I don't think he used much from Irish mythology but he was indeed a great fan of the Celtic language and based Sindarin on it. Just look at this list of Welsh names from behindthename.com (click) and see how simmular they are to elven names. Tolkien was very fond of mythologies, and it is hard to say exactly where he got his inspiration. A lot of the stories about heros and magic and monsters are quite simmular no matter what country or religion they come from.

Sauron was never a big, flaming eye btw. Sauron the living lighthouse only excists in the movies.
"Don't complain under the stars
about the lack of bright spots in you life."
Henrik Wergeland, Norwegian writer

onions
Posts: 3

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#3 » Thu Dec 23, 2004 9:56 am

Good reply,

I think that my main point is that Tolkien himself and everyone else makes big of the Norse influence
because it is so 'in-your-face' but tends to overlook the much more subtle celtic influence,
of which I think, we are only scratching the surface.

I read a lot of celtic mythology and every time I read about the Tuatha DeDannan bells
of similarity ring with Tolkiens Elves. I mean as warrior poets rather than timid
beings of Scandanavian mythology. Behaviours and lore rather than actual names.
The Tuatha DeDannan behaved very like the Elves, in a chivalric manner placing song and lore
alongside mastery in weapons. They arrived in Ireland on
ships from the west, from a land lost in the mist etc.

Tolkien would certainly have read the same material as I am now reading, so it just
makes me wonder. We'll never know I suppose.

Anyone willing to read 'Gods and fighting men' which is a conglomeration
of ancient recorded stories about the TDD, let me know what you think.
It can be found here:'http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/gafm/index.htm'.

On perhaps a different note it's interesting to note that Tolkien bore
a dislike of Shakesphere for turning the tall and elegant Elves of Scandanavian
legend into the comical fairy creatures of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Much akin
to the way that the TDD become the comical leprechauns of Irish lore.

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Vee
Posts: 2711

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#4 » Fri Jan 07, 2005 3:05 am

This is an interesting thread, Onions. I don't know enough about mythology to agree or disagree but I have looked at the url you posted and it seems there are possible influences. Whether this is because a lot of mythologies have the same origins and legends I don't know. It is more than possible that Tolkien read or studied this tale and perhaps incorporated bits of it into his own literary works much the same as any author is influenced by other works.

I don't know.

It may not be the strongest influence but it is possible it is there somewhere.


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lord_aragorn86
Posts: 2241

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#5 » Fri Jan 07, 2005 3:56 am

They live in the woods, are very beautiful and sing and dance beautifully.

Are you one of these Scandinavian elves, sis? You sure have all the characteristics.

And well, Onions....you might want to take a look at the Nordic legend of Beowulf and his ring!
I am nobody.....and nobody is perfect.......therefore I am perfect.

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#6 » Fri Jan 07, 2005 9:56 am

I would also suggest reading the opera "Ring des Nibelungen" by Wagner written between 1848 and 1874. This opera is all based on Nordic mythology and follows the path of a ring of power. Very interesting.

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grondmaster
Posts: 25451

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#7 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 3:27 pm

I would also suggest reading the opera "Ring des Nibelungen" by Wagner written between 1848 and 1874. This opera is all based on Nordic mythology and follows the path of a ring of power. Very interesting.
I believe Wagner's opera was actually based on the Germanic Myth The Nibelungenlied; or is Germanic Myth a subset of Nordic Myth? And Tolkien got very perturbed when people tried to compare his Ring to Wagner's Ring.
'Share and enjoy'

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eruwen
Posts: 1277

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#8 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 3:46 pm

Germanic mythology is strongly influenced by Nordic mythology, or one might say they are strongly intertwined just as Anglo Saxon is a strong mixture of Nordic, Germanic and English (or Christian) myths. The prologue to Ring des Nibelungen is based on the Nordic version of the Three Fates -- Goetterdaemmerung. In any case, I think it's difficult not to compare the two. Critics often disregard the authors point of view when comparing and contrasting works anyway. Not that I say it's a good practice, but Tolkien obviously used Nordic traditions in his works, so comparing it to other works influenced by Norse mythology is not unusual. Besides the fact that Ring des Nibelungen, a work completed more than 40 years before Tolkien's work that involved giants and dwarves and a struggle for a ring of power is not an uncalled for comparison. Sorry Tolkien, but I'll probably be doing it in my thesis.

loni
Posts: 1519

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#9 » Sat Jan 08, 2005 3:49 pm

This is a lie on Tolkiens part to throw us off the trail. Politically and culturally, at the time he felt it unwise to admit that his 'new' English mythology was largly influenced by Irish Celtic language/mythology.


I don't think Tolkien lied when he said that. Maybe it was influenced subconsciously, or the aspects of Irish/Celtic language/mythology were present in other cultures, and that's where he got them from. And why would Tolkien lie to throw us off the trail? What did he have to hide? Did it really matter? And who would care? Remember that Tolkien didn't expect TLOTR to be THIS popular.

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leelee
Posts: 2288

Tolkiens 'hidden' influences

Post#10 » Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:17 am

Balor of the one eye totally grossed and freaked me out. He just inspired such raw terror, just the the eye of Sauron.

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