Category Archives: Literature

EARENDEL, BRIGHTEST OF ANGELS

Actually I know something both of this poem and of the source materials from which it arose. Earendil actually refers to the angel Earendel from the Advent Lyrics of Crist (Christ) in the Exeter Book. That was Tolkien’s real source material for the Flying Mariner who sailed the Silmaril upon his shining brow.

 

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast

ofer middengeard (as the Anglo-Saxons called Middle Earth, our Earth, and similar to what the Vikings called Constantinople, Miklagarð) monnum sended…

 

Still, the article is interesting in some background sense.

Birth of a new world: the Tolkien poem that marks the genesis of Middle-earth

On this day in September 1914, as war broke out, Tolkien created the mythical land that led him to The Lord of the Rings. Here’s the story of the poem that changed his life

Mordor, he wrote: how the Black Country inspired Tolkien’s badlands

Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit
Origin story … Martin Freeman in the film version of The Hobbit. Photograph: Warner Bros/AFP/Getty Images

A century ago today, Russian forces were beginning the 133-day siege of Przemyśl and the German army took Péronne. Meanwhile, in a Nottinghamshire farmhouse, a young man wrote a poem about a mariner who sails off the earth into the sky. The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star deserves its day in the spotlight alongside war commemorations. It was the founding moment of Middle-earth.

Neither elves nor hobbits were yet in JRR Tolkien’s mind. But the star mariner is remembered in The Lord of the Rings, as Eärendil, forefather of kings, whose light in a phial wards off Mordor’s darkness. In the vast backstory of The Silmarillion, he carries the last Silmaril, a jewel preserving unsullied Edenic light, seeking aid against the primal Dark Lord.

None of this is in Tolkien’s poem from 24 September 1914. As an invented origin myth for the evening star, it is all energy and enigma:

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup
In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim;
From the door of Night as a ray of light
Leapt over the twilight brim,
And launching his bark like a silver spark
From the golden-fading sand;
Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death
He sped from Westerland.

 

 

 

THE IAGO OF WESTEROS

BABY FINGERS (The Secret Song of Lord Petyr Baelish)

THE SHADOW…

I think that there is actually something to be said for this observation. I have recently been studying the historical sources upon which Tolkien built Middle Earth. Tolkien was meticulous about most sources, some he greatly modified, and a few he dismissed altogether as irrelevant (though they weren’t).

But I do not think that Tolkien would have been pleased, and I certainly am not, at those who followed and how sloppily they drew upon history or changed it into fantasy altogether. Whereas Tolkien wanted fantasy that was realistic and historical as well as fantastic and mythological far too much of modern culture is built upon the opposite premise (to the detriment of modern culture): that fantasy and fiction and myth should somehow inform or even replace history.

That completely misreads fantasy, entirely disregards the whole point of good fiction and totally misunderstands myth.

Shivering in Tolkien’s shadow

Middle Earth has swallowed up our understanding of the Middle Ages

by Josephine Livingstone / July 17, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine

There’s a drawing of a smug-faced dragon on the front cover of JRR Tolkien’s newly-published translation of “Beowulf.” Its green, scaly body loops and knots into a pretzel-esque shape that medieval historians call the “interlace” pattern. You might recognise these loops from Swedish runestones, crumbling Anglo-Saxon crosses or bad tattoos.

The drawing of the dragon, however, is not actually medieval—early medieval dragons’ snouts are usually rounded, not pointy. As the copyright page explains, it is a drawing by Tolkien himself. The very dust-jacket of this new book sums up why an 88-year-old translation of an extremely old poem will sell. We don’t want to read medieval poetry, but we do want to read JRR Tolkien. “Beowulf” is only about 3,000 lines long, but it is here fatly supplemented both by Tolkien’s commentary essays and two of his works of fan-fiction, “Sellic Spell” and “The Lay of Beowulf.” These are both his original creations, inspired by—but sadly not as good as—the literature of medieval northern Europe.

Ever since The Hobbit appeared in 1937, Tolkien’s oeuvre has become a cipher for the look and feel of “medievalness.” From Monty Python’s Holy Grail to Game of Thrones, most modern depictions of the 5th to the 15th centuries in European history bear Tolkien’s distinctive mark. Today, the phrase “Middle Earth” conjures hobbit-holes, not the beautiful Old English word middangeard—the middle space between heaven and hell, where humans live out their short lives. The Lord of the Rings has grown so monumental that medieval culture shivers in its shadow.

Tolkien himself was a philologist, and one of the virtues of this translation is his respect for the source material. From sloppy journalistic articles to preposterous movie adaptations starring Ray Winstone, “Beowulf” has invited a lot of nonsense from modern people. This is not surprising, given how little we know for certain about the poem.

These are the facts: It was written down in the 10th or 11th century, but could be hundreds of years older. The manuscript is fairly hefty—about 25cm by 19cm—but looks straightforwardly like a book. Other texts in it are illustrated, but not “Beowulf.” It was singed in the fire that devastated Robert Cotton’s manuscript collection at Ashburnham House in 1731, although the text miraculously escaped destruction, aside from a few lost words. It now resides in the British Library.

“Beowulf” tells of events that take place in the deep past, not in Britain but somewhere in Scandinavia. They concern a hero named Beowulf who arrives to save a community from a monster named Grendel. He kills Grendel and then he kills Grendel’s vengeful mother. The hero becomes a king. Many years later, his kingdom is terrorised by a dragon, which he kills, but which also kills him. He dies heirless…

A HOARD DID I ENCOUNTER – THE LYRE’S SONG

The other day someone on a message board asked me what kind of song(s) I would compose for my new Bard (Talisfar) character to use during play. This is the song I wrote – to be played upon the lyre.

 

A HOARD DID I ENCOUNTER – THE LYRE’S SONG

My gentle lords and ladies fill now up your cups
I’ll sing to you of ransom even as you sup
Far away in foreign lands I chanced upon a hoard
It was buried in the Earth full of rich reward

A cairn did I encounter, eat up now be free!
I’ll tell you of the horror I alone did see
A dreadful restless spirit lingered hard nearby
I sought a way around it, no passage could I find

I sat upon the cold earth pondering my fate
Sleep descended on me even as I ate
Tired I grew unnaturally, close the air did seem
Songs did fill the moonless night, the spirit so did sing

Fatigue did overtake me as the spirit sang
I realized only all too late the spirit’s trap had sprang
I was at her mercy; her cold touch fell on me
To all I was oblivious with no hope to flee

I do not know how I escaped, why she spared me so
She let me keep my breath and life, I was free to go
Yet her touch had spoiled me, all my goods were gone
I awoke with nothing at the coming of the dawn

As you drink and fête yourself now you know my lot
For you are all exhausted but I am fresh and hot
There are hoards of treasure, many things of gold
Some are far way you see and some are close I’m told

My gentle lord and ladies fill now up your dreams
Do not worry for yourselves while this song I sing
Yet, my performance now is ended, I’ve made my last appeal
As you dwell in slumber then away to home I’ll steal…

BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES TAPESTRY

Well, I’ll say one thing about it. It sure looks cool.

You can also magnify sections.

 

Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Tapestry Revealed

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