Thursday, January 21, 2010

Medieval Middle Earth

It is no secret that Tolkien's Middle Earth in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings contain many a borrowing from medieval literature and even history. Tolkien is both medievalist an medievalismist, purveyor, if you will, of things medieval in a later guise. Due to a discussion elsewhere, I was reminded of something I do in my one and only Tolkien class. Or I did.

I have a lecture and slide show on Tolkien's medievalism after the class has read LoTR and is moving on to read some of the influences on Tolkien like Beowulf and SGGK. In this lecture, I point to Tolkien's languages and how they parallel the situation in Medieval Europe. In Western Europe, every court eventually spoke a vernacular. But of those, there was Latin that the learned learned and used for all manner of thing. Higher up the chain were Greek and Hebrew.

At least among humans and hobbits in Middle Earth, the situation is much the same. Most peoples of ME speak Westron or their own vernacular. Among those are the learned who study and learn "Elvish" or Sindarin. Among those, a few will learn Quenya. And like Greek influencing Latin, so Quenya influenced Sindarin.

There was more and a nice comparative chart, now lost due to computer failure and I foolishly didn't have it all backed up. Ah well...someday I may have opportunity to teach this again and redevelop the chart.

Anyway, I'm sure that others have pointed this feature out before, but it is still one that makes me smile and fly my nerd flags at full mast.

1 comment:

Steven Till said...

It's an interesting parallel for sure. I always like learning the influences of other writers.