Tolkien as a Literary Artist: Exploring Rhetoric, Language and Style in The Lord of the Rings 3030692981, 9783030692988

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Tolkien as a Literary Artist: Exploring Rhetoric, Language and Style in The Lord of the Rings
 3030692981, 9783030692988

Table of contents :
About the Authors
List of Tables
1: Introduction
1.1 Tolkien’s Status in Literary History
1.2 Corpus Stylistics
1.3 Metaphor and Metonymy15
1.4 Intertextuality32
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
2: Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations in The Lord of the Rings
2.1 Characterizing Tolkien’s Style
2.2 Methodology
2.3 Key Words in The Lord of the Rings2
2.3.1 Key Words Shared with Nineteenth-Century Fiction
2.3.2 Key Words Shared with Modern Fiction
2.3.3 Key Words Shared with Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf
2.3.4 Key Words Exclusive to The Lord of the Rings
2.4 Key Collocations in The Lord of the Rings
2.5 Key N-Grams in The Lord of the Rings
2.6 Frequent Semantic Fields in The Lord of the Rings
2.7 Tolkien as a Stylist: Conclusion
Key Words Exclusive to The Lord of the Rings
Negative Key Words
Works Cited
Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
3: The Narrative Syntax of The Lord of the Rings
3.1 Background and Method
3.2 Dispreferred Constructions
3.2.1 Word Level
3.2.2 Phrase Level
3.2.3 Clause Level
3.3 Overused Constructions
3.3.1 Word Level
3.3.2 Phrase Level
3.3.3 Clause Level
3.4 Narrative Syntax: Conclusion and Two Sample Paragraphs
Works Cited
Primary Text:
Critical Works Cited:
4: Points of View
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
5: Landscape Descriptions
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
6: Speeches and Declarations
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
7: Storytelling
Works Cited
Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
8: Poems and Songs
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
9: Language and Character
Works Cited
Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts
Critical Works Cited
10: Tolkien’s Position in Literary History
Works Cited
Primary Text
Critical Works Cited

Citation preview

Tolkien as a Literary Artist

Exploring Rhetoric, Language and Style in The Lord of the Rings Thomas Kullmann · Dirk Siepmann

Tolkien as a Literary Artist

Thomas Kullmann • Dirk Siepmann

Tolkien as a Literary Artist Exploring Rhetoric, Language and Style in The Lord of the Rings

Thomas Kullmann Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik University of Osnabrück Osnabrück, Niedersachsen, Germany

Dirk Siepmann Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik University of Osnabrück Osnabrück, Niedersachsen, Germany

ISBN 978-3-030-69298-8    ISBN 978-3-030-69299-5 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2021 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Anna Budina This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

For Maria and Alexandra, Richard, Eduard and Leo


The authors are grateful for permission to reprint material from the following essays by Thomas Kullmann: “Metaphorical and Metonymical Meaning in The Lord of the Rings.” In Christine Lötscher et al., eds. Transitions and Dissolving Boundaries in the Fantastic. Zürich, Münster: LIT, 2014. 53–62. “Intertextual Patterns in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” Nordic Journal of English Studies, 8.2 (2009). 37–56. Web. “Landscape as Metaphor in The Lord of the Rings.” Hither Shore, 11 (2014). 80–90. “Poetic Insertions in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” Connotations. 23.3 (2013/14). 283–309. We also wish to thank our students who participated in the combined language and literature courses on The Lord of the Rings we have taught at Osnabrück University. The students’ interest and enthusiasm greatly contributed to the present study. We also wish to acknowledge the assistance of Mediha Askaroglu, Uta Bockenkamm and Aylin Gallmeister in compiling the bibliographies and carrying out corpus research. Special thanks go to Anna Budina for creating the cover image of this book. Finally, we are indebted to the editorial staff at Palgrave Macmillan for all the work they have invested in getting this volume into shape. vii


1 Introduction  1 Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann 2 Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations in The Lord of the Rings 39 Dirk Siepmann 3 The Narrative Syntax of The Lord of the Rings 71 Dirk Siepmann 4 Points of View 89 Thomas Kullmann 5 Landscape Descriptions129 Thomas Kullmann 6 Speeches and Declarations159 Thomas Kullmann 7 Storytelling193 Thomas Kullmann ix

x Contents

8 Poems and Songs227 Thomas Kullmann 9 Language and Character259 Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann 10 Tolkien’s Position in Literary History297 Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann Index309

About the Authors

Thomas  Kullmann is Full Professor of English Literature at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. He has written widely on Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, English children’s literature and the nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel. Dirk Siepmann  is Full Professor of English as a second language at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. He has 25 years of experience in applied linguistics, with extensive background in corpus linguistics and language teaching. He has authored 12 books, including two major monographs on translation studies and one on contrastive linguistics, and has co-authored or edited a further 14 volumes.


List of Tables

Table 2.1 Key Collocations 55 Table 2.2 Top five word-forms in selected domains 62 Table 2.3 Key words in The Lord of the Rings, Nineteenth-century fiction and Modern Fiction (extract) 67 Table 3.1 Use of and76 Table 3.2 Use of bare participle 80 Table 5.1 Landscape as metaphor 138 Table 8.1 List of poems and songs found in The Lord of the Rings230


1 Introduction Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann

1.1 Tolkien’s Status in Literary History The position of Tolkien in literary scholarship is a precarious one. On the one hand, he may be considered one of the most successful authors, perhaps the one most successful author, of all time, as presumably no other work of fiction ever reached larger print runs than The Lord of the Rings.1 Apart from the sheer number of copies sold, there is an enormous output of literature about Tolkien, written by devoted admirers of Tolkien’s work, many of whom are university-trained. On the other hand, he receives little mention in accounts of literary history. If we consult David Daiches’ Critical History of English Literature (rev. ed. 1969), Robert Barnard’s Short History of English Literature (1984), Alastair Fowler’s History of English Literature (1987), Andrew Sanders’ Short Oxford History of English Literature (1994) or Bruce King’s volume on the period of 1948–2000  in The Oxford Literary History, then we search in vain for J. R. R. Tolkien. John Peck and Martin Coyle’s Brief History of English Literature (2002) contains a passing reference to The Hobbit. The Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature (2004) gives two brief mentions to Tolkien. Ronald Carter and John McRae’s Routledge History of Literature in English (3rd ed., 2018) accords eight lines to © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

Tolkien, in a one-page chapter entitled “Writing for Younger Readers— so-called Children’s Literature”. Obviously Tolkien is not generally deemed worthy to be placed next to John Galsworthy, Evelyn Waugh, Laurence Durrell, T. S. Eliot and Charles Tomlinson, each of whom gets extensive treatment in most of the literary histories mentioned. The only literary history which makes an attempt to place Tolkien in the context of cultural developments is Michael Alexander’s History of English Literature (3rd ed., 2013).2 Tolkien’s reputation as an author has obviously been damaged, on the one hand, by the excessive sales of his books and failure to fit in with what was perceived as the development of the “great tradition” or the mainstream of English Literature. In the wake of the establishment of English Literature as an academic subject, Tolkien’s work, and The Lord of the Rings in particular, did not fit in with the criteria of excellence defined, for example, by F.  R. Leavis, The Great Tradition, and Q.  D. Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public.3 One of the justifications of establishing literature as an academic subject was its focus on highbrow texts as opposed to popular trash, and one of the features of highbrow texts was their engagement with “reality” and social and psychological problems. Scholarly opinion on The Lord of the Rings usually corresponded to that of American critic Edmund Wilson who pronounced (in 1956) that The Lord of the Rings is “an overgrown fairy story, a philological curiosity”, referred to “these long-winded volumes of what looks to this reviewer like balderdash” and suspected that “certain people—especially, perhaps in Britain” admire the novel because they “have a lifelong appetite for juvenile trash” (Wilson 314). As “essentially a children’s book”—Wilson actually “read the whole thing aloud to his seven-year-old daughter” (Wilson 313)—The Lord of the Rings does not count as a serious issue of critical, let alone academic, debate. On the other hand, Tolkien’s reputation has been damaged by well-­ meant but rather incompetent attempts at criticism by members of the community of Tolkien fans.4 These fans (who usually appear to know Tolkien by heart, but have read little else) usually explain Tolkien by reference to Tolkien.5 In essays devoted to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s essays, letters and early writings are quoted again and again, while little attempt is made to connect Tolkien’s novel to the work of other writers.

1 Introduction 


Indeed some partisan readers go on and on praising Tolkien as a “sub-­ creator” and his capacity of inducing “secondary belief ”.6 While it might make sense to call writers of fiction sub-creators, the idea that Tolkien is special in that respect and that the suspension of disbelief required of any reader of a work of fiction works in particular ways in the case of Tolkien has been highly damaging to the reputation of the author of The Lord of the Rings. Neither has it been helpful to “defend” Tolkien by turning him into a political activist against capitalism, deforestation and other unpleasant modern developments.7 Other critics tend to lose themselves in the intricacies of the genealogy of Tolkien’s elves and wizards but often fail to take account of the central tangible property of his writing: language.8 His fictional languages, those spoken and sung by the Elves as well as the “language […] of Mordor” (50) found on the One Ring, it is true, have received quite a bit of critical attention on the part of the Tolkien fan community, as well as their origins in Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, the Celtic languages and Finnish.9 While the influence of Tolkien’s expertise in Old and Middle English letters on The Lord of the Rings has been the subject of several studies, it has largely gone unnoticed that his interest in the poetic, rhythmic and musical qualities of English goes far beyond these old stages in the history of the language, and that his literary work testifies to a considerable preoccupation with rhetoric, storytelling, description and the malleability of English prose.10 The present work aims to bridge this gap between scholarly neglect and partisan enthusiasm by an evaluation of the artistry of Tolkien’s language, and to establish Tolkien as an object of serious scholarship in the fields of English linguistics and literature. While Edmund Wilson relegates Tolkien’s work to juvenile interests to emphasize his insignificance as a novelist, we propose to reverse the argument: The Lord of the Rings does indeed appeal to a childlike or juvenile interest in sounds, in mechanisms and functions of language, in the creation of meaning, in the potential of stories to structure experience. As a philologist, Tolkien retained this juvenile interest and curiosity in adult life; and in his novel he appeals to the hidden philologist in his young and adult readers, to those who have retained their childish or childlike curiosity about the potential of sounds and words. He can only do so because his work is engaging in terms of


T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

language use, in other words, because he is a literary artist. In calling Tolkien a literary artist, our aim is not to accord any special status to the creator of Middle-earth; on the contrary, we claim that Tolkien’s works should be examined and analysed on similar lines as the work of other literary artists, such as D.  H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Laurence Durrell, Iris Murdoch, Salman Rushdie and A. S. Byatt, that he should be given a place in literary history  along with these canonized authors and be subjected to the same kind of critical scrutiny.11 While some other critics, most notably Tom Shippey, Brian Rosebury and Steve Walker, have addressed issues of Tolkien’s style, we propose to examine Tolkien’s artistry by following a more systematic, and twofold, approach, and look at the text of The Lord of the Rings from the points of view of both linguistics and literature studies. Our linguistic investigation uses corpus linguistic methods to make quantitative statements about Tolkien’s use of language. The literary approach will concentrate on the establishment of traditions and genealogies concerning literary forms, motifs and techniques of narration.12 The concept of intertextuality will provide the overall framework underpinning this approach. Established by Julia Kristeva in 1967 and elaborated by Gérard Genette and Michael Riffaterre, this concept has been the subject of much controversial discussion. In the present study, we propose to use it as an umbrella to cover various ways in which texts engender and look back to one another. This literary approach will also be informed by the dichotomy of metaphorical and metonymical meaning, following suggestions made by Roman Jakobson in 1957. Fantasy, we should like to contend, is related to real life just as much as so-called realism; the difference being that fantasy favours a metaphorical relationship between fiction and real life whereas in realistic fiction a metonymical relationship is paramount.

1.2 Corpus Stylistics “Fine books”, Proust famously observed, “are written in a kind of foreign language”.13 Captured in this bon mot is the realization that literature is readily identifiable by its linguistic features. While this may seem an obvious statement in the case of poetry, whose exceptional

1 Introduction 


characteristics—metre, rhyme, stanzas and so on—have long been acknowledged, it is perhaps less evident in the case of prose fiction, and even less so with The Lord of the Rings, whose language has been variously described as “impoverished” (Spacks 67) or simple and lacking in conventional novelistic textures (Raffel).14 The chapter on corpus stylistics will explain why such strictures are unwarranted. Using corpus-analytical tools, it will show that, in much the same way that Tolkien makes use of a wide variety of literary traditions to compose the narrative, so he draws on his vast experience of the history of English to blend old and new uses of language in a deftly inconspicuous manner that most readers are wont to pass over. Thus, for example, when Tolkien writes “new strength came now streaming to the field”  (846), he is reviving a military use dating back at least to the seventeenth century within a collocational framework that can be traced as far back as Beowulf (new strength streamed through his veins), which Tolkien “translated” into modern English. Corpus approaches to literary stylistics enable us to identify such recurrent peculiarities of the style of The Lord of the Rings “against a background of what is normal and expected in general language use” (Stubbs 5). Strictly speaking, this is of course impossible: just as there is no absolute motion, absolute space or absolute time, so there is no way of making absolute statements about style. All we can do is speak of how one text, or set of texts, is patterned relative to another. The background of “normality” that Stubbs and other corpus stylists take as their “fixed point” therefore is either a balanced reference corpus such as the British National Corpus (BNC) or a corpus of everyday conversation. Since the present study focuses on the literary style of just one book, comparison is made with literary texts that precede, are contemporary with or follow the genesis of The Lord of the Rings (mainly a corpus of nineteenth-­century fiction, a corpus of post-war fiction and the “imaginative” section of the BNC). This helps us to establish whether it displays any stylistic features that are either significantly more common than in other texts or even distinctively its own. Among the characteristics considered are word frequency, key words, key collocations, key semantic areas and key n-grams. It should be noted that most literary critics subscribe to the mistaken idea that “literary language is not special or different, in that any formal feature termed “literary” can be found in other discourses” (Burton and


T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

Carter 273). If we take the formal features of language to be straightforward grammatical and lexical categories, this is undeniably true. However, even at the level of the word, it is equally obvious that literary authors prefer certain words over others. More precisely, there is a progression in specificity of word use from literature as a whole to its particular genres and sub-genres down to the individual text. Beyond the word, though, literature is characterized by specific lexico-grammatical constructions. Biber et  al., for example, identify a number of general fiction-specific syntactic features, such as the absence of participial relative clauses (606) or the frequent use of double genitives (309). The present study discusses both general syntactic features and typical words and multi-word constructions specific to The Lord of the Rings. One central finding is that Tolkien avoids any constructions that could remind readers of the banality of everyday language and daily life in an excessively economized and technologized world. He achieves a perfect match between the world he sets out to describe and the language used to describe it. Most importantly perhaps, it is evident that the impression of archaicity which any reader will experience on reading The Lord of the Rings is partly due to three simple lexical causes: the “overuse” of words borrowed from nineteenth-century fiction (e.g. yonder, journey [v], topmost), the avoidance of words associated with the modern world and the comparatively dense use of new coinages, unusual grammatical patterns, rare or obsolescent words. Another significant finding is that Tolkien borrows a host of words from his translation of Beowulf (e.g. valour, valiant, corslet), stretching them creatively to cover a wider range of uses than was possible in Old or Middle English (e.g. Branched lightning smote down upon the eastward hills). As for the modern key words found in The Lord of the Rings, it is worth noting that these are usually part of the core vocabulary of present-day English, such as they, big, wake, wall, unfriendly, tired or smoke. However, Tolkien tends to use many of these words in nineteenth-century patterns. One example among many is smoke, which is commonly preceded by the indefinite article in The Lord of the Rings (e.g. … a black smoke swirled in the air.), a use that is notably infrequent in modern fiction. One area in which Tolkien tends to follow modernist tendencies is his abundant use of descriptive verbs (i.e. verbs which apart from denoting

1 Introduction 


an event contain an additional semantic feature that assumes the function of a manner adverb), (cf. Snell-Hornby, 1983, p. 25) and, to a lesser extent, nouns (e.g. haze, stench). Among the key verbs shared with modern fiction are the following: clutch, cower, crack, crawl, curl, flicker, frown, gape, gasp, gaze, gleam, glimmer, glint, glitter, growl, hiss, huddle, loom, paw, peer, pile, plod, reek, shroud, slant, stumble, stow, stride, stumble, twist. Turning now to those key words that are exclusive to The Lord of the Rings (i.e. non-key in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction) and hence particularly distinctive of Tolkien’s style, we find that these, too, fall into a number of relatively distinct semantic categories: warfare (e.g. armies, armouries, besieged, destroyed), features of the natural environment (e.g. branches, coasts, dike, downs, fen, fern, dingle, glades, land, starless, starlight, thickets; hewed, hewn, encircling), artefacts made by the inhabitants of Middle-earth (fastness, cities, boats, horn, sheath, shield), people and animals (dwarves, herdsmen, lore-masters, gaffer, hornblower, horse-­ men, riders, wolf-riders; dragon, steed), time expressions (season, yesteryear, yuledays) as well as certain prepositions and adverbs (along, among, outwards). As can be seen from the above listings, most of these words are comparatively rare in present-day English and, although not archaic, work together to create an atmosphere of medievalism or otherworldliness. As is to be expected given the logic of numbers, many of the significant collocations in The Lord of the Rings are based on key words such as road, altogether, ancient or mighty, to give a few randomly chosen examples. A cursory look at the collocational range of certain key words suggests that Tolkien shows a marked preference for the most homely collocations available. However, Tolkien also uses everyday adjectives in what would have been considered unusual collocations even in his day. Great, for example, is most commonly associated with three meaning groups: abstract nouns such as peril, deed, force, power, strength; concrete objects such as trees, stones, halls, horns, gates; natural phenomena such as clouds, storms, shadow, wind or smoke. These collocations are derived from nineteenth-­century fiction, where they occur much less frequently, though. While we have already noted Tolkien’s preference for geographical terms, darkness and light, location and direction as well as colour adjectives, an analysis focussing on key semantic domains, apart from


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providing further detail about the domains just mentioned, highlights other domains which key word analysis misses entirely. One such domain is “plants”, where certain affinities are found with nineteenth-century fiction (e.g. reeds), but the domain is in fact much larger than suggested by the key word analysis, including the following items: tree: elm-tree, alder-tree, fir-tree, pine, beech, acorn, willow; lobelia, nightshade, hemlock, rowan, ivy, hyacinth, marigold, hawthorn, fern, holly, shrub, sward, etc.

Other major sources of descriptivity include “sailing/swimming”, “shape”, “weight: heavy”, “speed: fast (slow)”, “entire/maximum”, “sound: loud”, “temperature: hot/on fire”, “long, tall and wide”, the last five domains lending additional weight to the hypothesis that Tolkien tends to resort to hyperbole. Semantic domains which are also prevalent in the realist novel and partake in the creation of circumstantial realism include “general appearance and physical properties” (e.g. hard, stony, bare, plain, bow, kneel, hewn, bold, hollow, blank, splendour, furry, weather-beaten), “geographical terms” (e.g. land, forest, mountains, marshes, vale, wilderness, cave) and, to a minor extent, “farming and horticulture” as well as “fixing and mending”. In summation it can be said that, far from being “amateurish”, Tolkien’s prose effectively employs several centuries’ worth of linguistic developments, putting old words to new uses and vice versa. In a much less obvious sense than in the case of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, he is a linguistic postmodernist.

1.3 Metaphor and Metonymy15 One of the most common charges against fantasy fiction is that it is supposed to provide a means of escape from the real world, that it makes us forget real life and its problems.16 Consequently, we are told to read books which engage with our own everyday affairs, in order to learn to cope with things as they are and perhaps to change the world to make it better.

1 Introduction 


Some people even suppose that fantasy fiction makes us unfit for real life as it presents a non-existent world as real. One of the first critics who held such a view was the English lecturer Q. D. Leavis who in her book on Fiction and the Reading Public (1932) declared that “a habit of fantasying will lead to maladjustment in actual life” (54) and that “fantasy-fiction is the typical reading of people whose normal impulses are starved of the means of expression” (209). In our view this kind of attitude is based on two misconceptions. One is that not just fantasy fiction but any kind of fictional text provides escape from one’s personal problems, or rather demands this escape. When reading or listening to a fictional story, we have to leave off thinking about our problems for a while, for otherwise we will be unable to imaginatively follow the plot; this applies to Shakespeare, to Dickens, to Virginia Woolf and even to David Lodge just as much as to “Little Red Riding Hood” or Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The other misconception lies in the idea that so-called realistic fiction is connected to “real life” more closely than is what we call fantasy.17 Whenever we choose to read or listen to a fictional story, we do so because what we read or hear in some way corresponds to previous experiences of ours; otherwise, what we read or hear would not make sense and we would not be interested; in other words, we would not finish reading any text if it did not in some way or another refer to real life.18 It is true, however, that the relationship between a text and the readers’ real lives is a different one in cases like Oliver Twist, Mrs. Dalloway or Small World, on the one hand, and fairy tales or The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on the other. It is here that the terms of metaphor and metonymy may be of use. Metaphor in rhetoric denotes a relationship of similarity. If a person is referred to as a “lion”, or a “flower”, some similarity between the person and the lion is implied, such as strength, or, as in the case of the flower, beauty and impermanence. Person and flower are very different from one another but they are similar in certain particulars. Metonymy, on the other hand, does not denote similarity but contiguity. Saying that “something goes against my heart”, we refer to the heart as the traditional seat of feelings, so the heart is not similar but contiguous to these feelings.


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Roman Jakobson, in his famous essay on aphasic disturbances of 1956, used the two rhetorical terms to characterize two kinds of text production: The development of a discourse may take place along two different semantic lines: one topic may lead to another either through their similarity or through their contiguity. The metaphoric way would be the most appropriate term for the first case and the metonymic way for the second, since they find their most condensed expression in metaphor and metonymy respectively. (254)

According to Jakobson, Romantic poetry and realistic fiction can serve as examples of the two ways a discourse may be developed: The primacy of the metaphoric process in the literary schools of romanticism and symbolism has been repeatedly acknowledged, but it is still insufficiently realized that it is the predominance of metonymy which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called “realistic” trend […]. Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realist author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time. He is fond of synecdochic details. (255)

Jacobson is referring to nineteenth-century realist novels, as by Balzac or Dickens, in whose works descriptions of buildings, furniture and clothing explain the social circumstances of the characters by means of metonymy and synecdoche. Following this train of thought, the present study will make use of the two rhetorical terms to characterize the relationship between the fictional world of the text and the real world of the intended reader.19 Fantastic texts, we should like to argue, regularly take a grasp on the world of our experience by means of metaphor,20 that is, through relationships of similarity, as opposed to “realistic” fiction which is mainly related to the world we know by means of metonymy, that is, through relationships of contiguity. Queens who ask a mirror, as in the fairy tale of “Snow White”: “Oh, mirror, mirror on the wall, / Who is the fairest of us all?” (Brothers Grimm 255), do not live round the corner, but their predicament can be similar to our own as we may also be familiar with the emotions of vanity

1 Introduction 


and jealousy.21 A crime writer who invents a murder committed in London or New York does not create a world similar but contiguous to our own. We need not discuss the question whether the fairy tale or the crime story is related to “real life” more closely, but we should acknowledge the fact that the appeal of both kinds of story does, in fact, depend on their connectedness to “real life”.22 We should like to contend that in The Lord of the Rings both metaphoric and metonymic narration can be found. To illustrate this specific characteristic, we should like to compare the novel to its “prequel”, The Hobbit (1937). As in other children’s fantasy narratives,23 the predominant relationship between text and reader in The Hobbit is certainly a metaphorical one: the situation of Bilbo the hobbit who suddenly finds himself on a quest to recover treasure can be similar to the reader’s who may wonder about directions taken in his or her own life. On his quest, Bilbo encounters quite a few peculiar creatures, for example, the dwarves, Elrond, Gollum, Beorn, the dragon, Bard. His success largely depends on his ability to enter into friendly exchanges of communication with each of them; in this he resembles Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and other heroes and heroines of nineteenth-century children’s fiction. His stroke of genius is of course his rendering of the Arkenstone to Bard, who can then give it to Thorin in exchange for part of the treasure (331–332). The metaphorical relevance of the story as an exploration of the relationship of avarice, diplomacy and common sense is obvious. Like many other children’s books, The Hobbit is also about empowerment. Similarly to the child heroes and heroines of, say, Charles Kingsley, The Water-Babies (1863), George Macdonald, The Princess and Curdie (1882) and L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz (1900), Bilbo is introduced as a rather insignificant character who is, inadvertently and involuntarily, thrown into a position of significance and responsibility. Through following Bilbo’s adventures and metaphorically applying them to their own lives, child readers are put into a position to imagine and vicariously experience the role of a saviour. In The Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, elements of both fantasy and realism may be found; the text refers to the readers’ lives in a “metaphoric” and a “metonymic” way. The plot of The Lord of the Rings is “fantastic”, with creatures we know from old legends and fairy tales, such as


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dwarves and elves, or which were invented by Tolkien, but combine old motifs, such as hobbits and orcs. Frodo’s quest could not be undertaken by any of our friends and neighbours, but it is certainly in many ways similar to ambitions, enterprises or tasks we may have set ourselves and which have resulted, or may result, in success or failure. Like Bilbo Frodo undertakes a task and experiences empowerment, but unlike Bilbo he experiences his role as saviour as a burden and less as a chance of realizing his potential. Neither the hero nor the reader is in a position to dream about their power to do good, since power itself is shown to be evil. A typical motif from the area of fantasy is, of course, the Ring, whose properties and history Gandalf expounds in a conversation with Frodo: ‘When did I first begin to guess?’ he mused, searching back in memory. ‘Let me see—it was in the year that the White Council drove the Dark Power from Mirkwood, just before the Battle of Five Armies, that Bilbo found his ring. A shadow fell on my heart then, though I did not know yet what I feared. I wondered often how Gollum came by a Great Ring, as plainly it was—that at least was clear from the first. Then I heard Bilbo’s strange story of how he had “won” it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt. Much like Gollum with his “birthday-­ present”. The lies were too much alike for my comfort. Clearly the ring had an unwholesome power that set to work on its keeper at once. That was the first real warning I had that all was not well. I told Bilbo often that such rings were better left unused; but he resented it, and soon got angry. There was little else that I could do. I could not take it from him without doing greater harm; and I had no right to do so anyway. I could only watch and wait. I might perhaps have consulted Saruman the White, but something always held me back.’ (47–48)

Gandalf alludes to several stories characteristic of fantasy: the antagonism of a “White Council” and a “Dark Power”, Bilbo’s story (told in The Hobbit) of the riddling game with Gollum, the story of Gollum who killed his friend to obtain the Ring and then claimed it was his birthday present, Gandalf ’s suspicions about the magic power of the Ring and finally his hesitation to consult another wizard. None of these stories are part of “real life” or are connected with features of “realistic” narrative

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such as circumstantial detail or social background or a locality we may identify on a map of our own world. All of them, however, partake of metaphor: metaphors in the rhetorical sense are found in the opposition of “white” and “dark” which obviously stand for “good” and “evil” and provide a visual externalization of the moral opposites.24 A metaphor taken from light effects is then used to describe Gandalf ’s feelings: “A shadow fell on my heart then”. The abstract entities described by means of metaphor: good, evil, fear, also exist in real life, though not usually in a pure, unmixed form. We should like to suggest that the antagonism of the good wizards of the “White Council” and the “Dark Power” can be interpreted as a metaphor for choices we make or which are made for us in real life.25 Fantasy fiction, and the metaphoric mode of storytelling, we see, allows the storyteller to discuss ethics in an abstract or basic way. In realistic fiction, on the other hand, this cannot be done easily. No crime writer who writes realistically will depict his murderer as completely evil, as there will always have been social or psychological circumstances which made the murderer what he is. Although pure good or pure evil cannot be found in the real world, we do make moral judgements and so proceed from the assumption that good and evil exist, in the sense that most people ascribe good or evil qualities to things or people. Their literary representation, however, requires a metaphoric mode.26 The story of Sméagol killing Déagol can be taken as a metaphorical visualization of feelings of greed, envy and rivalry. The two stories told by the possessors of the Ring obviously function as visualizations, or metaphors, of a more complex moral failing: the tendency, quite common in real life, of embellishing past events for the purpose of justifying a privilege. The Ring’s magical power, of course, serves as a metaphor for the temptations offered by certain privileges, or by power itself.27 Gandalf ’s hesitation to consult Saruman (which will turn out to be justified) obviously stands for many fears we entertain of friends abusing our trust. This metaphorical discourse, however, is juxtaposed to a metonymical one: Gandalf ’s revelations about the Ring are preceded by a description of the environment which may well resemble the reader’s, or remind them of an idyllic scenery:


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Next morning after a late breakfast, the wizard was sitting with Frodo by the open window of the study. A bright fire was on the hearth, but the sun was warm, and the wind was in the South. Everything looked fresh, and the new green of spring was shimmering in the fields and on the tips of the trees’ fingers. (46)

As in a nineteenth-century novel, the open window and the fire metonymically suggest fresh air and warmth, just as the “new green” suggests the time of year. The reader’s gaze is directed to what is contiguous to the characters, first in the room and then outside of it. Following another convention of realist novels, the season of spring awakens associations with a certain period in the past: Gandalf was thinking of a spring, nearly eighty years before, when Bilbo had run out of Bag End without a handkerchief. His hair was perhaps whiter than it had been then, and his beard and eyebrows were perhaps longer, and his face more lined with care and wisdom; but his eyes were as bright as ever, and he smoked and blew smoke-rings with the same vigour and delight. (46)

In a realist novel, the visitor’s appearance would metonymically inform the reader about his state of health, his habits and his social background. This basically also applies to the present passage; it is only the number of years mentioned (“nearly eighty years before”) which reminds the reader that the scene is actually set in a non-existent, fantastic world. Frodo’s task is to have the Ring destroyed in the “Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain” (61). The quest, a dangerous journey with a particular goal, is, of course, a basic metaphoric motif of fantasy narratives. When Frodo and his companions set out, however, they pass through landscapes with which the reader might be familiar: They turned down the Ferry lane, which was straight and well-kept and edged with large white-washed stones. In a hundred yards or so it brought them to the river-bank, where there was a broad wooden landing-stage. A large flat ferry-boat was moored beside it. The white bollards near the water’s edge glimmered in the light of two lamps on high posts. Behind them the mists in the flat fields were now above the hedges; but the water

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before them was dark, with only a few curling wisps like steam among the reeds by the bank. There seemed to be less fog on the further side. (98)

The mass of circumstantial detail, the white-washed stones, the bollards, the lamp posts, the curling wisps, the reeds, may make the reader feel at home, as places like the one described can certainly be found in the English midlands, or, perhaps, East Anglia.The Lord of the Rings thus joins ranks with fictional celebrations of the English countryside current in the second half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century.28 Tolkien’s epic narrative actually abounds in descriptions of the characters’ outward appearance, their habitations and the landscapes they pass through during their quest. In these respects, The Lord of the Rings, in spite of its fantasy plot, is indebted to the nineteenth-century realist novel. When reading about “The Shire”, English readers will certainly be reminded of landscapes and rural places they have been to or passed through. These places are contiguous to the readers’ lives; they may relate to them in a metonymic way. When the travellers leave the Shire, they find themselves in environments which are perhaps not quite as familiar to English readers but which may still be recognizable from experience, such as forests, swamps or mountains.29 In passages describing these parts of the journey, an intricate mixture of metaphoric and metonymic elements is prevalent. The next day the country on either side began to change rapidly. The banks began to rise and grow stony. Soon they were passing through a hilly rocky land, and on both shores there were steep slopes buried in deep brakes of thorn and sloe, tangled with brambles and creepers. Behind them stood low crumbling cliffs, and chimneys of grey weathered stone dark with ivy; and beyond these again there rose high ridges crowned with wind-writhen firs. They were drawing near to the grey hill-country of the Emyn Muil, the southern march of Wilderland. There were many birds about the cliffs and the rock-chimneys, and all day high in the air flocks of birds had been circling, black against the pale sky. As they lay in their camp that day Aragorn watched the flights doubtfully, wondering if Gollum had been doing some mischief and the news of their voyage was now moving in the wilderness. Later as the sun was set-


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ting, and the Company was stirring and getting ready to start again, he descried a dark spot against the fading light: a great bird high and far off, now wheeling, now flying on slowly southwards. ‘What is that, Legolas?’ he asked, pointing to the northern sky. ‘Is it, as I think, an eagle?’ ‘Yes,’ said Legolas. ‘It is an eagle, a hunting eagle. I wonder what that forebodes. It is far from the mountains.’ ‘We will not start until it is fully dark,’ said Aragorn. (384–385)

The first paragraph contains a mass of realistic detail, featuring plants endemic to England. The landscape mainly serves as realistic, metonymic background to the company’s journey down the Anduin River. In common with the nineteenth-century realistic novel, this landscape may also function as a metaphoric illustration of the travellers’ feelings. The wilderness of the mountainous landscape in the third paragraph can be interpreted as a narrative image of the travellers’ sense of being alone in the wilderness and may also function as indicating an imminent crisis.30 The same applies to the first sentence of the fourth paragraph, about the birds circling in the air. The ensuing sentence, however, should be taken as an example of the metaphoric diction of fantasy: it is not just up to the reader to interpret the birds as a narrative illustration of the human plot, but the birds might be taking part in this plot, for example by conveying messages. The eagle is not just a narrative sign by which the author or narrator conveys a message to the reader, but is identified as an ominous sign by a protagonist, and makes the travellers modify their plans. It is thus part of the elements belonging to a quest story, which, as stated above, can metaphorically represent human tasks and enterprises of various kinds. When the travellers reach “the Gates” (393),  Sam’s commonsensical exclamations are answered by the “strange voice” (393) of Aragorn, whose stilted, archaic words convey to the reader the discourse of fantasy and myth. From Frodo’s point of view, a metamorphosis has taken place: Strider, the efficient travelling companion, whose skills safeguarded the company in the wilderness, becomes a mythical king who will resume his power. In a way, metonymical Strider becomes metaphorical Aragorn. His question: “whither now shall I go?” (393) reenacts the archetypal

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situation of having to choose between two opposing options: to accompany Frodo to accomplish his quest or to turn to his capital to claim the rights of kingship; which in the geography of Middle-earth is rendered as a “choice between the east-way and the west” (394). This choice reflects the antithetical interests of Aragorn and Frodo: while Aragorn wishes to resume power, Frodo wishes to relinquish it and to destroy the potential of any individual to achieve absolute power. We know, of course, that Frodo’s success will enable Aragorn to rule in peace, but for the moment, the discrepancy of their purposes is given metaphorical emphasis. We see that while in The Hobbit metaphor predominates, The Lord of the Rings is characterized by a subtle combination of the metaphoric and metonymic mode of conveying meaning. What could be the purpose of this combination? Perhaps the “real” world of the English countryside serves to make the horrors of Middle-earth appear closer to our own world—but if so, does this intensify the horrors or does it make them more palatable? There are various ways of answering this question. Concerning narrative technique, we can certainly say that the realistic or metonymic elements facilitate the “willing suspension of disbelief for the moment”, which according to Coleridge “constitutes poetic faith” (6), or, as Tolkien himself prefers to call it, “Secondary Belief ” (“On Fairy-Stories” 132). The fantastic world is given a familiar colouring and thus drawn into our everyday imagination. The closeness of the world through which the questants travel, to the world we know from real life, certainly intensifies our sympathetic response to their endeavour. The landscapes Frodo and the “fellowship” pass through resemble real English and Scottish landscapes and may remind readers of landscape experiences of their own; to the landscapes we could add depictions of rooms, clothes and other objects. These metonymic connections to our own experience certainly make it easier for us to imaginatively follow the plot, and may also serve to establish the specifically English character of The Lord of the Rings. The metaphoric mode (as typically found in fantasy), by contrast, allows an author to make general statements on character, ethical principles and world views in an abstract and philosophical way.31 Tolkien, it appears, not only makes use both ways of literary communication, but also juxtaposes them to achieve specific literary effects.


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1.4 Intertextuality32 As we have seen, Tolkien combines motifs and language patterns from various narrative traditions, both metonymic and metaphorical. He thus achieves a particular flexibility, and in order to conceptualize this flexibility, the concept of intertextuality may be of use. As Julia Kristeva noted, every text is a “mosaic of quotations” (Kristeva 66) from other texts, and as Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault contended, themes and attitudes are bound up with linguistic and stylistic conventions to make up “discourses”, that is, conventional ways of speaking which inform a given text (cf. Belsey 5–6). Unlike these theoreticians (who coined the terms “intertextuality” and “discourse” in the context of the ideological battles of the 1960s), however, we should like to argue that there may be various and conflicting “discourses” (in the sense of sets of cultural, linguistic and literary practices) at work at the same time and in the same cultural environment, allowing educated speakers and writers to make conscious decisions as to which of them to use, combine and recombine to create “new” texts. Compared to more traditional terms and approaches, the concepts in question have the advantage of providing a composite view of aspects of texts usually examined separately: linguistic and thematic aspects, argumentative structure as well as stylistic and rhetorical analysis, signifiants as well as signifiés. Looking for “pre-texts” and locating a text within a set of discourses allow us to examine thematic issues on the level of words and phrases.33 The process of “quoting” pre-texts can, of course, be both conscious and unconscious, and it certainly depends on education, communicative experience and perhaps even academic training to which degree producers and recipients of texts are aware of the pre-texts involved. Fantastic fiction can certainly be considered a site where the mosaic-­ like quality of texts is particularly obvious. All kinds of fantasy regularly draw upon other fantastic narratives, and appeal to the implied readers’ previous reading experiences rather than real-life experiences. Michael Riffaterre’s contention that literary texts are not referential and that “the text refers not to objects outside of itself, but to an inter-text” (quoted

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from Allen 115) seems to be particularly applicable to fantasy fiction. Reading about dragons or elves reminds the reader of other stories about dragons and elves heard or read, maybe of pictures of dragons and elves, but not of real-life experiences with dragons and elves, and probably not even dragon- or elf-like creatures. To demonstrate the mechanisms of intertextuality we again propose to compare The Lord of the Rings with The Hobbit. As has often been noted, there are substantial differences between the two books in terms of style and narrative technique. These differences are obviously due to the choice of different pre-texts, that is, texts quoted and combined in the two books. In The Hobbit, the narration focuses on the plot in a straightforward way: the story, as indicated by the subtitle, “There and Back Again”, is about a journey or quest. The dragon slain, the treasure restored to its original owners, the party returns to its place of departure. The intertextual quality of the quest structure is immediately obvious. From Homer’s Odyssey onwards, countless epics and romances have featured heroes who go on a difficult journey to achieve a goal, be it treasure, home, some magical or religious object or a reunion with friends. The very first paragraph of the book, however, may remind us of a rather different set of pre-texts: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. (29)

If we read rabbit rather than “hobbit”, the first sentence would be perfectly conventional. Holes in the ground certainly collocate with rabbits, and the phrase “there lived” might make us expect a conventional tale, in this case an animal story. While this narrative convention is echoed or “quoted”, the narrator departs from it by exchanging the first two letters of rabbit.34 This departure has a certain parodic quality: it renders us conscious of the conventional phrasing and thus implies a metalingual (or self-referential) comment.


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The following lines may put us in mind of a specific pre-text: Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows begins with an animal in the process of spring-cleaning just such a comfortable dwelling underground: Like Tolkien’s hobbit, Grahame’s Mole lives in a tidy bachelor’s flat which is furnished according to old-fashioned English middle-class standards, simply but sufficiently. While Mole, however, ultimately remains an animal, we gather from the next paragraphs of The Hobbit that hobbits have obviously more in common with humans than animals: the hobbit in question has a name, Bilbo Baggins, he is “well-to-do” and “respectable” (29f.), that is, characterized by phrases which are common in everyday middle-class oral discourse. Another set of pre-texts is furnished by Gandalf the wizard, whom Bilbo knows as “the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties, about dragons and goblins and giants and the rescue of princesses and the unexpected luck of widow’s sons” (33–35). Gandalf ’s appearance corresponds to the traditional shape of wizards in book illustrations: “He had a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, a silver scarf over which his long white beard hung down below his waist, and immense black boots” (32). While he used to tell fairy tales to the hobbits before, he now introduces Bilbo to the fairy-tale world itself: it is through his agency that a party of fairy-tale dwarves gathers at Bilbo’s place: “I am so sorry to keep you waiting!” he was going to say, when he saw that it was not Gandalf at all. It was a dwarf with a blue beard tucked into a golden belt, and very bright eyes under his dark-green hood. As soon as the door was opened, he pushed inside, just as if he had been expected. He hung his hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and “Dwalin at your service!” he said with a low bow. “Bilbo Baggins at yours!” said the hobbit, too surprised to ask any questions for the moment. (36–37)

Fairy-tale motifs (blue beard, green hood, golden belt) are set next to everyday discourse: “he hung his hooded cloak at the nearest peg” as well as to an old-fashioned formula of politeness: “Dwalin at your service”. This juxtaposition again creates a metalingual and metafictional awareness of language and motifs. Fairy-tale discourse is being parodied, as is

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old-fashioned politeness: as the reader will soon realize, Dwalin and his dwarf friends have no intention whatsoever of “serving” Bilbo; they rather require his services. When Gandalf and the dwarves discuss the various options for recovering the treasure, we encounter the same kind of parodic self-­referentiality. Gandalf ’s regrets at not being able to get hold of a “mighty Warrior, even a Hero” (53) implies an auctorial comment on a certain narrative tradition considered obsolete or inappropriate. When Bilbo turns out to be a hero in the end, his heroism is manifested quite unexpectedly—as with many heroes in literary tradition, for example, Odysseus and Perceval.35 The technique of juxtaposing discourses or pre-texts can perhaps best be illustrated by the letter left by Thorin on Bilbo’s table: “Thorin and Company to Burglar Bilbo greeting! For your hospitality our sincerest thanks, and for your offer of professional assistance our grateful acceptance. Terms: cash on delivery, up to and not exceeding one fourteenth of total profits (if any); all travelling expenses guaranteed in any event; funeral expenses to be defrayed by us or our representatives, if occasion arises and the matter is not otherwise arranged for. “Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed repose, we have proceeded in advance to make requisite preparations, and shall await your respected person at the Green Dragon Inn, Bywater, at 11 a.m. sharp. Trusting that you will be punctual, “We have the honour to remain “Yours deeply “Thorin & Co.” (61)

This letter combines formulas from antiquity and the Middle Ages (“Thorin […] to Burglar Bilbo greeting!”) with phrases used in twentieth-­ century business contracts (“cash on delivery”, “total profits (if any)”, etc.). The greeting formula “yours deeply” obviously replaces “yours faithfully” as depth is one of the main preoccupations of the miner dwarfs. As in the present example, most of the “quotations” from pre-texts transform them by juxtapositions apparently incongruous, with parody as a result.36 The narrator is playing around with elements of previous texts, and shares his fun with the reader. One of the characteristics of this


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use of pre-texts is that the reader is put in a position to recognize them and to analyse the process of recombination. Sometimes, however, the reader is led onto the wrong track, as when Bilbo encounters the dragon. His endeavour to enter the dragon’s lair and pass by the sleeping monster unnoticed is unsuccessful: “He had forgotten or had never heard about dragons’ sense of smell” (278). The reader has probably not heard of it either: while the shape and character of the dragon obviously go back to a variety of sources or pre-texts, including the saints’ legends of St George and Michael the Archangel, Beowulf and medieval romance (cf. Evans), smelling does not belong to the inventory of characteristics traditionally associated with dragons. Obviously, the motif rather derives from the fairy tale of “Jack the Giant-Killer” where the giant cries out: “Fee, fi, fo, fum!/ I smell the blood of an Englishman!” (Jacobs 49–60; 58). Other narrative traditions are broached when the dragon talks to Bilbo in a polite and witty way: “Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air. I hear your breath. Come along! Help yourself again, there is plenty and to spare!” But Bilbo was not quite so unlearned in dragon-lore as all that, and if Smaug hoped to get him to come nearer so easily he was disappointed. “No thank you, O Smaug the Tremendous!” he replied. “I did not come for presents. I only wished to have a look at you and see if you were truly as great as tales say. I did not believe them.” […] “You have nice manners for a thief and a liar,” said the dragon. “You seem familiar with my name, but I don’t seem to remember smelling you before. Who are you and where do you come from, may I ask?” “[…] I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ringwinner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider,” went on Bilbo beginning to be pleased with his riddling. “That’s better!” said Smaug. “But don’t let your imagination run away with you!” This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don’t want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don’t want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise). No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it. (278–279)

The motif of the hero concealing his name comes from Odysseus’ adventure with the cyclops37—as does the motif of “barrel-riding” as a means

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of escape: in Odysseus’ case it was the cyclops’ sheep to whom the hero bound his companions to get out of the monster’s cave, while Bilbo hid his dwarf friends in empty barrels to enable them to escape from the wood-elves. The series of riddling antonomasies or periphrases (“ringwinner”, “luckwearer”, “barrel-rider”) makes jocular use of a figure of speech common to ancient epical language.38 The dragon’s words, however, obviously parody polite language—again, various discourses are juxtaposed. According to Tom Shippey, the dragon speaks “with the characteristic aggressive politeness of the British upper class, in which irritation and authority are in direct proportion to apparent deference or uncertainty”.39 The most characteristic feature of the use of pre-texts made in this passage is, however, the hero’s knowledge of traditional motifs, a knowledge which helps him survive. The use of motifs taken from legend and fairy tale (and other discourses) is metafictionally shown to be derivative. In this technique of imitating, adapting and parodying well-known motifs, The Hobbit follows a tradition of children’s narratives which includes F. E. Paget, The Hope of the Katzekopfs (1844), W. M. Thackeray, The Rose and the Ring (1855), Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), J. M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy (1911) and many other children’s classics (it may ultimately go back to early nineteenth-century pantomimes, cf. Mayer III). These metafictional references turn out to be just another intertextual element. By contrast, irony and parody are less obvious in The Lord of the Rings, which rather abounds in descriptions of the characters’ outward appearance, their habitations and cities and the landscapes the characters pass through during their quest. In spite of its fantasy plot, this work of fiction is heavily indebted to the nineteenth-century realist novel (cf. Rosebury 15–20). Other pre-texts comprise ethnographic, cartographic (see Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth 73–79) and historiographic discourse, chronicles, travel writing (cf. Glover), medieval romances, the Gothic novel and early twentieth-century nature mysticism.40 The discourse of nineteenth-century realism can be found in sentences like the first in the entire narrative: “When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and


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excitement in Hobbiton” (21). The narrator introduces a character, his place of abode and the provincial environment where a birthday party can cause considerable excitement. The exception is, of course, the ordinal number “eleventy-first”. Through one of the novel’s few language jokes, the unreal world of the hobbits is somehow smuggled into the discourse of the realist novel. Other “realist” features include circumstantial realism, that is, the attention accorded to rooms and landscapes, as well as to clothes worn and objects carried by the protagonists. When Bilbo returns home from his birthday party in order to prepare for his final departure, his actions are described as follows: He walked briskly back to his hole, and stood for a moment listening with a smile to the din in the pavilion, and to the sounds of merrymaking in other parts of the field. Then he went in. He took off his party clothes, folded up and wrapped in tissue-paper his embroidered silk waistcoat, and put it away. Then he put on quickly some old untidy garments, and fastened round his waist a worn leather belt. On it he hung a short sword in a battered black-leather scabbard. From a locked drawer, smelling of moth-­ balls, he took out an old cloak and hood. They had been locked up as if they were very precious, but they were so patched and weatherstained that their original colour could hardly be guessed: it might have been dark green. They were rather too large for him. (31)

Many of the details may remind readers of their daily lives: tissue-paper, locked drawer, moth-balls. Other objects, the sword and the hood, belong to the fantasy world with its purely textual, rather than real-life, basis. These objects, however, are integrated into the discourse of real-life experience by means of various details, such as the “battered black-leather scabbard” and the “patched and weatherstained” condition of the cloak and hood. In The Hobbit, by contrast, this kind of circumstantial realism is absent. In The Lord of the Rings, as in realist novels, we always know what the environment of the heroes looks like. As has often been observed, the landscape features of “the Shire” resemble those of rural England or, more specifically, Warwickshire.41 Later on, the reader will encounter

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mountainous landscapes which are clearly “invented” but may still remind the readers of real mountains and mountain-trips; these descriptions might be compared to those of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Apennines in English “Gothic Novels” such as those of Ann Radcliffe. Tolkien also makes use of the well-known technique of making landscape and weather mirror the plot development on the characters’ level and the feelings of the protagonists. This technique, which originated in the Gothic novel and was elaborated by nineteenth-century “realist” novelists such as the Brontë Sisters and Thomas Hardy, involves associating landscape and weather phenomena with human attributes, thereby producing what Ruskin called “pathetic fallacy”. On their way to the Cracks of Doom Frodo and his companions repeatedly pass through landscapes which illustrate their mental condition. Sometimes, however, it is unclear if the pathetic fallacy is really fallacious, as when the “Fellowship of the Ring” ascends the mountain of Caradhras: The Company halted suddenly, as if they had come to an agreement without any words being spoken. They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them. It may have been only a trick of the wind in the cracks and gullies of the rocky wall, but the sounds were those of shrill cries, and the wild howls of laughter. Stones began to fall from the mountain-side, whistling over their heads, or crashing on the path beside them. Every now and again they heard a dull rumble, as a great boulder rolled down from hidden heights above. ‘We cannot go further tonight,’ said Boromir. ‘Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.’ (289)

The wind’s fury obviously depicts the travellers’ toil on their arduous journey, with the physical inconveniences representing a mental state. In a realist novel the “eerie noises”, “shrill cries” and “wild howls of laughter” would denote imaginative personifications of natural phenomena. In the passage quoted, however, Boromir seriously asks the question if an individual is responsible for nature’s fury, such as Sauron, the arch-villain. Aragorn’s interpretation is more sophisticated: he connects a natural explanation with the concept of nature as endowed with a soul. Objects


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such as mountains can be friendly or unfriendly towards humans, hobbits, elves or dwarves. This corresponds to the memory of the mountain’s “cruelty” adduced by Gimli the dwarf, which certainly constitutes a magical and primitive concept of nature. As in the previous examples there is a mingling of discourses. Typical motifs of discourses of legend and fantasy are attached to stylistic features of the nineteenth-century novel. As distinct from The Hobbit, however, this mingling does not seem to imply a parodistic intent. The novel’s “pathetic fallacy” discourse rather assumes a mediating function: fantasy motifs are made more palatable by embedding them into a discourse familiar to many of Tolkien’s readers. There are other “discourses” or styles, though. The “Prologue” (1–15) obviously imitates the non-fictional prose of eighteenth- and nineteenth-­ century ethnography:42 Hobbits are an unobtrusive but very ancient people, more numerous formerly than they are today; for they love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favourite haunt. They do not and did not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or a hand-loom, though they were skilful with tools. Even in ancient days they were, as a rule, shy of ‘the Big Folk’, as they call us, and now they avoid us with dismay and are becoming hard to find. (1)

Apart from the last sentence (which might remind us of folklore accounts of elves or fairies), this paragraph could refer to an area and people living in Eastern or Southern Europe, or possibly in Asia. Familiar phrases are applied to an unreal world which, however, closely resembles parts of the known world. Throughout the Prologue, a scholarly or scientific discourse is sustained: Hobbits are divided into “three somewhat different breeds” (3), they are given a history based on a timeline and historic documents (4–6), and there is a section entitled “Note on the  Shire Records” (14–16), which imitates the documentation of sources in works of historiography. A similar sort of pre-text is imitated in the various maps and appendices containing tables of historic data and linguistic notes (1033–1138).

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One of the most conspicuous features of The Lord of the Rings is certainly the variety of styles and discourses it contains.43 It is in the characters’ language that this variety is most apparent. Frodo’s and Gandalf ’s register certainly corresponds to that of Tolkien’s educated readers. The grammar follows the rules of Standard English; the sentence structure is complex without being idiosyncratic: ‘Last night you began to tell me strange things about my ring, Gandalf,’ he said. ‘And then you stopped, because you said that such matters were best left until daylight. Don’t you think you had better finish now? You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way?’ ‘In many ways,’ answered the wizard. ‘It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him. […]’ (46)

By contrast, the speech of Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s companion, is more colloquial and indicates his lower-class origin. It also contains archaisms indicative of dialect, as given literary representation by Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence and other “regional” writers: ‘There are some, even in these parts, as know the Fair Folk and get news of them,’ he [Sam Gamgee] said. ‘There’s Mr. Baggins now, that I work for. He told me that they were sailing and he knows a bit about Elves. And old Mr. Bilbo knew more: many’s the talk I had with him when I was a little lad.’ ‘Oh, they’re both cracked,’ said Ted. ‘Leastways old Bilbo was cracked, and Frodo’s cracking. If that’s where you get your news from, you’ll never want for moonshine. Well, friends, I’m off home. Your good health!’ He drained his mug and went out noisily. (45)

When the Ring is finally destroyed, Frodo’s and Sam’s discourses mirror two opposing assessments of what happened: ‘[…] But for him [Gollum], Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.’ (947)


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‘Yes, I am with you, Master,’ said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. ‘And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.’ ‘Maybe not, Sam,’ said Frodo; ‘but it’s like things are in the world. Hopes fail. And end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.’ ‘Well, Master, we could at least go further from this dangerous place here, from this Crack of Doom, if that’s its name. Now couldn’t we? Come, Mr. Frodo, let’s go down the path at any rate!’ (950)

As compared to the first chapters of the book, Frodo’s language has assumed a more literary quality, corresponding to his attitude of heroic fatalism. There is old-fashioned, literary grammar (“But for him […]”, “For the Quest is achieved”) and gnomic sentences (“Hopes fail. And end comes”). Sam, however, has retained his colloquial discourse, just as he has retained his humanity, which, on the level of the plot, will save him and Frodo. 44 The analysis of the texts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings reveals that these texts are indeed mosaics of quotations, and, moreover, that these mosaics have been assembled by the deliberate artistry of a writer, in Tolkien’s case by a writer of exceptional scholarship.45 While there is certainly the phenomenon Kristeva called “intertextuality”, we cannot possibly accept the concept of the death of the author or of discourses interacting without the agency of a human subject. Referring to the dialogues found in The Lord of the Rings, Brian Rosebury remarks that “highly characterised English dialogue styles will always risk seeming derivative from literary or historical models” (Rosebury 78). This “risk”, however, should rather be considered a technique of conveying meaning by reminding readers of previous reading experiences.46 In addition to characterization, the juxtaposing of styles or discourses obviously has metalingual or metatextual functions, and certainly amounts to an invitation to the reader to reflect upon language and narrative conventions. It could be argued that Tolkien’s works of fiction are not so much about elves, dwarfs and warriors as about using words and producing meaning by means of language conventions.

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In order to appreciate Tolkien’s literary artistry, we should therefore analyse his text as to the pre-texts used or, to use Kristeva’s term, quoted. Much attention has been given to Tolkien’s medieval sources,47 while his debt to more recent literary traditions has largely gone unacknowledged. The Hobbit, we have seen, in common with the British tradition of children’s books, refers back to a variety of pre-texts, including fairy tales, folklore, Scandinavian heroic legend, the Edda, the Odyssey, animal stories, Victorian children’s books, discourses of politeness and business letters. The range of pre-texts found in The Lord of the Rings, however, is much wider. As will be outlined in the course of this study, it includes ancient epic poetry, Norse, Irish and Old English mythology, pastoral prose fiction, early romances, Ossian and Kalevala, the Gothic novel, Romanticism, nineteenth-century realist novels, nineteenth-century mythical writings, ethnographic and historiographic discourse, chronicles, adventure stories, detective stories and English nature mysticism of the 1920s and 1930s. The pre-texts listed inform the texts both on the level of the signifiant and that of the signifié. On the level of the signifiant, they provide language register, rhetorical technique, words and phrases. On the level of the signifié, they provide motifs, which relate to real life in a metaphorical or metonymic way. By combining the approach of corpus linguistics with the analysis of narrative technique and literary motifs, the present study aims at analysing Tolkien’s literary artistry on a textual as well as a historical level. An examination of key phrases and collocations will be followed by an analysis of conspicuous features of Tolkien’s narrative technique and their place in literary history. The next chapters will take a look at narratorial parts of The Lord of the Rings, examining points of view and the motifs of plants and landscapes against the background of their literary antecedents. The ensuing chapters will be devoted to various aspects of direct speech: speechmaking, storytelling, poetry and a comparison of the idiolects of the main characters. Using these diverse approaches, we hope to convey a summary picture of The Lord of the Rings as a work of English literature.


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Notes 1. Cf., for example, Curry 12–13, Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century xx–xxi. 2. Alexander 375–376. 3. Cf. Kullmann, “Canon Formation in English Literature Studies” 282–285. 4. The account of Tolkien scholarship published by Frank Weinreich and Thomas Honegger in the Zeitschrift für Fantastikforschung in 2011 provides an impressive survey of activities surrounding Tolkien’s work, but on the whole confirms the general pattern: there are Tolkien societies, Tolkien periodicals and publishing houses specializing in Tolkien studies. Tolkien is analyzed and explained by means of Tolkien: material to work with is provided by biographical sources, posthumous Tolkien publications and manuscripts. There is little input from contemporary English scholarship, linguistics or literary and cultural studies. Nor does Tolkien scholarship appear to make attempts at influencing discussions about literary history or literary and linguistic theory. 5. For a fair sample of this kind of scholarship, cf. Tolkien’s Legendarium. 6. On the concepts of sub-creation and secondary belief, cf., for example, Flieger, Green Suns and Faërie 15–16, and Phelpstead, who contends that according to Tolkien “successful sub-creation produces an involuntary [rather than ‘willing’] suspension of disbelief ” (Phelpstead 87). 7. Cf., for example, Curry, esp. 16, 24–25, 59–97. 8. Cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth: “The real horror for Tolkien would probably have come when he realised that there were people writing about him who could not tell Old English from Old Norse, and genuinely thought the difference didn’t matter” (216). Cf. also Gymnich, who points out that “linguistic devices and metalinguistic comments constitute an integral part of the architecture of Tolkien’s work” (28), and Rateliff, who considers it “distinctly odd that, among all the attention that have been focused on that story, there has been very little critique of his style […]” (3). 9. See, for example, Tom Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, Jonathan Evans, “The Dragon-Lore of Middle-earth”, and Hostetter’s entry in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia. 10. As Michael D. C. Drout points out, “the analytical neglect of Tolkien’s prose style has had the unfortunate effect of ceding important ground to

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Tolkien’s detractors, who, with simple, unanalyzed quotations, point to some word or turn of phrase and, in essence, sniff that such is not the stuff of good literature” (137). 11. We disagree with critics like Burton Raffel who declares that while “The Lord of the Rings is a magnificent performance, full of charm, excitement, and affection […] it is not […] literature” (Raffel 218). 12. To emphasize the importance of tradition, we should like to refer to a comparison of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, conducted by Henry Gee, who claims that “Gandalf ’s staff is functionally equivalent to Obi-­ Wan Kenobi’s light saber” (The Science of Middle-earth 25). No, it isn’t, from the literary point of view: Gandalf ’s wand carries with it a host of associations from the long history of tales in which wizards and their wands occur, associations which are missing with regard to Obi-Wan’s futuristic appliance. 13. “Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère” (Proust 361). 14. Cf. Turner, “Style and Intertextual Echoes” 389. 15. This sub-chapter is a revision of parts of the article by Thomas Kullmann on “Metaphorical and Metonymical Meaning in The Lord of the Rings”. We thank LIT Verlag for granting permission to reuse this article. 16. See, for example, Neuhaus 49, who, however, excepts “literary fairytales” from the charge of being “escapist literature allowing the reader to forget his/her problems for a few hours”. Cf. Tolkien’s own ideas about the charge of escapism: “In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter” (“On Fairy-Stories” 148). 17. This misconception can even be found in critical studies which clumsily, and apologetically, attempt to demonstrate that Tolkien in his works of fiction did, after all, respond to his own time: Verlyn Flieger, for example, contends that Tolkien’s “own desire to pass through the door into Other Time, and thus to stand outside his own time and perhaps outside Time itself, led him to the creation of his own world of Faërie, Middle-­ earth” (Flieger, Green Suns 2), and that his reaction to his own time was “a nostalgic longing for a return to a lost past coupled with the knowledge that this was impossible save in the realm of the imagination” (3). 18. Cf. Petzold 63. 19. Cf. Thomas Kullmann, Englische Kinder- und Jugendliteratur 21–23.


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20. Shippey briefly introduces the notion of “metaphorical reading” to refer to the connections of The Lord of the Rings and real life (J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 326), albeit not in a systematic way. Cf. Attebery (21) who states that “if realistic fiction is primarily metonymic, fantasy is inescapably metaphoric”. Attebery, however, gives the game away in claiming that “fantasy is a form of literary narrative that is one degree more fictional than fiction” (21). In our view, this is by no means the case. Our use of the terms “metonymic” and “metaphoric” aims at showing that the distance of the two modes of storytelling from real life is potentially the same; only the literary and linguistic approach to reality is a different one. 21. Cf. Tolkien’s interpretation of “The Frog King”: “[…] the point of the story lies not in thinking frogs possible mates, but in the necessity of keeping promises (even those with intolerable consequences) that, together with observing prohibitions, runs through all Fairyland” (“On Fairy Stories” 152–53). 22. While there is no reason to give a preference to “realistic” fiction, neither is there any reason to prefer a fantastic mode, as Reilly suggests, elaborating on Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories”: “[…] invented stories, if successful, are better and on a higher level than stories which merely manipulate the materials of the Primary World“ (Reilly 99). If fantasy requires “Secondary Belief ” (Reilly 98–99), so does realistic fiction. 23. Many Tolkien fans who look at The Hobbit from the vantage point of The Lord of the Rings consider The Hobbit as a highly inconsistent and unsatisfactory piece of writing, failing to judge the book on its own terms. Brian Rosebury, for example, comments on the book’s “inconsistencies of tone and conception” and calls it an “uneasy, if likeable, patchwork of accomplishments, blunders, and tantalising promises of the Middleearth to come”, Rosebury 114; on the relationship of the two narratives, cf., for example, Petzold 45–47 and 90–91. Judged on its own terms, however, The Hobbit can certainly be considered a classic example of the Great Tradition of British children’s fiction. 24. On “externalization”, cf. my book Englische Kinder- und Jugendliteratur 163–64. 25. Referring to Tolkien’s essay on “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”, Christopher Garbowski point out that “Tolkien recognizes that at one level confronting the monster is an externalized version of an internal struggle for the hero” (Garbowski 421), while monsters may, according

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to Alison Milbank, also “dramatize the unknowability of its [Middleearth’s] universe” (Milbank 67). Both of these literary functions of monsters are based on a metaphoric mode of meaning construction. 26. Cf. Ursula Le Guin’s statement: “[…] fantasy is the natural, the appropriate language for the recounting of the spiritual journey and the struggle of good and evil in the soul” (Le Guin 58). 27. Lord Acton’s assertion, made in a letter to Archbishop Mandell Creighton of 5 April 1887, that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” has with some justice been considered the central moral message of The Lord of the Rings; cf., for example, Rosebury 166, and Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 115. 28. Shippey’s contention that “when it comes to modern writers, Tolkien was notoriously beyond influence” (The Road to Middle-earth 225) should evidently be reexamined. 29. Cf. Kullmann, “Intertextual Patterns” 44–45. 30. This corresponds to what I (Thomas Kullmann) called “Indexfunktion” (Vermenschlichte Natur 130–134, 469). 31. Cf., for example, Petzold 99. 32. This sub-chapter constitutes a revision of parts of Thomas Kullmann’s article on “Intertextual Patterns in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings”. 33. As it is difficult to establish clear-cut distinctions between various kinds of discursive conventions, we cannot follow Gérard Genette’s division of intertextual phenomena into “architextuality”, “intertextuality”, “paratextuality” and “hypertextuality”, cf. Allen 97–115. 34. On the origin of the word “hobbit”, cf. Anderson, 9; for an ingenious account of the connection of rabbit and hobbit, see Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth, 53f. 35. As many critics have pointed out, The Lord of the Rings contains numerous allusions to, and borrowings from, Greek, Irish, Finnish and even Indian mythologies, in addition to the obvious references to Germanic and Scandinavian myth (see, e.g. Donovan, esp. 94–96). Our conception of intertextuality, however, is not focused on these allusions but rather on issues connected to structure and language. 36. On the “clash of styles” in The Hobbit, cf. Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien 39–45. 37. There are also some resemblances with the poem “Fáfnismál” in the elder Edda, see Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 63, 69–71. 38. Cf., for example, Lausberg 71–72.


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39. The Road to Middle-Earth 70, cf. also Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien 37–39. 40. Cf. Walker 117. 41. For a more detailed discussion see below, Chap. 5. 42. For the “tone of eighteenth-century antiquarianism” found in these texts, see below, Chap. 4. 43. Cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-Earth 160f., and Rosebury 71–88. 44. On the variety of styles and discourses in The Lord of the Rings, cf. Shippey 160–61, Rosebury 71–88 and Kullmann, “Intertextual Patterns” 47–49. 45. Like other fantasy writers, Tolkien uses “fantasy to reframe myth: to construct new ways of looking at traditional stories and beliefs” (Attebery 2–3). We should add that Tolkien in this respect follows a practice of long standing: the Homeric epics were clearly not the first literary manifestations of Greek mythology but modified and reframed them—to make mythical motifs serviceable to their literary design. 46. For an example of Tolkien’s engagement in an intertextual dialogue with Shakespeare, cf. Drout (esp. 137–146), who points out that the e­ pisodes of the killing of the Lord of the Nazgûl and Denethor’s self-­immolation are intimately related to King Lear. 47. Cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, esp. 220–226, and Clark/ Timmons.

Works Cited Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts The Brothers Grimm, Fairy Tales, ed. Margaret W.  L. Jeffrey. London: Collins, 1954. Jacobs, Joseph, English Fairy Tales. 1890. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Annotated Hobbit, ed. Douglas A. Anderson. London: HarperCollins, 2003. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

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Critical Works Cited Alexander, Michael. A History of English Literature, 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Allen, Graham. Intertextuality. The New Critical Idiom Series. London: Routledge, 2000. Attebery, Brian. Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Barnard, Robert. A Short History of English Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984. Belsey, Catherine. Critical Practice. London: Methuen, 1980. Biber, Douglas, et al. Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman, 1999. Burton, Deirdre, and Ronald Carter. “Literature and the Language of Literature.” In Keith Brown et al., eds. Encylopedia of Language and Linguistics, vol. 7. Boston: Elsevier, 2006. Cambridge History of Twentieth-Century English Literature. Ed. Laura Marcus, Peter Nicholls. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Carter, Ronald, and John McRae. The Routledge History of Literature in English: Britain and Ireland, 3rd ed. Milton Park: Routledge, 2018. Clark, George, and Daniel Timmons, eds., J.  R. R.  Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2000. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Biographia Literaria”, in The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, vols. 7. 1–2, ed. James Engell, W.  Jackson Bate. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1983. Curry, Patrick. Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity. London: HarperCollins, 1998. Daiches, David. A Critical History of English Literature, 2 vols., rev. ed. London: Secker & Warburg, 1969. Donovan, Leslie A. “Middle-earth Mythology: An Overview.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 92–106. Drout, Michael D.  C. “Tolkien’s Prose Style and Its Literary and Rhetorical Effects.” Tolkien Studies 1 (2004). 137–163. Evans, Jonathan. “The Dragon-Lore of Middle-earth: Tolkien and Old English and Old Norse Traditions.” In George Clark, Daniel Timmons, eds., J. R. R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. 39–51. Flieger, Verlyn. Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2012.


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Fowler, Alastair. A History of English Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987. Garbowski, Christopher. “Evil.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 418–430. Gee, Henry. The Science of Middle-earth. London: Souvenir Press, 2005. Glover, Will. “‘Where many paths and errands meet’: Travel Writing in The Lord of the Rings.” Journal of Tolkien Research 9.2 (2020), Article 2. Web. Gymnich, Marion. “Reconsidering the Linguistics of Middle-earth: Invented Languages and Other Linguistic Features in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In Reconsidering Tolkien. Ed. Thomas Honegger. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2005. 7–30. Hostetter, Carl F. “Languages Invented by Tolkien.” In Michael D.C. Drout, ed. J.R.R.  Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New  York: Routledge, 2007. 332–344. Jakobson, Roman. “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances.” In Selected Writings, vol. 2: Word and Language. Den Haag, Paris: Mouton, 1971. 239–59. King, Bruce. The Internationalization of English Literature (The Oxford English Literary History, vol. 13): 1948–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Kristeva, Julia, “Word, Dialogue, and Novel.” 1967. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New  York: Columbia University Press. 1980: 64–91. Kullmann, Thomas. “Canon Formation in English Literature Studies: A Comparison of Britain and Germany.” In The Institution of English Literature. Ed. Barbara Schaff, Johannes Schlegel, Carola Surkamp. Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2017. 273–294. Kullmann, Thomas. Englische Kinder- und Jugendliteratur: Eine Einführung (Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 2008). Kullmann, Thomas. “Intertextual Patterns in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” Nordic Journal of English Studies, 8.2 (2009): 37–56. Web. Kullmann, Thomas. “Metaphorical and Metonymical Meaning in The Lord of the Rings.” In: Transitions and Dissolving Boundaries in the Fantastic. Ed. Christine Lötscher et al. Zürich: LIT, 2014. 53–62. Lausberg, Heinrich. 1963. Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik. München: Hueber, 1984. Leavis, Frank Raymond. The Great Tradition. London: Chatto and Windus, 1948. Leavis, Q.  D. Fiction and the Reading Public. 1932. London: Chatto & Windus, 1965.

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Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Child and the Shadow (1974).” In Ursula K. Le Guin. The Language of Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. London: The Women’s Press, 1989. 49–60. Mayer III, David, Harlequin in His Element: The English Pantomime, 1806–1836. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969. Milbank, Alison. Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy of the Real. London: Clark, 2009. Neuhaus, Stefan. “The Politics of Fairytales: Oscar Wilde and the German Tradition.” In Susan Tebbutt, Joachim Fischer, eds. Intercultural Connections within German and Irish Children’s Literature. Trier: WVT, 2008. 47–59 Petzold, Dieter, J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Fantasy Literature als Wunscherfüllung und Weltdeutung. Heidelberg: Winter, 1980. Peck, John, and Martin Coyle. A Brief History of English Literature. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Phelpstead, Carl. “Myth-making and Sub-creation.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 79–91. Proust, Marcel. Contre Sainte-Beuve. Paris: Gallimard, 1973. Raffel, Burton. “The Lord of the Rings as Literature.” In Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A.  Zimbardo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 218–246. Rateliff, John D. “‘A Kind of Elvish Craft’: Tolkien as Literary Craftsman.” Tolkien Studies 6 (2009). 1–21. Reilly, R. J. “Tolkien and the Fairy Story.” In Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, ed. Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil. D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 93–105. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Shippey, Tom A. The Road to Middle-earth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982. Shippey, Tom A. J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. London: HarperCollins, 2001. Spacks, Patricia Meyer. “Power and Meaning in The Lord of the Rings.” In Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, ed. Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 52–67.


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Stubbs, Michael. “Conrad in the Computer: Examples of Quantitative Stylistic Methods.” Language and Literature 14.1 (2005). 5–24. Tolkien, J.  R. R. “On Fairy-Stories.” The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1983. 109–161. Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth. Ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. Turner, Allan. “Style and Intertextual Echoes.“ In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Malden, MA: Wiley, 2014. 389–403. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Weinreich, Frank and Thomas Honegger. “Die aktuelle Tolkienforschung im Überblick: Personen—Organisationen—Verlage—Werke.” Zeitschrift für Fantastikforschung 2 (2011): 63–89. Wilson, Edmund. “Oo, Those Awful Orcs!” The Nation, vol. 182, issue 15 (14 April 1956). 312–314. Accessed via The Nation Archive (DFG), online.

2 Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations in The Lord of the Rings Dirk Siepmann

2.1 Characterizing Tolkien’s Style This section investigates whether Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings contains lexical features that are either significantly more common than in other texts or even distinctively its own. To our knowledge, this is the first investigation of this type that takes The Lord of the Rings as its object of study. We think it draws attention to a number of stylistic features of The Lord of the Rings that have gone unnoticed in the literature, and we hope that the data-driven analysis undertaken here can contribute to broadening their understanding of Tolkien’s style. It is worth bearing in mind that statistical analysis takes the text as a whole rather than considering it, as most literary scholars would do, as being made up of a broad variety of different subtexts or pre-texts. In other words, it is good at detecting general trends, but tells us little about specific passages in the text. Many of the stylistic features found here will thus be assignable to one or other of the following categories of pre-texts identified in the literature:1 nineteenth-­century realist novels; ethnographic, cartographic and historiographic discourse; chronicles; medieval romances; Gothic novels and © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



D. Siepmann

early twentieth-century mysticism. Apart from that, many scholars have noted that there are significant differences in speech styles between characters, a point taken up in another article in this volume. Opinions on the style of The Lord of the Rings differ widely, ranging from scathing criticisms, to the effect that “prose and verse are on the same level of professorial amateurishness” (Wilson 313) to praise of Tolkien’s ordinary yet dignified diction (see e.g. Kirk 300 and Rosebury 22). Kirk and Rosebury are broadly right, but have failed to notice the number of ways in which Tolkien modulates and plays with ordinary usage. While anything but systematic, Rosebury’s (22) general characterization of Tolkien’s style as being unobtrusively economical and precise, especially in its use of verbs and verb phrases, is quite apt: “the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands”; “the land ran away in flats and swellings”; “where it pierced the hedge it was barred by a great gate”. Rosebury (72) describes his diction as drawing on the full range of “words that remain in literary use […] among educated people”—one wonders whether he is equating “educated” with “trained in the humanities”. Rosebury makes a few claims that would stand up to corpus-based scrutiny. For example, he claims that “archaic inversions” are absent from The Lord of the Rings, citing “Wrathful they grew” as an example, the kind of claim that can easily be refuted by corpus analysis (see the next chapter; e.g. Venerable he seemed as a king crowned with many winters). Perhaps the most detailed “manual” analysis of Tolkien’s style is Steve Walker’s Power of Tolkien’s Prose, though this book is less about style in a linguistic sense than the title suggests. Walker starts from the plausible assumption that, like “highbrow” literature generally, The Lord of the Rings is about something more than realistic fantasy: Readers are invited to familiarize themselves into this fantastic sphere, then to reach through its naturalness to the preternatural. This invitational prose is so carefully etched it can disclose not only the actuality of the transcendent, but also that deeper miracle: the numinousness of the commonplace. (7)

At the same time, he argues, Tolkien’s prose follows a “fill-in-the-blanks approach” (93), leaving much to the reader’s imagination. He goes on to

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develop these basic hypotheses in six chapters, of which only Chaps. 1, 2, and 3 are of interest here. (Chapter 4 is about The Lord of the Rings as an exemplar of the Bildungsroman, Chap. 5 [“The Potency of the Words”] is a well-informed and highly persuasive discussion of rhetorical figures and intertextuality in The Lord of the Rings, but has little to say on the matter of word choice as such, and Chap. 6 [“Just a Bit of Nonsense”] is concerned with Tolkien’s use of nonsensical jokes, puns and rhymes.) Chapter 1 on “Ordinary Everyday Magic” deals with Tolkien’s ability to suggest complexity and transcendence “within apparent simplicity” (19). Here we find interesting but doubtful comments on some of the key words identified by corpus-driven analysis. For example, Walker (32) comes to the conclusion that tales, in Tolkien’s idiom, are “a plausible explanation of fact”, “an account of a life” or “distant news” (“a tale from far off”), but a concordance of tale shows it to be in the main a synonym of story. Another claim is that “cabalistic” and “actively ambiguous” (sic!, 34) word-forms such as imagined, believed, suspected, wondered, half fancied, as if, apparently and seemed occur with unusual frequency, but this turns out to be true only of seemed and fancied; apparently is even a negative key word in Tolkien. Whereas all uses of fancied do imply uncertainty of perception, only 1 out of 18 uses of imagined does, so that even the cumulative effect of all the uses cited by Walker is not sufficient to count as evidence. We are thus dealing with a clear case of confirmation bias, with the critic’s eye alighting more readily on uses that confirm a hypothesis that was intuitively appealing. More solid evidence can be found in favour of Walker’s claim (37) that there are overtones of the occult in the “frequent vanishings” which occur in the book. To the 14 instances he identifies through close reading corpus analysis can add another 93. Our own analysis will draw attention to the simplicity of Tolkien’s diction, which is often loaded with deeper significance (e.g. “a light came in the sky”), thus providing at least some independent confirmation of Walker’s hypothesis. “Blade and Leaf Listening” (Chap. 2) is about how the physical landscape and even the plant life in The Lord of the Rings is animate, sentient and/or perceptive, a stylistic feature which will also be evident from our corpus analysis and which Tolkien may have borrowed from nineteenth-­ century “realist” fiction (see Chap. 5 in this volume). Walker identifies


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collocations suggesting a “pantheistic presence” (47) such as mountains + marching, downs + stalking, boulders + galloping, forests + striding and mists + crawling. In the same vein, mountains are depicted not only as having feet but also knees, shoulders, heads, thick hair, mouth, lip, tooth (43). “The Road Goes Ever On and On” (Chap. 3) makes the point that “the journey is the essence of Tolkien’s narrative” (74), and “Always On and On” (Chap. 4) further develops the “underlying theme of onwardness” (73), growth and change. Again, this is consistent with our corpus analysis, where key words such as road, long, hard and key collocations such as plod along, wander far, path + lead, take and so on figure prominently. Other matters discussed in these chapters, such as The Lord of the Rings’s classification as a Bildungsroman, are not directly related to style. Section 2.2 presents the methodology and corpora used. Section 2.3 goes on to discuss key words, key collocations and key n-grams in The Lord of the Rings.

2.2 Methodology Two separate methodologies were used for computing key words and key collocations, respectively. A detailed comparison was undertaken between key words in nineteenth-­century fiction, late twentieth-century fiction and The Lord of the Rings, as compared to a “mixed” reference corpus (see below). The nineteenth-century corpus was about 30 million words in size, comprising mainly canonical writers such as Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Meredith and so on, with whose writings Tolkien was almost certainly acquainted. The post-war fiction corpus comprises around 160 million running words and is fairly evenly balanced between eight major genres (belles lettres, general fiction, science fiction, adventure, romance, mystery and detective, fantasy, children’s fiction). Key words were computed using the key words tool of WordSmith 5.0. The tool settings were as follows: minimum frequency = 3, maximum key words = 7500; p value = 0.000001; procedure = log likelihood, meaning

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that a word, or rather a word-form, was considered to be key if (a) it occurred at least three times in the text and (b) turned out to be outstandingly frequent when compared to the reference corpus by means of Dunning’s log likelihood function. Following the findings of Berber-­ Sardinha and Scott, which suggest that an optimum reference corpus should be both large and heterogenous, a reference corpus of 94 million words was collected, comprising volumes II, III, IV and IX of the Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1 m), a wide range of academic texts from the National Academy Press (10  m), a general encyclopaedia (10 m) and a medical encyclopaedia (1 m), the Times on CD-ROM 1995 (30  m), the Cheddar Valley Gazette and the Brentwood Gazette 2006 (2 m), excerpts from Hansard (the verbatim report of proceedings in the House of Commons and the House of Lords) (35 m) and a selection of transcripts from American talk shows and news programmes (5 m). Key collocations were computed by means of a comparison between two lists, one containing collocations specific to The Lord of the Rings by comparison with the imaginative section of the BNC, the other containing collocations specific to The Lord of the Rings by comparison with a 30-million-word corpus of nineteenth-century novels. First, the individual lists were compiled using the Sketchengine’s (Kilgarriff et al. 2014) key word function (“collocation” setting). Next, collocations that appeared in either of the two reference corpora and The Lord of the Rings were eliminated from the lists, so that only collocations specific to The Lord of the Rings remained.

2.3 Key Words in The Lord of the Rings2 A number of interesting findings emerge from the key word analysis. Most importantly perhaps, it is evident that the impression of archaicity which any reader will experience on reading The Lord of the Rings is partly due to three simple lexical causes: the “overuse” of words borrowed from nineteenth-century fiction, the avoidance of words associated with the modern world and the comparatively dense use of new coinages, unusual grammatical patterns, rare words and obsolescent words. We shall proceed to look at each of these causes in turn.


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2.3.1 K  ey Words Shared with Nineteenth-Century Fiction The first thing to note is that The Lord of the Rings shares around twice as many key words with nineteenth-century fiction (301) as it does with late twentieth-century fiction (153), giving it a distinctly archaic flavour. The highest-ranking item that occurs significantly more frequently in both nineteenth-century fiction and The Lord of the Rings than it does in the reference corpus is the conjunction and, which typically introduces a coordinated clause set off by a comma (around 8000 instances) and is commonly followed by there (usually but not always introducing an existential sentence), then or now. A few examples will suffice: He went out and walked down to the gate at the bottom of the path, and then on a short way down the Hill Road. A steady pace for a few more miles, and then a rest. In the middle of the table, against the woven cloths upon the wall, there was a chair under a canopy, and there sat a lady fair to look upon, and so like was she in form of womanhood to Elrond that Frodo guessed that she was one of his close kindred.

There appears to be a greater dislike of this construction in late twentieth-­ century prose, probably owing to its oral nature reminiscent of ancient epics (cf. also Turner 397), but this may be precisely the effect that Tolkien is trying to achieve. Also overrepresented in Tolkien’s prose are temporal adverbs used for narrative sequencing such as then, presently and suddenly. Second in rank order is the modal “shall”, which is consistently used to express futurity or intention, while not being restricted to the third person: The Wandering Companies shall know of your journey, and those that have power for good shall be on the watch. You shall have it! With foes ahead, behind us dread, Beneath the sky shall be our bed, Until at last our toil be passed, Our journey done, our errand sped.

Further analysis reveals the dense presence of nineteenth-century words from four lexical sets: landscape description; position or direction;

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warfare and the struggle between good and evil; descriptive verbs and adjectives. Among the highest scoring 200 key words shared with nineteenth-century novels, we find a large number of terms describing features of the landscape as well as position or direction, such as mountain(s), hills, hilltop, mountain-side, topmost, bough, hiding-place; road, river, crossroads, passage, winding; above, westward, northward, southward, near, under, whither, thither, thence, whence, upwards, yonder, afar; journey (v), hewn, descend. While it might be argued that these are reasonably to-beexpected characteristics of a novel revolving around a prolonged journey, it is still significant that so many of the key words used to describe its settings are obsolete or obsolescent at the time of writing. As argued by Walker (see Sect. 2.3.1 above), Tolkien not only imitates the diction of nineteenth-century novelists in his descriptive passages, but he also emulates their tendency to animate landscapes or endow them with special significance. Tolkien’s sensitivity to nineteenth-century fiction is also reflected in his partiality for mentioning certain plant species (reeds, water-lilies, pine-­ trees) or animals (horse, quail, hen). Words to do with warfare and the struggle between good and evil include enemy, slay/slew/slain, ruffians, honour/honoured, valour / valiant, vigour, foes, deeds (usually “great” or “evil”), arrows, defence, perished, spears, trumpets, accursed, marched, messengers, assailed, dismount, horseman, commanded; as will be seen below, this list of words shared with nineteenth-century fiction can readily be lengthened by adding Tolkien-specific key words. As for the descriptive key words shared with nineteenth-century fiction (e.g. tarry/tarried, flamed, rouse, bleared), the consistent use of the adjective fair to denote attractiveness deserves a special mention. Fair is four times more frequent in The Lord of the Rings than its closest synonym beautiful. In Tolkien’s idiolect beautiful tends to modify objects or plants (rope, pipe, coat, tree, sapling), whereas fair is used with people (lady), housing or language. Particular attention should also be paid to the pivotal role played by certain adverbs and conjunctions in Tolkien’s diction; apart from the aforementioned positional and directional adverbs, thereupon, anon (in the phrase ever and anon) and asunder are prominent choices.


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Other nineteenth-century items which stand out as being unusually frequent in Tolkien include the following: grievous, perils, raiment, bidden, garment, thrice, verily, sward, flamed, toil, strove, hasten, girt, forsaken/forsook, rouse, chanced, kinsfolk, bleared, befell, bracken, abode, smite.

It is also worth enquiring why some highly common words such as come are even more preponderant in Tolkien than in nineteenth-century texts, a point taken up in the section on collocation below.

2.3.2 Key Words Shared with Modern Fiction While many of the modern key words found in The Lord of the Rings are part of the core vocabulary of present-day English, such as they, big, wake, wall, unfriendly, tired or smoke, it is worth noting that Tolkien tends to use many of these words in nineteenth-century patterns. Thus, smoke is commonly preceded by the indefinite article, a use that is notably infrequent in modern fiction (and, for that matter, in modern English tout court): The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. I see a great smoke, said Legolas. And even as they hastened on their way the wind brought a grey rain, and all the fires sank, and there arose a great smoke before them.

As the last example shows, Tolkien extends this countable use to include the entire lexical set of what might be termed “natural phenomena”: smoke, rain, vapour, darkness and so on, making liberal use of both the indefinite article and pluralization: The land became drier and more barren; but mists and vapours lay behind them on the marshes. On either side ahead a darkness began to loom through the mist; and he guessed that they were at last approaching the gap in the hills, the north-gate of the Barrow-downs.

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This is paralleled in some instances by the reversal of the same strategy, that is, making count nouns uncountable, as in the creative binomial bush and herb: As they walked, brushing their way through bush and herb, sweet odours rose about them.

This shows that even where Tolkien uses common English words, he often does so in an estranging or archaicizing fashion. Similar considerations apply to other key words shared with modern fiction, many of which, though equally common in both textual corpora, are used either in a slightly different way in Tolkien or are restricted to just one meaning. Actually, for instance, is mainly used in its contrastive sense, but never occurs as a discourse marker expressing politeness; the present participle begging occurs exclusively in the set expression begging your pardon; another intriguing example is Frodo’s and Sam’s use of the rather informal job to mean “task” or “mission”, but never “work”; in modern fiction, halt is most commonly used as a noun in the prepositional phrase to a halt and combined with an auditory verb or a verb of motion denoting movement sharply or gradually arrested (jerk, grind, creak, etc.), while in Tolkien it is more often used as a verb embedded in a simple clause (they halted, Frodo halted). Such examples could be multiplied almost indefinitely, showing that key word analysis alone may lead one into false conclusions. On closer inspection, many of the superficial lexical similarities with modern prose fiction conceal deeper differences. One area, however, in which Tolkien tends to follow modernist tendencies is in his abundant use of descriptive verbs (i.e. verbs which apart from denoting an event contain a further semantic feature that assumes the function of a manner adverb, cf. Snell-Hornby 1983: 25) and, to a lesser extent, nouns (e.g. haze, stench). Among the key verbs shared with modern fiction are the following: clutch, cower, crack, crawl, curl, flicker, frown, gape, gasp, gaze, gleam, glimmer, glint, glitter, growl, hiss, huddle, loom, paw, peer, pile, plod, reek, shroud, slant, stumble, stow, stride, stumble, twist. The descriptive verbs in question are distributed quite thickly but at the same time fairly unevenly through the novel. This distribution pattern is a clear reflection of Tolkien’s adeptness at varying the intensity of the narrative (cf. Fig.  2.1). There is a continuous ebb and flow in the


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Fig. 2.1  Frequency distribution of descriptive verbs across The Lord of the Rings

frequency of descriptive verbs: while the first half of the book is generally less densely descriptive, we find fairly tight clusters of high descriptivity in the second part, culminating in three outstanding peaks in Book Four, Chapters II (The Passing of the Marshes) and VII (Journey to the Cross-­ roads) and Book Six, Chapter III (Mount Doom), where there are sometimes several descriptive verbs to a sentence (e.g. the earth shook, the plain heaved and cracked, and Orodruin reeled); predictably, a trough in descriptivity occurs in Book Two, Chapter 2 (The Council of Elrond), which is almost exclusively dialogic in nature. There is thus a fairly clear correlation between the level of suspense and verb-descriptivity in The Lord of the Rings, a pattern that is not uncommon in modern fiction.3 There are also some highly deliberate and recurrent choices in descriptivity, such as the association of the verb paw with Gollum, which in its turn is part of a collocational network involving crawl, creature, ground, nasty, squeal and hiss, all of which suggest that he is more animal than human: alien: they could reach one another’s minds. anyone to go with me. No, no, master! Wailed left in peace and not pawed and routed by was wide awake. The first thing he saw was

Gollum Gollum Gollum Gollum

raised himself and began pawing at Frodo , pawing at him, and seeming in great distress . Let’s find a place to lie up in, he said pawing at master, as he thought. Hey you

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Individual key words, too, are unevenly distributed across the text. Not unsurprisingly, reek, for example, which is associated with the foul odours of Mordor, has its highest frequency towards the end of Frodo’s and Sam’s journey; plod occurs several times in Book One, not at all in Book Two, and then several times in quick succession in Book Three. Among the other key words shared with modern fiction are a number of comparatives, often coordinated and used in hyperbolic fashion: deeper (often associated with darker/darkness), darker, louder, quicker, taller (as we shall see in the chapter on syntax, Tolkien has a general predilection for comparatives, using them ten times as frequently as other authors). Examples: Perilous to us all are the devices of an art deeper than we possess ourselves. Another way, darker, more difficult to find, more secret. If Sam had dared, he would have said Yes, quicker and louder.

Tolkien’s predilection for the adjective endless may stem from a similar motivation to create a world that his characters and readers experience as “grander” and different from the everyday. It should be noted that comparatives and adjectives such as endless, while being key in both modern fiction and in The Lord of the Rings, occur even more frequently in the latter (endless being four times more frequent than in the fiction section of the BNC, for example): And Ethir Anduin he saw, the mighty delta of the River, and myriads of sea-­birds whirling like a white dust in the sun, and beneath them a green and silver sea, rippling in endless lines.

The same tendency to hyperbole is evident in Tolkien’s overuse of the adverb even, which is around seven times more common than in modern fiction and one and a half times as common as in nineteenth-century fiction. The seemingly innocuous prepositions off, over and out, which are key in both The Lord of the Rings and modern fiction, underscore the journey theme of the story. Typical collocates of off are far, went, set, started and rode. The combination far off often conjures up images of otherworldliness.


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Frodo stood still, hearing far off great seas upon beaches that had long ago been washed away, and sea-birds crying whose race had perished from the earth. It seemed to Frodo then that he heard, quite plainly but far off, voices out of the past: What a pity Bilbo did not stab the vile creature, when he had a chance!

Certain key words shared with modern fiction form binary contrasts which any reader with basic literary competence will recognize as metaphors of good and evil (e.g. shadow vs. light/dawn/sun, dark(ness) vs. light). Some examples: Aragorn tried to comfort her, saying: Yet there may be a light beyond the darkness; and if so, I would have you see it and be glad. … A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken: The crownless again shall be king.

2.3.3 Key Words Shared with Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf It is commonly argued that Tolkien’s style may have been influenced by the heroic epics he read and translated, notably his rendition of Beowulf. This appears to tally with the evidence available from Christopher Tolkien’s recent edition of his father’s translation. While Tolkien tends to avoid word-forms that may sound too archaic to modern ears outside the translational context (e.g. spake or aforetime, each of which occurs only once in The Lord of the Rings, or hath, with two occurrences), he borrows a host of more or less archaic key words from Beowulf, most of which are not significant in nineteenth-century fiction, let alone modern fiction. He aptly describes these choices as “moderate or watered archaism” (Letters, 225). valour, valiant, corslet, deeds, nay, yea, foe, thou, thy, thence, kinsman, nigh, strife, mead, liege-lord, grievous, helm, accursed, purposed, dwell(er), mighty, wrought, slew/slain, bade, anon, smote, etc.

Incontestably, then, many of Tolkien’s lexical choices draw deliberately on the language of ancient epics, but a closer look at their lexical ecology

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reveals that he stretches them creatively to cover a wider range of uses than was possible in Old or Middle English. Consider, for example, the use of smote. away, and breaking off a hanging branch when I heard of the Black Shadow a chill fair and bright. There hammer on the anvil Gandalf lifted his staff, and crying aloud he gates were shattered and cast down. Aragorn over them, and some fell among them. One a great horn blew, and the blasts of it Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, place and broke the mountainside where he by a blinding flash. Branched lightning gates. The trees, swung by strong arms, and passing close to Gandalf s head, it thunder right overhead. Searing lightning thunder the thought of Frodo and the monster putrid light, and the stench of it almost eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that within it. Then our hand must be heavy! He out-companies with a great cheer turned and he fell; and the great troll-chief that and in his hand was Sting, and its light

Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote Smote

the side of the willow with it. You let my heart. But I found nothing save a few , There chisel clove, and graver wrote; the bridge before him. The staff broke to the ground the captain that stood in Frodo between the shoulders and he lurched the hills and echoed in the hollows, rising upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, down upon the eastward hills. For a staring the timbers with a rending boom. If any the stair on which he stood. The rail rang down into the hills. Then came a blast upon Sam s mind. He spun round, and rushed him down. Still his fury held for one more the face of the City. Then Pippin cried the hilt of his sword. Pippin looked at their pursuers. Hunters became the hunted him down bent over him, reaching out a the eyes of the orc like the glitter of


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Here Tolkien uses smite (or rather its past tense form) in a number of patterns identical to those found alongside the modern verb strike. For example, the sentence Branched lightning smote down upon the eastward hills follows the common pattern in which the subject of strike is some sort of natural disaster (storms, lightning, waves, diseases, …). The pattern can take either a direct object denoting a human or an object or, as in this case, a prepositional object often denoting a geographical area. By contrast, as a trawl through the Historical Books Corpus reveals, smite was traditionally used with people as subjects and enemies or things like rocks as objects (and in the same wyse sir Tristram smote kynge Arthur, 1485); its use with lightning was restricted to the passive construction NP was smitten with lightning, while the mention of lightning in subject position appears to have entailed the regular use of strike, a fact which makes Tolkien’s creation of the new pattern even more daring. Uses like a chill smote my heart are modelled on nineteenth-century patterns of strike like the following, with a cognition in subject position and an emotion metaphorized as a body part in object position (heart, breast, blood, …): Her overpowering beauty struck his heart…. (George Meredith, The Ordeal of Richard Feverel: A History of Father and Son)

What Tolkien is doing here, then, is combining an archaic verb with a late modern English pattern. Such archaic patterns occur quite commonly in The Lord of the Rings, but only those based on frequent nouns and verbs can be identified semi-automatically. In addition, close reading reveals archaic hapax legomena like the following: But the engines did not waste shot upon the indomitable wall. (= missiles) … their art and reputation were baffled … (= subjected to public disgrace)

2.3.4 Key Words Exclusive to The Lord of the Rings Turning now to those key words that are exclusive to The Lord of the Rings (i.e. non-key in nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction; for a complete list, see Appendix I) and hence particularly distinctive of Tolkien’s style,

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we find that these, too, fall into a number of relatively distinct semantic categories: warfare (e.g. armies, armouries, besieged, destroyed), features of the natural environment (e.g. branches, coasts, dike, downs, fen, fern, dingle, glades, land, starless, starlight, thickets; hewed, hewn, encircling), artefacts made by the inhabitants of Middle-earth (fastness, cities, boats, horn, sheath, shield), people and animals (dwarves, herdsmen, lore-masters, gaffer, hornblower, horse-men, riders, wolf-riders, dragon, steed), time expressions (season, yesteryear, yuledays) as well as certain prepositions and adverbs (along, among, outwards). As can be seen from the above listings, most of these words are comparatively rare in present-day English and, although not archaic, work together to create an atmosphere of medievalism or otherworldliness. However, there are also a number of highly common general words that appear to have special significance in Tolkien’s story, such as fall, hill, leaf, sunrise, branch(es), cities or echo, most of which occur in landscape descriptions. Tolkien also has a preference for tale over story, for the prefix un- (unfought, unguessed, unhorsed, unlooked) over not, and for water over more complex designations of streams or rivers (water, water-bottle, water-course, waters, water-side). Apart from his predilection for well-established general-language lexemes, Tolkien reveals himself to be a great coiner of ancient-sounding vocabulary. Leaving aside the ubiquity of invented place names and character names, which has been much commented upon, this is the case, for example, with the plural elven and a number of compounds based on elf, such as elf-friend, elf-lord and elf-magic, or a similar series of compounds based on elven: elven-blade, elven-cloak, elven-folk, elvenhome, elven-king, elven-ring(s), elven-tongue, elven-wise. Other words either made up or at least revived by Tolkien include dwarvish, easterlings, eleventy-one, crickhollow, halfling(s). As can be seen from the examples of compounding just discussed, Tolkien is also generally fond of hyphenation; other examples include mountain-side(s) or out-thrust; in a handful of cases, his spelling appears to vary: westlands versus west-lands. He also resorts to uncommon spellings in an effort to render a particular character’s speech more faithfully, as when Gollum, whose speech is often described as “hissing”, uses the pronoun ourselfs.


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To conclude this section, it may be worth taking a brief look at the words Tolkien tends to avoid (i.e. negative key words). At first blush, it may seem to be a matter of pure conjecture why an author disprefers certain individual words, but it is sometimes possible to detect preferences for certain types or groups of words. A first thing to note here is that Tolkien shuns words that suggest reasoning or discussion (e.g. although, argue, argument, despite, example, questions), something which is clearly in keeping with the way Middle-earth is portrayed: there is no such thing as a democratic process in this fictional world and little discussion takes place on the best way to proceed. Secondly, in describing battles and killings, Tolkien uses words such as troops (cf. our comments on strength below), kill, win or risk with comparative rarity. Thirdly, Tolkien carefully manages to avoid certain words that are key in modern fiction, such as able, about, can or care.

2.4 Key Collocations in The Lord of the Rings As is to be expected given the logic of numbers, many of the significant collocations in The Lord of the Rings are based on key words such as road, altogether, ancient or mighty, to give a few randomly chosen examples. Inspection of the collocational range of certain key words suggests that Tolkien tends to have a preference for the most homely collocations available. Consider, for example, the most significant verbal and adjectival collocates of road in the three corpora (Table 2.1): It is noteworthy that the key words discussed in the previous section frequently team up with each other, as in west-/south-/north-/eastward road. Only two of the most common adjectival collocates of road (straight, open) are also significantly common in either nineteenth-century or modern fiction. Interestingly, therefore, the majority of Tolkien’s word combinations are quite distinctive while at the same time being drawn from the most heavy-duty adjectives in the language. This is less so with the verbal collocates, but here his reliance on nineteenth-century fiction rather than twentieth-century fiction is again quite evident. This may lead us to hypothesize that Tolkien uses everyday adjectives in novel or unusual collocations, a hypothesis that is at least partially


2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations…  Table 2.1   Key Collocations Tolkien

Nineteenth century

be go run wind lie have come

15 9 7 5 4 4 3

4.71 6.73 8.49 9.80 7.24 4.82 4.81

long main hard right dark old great northward southward straight broad open ancient

19 10 7 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3

9.24 10.88 9.50 9.11 7.24 7.17 6.35 9.42 9.25 9.14 8.82 8.59 8.51

be lead run have wind lie come go cross begin meet good bad clear full dusty rough deep dry safe heavy open

370 65 60 42 20 18 18 13 12 12 11 16 13 8 7 6 6 6 5 5 5 5

3.25 7.53 6.72 1.97 8.07 4.76 2.45 1.88 5.86 4.50 4.37 3.04 4.88 4.80 3.61 7.78 5.99 4.33 5.91 4.89 4.57 4.04

BNC imaginative curve wind dip fork lead run end meet lie turn come dirt coast dusty narrow main lonely ring straight mountain unmade

7 10 6 4 34 27 4 4 4 4 13 21 21 17 48 204 14 12 22 20 6

8.40 8.32 7.91 7.84 6.60 6.16 5.03 4.32 3.92 3.58 3.23 9.14 8.87 8.48 8.33 8.13 7.99 7.91 7.83 7.82 7.49

borne out by the evidence. If we consider, for example, the distribution of some of the adjectival collocates found alongside road across the novel, we find rather specific patterns. Great, for example, is most commonly associated with three meaning groups: abstract nouns such as peril, deed, force, power, strength, weariness, concrete objects such as trees, stones, halls, horns, gates; natural phenomena such as clouds, storms, shadow, wind or smoke. These collocations are derived from nineteenth-century fiction, where they occur much less frequently, though. Other key adjectival collocations are based around the colour adjectives black (shape, figure, fellow, speck, smoke, cloak), which is capitalized in some of the proper nouns Tolkien coins (e.g. Black Riders, Black Gate, Black Land); red (light, glare, flame, fire, glow) and white (tree, light, gem, fire, horse) as well as the adjectives clear (voice, water, sky); cold (voice, air,


D. Siepmann

bitter cold, very cold); dark (shape, land, water, pool, tree, thing, place, eye); fair (people, house, thing, lady, noble, proud, tall); long (road, tale, year, labour, sword). Some of these adjectives are commonly coordinated with each other or with other heavy-duty adjectives: A great black mace he wielded. … he spoke in a clear cold voice. There loomed against the westward stars a dark black shape. The labour would be hard and long. … beyond the wall the fog was thick, cold and white.

Another pet word of Tolkien’s is come, which occurs in a number of elegantly simple collocations that the reader is likely to pass over. Take, for example, the ubiquitous association of light with come: of his mind that was still his own, and ridge towards the tower: but suddenly a wake up in the darkness, and sleep after window it would help, but I fear that the stood a low archway; through it the growing fissure had opened. Out of it a fierce red it, it seemed to him that the power and strayed, or they turned aside, then when courts, on into the dark recesses where no done. At dawn they made ready to go on. The windows looked out only into the tunnel. But escape, holding it half open so that a ray of . It s a lie! hissed Gollum, and an evil

light light light light light light light light light light light light light

came through it, as through a chink in came in the sky, and there was a noise has come ! Ring a ding dillo! Wake now, comes only down deep shafts. Following came. The air became very hot. When they came, and now and again flames licked came that held all the land in sway. He came there might be long delay before the can come. And plink! a silver drop falls came grey and pale, and they did not see came in now through the broken roof. On came through. There was a heavy silence came into his eyes at the naming of Aragorn (continued)

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


(continued) on his shrunken belly, and a pale green vast dust and smoke hung above them, and woodland animal snuffling a strange air. A of the Tower stood half open, and a red floating away eastward; but still only a grey

light light light light light

came into his eyes. The dusk was deep when came dully through it. But in the West came in his eyes. Wind is changing! he came through; a large orc lay dead upon came to the dreary fields of Gorgoroth.

Here a distinction needs to be made between rather humdrum collocations that are also found in everyday conversation (light comes in/through [NP: object]) and Tolkien’s literary extension of such uses (an evil light came into his eyes, the light came grey and pale, a grey light came to the dreary fields or the almost biblical a light came in the sky). Part of Tolkien’s special gift as a writer appears to lie in this ability to craft literary turns of phrase from the most basic lexical material in the language, a feat which authors of lesser stature generally cannot accomplish, opting instead for more complex forms of words. We can see this gift at work in the way in which many other simple collocations are used to great advantage. Take, for example, the various uses of the word combination new strength, which refers to (a) endurance or bravery and (b) force as measured in numbers. Some examples: of the warm and fragrant liquor he felt a lembas, for they could eat of it and find slowly, as if the weight became less, or alone, soon their case became worse; for who fought on this field, said Aragorn. Andros; and with that threat destroyed and

new strength new strength new strength new strength New strength new strength

of heart, and the heavy drowsiness left even as they ran. All day the track of grew in him, he raised his head, and then came now streaming to the field out of is on the way from the southern fiefs, arriving out of the South the City was

In combining new strength with arrive, come or be on the way, Tolkien is reviving a military use dating back at least to the seventeenth century,


D. Siepmann

thus adding to the archaic flavour of his style and showing the enormous breadth of his diachronic knowledge of the language. Here too a clear preference may be noted for the use of simple words to the greatest possible effect. Such examples could be multiplied. Another interesting fact is that many key collocations allow Tolkien to imbue the setting or, more specifically, the landscape and the metereological conditions with special significance: air + heavy, sniff; light + clear, golden, grow, shine, etc.; bird + sing; land + hard, dark, wide; shadow + great, dark, see; silence + dead, fall, long; sky + black, clear; cloud + great. A particular concern with the sky and flight is also evident in his overuse of the preposition above in collocations such as high above, above their heads or rise above. Other key collocations appear to serve the function of animating the landscape (mountain + shoulder, arm; cf. Section 2.1). It is also a common finding in lexical studies that many key words are significant because they occur several times within the same collocation. The Lord of the Rings is no exception here; openly, for instance, occurs eight times in the collocation speak openly, which is thus 106 times more frequent than in modern fiction and 16 times more frequent than in nineteenth-century fiction. Apart from this, openly also occurs twice in the rather unusual and hence distinctive word combination go openly, which is almost non-existent—certainly not in this sense—in other fictional texts. In other words, we are here dealing with an author-specific phraseology. no more than two or three together are to before they came so far none knew. They

go openly went openly

over the land, by day or night, when it but heedfully, with mounted scouts before

A similar example is afforded by the collocation of light with pale, which occurs 25 times in The Lord of the Rings, compared to 28 times in the entire nineteenth-century fiction corpus. Tolkien also uses many nineteenth-century collocations and valency patterns with a significantly higher frequency than is the case in nineteenth-­century fiction. Examples include hold aloft, be altogether + ADJ, sth/sb awaits sb, bear away. Some of the overused patterns are on the

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


borderline between lexis and grammar, such as the frequent combination of a verb of becoming with a comparative (e.g. grow lighter). On the negative side, it is easy to see why Tolkien has sometimes been accused of using “impoverished” language. Apart from a number of clichés (e.g. bitter end, draw + breath [16 occurrences]) which are also found in whodunnits or romantic fiction, there is a clear overuse of the emphasizers very (+ tall, weary, hungry, heavy, fair, hot, etc.), so (heavy, strong, strong, eager, etc.) and too (long, great, many, late, etc.) as well as of other common-or-garden word partnerships (e.g. a long time, many things, loud voice), all of which are reminiscent of children’s books. However, given what we know about Tolkien’s close attention to detail, it is highly likely that these are deliberate choices mainly intended to drive home the point that Frodo’s quest involves extreme hardship and deprivation.

2.5 Key N-Grams in The Lord of the Rings An investigation into key n-grams (as compared with the imaginative section of the BNC) in The Lord of the Rings reveals further distinctive traits of Tolkien’s style and confirms others already discussed. To begin with the latter, there is additional evidence of Tolkien’s tendency to animate the landscape (at the feet of the hills/mountains, the skirts of the mountains/hills/ storm/downs/…), of the journey theme (on the borders, borders of the, on the Road, in this land, the eaves of, came at last to, at length they came, until at last, set out again, they drew near, in many places, they went on, set out from, let’s go, I must rest, I am weary, all the speed, away beyond the, the high place), of the contrast between darkness and light (e.g. under the shadow, the light grew) and of descriptive patterns (there came a [+ sound: knock, a great noise, a blare of trumpets, etc.]). In addition, we find evidence of phrases that indicate uncertainty (it seemed to them that, there seemed to be, it may well be that), expressions used to recount historical events or tales (the heir of, the coming of (the king …), passed into the shadows, it is said, it is long since, the tale of, in the reckoning, the world was young, tidings of the, the dominion of (Sauron/the Dark Lord), the deep places of (the world), deeps of the sea/earth, the lineage of) and fairly specific n-grams indicating the theme of trust (do not doubt) and vanishings (and vanished


D. Siepmann

into; vanish is also a key word). Finally, there are a number of general-­ language items in evidence that Tolkien uses with particular frequency; examples include near at hand, in token of (pardon/farewell/…), the rising of the sun/day, great host of, seek for sth, fear fell on sb, came striding up, in the midst, a good while, in the heart of the.

2.6 F requent Semantic Fields in The Lord of the Rings We used Rayson’s well-known WMATRIX software to group words into key semantic domains. Each word-form in The Lord of the Rings was tagged for its part-of-speech and then for its semantic field. The semantic fields found to be significantly more frequent than in the reference corpus, by comparison with the imaginative section of the BNC sampler, are as follows: Major domains: Darkness; Degree; Distance: Far, Formal/Unfriendly; Geographical terms; Grammatical bin; Light, Location and Direction; Long, tall and wide; Moving, coming and going; Objects generally; Plants; Time: General Time: Present; Unmatched. Sub-domains level 1: Colour and colour patterns; Damaging and destroying; Entire/maximum; Ethical evaluation: Good; Expected; Failure; General appearance and physical properties; Quantities; Weather; Speed: Fast; Shape; The universe. Sub-domains level 2: Degree: Minimizers; Measurement: Distance; Money: Affluence; Substances and materials: Gas; Substances and materials: Liquid; Temperature: Hot/On Fire; Time: Beginning; Tough/strong. This approach adds some interesting points about textual content but also misses some insights gained in the key word analysis, since the software cannot recognize some of the archaic items used in Tolkien. While we have already noted Tolkien’s preference for geographical terms, darkness and light, location and direction as well as colour adjectives, an analysis focussing on key semantic domains, apart from providing further

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


detail about the domains just mentioned, highlights other domains which we have only briefly touched on or missed entirely. One such domain is “plants”, where certain affinities were found with nineteenth-century fiction (e.g. reeds), but the domain is in fact much larger than suggested by key word analysis, including the following items: tree: elm-tree, alder-tree, fir-tree, pine, beech, acorn, willow; lobelia, nightshade, hemlock, rowan, ivy, hyacinth, marigold, hawthorn, fern, holly, shrub, sward, etc.

Judging from the choice of tree species, for instance, it is obvious that, as several critics have pointed out, Middle-earth is closely similar to England in its flora. The garden of Gondor appears to be the exception that proves the rule: … and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes….

Under the heading of “colour and colour patterns”, we find both additional colour adjectives and descriptive verbs, such as golden, grey, white, green, bright, glittering, flash, clouded, shadow, glinted, flickering, etc.

Other major sources of descriptivity include “sailing/swimming”, “shape”, “weight: heavy”, “speed:fast (slow)”, “entire/maximum”, “sound:loud”, “temperature:hot/on fire”, “long, tall and wide”, the last five domains lending additional weight to the aforementioned hypothesis that Tolkien resorts to hyperbole. Table 2.2 shows the top five word-­forms from each of these domains. Semantic domains which are also prevalent in the realist novel (cf. Kullmann 2009: 44) and partake in the creation of circumstantial realism include “general appearance and physical properties” (e.g. hard, stony, bare, plain, bow, kneel, hewn, bold, hollow, blank, splendour, furry, weather-­ beaten), “geographical terms” (e.g. land, forest, mountains, marshes, vale,

sailing helm boats flowed boat ship

shape line straight shape steep corner

weight heavy heavier heaviest ponderous sonorous

speed suddenly at once quickly swiftly sudden

Table 2.2   Top five word-forms in selected domains entire all any full filled each

loud loud harsh shrill thunderous –

temperature fire burning flame hot lit

long long deep high wide tall

62  D. Siepmann

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


wilderness, cave) and, to a minor extent, “farming and horticulture” as well as “fixing and mending”. Another area which has eluded key word analysis is that of degree, and more specifically, adverbs indicating a minimal degree, such as at least, hardly, little, not … at all, barely, scarcely and comparisons involving as, of which there are hundreds, some more original than others: suddenly the Mirror went altogether dark, doubtful: he at any rate still thought boats his mind that, though boats were maybe not at night; but he is slier than a fox, and way last night, when up pops a New Moon tired and sleepy, and their hearts were Frodo, and I could not have borne that. Not Gimli. Let us find a path down to the fields longer for the danger. Let the Orcs come reckon it. Yes, it is old, said Aragorn, the Common Speech, which he made almost don t think at all, eh? Curse you! You re from one another as trees from trees: some quite different growth and history; and some hale but ancient trees (though none looked stone; Though Isengard be strong and hard, that had come over the Ents. It seemed now standing? Your errand, you see, is no longer the stars wheeled over, and each day was

as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as as

dark as if a hole had opened in the world bad as wild horses, or worse, and not dangerous as he had been brought up to slippery as a fish. I hoped the river-voyage thin as a nail-paring, as if we had never gloomy as the dying day. Well, here we certain as being left behind, said Sam quick as may be. I doubt if you will find thick as summer-moths round a candle! old as the forest by the Barrow-downs, hideous as his own language. Rest while bad as the other rabble: the maggots and different as one tree is from another different as one tree-kind from another ancient as Treebeard); and there were cold as stone and bare as bone, We go, sudden as the bursting of a flood that urgent as you thought. Let us sit down long as a life-age of the earth. Faint


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Finally, it may be worth noting that Tolkien overuses words that carry positive ethical connotations. Unsurprisingly, these are mainly associated with the “likeable” characters in the novel as well as with the landscape and weather of those parts of Middle-earth that are not yet fully under Sauron’s sway. … his father was a Baggins. A decent respectable hobbit was Mr. … … dwarves. Still, they are trusty, and that is much in these days Birds were singing, and a wholesome peace lay on the land. Wonderful folk, Elves, sir! Wonderful!

2.7 Tolkien as a Stylist: Conclusion This corpus-based study of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings has brought to light a number of aspects of Tolkien’s style that have gone unnoticed in previous scholarship. Using a variety of tools and approaches, we have shown how the style of The Lord of the Rings relies heavily on the nineteenth-­century novel and on Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf. We have also identified the key semantic domains from which Tolkien draws his vocabulary. Most importantly perhaps, we have made it clear that, far from being “amateurish”, Tolkien’s prose effectively employs several centuries’ worth of linguistic developments, putting old words to new uses and vice versa. The full subtlety of the resultant collocations has so far escaped both the casual reader’s and the critic’s notice. In a much less obvious sense than in the case of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, we would be justified in calling Tolkien a linguistic postmodernist.

Appendix Key Words Exclusive to The Lord of the Rings along, among, anvil, armies, armouries, besieged, blacker, black-­feathered, blackroot, blindfold, boats, branches, bridge, broad-bladed, burg, carrion, causeway, caves, chieftain, chieftains, circlet, cities, civil, cloven, coastlands, coasts, combe, corsairs, corslet, cotton, counsel, counsels,

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


darkling, deadmen, deem, deep-cloven, deeping, dell, delved, delving, derry, descendants, destroyed, devilry, dike, dingle, downfall, downs, dragon, dragons, drum-beats, drums, dungeons, dwarves, dwindled, east, eastern, echo, encircling, errantry, esquire, evenstar, exile, fall, falls, farthings, fastness, fathoms, fatty, feasting, fen, fens, fern, fern-brake, ferny, fields, fires, fir-trees, fir-wood, fissures, flowing, foam, fords, forebode, forebodes, forest, foretell, formless, fortress(es), fought, fume, furlong, furlongs, further, furthest, gaffer, garn, girth, gladden, glades, glens, glooms, greensward, greenway, grey-eyed, grey-green, grond, grovelled, guests, hail, halls, havens, healing, hearties, heeded, heirs, helm, heralds, herdsmen, hewed, hewing (archaic verb forms that are highly uncommon in nineteenth-century fiction, as opposed to the lexicalized participle hewn), high (but not higher), hill, hillmen, hillock, hinder, horn(s), hornblower(s), horse-men, host(s), hythe, ill-favoured, jeered, kindreds, kine, kingship, lair, land, lands, languages, leaf, leagues, legends, lessened, lesser, lockholes, lore, lore-master(s), mail-clad, mail-shirt, mannish, many, many-pillared, marches, marching, marish, marshal, marshes, mathom, mathom-house, may, meads, merrymaking, mid-year, mightier, mightiest, mires, mirk, morning-light, mound(s), mountain, mountain-­ sides, mountain-tops, mustering, names, neighed, neighing, nob, noisome, nonetheless, north, northern, northerners, northmen, notched, oft, opening, openly, or, orc(s), others (but “other” non-key), out-­ companies, out-thrust, out-wall(s), outwards, over-late, overthrown, packs, parth, pass-words, pathless, peace, peaks, pillars, pimple, pinnacles, pipe-weed, pit(s), places, preserved, quest, quickbeam, ranger, rangers, realm(s), reared, rearguard, reckoning, re-forged, remnant, renown, riddles, rider, riders, ridge, ridges, rills, rim, rimmon, ring-bearer, ring-­ bearers, road-meeting, roads, rock, rock-wall, roots, rowan-trees, runes, sand-pit, sea-bird, sea-kings, season, second, seedling, set, shafts, shape, sheath, shield, shieldmaiden, ships, shire, shirriff, shiriff-house, shiriffs, shores, siege, silvan, singing, skill, slinker, sloped, slopes, slowcoach, snowbourn, snows, song, songs, sons, sortie, south, south-east, speed, spies, spirant, spring, squint-eyed, staddle, starless, starlight, stars, staves, steed, steep, steeply, stewards, sting, stone-work, stoors, stroke, stronghold, sundered, sundering, sunrise, swiftest, sword-hilt, sword-hilts, tales (neg. stories), taters, thain, their, thickets, thieving, towers, townlands, trampling, treeless, tree-root(s), tree-shadow, tree-trunk(s), through,


D. Siepmann

tunnel, tunnelled, turf, turves, undying, unfought, unguessed, unhorsed, unlooked, until, uplands, vale, vales, valley, vigilance, voiceless, wains, waned, waning, wargs, watchers, watch-fires, watchmen, watch-tower, water, water-bottle, water-course, waters, water-side, waybread, waylaid, waylay, webs (neg. web), weregild, west, westering, westlands, west-lands, westmarch, westwards, whiteskins, wield, wights, willow-tree, willow-­ wand, window-slit, winged, wintring, wizardry, wold, wolf-riders, wood-­ fire, woodhall, woodland, wraiths, wulf, yestereve, yule, yuledays

Negative Key Words able, about, allow, also, although, amount, animals, announced, approach, are, argue, argument, block, both, build, building, bush (but: bushes—key), case, cases, cause, caused, central, century, children, church, club, companies (but: company—key), compared, complete, completely, concerns, consider, considered, continue, control, cook, cost(s), country, countries, court, credit, culture, cup, current, dance, December, decision, degree, demand, described, design, despite, details, developed, difference, different, directly, during, each, earlier, early, effect, efforts, eight, elements, essential, established, event, eventually, evidence, example, extra, family, families, farm, features, five, for, forces, former, foundation, four, fox, freedom, frequently, future, game, general, generally, generation, grant, health, heat, higher, history, hit, home, however, image(s), importance, important, in, included, increase, increasing, independent, influence, information, instead, interest, involved, is, issue, key, killed, lack, largest, later, law(s), leaders, learning, level, levels, limited, list, local, losing, makes, making, mass, member, members, modern, most, movement, music, native, natural, necessary, needs, new, normal, number, numbers, offer, offers, oil, on, order, original, page, paid, particular, parties, party, patient, pay, period, person, personal, plan(s), plant(s), play, played, playing, plays, point(s), policies, prancing (Pony), press, price, primary, price, primary, private, process, produce, produced, progress, protect, provide, provided, quality, questions, range, record, regular, relations, relationship, report, reported, reports, required, respect, responsible, rights, risk, rules, safety, salt, same, screen, sell, selling, separate, series, service, several, share, shared, similar, six, size, sold,

2  Tolkien as a Stylist: Key Words and Key Collocations… 


sometimes, source(s), square, standard, start, starting, state, stock, stories, story, stress, supply, support, surface, system, takes, teaching, terms, test, testing, these, throughout, today, traditional, travel, trial, trip, troops, understanding, united, value, values, van, view, vote, whether, win, work(ed), working, works, world, wrote Table 2.3   Key words in The Lord of the Rings, Nineteenth-century fiction and Modern Fiction (extract) 1518 1519 1520 1521 1522 1523 1524 1525 1526 1527 1528 1529 1530 1531 1532 1533 1534 1535 1536 1537 1538 1539 1540 1541 1542 1543 1544 1545 1546 1547 1548 1549 1550 1551 1552 1553 1554 1555 1556 1557 1558 1559 1560 1561 1562


94,23 53,84 67,30 53,84 56,15 28,81 372,57 35,89 106,77 42,53 71,95 148,07 176,40 74,11 -49,13 -48,89 28,83 191,68 30,61 47,86 82,75 -42,20 53,84 1518,01 67,30 40,38 40,38 114,69 35,02 80,77 95,10 111,35 -45,92 -70,55 44,29 159,01 -71,87 -169,25 85,69 1398,74 62,60 35,89 67,30 40,38 602,58




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Notes 1. Cf. Kullmann, “Intertextual Patterns”, and above, Chap. 1, p. 18–29. 2. The author is indebted to Uta Bockenkamm for tagging the key word list. Since the list runs to some considerable length, the discussion of the key words identified cannot be exhaustive. 3. Cf. Snell-Hornby 200 ff.

Works Cited Primary Texts Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell, ed. Christopher Tolkien. London: HarperCollins, 2014.

Critical Works Cited Berber-Sardinha, Tony. “Comparing Corpora with WordSmith Tools: How Large Must the Reference Corpus Be?” Compare Corpora ’00: Proceedings of the Workshop on Comparing Corpora: Association for Computational Linguistics. 2000. 7–13. Dunning, Ted. “Accurate Methods for the Statistics of Surprise and Coincidence,” Computational Linguistics, 19.1 (1993). 61–74. Kilgarriff, Adam, et  al. “The Sketch Engine: Ten Years on.” Lexicography, 1 (2014). 7–36. Kirk, Elizabeth D. “‘I Would Rather Have Written in Elvish’: Language, Fiction and The Lord of the Rings.” In Mark Spilka, ed. Towards a Poetics of Fiction. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1977. 289–302. Kullmann, Thomas. “Intertextual Patterns in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” Nordic Journal of English Studies, 8.2 (2009): 37–56. Web. Rayson, Paul. WMATRIX.

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Scott, Mike. “Problems in Investigating Keyness or Clearing out the Undergrowth and Marking out Trails”. In Marina Bondi and Mike Scott, eds. Keyness in Texts. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2010. 43–58. Scott, Mike. WordSmith Tools version 5. Liverpool: Lexical Analysis Software, 2008. Snell-Hornby, Mary. Verb-descriptivity in German and English: A Contrastive Study in Semantic Fields. Heidelberg: Winter, 1983. Turner, Allan. “Style and Intertextual Echoes.“ In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Malden, Mass.: Wiley, 2014. 389–403. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Wilson, Edmund. “Oo, Those Awful Orcs!” The Nation, vol. 182. issue 15 (14 April 1956). 312–314. Accessed via The Nation Archive (DFG), online.

3 The Narrative Syntax of The Lord of the Rings Dirk Siepmann

3.1 Background and Method While the chapter on the lexis of The Lord of the Rings has focussed on well-researched linguistic units such as lexemes, collocations and n-grams, the present chapter starts from syntactic n-grams, which often bring to light underlying recurrences of a lexico-syntactic nature. These have recently been referred to as “motifs”, a term originally used in cultural anthropology to denote repeated elements in literary, visual or textile arts. The literary and linguistic meanings of the term are closely interrelated in that both designate irreducible narrative stereotypes (Vincensini 2). Syntactic n-grams may be labelled “motifs” if, in addition to mere grammatical recurrence, they serve a text-specific or author-specific function (Novakova and Siepmann, especially Legallois and Koch 39–40). A full analysis of the syntax of The Lord of the Rings, while theoretically possible, would require the linguist to annotate the entire text with phrasal tags, which is still beyond the current capacities of corpus-linguistic parsers. Here the Word List tool of the Sketchengine was used as a pis aller. In a first step, the book was divided into dialogue and narration. In a second step, the statistically most significant 3-grams, 4-grams, 5-grams and 6-grams (i.e. sequences of syntactic tags of the type N + ADJ) were © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



D. Siepmann

extracted from the exclusively narrative sentences of The Lord of the Rings, using the imaginative prose section of the PHRASEOROM corpus (postwar fiction) and the British National Corpus as a reference. We were as interested in the kinds of constructions that Tolkien, compared to other authors, tends to avoid, as in those that he prefers. We shall now discuss the most significant of these one by one, working our way up from the word level to the clause level. Section 3.2 deals with dispreferred constructions, Sect. 3.3 with preferred constructions, and Sect. 3.4 illustrates the results by examining two typical sample paragraphs.

3.2 Dispreferred Constructions This section looks at constructions that are significantly less frequent in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, compared to other contemporary fiction. Examples have been taken from the PHRASEOROM corpus and the BNC.

3.2.1 Word Level At the word level the only notable difference between The Lord of the Rings and general fiction is the underuse of modal verbs, as in sentences like these: there should be a rotten crop of films on his speech could be the last breath of civilization and order … should have postponed …

Most such underuse can probably be attributed to the absence of interior monologue or similar narrative techniques from The Lord of the Rings.

3.2.2 Phrase Level As far as basic phrasal structures are concerned, Tolkien appears not to think highly of premodifying an adjective with an adverb, a procedure commonly used by other writers and notably frequent in ordinary,

3  The Narrative Syntax of The Lord of the Rings 


everyday speech. It is a fair guess that this is because, in his narrative sections, Tolkien seeks to distance himself from echoes of speech and from the imprecision of colloquial ways of putting things. a really handsome man, a rather peculiar silence

Also infrequent in The Lord of the Rings are particular types of locatives involving the combination of a general noun with a noun denoting a body part, most of which appear to serve the purpose of characterization. Slowly the mist in front of her eyes cleared. Pietro balanced the sheet of paper on his knees. She looked down, saw a streak of red on her legs.

Equally rare are combinations of verbs of motion with locative or directional complements: Using a knife, I carefully opened it across the top and slipped the letter out. She watched as Luke fought his own anger and then half threw him to the ground. Without another word, he picked up her bags and disdainfully threw them into the boot.

Another underused feature, by comparison with other fiction, is the use of structures where a noun is followed by a prepositional phrase: a drive in a limousine, the inside of the house, the cover on the sofa, it was just an ordinary glass on an ordinary table

Even more surprisingly, Tolkien appears to shun the following common partitive patterns, and noun phrases followed by of-phrases generally:

a plume of cigar smoke / a promise of autumn sunshine / a full dish of cat food / a small bottle of vitamin C / huge piles of every newspaper the unmistakeable smell of farmyard manure / the delicate tracery of window ice

Descriptive nominal phrases consisting of a noun premodified by another noun and an adjective are also conspicuously absent from Tolkien: The Normandy countryside baked under a warm summer sun. He noticed the artful make-up, the elegant hair style.


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Equally rare are nouns followed by an infinitive, compounds made up of two nouns and the coordination of two noun phrases: Katherine had a sudden desire to vomit. Was she the bait to lure him into a trap? between her head and her waist, his anger and his incomprehension, his duty and his trust

Another common structure found in contemporary prose that is significantly underrepresented in The Lord of the Rings is the sequence where two noun phrases without adjectival premodifiers are linked by means of a preposition: the discovery of Ann Morgan’s body the speculation about Lady Diana’s trousseau

Taken together, the phrasal features just discussed would lead us to expect a certain unaffected simplicity in Tolkien’s noun phrases. Indeed, Tolkien appears to prefer rhythmically regular phrases that involve adjectival premodifiers, giving his language a poetic ring; many of these Tolkien uses to describe natural phenomena, often attributing to them human traits in a kind of pathetic fallacy:

the wild things in the fields, the dark pines on the hills, the long shadows of the trees, the hideous bodies of the orcs, the shadowy shapes of the explorers, the half-­ stripped branches of the trees, the dark heads of the hills, the red flowers on the beans, the dense shadows of the rocks, the white peaks of the mountains, the green vales in the hills, the high vales of the mountain-borders, the crumpled skirts of the downs, the bare branches of the trees

3.2.3 Clause Level Turning now to the clause level, the first thing to note is an evident underuse of personal pronouns in sentence-initial position. Typical sentence patterns found in contemporary fiction are the following: She longed to say it / He had expected to fight / It must have cost her …

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This raises the question of how Tolkien establishes back-reference or why pronominal substitution is a dispreferred strategy in The Lord of the Rings. One may speculate that this is to do with the unusually large number of characters Tolkien introduces, so that, to avoid confusion, reference by name becomes a frequent necessity. Equally underused are clause-initial participle clauses introduced by an adverb and followed by a main clause: Already cringing under the hand in her hair, she suddenly felt terrifyingly weak. Still fumbling with the clasp of her bag, she gasped, …

Another structure that is comparatively rare in The Lord of the Rings is the combination of a transitive verb with a prepositional object: He gestured her towards the velvet armchair.

This also applies to the common use of double prepositions or adverb + preposition combinations (phrasal verbs combined with a preposition) in contemporary prose, which imbue the latter with echoes of colloquiality and realism, something which Tolkien may have deliberately avoided.

He slid his hand down under the sheet. / She put her case and her violin down against the wall. / The fat officer oozed his bulk onto the bench. / Charity looked out over the balcony at the still black water towards the rocks.

Quite interestingly, V + NP + to-INF:






He swivelled his chair to face her. / He waggled his glass to indicate a quote.

Since this structure is often used to ascribe intentions to characters, the reason for its comparative absence may be that Tolkien refrains from doing so most of the time. Of equal rarity are verbless sentences or very short sentences consisting of a subject, copular be and a subject complement. Merely a hollow formality. / She was not an optimistic woman. / Not the usual sort. / Hardly a submissive voice!

This may be due to the fact that Tolkien does not use free indirect speech, since short sentences like these tend to be direct renditions by an omniscient narrator of characters’ inner monologue. By the same token,


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then, uses of the modal would which indicate free indirect speech are conspicuous by their absence from The Lord of the Rings: All she could do was hope that Lisa’s sharp mind would fail to make …

Although Tolkien does use and with high frequency, he sometimes does so in a slightly different way from a great deal of other fiction. Whereas in the comparison corpus and is more commonly used to link two verbs with the same subject, for example, Tolkien often uses it to link two sequences of actions (Table 3.1). Similarly, Tolkien uses existential clauses with a wide variety of verbs to describe events (there came …), but there is hardly any evidence of such clauses used with nouns to indicate mere presence or absence; the same goes for roughly synonymous existential statements using have: There is no real proof of murder. There is a real change in the elements. There is a wild smile in his eyes. There was white fog in front of their faces. He had an earthenware jug of water by his side.

Comparisons with “like” (similes) are a common feature of all literary genres, which Tolkien inevitably resorts to as well, with the small difference that he does not use constructions where the noun following like is in its turn followed by a present participle: Mandeville chanted it like a child learning a rhyme. It looked to Bernice like a hand crushing a butterfly. His expression was that of a bibliophile rejecting a volume. Table 3.1   Use of and BNC

The Lord of the Rings

I stand at the The party was assailed by Orcs in a high pass of the Misty bottom and watch Mountains as they went towards Wilderland; and so it him. happened that Bilbo was lost for a while in the black Ellen caught it in a orc-mines deep under the mountains, and there, as he towel and put it groped in out and went back to sleep.

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Infinitive constructions in which a noun is followed by an active infinitive are notably common in modern fiction, but absent from The Lord of the Rings: It was an uncanny thing to watch. It seemed a useful line to follow.

After this brief exploration of constructions that Tolkien disprefers, it may appear that Tolkien does not make full use of the stylistic possibilities offered by modern English. While this is not wrong, it is probably more to the point to say that his style is in many ways more idiosyncratic than that of contemporary general or other fantasy fiction. To this we now turn.

3.3 Overused Constructions This section deals with constructions that are significantly more frequent in The Lord of the Rings than in modern fiction as a whole. As in the previous section, we are going to move from words via phrases to clauses.

3.3.1 Word Level We have already noted, from a purely lexical perspective, that Tolkien appears to use certain comparative tokens (e.g. deeper, darker) with particular frequency. This observation is confirmed by evidence of the comparative as a syntactic type. Suddenly he noticed, not far from the further end of the fire, a small dark figure seated on a stool with … and ran into the deeper shade under the oak-trees. … could carry both their boats and their baggage to the smoother water beyond the Rapids … Out of the bigger house on the right a large heavy figure appeared … the top of a shoulder of the hills that stood out into the lower land of the river-valley


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An archaic feature is the following use of the prop-word one, often equivalent to modern someone: … she turned, as one that is blind, … (= like someone) … and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for one that was lost. Then she stared at him as one that is stricken. It was the face of one who has been assailed … … he looked like one who has laboured in sleepless pain …

Other overused words or fixed lexical phrases include no more, and the overuse of then, presently or suddenly in clause-initial position: Then Frodo breathed a sigh of relief. … they spoke no more …

3.3.2 Phrase Level The only conspicuous features to be noted here are the frequent coordination of two adjectives by means of and (e.g. still and stuffy) and the use of verbs of becoming with the comparative: … the light grew stronger … … the light grew broader … … the air grew warmer … … the Buckland shore drew nearer … … The woods on either side became denser …

3.3.3 Clause Level By far the most interesting idiosyncrasies of Tolkien’s can be found at clause level, one of the most conspicuous of which even to the human reader is the fronting of adverbials: to a (N) they came. Many other features are so humdrum and imperceptible that human stylists overlook them. Some of these will be discussed in what follows.

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In line with Tolkien’s predilection for simple words, we find that he also uses simple predications to a much larger extent than do other authors: The wind had dropped but the sky was grey. The land looked rather sad and forlorn … Dust hung in the air, for the wind had died and the evening was heavy. …, and the wind was cold. …, and the moon was low. … the blade was dull. But the throne was empty.

A common, equally overrepresented extension of such clauses is by the addition of a prepositional complement: A bitter wind swirled among the rocks. Mountain smouldered and its fires went out. The glare faded from the cliffs.

This observation also applies to extraposed clauses, whose overuse adds to the tone of solemnity in Tolkien’s prose. Extraposition tends to be preferred, especially in news or academic registers, if the extraposed constituent would result in an overlong subject, but this is not normally the case with Tolkien’s extrapositions. However, they neatly manage to give end weight to the most significant piece of information: A reek arose of torches cast away …

Another basic clause variant that is overused in The Lord of the Rings is a passive verb followed by a prepositional complement. Her shield was shivered in many pieces … All the court was choked with dead orcs or their severed and scattered heads and limbs. There was a fold or channel where the mist was broken into many plumes and billows The field was strewn with stricken with orcs and men, and a reek arose of torches cast away, Over the door was painted in white letters: THE PRANCING PONY by BARLIMAN BUTTERBUR.


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… his memory was stored with many things …

This type of construction is particularly significant in the description of setting(s) or events: The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light. … the black sky was dotted with stars. … a great horn was blown in the hall … … a deep voice was raised in command … a pale light was spread about the gate … The new morning was blotted from the sky. … the far shore was shrouded in mist, and nothing could be seen. … a little mist was laid on it … … all the shadowy court was lit with a dazzling radiance …

Note that the subject noun in such constructions is almost invariably preceded by an adjective. It is interesting to note that, far from being humdrum, the lexical slots in these passive constructions are often filled by highly original (blotted from the sky) or obsolescent material (his memory was stored with). Although participial constructions are generally underused in The Lord of the Rings (see above), it is worth noting the following constructions, which are rather idiosyncratic. Whilst it is perfectly normal to find a clause-initial participle followed by the subject, it is somewhat unusual to observe a direct sequence of a participle and a verb. It is also worthy of note that Tolkien, unlike many other writers of fiction, has a clear preference for clause-initial participial clauses over clause-final ones. These are sometimes reduced to the bare participle (Table 3.2). Table 3.2   Use of bare participle Tolkien: clause-initial, “absolute” present participles

BNC: clause-final participial clauses

… he, bowing low to the fallen, bade them farewell, and mounting rode away into battle. They came at last to a white bridge, and crossing found the great gates of the city …

Bridget was last, gently closing the window behind her. Ember squatted, patting the ground beside him.

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Apart from such participial constructions, one of the most readily noticed coordination devices that Tolkien resorts to is the use of “and” to introduce coordinated main clauses (and phrases): And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. And indeed with that last stroke the malice of the mountain seemed to be expended … He turned, and there in the cold glow he saw lying beside him Sam, Pippin, and Merry. … terror stood up on high, fighting with the air, and then with a great scream he crashed upon his side … “Worm! Worm!” Saruman called; and out of a nearby hut came Wormtongue, crawling, almost like a dog. And there upon the dark threshold of the Sammath Naur, high above the plains … … a hint as it were of transparency about him, and especially about in the left hand that lay outside upon the coverlet … as they could they scrambled off the beaten way and up into the deep heather and bilberry brushwood above

A frequent lexical choice in these participial constructions is “looking” (plus an adverb indicating direction), as in the following examples: Looking back they saw the dome of the house crack and smokes issue … And looking thither they cried in dismay … Looking ahead they could see only tree-trunks …

A feature even the casual reader will notice is Tolkien’s fondness for inverted constructions of various types, most commonly fronted subject complements followed by copular be and the subject, but also fronted prepositional phrases followed by other verbs. … and beautiful was its colour … So deep and narrow was that chasm that … … but ever black and bare was the ground where the beast was burned. … how perfect was its roundness …


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Down a long flight of steps the Lady went into a deep green hollow, through which ran murmuring the silver stream that issued from the fountain on the hill. There on the wide flats beside the noisy river were marshalled in many companies well nigh five and fifty hundreds of Riders.

As an alternative to inversion, Tolkien commonly resorts to clause-­ initial prepositional phrases followed by existential there. About it he clasped a belt, at which there hung a short sheath … It was a language in which there seemed to be many words that he knew … … a dark trough, on which the further side of which there rose another ridge, much lower … … a vast shadowy plain over which there trode shapes of Men, tall and grim with bright swords, … … the saw-toothed mass of Irensaga, between which there faced the riders, the grim black wall of … And then at last over the miles between there came a rumble … On either side there was a low door … between the two wings, and on the left under the arch there was a large doorway reached by a few broad steps … in its hand there was a white staff. At that moment there was a sharp twang.

Equally noteworthy is the exceptionally frequent use of existential there with a noun followed by an of-phrase, sometimes involving highly original collocations (e.g. a rush of hoarse laughter, a forest of silver spears). Most of these constructions are used to render sensory impressions. There was a tumult of fierce cries. There was a tumult of many voices far away … There was a bit of bright fire burning on the hearth … There was a hythe of white stones and white wood. There was a riding of fair folk out of the North … There was a rim of open ground … There was a flash of searing lightning … There was a stab of white light … There was a lake of clear water …

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An even more exceptional feature is Tolkien’s use of existential there with passive verbs: …, and there was held the highest feast that it had known since the … And there were brought before him many to receive his praise and reward … And about the feet of the main range there was tumbled an even wider land of bleak hills … … and there were set runes of great virtue.

Another statistically significant construction in Tolkien is the use of a verb in the passive voice with a personal pronoun followed by a noun phrase introduced by the zero article, often creating a poetic rhythm; in such clauses, the stative passive is far more common than the eventive passive. It seemed that he was learned in old lore … It was driven by outlandish folk … … they were stained with long travel One was clad in ragged brown He was clad in black mail girt with silver … They were clad in warm raiment and heavy cloaks

Tolkien uses temporal clauses introduced by as more frequently than does modern fiction, which in many such cases tends to have recourse to participial clauses: As they flitted across they glanced back and saw the great black shape upon the … “What’s all this,” he snarled as he came forward. As he struggled on he called again …

Another common sentence type in Tolkien is the short action-­recording sentence involving a motion verb and proper nouns: Faramir and Merry walked in the garden. Gandalf and Aragorn rode with the vanguard in the garden. And so at length Éomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle. Faramir and Merry walked in the garden. Frodo and Sam dashed along the bridge.


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Another statistically significant device is the use of a cognition verb with a that-clause reporting a character’s thoughts. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. He thought that he had heard a faint voice answering him. He thought that he had slept late. They knew that they had come back to the road … They found that they had made their way down through a cleft in a high sleep.

A variant of this involves the use of seem: It seemed that they had vanished from the North. It seemed that he had made some decision.

Another common novelistic motif that is overrepresented in The Lord of the Rings is the use of a proper noun combined with a verb followed by a facial expression or a sound; such uses usually frame dialogue. “Hi!” cried Sam in an outraged voice. “What’s that?” sang Pippin in a high voice. “Elves!” exclaimed Sam in a hoarse whisper. “The lesson in caution has been well learned,” said Strider with a grim smile.

Sentence-initial at last, in itself frequent, is commonly combined with a short verb, such as speak: At last she spoke again.

Another typical sentence-initial feature is the use of fronted adjectives functioning as subject complements or as extraposed elements. Slender they looked, but strong, silken to the touch … Unearthly it looked, as though it had fallen from the sky … Tall she stood there, her eyes bright in her white face … Enormous, it reared above the world … Shapeless they lay now on the ground, torn and tumbled … Reckless they sprang into the pools and waded across …

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Other overused clausal features include relative clauses whose antecedent is those, all or many (those who, all who, many who) and short dialogue-­ framing sentences (said Frodo).

3.4 N  arrative Syntax: Conclusion and Two Sample Paragraphs When taken in the aggregate, the various ingredients of Tolkien’s style merge into a highly idiosyncractic hybrid which eschews anything that might remind the reader of the banality of everyday language and everyday life in an overly economized and technologized world. In Turner’s words, “the circumstantial detail underline(s) the tangible quality of the invented world” (545–546). Although it has been claimed that the study of short excerpts is not sufficient to give an apt stylistic description of an entire novel, it is equally true that if a novel exhibits a certain continuity of narrative style, this must be reflected in the sustained use of recurrent motifs and lexical features which help to give the whole its distinctive tone. For simplicity’s sake, a broad distinction can be made between the familiar style of the Shire scenes and the “high” style of the heroic scenes. This separation often coincides with one in narrative tempo, which is largely dependent on the amount of descriptive detail, as measured, for example, by the number of descriptive verbs and nouns. So, to conclude this chapter, let us look in turn at two rather typical passages which differ along these parameters. Here is a scene from Chapter XII of The Fellowship of the Ring, which takes place soon after the fellowship’s first encounter with the Black Riders: They made their way slowly and cautiously round the south-western slopes of the hill, and came in a little while to the edge of the Road. There was no sign of the Riders. But even as they were hurrying across they heard far away two cries: a cold voice calling and a cold voice answering. Trembling they sprang forward, and made for the thickets that lay ahead. The land before them sloped away southwards, but it was wild and pathless; bushes and stunted trees grew in dense patches with wide barren spaces in between. The grass was scanty, coarse, and grey; and the leaves in the thickets were


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faded and falling. It was a cheerless land, and their journey was slow and gloomy. They spoke little as they trudged along. Frodo’s heart was grieved as he watched them walking beside him with their heads down, and their backs bowed under their burdens. Even Strider seemed tired and heavy-­ hearted. (199–200)

In this comparatively slow-moving, mainly descriptive paragraph, we find many of the typical features of Tolkien’s prose described above. To begin with, there is an abundance of short clauses either consisting of a subject noun phrase (usually a pronoun), copular be and an adjective or of a subject noun phrase, a motion verb and a prepositional object detailing the motion. There is also a clause with a prepositional verb preceded by an absolute participle, and an existential clause. Clauses and phrases coordinated by and feature prominently. Two of these go a little against established norms: first, the use of alliteration and zeugma in the coordination of “faded and falling”, second, the unusual collocation of “gloomy” with an event noun such as “journey”. The heavy-heartedness of the fellowship is mirrored in the depiction of features of the landscape. This is evident from the two pervasive isotopies in the passage: one of fear, dispiritedness and fatigue (cautiously, trembling, trudged along, with their heads down, bowed under their burdens) and one of lifelessness (stunted, barren, scanty, grey, faded and falling, cheerless). Let us now look at a rather quick-moving paragraph: There was a roar and a crackle, and the tree above him burst into a leaf and bloom of blinding flame. The fire leapt from tree-top to tree-top. The whole hill was crowned with dazzling light. The swords and knives of the defenders shone and flickered. The last arrow of Legolas kindled in the air as it flew, and plunged burning into the heart of a great wolf-chieftain. All the others fled. Slowly the fire died till nothing was left but falling ash and sparks; a bitter smoke curled above the burned tree-stumps, and blew darkly from the hill, as the first light of dawn came dimly in the sky. Their enemies were routed and did not return. (299)

The passage quoted illustrates that narrative tempo is largely determined by the amount of detail the writer provides and the syntax he or

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she uses. Tolkien resorts to short clauses strung together by means of “and” or, more commonly, no connectors at all, thus conveying an impression of great speed. He never allows us to focus our attention on some particular aspect of the unfolding scene for long. We encounter here many of the features that we have identified as being particularly significant to The Lord of the Rings: simple predications (all the others fled, their enemies were routed), existential clauses, the use of nouns followed by of-phrases which together form interesting or original collocations (bloom of blinding flame), the choice of highly descriptive verbs (burst, leap, flicker, plunge, curl) and unusual verb + adverb collocations (blow darkly, come dimly).

Works Cited Primary Text: Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

Critical Works Cited: Legallois, Dominique, and Stefan Koch. “The Notion of Motif where Disciplines Intersect: Folkloristics, Narrativity, Bioinformatics, Automatic Text Processing and Linguistics.” In Iva Novakova and Dirk Siepmann, eds. Phraseology and Style in Subgenres of the Novel: A Synthesis of Corpus and Literary Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 17–46. Novakova, Iva, and Dirk Siepmann, eds. Phraseology and Style in Subgenres of the Novel: A Synthesis of Corpus and Literary Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. Turner, Allan. “Prose Style.” In Michael D.C.  Drout, ed. J.R.R.  Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York: Routledge, 2007. 545–546. Vincensini, Jean-Jacques. Motifs et thèmes du récit médiéval. Paris: Nathan, 2000.

4 Points of View Thomas Kullmann

We will now proceed to look at Tolkien’s literary artistry from a historical point of view. When examining the literary antecedents of The Lord of the Rings, the genre it belongs to is a good place to start. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a novel is “A long fictional prose narrative, usually filling one or more volumes and typically representing character and action with some degree of realism and complexity; a book containing such a narrative”.1 Earlier editions of the OED specified that in a novel “characters and actions representative of real life are portrayed in a plot of more or less complexity”.2 Collins English Dictionary defines the term “novel” as “an extended work in prose, either fictitious or partly so, dealing with character, action, thought etc., esp. in the form of a story”. While The Lord of the Rings may not quite fit the OED definitions of “novel”—it could be argued that it lacks the “real life” or “realism” criterion—it certainly conforms to the Collins definition, and is indeed most commonly referred to as a novel. In the subsequent chapters, we will examine the connections between Tolkien’s work and the tradition of the English novel, arguing that The Lord of the Rings firmly belongs to this tradition and should not be examined as disconnected from it.3

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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In common with many English and European novels written from the sixteenth century onwards, major parts of The Lord of the Rings are told by a third-person narrator who is “heterodiegetic”, that is, who does not take part in the story himself.4 Direct speech, however, is also quite prominent. Just over 50 per cent of the text is taken up by dialogues and exclamations as well as by stories told or poems recited by the characters. In this particular, Tolkien’s narrative can certainly be compared to the practice of ancient epic poetry, as by Homer and Virgil, or Renaissance prose romances, such as Sidney’s Arcadia or Cervantes’ Don Quixote, while in nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels, direct speech would usually take up ca. 20 to 30 per cent of the text. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 of the present study will be devoted to the specific generic traditions of some of the text types which in Tolkien’s novel make up direct speech: speeches, stories and poems. Those parts of The Lord of the Rings which are told by the narrator, however, seem to follow the conventions of the English novel as it developed from the last decades of the eighteenth century onwards: the narrator alternately tells the story from his own, “omniscient”, point of view, and the specific points of view of some of his characters.5 While omniscient narration is comparatively rare, the reader is most commonly treated to the point of view of a group of characters—hobbits, usually— before the perspective is narrowed down to a single person. The beginning of Chap. 1 provides an apt example: When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton. Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years […]. (21)

If we leave aside the fantastic motifs of Bilbo’s unusual age and his ­treasure, the beginning conforms to novelistic tradition: the narrator refers to a particular event at a particular place, and proceeds to characterize a protagonist and to provide some background information. The point of view is clearly that of the Hobbiton people; it is they who are excited and who find Bilbo peculiar, not the reader, who may well know

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about Bilbo from reading The Hobbit. This point of view, which is here ascribed to an entire community, may well imply a certain irony, as in the famous beginning of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” (51). The irony stems from the narrator’s initial failure to identify the specific point of view involved.6 In The Lord of the Rings, however, it is soon specified: Days passed and The Day drew nearer. An odd-looking waggon laden with odd-looking packages rolled into Hobbiton one evening and toiled up the Hill to Bag End. The startled hobbits peered out of lamplit doors to gape at it. It was driven by outlandish folk, singing strange songs: dwarves with long beards and deep hoods […]. (24)

The point of view of the Hobbiton hobbits seems to stand for a commonsensical, no-nonsense perspective, from which fantastic, fairy-tale creatures like dwarves appear “outlandish”. The reader is invited to share the hobbits’ wonderment at, and ignorance of, what will follow.7 This narrative construction will form the basic pattern of the novel as a whole: most of the narrative told by the third-person narrator is told from the point of view of some of the hobbits, mainly from a group of four: Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry. Narrative information will focus on what these characters perceive, think and feel, rather than on what actually happens. Nor will an omniscient narrator explain why an event has occurred; this will be left to other characters, such as Gandalf or Aragorn, or to the hobbits’ own subjective conclusions. It is in the course of a description of the memorable festivity mentioned that Frodo, the novel’s main protagonist, first assumes a focal position:8 Frodo was the only one present who had said nothing. For some time he had sat silent beside Bilbo’s empty chair, and ignored all remarks and questions. He had enjoyed the joke, of course, even though he had been in the know. He had difficulty in keeping from laughter at the indignant surprise of the guests. But at the same time he felt deeply troubled: he realized suddenly that he loved the old hobbit dearly […] Frodo did not want to have


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any more to do with the party. He gave orders for more wine to be served; then he got up and drained his own glass silently to the health of Bilbo, and slipped out of the pavilion. (31)

At the beginning of the passage quoted, we are looking at Frodo from the outside, from the point of view of other party guests. When we learn that he “enjoyed the joke”, however, we begin to share his personal point of view. The passage clearly establishes Frodo’s position as an outsider and as a person capable of experiencing emotions, thus alerting readers to his future role as protagonist. The passage quoted is distinguished from the rest of the chapter by its tone of seriousness and emotional depth, which stands in contrast to the satiric tone which prevails in the description of Bilbo’s party, his speech and his partings gifts, and which may remind the reader of Tolkien’s previous work of fiction, The Hobbit (1937). Frodo cannot pay full attention to Bilbo’s joke as he is “deeply troubled” and “loved the old hobbit dearly”. No wonder he “did not want to have any more to do with the party”. He does not feel in tune with the other party guests; the narrative style used to describe his feelings moves away from the humorous and satiric style used before. This emotional depth, however, will characterize the bulk of the novel. Most of the text will be taken up by passages which make use of a point of view limited to Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry, all of whom are travellers and experience the anxieties as well as the wonders connected to the experience of travelling (cf. Walker 145). In limiting the point of view to what these hobbits can see, experience and feel on their journey, Tolkien follows a practice established by late eighteenth-century and nineteenth-­ century novels, for example, Pride and Prejudice, Waverley, The Mill on the Floss and Tess of the d’Urbervilles; and continued by early twentieth-­ century novels, such as Mary Webb, Gone to Earth (1917), and John Buchan, Witch Wood (1926). Emphasis is laid on subjective experience rather than facts.9 One of the earliest examples of this point-of-view technique is certainly Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (1764), where a supernatural event, the killing of young Conrad by a helmet miraculously grown to gigantic size, triggers complex emotional responses:

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Matilda […] enquiring of her domestics for her father, was informed that he was retired to his chamber, and had commanded that nobody should have admittance to him. Concluding that he was immersed in sorrow for the death of her brother, and fearing to renew his tears by the sight of his sole remaining child, she hesitated whether she should break in upon his affliction; yet solicitude for him, backed by the commands of her mother, encouraged her to venture disobeying the orders he had given; a fault she had never been guilty of before. The gentle timidity of her nature made her pause for some minutes at his door. She heard him traverse his chamber backwards and forwards with disordered steps; a mood which increased her apprehensions. (22–23)

We learn about the considerations which make Matilda approach her father, and it is through her perception that we, as readers, witness his agitation. While the point of view is clearly Matilda’s, the words and phrases used are still the narrator’s, who employs them to summarize Matilda’s thoughts and feelings (“immersed in sorrow”, “commands of her mother”, “gentle timidity of her nature”). The passage is obviously an early instance of what has been called “psychonarration” (Lanser, 188). In the case of historical novels like Waverley and Witch Wood, this technique enables the novelist to approach historical crises from a vantage point different from that of historiographers. The situation of the characters whose point of view is depicted invites ready comparison with that of Tolkien’s hobbits: it is through the mediating agency of Edward Waverley, a young Englishman staying with Scottish friends, that readers learn about the life and social structure of those Highlanders who are going to stage a rebellion against King George II: About noon, after a journey which the nature of the conveyance, the pain of his bruises, and the roughness of the way, rendered inexpressively painful, Waverley was hospitably received into the house of a gentleman related to Fergus, who had prepared every accommodation which the simple habits of living, then universal in the Highlands, put in his power. In this person, an old man about seventy, Edward admired a relic of primitive simplicity. He wore no dress but what his estate afforded. The cloth was the fleece of his own sheep, woven by his own servants, and stained into tartan


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by the dyes produced from the herbs and lichens of the hills around him. (193)

The reader is introduced to Highland “primitivism” by means of a rather nondescript, and average, character who vicariously travels to the Highlands and experiences the Highland way of life at first hand. Waverley’s meeting with an old Scottish gentleman then obviously triggers the narrator’s account of how the Highlander’s clothes are produced. As in the passage quoted from The Castle of Otranto, Waverley’s point of view is given in the narrator’s objective language, so that we as readers can more easily share it. In John Buchan’s Witch Wood (1926), the infernal rites practised by a community of outwardly strict Presbyterian Scotsmen in the seventeenth century are witnessed by David Sempill, a young parish minister who will become a sympathizer of Montrose and the loyalists. After the end of the ceremony, David descends from the treetop from which he had observed the devil-worshippers: He had no difficulty about his homeward course. Most of the way he ran, but fear had completely left his heart. The rain in his face seemed to cleanse and invigorate him. He had looked upon great wickedness, but he had looked down on it, like the Almighty, from above, and it seemed a frail and pitiful thing—a canker to be rooted out, but a thing with no terror for a servant of God. The Devil was but a botcher after all. (136)

It is in David’s mind that issues of cultural history, such as Presbyterian strictness and hypocrisy as well as its opposite, a tolerant attitude within the frame of the British constitution, are negotiated. Like Edward Waverley, David acts as the reader’s representative in a strange and exotic environment. The passage, however, differs from the Waverley passage in that it appears to follow David’s train of thoughts, or stream of consciousness, more closely, and to imitate seventeenth-century “discourse”. It is David, the seventeenth-century minister (and not the twentieth-century narrator), who classifies the events he witnessed as “great wickedness” and who might be prone to compare his treetop position to that of “the Almighty”. The language used to convey David’s consciousness to the

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reader thus becomes part of the historic setting which the novel is obviously meant to transmit. Like Edward Waverley and David Sempill, Tolkien’s hobbits act as intermediaries.10 As has often been observed, their attitudes correspond to those which Tolkien and many of his readers were wont to think of as quintessentially English: they live in a rural environment and follow a simple and old-fashioned lifestyle; their main concerns are eating, drinking, smoking and companionship. It is through the filter of the hobbits’ down-to-earth consciousness that the reader encounters the magical world of the Elves, Dwarves, Men, Orcs, Walking Trees and monsters of Middle-earth.11 Through Frodo’s point of view, the reader is introduced to the strange and fantastic world of the Elves, characterized by transcendental beauty: At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-­ tongues, even though he understood them little, held him in a spell, as soon as he began to attend to them. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world. Then the enchantment became more and more dreamlike, until he felt that an endless river of swelling gold and silver was flowing over him, too multitudinous for its pattern to be comprehended; it became part of the throbbing air about him, and it drenched and drowned him. Swiftly he sank under its shining weight into a deep realm of sleep. (233)

Frodo’s fascination with the Elves’ singing and his experience of “beauty” are obviously connected to the indistinctness of his perceptions. Actually it is not although (“though”), but because he does not clearly understand the words of the songs that these words can “take shape” and provide “visions”. In his imagination, his actual surroundings are transformed into a transcendental experience of beauty and wealth, as expressed through images of gold and silver, connected to air and water. The narrative technique of limited point of view (and thus a characteristic feature of nineteenth-century “realist” writing) thus serves to develop the central motif


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connected to the hobbits’ encounter with the Elves: the experience of beauty beyond the confines of the everyday. On the one hand, the strange world of the Elves is rendered familiar through the intermediary character of Frodo; on the other hand, this strangeness is emphasized through this intermediate agency. If it were not for Frodo’s point of view, the Elves could not be as mysterious as they now appear to the reader.12 The description certainly draws upon the tradition of portraying the effects of music by means of images which characterize the listener more than the music itself.13 While this is psychonarration, the images which float through Frodo’s mind are obviously characteristic of his own educational background, which is clearly informed by fairy-tale motifs, seas and rivers full of gold and silver, as well as notions of opacity (“mist”)—a life of the mind which certainly distinguishes him from the other hobbits. Many of the passages characterized by a limited point of view refer to the progress of the travellers, which is indicated by numerous descriptions of landscape and time of day. These descriptions are motivated by what the hobbits can see and experience, even though acts of perception are not always explicitly mentioned: The day’s march promised to be warm and tiring work. After some miles, however, the road ceased to roll up and down: it climbed to the top of a steep bank in a weary zig-zagging sort of way, and then prepared to go down for the last time. In front of them they saw the lower lands dotted with small clumps of trees that melted away in the distance to a brown woodland haze. They were looking across the Woody End towards the Brandywine River. The road wound away before them like a piece of string. (73)

As in this passage, the point of view of the travellers is often conveyed by means of personifications of the roads they take: they “roll up and down”, “climb to the top of a steep bank” or “wind away […] like a piece of string”. What matters here is not psychonarration but the centrality of focalized vision: the landscape does not constitute a fixed entity traversed by individuals but is rather shown to have its existence in the travellers’ minds—where, of course, it is constantly shifting.14 This type of narrative

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emphasizes the mental aspects of travelling, as well as the applicability of the travel narrative to metaphorical journeys undertaken by the reader.15 Descriptions which start off with the point of view of a group of travellers turn into an account of what a single traveller perceives, thinks and feels. The passage quoted is followed by the first appearance of a Black Rider: ‘I can hear a pony or a horse coming along the road behind,’ said Sam. They looked back, but the turn of the road prevented them from seeing far. ‘I wonder if that is Gandalf coming after us,’ said Frodo; but even as he said it, he had a feeling that it was not so, and a sudden desire to hide from the view of the rider came over him. (74)

All the three hobbits present look back, but from then on only Frodo’s point of view is given. What matters is Frodo’s “sudden desire to hide from the view of the rider” and, when he sees the rider, his “sudden unreasoning fear of discovery” (75). His mental state is bound up with him being the “Ring-bearer” (275) and as such, he appears to instinctively recognize danger. The technique of juxtaposing points of view also serves as a way of differentiating between characters, for example when Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Sam spend a night in Tom Bombadil’s house (127–128), or in a passage which describes the Fellowship’s journey down the River Anduin: In the next day or two, as they went on, borne steadily southwards, this feeling of insecurity grew on all the Company. For a whole day they took to their paddles and hastened forward. The banks slid by. Soon the River broadened and grew more shallow; long stony beaches lay upon the east, and there were gravel-shoals in the water, so that careful steering was needed. The Brown Lands rose into bleak wolds, over which flowed a chill air from the East. On the other side the meads had become rolling downs of withered grass amidst a land of fen and tussock. Frodo shivered, thinking of the lawns and fountains, the clear sun and gentle rains of Lothlórien. (381)

Geographical details are evidently much less important than the travellers’ “feeling of insecurity” and their dissatisfaction with the present state


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of affairs. The metaphoric quality of the action of travelling is rather obvious: “Careful steering” is required, in the literal as in the metaphorical sense, and the travellers are beset by the bleakness of the wolds and the chillness of the air in both the literal and the metaphorical sense. The illusion of the landscape changing in front of the companions’ eyes clearly emphasizes their passivity, and their ultimate lack of control. The point of view finally narrows down to that of Frodo, indicating his feeling of unease and his desire for the beauty and peacefulness of the “Elvish” world they have left. The passage proceeds to delineate the thoughts of the individual members of the Company, in characteristically diverse ways.16 The points of view of Legolas and Gimli receive no more than a brief mention: “The heart of Legolas was running under the stars of a summer night in some northern glade amid the beech-woods; Gimli was fingering gold in his mind, and wondering if it were fit to be wrought into the housing of the Lady’s gift” (382). As in other parts of the novel, their thoughts are informed by their generic disposition, that is, they correspond to our expectations of elves or dwarves. Boromir’s point of view is only given indirectly, through the medium of Merry’s and Pippin’s observations: Merry and Pippin in the middle boat were ill at ease, for Boromir sat muttering to himself, sometimes biting his nails, as if some restlessness or doubt consumed him, sometimes seizing a paddle and driving the boat close behind Aragorn’s. Then Pippin, who sat in the bow looking back, caught a queer gleam in his eye, as he peered forward gazing at Frodo. (382)

Boromir’s thoughts remain a mystery to the reader, just as to the hobbits. The “restlessness and doubt” his nail-biting might show is indicated as a piece of speculation (“as if ”). His behaviour certainly foreshadows his subsequent attempt to rob Frodo of the Ring, but at the present stage, the hobbits’ point of view just raises the tension. It is significant that it is now Merry and Pippin who observe Boromir; it is through Pippin’s eyes that we are informed of Boromir’s “gazing at Frodo”, and indirectly of his desire to deprive Frodo of the Ring. Sam, by contrast, is presented as a down-to-earth character whose physical discomfort will certainly endear him to the reader: “Sam had

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long ago made up his mind that, though boats were maybe not as dangerous as he had been brought up to believe, they were far more uncomfortable than even he had imagined” (382).17 The main narrative function of Merry and Pippin, however, seems to consist in allowing the novelist to take a hobbit’s point of view to each of the spreading strands of the narrative. After Frodo and Sam leave the Company at the end of book 2 to set out to Mordor on their own, Pippin and Merry are captured by Orcs. It is by way of their consciousnesses that we witness the orcs’ quarrellings, are introduced to Fangorn wood and the Ents, and encounter Saruman. A separation of the two hobbits then allows us to follow Théoden and Gandalf on their respective ways to Minas Tirith. An apt example of the effects of this mediation is their meeting with Treebeard: They found that they were looking at a most extraordinary face. It belonged to a large Man-like, almost Troll-like, figure, at least fourteen foot high, very sturdy, with a tall head, and hardly any neck. Whether it was clad in stuff like green and grey bark, or whether that was its hide, was difficult to say. At any rate the arms, at a short distance from the trunk, were not wrinkled, but covered with a brown smooth skin. The large feet had seven toes each. The lower part of the long face was covered with a sweeping grey beard, bushy, almost twiggy at the roots, thin and mossy at the ends. But at the moment the hobbits noted little but the eyes. These deep eyes were now surveying them, slow and solemn, but very penetrating. They were brown, shot with a green light. (463)

What matters about Treebeard is not what he is like in any objective way, but how he is perceived by the two hobbits. It is they who find his face “extraordinary”, and it is from their point of view that it is “difficult to say” whether the “stuff like green and grey bark” is the creature’s skin or his clothing. An omniscient narrator would not have been able to capture Treebeard’s quality as an intermediary creature between tree and human, or rather as a personified and humanized form of the central characteristics of trees. This intermediate quality is expressed through the use of adjectives and nouns which originate in the word field of


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plants but which have become lexicalized metaphors for features of the human body: bushy, twiggy, roots, mossy. We are then told that while this is the hobbits’ point of view, Merry and Pippin do not actually notice these features of Treebeard’s body, as their view is focused on Treebeard’s eyes, which certainly sum up his character. Another key passage which features the limited-point-of-view technique concerns Pippin’s attempt to secretly handle the Palantir. Unable to sleep, he cannot resist the temptation offered by the magic object: “The thought of the dark globe seemed to grow stronger as all grew quiet. Pippin felt again its weight in his hands, and saw again the mysterious red depths into which he had looked for a moment” (591). The magic stone shares the Ring’s property of drawing to itself all those who look at it, against their will. The subjective point of view serves to express the central motif of the lack of knowledge about the Palantir’s nature. The reader shares Pippin’s ignorance of its capacities and dangers. Psychonarration is used here to emphasize Pippin’s passivity and helplessness; he is helpless when noticing the “growth” of his thought of the dark globe; and he is unable to make himself “think of something else” (591). As with other passages which feature a limited point of view, space is created by the indication of the time of day and details of the surroundings. The extent of the character’s vision and perception, and its limits, is clearly indicated. The passage culminates in a paragraph consisting of direct speech: “‘You idiotic fool!’ Pippin muttered to himself. ‘You’re going to get yourself into frightful trouble. Put it back quick!’ […]” (592).18 Before Pippin finally looks at it, his point of view is supplemented by that of a virtual observer looking at Pippin: Pippin sat with his knees drawn up and the ball between them. He bent low over it, looking like a greedy child stooping over a bowl of food, in a corner away from others. He drew his cloak aside and gazed at it. (592)

While Pippin represents the reader’s point of view, he is also, from an outside point of view, compared to a child. It is Pippin’s naive and childlike curiosity which the reader is invited to share, and it is only when he is woken up and interrogated by Gandalf that we realize that his childlike

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features also include his impotence and lack of mastery over the magical object. Later on, in Book 5, Pippin will act as the reader’s representative in introducing the realm of Gondor and the city of Minas Tirith, while Merry will fulfil a similar function with regard to King Théoden and his Riders of Rohan. It is through the consciousness of Pippin that we, as readers, approach Minas Tirith: “Torches and flares glowed dully here and there in the fog. Gandalf was speaking to the men that barred his way, and as he listened Pippin became aware that he himself was being discussed” (748). The conversation between Gandalf and the guard is rendered as witnessed by Pippin, who soon takes part in it, explaining his hobbit identity and inadvertently giving away the secret news of Boromir’s death. The beauty and magnificence of the city is also conveyed as perceived by Pippin at the time of sunrise: Even as Pippin gazed in wonder the walls passed from looming grey to white, blushing faintly in the dawn; and suddenly the sun climbed over the eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that smote the face of the City. Then Pippin cried aloud, for the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals; and white banners broke and fluttered from the battlements in the morning breeze, and high and far he heard a clear ringing as of silver trumpets. (751)

The passage is marked by a subjective sensuality. Buildings suggesting medieval magnificence, the “Tower of Ecthelion” with its pinnacle as well as the “battlements” are bathed in a light indicative of precious metals and jewels. In addition, the use of the participial adjective “blushing” is another instance of personification. These visual delights are supplemented by the “breeze” and the “ringing”. Like the roads discussed previously, the city is in the process of movement and change, subject to what Pippin can see and experience. The hobbit functions as a mediating figure between the reader and the strange and mythical character of the city and its history. Pippin’s role can perhaps best be compared to that of Edward Waverley in Scott’s Waverley,


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who joins the Stuart rebels of 1746 and observes their doings as a firsthand witness. Like Waverley Pippin is only partly aware of the momentous events around him. Merry, the other hobbit, fulfils a similar role as participating observer as a companion of Aragorn and esquire of King Théoden. When Aragorn is troubled and decides to leave Edoras, together with Legolas and Gimli, it is through the agency of Merry that we witness Aragorn’s troubles: So much alike were they, the sons of Elrond, that few could tell them apart: dark-haired, grey-eyed, and their faces elven-fair, clad alike in bright mail beneath cloaks of silver-grey. Behind them walked Legolas and Gimli. But Merry had eyes only for Aragorn, so startling was the change that he saw in him, as if in one night many years had fallen on his head. Grim was his face, grey-hued and weary. ‘I am troubled in mind, lord,’ he said, standing by the king’s horse. ‘I have heard strange words, and I see new perils far off […]’. (778)

A description of the warriors from an omniscient point of view gives way to a passage limited to the point of view of the hobbit. This obviously enables the narrator to lend greater psychological depth to Aragorn’s appearance than to that of the other warriors. At the same time, we (as readers) can only guess at what really passes in Aragorn’s mind; our position is that of Merry, our representative in the story. When Théoden’s company meets up with another horseman, it is through the eyes of Merry that the readers witness this encounter: Merry felt more like unneeded baggage than ever, and he wondered, if there was a fight, what he should do. Supposing the king’s small escort was trapped and overcome, but he escaped into the darkness—alone in the wild fields of Rohan with no idea of where he was in all the endless miles? ‘No good!’ he thought. He drew his sword and tightened his belt. (774)

The imminent meeting gives rise to the discussion of an ethical dilemma which takes place in Merry’s mind: Should he fight, or try to escape? Merry’s point of view indicates that the actual events are ultimately of

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little importance. What matters is Merry’s moral decisions, the development of his character. While Théoden orders Merry to stay at Edoras, together with Éowyn, Éowyn prefers to join the warriors disguised as “Dernhelm” (804), and takes Merry with her. His point of view is recorded at length when he lies awake at night in camp and witnesses the meeting with the “Woses, the Wild Men of the Woods” (831): Merry’s point of view not only provides details which would have been out of place in an omniscient narration, like the “large lantern, covered above […] hanging from a bough” (831) and the “squat shape of a man, gnarled as an old stone” with a “scanty beard” the hairs of which “straggled on his lumpy chin like dry moss” (831). It also connects the appearance of the wild man to a reminiscence of his which provides historical depth: Merry felt that he had seen him before somewhere, and suddenly he remembered the Púkel-men of Dunharrow. Here was one of those old images brought to life, or maybe a creature descended in true line through endless years from the models used by the forgotten craftsmen long ago. (831–832)

It is through Merry’s consciousness that the present is put in a wider historical and mythical perspective. The epical motif, recurrent in Tolkien, of positioning the present as part of a mythological continuity, is here connected to a narrative technique which is comparatively recent. Like the other hobbits, Merry is aware of his own insignificance: “Merry felt small, unwanted, and lonely” (830). His situation mirrors the dangers and troubles connected to the imminent fighting, and forms the background of another ethical debate, which is of greater importance than the outcome of the story: Should Merry have sought comfort or danger? He had ridden now for four days on end, and the ever-deepening gloom had slowly weighed down his heart. He began to wonder why he had been so eager to come, when he had been given every excuse, even his lord’s command, to stay behind. (830)


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In his role as inconspicuous observer, Merry can provide a critical account of the military preparations, while on the level of the plot, his apparent insignificance enhances the surprise of the warriors as well as the reader when he finally contributes to the fighting in a decisive way, using his magic sword to slay the Black Rider, thus saving Éowyn’s life (842). Frodo, of course, is not just an inconspicuous observer. As Ring-bearer, he is essential to the “pseudo-historical” plot of the novel,19 in which, as in The Castle of Otranto, fictional history serves as a background to the depiction of human thoughts and emotions and, as in Witch Wood, constitutes a foil for the discussion of basic ethical issues. It is Frodo’s relationship to the Ring which forms the centre around which the key debates of Tolkien’s novel evolve, on fascination and detachment, sadness and happiness, freedom and responsibility. To a considerable extent, it is in Frodo’s mind that these debates take place: Frodo drew the Ring out of his pocket again and looked at it. It now appeared plain and smooth, without mark or device that he could see. The gold looked very fair and pure, and Frodo thought how rich and beautiful was its colour, how perfect was its roundness. It was an admirable thing and altogether precious. (60)

The limited point of view allows the narrator to indicate his priorities: what the Ring is really like matters less than what it looks like to Frodo: its fairness and purity, its beautiful colour and its perfect roundness are created in Frodo’s thoughts. The reader is alerted to the fact that it is in Frodo’s mind that the Ring exercises its dangerous magic. The opposition of his intention and his action with regard to casting the Ring away prefigures his and other characters’ subsequent struggles and temptations: When he took it out he had intended to fling it from him into the very hottest part of the fire. But he found now that he could not do so, not without a great struggle. He weighed the Ring in his hand, hesitating, and forcing himself to remember all that Gandalf had told him; and then with an effort of will he made a movement, as if to cast it away—but he found that he had put it back in his pocket. (60)

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It is significant that even the action of putting the Ring back in his pocket is subjected to the limited point of view: Frodo “found” that he had done so; this had been an involuntary, almost unconscious action. He cannot help clinging to the Ring which begins to exercise its powers. Frodo’s point of view thus serves to convey information about his mind of which Frodo himself is barely conscious. As in nineteenth-century novels, the limited point of view can both characterize a person and raise tension with regard to the story. Before setting off on his quest, Frodo is “very reluctant to start” (65): Following Bilbo was uppermost in his mind, and the one thing that made the thought of leaving bearable. He thought as little as possible about the Ring, and where it might lead him in the end. But he did not tell all his thoughts to Gandalf. What the wizard guessed was always difficult to tell. (65)

Psychonarration is reserved to Frodo; what we learn about Gandalf is left open to his, and the reader’s speculation. Neither Frodo nor the reader know about Gandalf ’s mind or Gandalf ’s plans—even though it has become obvious that the plot is mainly following Gandalf ’s prompting. At the same time, we are told that Frodo has a mental life of his own, and that he actively tries to ward off the danger which proceeds from thinking about the Ring. It is certainly his own awareness of the Ring’s power which alerts him to spot its effects in the minds of other characters. This is why he is alarmed by Boromir’s speech on fighting Sauron: ‘[…] But if you wish to destroy the armed might of the Dark Lord, then it is folly to go without force into his domain; and folly to throw away.’ He paused suddenly, as if he had become aware that he was speaking his thoughts aloud. ‘It would be folly to throw lives away, I mean,’ he ended. ‘It is a choice between defending a strong place and walking openly into the arms of death. At least, that is how I see it.’ Frodo caught something new and strange in Boromir’s glance, and he looked hard at him. Plainly Boromir’s thought was different from his final words. It would be folly to throw away: what? The Ring of Power? He had said something like this at the Council, but then he had accepted the correction of Elrond. Frodo looked at Aragorn, but he seemed deep in his own


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thought and made no sign that he had heeded Boromir’s words. And so their debate ended. Merry and Pippin were already asleep, and Sam was nodding. The night was growing cold. (369)

The passage also emphasizes Frodo’s loneliness. It is for him alone to observe Boromir and Aragorn and to speculate on their plans; the others having dropped off. Frodo is aware of his particular responsibility, and of the other characters not being able to share it. The fact that he does not enjoy this position is expressed through his perception of the late hour and the temperature: “the night was growing cold”. The reader is prepared for the momentous turning-point when Frodo will decide to leave his companions and to continue his journey to Mordor alone. Having escaped from Boromir’s attack by slipping on the ring, he “blindly” leaps “up the path to the hill-top” to the “Seat of Seeing”  (400). Again, the point-of-view technique is linked to motifs from epical tradition: But everywhere he looked he saw the signs of war. The Misty Mountains were crawling like anthills: orcs were issuing out of a thousand holes. Under the boughs of Mirkwood there was deadly strife of Elves and Men and fell beasts. The land of the Beornings was aflame; a cloud was over Moria; smoke rose on the borders of Lórien. Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion. (400–401)

Frodo can make use of magic facilities to obtain a view of what is happening in the world; but at the same time, this view is presented as a subjective one, submitted to the consciousness of someone who feels “like a lost child” (400). This child, in a state of “terror and grief ” (400), is overwhelmed by the ubiquitous preparations for war, or actual warfare. The lack of an objective vision is obviously indicated by the “mist” (400) which his eyes have to penetrate; clusters of related observations: “aflame”, “cloud”, “smoke” are supplemented by images of unstoppable movement:

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crawling, pouring, and expressions of infinity: “endlessly” and “all the power”. Phrases, which in a realistic text might be used as metaphors or metonymies, are now used in their literal meaning: the dust and the fires which produce clouds and smokes constitute a literal part of the fantastic setting. Unlike Pippin, however, who will be compared to a child when handling the Palantír, Frodo is aware of his childlike state. The sense of his own impotence makes him feel “terror and grief ”, but also gives him the strength to decide between two options. His subjective experience soon culminates in his awareness of two powers, “the Eye” (401) of Sauron which tries to seduce Frodo to its side, and a thought issuing from “some other point of power” (401) which warns him to take off the Ring which is about to destroy him: The two powers strove in him. For a moment, perfectly balanced between their piercing points, he writhed, tormented. Suddenly he was aware of himself again. Frodo, neither the Voice nor the Eye: free to choose, and with one remaining instant in which to do so. He took the Ring off his finger. He was kneeling in the clear sunlight before the high seat. A black shadow seemed to pass like an arm above him; it missed Amon Hen and groped out west, and faded. Then all the sky was clean and blue and birds sang in every tree. (401)

The limited point of view becomes the vehicle of a rather general philosophical debate: on whether we are determined by outside forces or possess free will. First, what happens is a psychomachia, a contest by seemingly outside forces over the soul of Frodo; his “awareness of himself ” leads up to his decision which is accompanied and visualized by the clear sky and the birdsong. Indicating the pivotal character of Frodo’s decision, the third-person point-of-view narration then gives way to direct speech; “‘I will do now what I must,’ he said. ‘This at least is plain: the evil of the Ring is already at work even in the Company, and the Ring must leave them before it does more harm […]’” (401). Even though he only speaks to himself, rhetorical features appear which give a formal quality to his declaration of intent: there are short, poignant sentences (“I will go alone” [401]), inversions (“some I cannot trust” [401]), personifications (“the


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Ring must leave them”, “his [Strider’s] heart yearns” [401]) and a metaphor which draws upon traditions of moralizing or preaching (“Boromir has fallen into evil” [401]). The hobbit whose position in the story undergoes the greatest change, however, is Sam. At the beginning he rarely speaks, and it is only occasionally that his thoughts are documented. Whenever they are, Sam acts as a reminder of a down-to-earth vision, of the basic needs of eating and sleeping. In books 4 and 6, which cover the last stages of Frodo’s quest, however, his consciousness becomes central, and the last stages of the quest, the ascent to Mount Doom, are exclusively recorded from Sam’s point of view. In the first two books, it was Frodo who observed and experienced the world around him. Now it is Frodo who is looked at from an outside point of view, as he becomes the object of Sam’s gaze. Frodo’s gradual fading away as a focalizer in some respects estranges him from the reader, who, like Sam, will wonder if he will be able to complete his mission: From that time on Sam thought that he sensed a change in Gollum again. He was more fawning and would-be friendly; but Sam surprised some strange looks in his eyes at times, especially towards Frodo; and he went back more and more into his old manner of speaking. And Sam had another growing anxiety. Frodo seemed to be weary, weary to the point of exhaustion. He said nothing, indeed he hardly spoke at all; and he did not complain, but he walked like one who carries a load, the weight of which is ever increasing; and he dragged along, slower and slower, so that Sam had often to beg Gollum to wait and not to leave their master behind. (630)

As Frodo is increasingly suffering from the burden he carries and seems to mentally withdraw from the ordinary world, Sam is in the process of sharpening his gifts of observation, with regard to his two companions. It is through the filter of Sam’s consciousness that we reflect on the mental world of Gollum as well as the danger he represents. His “strangeness”, however, precludes an objective assessment. What is particularly striking is that Frodo is in the process of becoming just as enigmatic. Subjected to Sam’s observation, he “seems” to be weary. This weariness may be due to the fact that he is carrying a burden, but it is also presented as a piece of

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speculation: he is “like one” who carries a load. This fuzziness of character observation only enhances our notion of the accuracy of Sam’s insight.20 Gollum’s point of view is not revealed, except in passages in direct speech. Some insight into his train of thought can be gained when Sam overhears Gollum arguing with himself: Sméagol was holding a debate with some other thought that used the same voice but made it squeak and hiss. A pale light and a green light alternated in his eyes as he spoke. ‘Sméagol promised,’ said the first thought. ‘Yes, yes, my precious,’ came the answer, ‘we promised: to save our Precious, not to let Him have it—never. But its’s going to Him, yes, nearer every step. What’s the hobbit going to do with it, we wonders, yes we wonders.’ ‘I don’t know. I can’t help it. Master’s got it. Sméagol promised to help the master.’ ‘Yes, yes, to help the master: the master of the Precious. But if we was master, then we could help ourselfs, yes, and still keep promises.’ ‘But Sméagol said he would be very very good. Nice hobbit! He took cruel rope off Sméagol’s leg. He speaks nicely to me.’ […] Sam had lain still, fascinated by this debate, but watching every move that Gollum made from under his half-closed eye-lids. (632–634)

The reader learns about Gollum’s state of mind but, like Sam, will keep wondering which side of Gollum will ultimately prevail. The psychomachia presented provides an intimate insight into the creature’s mental processes while keeping up tension with regard to the outcome. At the same time, we witness the development of Sam’s consciousness. While he had only suspected Gollum of simple if criminal desires, being “simple-­ minded” himself, he now becomes aware of the power of the Ring and is caught up in the central issue of Frodo’s quest: “To his simple mind ordinary hunger, the desire to eat hobbits, had seemed the chief danger in Gollum. He realized now that it was not so: Gollum was feeling the terrible call of the Ring” (634). He will also realize that this power has begun to affect Frodo as well, although it has only manifested itself as a “burden” so far. His point of view allows the reader to witness the effects the


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quest has on Frodo, who gradually transforms from an ordinary hobbit to a fairy-tale creature: The early daylight was only just creeping down into the shadows under the trees, but he saw his master’s face very clearly, and his hands, too, lying at rest on the ground beside him. He was reminded suddenly of Frodo as he had lain, asleep in the house of Elrond, after his deadly wound. Then as he had kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger. Frodo’s face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful […]. (652)

From being an observer, Sam becomes an interpreter, linking observation and memory in an attempt to make sense of what is happening to Frodo. What he sees may indicate to the reader that Frodo is in the process of withdrawing from the ordinary world. When after the fight with Shelob, Sam believes that Frodo is dead, his otherworldliness is even more striking. Lifting up the Phial (Galadriel’s parting gift), he looks at Frodo’s face: And for a moment he lifted up the Phial and looked down at his master, and the light burned gently now with the soft radiance of the evening-star in summer, and in that light Frodo’s face was fair of hue again, pale but beautiful with an Elvish beauty, as of one who has long passed the shadows. And with the bitter comfort of that last sight Sam turned and hid the light and stumbled on into the growing dark. (733)

Frodo’s “Elvish beauty” sets him apart; and the last steps of his journey will be marked by a narrative distancing which constructs the main character, who used to be the central consciousness, as “other”. The weight of his task is turning Frodo into a supernatural but also unreliable person, who will need Sam to keep him down to earth. The passages quoted are significant for another reason. The ordinary prose style with a variety of hypotactical constructions gives way to an archaic, “epical” style, which makes abundant use of the conjunction “and”, a style familiar from the Old Testament,21 but enhanced by the poetic periphrasis of “the soft radiance of the evening-star in summer”

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(733) to indicate a certain light effect: in summer, Venus is less radiant than in winter, since the western sky where the planet appears in the evening hours is not completely dark yet. The archaism “fair of hue” obviously denotes a skin colour which deviates from what is commonly considered beautiful. The oxymoron involved in the “bitter comfort” (733) which Sam derives from looking at Frodo seems to refer to poetic traditions that relate to coming to terms with death, as well as unrequited love. It is not only Frodo whose personality changes in the process of approaching Mount Doom, but Sam also undergoes a development. As the literary quality of these descriptions of his point of view indicate, his feelings for his friend gain in depth. While he is still “simple-minded”, his simplicity acquires that poetical dimension which folklorists and philologists have ascribed to early textual documents in languages such as Greek, Latin, Gaelic, Old Norse and Old English.22 It is easy to see that the passages which record the points of view of the four hobbits (which constitute the greatest part, ca. 85 per cent, of the non-direct-speech sections of the narrative) follow the conventions of the nineteenth-century novel, as found in Ann Radcliffe and the Gothic novelists, in the novels of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and, as we have seen, John Buchan. The sections told by an omniscient narrator are comparatively few in number, and some of them resemble a different type of text altogether: The “prologue” (1–16) and the accounts of Bree (149–151) and Minas Tirith (751–752) may remind the readers of ethnographic accounts or even of travel guides.23 While texts of this kind are not found in nineteenth-century novels, they form a staple of ancient Greek romance (e. g. the geographical descriptions of Aethiopia in Heliodorus, Aethiopica, 8th, 9th and 10th book) and its Renaissance imitations (such as the descriptions of Arcadia and of the Greeks in Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia). Moreover, as Nick Groom has pointed out, the passages listed are reminiscent of “the tone of eighteenth-­ century antiquarianism”, as found, for example, in the manifold paratexts of Thomas Percy’ Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) (Groom 291–296). In The Lord of the Rings, these passages might be considered dispensable from the point of view of the information they contain. We do not need to be told of the various “breeds” (3–4) of hobbits to follow the


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story of Frodo’s quest. The point of these paragraphs rather seems to be a metafictional one: they create a notion of objectivity which forms a contrast to the subjective account of the hobbits’ doings. The beginning of the description of Bree may serve as an example: Bree was the chief village of the Bree-land, a small inhabited region, like an island in the empty lands round about. Besides Bree itself, there was Staddle on the other side of the hill, Combe in a deep valley a little further eastward, and Archet on the edge of the Chetwood. Lying round Bree-hill and the villages was a small country of fields and tamed woodland only a few miles broad. (149)

As far as the plot is concerned, the names of the other villages are completely irrelevant. The only relevant piece of information, which is that Bree is inhabited by both “men” and hobbits, is given rather inconspicuously, in the further course of the description. The real purpose of the passage seems to lie in its discursive features, with Tolkien imitating, or even parodying, the typical elements of non-fictional text types.24 There are other passages, however, which could also be ascribed to an omniscient narrator but follow conventions quite different from those of the descriptive passages. After the Company has been formed and Elrond has announced the date of their departure, we read about the “Sword of Elendil”, which has a symbolic quality, as mentioned in the prophecy quoted by Boromir (246): The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes, for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marshes of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West. Aragorn and Gandalf walked together or sat speaking of their road and the perils they would meet; and they pondered the storied and figured maps and books of lore that were in the house of Elrond. Sometimes Frodo was with them, but he was content to lean on their guidance, and he spent as much time as he could with Bilbo. (276–277)

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Readers will immediately be struck by the archaic diction of this passage which forms a contrast to the previous accounts of the proceedings in the house of Elrond. There are archaic vocabulary items (“anew”, “books of lore”, “keen” in the literal sense of “sharp”, “whole” in the sense of “unbroken”) and archaic sentence structures. A series of main clauses are linked by the conjunctions and and for, and there is inversion (or “fronting”) for the sake of emphasis (“very bright was […]”). The decoration and naming of the sword may remind us of a primitive culture of worshippers of celestial bodies, and of ancient Germanic poetry. We may speculate on whether the narrator is really meant to be considered omniscient, as he gets Aragorn’s destination wrong—he could be recording the expectations prevalent at Rivendell. At any rate, this passage appears to present Aragorn as a hero of ancient epic poetry, both through the motif of forging a sword and through its language.25 Readers are warned that they are now being drawn into a strange and archaic environment, different from that of the hobbits who have by now become the readers’ representatives. In the second paragraph the point of view shifts to that of Aragorn and Gandalf who “ponder” over maps and books, before it returns to that of Frodo and to a more familiar sentence structure, and more familiar concerns (“spent as much time as he could”).26 In the course of the novel, the “epic style” which first appears here, will recur several times, particularly at moments when the outcome of a battle is imminent, as at Helm’s Deep (541), at the siege of Gondor (817)27 and when the Ring falls into the Cracks of Doom (948). It will also be used in those parts of the story in which no hobbit is present, and the narration records the doings and experiences of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, as in large parts of book 3. While those parts record the points of view of these three heroes, and of Aragorn in particular, the limited third-person narrative differs significantly from that devoted to the hobbits’ perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Aragorn’s point of view is usually confined to factual perceptions, as after the departure of Frodo and Sam: Then sitting in the high seat he looked out. But the sun seemed darkened, and the world dim and remote. He turned from the North back again to North, and saw nothing save the distant hills, unless it were that far away


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he could see again a great bird like an eagle high in the air, descending slowly in wide circles down towards the earth. (413)

We are told what Aragorn sees, but we do not learn much about his thoughts and feelings. Later, Aragorn and Legolas will enter into some kind of competition as to the acuteness of their perceptions. When Aragorn sees “a shadow on the distant green, a dark swift-moving blur” (430), Legolas with his “bright elven-eyes” sees “not a shadow, nor a blur, but the small figures of horsemen, many horsemen, and the glint of morning on the tips of their spears was like the twinkle of minute stars beyond the edge of mortal sight” (430). While Legolas’ eyesight is better than Aragorn’s, Aragorn can supplement his visual perception by casting himself on the ground and listening, learning that “many riders on swift steeds are coming towards us” (430). It is left to Legolas, however, to determine that they are exactly “one hundred and five” and that their hair is yellow (430). The reader might assume that Aragorn’s thoughts will also be occupied by his imminent assumption of kingship, and his undying love for Arwen Undómiel—but this is left to speculation. Neither are Gimli’s and Legolas’ thoughts recorded, except by direct speech; and the operations of Gandalf ’s mind remain a mystery, to the reader just as much as to the hobbits. In this context a passage which involves the points of view of Aragorn and Éowyn is significant. While we share parts of the minds of the two characters, we realize that vital pieces of information are missing: Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that yet she felt. (515)

Both characters share their noble and kingly background which manifests itself in their appearance, and both are characterized by references to seasons: “morning” and “spring” point to her youth, while “many winters” indicate his advanced age and experience. Both Aragorn and Éowyn are

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impressed by one another’s appearance: he thinks her “fair”; she feels his “power”. The parallelism of the two characters becoming aware of one another, however, is rather deceptive: As we realize later, Éowyn at this moment desperately falls in love with Aragorn, who, however, cannot reciprocate this feeling, as his heart is otherwise engaged. In the words of Erich Auerbach (14–15) characterizing the language of the Bible, these descriptions are “hintergründig” (“charged with implicatures”), in that certain important details and implications are not elaborated. Unlike the “ordinary” prose style of nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels which prevails in those parts in which the hobbits act as focalizers, the present style partakes of the “epic” or archaic diction described, with words like “fair” (meaning “beautiful”) and “beheld”, a sentence structure which privileges paratactic over hypotactic constructions and an extensive use of imagery and poetical periphrasis. It is also consistently used in connection with the Riders of Rohan, as in the passage which depicts their setting off from Edoras to the battle of Helm’s Deep: The host rode on. Need drove them. Fearing to come too late, they rode with all the speed they could, pausing seldom. Swift and enduring were the steeds of Rohan, but there were many leagues to go. Forty leagues and more it was, as a bird flies, from Edoras to the fords of the Isen, where they hoped to find the king’s men that held back the hosts of Saruman. Night closed about them. At last they halted to make their camp. They had ridden for some five hours and were far out upon the western plain, yet more than half their journey lay still before them. In a great circle, under the starry sky and the waxing moon, they now made their bivouac. They lit no fires, for they were uncertain of events; but they set a ring of mounted guards about them, and scouts rode out far ahead, passing like shadows in the folds of the land. The slow night passed without tidings or alarm. At dawn the horns sounded, and within an hour they took the road again. (526)

From the point of view of the Riders, basic information is given in short, stark sentences, following one another paratactically. More complex propositions are constructed by means of participles, while there are few hypotactical sentences. The effort involved in the journey is conveyed by means of inversions (“swift and enduring”, “forty leagues or more”) and


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repetition (“many leagues”, “forty leagues”).28 The account of the riding is limited to the bare facts, and the night bivouac is only accorded a few details. Apparently, the archaic language and sentence construction characterizes the Riders as epical warriors, whose military prowess appears to be connected to the notions of simplicity and to the prevailing gloom in the metaphorical as well as literal sense: So it was that amid a gathering gloom the King of the Mark made ready to lead all his Riders on the eastward road. Hearts were heavy and many quailed in the shadow. But they were a stern people, loyal to their lord, and little weeping or murmuring was heard, even in the camp in the Hold where the exiles from Edoras were housed, women and children and old men. Doom hung over them, but they faced it silently. Two swift hours passed, and now the king sat upon his white horse, glimmering in the half-light. Proud and tall he seemed, though the hair that flowed beneath his high helm was like snow; and many marvelled at him and took heart to see him unbent and unafraid. (802)

The narrative foregrounds both the auditory and visual aspects of what is happening. The absence of crying and murmurings is taken to signify the Riders’ powers of endurance, and the physical and visual presence of their king becomes an outward sign of the army’s (or “host’s”) integrity and fighting capacity. Some of the stylistic features, such as short sentences, parataxis, inversion and repetition, as well as motifs concerning darkness and night-­ time, are reminiscent of Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian, as in a passage in which Fingal, the hero, approaches his enemies:29 Fingal again advanced his steps, wide through the bosom of the night, to where the trees of Loda shook amid squally winds. Three stones, with heads of moss, are there; a stream with foaming course: and dreadful, rolled around them, is the dark-red cloud of Loda. High from its top looked forward a ghost, half-formed of the shadowy smoke. He poured his voice, at times, amidst the roaring stream. Near, bending beneath a blasted tree, two heroes received his words: Swaran of lakes, and Starno, foe of strangers. On their dun shields they darkly leaned: their spears are forward through night. Shrill sounds the blast of darkness in Starno’s floating beard. (129)

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Other stylistic models might be found in Old English epical texts such as Beowulf or the Finnsburg Fragment. This language of real or fake ancient poetry which characterizes the Riders of Rohan can be contrasted with that used to describe the military situation of Minas Tirith, the besieged city: The Gate was shut. All night watchmen on the walls heard the rumour of the enemy that roamed outside, burning field and tree, and hewing any man that they found abroad, living or dead. The numbers that had already passed over the River could not be guessed in the darkness, but when morning, or its dim shadow, stole over the plain, it was seen that even fear by night had scarcely over-counted them. (821–822)

As in the previous passage, the point of view is that of people who watch and take part in the military proceedings. The Minas Tirith extract, however, is written in the style of modern narrative prose, including relative clauses, temporal subclauses and rather un-heroic imagery (“stole over the plain”). The superior sophistication of the city is represented by the prose style used. The juxtaposition of styles assumes an even greater significance in the moment the Ring is destroyed and the rule of Sauron is overthrown. It is shortly before the Ring disappears in the abyss that Sauron becomes aware of Frodo’s purpose, and the narrative for once records his point of view: The whole mind and purpose of the Power […] was now bent with overwhelming force upon the Mountain. At his summons, wheeling with a rending cry, in a last desperate race there flew, faster than the winds, the Nazgûl, the Ringwraiths, and with a storm of wings they hurtled southwards to Mount Doom. Sam got up. He was dazed, and blood streaming from his head dripped in his eyes. He groped forward, and then he saw a strange and terrible thing. Gollum on the edge of the abyss was fighting like a mad thing with an unseen foe. (946)

The metaphorical style which records Sauron’s final attempt at preserving his power contrasts with the detailed account of the physicality of Sam’s


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experience. The “last battle” is being fought on several levels which are distinguished by literary means. On the level of Sauron, Evil is presented as an abstract agency; on the level of Sam, it is visualized as a wrestling match of Gollum with the invisible Frodo.30 One thing we can gather from this juxtaposition is a statement about language and literary genre: issues of love and tyranny, of good and evil can be couched in very different registers, and make their appearance in very different kinds of narrative. The other result is connected to the “applicability” of mythical stories—they may be relevant to political and ideological powers fighting world wars as well as to children quarrelling about the possession of a toy. As we have seen, the third-person narrative of The Lord of the Rings features a wide variety of styles and points of view. Just as Frodo and Sam move off from Hobbiton to enter strange worlds, the reader proceeds from the conventional techniques of a nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel to more archaic forms of language and narrative representation. The four hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry, act as main focalizers, providing a vicarious experience to the readers. While their perceptions, thoughts and feelings are made known to the reader, and couched in familiar language, we usually see the other characters only from the outside. Elrond, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli appear as heroes from another world; unlike the hobbits, they speak rather strangely (as will be discussed in Chap. 9) and their consciousness is distanced from that of the readers; these characters are indicative of the narrative world of former times, and they retain the mystery attached to their heroic nature. While we are sometimes told what they see or hear, their thoughts and feelings are evidently too lofty to be recorded in ordinary speech; moreover, the fascination of these characters derives from both their enigmatic personalities and the inscrutability of their plans. In this they correspond to the epic heroes of ancient literatures, to those of Greek and Roman mythology, of Beowulf, the Arthurian Legends and of Macpherson’s Ossian. Gandalf is a special case. While he speaks a lot and easily converses with both the hobbits and the “heroes”, his thoughts and feelings are hardly ever communicated to the reader in the form of third-person narration. He obviously needs to remain enigmatic in order not to deflate

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the tension and relieve the other characters of their ethical decisions.31 In the case of Frodo, a distancing process occurs within one character. In the course of his quest, he changes from an ordinary character who represents the attitudes of many of his readers to a character marked by an enigmatic heroism, which is indicated by the shift from Frodo to Sam as the main focalizer in books 4 and 6. While The Lord of the Rings evidently shares the prevalence of passages featuring the points of view of certain main characters with nineteenth-­ century realistic novels, this technique is apparently put to purposes unknown to the realistic tradition of novel writing, the “great tradition” according to F.  R. Leavis. By making use of very different pre-texts, Tolkien gains a wide linguistic scope for the creation of a fantastic world, for characterization and for ethical discussion. The environments described may recall medieval battlefields as well as the  contemporary English countryside and images of desolation and death. While some characters resemble protagonists of nineteenth-century novels, others recall characterizations found in fairy tales or medieval romances. The central issues, such as the temptation of power and individual responsibility, are approached from angles known from chivalric romance as well as from nineteenth- and twentieth-century political discourses. A central narrative purpose of the point-of-view technique is obviously that of mediation: a strange environment and chain of events is brought close to the reader through the intermediate agency of characters whose point of view is recorded. This technique apparently goes back to historical fiction, as can be seen by looking at Scott’s Waverley and Buchan’s Witch Wood. Most importantly, perhaps, the point-of-view technique ties in with the metaphoric (rather than metonymic) character of fantasy fiction: what matters is not the details of the journey to Mount Doom in the country of Mordor (a journey which in real life nobody has undertaken or will ever undertake), what matters is the feelings of fear and terror, of duty and responsibility, patience and endurance, which Frodo and Sam experience on their way. In this respect the function of differing points of view appears to be closer to its origins in Gothic fiction than to its manifestations in realistic writing from Austen to James and Woolf. At the same time, the hobbits as mediators are familiar to the reader in a metonymic way: their central preoccupation with food and bodily


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comfort will be shared by most readers, and the language they use was well-known, at least to Tolkien’s original readership. The other central purpose of Tolkien’s practice of juxtaposing literary motifs and narrative techniques from a wide variety of pre-texts is certainly metalinguistic and metafictional: readers are invited to wonder about the character of language and language change, as well as the conventions of particular genres and narrative traditions, and to the insights gained into the historicity of human consciousness through examining the linguistic documents left from former ages. We realize that many of the points made by theoreticians of the novel about point of view do not really apply to fantasy fiction in general and to The Lord of the Rings in particular. Lubbock and Friedman, following Henry James, set particular store by the opposition between telling and showing, with telling being the province of an omniscient narrator, and showing occurring in passages in which a particular point of view is expressed.32 This concept presupposes that the object of the telling and the showing is essentially the same: the plot or “story”, which “gains in intensity, vividness and coherence” (Friedman 1163)33 or conveys an “illusion of reality” (Lanser 22, 25) through being told from the point of view of a character. While this dichotomy may be useful when analysing realistic fiction, it is bound to fail with regard to fantasy writing.34 For one thing, passages written from an omniscient point of view and featuring an archaic style, like the passages about the Riders of Rohan quoted above, could certainly be described as extremely vivid. Usually, they are about visual impressions, so that “showing” might actually be an adequate term. In The Lord of the Rings, passages which feature a particular point of view mainly serve to show certain states of mind, rather than illustrating a story. On one level the questants—the four hobbits, the Fellowship of the Ring and finally Frodo and Sam alone—proceed on their way, getting closer and closer to their goal, Mount Doom. On another level, Frodo and Sam undergo a mental, and moral, development which takes place in their minds and souls. While the first, “exterior” level is quite remote from the readers’ real lives, the second, “interior” represents our own experiences much more closely, and appears to be ultimately more significant than the exterior level. Indeed, the exterior story can be interpreted

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as a string of metaphors which illustrates the story of the hobbits’ minds and souls. The roads and pathways taken by Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry as well as the adventures they encounter and their natural environment reveal their metaphoric quality more easily when presented from the points of view of the protagonists. Tolkien’s use of both omniscient narration and points-of-view runs counter to established notions of narrative theory in other ways as well. Susan Lanser summarizes received notions as follows: The public narrator may be said to carry the strongest diegetic authority— authority attached to an authorial voice. The focalizer, usually a “fleshed-­ out” character, can carry considerable mimetic authority—authority that attaches to the acting persona. In other words, the authority of intellection attaches most fully to the public voice, while the authority of lived (fictional) experience is more fully embodied in the focalizing character. (142)

In The Lord of the Rings, to some extent, the opposite is the case: if we apply the terms of diegesis and mimesis to the Tolkien passages discussed, the Riders of Rohan passages may strike us as mimetic rather than diegetic, while diegesis is found in the stories told by the characters through the medium of direct speech and sometimes of song. Lanser goes on to contend that “authorial narrators […] have a higher authority as carriers of ideology than fictional characters; focalizers have a higher authority than nonfocalizing personae, so long as the particular voice has a reliable mimetic authority in general” (220–221). In The Lord of the Rings, ideology rather makes its appearance in the speeches of “nonfocalizing characters”, like Tom Bombadil, Gandalf, Elrond and Aragorn. As a central passage, Gandalf ’s warning about dealing with Gollum may be quoted: “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement” (59). The centrality of this passage is emphasized when Frodo, as a “focalizer”, later (615) recalls the conversation and decides to let Gollum live and accept his companionship. By contrast, the authorial passages about the Riders of Rohan marching to war may well strike the reader as a comic interlude; on the plot level, the battle of Minas Tirith serves to detract Sauron, the enemy, from the main issue, Frodo’s quest.


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While Gandalf ’s argument about life and death intimately concerns each and every one of us, the archaic scenes of warfare are deliberately remote from “real life” and rather call for a playful exercise of the imagination. Summing up, we can say that Tolkien makes ample use of narrative techniques explored in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fiction. They are, however, embedded in forms of narration foreign to nineteenth-­ century prose, and put to uses particular to the ancient epic narrative and to traditions of romance and fantasy. An analysis of the points of view found in The Lord of the Rings not only allows us to position Tolkien in the context of English literary history but should also induce us to revise theoretical notions of narrative technique and the uses of novel-writing in general.

Notes 1. Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. (2003), s.v. “novel, sb.”, 4 b. 2. For example, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993), s.v. “novel, sb.”, 4. 3. The Lord of the Rings was called a “romance” (rather than novel) by Tom Shippey, Derek Brewer and, occasionally, Tolkien himself, cf. Rosebury 13–14. Jane Chance Nitzsche (97–98) calls it an “epic novel”, arguing that it resembles epics like Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied, the Faerie Queene and Don Quixote in that it depicts a clash of value systems. 4. On the terminology, cf. Genette 255. 5. It is to emphasize the basic distinction between the thoughts and perceptions of the narrator and the characters that the terms “point of view” as well as “omniscient” and “limited” narration are chosen (cf., e.g. Lubbock, Friedman), in preference to the more sophisticated terminology which revolves around the concept of “focalization”, cf. Genette 194–200; Bal 21–58; Lanser 140–148; Nünning. As the Genette-Bal debate shows, the concept of focalization is just as ambiguous and liable to misunderstandings as is the more traditional point-of-view concept; cf. Genette 347–352. The choice of the “older” term will also make it easier to define the specific uses to which this technique is put in The Lord of the Rings.

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6. Although Brian Rosebury may be right in stating that “the keynote of […] The Lord of the Rings […] is a profound earnestness”, his suggestion that the novel “lacks a crucial quality universal within modernism: irony” (Rosebury 154) should be reexamined. On irony permeating the “tales of Middle-earth”, cf. Walker 119–123. 7. Paul Edmund Thomas draws attention to the narrator’s non-committal stance in the opening chapter, calling him “self-effacing”, “unintrusive” and “vanishing” (175–176), and identifies ten different viewpoints in this first chapter (177). 8. Using the terms created by Mieke Bal (37–38), the narration moves from “focalisation externe” (the narrator focusing his attention on Frodo) to “focalisation interne” (the narration records Frodo’s point of view); Frodo becomes the “focalisé” (Bal 38) or “focalizer” (Lanser 141–143). 9. While the narrative feature of “point of view” has been the subject of many theoretical studies, a historical investigation of this phenomenon has apparently not been undertaken. I would like to suggest, tentatively, that while first-person narration and omniscient narration dominate narrative fiction up to the second half of the eighteenth century, the emergence of passages featuring points of view limited to a character from Walpole’s Castle of Otranto onwards is due to the emerging interest in subjective experience, in mental frames rather than facts and evaluations, an interest we connect to the movement of Romanticism. 10. A comparison between Scott’s Edward Waverley and Tolkien’s hobbits as focalizers is also established by Turner. Like Waverley in the Scottish highlands, Tolkien’s hobbits act as “representative[s] of the normality of the reader“ and “take the role of inexperienced strangers in a big wide, unknown world“ (Turner, “One Pair of Eyes,” 24, 22). 11. On the hobbits standing in for the reader, cf. also Sale 263. 12. We do not think there is any point in contending that Tolkien “believes in elves, or in the idea of Faërie” (Gasque 158). To grasp the literary effect of the passages discussed and be aware of their intertextual quality, it is necessary to know that elves are a literary construct and part of our cultural patrimony, rather than creatures found in the woods. 13. Cf. the famous description of the effects of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony on a group of listeners in E.  M. Forster, Howards End, Chapter 5, pp. 44–45.


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14. Cf. Walker’s remarks on the “environmental vividness of Middle-earth” (46–47). Walker fails to notice that this vividness or “kinetic energy” is located in the travellers’ minds, not in the landscape itself. 15. On Middle-earth as “a world of roads”, cf. Rosebury 30–31. 16. For another example of a “series of individual reactions to the same stimulus”, see Walker 104–105: The odor of athelas produces different impressions on Ioreth, Faramir, Éowyn and Merry (865–869). 17. Sam’s lack of a complex mental preoccupation, however, will soon enable him to be the first to spot their secret companion, Gollum. 18. While this paragraph can clearly be classified as an instance of “deep” (as opposed to “surface”) vision”, as defined by Lanser (following Todorov), it is difficult to interpret Pippin’s spoken word as indicating the surface, as Lanser’s axis seems to posit (212). Pippin verbalizes his incomplete awareness of his own “deep” mental processes. 19. In The Narrative Act, Susan Lanser establishes an axis with regard to the “referential claim” (164) of a story, which ranges from “report (history)” on one end to “invention (parody)” on the other end, with “fantasy” being placed close to “parody” (163, figure 8); with regard to The Lord of the Rings, this theory obviously does not work: on the level of fiction (requiring suspension of disbelief ), Middle-earth has a history (including dates, tables etc.). The “referential claim” is an absolute one—on the basis of an understanding that this is a work of fiction. 20. On “the natural kinship of similar creatures and the mythical kinship of the Ring-bearers” as observed by Sam, cf. Sale 272–273. 21. Cf. also Lobdell (36), who with regard to “Tolkien’s persistent use of ‘and’” identifies Malory as “Tolkien’s model”. 22. On the archaisms found in The Lord of the Rings, cf., for example, Rosebury, 22 et passim. Rosebury apparently wishes to emphasize the rarity of these archaisms in Tolkien’s novel, to defend Tolkien against the charge of being considered “Ossianic”. These archaisms, however, are highly significant, and we should try to explain their functions rather than wonder if they are “defensible” (Rosebury 75). 23. On the “‘objective’ perspective” of the “Prologue”, cf. Rosebury 62–63. 24. With reference to the Bree passage, Rosebury draws attention to the fact that “the temporal and spatial order, the historico-geographical extension and density, of the alternative universe […] are attributes of the real universe, too: indeed, in so far as these structural aspects of reality are concerned, The Lord of the Rings might actually be called unusually mimetic” (11). On the literary and cultural history of the ethnographic discourse inherent in the passage quoted, cf. Glover, esp. 16–19.

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25. There is no need be apologetic about Tolkien’s use of archaisms (Rosebury 71–77), or to defend Tolkien against the charges of “stiltedness and artificiality” or against “seeming derivative from literary or historical models” (Rosebury 78). Rosebury again fails to take the intertextual quality of Tolkien’s prose into account. We should assume that readers, rather than being “detained” by the “artificiality or derivativeness” of a dialogue (83), are actively alerted to discourses, ways of speaking, different from their own and pointing at particular, and heroic, pre-texts. 26. Allan Turner observes an “‘asymmetrical stylistic arch’ […] from the normal everyday novelistic realism of the Shire, up to the climax in the high romance of the defeat of Sauron, and down again” (394). 27. On the “grammatical, syntactic, lexical, and even aural effects“ of the descriptions of the battle of Éowyn against the Lord of the Nazgûl and Denethor’s self-immolation, which contain “links to Shakespeare’s King Lear in both style and thematic substance” (137), cf. Drout. 28. On paratactic structure and “fronting” stylistic features of Tolkien’s “archaic” style, cf. Turner 397–399. 29. On Tolkien’s debt to Macpherson, cf., for example, Groom 295. 30. These examples certainly belong to those passages in which, according to Allan Turner, “through the selective use of language, two different genres are brought into contact” (401). In our view, these are not genres but narrative traditions; it is out of their combination that Tolkien creates something new. 31. We cannot go along with Brian Rosebury’s reading that in the last chapters of book 5 “the Gandalf-perspective” is developed and that we sympathize with his “anguish” (65). We only know about Gandalf ’s feelings from what he speaks, so we do not know what he really thinks of Frodo and Sam’s chances of success. 32. See, for example, Lubbock 66–67, 142–143, 157–158; Friedman 1164–1165, 1169. 33. Cf., for example, Lubbock (172–174) on Henry James, The Ambassadors. 34. Evidently, twentieth-century theories of prose fiction (including theories of point of view) are generally based on the notion that “novels must be realistic”; cf., for example, Booth 40–64. Narrative theories are based on novels by Flaubert (e.g. Bal 87–111), Henry James (Lubbock; Lanser, e.g. 25–26) and Proust (Genette 9 et passim), masters in the art of exploring the workings of the human mind in contexts particularly trite and banal—which strike many readers as epitomizing “real life”.


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Works Cited Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. Ed Tony Tanner. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Buchan, John. Witch Wood. 1927. Ed. James C.  G. Greig. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Forster, Edward Morgan. Howards End. 1910. Ed. Oliver Stallybrass. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992. Macpherson, James. The Poems of Ossian, translated by James Macpherson. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1847. [repr. Elibron Classics, 2005]. Scott, Sir Walter. Waverley. 1914. Ed. Andrew Hook. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007. Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto: a Gothic Story. 1764. Ed. W. S. Lewis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Critical Works Cited Auerbach, Erich. Mimesis: Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendländischen Literatur. 1946. Tübingen: Francke, 2015. Bal, Mieke. Narratologie: Essais sur la signification narrative dans quatre romans modernes. Utrecht: HES Publishers, 1984. Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 1961. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983. Chance Nitzsche, Jane. Tolkien’s Art: ‘A Mythology for England’. London: Macmillan, 1979. Collins English Dictionary: 21st Century Edition. London: HarperCollins, 2000. Friedman, Norman. “Points of View in Fiction: The Development of a Critical Concept.” Publications of the Modern Language Association 70 (1955): 1160–1184. Gasque, Thomas J. “Tolkien: The Monsters and the Critters.” In Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 151–163. Genette, Gérard. Discours du récit: Essai de méthode. Paris: Seuil, 2007.

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Glover, Will. “‘Where many paths and errands meet’: Travel Writing in The Lord of the Rings.” Journal of Tolkien Research 9.2 (2020), Article 2. Web. Groom, Nick. “The English Literary Tradition: Shakespeare to the Gothic” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 286–302. Lanser, Susan Sniader. The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. Lobdell, Jared. The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien. Chicago: Open Court, 2004. Lubbock, Percy. The Craft of Fiction. 1921. London: Jonathan Cape, 1954. Nünning, Ansgar. “‘Point of view’ oder ‘focalization’? Über einige Grundlagen und Kategorien konkurrierender Modelle der erzählerischen Vermittlung.” Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 23 (1990): 249–68. Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Electronic edition, accessed via Osnabrueck University library, 5 October 2020. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Sale, Roger. “Tolkien and Frodo Baggins.” In Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J.  R. R.  Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Neil D.  Isaacs and Rose A.  Zimbardo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 247–288. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, ed. Leslie Brown. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Thomas, Paul Edmund. “Some of Tolkien’s Narrators. ” In Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth. Ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2000. 161–181. Turner, Allan. “One Pair of Eyes: Focalization and Worldbuilding.” In Sub-­ Creating Arda: World-Building in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Work, Its Precursors, and Its Legacies, ed Dimitra Fimi and Thomas Honegger. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2019. 17–29. Turner, Allan. “Style and Intertextual Echoes.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Malden, MA: Wiley, 2014. 389–403. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

5 Landscape Descriptions Thomas Kullmann

One of the most striking features of The Lord of the Rings is indubitably the quantity and variety of landscape descriptions.1 Tolkien describes the rural landscapes of the Shire, the lonely forest of Mirkwood, the pleasant woods around Rivendell and Lothlórien, the mountains of Caradoc, the great River Anduin, the dreary “fens and mires” (625) east of Emyn Muil, the “climbing woods and swift-falling streams” (650) of Ithilien and the desolation of Mordor. Throughout most of their journey, the hobbits and their companions are surrounded by trees, shrubs, grass, flowers and weeds.2 The prevalence of landscape description in The Lord of the Rings needs to be explained, for landscapes are generally of secondary importance in stories about elves, dwarfs, wizards and magical rings. The same goes for the epical texts which Tom Shippey lists as Tolkien’s models in The Road to Middle-earth (Beowulf, middle-English romance, the Edda, the sagas of Snorri Sturlusson, ancient Irish texts, etc.). Landscape descriptions do, however, form a staple ingredient of the English novel from the late eighteenth century onwards. Indeed, they can be considered an integral part of so-called realistic writing. It is only in comparatively recent times that landscapes have become an object of contemplation and depiction. In the seventeenth century, the depiction of landscapes was popularized by © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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artists like Claude Lorrain and Salvator Rosa as well as by poets like Milton and his contemporaries.3 It was not until the second half of the eighteenth century, however, that novelists began to manifest an interest in landscapes (cf. Wolf ). In this chapter we propose to look at the character and narrative functions of Tolkien’s landscape descriptions. The first thing to be noted is that the plants, animals and landscapes of Middle-earth closely resemble those of our own world in general, and more particularly, those which can be found in England, Scotland and Wales. When the hobbits set out from Hobbiton, Tolkien combines narration with description: After some time they crossed the Water, west of Hobbiton, by a narrow plank-bridge. The stream was there no more than a winding black ribbon, bordered with leaning alder-trees. A mile or two further south they hastily crossed the great road from the Brandywine Bridge; they were now in the Tookland and bending south-eastwards they made for the Green Hill Country. As they began to climb its first slopes they looked back and saw the lamps in Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Soon it disappeared in the folds of the darkened land, and was followed by Bywater beside its grey pool. (71)

The surroundings of Hobbiton are typically English. There are winding streams, alder-trees, green hills, a gentle valley, “folds” of land and a grey pool, all of which might well figure in a realistic novel set in England. The similarity of the landscape of the Shire to that of the English Midlands has often been commented upon,4 but in our view, most of the other landscapes are also distinctly British in character. In The Lord of the Rings, about 70 species of plants are referred to, almost all of which are endemic to, or have been naturalized in, Britain. At other stages of the narrative, the function of the nature descriptions seems to be different: moving on from Bree, the hobbits enter unknown territory: The land before them sloped away southwards, but it was wild and pathless; bushes and stunted trees grew in dense patches with wide barren spaces in between. The grass was scanty, coarse, and grey; and the leaves in the

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thickets were faded and falling. It was a cheerless land, and their journey was slow and gloomy. (199)

Rather than representing a specific locality, this description appears to mirror the travellers’ growing fears. The adjectives have negative connotations; and processes of autumnal decay are given exceptional prominence. The use of the adjective “cheerless” establishes a parallel between the landscape and the feelings of the travellers, who are now aware of the toils and dangers of the journey they have undertaken.5 Finally, the landscapes in general, and plants and animals in particular, are sometimes endowed with magical properties. In the “Old Forest”, Sam feels uneasy about a willow-tree: “I don’t like this great big tree. I don’t trust it. Hark at it singing about sleep now! […]” (117). A little later, the tree does indeed attack the hobbits: “‘Do you know, Sam,’ he [Frodo] said at length, ‘the beastly tree threw me in! I felt it. The big root just twisted round and tipped me in!’” (117). In our view Tolkien’s landscape descriptions fulfil three basic functions. They glorify the English countryside, mirror the characters’ states of mind and add a magical dimension to the story. Although these three functions are closely interconnected, they appear to be related to three quite distinct sets of pre-texts or narrative traditions. In order to shed more light on the three functions and their background in literary history, we will present the relevant facts in chronological order. Magical agency was assigned to nature in ancient epics as well as in fairy tales, while the use of landscape descriptions to mirror states of mind may be traced back to Romanticism and the Gothic Novel. By contrast, the celebratory evocation of Englishness was undoubtedly, in Tolkien’s time, a rather recent phenomenon.6 Quantitatively, the magical function of nature does not bulk large in The Lord of the Rings; yet it has received more critical attention than the other functions we have just mentioned (cf. Cohen 91–95). The aggressive willow in Tom Bombadil’s Old Forest is certainly a conspicuous instance. Furthermore, the companions of the Fellowship are attacked by forces of nature on the western side of Mount Caradhras, Frodo sees faces in the moors south-east of Emin Muil, and some regions of Middle-earth are inhabited by tree-like creatures called Ents and Huorns. Some plants,


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usually invented ones with “elvish” names, like athelas and niphredil, have magical properties, and the mallorn trees of Lothlórien are magical in that they apparently do not shed their leaves in winter. They have “silver bark and long leaves and burst into golden flowers in April” (1023). The idea that a supernatural power is responsible for inclement weather is of course a very ancient one. The storm in which the boats of Odysseus perish was caused by the sea god Poseidon, because Odysseus angered him. Storms and earthquakes were considered to be due to divine influence; indeed, Lucretius wrote his didactic poem, De rerum natura, in order to teach his readers that these phenomena are due to natural causes rather than divine wrath. A person imprisoned in a tree is a well-known fairy-tale motif, and creatures that are analogous to Tolkien’s walking trees have been found elsewhere. The luxuriant vegetation in “elvish” Lothlórien may remind us of visions of paradise, such as St Brandan’s Isle, Welsh legends and so on. Although the supernatural motifs mentioned are based on elements found in earlier works, Tolkien does not slavishly imitate other authors. Most importantly, there always seems to be an element of doubt with regard to the magical powers of nature. In the incident referred to above, Sam, despite his mistrust of the willow, initially doubts Frodo’s claim that the tree threw him into the water. When the tree imprisons Pippin and Merry, and Sam and Frodo try to “hurt or frighten” (118) it, it addresses a mysterious warning to the hobbits: ‘Put it out! Put it out!’ cried Merry. ‘He’ll squeeze me in two, if you don’t. He says so!’ ‘Who? What?’ shouted Frodo, rushing round to the other side of the tree. ‘Put it out! Put it out!’ begged Merry. The branches of the willow began to sway violently. There was a sound as of a wind rising and spreading outwards to the branches of all the other trees round about, as though they had dropped a stone into the quiet slumber of the river-valley and set up ripples of anger that ran out over the whole Forest. (118)

The simile (“as of a wind rising […]”) and the subordinating conjunction “as though” create  an impression of vagueness  and uncertainty. Merry says the tree has uttered a threat, but the tree’s words are not reported

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directly as they might have been in a fairy tale. The sound of the rising wind might be a perfectly natural phenomenon, and the fact that hobbits find themselves trapped in a tangle of branches is not necessarily an infringement of the laws of nature. The supernatural is presented as an extension of the natural world. The attack on the companions of the Fellowship during their ascent of the mountains of Moria is presented in similar fashion. The blizzard which overtakes the travellers begins as a completely normal phenomenon but soon becomes the manifestation of a malevolent force which seems determined to thwart Frodo and Gandalf: While they were halted, the wind died down, and the snow slackened until it almost ceased. They tramped on again. But they had not gone more than a furlong when the storm returned with fresh fury. The wind whistled and the snow became a blinding blizzard {…]. The Company halted suddenly, as if they had come to an agreement without any words being spoken. They heard eerie noises in the darkness round them. It may have been only a trick of the wind in the cracks and gullies of the rocky wall, but the sounds were those of shrill cries, and wild howls of laughter. Stones began to fall from the mountain-side, whistling over their heads, or crashing on the path beside them. Every now and again they heard a dull rumble, as a great boulder rolled down from hidden heights above. ‘We cannot go further tonight,’ said Boromir. ‘Let those call it the wind who will; there are fell voices on the air; and these stones are aimed at us.’ (288–289)

In the first paragraph, the wind’s fury impedes the travellers’ progress, and in the second paragraph the whistling of the wind is accompanied or followed by “eerie noises”, “shrill cries” and “wild howls of laughter”. In a realist novel “shrill cries” and “wild howls of laughter” would merely be imaginative personifications of natural phenomena. This is not, however, the case in The Lord of the Rings. In the passage under discussion, Boromir seriously attributes the wind’s fury to an evil adversary. Aragorn’s interpretation is more sophisticated:


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‘I do call it the wind,’ said Aragorn. ‘But that does not make what you say untrue. There are many evil and unfriendly things in the world that have little love for those that go on two legs, and yet are not in league with Sauron, but have purposes of their own. Some have been in this world longer than he.’ ‘Caradhras was called the Cruel, and had an ill name,’ said Gimli, ‘long years ago, when rumour of Sauron had not been heard in these lands.’ (289)

Aragorn sets up a link between a natural explanation and the concept of nature as an entity endowed with a soul. In his view, objects like mountains can be friendly or unfriendly towards living creatures such as humans, hobbits, elves or dwarves. Gimli the dwarf, who refers to the cruelty of Mount Caradhras, evidently shares this view. The reader is thus gradually drawn into a magical and primitive world. It must, however, be stressed that the supernatural in this world can still be seen as natural events which have been magnified by the narrator’s imagination.7 By the same token, there is no solid evidence to suggest that the “tricksy lights” (627) observed by Sam, Frodo and Gollum in the Dead Marshes really originate, as Sam supposes, in “dead faces in the water” (627). Similar considerations apply to these faces, which Frodo also sees (628). Readers are obviously supposed to know about the phenomenon known as the will-o’-the wisp or ignis fatuus, a mysterious flickering light believed to be due to the spontaneous combustion of methane produced by decomposing organic matter in marshy ground. They are also expected to know that this phenomenon has given rise to popular superstitions. The lights seen by Sam and Frodo might be hallucinations due to fear and fatigue. When Gollum (now again sometimes called Sméagol) warns Frodo not to follow the lights and explains that the bodies in the Dead Marshes are corpses from the Battle of Dagorlad (“a great battle long ago” [628]), he appears to be more rational than Sam or Frodo and, surprisingly, he seems almost human. The woods of Lothlórien are very different from the mountains of Moria. Like Moria, however, Lothlórien apparently straddles the boundary between realism and fantasy. Although there is no evidence to suggest that the woods of Lothlórien are infused with supernatural life, the company’s sojourn in this region of Middle-earth clearly marks another step

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towards a world that is shrouded in mystery. Before the travellers reach Lothlórien, the beauty of its woods is extolled by Legolas, whose knowledge has hitherto only been based on hearsay: ‘There lie the woods of Lothlórien!’ said Legolas. ‘That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn their leaves fall not, but turn to gold. Not till the spring comes and the new green opens do they fall, and then the boughs are laden with yellow flowers; and the floor of the wood is golden, and golden is the roof, and its pillars are of silver, for the bark of the trees is smooth and grey. So still our songs in Mirkwood say. My heart would be glad if I were beneath the eaves of that wood, and it were springtime!’ (335)

As elsewhere in The Lord of the Rings, the otherworldly character of Middle-earth is underlined by the use of the adjective “fair” (in its archaic sense of “beautiful”). It should nonetheless be pointed out that the woods of Lothlórien are quite ordinary in that they are subject to the usual seasonal changes. The shift from realistic landscape description to the evocation of a fantasy world is gradual and almost imperceptible. Words like “gold” and “silver” may be suggestive of a fairy-tale world, but the colours perceived by the travellers can be accounted for in perfectly rational terms and might be compatible with the norms of realistic fiction.8 The beauty of Lothlórien is not fundamentally different from the beauty of some places that exist in the real world, but Tolkien describes Lothlórien in such a way that it seems to be endowed with a dream-like, magical quality. In this particular, Tolkien’s description of Lothlórien resembles other literary descriptions of paradisiacal places.9 “Kingsfoil” (863–864) is yet another instance of the way in which Tolkien endows nature with magical powers. With the help of this “herb of healing” (863) Aragorn miraculously restores three people (Faramir, Éowyn and Merry) to health. Tolkien here draws on the traditional belief that the touch of royalty can cure scrofula (the “king’s evil”). The custom of touching sufferers was first adopted in England by Edward the Confessor and still kept up by Charles II. While this custom indubitably involves magic, the use of a herb reduces the distance between modern practices and those of former times.


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We now turn to the second narrative function of landscape descriptions in The Lord of the Rings, arguably the most important one: landscapes accompany, illustrate and comment on the actions and feelings of the hobbits. Tolkien places himself squarely in a tradition which was established in English literature by Gothic novelists in the second half of the eighteenth century, and which was continued by well-known Victorian novelists such as the Brontë Sisters, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Thomas Hardy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s voluminous and best-selling novel Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse (1760) may be considered the starting-point of this literary technique. Rousseau’s characters admire the Alpine landscapes with which they are surrounded. They believe their admiration brings them closer to the deity and proves that they are morally superior to those who prefer the atmosphere of metropolitan opera houses and gambling dens to the pure air of the Alps.10 In the age of Enlightenment God manifests himself in his works rather than in Scripture. Following in the footsteps of Rousseau’ characters, Ann Radcliffe’s heroines aspire to “that Great First Cause” (Mysteries of Udolpho 114). They are afforded glimpses of some kind of supernal reality when they are wrapped in admiration of sublime sunsets, twilight or moonshine, or when they behold the splendours of the Alps. Sometimes, however, an awareness of nature’s sublimity is mingled with a sense of dread and gloom. A good example is provided by Emily St Aubert in Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. After the death of her parents, Emily goes to live with her aunt and her aunt’s mysterious Italian husband in a castle in the Apennines. There is an exact parallel between Emily’s feelings and her gloomy surroundings:11 The immense pine-forests, which, at that period, overhung these mountains, and between which the road wound, excluded all view but of the cliffs aspiring above, except that, now and then, an opening through the dark woods allowed the eye a momentary glimpse of the country below. The gloom of these shades, their solitary silence, except when the breeze swept over their summits, the tremendous precipices of the mountains, that came partially to the eye, each assisted to raise the solemnity of Emily’s feelings into awe; she saw only images of gloomy grandeur, or of dreadful sublimity, around her […]

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The parallel in question is underlined in the following passage: […] other images, equally gloomy and equally terrible, gleamed on her imagination. She was going she scarcely knew whither, under the dominion of a person, from whose arbitrary disposition she had already suffered so much […] (224)

In Victorian novels, such as Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, landscapes and meteorological events are invariably associated with the protagonists and the way they interact with each other, visualizing their mental conditions and providing a commentary on what happens. When, in Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff, who is Catherine’s intimate friend, disappears from the house, it is damaged by a thunderstorm: About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building; a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire. (75)

Catherine is very worried about Heathcliff, and the storm mirrors her anxiety.12 In Romantic and Victorian novels, nature can be connected to novelistic  characters in various ways. People experience pleasure when they contemplate landscapes; landscapes can have a “soothing” effect on troubled souls (cf. The Mysteries of Udolpho 367). A fictitious character may feel at home in a natural surrounding or interpret natural phenomena subjectively. A landscape or meteorological event may mirror the interaction of characters. As Hillis Miller points out in connection with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, descriptions of nature have become “a major resource of figurative language by means of which the quality of people and of their relations are defined” (445). The relationship between landscape and weather descriptions and the interpersonal plots can be defined in both syntactic and functional terms.13 Devices such as personification and parallelism are sometimes


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Table 5.1  Landscape as metaphor Interaction of nature and characters (syntactic relationship)

Metaphoric functions of landscape (functional relationship)

Contemplation or perception

Establishing a relationship with the Deity Characterization Analysis of mood or state of mind A warning or a commentary by the narrator

Influence Parallelism Personification

used to set up a link between a landscape or a meteorological phenomenon and the situation in which a fictional character finds him/herself. In many cases a description may replace a commentary or a psychological analysis. A simplified version of this narrative mode of “landscape as metaphor” might be presented as in Table 5.1 (above). Basically any of the syntactic relationships enumerated in the lefthand column can go with any of the functions listed in the righthand column. Although there is no cause-effect relationship between human feelings and weather phenomena, novelists like Emily Brontë are wont to establish a parallel between the two and use it for conveying narrative information. This association of weather phenomena with the feelings of fictitious characters may be compared to what John Ruskin called “pathetic fallacy”, that is, the tendency of poets to ascribe emotions to plants, winds, waves and celestial bodies (Modern Painters, 5: 201–219). Nature descriptions may be metonymical or metaphorical, and some writers show a marked predilection for metaphorical descriptions when they use natural phenomena to comment on the action of a story or to depict the states of mind experienced by their characters. Many of the landscape descriptions in The Lord of the Rings operate in the same way and fulfil similar functions. Apt examples are provided by the descriptions of the boat journey down “the Great River”. The landscapes described by Tolkien can be interpreted as visualizations of the mental states of the questants. After taking leave of Celeborn and

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Galadriel, Frodo and his companions find themselves in an environment which is very different from the protective woods of Lórien: So the Company went on their long way, down the wide hurrying waters, borne ever southwards. Bare woods stalked along either bank, and they could not see any glimpse of the lands behind. The breeze died away and the River flowed without a sound. No voice of bird broke the silence. The sun grew misty as the day grew old, until it gleamed in a pale sky like a high white pearl. Then it faded into the West, and dusk came early, followed by a grey and starless night. Far into the dark quiet hours they floated on, guiding their boats under the overhanging shadows of the western woods. Great trees passed by like ghosts, thrusting their twisted thirsty roots through the mist down into the water. It was dreary and cold. Frodo sat and listened to the faint lap and gurgle of the River fretting among the tree-­roots and driftwood near the shore, until his head nodded and he fell into an uneasy sleep. (379)

It is only at the end of this paragraph that a character’s state of mind is explicitly mentioned. It is “dreary and cold”, and Frodo sleeps uneasily. At this point in the narrative, Frodo assumes the role as a focalizer, but it is difficult to decide whether the sense of desolation suggested by the landscape description is experienced by all of the travellers or only by Frodo. There are, however, good grounds for believing that the viewpoint adopted by the narrator is a limited one. The travellers know that their journey will be long and arduous, and one can safely assume that their state of mind is mirrored by the bleak landscape that surrounds them. The notion of absence is given unusual prominence. The trees are leafless; the area behind the woods is invisible, the air is windless, the river soundless, the sunshine faint, the night grey and starless. The absence of sense impressions symbolizes the absence of the comforts the travellers have left behind. A sense of desolation is conveyed by a number of personifications. The woods “stalk” along the banks, the breeze “dies away”, dusk “comes” early, trees pass by “like ghosts”, they thrust “thirsty roots” into the water and the river “frets”.14 As in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novels, landscape descriptions serve to visualize the characters’ states of mind. What


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matters more than the atmospheric conditions of this part of Middle-­ earth is the sense of desolation experienced by the travellers. If Tolkien’s landscape descriptions successfully convey his characters’ states of mind, the success of this narrative technique is due in large measure to the strength of the literary tradition which was established in England by the Gothic novelists. In order to make sense of the description quoted above, Tolkien’s readers need to be consciously or intuitively aware of the tradition to which the author is indebted. In Gothic novels and Romantic poetry, descriptions of nature (e.g. sunset and starlight) are associated with the observer’s elevated thoughts and sublime emotions, but in the passage under discussion the descriptive elements convey a sense of bleak foreboding. A parallel to the passage quoted above might be found in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891), a novel about a young woman who lives in south-west England. After being abandoned by her husband, Tess finds employment as a farm worker at a place called Flintcomb-Ash: Here the air was dry and cold, and the long cart-roads were blown white and dusty within a few hours after rain. There were few trees, or none […] The stubborn soil around her showed plainly enough that the kind of labour in demand here was of the roughest kind […] (Tess 356)

This bleak landscape contrasts with the idyllic beauty of Talbothay’s Dairy where Tess met the man with whom she had hoped to spend the rest of her life. The change of landscape reflects the change in Tess’s fortunes. Other landscape passages in The Lord of the Rings can be interpreted in a similar manner. Consider, for instance, the description which follows the crossing of the Water, west of Hobbiton: “The night was clear, cool, and starry, but smoke-like wisps of mist were creeping up the hill-sides from the streams and deep meadows” (71). This suggests that the hobbits are in good spirits although they are aware that their quest is fraught with uncertainties. After their first encounter with a Black Rider, they realize that their journey is going to be hard and dangerous. When they leave the road to walk under the cover of the trees, their progress is impeded by uneven ground and dense vegetation:

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The shadows of the trees were long and thin on the grass, as they started off again. They now kept a stone’s throw to the left of the road, and kept out of sight of it as much as they could. But this hindered them; for the grass was thick and tussocky, and the ground uneven, and the trees began to draw together into thickets. (76)

The dark wood mirrors the travellers’ fears, and the physical obstacles they encounter symbolize the mental challenges faced by Frodo and Sam. Landscapes are evidently outward signs of inward states, and sometimes the symbolic significance of the scenery is rendered explicit by the narrator. A good example is provided by the passage where Sam crosses the Brandywine River: “He [Sam] had a strange feeling as the slow gurgling stream slipped by: his old life lay behind in the mists, dark adventure lay in front” (99). This technique has evidently been borrowed from nineteenth-century fiction. Many other examples can be found in Tolkien’s account of the hobbits’ journey to Rivendell. It should be stressed that a description of a woody landscape may also suggest a brightening of mood. A suitable example is furnished by a passage where the travellers, after traversing the mountains of Moria, cross a little stream close to Lothlórien: About it stood fir-trees, short and bent, and its sides were steep and clothed with harts-tongue and shrubs of whortle-berry. At the bottom there was a level space through which the stream flowed noisily over shining pebbles. (335)

The landscape is now more varied. Visual and auditory impressions intermingle, and the word “whortle-berry” evokes gustatory pleasures. The babbling of the stream and the pebbles symbolize a change of mood. Having traversed a particularly difficult phase in their journey, the travellers now have an opportunity to rest, and their spirits rise accordingly. Similar observations apply to the journey which takes Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to the Riders of Rohan (421–431) and, of course, to Frodo’s and Sam’s journey to Mordor, where the difficulty of their undertaking is represented visually by “impassable” cliffs and “livid festering marshes”


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(603). When Sam crosses alone into Mordor, the landscape which meets his eyes seems to embody a total absence of life and comfort, the ultimate stage of the arduous journey he and Frodo have undertaken: Hard and cruel and bitter was the land that met his gaze. Before his feet the highest ridge of the Ephel Dúath fell steeply in great cliffs down into a dark trough, on the further side of which there rose another ridge, much lower, its edge notched and jagged with crags like fangs that stood out black against the red light behind them […]. Far beyond it, but almost straight ahead, across a wide lake of darkness dotted with tiny fires, there was a great burning glow; and from it rose in huge columns a swirling smoke, dusty red at the roots, black above where it merged into the billowing canopy that roofed in all the accursed land. (899)

As in Legolas’ description of Lothlórien (see above), the significance of the landscape is indicated in the opening sentence of the paragraph: Mordor is a land of cruelty and bitterness.15 Crags look as if they were armed with fangs, the dominant colours are red and black and the entire country is described as “accursed”.16 Although the landscapes described in The Lord of the Rings assume the same functions as in realistic novels (i.e. characterization and psychological analysis), they also enable Tolkien to move from the everyday world into the realm of the supernatural. When the hobbits approach the Elves’ dwellings at Rivendell, the landscape mirrors a transition to a completely different world. Consider the description of twilight which follows the hobbits’ first encounter with a Black Rider and immediately precedes their first meeting with the Elves: Twilight was about them as they crept back to the lane. The West wind was sighing in the branches. Leaves were whispering. Soon the road began to fall gently but steadily into the dusk. A star came out above the trees in the darkening East before them. They went abreast and in step, to keep up their spirits. After a time, as the stars grew thicker and brighter, the feeling of disquiet left them, and they no longer listened for the sound of hoofs. They began to hum softly […] (77)

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This description of twilight is reminiscent of certain passages in Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic novels, where the gathering dusk sometimes has an uplifting effect of the psyche. The personifications, however, suggest that the hobbits are entering an entirely new world. They are now venturing on alien ground. Fabulous comforts may await them, but dangers lurk at every corner. The description of the nocturnal landscape introduces the reader to the realm of the Elves. As the hobbits approach the Elves’ resting-­place, the woods grow denser (81), and it is significant that the stars are now given Elvish names: Away high in the East swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he climbed over the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor with his shining belt. The Elves all burst into song. (81)

The description of the woody landscape and the starlit sky highlights the unique character of the hobbits’ meeting with the Elves. Finally, we should like to return to the companions’ journey down the Great River. As we have already pointed out, the initial stage of the journey is far from pleasant. The landscape is dismal, and the travellers feel uneasy. After a while, however, there is a change of scenery. The change reassures the travellers, but their new surroundings are bizarre and disquieting: The weather was still grey and overcast, with wind from the East, but as evening drew into night the sky away westward cleared, and pools of faint light, yellow and pale green, opened under the grey shores of cloud. There the white rind of the new Moon could be seen glimmering in the remote lakes. Sam looked at it and puckered his brows. (384)

This description precedes an encounter with strange and frightening creatures called Orcs (386), who fire arrows at the men in the boats. A few days after this ambush, the hobbits reach the Pillars of the Kings and discover a weird and terrifying landscape which is described in the following passage:


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Sheer rose the dreadful cliffs to unguessed heights on either side. Far off was the dim sky. The black waters roared and echoed, and a wind screamed over them. Frodo crouching over his knees heard Sam in front muttering and groaning: ‘What a place! What a horrible place! Just let me get out of this boat, and I’ll never wet my toes in a puddle again, let alone a river!’ ‘Fear not!’ said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land. (393)

As in the previous examples, extraordinary natural phenomena open up a new sphere of experience; what we are witnessing here, however, is not an encounter with strange creatures (such as elves, mountain monsters or orcs) but a recognition, as Strider sheds his identity as lonesome ranger or scout and assumes that of a king. The cliffs, the black waters and the wind illustrate the strangeness of this transformation, as does the archaic imperative: “Fear not!” (reminiscent of Luke 2.10). The world of warlike heroism associated with Aragorn is as remote from the world of the hobbits as are the Elves and the mountain monsters. Tolkien makes use of the nineteenth-century novelistic device of landscape as metaphor and adapts it to a context informed by fantasy. One of the purposes of his landscape descriptions appears to be to introduce transitions from familiar to fantastic environments. Rather than stepping over a threshold into the world of the Elves, the travellers as well as the readers are gradually prepared for it by natural phenomena which appear increasingly metaphoric. The narrative device of metaphoric landscape obviously establishes a link between the “real world” and worlds of fantasy, and thus enables the readers to suspend disbelief in the fantastic world. Moreover, the metaphoric quality of landscape descriptions ties in easily with the metaphoric character of The Lord of the Rings in general. Frodo’s quest, Aragorn’s kingship, the end of Sauron and the departure of the Elves can be interpreted as referring to real life in a metaphoric way (see above). Landscapes and their figurative meanings partake of this

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metaphoric narrative and may thus provide hints as to the interpretation of the fantasy motifs attached to them. Let us now turn to the most recent set of meanings which can be attributed to Tolkien’s landscapes: that of evoking and celebrating landscapes the reader may know from travelling to various parts of Britain. Some of the nineteenth-century novels concerned have been called “regional novels”—they are set in a particular region and depict landscapes peculiar to this region—as a background to a plot which illustrates a particular aspect of this region’s history or actual state. A typical example is provided by R. D. Blackmore, Lorna Doone: a Romance of Exmoor (1869). As the subtitle indicates, the novel is devoted to the representation of the nature and history of a particular place in Devonshire. The first-person narrator loves to describe the effects of the change of the seasons: The winter […] had been a very mild one; and now the spring was toward, so that bank and bush were touched with it. The valley into which I gazed was fair with early promise, having shelter from the wind, and taking all the sunshine. The willow-bushes over the stream hung as if they were angling, with tasselled floats of gold and silver, bursting like a bean-pod. Between them came the water laughing, like a maid at her own dancing, and spread with that young blue which never lives beyond the April. And on either bank, the meadow ruffled, as the breeze came by, opening (through new tufts of green) daisy-bud or celandine, or a shy glimpse now and then of the love-lorn primrose. (127)

While this landscape could be interpreted as a parallel to what is happening to the narrator, young John Ridd, who is about to fall in love with the novel’s heroine, Lorna Doone, its meaning is certainly not limited to this parallel. The amount of details the description contains renders the landscape an object of interest in its own right. These details on the one hand refer to colours and light effects, on the other hand to names of different species of trees and flowers: there are willow-bushes, daisies, celandines and primroses; many more plants are mentioned in other parts of the book.


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The other striking feature of this description is its manifold use of personification. Streams, flowers and bushes are like maids, lovers and anglers; these phenomena are laughing, dancing, taking shelter, wearing ornaments and raising expectations. The landscape, which can be localized on a map of England, is being celebrated; lovers of nature are invited to visit it, both to take stock of its biological variety and to engage in romantic fantasies about a human-like interaction of the phenomena observed. This celebratory attitude with regard to English landscapes and the English countryside certainly gained ground in the decades following Lorna Doone, with texts such as Jefferies, Bevis (1882); Grahame, The Golden Age (1895) and The Wind in the Willows (1908), Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill (1906) and Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911). It would appear that many of Tolkien’s landscapes can be linked to this tradition of providing literary celebrations of the beauties of the English countryside. The two main features of landscape description, the personifications and the varieties of species mentioned, clearly have a counterpart in The Lord of the Rings. When looking at the trees, shrubs and flowers mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, we may be struck by the fact that so many of them have been imported from the real world, the world we know, although the novel is a work of fantasy and none of us have ever met orcs, trolls, elves and hobbits. There are about 70 different species of plants, 30 of which are trees.17 The list includes trees like ash, beech, birch, cherry, hawthorn, holly, linden (lime), oak, pine, poplar, rowan and willow; flowers like iris, sloe, rose, water-lily, flax-flower, eglantine, clematis, forget-me-not, daisy, anemone, hyacinth, sunflower and other plants like potatoes, cabbages, turnips, mushrooms, moss, blackberries, hemlock, hartstongue, ling, broom, thymes, sages and marjorams. This inventory of plant species is supplemented by just a handful of imaginary species of trees and flowers (mallorn, athelas/kingsfoil, niphredil, elanor), which nevertheless closely resemble plants found in our own world. What it even more striking, though, is the provenance of the trees, shrubs and flowers mentioned. With the exception of a few Mediterranean plants, like olives, tamarisks and terebinths, all the plants mentioned are found in Britain, and most of them are endemic, that is, had been part of British vegetation before the severing of the land bridge to the Continent

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at around 4000 B.C. The website of the Woodland Trust lists 47 endemic species of trees, 19 of which are found in The Lord of the Rings, including oak, ash, hawthorn, pine, beech, rowan, willow, holly and sloe. Some other species have been imported from Roman times onwards, like apples, chestnuts and firs, and have become a natural part of British landscapes, while at the same time shaping the landscapes of the Shire and of Middle-earth. Even most of the plants which mark the exoticism of Ithilien, which name may remind us of Italy, are endemic to, or have been naturalized in England, like juniper, myrtle, cedar and cypress.18 Some of the trees have long been considered archetypally English, like “oak, ash and thorn”, which in Rudyard Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill symbolize the permanence of the English countryside.19 While this idea of ancient “nationhood” may be discredited by the fact that many plants were imported fairly recently, this fact is glossed over in The Lord of the Rings. Potatoes, this eighteenth-century import from America, become “taters” (654), as Sam calls them. Tobacco, of course, does not seem to belong to Middle-earth either, as its American origin is well known. Tolkien, however, evidently wished his hobbits to follow what he considered the good old English habit of smoking, and so invented “pipe-weed” as a crop natural to the Shire, indicating that it is “a variety probably of Nicotiana” (8).20 With regard to personifications, the most striking instance in The Lord of the Rings is probably the episode in the Old Forest, and the House of Tom Bombadil. In this house the hobbits are welcomed by Goldberry, whose appearance recalls sundry beauties of nature: In a chair, at the far side of the room facing the outer door, sat a woman. Her long yellow hair rippled down her shoulders; her gown was green, green as young reeds, shot with silver like beads of dew; and her belt was of gold, shaped like a chain of flag-lilies set with the pale-blue eyes of forget-­ me-­nots. About her feet in wide vessels of green and brown earthenware, white water-lilies were floating, so that she seemed to be enthroned in the midst of a pool. (123)

Goldberry embodies nature,21 and it is English nature. Being the “daughter of the River” (123), she is connected to the element which gives life to


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the plants. As in the Lorna Doone passage, several distinct species are mentioned: flag-lilies, water-lilies and forget-me-nots. Tolkien’s ingenious combination of various natural phenomena in one female body associates praise of the beauties of nature with the attribution to it of a transcendental quality—in a way which can be compared to passages found in Bevis and The Wind in the Willows. As has been said, “the Shire” appears to provide a very specific regional setting. We are told about a rural environment consisting of fields, pathways, streams, meadows and trees; a landscape which is quite English in character, and is obviously intended to convey a sense of “home”.22 The country round Rivendell, the Elves’ home, is more mountainous: He [Frodo] walked along the terraces above the loud-flowing Bruinen and watched the pale, cool sun rise above the far mountains, and shine down, slanting through the thin silver mist; the dew upon the yellow leaves was glimmering, and the woven nets of gossamer twinkled on every bush. (239)

The noise produced by the mountain stream in its “foaming river-bed” (239) clearly contrasts with the quiet rivulets of the Shire. The beauties of the autumn landscape, the “silver mist”, the “dew upon the yellow leaves” and the “nets of gossamer”, which are associated with “glimmering” and “twinkling”, fit in with the mysterious beauty of the Elves, although they can also be associated with landscapes known from the real world, as from Scotland or Wales. The Englishness of the Shire has often been commented upon.23 Our contention is that not just the Shire but also the whole of Middle-earth can be considered an extension of Britain, an enlarged Britain of the mind. We should not think of Middle-earth as being situated on another planet but as a place to be imagined when walking through the British countryside, and as a celebration of the variety of British plant life. This variety is given particular emphasis when the gathering of Ents for “Entmoot” (478) is described: The Ents were as different from one another as trees from trees: some as different as one tree is from another of the same name but quite different growth and history; and some as different as one tree-kind from another, as

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birch from beech, oak from fir […] A few seemed more or less related to Treebeard, and reminded them of beech-trees or oaks. But there were other kinds. Some recalled the chestnut: brown-skinned Ents with large splayfingered hands, and short thick legs. Some recalled the ash: tall straight grey Ents with many-fingered hands and long legs; some the fir (the tallest Ents), and others the birch, the rowan, and the linden. (480)

Tolkien’s tree-like creatures are supernatural beings, yet they are subject to the general laws of nature and, like Goldberry, Tom Bombadil and the Elves, they are part of the natural beauty of Middle-earth. Trees hold pride of place in Tolkien’s vision of reality. Like other plants, trees grow and decay, yet they occupy a special position in the plant realm in that they stand for something greater than themselves—strength, stability and longevity. They are constituent elements of a world view in which Englishness is synonymous with conservatism, pride in  locality, and respect for living things.24 At the same time English trees and shrubs open up avenues to an undiscovered realm. The wayfarers’ wandering song, “Upon the hearth the fire is red” (77) contains fleeting evocations of the English countryside, inviting the listeners to let go “apple, thorn, and nut and sloe” in order to explore “a new road or a secret gate” and “take the hidden paths that run/ Towards the Moon or to the Sun” (77). A song about Tinúviel begins with a description of leaves, grass and the hemlock-umbels (191). Tolkien invests beech trees with poetical properties. The travellers rarely come across beeches, which only appear in songs, daydreams and similes: In the song of Beren and Lúthien, beech leaves fall to the ground when Tinúviel flees from Beren:     And one by one with sighing sound Whispering fell the beechen leaves     In the wintry woodland wavering. (192)

The members of the Company are absorbed in thought as they travel down the Anduin river, and it is hardly surprising that Legolas dreams of beech woods: “The heart of Legolas was running under the stars of a summer night in some northern glade amid the beech-woods” (382). Pippin’s


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brooch is compared to a “leaf of a beech-tree” (424). In a song recited by Treebeard and featuring an Ent and an Entwife, spring is associated with the growth of beech leaves: “When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf, and sap is in the bough […]” (477). Finally, in Mordor, it is a song about beeches which reminds Sam of a more pleasant land: Or there maybe ‘tis cloudless night     And swaying beeches bear the Elven-stars as jewels white     amid their branching hair. (908)

As the beech tree is obviously the most poetical of trees, it is fitting that beeches should first be mentioned in the passage where Frodo and Sam return from Mount Doom after accomplishing their mission: When Sam awoke, he found that he was lying on some soft bed, but over him gently swayed wide beechen boughs, and through their young leaves sunlight glimmered, green and gold. All the air was full of a sweet mingled scent. (951)

The beeches represent a hitherto unattainable state of harmony. Tolkien seems to be implying that trees may represent an enchanted realm that lies beyond our humdrum world. Some of the trees described in The Lord of the Rings are endowed with magical properties. Such is the case with the willow in Tom Bombadil’s Old Forest, or the beautiful mallorn trees in Lothlórien.25 The transition from everyday reality to the realm of fantasy is often imperceptible. Old Man Willow is a malignant tree-spirit who casts a spell on the hobbits, thus giving shape to human fears of the wilderness. The mallorn tree, which is purely fictional, is mentioned along with non-fictional plants (harts-tongue and whortleberry). It is interesting to note that the word “mallorn” sounds very English (like “hawhorn”, “willow” or “acorn”), so that it may be viewed as an effective “phonetical extension” of Tolkien’s England. It is also worth noting that Tolkien’s trees resemble English deciduous trees, though they are more vigorous and more beautiful than anything that can be found in the real world.26

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The only landscape which is distinctly un-British is that of Ithilien, a country whose name is reminiscent of Italy. While Frodo’s and Sam’s onward journey first takes them through comparatively barren areas covered with reeds, sedges and bracken, Ithilien is covered with lush vegetation: All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs. The long journey from Rivendell had brought them far south of their own land, but not until now in this more sheltered region had the hobbits felt the change of clime. Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing. Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness. […] Many great trees grew there, planted long ago, falling into untended age amid a riot of careless descendants; and groves and thickets there were of tamarisk and pungent terebinth, of olive and of bay; and there were junipers and myrtles; and thymes that grew in bushes, or with their woody creeping stems mantled in deep tapestries the hidden stones; sages of many kinds putting forth blue flowers, or red, or pale green; and marjorams and new-sprouting parsleys, and many herbs of forms and scents beyond the garden-lore of Sam. The grots and rocky walls were already starred with saxifrages and stonecrops. Primeroles and anemones were awake in the filbert-­ brakes; and asphodel and many lily-flowers nodded their half-­ opened heads in the grass: deep green grass beside the pools, where falling streams halted in cool hollows on their journey down to Anduin. (650)

Ithilien’s exotic Mediterranean vegetation has been left untended by the “careless descendants” of long-dead gardeners. A sense of unease can be detected here.27 Foreignness is associated with carelessness, which may be attributed to the rise of Sauron, the Dark Lord of Mordor. Tolkien is here using the exotic scenery as a foil to British landscapes, the suggestion being that such exotic beauty is by no means superior to more familiar environments. Sam can do without the herbs and scents of Ithilien, and the early advent of spring seems unnatural. The passage under discussion betrays a distrust of southern countries comparable to the prejudices expressed in The Horse and His Boy (1953), the third of C.  S. Lewis’s


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Narnia tales. Lewis contrasts the free northern country of Narnia with a southern dictatorship called “Calormen” (11). Since The Lord of the Rings was written between 1937 and 1949, it is hard to avoid the idea that the description alludes to Italy under Mussolini’s misrule. Tolkien’s landscape descriptions, as well as his depictions of trees, shrubs and flowers show how unrelated literary traditions have been interwoven in such a way as to create something that is entirely new. Motifs borrowed from folklore and fairy tales have been combined with narrative techniques taken from the nineteenth-century novel and blended with literary tendencies of the period which immediately preceded the composition of The Lord of the Rings. Landscape descriptions illustrate another aspect of Tolkien’s literary technique, namely the juxtaposition of metonymic and metaphoric systems of signification. The plants and landscapes described in The Lord of the Rings are, with only one exception, typically British, and will thus be recognized by the implied reader, who is clearly English. These trees depicted by Tolkien belong to the real world, and Tolkien is anxious that they should not be cut down. He expects his readers to take pride in the English countryside and in their national heritage and traditions.28 The metonymic significance of Tolkien’s landscapes is, however, overlaid with several layers of metaphoric meaning. The plants and landscapes described in The Lord of the Rings are the visual counterparts of the characters’ feelings; they provide a correlative of states of mind which defy exact description. The feelings experienced by Tolkien’s travellers are similar to those of many of the quest heroes whose efforts might be interpreted as metaphorical representations of our own endeavours. It remains to add that the supernatural elements in The Lord of the Rings serve as a reminder of the rich resources of English folklore and point to a world more perfect than that in which we live, like the Christian heaven.

Notes 1. Parts of this chapter constitute a revision of Thomas Kullmann’s article on “Landscape as Metaphor in The Lord of the Rings”, which, in turn, was based on a paper read at a conference of the German Tolkien Society, held at Jena in 2014. Another part of this chapter draws on a paper on

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“Trees and Shrubs of Middle-earth” read by Thomas Kullmann at a conference of the Inklings Society, held at Bonn in 2019.  2. Cf. Campbell, esp. 431. 3. Cf. Kullmann, Vermenschlichte Natur 65–69. 4. See, for example, Claire Buck‘s entry on “Literary Context, Twentieth Century” in the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia and Saler 172–174. 5. MacLeod and Smol draw attention to the “verbs and prepositions indicating direction, location, and motion” which characterize Tolkien’s landscape descriptions and which “suggest the experience of looking at a visual composition” (120). It is this experience which conveys meaning, not the landscape features in the abstract. 6. Cf. Curry 39, and Kullmann, “The Secret Garden and the Redefinition of Englishness”. 7. Other critics explain Tolkien’s descriptions of “the cold and grim rock face, and the hostile, harsh environment of wilderness” by referring to Tolkien’s own “passion for rocky wilderness” (Campbell 434–435). While this explanation is not wrong, it does not do justice to the two other literary functions discussed above: the visualization of the characters’ states of mind and an externalized representation of the Unknown. 8. On the colours mentioned in Lothlórien, cf. Curry 62–63. 9. “[…] the imagined and the actual coexist in Tolkien’s fiction to offer us a heightened and enchanted natural world” (Campbell 433). Cf. also Bo Kampmann Walther’s interpretation of the Lothlórien descriptions: “The qualities of light, shape, and color are sharpened, thus pointing to the faculties of reason and recognition. Yet at the same time, the perceived objects, “drawn at the uncovering of his eyes” [350], escape the confines of language” (121). 10. Cf. Kullmann, Vermenschlichte Natur 118. 11. Cf. Kullmann, Vermenschlichte Natur 139–143. 12. Cf. Kullmann, Vermenschlichte Natur 315–318. 13. Kullmann, Vermenschlichte Nature, esp. 18, 161–164, 469. 14. Allan Turner interprets these personifications as “cognitive metaphors” (Turner 9–10 et passim) and contends that Tolkien’s landscapes “have a life of their own which the reader can experience almost physically because of the large number of cognitive metaphors more or less hidden in the text, which by their nature draw upon a subconscious level of human perception” (16). We should like to argue, though, that what the reader experiences by means of these images is not the landscape as such but Frodo’s or the other hobbits’ subjective perceptions of it, which in turn mirror the viewers’ states of mind.


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15. Margaret Hiley interprets Tolkien’s descriptions of the Dead Marshes and Mordor as “waste lands”, suggested by the experience of World War I and comparable to those created by T. S. Eliot and James Joyce (67–69, 78–79). While Tolkien may indeed share in this “modernist” vision of the meaninglessness of the modern world, we should be aware that he (unlike Eliot and Joyce) offsets his waste lands by idyllic (the Shire), sublime (Rivendell, Caradhras), magical (Lórien) and fruitful-exotic (Ithilien) landscapes found in other parts of Middle-earth—and literary history. 16. On Mordor as an “apotheosis of nothingness”, cf. Walker 164 and Campbell 439: “Sauron’s war on Middle-earth is a war on nature precisely because he does not share power, not even with natural forces […] his attacks on Middle-earth are driven by a perversion of natural life; it is through the corruption of nature that he gathers his might”. Cf. also Kampmann Walther (126–127), who states that the Mordor landscapes convey “the sensation of all-embracing alienation”. 17. On Tolkien’s preference for trees, cf. Verlyn Flieger, “Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-Conflict in Middle-earth”. On Tolkien’s “love for natural phenomena (especially of trees)”, cf. Campbell 432. 18. On the plants of Middle-earth, cf. Henry Gee, The Science of Middle-­ earth, 193–202. 19. See esp. “The Tree Song”:   Of all the trees that grow so fair,     Old England to adorn,   Greater are none beneath the Sun,     Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn. […]   England shall bide till Judgment Tide,     By Oak and Ash and Thorn! (Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill, 28–29) 20. On tobacco and potatoes, cf. Shippey, J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century, 49. 21. “Goldberry […] is virtually interchangeable with the ecology around her” (Campbell 436). 22. On the Englishness of the Shire and Tolkien’s “sense of place”, cf. Curry 37–39 and 60–64, and Shippey, J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century, 59–60.

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23. As Simonson notes, “we perceive touches of the narrative universe of Victorian novelists such as Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Moore, particularly in the portraits of English nineteenth-­century rural life in general […]” (Simonson 121). 24. As Cynthia M. Cohen notices, most of the trees in The Lord of the Rings are “Primary World trees” (91) without magical attributes; Tolkien subtly weaves “the botanical characteristics of familiar and fictional tree species into the narrative” (96). 25. As Henry Gee points out (198), the botanical properties of the mallorn tree rather closely resemble those of the beech. This resemblance is unquestionably another indication of the special quality Tolkien attributed to the beech tree. Cf. also Cohen 102–103 for a detailed botanical disquisition on the properties of the mallorn tree. 26. Tolkien himself considered The Lord of the Rings to be a particularly English book, written to remedy the paucity of Anglo-Saxon epic literature: in a letter to Milton Waldman, partly reprinted as an introduction to The Silmarillion, Tolkien stated his intention “to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story […] which I could dedicate simply to: to England, to my country” (xi–xii). 27. When he compares the “garden of Gondor” to the hair of a nymph, Tolkien is clearly alluding to classical mythology as a body of stories associated with the Mediterranean landscape. According to Rosebury “the very ingenuity of the phrasing tends to discredit it […] it is too obviously drawn from a specialized stylistic jewel-box […] to have the inevitability and transparency […] which his descriptions usually achieve” (86). Rosebury obviously fails to acknowledge the intertextual quality of such descriptions, which on one hand remind us of real landscapes, and on the hand allude to other texts and areas of the literary universe. 28. Tolkien has sometimes been the target of criticism for his supposed lack of detailed description (e.g. Raffel 220–227, Agoy 49). As we tried to show in this chapter, Tolkien’s descriptions of landscapes and trees are often quite detailed; other descriptions, like those of mountain-tops, can certainly be termed “generic” (Agoy 60, 64). We do not think that Tolkien’s descriptions “are deliberately so open that they are mentally filled in by the readers” (Agoy 63), but that all the descriptions provided carry a certain meaning within the overall structure of The Lord of the


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Rings. If mountain peaks are described as “looming” or “frowning” (as seen from the point of view of the hobbits), their significance for the narrative is limited to this particular. We do not think that in providing descriptions selectively Tolkien deviates from nineteenth- and twentieth-­ century novelistic practice.

Works Cited Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts Blackmore, R.  D. Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor. 1869. Ed. Sally Shuttleworth. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Ed. Ian Jack. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. Kipling, Rudyard. Puck of Pook’s Hill. 1906. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987. Lewis, Clive Staples. The Horse and His Boy. 1954. London: Fontana Lions, 1980. Radcliffe, Ann. The Mysteries of Udolpho. 1794. Ed. Bonamy Dobrée. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Silmarillion, ed. Christopher Tolkien. 1977. London: HarperCollins, 1999.

Critical Works Cited Agoy, Nils Ivar. “Vague or Vivid? Descriptions in The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies 10 (2013). 49–67. Buck, Claire. “Literary Context, Twentieth Century.” In Michael D.C. Drout, ed., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York: Routledge, 2007. 363–366. Campbell, Liam. “Nature.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 431–445. Cohen, Cynthia M. “The Unique Representation of Trees in The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies 6 (2009). 91–123. Curry, Patrick. Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity. London: HarperCollins, 1998.

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Flieger, Verlyn. “Taking the Part of Trees: Eco-Conflict in Middle-earth.” In George Clark, Daniel Timmons, eds., J.R.R.  Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 2000. 147–158. Gee, Henry. The Science of Middle-earth. London: Souvenir Press, 2005. Hardy, Thomas. Tess of the d’Urbervilles. 1891. Ed. David Skilton. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978. Hiley, Margaret. The Loss and the Silence: Aspects of Modernism in the Works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2011. Kullmann, Thomas. “Landscape as Metaphor in The Lord of the Rings.” Hither Shore 11 (2014). 80–90. Kullmann, Thomas. “Metaphorical and Metonymical Meaning in The Lord of the Rings.” In: Transitions and Dissolving Boundaries in the Fantastic. Ed. Christine Lötscher et al. Zürich: LIT, 2014b. 53–62. Kullmann, Thomas. “The Secret Garden and the Redefinition of Englishness.” In A Hundred Years of The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Classic Revisited. Ed. Marion Gymnich, Imke Lichterfeld. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2012. 91–103. Kullmann, Thomas. Vermenschlichte Natur: Zur Bedeutung von Landschaft und Wetter im englischen Roman von Ann Radcliffe bis Thomas Hardy. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1995. MacLeod, Jeffrey J., and Anna Smol. “Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer.” Tolkien Studies 14 (2017). 115–131. Miller, J.  Hillis. “Nature and the Linguistic Moment.” In Nature and the Victorian Imagination. Ed. U.  C. Knoepflmacher and G.  B. Tennyson. Berkeley, CA: University Press, 1977. 440–51. Raffel, Burton. “The Lord of the Rings as Literature.” In Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A.  Zimbardo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 218–246. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Ruskin, John. Works. London: George Allen, 1903–12. Saler, Michael. As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Shippey, Tom A. J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. London: HarperCollins, 2001.


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Simonson, Martin. The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2008. Turner, Allan. “Tolkien’s Living Landscapes.” Hither Shore 11 (2014). 8–17. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Walther, Bo Kampmann. “Lights behind Thick Curtains: Images of Fear and Familiarity in Tolkien.” Tolkien Studies 17 (2020). 117–136. Wolf, Werner. “‘The wilderness pleases’—But why not in the Novel? Literary and Cultural Aspects of the Fascination with Savage Landscapes and Its Belated Appearance in British Pre-Romantic Fiction.” In Anglistentag 1995 Greifswald: Proceedings. Ed. Jürgen Klein, Dirk Vanderbeke. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1996. 73–92. (accessed 5 October 2020)

6 Speeches and Declarations Thomas Kullmann

In The Lord of the Rings, about 50 per cent of the text is taken up by direct speech. Apart from conversations between the characters, who as in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel are regularly telling each other how they feel and what they have observed, teasing one another and exchanging ideas about their journey and future, there are large parts taken up by speeches, stories and poems. This feature links Tolkien’s novel to traditions of epic and romance. In Homer’s Iliad, large portions of the text are taken up by formal debates, and in the Odyssey, a large proportion of the narrative information is provided through the medium of storytelling, as when Odysseus tells the story of his erratic journeys to the Phaeacians. This focus on speeches and storytelling can also be found in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century prose romances, such as Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia and Cervantes’ Don Quixote. In Tolkien’s novel, we can identify three major forms which use direct speech: • making speeches and declarations, • telling stories, • reciting poetry. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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In all of these instances, Tolkien follows literary practices which date back to periods preceding the eighteenth century. The present study aims at examining Tolkien’s use of these three categories of text and identifying specific pre-texts and narrative traditions. A further step will then take us to the question how the various literary traditions connect and interact within Tolkien’s overall design. In the Iliad, speeches form the major part of the direct speech passages: the Greek and Trojan heroes, as well as the gods, meet in councils and engage in debates on what to do in a particular situation. Participants make speeches to convince one another of their points of view. The presuppositions are that the debate is open-ended and that participants can freely express their opinion. In the course of the centuries following the composition of the Homeric epics, the ancient Greeks would define, codify and teach rhetoric, the art of making speeches for purposes of persuasion.1 Rhetoric was commonly understood as the “art of persuasion” by means of speeches, and rhetorical handbooks regularly distinguish between three main types of speech: deliberative, judicial and epideictic; that is, speeches delivered in the Assembly, in the courts and at public festivals.2 There are no judicial speeches in The Lord of the Rings, but deliberative speeches are quite significant, while some other speeches can be classified as epideictic: • As in the Homeric epics there are councils in The Lord of the Rings, in which all the participants can proffer advice and make suggestions. The major site for deliberative speeches made in council is, of course, the Council of Elrond (chapter II, 2, 239–271). Some of the speeches made there serve to inform the council of events which happened in the past, and these will be discussed in the subsequent chapter on stories. Speeches made with the intent to persuade, however, include Elrond’s review of the situation (265), Glorfindel and Galdor’s advice against entrusting the Ring to Tom Bombadil (266–267), Boromir’s proposal to make use of the Ring (267), Elrond’s advice against it (267) and Gandalf ’s argument defending the “folly” of seeking out the “Fire” in which the Ring was created (269). Other council speeches are Gandalf ’s advice as to the Company’s choice of road (296), Sam’s explanation of the absent Frodo’s state of mind and behaviour, p ­ rovided

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to the Company (403), and the speeches made by Gandalf, Prince Imrahil and Aragorn at a ‘council of war’ held at Minas Tirith (878–881). • Sometimes the art of persuasion is used by shifty (or downright evil) characters: rather than proffering advice which could, without loss of face, be rejected, they use all their manipulative powers to persuade the addressee to follow a doubtful course of action. This applies to Saruman, who tries to win over Théoden to become his ally against Gandalf (578–580), and to Sméagol/Gollum who persuades the hobbits to try another route to reach Mordor (642). • Bilbo’s birthday speech, which sets the plot going (29–30), could be classified as “epideictic”, as could two other speeches which praise the beauty and virtues of women: Sam’s praise of Galadriel (679–680) and Aragorn’s discourse on Éowyn (866). Gandalf ’s subsequent explanatory speech, however, which contradicts remarks made by Éomer, could be classified as another council speech (867). Many of the speeches and declarations made in The Lord of the Rings, however, do not fall into the categories provided by textbooks of rhetoric, as persuasion is not their main objective. We suggest that they might be grouped as follows: • speeches of welcome and introduction. These include Tom Bombadil’s addresses to the hobbits (128, 131), Elrond’s welcoming speech to the participants in his council (242), Haldir’s address to the hobbits which welcomes them to Lothlórien (343), Éomer’s introduction of himself to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas (433) and Frodo’s account of himself and Sam given to Faramir (657–658). Some of these speeches have a ritualistic character, which is notably absent from speeches made by a guard, by Théoden and by Wormtongue at Théoden’s Hall, where welcome is withheld from the visitors (508, 512–513). Merry’s welcome to Théoden, who is accompanied by Gandalf, Gimli and Legolas, however, emphasizes this ritualistic quality in a parodic form (556–557). • speeches to a company which weigh chances and provide outlooks into the future.


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Aragorn’s speech about the Black Riders (174) could be named as an example, as could Galadriel’s vision of the future of Lothlórien (365), Aragorn’s description of the further course of the Anduin River (381), Gandalf ’s assessment of Frodo’s chances of success and the imminent war around Minas Tirith (496–498) and Saruman’s role with regard to Sauron’s purposes (599–600). A very particular instance is Gandalf ’s speech on Aragorn’s discovery of a “sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair” (971) which reaches into the remote past as well as the future. • speeches and personal declarations which constitute the promulgation of a personal decision, often addressed to just one other person. This category applies to Frodo’s speech about saving the Shire (62), Aragorn’s assumption of his new identity (393), Faramir’s declaration to Frodo and Sam (668), Sam’s speech to himself on his taking the Ring from (the supposedly dead) Frodo (732), Gandalf ’s speech to Denethor (758), Hirgon’s appeal to Théoden and Théoden’s answer (799–800), the proposals made by the “Mouth of Sauron” (890) and Arwen’s farewell address to Frodo (974). • Personal advice The main adviser is Gandalf, who addresses Bilbo (269–270), Saruman (582, 583) and Pippin (593–594 and 759–760) at some length. Elrond gives farewell advice to the Company (280–281); similarly, Faramir gives advice to Frodo and Sam when they leave him to continue their quest (694). Frodo also makes a long advisory speech to Sméagol/Gollum (640). As the main site of speechmaking is the Council of Elrond, we propose to look in detail at some of the speeches made there. Elrond opens the convocation by means of a well-structured address which emphasizes the significance of this meeting: ‘You have done well to come,’ said Elrond. ‘You will hear today all that you need in order to understand the purposes of the Enemy. There is naught that you can do, other than to resist, with hope or without it. But you do not stand alone. You will learn that your trouble is but part of the trouble

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of all the western world. The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? That is the doom that we must deem. ‘That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called, I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find counsel for the peril of the world. ‘Now, therefore, things shall be openly spoken that have been hidden from all but a few until this day. And first, so that all may understand what is the peril, the Tale of the Ring shall be told from the beginning even to this present. And I will begin that tale, though others shall end it.’ (242)

Elrond’s speech is marked by a series of features which elevate it above the usual diction of the other participants in this council. It is composed of short, gnomic sentences which appear to carry particular weight. Common speech is interspersed with archaisms (“doom”, “deem”, “from distant lands”).3 Elrond follows the genus humile, or plain style, of classical rhetoric: the simplicity of the wording emphasizes the special weight of its contents.4 This includes the splitting of sentences (“by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so […]”), and the splitting of a statement into question and response. Other features are tricolon (“the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies”), anaphora (“you will […] you will”), parallelism involving a variation of wording (“This is the doom that we must deem. That is the purpose for which you are called hither”) and correctio (“Called, I say, though I have not called you to me”).5 It is by these techniques that Elrond finally counters Boromir’s suggestion that the Ring should be used against Sauron, thereby voicing the central paradox of The Lord of the Rings: ‘Alas, no,’ said Elrond. ‘We cannot use the Ruling Ring. That we now know too well. It belongs to Sauron and was made by him alone, and is altogether evil. Its strength, Boromir, is too great for anyone to wield at will, save only those who have already a great power of their own. But for them it holds an even deadlier peril. The very desire of it corrupts the heart. Consider Saruman. If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron’s


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throne, and yet another Dark Lord would appear. And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so. I fear to take the Ring to hide it. I will not take the Ring to wield it.’ (267)

The speech has the tripartite structure common to rhetoric: proposition, argumentation and conclusion. The usual order of noun and direct object is inverted in an archaic and literary manner (“That we now know too well”); Elrond uses literary conjunctions (like “save” and “for”) and phrases (“to wield at will”, “the very desire”). He splits up his ideas into basic units; sentences which assume a gnomic quality (“The very desire of it corrupts the heart”). The use of the first-person pronoun in the last two sentences can certainly be understood as a device denoting modesty. A general conclusion is couched as a personal statement, indicating that if a person as powerful and self-contained as Elrond is in danger of being corrupted by the Ring this applies to an even greater degree to the other heroes present, such as Boromir and, rather surprisingly, Bilbo, who offers to “finish” “this affair” (269). While Elrond’s speech makes negative statements, it is for Gandalf to examine the chances of accomplishing the task of destroying the Ring: ‘Despair, or folly?’ said Gandalf. ‘It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure he knows is desire, desire for power; and so he judges all hearts. Into his heart the thought will not enter that any will refuse it, that having the Ring we may seek to destroy it. If we seek this, we shall put him out of reckoning.’ (269)

In comparison with the utmost simplicity of Elrond’s speech Gandalf ’s contribution is replete with imagery, from the fields of seeing (“see the end beyond all doubt”, “let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of the Enemy”), weighing and measuring (“weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice”, “the only measure”, “out of reckoning”) as well as

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metonymy and personification (“into his heart the thought will not enter”). Gandalf even mixes metaphors (“all other courses have been weighed”). In his answer Elrond also turns to imagery, connecting two images from different fields: “Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere” (269). These images, of course, fit the outcome of the plot: Frodo and Sam who carry the Ring to Mordor are indeed small, but they are successful because Sauron’s “eye” is focused on Gondor. The connection of plot and imagery certainly points to the metaphorical quality of the plot, as an illustration of more general observations.6 While Elrond, Gandalf and the other participants at the “Council of Elrond” freely exchange rational arguments until Elrond reaches a decision, the manipulative quality of the art of speaking is also present in Tolkien’s novel: after the loss of his power, Saruman makes use of what is obviously his last resort: the magic of rhetorical persuasion. His offer to conclude peace and friendship with Théoden (580) can clearly be understood as a veiled attempt to win Théoden over to the side of Sauron and evil, as can his proposal to Gandalf to join forces (581). His attempts to deceive his interlocutors go along with excessive flattery, the affectation of humility and the use of rhetorical questions: […] But you, Théoden Lord of the Mark of Rohan, are declared by your noble devices, and still more by the fair countenance of the House of Eorl. O worthy son of Thengel the Thrice-renowned! Why have you not come before, and as a friend? Much have I desired to see you, mightiest king of western lands, and especially in these latter years, to save you from the unwise and evil counsels that beset you! Is it yet too late? […] (578–579)

The rhetorical techniques used by Saruman obviously contrast with those of the participants at the Council of Elrond, but whereas Théoden, Gimli and Gandalf are not taken in by Saruman’s words Théoden’s followers are “as men spell-bound” (579). The wizard’s magic is correlative to what has often been perceived as the magic of words; in the narrator’s account of Saruman’s voice the two become indistinguishable: the “very sound” of the wizard’s voice is “an enchantment”, a “spell” (578), capable of holding


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his listeners “enthralled” (578). While these words are obviously used in their usual metaphorical sense, the fact that Saruman is a wizard gives weight to their literal meaning. While some listeners smile at his words “as men do who see through a juggler’s trick”, for others “the spell endured when they were far away” (578).7 The manipulative powers of rhetoric become tangible: “[…] none were unmoved; none rejected its [the voice of Saruman’s] pleas and its commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it” (578).8 Another instance of the art of manipulation can be found in a speech by Gollum, who tells Frodo and Sam about an alternative route to Mordor: ‘So that’s your advice is it,’ said Sam, ‘that we should go another long march south, to find ourselves in the same fix or a worse one, when we get there, if we ever do?’ ‘No, no indeed,’ said Gollum. ‘Hobbits must see, must try to understand. He does not expect attack that way. His Eye is all round, but it attends more to some places than to others. He can’t see everything at once, not yet. You see, He has conquered all the country west of the Shadowy Mountains down to the River, and He holds the bridges now. He thinks no one can come to the Moontower without fighting big battle at the bridges, or getting lots of boats which they cannot hide and He will know about.’ ‘You seem to know a lot about what He’s doing and thinking,’ said Sam. ‘Have you been talking to Him lately? Or just hobnobbing with Orcs?’ ‘Not nice hobbit, not sensible,’ said Gollum, giving Sam an angry glance and turning to Frodo. ‘Sméagol has talked to Orcs, yes of course, before he met master, and to many peoples: he has walked very far. And what he says now many peoples are saying. It’s here in the North that the big danger is for Him, and for us. He will come out of the Black Gate one day, one day soon. That is the only way big armies can come. But away down west He is not afraid, and there are the Silent Watchers.’ (642)

Gollum’s speech is marked by a series of mannerisms. Articles are left out (“does not expect attack”). He speaks of himself as well as his interlocutors in the third person, but also uses “you”. There are many repetitions. However, while his way of talking is idiosyncratic, he does possess a number of communicative skills: he anticipates the hobbits’ interests and points of view, just as he analyses Sauron’s. Like Saruman, he tries to win

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his addressees by a direct, personal address, and a conversational style. Rhetorically he uses anaphora, clarifying Sauron’s intentions in the first paragraph and his own experiences in the next. As he speaks of himself in the third person, using the same personal pronoun he used to identify Sauron, this technique becomes double-edged. The speeches by Elrond and Gandalf on one hand and Saruman and Gollum on the other certainly stand at opposite ends of a wide range of uses and abuses of rhetorical skills. They represent conflicting strategies of revealing as well as concealing truths by means of rhetoric and—metalinguistically—provide a commentary as to the manipulative power of language. The account of Bilbo Baggins’ birthday speech, which initiates the plot revolving round the Ring, also contains metalinguistic elements. Classical rhetoric would characterize this speech as “epideictic”, that is, as a speech made to prove a point, even though the content evidently matters less than the mere fact of making the speech, as an indispensable element in the ritual of a birthday party: My dear People, began Bilbo, rising in his place. ‘Hear! Hear! Hear!’ they shouted, and kept on repeating it in chorus, seeming reluctant to follow their own advice […] My dear Bagginses and Baffins, he began again; and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks […] Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-­one today! ‘Hurray, Hurray! Many Happy Returns!’ they shouted, and they hammered joyously on the tables. Bilbo was doing splendidly. This was the sort of stuff they liked: short and obvious. I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am. Deafening cheers. Cries of Yes (and No). Noises of trumpets and horns […] But Bilbo had not finished. Seizing a horn from a youngster nearby, he blew three loud hoots. The noise subsided. I shall not keep you long, he cried. Cheers from all the assembly. I have called you all together for a Purpose. Something in the way that he said this made an impression. There was almost silence, and one or two of the Tooks pricked up their ears. Indeed, for Three Purposes! First of all, to tell you that I am immensely fond of you all, and that eleventy-one years is too short a time to live among such excellent and admirable hobbits. Tremendous outburst of approval. (29–30)


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The detailed account of the audience’s reaction gives the speech a parodic quality; the reader’s attention is directed towards its form and generic conventions.9 Even though the hobbits apparently do not usually like speeches, they are prepared to tolerate this one, “the Speech” (28), as it belongs to the convention of birthday parties, and they are prepared to interact with this ritual. As ritualistic elements, we encounter the elaborate address, the figure of correctio (“Indeed, for Three Purposes”) and the tripartite argument. The guests are irritated, however, as soon as the speech departs from its straightforward course when Bilbo makes use of original phraseology and includes a reference to his earlier adventurous journey (“the anniversary of my arrival by barrel at Esgaroth on the Long Lake” [30]). The most significant departure from rhetorical conventions, of course, occurs at the end when Bilbo, instead of raising his cup to drink his guests’ health, simply vanishes. No wonder the guests consider this ending “a joke […] in very bad taste” (30). The rules of birthday-­party speechmaking are violated by the abrupt ending, and by the fact that rather than complying with a reliable if boring convention he (ab)uses the pattern of the party ritual to make a momentous declaration. Bilbo’s speech both celebrates and parodies conventions of popular English culture. He thereby establishes a foil to other speeches of a very different kind which the reader will encounter later on. When Frodo, 17 years later and on his quest to destroy the Ring, passes through Bree, Pippin, his companion, incautiously embarks on a “comic account of Bilbo’s farewell party” including “imitation of the Speech” (157). Afraid of discovery, Frodo decides to entertain the company in a different way and therefore starts making a speech of his own, which, like Bilbo’s, is composed of conventional motifs and phrases: He spoke ‘a few suitable words’, as they would have said in the Shire: We are all very much gratified by the kindness of your reception, and I venture to hope that my brief visit will help to renew the old ties of friendship between the Shire and Bree; and then he hesitated and coughed. Everyone in the room was now looking at him. ‘A song!’ shouted one of the hobbits. ‘A song! A song!’ shouted all the others. ‘Come on now, master, sing us something that we haven’t heard before!’ (157–158)

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In common with Bilbo’s birthday party speech, Frodo’s purpose in speaking goes beyond the message implied in his words. His words thus gain a parodic quality, as does the comic song about the Man in the Moon he is now going to sing. Like Bilbo’s speech, Frodo’s words are taken from the tradition of popular conventional conviviality, and their formal features are highlighted by the very serious context in which they are spoken. Another epideictic speech is made, albeit inadvertently, by Sam. After asking Faramir about Gondor’s dealings with the Elves, he launches into a paean of praise of Galadriel: ‘The Lady of Lórien! Galadriel!’ cried Sam. ‘You should see her, indeed you should, sir. I am only a hobbit, and gardening’s my job at home, sir, if you understand me, and I’m not much good at poetry […] But I wish I could make a song about her. Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime. But that’s a lot o’ nonsense, and all wide of my mark,’ ‘Then she must be lovely indeed,’ said Faramir. ‘Perilously fair.’ (679–680)

Sam’s point of departure is his ordinary lower-class speech, with his hedges and confirmations (“indeed you should”, “if you understand me”), but this introduction serves as a fitting rhetorical captatio benevolentiae to precede his series of comparisons. Fittingly the Queen of the Elves is compared to plants and natural objects, and Sam effortlessly uses the device of paradox. The four pairs of opposites which Sam uses to describe Galadriel’s beauty express different types of quality and seem to follow an ascending order: Galadriel is great and small, hard and soft, warm and cold, proud and merry.10 Flowers are followed by moon, sun and stars, snow by daisies of spring, a short phrase by a longer one.11 As before (e.g. when reciting a poem about Gil-galad [185–186]) Sam has the potential to surprise his listeners. His rhetorical gifts are all the more striking as they are unpremeditated, and appear artless, and Faramir is suitably impressed. Sam’s speech resembles medieval praises of women,12 as does, in quite another context, Aragorn’s speech on Éowyn in the


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Houses of Healing (866). Like Sam, Aragorn compares the object of his praise with a flower, but also uses images of hardness: “steel” and “ice” (866). The system of rhetoric does not pay attention to the ritualistic aspects of public speeches, as found, for example, in prayers offered at religious services or official declarations made at public ceremonies13; and it is this function of speechmaking which is predominant in The Lord of the Rings. One of these public occasions is certainly the act of welcoming friends to a certain place. The welcome extended to the hobbits by Tom Bombadil is certainly most peculiar. His speech is rhythmical, resembling verse, and its sounds seem to merge with those of the wood around him: “Ring a ding dillo! Wake now, my merry friends! Forget the nightly noises! Ring a ding dillo del! derry del, my hearties! If you come soon you’ll find breakfast on the table. If you come late, you’ll get grass and rain-water!” (128). “Ring a ding dillo” may remind the reader of refrains of children’s songs, particularly those involving a circular movement.14 The parallelisms make the hobbits feel at home while at the same time they sound rather impersonal. Tom Bombadil will make sure the hobbits get though his wood and pass the barrow-downs safely but he does not take any particular interest in their doings. He will later describe himself as “Eldest” (131), but his position in the universe remains enigmatic.15 Haldir the Elf, by contrast, welcomes the Company in due form, by first introducing himself and then asking for information as to the members of the Company: ‘Welcome’ the Elf then said again in the Common Language, speaking slowly. ‘We seldom use any tongue but our own; for we dwell now in the heart of the forest, and do not willingly have dealings with any other folk. Even our own kindred in the North are sundered from us. But there are some of us still who go abroad for the gathering of news and the watching of our enemies, and they speak the languages of other lands. I am one. Haldir is my name […]’ (343)

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Haldir is formal and cautious but he welcomes the company and makes an effort to speak their language and explain his position. His style is paratactic and could be compared to Elrond’s. Only when the Company, after a long blindfolded walk, reaches the centre of the forest does Haldir unbend and resort to a more Elvish welcome: ‘Behold! You are come to Cerin Amroth,’ said Haldir. ‘For this is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago, and here is the mound of Amroth, where in happier days his high house was built. Here ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil. Here we will stay awhile, and come to the city of the Galadhrim at dusk.’ (350)

This speech displays the amalgamation of a sense of both transience and permanence which characterizes Tolkien’s Elves. Both notions are connected through anaphora and linked to the present place. The blooming of the flowers functions as a pars pro toto for natural beauty, which is at the same time self-renewing and under threat of extinction. The essential quality of welcoming becomes obvious when welcome is not extended, when ritualistic speech and an archaic language are used in order to tell visitors that they are not welcome. When Aragorn together with Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli approaches the gates of Edoras, Théoden’s palace, he is challenged in a style reminiscent of ancient epic poetry: ‘It is the will of Théoden King that none should enter his gates, save those who know our tongue and are our friends,’ replied one of the guards. ‘None are welcome here in days of war but our own folk, and those that come from Mundburg in the land of Gondor. Who are you that come heedless over the plain thus strangely clad, riding horses like to our own horses? Long have we kept guard here, and we have watched you from afar. Never have we seen other riders so strange, nor any horse more proud than is one of these that bear you. He is one of the Mearas, unless our eyes are cheated by some spell. Say, are you not a wizard, some spy from Saruman, or phantoms of his craft? Speak now and be swift! (508–509)


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Again, emphasis is provided by inversion (“Long have we kept guard”, “never have we seen”), and the context of romance is evoked by archaisms (“strangely clad”). The guard’s question as to who the strangers are may remind us of Horatio’s speech in Hamlet, when he addresses the Ghost: What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee speak! (1.1.46–49)

Aragorn’s reply: “We are no phantoms […] nor do your eyes cheat you” (509) might be considered an ironical reference to this pre-text, the author sharing a joke with the reader which the characters do not share. As in medieval romance, there is tension based on mutual pride, and this also comes to the fore when the guests are asked to lay down their weapons. Aragorn’s heroic language is particularly highlighted by following closely after Gandalf ’s more commonplace language: ‘Come, come!’ said Gandalf. ‘We are all friends here. Or should be; for the laughter of Mordor will be our only reward, if we quarrel. My errand is pressing. Here at least is my sword, goodman Háma. Keep it well. Glamdring it is called, for the Elves made it long ago. Now let me pass. Come, Aragorn!’ Slowly Aragorn unbuckled his belt and himself set his sword upright against the wall. ‘Here I set it,’ he said; ‘but I command you not to touch it, nor to permit any other to lay hand on it. In this Elvish sheath dwells the Blade that was Broken and has been made again. Telchar first wrought it in the deeps of time. Death shall come to any man that draws Elendil’s sword save Elendil’s heir.’ The guard stepped back and looked with amazement at Aragorn. ‘It seems that you are come on the wings of song out of the forgotten days,’ he said. ‘It shall be, lord, as you command.’ (511)

Aragorn’s speech is characterized by features of old epic language, such as inversion (“in this Elvish sheath dwells […]”), metaphor (“deeps of time”) and personification (“dwells the Blade”, “Death shall come”). The reference to Telchar is reminiscent of mythological texts. Antonomasia

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(“Elendil’s heir”) is common to outstanding epic heroes, and obviously appropriate to the warrior who will be revealed as King of Gondor. The rhetorical register is certainly genus sublime (Lausberg 154). Aragorn asserts his claim to ancient royalty by emphasizing his exclusive rights to the sword, which is a remnant from an antiquity which antedates the historical memory of the other characters. The sword is given a periphrasis which has a literary quality (“the Blade that was Broken”) and is a reflex of medieval romances. Again Aragorn refers to himself in the third person (“Elendil’s heir”) and uses a parallelism to establish his exclusive right. While Aragorn’s language denotes him as a character from romance, the guard appears as a romantic or romanticist: both the image of the “wings of song” and the “forgotten days” are taken from the discourse of Romanticism (cf., e.g. the “wings of Poesy” in Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”. l. 33).16 Théoden and Éomer, together with Gandalf, Legolas and Gimli, meet with quite a different kind of greeting when, after the overthrow of Saruman, they come across “two small figures lying” on a rubble-heap close to the ruined gates, one of whom springs to his feet and “bowed very low, putting his hand upon his breast” (556): Then, seeming not to observe the wizard and his friends, he turned to Éomer and the king. ‘Welcome, my lords, to Isengard!’ he said. ‘We are the doorwardens. Meriadoc, son of Saradoc is my name; and my companion, who, alas! is overcome with weariness—here he gave the other a dig with his foot—is Peregrin, son of Paladin, of the house of Took. Far in the North is our home. The Lord Saruman is within; but at the moment he is closeted with one Wormtongue, or doubtless he would be here to welcome such honourable guests.’ ‘Doubtless he would!’ laughed Gandalf. ‘And was it Saruman that ordered you to guard his damaged doors, and watch for the arrival of guests, when your attention could be spared from plate and bottle?’ ‘No, good sir, the matter escaped him,’ answered Merry gravely. ‘He has been much occupied. Our orders came from Treebeard, who has taken over the management of Isengard. He commanded me to welcome the Lord of Rohan with fitting words. I have done my best.’ (556–557)


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For Merry, the hobbit, it is an unfamiliar task to use “fitting words” to welcome King Théoden, a task which he obviously undertakes with some relish. His speech is characterized by archaisms and other stylistic features indicative of poetic, or epic, speech. This includes the introduction of himself and Pippin by their full names and fathers’ names, the poetic interjection “alas”, inversion and a sort of Romantic vagueness when indicating their place of origin (“far in the North is our home”), the fiction that Saruman is still the lord of the place they are guarding, and the ironical reference to Saruman’s and Wormtongue’s captivity inherent in the statement that they are “closeted” together. Like Bilbo’s birthday speech, Merry’s welcome is marked by a parodistic dissociation of word and context, which is exposed in Gandalf ’s answer: Saruman’s gates need no longer be guarded, and the two hobbits have recently been engaged in their favourite (if unheroic) occupation of eating and drinking. Another parodic feature of this scene is the fact that Merry deliberately “overlooks” his friends in order to address his higher-­ ranking guests first. As with Bilbo’s and Frodo’s speeches, parody puts a spotlight on rhetorical conventions and certainly enhances the reader’s awareness of the epic pre-texts of some of the other speeches found in The Lord of the Rings.17 The hobbits, to be sure, are fond of ritual, as in the two “welcoming speeches” by Bilbo and Merry, previously discussed. Both of them, of course, are instances of play-acting, one because of its unforeseen change of function (the jocular welcoming speech turns into a very serious declaration of intent), the other on account of the discrepancy between the words and the situation, which is, as Théoden observes, that of a “meeting of dear friends” (557). Many speeches are made to a circle of friends or fellow travellers which provide plans for and outlooks into the future. Two of them deserve particular scrutiny. In Lothlórien Galadriel tells Frodo about what will happen to the Elves: ‘[…] Do you not see now wherefore your coming is to us as the footstep of Doom? For if you fail, then we are laid bare to the Enemy. Yet if you succeed, then our power is diminished, and Lothlórien will fade, and the tides

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of Time will sweep it away. We must depart into the West, or dwindle to a rustic folk of dell and cave, slowly to forget and to be forgotten.’ Frodo bent his head. ‘And what do you wish?’ he said at last. ‘That what should be shall be,’ she answered. ‘The love of the Elves for their land and their works is deeper than the deeps of the Sea, and their regret is undying and cannot ever wholly be assuaged. Yet they will cast all away rather than submit to Sauron: for they know him now. […]’ (365)

Galadriel’s speech unites many of the motifs connected to the Elves: the inevitability of their disappearance as well as their close connection to “their land”; the use of poeticized language, in particular the use of metaphors taken from natural processes; the fading of Lothlórien, the tides of Time, the deeps of the sea; and the personification of their “regret”. Galadriel stands for evanescent beauty embodied in language, and the melancholy feeling engendered by this evanescence. While the motif of the passing away of the Elves (or “fairies”) goes back to Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” and Corbet’s “The Fairies’ Farewell”,18 the sentiment is clearly one found in Romantic poetry. The conception of time in The Lord of the Rings, however, goes beyond Romantic nostalgia. When Gandalf speaks to Aragorn about his kingship, Aragorn asks him for a sign which might indicate the flourishing of Gondor even after his own death, and is shown a sapling tree: And Gandalf coming looked at it, and said: ‘Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake. Remember this. For if ever a fruit ripens, it should be planted, lest the line die out of the world. Here it has lain hidden on the mountain, even as the race of Elendil lay hidden in the wastes of the North. Yet the line of Nimloth is older far than your line, King Elessar.’ (971–972)


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Gandalf ’s style is formal or ceremonial, which is rather uncharacteristic of him.19 In the beginning he uses the biblical “verily” (Matthew 5.18 etc.); in the following speech we find the conjunction “for” and the preposition “lest”, a rhetorical question and personifications of the “life” of the tree and of “the race of Elendil”. The style fits with the topos of a genealogy—unusually, a genealogy of trees—which can obviously be compared with that of Aragorn’s ancestors. Most significantly, however, this speech casts a look far back in time, and obviously equally far into the future. The plant appears to guarantee the future of Aragorn’s kingdom, although the great length of his line is shorter than that of the tree. In order to assume kingship, Aragorn has to recognize the ultimate insignificance of the dynasty to which he belongs. Aragorn’s assumption of the kingship of Gondor is accompanied by a ceremonial speech; the first instance being when the Company passes into the territory of the kings of Gondor and a transformation takes place in the future king, which is marked by a sudden rhetorical flourish: ‘Fear not!’ said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land. ‘Fear not!’ he said. ‘Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old. Under their shadow Elessar, the Elfstone son of Arathorn of the house of Valandil Isildur’s son, heir of Elendil, has naught to dread!’ (393)

The archaic negative imperative, well-known from Luke, 2.10 (in the Authorized Version of 1611; the Revised Version of 1884 reads “be not afraid”), functions as a linguistic sign of the transformation from a lonely wanderer to a king returning from exile. Using inversion and poetic archaism (“long have I desired”), he now claims descent from mythological heroes and then goes on to refer to himself and his antecedents in the third person, giving himself the attributes of a hero of romance. If Elrond’s deliberative speeches, discussed above, belong to “plain style”, Aragorn’s

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pronouncement can certainly be considered an example of genus grande, or “grand style”. The further stages of Aragorn’s return to Gondor as King are also marked by speeches. In various contexts he reveals his true identity by asserting “I am Elessar” (789, 863), and the ceremony of his coronation culminates in an exchange of speeches between Faramir, the Steward of Gondor, and Aragorn: Faramir met Aragorn in the midst of those there assembled, and he knelt and said: ‘The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office.’ And he held out a white rod; but Aragorn took the rod and gave it back, saying: ‘That office is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs’ as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!’ Then Faramir stood up and spoke in a clear voice: ‘Men of Gondor, hear now the Steward of this Realm! Behold! one has come to claim the kingship again at last. Here is Aragorn son of Arathorn, chieftain of the Dúnedain of Arnor, Captain of the Host of the West, bearer of the Star of the North, wielder of the Sword Reforged, victorious in battle, whose hands bring healing, the Elfstone, Elessar of the line of Valandil, Isildur’s son, Elendil’s son of Númenor. Shall he be king and enter into the City and dwell there?’ And all the host and all the people cried yea with one voice. (967)

The ceremonial quality of Aragorn’s coronation is expressed through archaic imperatives (“Do now thy office”, “hear now”, “behold”) and the long list of names and titles. Other ceremonial, archaic features are the shall-future and postpositive adjective (“Sword Reforged”). The special moment of Aragorn’s assumption of kingship is marked by a ritual phrase in an Elvish language, a repetition of the phrase used by a mythical ancestor, while another imperative spoken by Faramir, the Steward, completes the ceremony: “Behold the King!” (968). Ceremonial speeches appear as a major manifestation of a mythical or chivalric world. On the level of the plot the hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin share the reader’s position as they find themselves thrown into a strange, foreign and archaic world. As can be seen from the speeches of Bilbo and Merry, they are not unskilled in rhetoric but take a rather


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playful attitude with regard to the formal features of a speech, as speechmaking obviously jars with their simple and down-to-earth way of life. Still there are occasions when even Frodo and Sam find fitting words to accompany a momentous decision. After Gandalf has told Frodo about the Ring and the need to destroy it, Frodo embarks on an uncharacteristically long pronouncement, indicating his awareness of his responsibility and his willingness to act upon it: ‘[…] in the meanwhile it seems that I am in danger, a danger to all that live near me. I cannot keep the Ring and stay here. I ought to leave Bag End, leave the Shire, leave everything and go away.’ He sighed. ‘I should like to save the Shire, if I could—though there have been times when I thought the inhabitants too stupid and dull for words, and have felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them. But I don’t feel like that now. I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again. Of course, I have sometimes thought of going away, but I imagined that as a kind of holiday, a series of adventures like Bilbo’s or better, ending in peace. But this would mean exile, a flight from danger into danger, drawing it after me. And I suppose I must go alone, if I am to do that and save the Shire. But I feel very small, and very uprooted, and well—desperate. The Enemy is so strong and terrible.’ (62)

While this speech basically follows everyday discourse, some rhetorical elements have crept in. Frodo’s decision to “leave everything” is expressed by means of a tricolon, ending in the weightiest element. His decision is pronounced by way of paratactic announcements, using anaphora to emphasize the personal aspect of this decision (“I feel … I shall … I shall”). His declaration ends by his voicing the central paradox of the novel, expressed through another tricolon. Of course, it is this awareness of his own smallness which qualifies Frodo for his quest. Gandalf apparently senses as much when he congratulates Frodo: “I hardly expected to get such an answer, not even from you” (62). Frodo’s own sense of his responsibility will make itself felt at Crickhollow when Merry and Fredegar have told him of the appearance of the Black Riders, and Frodo announces: “I have made up my mind”

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and decides to “go off in a quite unexpected direction” (107). Frodo then goes on to explain his personal decision—the decision to go through the Old Forest, known to readers of The Hobbit as a dangerous place. Frodo’s sentences can still be classified as common, everyday speech, but there are certainly elements of rhetorical structuring, such as the gradual progression towards the announcement of his decision. Another occasion which forces Frodo to display his rhetorical skills occurs when he, Sam and Gollum are arrested by Faramir: the son of the Steward of Gondor has decided to leave two guards behind to stop Frodo and Sam from proceeding, and to return to them after a military encounter. Before Faramir’s departure, he is addressed by Frodo: ‘Farewell!’ said Frodo, bowing low. ‘Think what you will, I am a friend of all enemies of the One Enemy. We would go with you, if we halfling folk could hope to serve you, such doughty men and strong as you seem, and if my errand permitted it. May the light shine on your swords!’ ‘The Halflings are courteous folk, whatever else they be,’ said Faramir. ‘Farewell!’ (658)

In view of the situation, Frodo’s words of blessing could be considered not merely courteous but also rather arrogant. Frodo lays a rhetorical claim to be on the same level as Faramir. The gesture of modesty implied in his complimenting Faramir’s “doughty men and strong” only enhances his display of dignity. Frodo has come a long way towards maturity, or rather, on his journey towards becoming an epic hero. Frodo’s new dignity is confirmed when Faramir announces his decision to let Frodo go. Frodo has displayed his acquaintance with ceremonial language by referring to himself in the third person (“you have not yet declared your will concerning the said Frodo” [690] and the archaic phrase: “your judgement […] is now at hand” (690). In Faramir’s declaration, however, the “judgement” Frodo refers to becomes a “doom”, which renders it even more archaic and ceremonial; Faramir’s decision is marked by phrases reminiscent of medieval institutions: “I declare you free in the realm of Gondor to the furthest of its ancient bounds […] This doom shall stand for a year and a day, and then cease […]” (690).


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In punctuating his narrative with speeches which display a ceremonial and archaic register, Tolkien obviously refers to a habit common to most of his readers, that of using an elevating register on certain rare occasions of ceremonial speaking—as at birthday parties. To Frodo and the hobbits, and by extension to the reader, these speeches mark a widening of their discursive horizon, providing entry to discourses of chivalry, nobility and heroism, and sometimes even hint at a transcendent sphere. Most often, the formal features of speeches are metalinguistically marked in the text itself; the reader not only is confronted with a variety of literary discourses but also is expressly alerted to their juxtaposition. It is when Frodo and Sam approach Mount Doom that Frodo’s language finally departs from the level of everyday speech. After repelling Sméagol/Gollum who has tried to wrest the Ring from him, he exclaims: “Begone, and trouble me no more! If you touch me ever again, you shall be cast yourself into the Fire of Doom” (944). Sam decides to fight Gollum himself in order to allow Frodo to go on unmolested: ‘Look out!’ cried Sam. ‘He’ll spring!’ He stepped forward, brandishing his sword. ‘Quick, Master!’ he gasped. ‘Go on! Go on! No time to lose. I’ll deal with him. Go on!’ Frodo looked at him as if at one now far away. ‘Yes, I must go on,’ he said. ‘Farewell, Sam! This is the end at last. On Mount Doom doom shall fall. Farewell!’ He turned and went on, walking slowly but erect, up the climbing path. (944)

Sam’s everyday language is set against Frodo’s ceremonial declaratives. In contrast with Sam’s common sense, Frodo’s “heroic” discourse appears to be highly ambivalent and is intimately bound up with his eventual moral failure when, having arrived at his destination, he declares: “I have come […] But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!” (945).20 Even Sam, however, is once placed in a situation where he has to decide on the future fate of Middle-earth. When, after their encounter with Shelob, he believes that Frodo is dead, he debates with himself on whether to take the Ring and proceed to fulfil the quest by himself. His internal dialogue finally turns into a soliloquy:

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‘Ah, well, I must make up my own mind. I will make it up. But I’ll be sure to go wrong: that’d be Sam Gamgee all over. ‘Let me see now: if we’re found here, or Mr. Frodo’s found, and that Thing’s on him, well, the Enemy will get it. And that’s the end of all of us, of Lórien, and Rivendell, and the Shire and all. And there’s no time to lose, or it’ll be the end anyway. The war’s begun, and more than likely things are all going the Enemy’s way already. No chance to go back with It and get advice or permission. No, it’s sit here till they come and kill me over master’s body, and gets It; or take It and go,’ He drew a deep breath. ‘Then take It, it is!’ (732)

As with Frodo, it is the sense of his own inadequacy which qualifies Sam to take his decision. Weighing his arguments he puts them in logical order, which approaches rhetorical flourish, as in the tricolon “of Lórien, and Rivendell, and the Shire and all”, the paratactic construction with the conjunction “and” and the repetition of “No” in the end. Sam’s speech resembles those of heroes of romances as well as soliloquies found in Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. King Henry IV, Part 2, 4.5.21–47, or Hamlet, 3.3.73–96). The last speech form to be examined is that expressing good advice. When talking to Frodo about Gollum, Gandalf feels the need to correct Frodo’s spontaneous reaction. Frodo declares that he does not feel any pity for Gollum and goes on to say: ‘I can’t understand you. Do you mean to say that you, and the Elves, have let him live on after all those horrible deeds? Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death.’ ‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many—yours not least […]” (59)


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Frodo’s language is that of everyday speech, which would not fit into heroic discourse (“do you mean to say”, “now at any rate”). When Gandalf in his answer switches to short, gnomic sentences and a rhetorical question, we realize that his imperative to Frodo implies an ethical maxim central to this novel. His address to Frodo could be considered an example of the tradition of exhortation, as found in sermons. The centrality of this exhortation becomes obvious when after Frodo and Sam have been joined by Gollum again, the conversation is repeated in Frodo’s mind, with slight variations: […] Deserves death! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give that to them? Then be not too eager to deal out death in the name of justice, fearing for your own safety. Even the wise cannot see all ends. ‘Very well,’ he answered aloud, lowering his sword. ‘But still I am afraid. And yet, as you see, I will not touch the creature. For now that I see him, I do pity him.’ (615)

Frodo answers the echo of Gandalf ’s speech with a rhetorical declaration of intent—which of course marks a decisive moment in the plot of The Lord of the Rings. The passage quoted is of particular interest in that it combines discourses of heroic romance and of modernism: the archaic words now return in the shape of Frodo’s stream of consciousness—and inform his decision to spare Gollum and even cooperate with him. In most cases, however, personal advice is given on the occasion of leave-taking. The Company’s departure from Rivendell, for example, is marked by a particularly multi-faceted parting scene. We are told that “their farewells had been said in the great hall by the fire” (280), but when Gandalf joins them Elrond addresses the Company once more: “This is my last word […] The further you go, the less easy will it be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on you to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road” (280–281). The narrative tradition, stemming from romance, of mitigating the pain of parting by a vow of fidelity, is referred to by being negated: the pointed absence of vows only enhances the questants’ sense of

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responsibility. It also self-referentially alerts the reader to the form of the parting ritual; and of course, so do the proverbial sayings which Gimli and Elrond fling at each other, and which are similar but not identical to proverbial sayings known to the reader, such as “He jests at scars that never felt a wound” (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.1) or “faint heart never won fair lady”. Elrond’s formal ceremonial blessing (“Farewell, and may the blessing of Elves and Men and all Free Folk go with you. May the stars shine upon your faces!” [281], unusual for its reference to the stars rather than the sun, is followed by a parting wish of Bilbo’s (“Good … good luck! […] And don’t be too long! Farewell!” [281]) which stems from everyday discourse; this juxtaposition again alerts the reader to the parting scene’s formal features. Both Elrond and Bilbo imaginatively reach out into the future, but Bilbo’s reference to Frodo’s return forms a welcome addition to Elrond’s deliberate vagueness. When Frodo leaves Faramir, the Steward’s son makes use of an elevated style which not only characterizes his own nobility but also, to an even greater extent, Frodo’s advancement to the stage of heroism: “May no hunger trouble you on the road […] You will have no lack of water as you walk in Ithilien, but do not drink of any stream that flows from Imlad Morgul, the Valley of Living Death […]” (694). Faramir’s parting words illustrate his dignity, as do the use of full forms (“you will”) and direct imperatives (“do not drink […]”). We gather that Frodo has reached the most momentous phase of his quest. The parting from Lórien had taken on another form: as in fairy tales, Galadriel passes around gifts which may have magical powers, her words emphasizing the ritual quality of giving. To Aragorn she gives a precious gem which belonged to Arwen Evenstar whom Aragorn wishes to marry: This stone I gave to Celebrian my daughter, and she to hers; and now it comes to you as a token of hope. In this hour take the name that was foretold for you, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil! (375)

The gift is accompanied by a ritual naming, as in a christening. Galadriel also gives Sam a gift, a box containing “earth from my orchard” (375) which obviously stands for a nostalgic longing for perfect beauty, as incorporated by the Elves:


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[…] Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our Spring and our Summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory. (375)

The giving of gifts as a parting ritual is, of course, an archaic custom and may remind the reader of fairy tales. The usual blessing is given a concrete shape in the form of magic gifts which may help to make the blessing come true, just as the Elves  can be understood as the embodiment of primeval beauty and happiness. This fairy-tale motif is now connected to the discourse of romantic nostalgia: after the departure of the fairies only memory, a longing for some past perfection, will remain. At the final parting from Gondor, Queen Arwen, who is, of course, of Elvish ancestry, will also give Frodo a gift. Its magic, however, is psychologized: But the Queen Arwen said: ‘A gift I will give you. For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Lúthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter. But in my stead you shall go, Ring-bearer, when the time comes, and if you then desire it. If your hurts grieve you still and the memory of your burden is heavy, then you may pass into the West, until all your wounds and weariness are healed. But wear this now in memory of Elfstone and Evenstar with whom your life has been woven!’ And she took a white gem like a star that lay upon her breast hanging upon a silver chain, and she set the chain about Frodo’s neck. ‘When the memory of the fear and the darkness troubles you,’ she said, ‘this will bring you aid.’ (974–975)

His quest has turned Frodo from a creature without cares into a hero who will never get rid of the mental wounds sustained during his, albeit successful, quest. His hurts, however, are balanced by the memory of acquaintance with a hero and a heroine, who stand for perfect beauty, royalty and ethical values. Arwen’s language is characterized by imagery, the pointed use of apt, if conventional, metaphors. Her decision to become a mortal in order to share Aragorn’s life is expressed through a periphrasis (“the choice of

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Lúthien”), and the weightiness of her decision is rendered through the age-old, Petrarchan opposition of “the sweet and the bitter”. The most significant images, however, characterize Frodo’s state of mind, with which the Queen perfectly empathizes: the memory of his “burden” will be “heavy” to Frodo, but the memory of Aragorn and Arwen, of “the Elfstone and Evenstar” will obviously be able to “lift” it. The magic of the Elvish chain becomes psychological magic. Physical and mental experiences are also connected when metaphorical “hurts” lead to literal “grief ”; and when metaphorical “wounds” and literal “weariness” undergo “healing”. We are reminded of heroes of medieval chivalrous romances suffering from “wounds” which may have a mental correlative, such as the Fisher-King in Perceval. As a recipient of Arwen’s queenly and sympathetic address, Frodo attains a dignity of a kind which had not been associated with his “race” before. It is memory which elevates Frodo from the mental level common to hobbits; and Arwen emphasizes the relevance of memory by an elevated rhetorical register. Sadness and melancholy are obviously an unavoidable correlative of the depth of experience acquired by Frodo. The main purveyor of good advice is, of course, Gandalf, who will remind Bilbo (269–270), Saruman (582–583) and Pippin (593–594, 759–760) of their respective stations and warn them against presuming to overstep them. In the course of his journey, Frodo will feel the need to assume Gandalf ’s position in order to avail of Sméagol’s cooperation. Like Gandalf he proceeds from a declaration of his trust in the addressee, that is, in the reformation of Sméagol, who has promised to help Frodo on his quest, and like Gandalf, he tempers this declaration with a warning, which he conveys by using rhetoric: ‘Sméagol,’ he said, ‘I will trust you once more. Indeed it seems that I must do so, and that it is my fate to receive help from you, where I least looked for it, and your fate to help me whom you long pursued with evil purpose. So far you have deserved well of me and have kept your promise truly. Truly, I say and mean,’ he added with a glance at Sam, ‘for twice now we have been in your power, and you have done no harm to us. Nor have you tried to take from me what you once sought. May the third time prove the best! But I warn you, Sméagol, you are in danger.’


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‘Yes, yes, master!’ said Gollum. ‘Dreadful danger! Sméagol’s bones shake to think of it, but he doesn’t run away. He must help nice master.’ ‘I did not mean the danger that we all share,’ said Frodo. ‘I mean a danger to yourself alone. You swore a promise by what you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it; but it will seek a way to twist it to your own undoing. Already you are being twisted. You revealed yourself to me just now, foolishly. Give it back to Sméagol you said. Do not say that again! Do not let that thought grow in you! You will never get it back. But the desire of it may betray you to a bitter end. You will never get it back. In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!’ Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. (640)

Sam’s commentary highlights the un-hobbit-like features of Frodo’s speech. There are formal, archaic phrases (“deserved well of me”, “twice”, “to your own undoing”, “in the last need”), there is repetition and variation (“your fate […] my fate”), inversion (“Already you are being twisted”) and personification (“the desire may betray you”). Most prominently, though, there we recognize a certain gnomic quality which echoes declarations by Elrond: like Elrond, Frodo forms short sentences (“I mean a danger to yourself alone”) which take up a verbal thread from the previous sentence. Unlike Elrond, however, Frodo puts his conclusions into imperatives: Sméagol is put into his place by Frodo’s simple commands, which turn around the same issue which Elrond addressed: the danger inherent in desiring the Ring. Frodo has not quite reached the rhetorical level of Elrond and his romance antecedents. His speech still contains colloquial and evasive phrases (“Indeed it seems that I must do so”, “to take from me what you once sought”). His experiences and the growing sense of his responsibility, however, are turning the innocuous hobbit into an epic hero, a process which on the printed page manifests itself linguistically. It is obvious, though, that the danger Frodo refers to does not just threaten Sméagol but increasingly Frodo himself. While he warns Sméagol to stop fantasizing about getting back the Ring, he himself indulges in fantasies

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of using it. He is no longer one of the foolish and the weak who Gandalf and Elrond believed to be most fitted to carry the Ring, but increasingly one of the strong and powerful characters who are more liable to be tempted. The speeches in The Lord of the Rings draw upon a wide variety of literary and non-literary pre-texts. Indeed, it could well be argued that they reflect the Western tradition of speechmaking as a whole. There are council speeches reminiscent of Homer, speeches reflecting an outlook on life, as in medieval and Romantic poetry, ceremonial speeches which may reflect bygone (e.g. medieval) practice, declaratory speeches, which recall Shakespearean plays, speeches of exhortation reminiscent of sermons and popular traditions of communal speechmaking. What many of these speeches have in common is their pivotal position in the narrative, such as Bilbo’s birthday speech which precedes his departure and the Council of Elrond which results in the formation of the Fellowship of the Ring. This variety draws the reader’s attention to an impressive array of linguistic devices, and they thus fulfil a metalinguistic function, a function enhanced by instances of parody and archaism. The linguistic features of the speeches, on one hand, mark turning points in the plot, serve the purpose of characterization and demonstrate character development and, on the other hand, they contribute to creating that vast universe of language which is characteristic of The Lord of the Rings.

Notes 1. Cf. Kennedy 4–5 et passim. 2. This classification was first introduced by Aristotle (On Rhetoric, 3); cf. Kennedy 4, Harris 59–60. 3. On the archaisms of Elrond, cf. Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 70. 4. The tripartite division of genera dicendi, or characters of style, obviously goes back to Greek rhetorical handbooks while its classical formulation is found in the Rhetoric ad Herennium, written at the beginning of the first century B. C., cf. Kennedy, 6, 86, 89; cf. also Conybeare 306. 5. On Elrond’s way of speaking, cf. Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien 68–70.


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6. As Shippey notes, the Council of Elrond chapter shows Tolkien’s “unusual ability to suggest cultural variation by differences in mode of speech” (J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 69). 7. As Jane Chance Nitzsche notices, Saruman “fails to use language cunningly enough to obtain his ends” (115). His speech exemplifies the fact that “human speech can reflect man’s highest and lowest aspirations: good words can express the love for another as cunning words can seek to subvert the other for the speaker’s own selfish ends” (115), and Shippey comments: “Saruman, indeed, talks exactly like too many politicians” (J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 75). 8. Saruman will reveal his true nature soon enough, as his style changes abruptly. On Saruman as a “word-twister” and “a chameleon of dialects, capable of shifting stylistic gears a half-dozen times in as many paragraphs”, cf. Walker 143. As Dennis Wilson Wise notices, this episode participates in the anti-rhetoric discourse begun in Plato’s Republic and continued in Milton’s Paradise Lost, a tradition which critiques the blurring of the “disjunction between being and seeming” achieved by rhetorical tricks (Wise 10). We cannot concur with the assumption that “Tolkien does everything in his power to discredit rhetoric” altogether (Wise 22), though, as there are so many unexceptionable speeches in The Lord of the Rings which qualify as rhetorical masterpieces, as those by Elrond and Gandalf. 9. Martin Simonson compares Bilbo’s birthday speech to the “inaugural discourse” by Mr. Pickwick in Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers and locates it in the “realm” of the Victorian novel; Simonson 119–120. It should be noted, though, that the sudden ending largely enhances the parodic quality of Bilbo’s speech, the conventionality of which is emphasized by Bilbo’s sudden break with conventions. 10. On the character and literary antecedents of Galadriel, cf. Beal, “Saint Galadriel?” 11. It is Sam himself who calls this speech “nonsense”, not Tolkien (or the narrator), as Walker (148) assumes. This concluding remark is another of Sam’s hedges, an expression of (misplaced) intellectual modesty. 12. On the “theme of idealistic reverence for a lady” as “typical of medieval romance”, cf. Simonson 209. 13. Some of the speeches recorded from late antiquity obviously fulfil a ceremonial function rather than one of persuasion. Laurent Pernot (262–263) draws attention to a speech made by Polemo who was invited

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by the Emperor Hadrian “to give the address for the inauguration of the temple of Olympian Zeus at Athens”. During antiquity, however, these ceremonial speeches obviously constituted the exception, not the rule. It was in the “physically demonstrative and ritualistic culture” of “late medieval Europe” that “the rhetoric of celebration and display” gained greater prominence; cf. Cox 335. 14. On Tom Bombadil’s “rollicking metre and outrageous rhyme”, cf. Walker 143. 15. For a thorough discussion of Tom Bombadil’s identity and status, cf. Beal, “Who is Tom Bombadil?” 16. Complete Poems 347. 17. Cf. Simonson 107, who notices that while Gimli and Legolas “are able to understand the pragmatics of the hobbits and to adopt a language apt for the interaction with them”, Théoden, “a character with markedly epic traits [...]” does not alter “his habitual style of speech” (107–108). 18. Surely no reference is required for “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, but Richard Corbet’s poem, composed around 1625, can be found in Percy, Reliques, vol. 3, 205–207. 19. As Henry Gee notices with regard to previous parts of the speech and the narrative paragraph leading up to it, the “‘high’ style” used resembles biblical language, with the use of the conjunction “and” at the beginning of sentences (The Science of Middle-earth 46–47). 20. On the centrality of Frodo’s failure, cf. Spacks 63–64. As Flieger notices, “Frodo’s words as he sets the Ring on his finger and claims it are filled with awful irony […]. His use of choose and will make it clear that he believes he is acting freely. But the negative, the repeated not is telling evidence that his will has been perverted and his choice preempted” (Splintered Light 153–154).

Works Cited Fiction, Poetry and Other Primary Texts Carroll, Robert, and Stephen Prickett, eds. The Bible: Authorized King James Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Keats, John. The Complete Poems, ed. John Barnard. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977.


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Percy, Thomas, ed. Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1866 [repr. Elibron Classics, 2005]. Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G.  Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings, 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

Critical Works Cited Beal, Jane. “Saint Galadriel?: J. R. R. Tolkien as the Hagiographer of Middle-­ earth.” Journal of Tolkien Research 10.2 (2020). Art. 2. Web. Beal, Jane. “Who is Tom Bombadil?: Interpreting the Light in Frodo Baggins’ and Tom Bombadil’s Role in the Healing of Traumatic Memory in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.” Journal of Tolkien Research 6.1 (2018). Art. 1. Web. Chance Nitzsche, Jane. Tolkien’s Art: ‘A Mythology for England.’ London: Macmillan, 1979. Conybeare, Catherine. “Augustine’s Rhetoric in Theory and Practice.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Michael J. MacDonald. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 301–311. Cox, Virginia. “Rhetoric and Politics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Michael J.  MacDonald. New  York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 329–340. Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2002. Gee, Henry. The Science of Middle-earth. London: Souvenir Press, 2005. Harris, Edward M. “Rhetoric and Politics.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Michael J.  MacDonald. New  York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 53–62. Kennedy, George A. A New History of Classical Rhetoric. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. Pernot, Laurent. “Rhetoric and the Greco-Roman Second Sophistic.” In The Oxford Handbook of Rhetorical Studies. Ed. Michael J. MacDonald. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. 253–65. Shippey, Tom A. J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. London: HarperCollins, 2001 (2000). Simonson, Martin. The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2008.

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Spacks, Patricia Meyer. “Power and Meaning in The Lord of the Rings.” In Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, ed. Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 52–67. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Wise, Dennis Wilson. “Harken Not to Wild Beasts: Between Rage and Eloquence in Saruman and Thraymachus.” Journal of Tolkien Research 3.2 (2016), Art. 1. Web.

7 Storytelling Thomas Kullmann

A large part of the narrative information of The Lord of the Rings is conveyed to the reader in the form of stories told by the protagonists to one another, rather than as an account of what the characters experience. In this respect Tolkien’s novel follows a practice inaugurated by Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid and followed by prose romances of late antiquity, such as Heliodorus’ Aethiopica, and their Renaissance imitations.1 To modern readers it may best be known through the first book of Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605).2 While sometimes “intercalated stories” are also found in nineteenth-century novels—notably in Charles R. Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820) and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847)—this feature of The Lord of the Rings obviously relates the book to older traditions of epic narrative.3 In the body of the narrative, about 45–50 stories (depending on ways of counting) can be identified, told by 23 storytellers. While some of the stories take up 10 or 15 lines, others fill several pages. Each of these stories provides essential narrative information. The list of 23 storytellers does not include Tom Bombadil, who tells the hobbits “many remarkable stories” (129), which are not, however, passed on to the reader. Neither does it include Bilbo and Frodo, whose accounts of their dealings with © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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the Ring, given at the Council of Elrond (249), are not conveyed on the page, as the reader already has the relevant information. Basically, the stories told can be grouped into three categories: • Accounts are given of what has recently happened to certain characters, at the time when other characters were engaged elsewhere. This technique allows Tolkien to present a complex plot with many strings of action running concurrently, while focusing on one preferred string and one limited point of view. In some cases, characters who were separated from the other travellers tell of their experiences when they are reunited: Gandalf tells the others about his imprisonment by Saruman (256–262) and about his experiences after he was lost in the mines of Moria (501–503), and Merry and Pippin tell Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas about how they witnessed the defeat of Saruman by the Ents (564–575). Finally, Legolas and Gimli tell Pippin and Merry about their journey with Aragorn along the “Paths of the Dead” (875–878). This category also includes Farmer Maggot’s account of the Black Rider’s visit (94), Legolas’ report of Gollum’s escape (255–256), Haldir’s news of the Elves’ fight with Orcs (345–346) and Farmer Cotton’s narrative of what happened in the Shire during the four hobbits’ absence (1012–1013). • Stories are told which cover the time preceding Frodo’s adventures. While the bulk of the novel concerns a period of time of slightly more than one year, these stories may span the lifetime of their tellers. The stories include “the Gaffer’s” account of Frodo’s childhood and Bilbo’s doings (23–24); Glóin’s (229), Boromir’s (245–246) and Aragorn’s (248) stories of their own fortunes and those of their peoples; Treebeard’s (473) and Gandalf ’s (521) tales of Saruman as well as more specific narratives of Gandalf ’s visits to Gondor (252–254) and to Edoras (435); and Aragorn’s meeting with Gollum (253).4 • Finally, the plot is given a huge mythological background which reaches a remote past and stretches over distant regions of a vast fictional universe. This mythological world is created by means of tales told in the course of the novel, usually by old and experienced characters to an audience of hobbits, who, as we have seen in Chap. 4, function as intermediaries between the fantastic world and the reader.

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These stories include Gandalf ’s account of the creation of the Ring and its history (47–58), Aragorn’s tale of Lúthien Tinúviel (191–194), Legolas’ story of Nimrodel and Théoden’s tale of the Paths of the Dead (797–798). Faramir’s account of the Númenoreans (677–679) and its continuation, about the city of Minas Ithil which “passed into evil” (692), also reach into the past, but as Faramir refers to ancient records, his story is not “mythological” but “historical” and recalls historical pre-texts. Elrond’s account of Sauron, Númenor and the “Elder Days” (242–245) and Treebeard’s narration of the early times of the Ents (475–477) also belong to “mythology” even though the two storytellers can, because of their extreme longevity, partly tell them from memory. The three levels of the past recalled or created by the stories told in the course of the novel interact in multiple ways. While the main body of Tolkien’s narrative tells the story of Frodo’s quest (or anti-quest) from his departure from Hobbiton until his arrival at the Cracks of Doom and his return to the Shire, the tales place this story within a wider narrative characterized by longue durée. The long life-span of Gandalf, Elrond and Treebeard establishes links between the present as experienced by the hobbits and the remote past; Aragorn sets out to complete the legendary events told by Théoden, and from the beginning, the Ring constitutes physical evidence of the presence and relevance of mythological stories. Throughout the novel the narrative establishes the notions of short time and long time, of various forms of durée, and creates a dialectic relationship between the remoteness and the imminence of mythology.5 The explanations of Mablung and Damrod, “soldiers of Gondor, and […] Rangers of Ithilien” (659), who talk to Frodo and Sam about the current military situation, may serve as an example: ‘It is close on ten leagues hence to the east-shore of Anduin,’ said Mablung, ‘and we seldom come so far afield. But we have a new errand on this journey: we come to ambush the Men of Harad. Curse them!’ ‘Aye, curse the Southrons!’ said Damrod. ‘’Tis said that there were dealings of old between Gondor and the kingdoms of the Harad in the Far South; though there was never friendship. In those days our bounds were


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away south beyond the mouths of Anduin, and Umbar, the nearest of their realms, acknowledged our sway. But that is long since. ‘’Tis many lives of Men since any passed to or fro between us. Now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them, and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him—they were ever ready to His will—as have so many also in the East. I doubt not that the days of Gondor are numbered, and the walls of Minas Tirith are doomed, so great is His strength and malice.’ ‘But still we will not sit idle and let Him do as He would,’ said Mablung. ‘[…] The road may pass, but they shall not! Not while Faramir is Captain. He leads now in all perilous ventures. But his life is charmed, or fate spares him for some other end.’ (659–660)

Several passages of this text deal with the two men’s short-term project: the reference to the distance of “ten leagues” and several references to time: “some days ago”, “some time ere noon” as well as colloquial declarations: “we come to teach them another lesson”, “they shall not [pass]”, including curses: “Curse them!” Their present-day concerns, however, are intimately connected to a remote past: “of old”, “in those days”, “they were ever ready”, which reaches out into the future: “the days of Gondor are numbered”, “fate spares him for some other end”. This opposition between short and long time corresponds to two different styles. While short time is rendered colloquially, long time is given a rhetoric ornamentation: there are archaic terms: “sway”; metonymies: “many lives of Men”, “days of Gondor” and synecdoche: “the walls of Minas Tirith”, “we will not sit idle”. Most importantly, however, “long time” developments are relegated to second-hand sources of information: “’tis said”, “we learn”; in one instance, the juxtaposition of long and short time is expressed through the rhetorical figure of zeugma: “The road may pass, but they shall not!” On the narrative level the double role of Mablung and Damrod is expressed through the motif that they are “at first using the Common Speech, but in the manner of older days” but change into “the elven-­ tongue” (659). The dialectics of remoteness and imminence is expressed in Faramir’s account of the sources of his knowledge. Historical information can be passed on in oral or written form, and in Faramir’s case, his knowledge is partly based on material remains: “We in the house of Denethor know

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much ancient lore by long tradition, and there are moreover in our treasuries many things preserved: books and tablets writ on withered parchments, yea, and on stone, and on leaves of silver and of gold, in divers characters” (670). As it turns out, Gandalf consulted these records to learn about “stories of Isildur” (671) and thus to find the missing—historical—link between the myth of the forging of the Rings and Gollum’s possession of the One Ring. Gandalf appears as a mediator between myth and present-day reality. While to Faramir he is an almost mythological figure, called “The Grey Pilgrim” (670), Frodo’s account of Gandalf, whom he considers a friend, is provided in everyday language and thus forms a contrast to Faramir’s story: “‘Gandalf!’ said Frodo. ‘I thought it was he. Gandalf the Grey, dearest of counsellors […]’” (670). Faramir’s consciousness of history does not stop him from relating to an even more remote mythological past and dreaming of an ideal future: ‘For myself,’ said Faramir, ‘I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Arnor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves […]’ (671–672)

Mythical vision is characterized by symbols (“White Tree”, “Silver Crown”) and an elaborate personification of the ancient city of Minas Arnor. Faramir then proceeds to connect the historical to the mythological level. The population of Gondor, which his father rules over in the capacity of “steward” (670), has descended from the “Men of Númenor” (677), who were obliged to leave their “kingdom in the midst of the Sea, within sight of Elvenhome” (679) and settle in Middle-earth: ‘It is not said that evil arts were ever practised in Gondor, or that the Nameless One was ever named in honour there; and the old wisdom and beauty brought out of the West remained long in the realm of the sons of Elendil the Fair, and they linger there still. Yet even so it was Gondor that brought about its own decay, falling by degrees into dotage, and thinking that the Enemy was asleep, who was only banished not destroyed.


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‘Death was ever present, because the Númenóreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars. And the last king of the line of Anárion had no heir. […] ‘So it came to pass in the days of Cirion the Twelfth Steward (and my father is the six and twentieth) that they rode to our aid and at the great Field of Celebrant they destroyed our enemies that had seized our northern provinces […]’ (678)

One of the archaic features of this piece of narration is certainly the convention of describing a country or people as a person to whom human weaknesses and emotions are attributed (“Gondor brought about its own decay”). This personification may remind us of eighteenth- and nineteenth-­century historiography which often psychologized peoples and nations, as in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The rhetorical figure of synecdoche (“sons of Elendil the Fair”) may remind us of biblical language (“sons of Adam”). Often concrete actions are referred to as habitual and thus become emblems of a certain collective state of mind (“lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry”; “withered men compounded strong elixirs”; etc.). The historical, with its typical way of counting a country’s rulers, blends seamlessly with the language of mythology. The contrast between Faramir’s and the hobbits’ ways of storytelling, and of experiencing history, is emphasized when Sam asks Faramir about the Elves: ‘[…] in Middle-earth Men and Elves became estranged in the days of darkness, by the arts of the Enemy, and by the slow changes of time in which each kind walked further down their sundered roads. Men now fear and misdoubt the Elves, and yet know little of them. And we of Gondor grow like other Men, like the men of Rohan; for even they, who are foes of the Dark Lord, shun the Elves and speak of the Golden Wood with dread.

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‘Yet there are among us still some who have dealings with the Elves when they may, and ever and anon one will go in secret to Lórien, seldom to return. Not I. For I deem it perilous now for mortal man wilfully to seek out the Elder People. Yet I envy you that have spoken with the White Lady.’ (679)

The story of the people of Gondor’s estrangement from the Elves may remind us of romantic conceptions of the estrangement of humanity from nature and from natural instincts. Doubts and fears go along with a loss of knowledge, just as civilized humanity is no longer aware of its “natural” roots. The Elves stand for what Faramir at the same time fears and desires. This estrangement finds its correlative in Faramir’s “literary” style, which contrasts with that of the hobbits, who are, of course, familiar with Elves and to whom contact with them was quite natural. Readers may now find themselves in a curious position: as educated and enlightened individuals, they will share Faramir’s sense of the past; as readers of The Lord of the Rings, they will sympathize with the hobbits, whose historical awareness is rather limited, while Elves to them are living reality. Faramir’s sense of estrangement from the past is also conveyed by a cluster of figurative pronouncements. The peoples are personified: “each kind walked further down their sundered roads”, which contrasts with the real sundering of roads which Frodo experienced when he separated from the “Fellowship”; the estrangement is an organic process: “we grow like other men”; it manifests itself in terms of language: “[…] speak of the Golden Wood with dread”. The “rootedness” of Faramir’s fears is expressed by archaic terms: “For I deem it perilous”. The Gondor people’s lack of knowledge about the Elves corresponds to the vagueness of their fears. A similar vagueness will inform Faramir’s warnings about the evil the hobbits will encounter on their way to Mordor, in the “valley of Minas Morgul” (692). The history of the “men of Númenor” is supplemented by a reference to an evil branch of them: “It is said that their lords were men of Númenor who had fallen into dark wickedness; to them the Enemy had given rings of power, and he had devoured them: living ghosts they were become, terrible and evil” (692). Decadence is now linked to pure evil. The mixing of images indicates that we are dealing with evil in a very abstract form: the men of Númenor


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“had fallen into dark wickedness” as into an abyss, at the same time they had become food to the Enemy. A similar instance of catachresis is found in the statement: “a shapeless fear lived within the ruined walls” (692). While on the one hand fear is personified, on the other hand it is “shapeless”. As before, Faramir explicitly refers to the act of storytelling (“it is said”). While Faramir has access to old objects and written documents, other characters refer either to memory or to oral tradition as the source of their knowledge of the remote past. Elrond’s and Treebeard’s long memories are commented upon by their listeners, the hobbits. The Dwarves and Men (with the exception of Faramir), however, know about the past from oral tradition; this may be handed down “from father to son” (797) or rather have the quality of rumour, as in the case of Glóin and the Dwarves (240). The sources of Gollum’s knowledge of Sauron’s ways remain a mystery, indicating his apparent dishonesty (642). In the cases of the Elves, and of Théoden, ancient tradition is supplemented by some slight element of supernatural perception. So Legolas claims that “when the wind is in the new leaves the echo of her [Nimrodel’s] voice may still be heard by the falls which bear her name. And when the wind is in the south the voice of Amroth comes up from the sea” (341). And Théoden informs Merry that according to “folk” the dead “may themselves be seen passing out of the door like shadows” (797). Folklore is explicitly referenced as a source of historical, or pre-historical knowledge. One of the purposes of the stories told in The Lord of the Rings is that of establishing links between present events and a remote past, which in some ways resembles ancient mythologies. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey do indeed provide countless examples of the narrative linking of present action and the near and remote past. In Tolkien’s novel, the sense of longue durée is established by various means: quite often we simply come across the phrases “long ago” (e.g. 47, 242) or “in those days” (193, 659). Elrond, who looks at the past in a more factual way, speaks of the “Elder Days” (243). Treebeard, who is more poetical and childlike, uses the phrase “when the world was young” (475). Tom Bombadil’s tales stand out from the others in referring at the same time to an age of “vast forgotten woods” (130), which, however, in the case of his “Old Forest”

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have not aged a bit. In the Tom Bombadil episode nature features as a phenomenon which is at the same time extremely ancient and quite contemporary. A thorough sense of durée, however, is only conveyed when these accounts of the “elder days” are juxtaposed with the perceptions of time offered by mortals, Dwarves and Men. Aragorn, Faramir and Théoden refer to themselves as the latest scions of long dynasties. Aragorn calls himself “Isildur’s heir” (251), Isildur being the person who in “mythological times” had lost the Ring which has now been found, just as Aragorn will now reclaim his kingdom which his remote ancestors had lost. Faramir is very much aware of his being the son of the six and twentieth Steward of Gondor (678), just as Théoden is proud of his ancient family (797). The dynastic perception of longue durée is conveyed by Glóin when he rephrases “many generations” as “many lives of kings” (240), while Damrod, the soldier, speaks of “many lives of Men” (659). The sense of durée becomes particularly apparent in the case of Aragorn who in the same speech refers to his own hard and long life and to the continuity of his family from the ancient days of heroes like Elendil and Isildur (248). In some cases the reference to ancient times is linked to the future, as with the prophecy about “the Sword that was broken” (246), Damrod’s belief that “the days of Gondor are numbered” (659) and Théoden’s interpretation of the words reported by folklore as a prophecy about to be fulfilled (798). To the “heroic characters” of the novel, the present is contrasted with the past as the product of degeneration rather than progress. Aragorn admits: “Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled” (248). Faramir tells Frodo and Sam about his capital, Minas Tirith, stating that “old wisdom and beauty […] linger there still” (678), so that there is hope that the heroic past can be restored one day. It should be noted that this sense of decadence is itself an old epical ingredient; the motif of past glory is at least as old as Homer’s Iliad. The stories told in The Lord of the Rings not only evoke various levels of the past, but also characterize situations and speakers. When Gandalf tells Frodo about the history of the Ring, this information is conveyed in a seemingly unobtrusive way as part of an ordinary conversation. Frodo initiates this conversation “after a late breakfast” and “by the open


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window of the study” (46) by asking the wizard to elaborate on certain remarks he had let fall about the ring he had inherited from Bilbo. Gandalf starts by giving his central message before embarking on an account which embraces mythology as well as family history: ‘[…] You say the ring is dangerous, far more dangerous than I guess. In what way?’ ‘In many ways,’ answered the wizard. ‘It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him. ‘In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less […]’ (46–47)

Gandalf ’s narrative is interrupted time and again by Frodo’s exclamations (“‘How terrifying!’ said Frodo” [47]) and more often by questions (“‘How long have you known this?’ asked Frodo at length” [47]). Gandalf proceeds to provide a history of his own investigations into the matter, thus telling part of the story of his own life. The narrative is then interrupted by the experiment of throwing the Ring into the fire; after that Gandalf proceeds to talk about Sauron and his attempts at recovering the Ring, and finally, about the Ring’s transition to Bilbo. The language used by Gandalf is close to everyday speech but also contains some rhetorical flourishes, such as inversion and anaphora. Speaking about Gollum, Gandalf says: ‘[…] After a year or two he left the mountains. You see, though still bound by desire of it, the Ring was no longer devouring him; he began to revive a little. He felt old, terribly old, yet less timid, and he was mortally hungry. ‘Light, light of Sun and Moon, he still feared and hated, and he always will, I think; but he was cunning. He found he could hide from daylight and moonshine, and make his way swiftly and softly by dead of night with his pale cold eyes, and catch small frightened or unwary things. He grew stronger and bolder with new food and new air. He found his way into Mirkwood, as one would expect.’ (57)

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The narration contains tags referring to his interlocutor (“you see”) and himself (“I think”), but elements of straightforward narration are mixed with literary embellishment, such as the use of inversion: “Light […] he still feared and hated”. Many sentences begin with the personal pronoun “he”; instead of variation, as is customary in more modern stories, Gandalf makes use of the more archaic technique of anaphora. The story ends in exclamations (“Wretched fool!”), and a statement of things as they are: “He [the Enemy] knows where Isildur fell. He knows where Gollum found his ring. He knows that it is a Great Ring, for it gave long life […]” (59). The narration then leads up to the plan which will inform the rest of the book: Gandalf tells Frodo that the Ring must be destroyed in “the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-­ mountain” (61). Other narrations are structured similarly. When Gandalf tells Frodo about what happened while Frodo was unconscious and captured by the Black Riders, his story is interrupted and moved along by Frodo’s questions (219–222). Gandalf supplements his account of the facts by mythological background information, without changing from the discourse of common speech. A factual, colloquial style is also used by Merry and Pippin, who relate part of their experiences with Treebeard and the Ents to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas (564–575). The story they tell is about the taking of Isengard and Saruman’s consequent loss of power: ‘Treebeard and a few more Ents crept on, right round to within sight of the great gates. Pippin and I were with him. We were sitting on Treebeard’s shoulders, and I could feel the quivering tenseness in him. But even when they are roused, Ents can be very cautious and patient. They stood still as carved stones, breathing and listening. ‘Then all at once there was a tremendous stir. Trumpets blared, and the walls of Isengard echoed. We thought that we had been discovered, and that battle was going to begin. But nothing of the sort. All Saruman’s people were marching away. I don’t know much about this war, or about the Horsemen of Rohan, but Saruman seems to have meant to finish off the king and all his men with one final blow. […]’ (566)


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A journalistic account of a certain event is given by a minute description of particular moments, from a specific point of view. There are some colloquialisms (“nothing of the sort”, “finish off the king”) which are not be found in any of the other stories of The Lord of the Ring. In contrast to limited third-person narration, the form of the story allows Merry and Pippin to summarize events and comment upon them in hindsight. They now know that “Ents can be very cautious and patient” and can describe their attitude with the help of a pertinent image: “They stood still as carved stones”. Legolas’ and Gimli’s account of Aragorn’s journey along “the Paths of the Dead” (874) is rather different in style: He [Gimli] fell silent; but Pippin and Merry were so eager for news that at last Legolas said: ‘I will tell you enough for your peace; for I felt not the horror, and I feared not the shadows of Men, powerless and frail as I deemed them.’ Swiftly then he told of the haunted road under the mountains, and the dark tryst at Erech, and the great ride thence, ninety leagues and three, to Pelargir on Anduin. ‘Four days and nights, and on into a fifth, we rode from the Black Stone,’ he said. ‘And lo! in the darkness of Mordor my hope rose; for in that gloom the Shadow Host seemed to grow stronger and more terrible to look upon. Some I saw riding, some striding, yet all moving with the same great speed. Silent they were, but there was a gleam in their eyes. In the uplands of Lamedon they overtook our horses, and swept round us, and would have passed us by, if Aragorn had not forbidden them. ‘At his command they fell back. “Even the shades of Men are obedient to his will,” l thought. “They may serve his needs yet!” […]’ (874–875)

Legolas makes use of an archaic style of storytelling, in using old forms of negation (“I felt not […] I feared not […]”) and the archaic verb “deemed” in the sense of “believed them to be”. Even though he intimates that as an elf he is immune to being afraid of dead humans, the horror elicited by this army of the dead is conveyed to his listeners, and to the reader, by means of paradox (“in the darkness of Mordor my hope rose”) and inversion (“Some I saw riding”). The strength of this “Shadow Host” is conveyed through a description of their appearance: they “seemed to grow stronger and more terrible to look upon”, and “there was a gleam in their

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eyes”. This connection between darkness and fighting power may remind us of Macpherson’s Ossian tales: negative impressions, such as darkness and battle, provide the reader with an aesthetic pleasure. When the narration reaches the battle fought by Aragorn and his “Shadow Host”, it is Gimli’s turn to speak: ‘But Aragorn halted and cried with a great voice: “Now come! By the Black Stone I call you!” And suddenly the Shadow Host that had hung back at the last came up like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it. Faint cries I heard, and dim horns blowing, and a murmur as of countless far voices: it was like the echo of some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago. Pale swords were drawn; but I know not whether their blades would still bite, for the Dead needed no longer any weapon but fear. None would withstand them. ‘To every ship they came that was drawn up, and then they passed over the water to those that were anchored; and all the mariners were filled with a madness of terror and leaped overboard, save the slaves chained to the oars. Reckless we rode among our fleeing foes, driving them like leaves, until we came to the shore […] ‘Ere that dark day ended none of the enemy were left to resist us; all were drowned, or were flying south in the hope to find their own lands upon foot. Strange and wonderful I thought it that the designs of Mordor should be overthrown by such wraiths of fear and darkness. With its own weapons was it worsted!’ (876)

Gimli’s account follows the “epic” convention of using images from nature to describe the clashing of enemies in battle: “like a grey tide, sweeping all away before it”. This image gives way to an impressionistic account from the point of view of an eye- (or ear-) witness: “faint cries I heard, and dim horns blowing”. The literary antecedents of this description are addressed in the description itself: “it was like the echo of some forgotten battle in the Dark Years long ago”. At the same time, what is described is not a “real” battle, as there is no use of arms and no bloodshed. The image of the battle instead visualizes the effects of the emotion of fear. While on the one hand the “Shadow Host” may appear less realistic than an army of living soldiers, on the other hand the connection to the reader’s experience is stronger. It is the words of the book which raise


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the emotion of fear, and readers are bound to decide which side of the conflict they are on. Should they identify with those who are afraid of the dead warriors’ approach or with Aragorn who manipulates the dead to fight his enemies? With regard to the poetics of storytelling, the chapter entitled “The Council of Elrond” is particularly interesting. While the narratives, taken together, provide a composite picture of the history of the Ring and Sauron’s quest for universal power, the styles of narration vary from one storyteller to the other. From the beginning Frodo is introduced as a listener, and it is through the agency of Frodo’s perception that the reader learns about the state of things. We are directed to a subjective appreciation of the various accounts given, rather than to facts. The first speaker is Glóin, the Dwarf, who actually tells two stories, both of which are left unfinished: that of an expedition to the Moria mountains and that of visits by a messenger of Sauron who has asked the Dwarves for help in recovering the Ring. […] the tale of Glóin was new to him [Frodo], and when the dwarf spoke he listened attentively. It appeared that amid the splendour of their works of hand the hearts of the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain were troubled. ‘It is now many years ago,’ said Glóin, ‘that a shadow of disquiet fell upon our people. Whence it came we did not at first perceive. Words began to be whispered in secret: it was said that we were hemmed in a narrow place, and that greater wealth and splendour would soon be found in a wider world. Some spoke of Moria: the mighty works of our fathers that are called in our own tongue Khazad-dûm; and they declared that now at last we had the power and numbers to return.’ Glóin sighed. ‘Moria! Moria! Wonder of the Northern world! Too deep we delved there, and woke the nameless fear. Long have its vast mansions lain empty since the children of Durin fled. But now we spoke of it again with longing, and yet with dread; for no dwarf has dared to pass the doors of Khazad-dûm for many lives of kings, save Thrór only, and he perished. At last, however, Balin listened to the whispers, and resolved to go; and though Dáin did not give leave willingly, he took with him Ori and Óin and many of our folk, and they went away south. […]’ (240–241)

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An introductory sentence draws attention to the element of paradox inherent in the story: Although the Dwarves have material wealth, they also have troubled hearts. The first paragraph of Glóin’s story has the character of a summary or an analysis of a situation rather than an account of a chain of events. The only action is a metaphorical one: “a shadow of disquiet fell”. A collective feeling is rendered metonymically by words being “whispered in secret”. The feeling described is that of dissatisfaction and ambition. In the second paragraph, Glóin’s exclamation is a comment on what happened; the literal delving of the Dwarves’ ancestors in Moria becomes a metaphorical one: “too deep we delved there”. The story is given a literary or epical quality by the use of inversion: “Long have its vast mansions lain empty”. Traditional epic formulas are used: the motif of the alternative name goes back to Homer, and the antonomasia inherent in naming the Dwarves “children of Durin” is also found in other old texts like the Bible and Beowulf. In common with other stories told, the conjunction “for” and the preposition “save” emphasize the archaic character of the language.6 Glóin’s narration reaches a climax when he tells about the visit of Sauron’s messenger and quotes his exact words: “And he asked urgently concerning hobbits, of what kind they were, and where they dwelt. ‘For Sauron knows,’ said he, ‘that one of these was known to you on a time’” (241). The summarizing narration has given place to a report on the minute details of this conversation. The messenger’s “fell voice” has been analysed by the Dwarves: “[…] he would have sweetened it if he could” (241). The Dwarves notice that the messenger would have like to sound “sweet” but could not. At last, his breath resembles the “hiss of snakes” (241)—which is obviously an outward sign of the messenger’s evil intentions. The next tale is Elrond’s, which, however, is told in quite a different way: it is introduced by direct speech, delivered in Elrond’s style of short and mainly paratactic sentences: “And I will begin this tale, though others shall end it” (242). What follows, however, is simply reported by the narrator. The narrative begins with an account of Elrond’s “clear voice” and of the tale’s reception by his listeners, whose “eyes were turned to Elrond in fear and wonder” (242). Then, however, the narrator switches into the style of the tale itself; although it is not presented as direct speech, the


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words and grammar take an archaic turn: “For in that time he was not yet evil to behold […]” or use epic imagery: “upon the wings of storm” (242). The tale switches into direct speech when Elrond begins to talk about his own experiences: Thereupon Elrond paused a while and sighed. ‘I remember well the splendour of their banners,’ he said. ‘It recalled to me the glory of the Elder Days and the hosts of Beleriand, so many great princes and captains were assembled. And yet not so many, nor so fair, as when Thangorodrim was broken, and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so.’ ‘You remember?’ said Frodo, speaking his thought aloud in his astonishment. ‘But I thought,’ he stammered as Elrond turned towards him, ‘I thought that the fall of Gil-galad was a long age ago.’ ‘So it was indeed,’ answered Elrond gravely. ‘But my memory reaches back even to the Elder Days. Eärendil was my sire […]’ (243)

One detail sets off another memory so that various phases of the epic past are set side by side, in Elrond’s usual archaic and paratactic diction (“and the Elves deemed that evil was ended for ever, and it was not so”). This way of speaking is set off by Frodo’s interference, phrased in common speech (“was a long age ago”). Frodo’s “stammering” is set against Elrond’s “clear voice” and “grave” answer and provides an enlivening element. Elrond’s tale ends with the announcement that its sequel will be told by others: “Others shall speak of its finding, for in that I played small part” (245). Before this happens, however, Boromir interjects to supplement Elrond’s tale of Gondor and of the brave people who live there: He ceased, but at once Boromir stood up, tall and proud, before them. ‘Give me leave, Master Elrond,’ said he, ‘first to say more of Gondor, for verily from the land of Gondor I am come. And it would be well for all to know what passes there. For few, I deem, know of our deeds, and therefore guess little at their peril, if we should fail at last. ‘Believe not that in the land of Gondor the blood of Númenor is spent, nor all its pride and dignity forgotten. By our valour the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay; and thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West. But if the passages of the River should be won, what then? […]’ (245)

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Like Elrond’s story, Boromir’s narration is marked by archaisms (“verily”, “I deem”). What is different from Elrond’s story, though, is the frequent use of personal pronouns, in both singular and plural; Boromir tries to appeal to his audience by establishing personal contact. Unlike Elrond, Boromir does not impress his audience by his “clear voice” but his “tall and proud” stature. From the beginning, he is characterized as the warrior, proud of his and his people’s “deeds” and their “valour”. His story, however, mainly refers to a defeat by the forces of Mordor. He has now come to Rivendell to seek advice, especially help in interpreting a dream (245–246). Boromir’s narration can also be considered a political speech. He seeks to advertise the particular valour of his people and to make known its contributions towards keeping “the Enemy” at bay. Information about what happened is consistently given an interpretation and often connected to an appeal. Aragorn’s story appears as a similar exercise in self-assertion. His cue is the presentation of the Ring by Frodo, and his first words are spoken in answer to Boromir (247). The main body of his message, however, refers to himself: ‘[…] I forgive your doubt,’ he said, ‘Little do I resemble the figures of Elendil and Isildur as they stand carven in their majesty in the halls of Denethor. I am but the heir of Isildur, not Isildur himself. I have had a hard life and a long; and the leagues that lie between here and Gondor are a small part in the count of my journeys. I have crossed many mountains and many rivers, and trodden many plains, even into the far countries of Rhûn and Harad where the stars are strange. ‘But my home, such as I have, is in the North, for here the heirs of Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations. Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled; but ever the Sword has passed to a new keeper. And this I will say to you, Boromir, ere I end. Lonely men are we, Rangers of the wild, hunters—but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy; for they are found in many places, not in Mordor only.’ (248)

Again there is frequent use of inversion (“Little do I resemble”, “Lonely men are we”, “And this I will say to you”) and archaism (“carven”, “trodden”, “ever”). His use of the first-person singular pronoun emphasizes not


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only the subject-matter of his speech but also his loneliness. More than Boromir’s, his account consists of summarizing statements (“I have had a hard life and a long”, “I have crossed many mountains”), sometimes using metaphors (“Our days have darkened, and we have dwindled”). There are several instances of alliteration (“have had a hard”, “life and a long, and the leagues that lie”, “many mountains and many rivers”, “darkened, and we have dwindled”), which give to this speech a poetic quality. Asked for proof that Frodo’s ring is really the One Ring, Gandalf recounts how he found out about it. Like a detective, he gathered information and put it together to draw conclusions. His story is much more factual and oriented towards his listeners, while it is less poetic or “story-like”: ‘Some here will remember that many years ago I myself dared to pass the doors of the Necromancer in Dol Guldur, and secretly explored his ways, and found thus that our fears were true: he was none other than Sauron, our Enemy of old, at length taking shape and power again. Some, too, will remember also that Saruman dissuaded us from open deeds against him, and for long we watched him only. Yet at last, as his shadow grew, Saruman yielded, and the Council put forth its strength and drove the evil out of Mirkwood—and that was in the year of the finding of this Ring: a strange chance, if chance it was. ‘But we were too late, as Elrond foresaw, Sauron also had watched us, and had long prepared against our stroke, governing Mordor from afar through Minas Morgul, where his Nine servants dwelt, until all was ready. […]’ (250)

Some of the imagery of the other narratives is also present here (“as his shadow grew”), but on the whole, the character of Gandalf ’s story is quite different from that of Boromir’s or Aragorn’s. Unlike these other speakers, Gandalf repeatedly refers to his listeners’ previous knowledge (“Some here will remember”, “our fears”, “as Elrond foresaw”) and connects his statement with pieces of speculation (“a strange chance, if chance it was”). Gandalf also links his sentences with conjunctions which indicate a logical order: “Yet”, “but”.

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Further on in his story, Gandalf also tells about his feelings at one particular stage of his research, providing an account of a particular point of view sometime in the past. When his account is supplemented by Aragorn, the two ways of speaking are juxtaposed: ‘Time passed with many cares, until my doubts were awakened again to sudden fear. Whence came the hobbit’s ring? What, if my fear was true, should be done with it? […] ‘That was seventeen years ago. Soon I became aware that spies of many sorts, even beasts and birds, were gathered round the Shire, and my fear grew. I called for the help of the Dúnedain, and their watch was doubled; and I opened my heart to Aragorn, the heir of Isildur.’ ‘And I,’ said Aragorn, ‘counselled that we should hunt for Gollum, too late though it may seem. And since it seemed fit that Isildur’s heir should labour to repair Isildur’s fault, I went with Gandalf on the long and hopeless search.’ (251)

Gandalf ’s fears are expressed in the direct questions which he had asked himself 17 years ago; we can also follow the development of his feelings and consequent actions (“my fear grew”, “I called for help”, “I opened my heart”). Aragorn adds that he provided counsel but then falls back on his habit of self-aggrandizing: he fulfils what he considers a duty in the capacity of “Isildur’s Heir”; if we follow his point of view, his activities appear to be much less goal-oriented than Gandalf ’s, as he considers his search “long and hopeless”. After Legolas’ account of Gollum’s escape (255–256), Gandalf proceeds with his story, which is now mainly about Saruman’s treachery and Gandalf ’s imprisonment on the pinnacle of the tower of Orthanc. This part of his story has an introduction which gives weight to it: ‘And now I will answer Galdor’s other questions. What of Saruman? What are his counsels to us in this need? This tale I must tell in full, for only Elrond has heard it yet, and that in brief; but it will bear on all that we must resolve. It is the last chapter in the Tale of the Ring, so far as it has yet gone. ‘At the end of June I was in the Shire, but a cloud of anxiety was on my mind, and I rode to the southern borders of the little land; for I had a fore-


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boding of some danger, still hidden from me but drawing near. There messages reached me telling me of war and defeat in Gondor, and when I heard of the Black Shadow a chill smote my heart […]’. (256)

As before, Gandalf ’s story differs from the others in the detailed account of his emotions, and as before, metaphors are used to summarize a situation. Several of the five senses are combined to form a metaphorical synaesthesia: “when I heard of the Black Shadow a chill smote my heart”. Then, however, the focus falls on his meeting with a fellow wizard, Radagast, who conveys an invitation to visit Saruman, which proves to be a trap. The meeting is described in realistic detail (“I came upon a traveller sitting on a bank beside the road with his grazing horse beside him” [256]), which is set against archaic forms of name-dropping (“who at one time dwelt at Rhongobel, near the borders of Mirkwood” [256]. cf. “And Cain dwelt in the land of Nod, on the East of Eden” [Gen. 4.16]). Gandalf ’s account is also enlivened by reports of direct speech: “‘Gandalf!’ he cried. ‘I was seeking you. But I am a stranger in these parts. All I knew was that you might be found in a wild region with the uncouth name of Shire’” (256). Later, Gandalf will tell another story of a narrow escape: in the mountains of Moria he fell into an abyss. His account of his experiences is at first summarizing and metaphorical (“Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he.”) before he again turns to reporting a conversation, with Gwaihir, who rescues him again (501–503). Of the various forms of storytelling examined so far, Gandalf ’s certainly comes closest to that used in realistic nineteenth- and early twentieth-­century fiction. At the same time, the tone or style of his narration shifts repeatedly, according to whether he is referring to the mythological past or his present-day experiences.7 Legolas’ story of Gollum’s escape is also quite factual, and, like Gandalf ’s, contains reflections, conclusions and pieces of speculation. Some archaic elements, however, are found in the description of a battle: ‘It was that very night of summer, yet moonless and starless, that Orcs came on us at unawares. We drove them off after some time; they were

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many and fierce, but they came from over the mountains, and were unused to the woods. When the battle was over, we found that Gollum was gone, and his guards were slain or taken. It then seemed plain to us that the attack had been made for his rescue, and that he knew of it beforehand. How that was contrived we cannot guess; but Gollum is cunning, and the spies of the Enemy are many. The dark things that were driven out in the year of the Dragon’s fall have returned in greater numbers, and Mirkwood is again an evil place, save where our realm is maintained. […]’ (255–256)

There are elements of the archaic technique of summarizing (“they were many and fierce”), as well as an instance of an archaic form of dating (“the year of the Dragon’s fall”)—which in this case also serves to establish a connection to The Hobbit—but the account of the facts is supplemented by reasoning, that is, by giving a subjective account of the conclusions drawn from the facts (“It then seemed plain to us”). As in the nineteenth-­ century novel, a point of view is depicted, but, in contrast to Gandalf ’s story, emotions do not form a part of the narrative. Comparing the stories told, we become aware of different styles and communicative strategies. While Gandalf ’s story is quite factual, and Legolas’ partly so, the stories told by Elrond, Aragorn and Glóin have an archaic and poetical touch, which, however, manifests itself in different ways. Elrond’s style is ostentatiously simple, while Glóin’s and Aragorn’s speeches are metaphorical, and Aragorn’s way of speaking is characterized by heroic diction. Boromir’s style is similar, but like Gandalf, and unlike Aragorn, Elrond and Glóin, his mode of speech contains direct addresses and other communicative signals, culminating in a direct appeal to follow a certain course of action. The different ways the stories are told can be related to a variety of pre-texts—juxtaposed, they contribute to a differentiation of character between those who will be part of the “Fellowship of the Ring”.8 This phenomenon can also be observed when looking at the two stories Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin. While Treebeard’s voice is distinctive, his stories, like those of Legolas, take on a different character depending on the subject-matter. In the first story, Treebeard tells Pippin and Merry about Saruman:


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‘Who is Saruman?’ asked Pippin. ‘Do you know anything about his history?’ ‘Saruman is a Wizard,’ answered Treebeard. ‘More than that I cannot say. I do not know the history of Wizards. They appeared first after the Great Ships came over the Sea; but if they came with the Ships I never can tell. Saruman was reckoned great among them, I believe. He gave up wandering about and minding the affairs of Men and Elves, some time ago— you would call it a very long time ago; and he settled down at Angrenost, or Isengard as the Men of Rohan call it. He was very quiet to begin with, but his fame began to grow. He was chosen to be the head of the White Council, they say; but that did not turn out too well. I wonder now if even then Saruman was not turning to evil ways. But at any rate he used to give no trouble to his neighbours. I used to talk to him. There was a time when he was always walking about my woods. He was polite in those days, always asking my leave (at least when he met me); and always eager to listen. I told him many things that he would never have found out by himself; but he never repaid me in like kind. I cannot remember that he ever told me anything. And he got more and more like that; his face, as I remember it—I have not seen it for many a day—became like windows in a stone wall: windows with shutters inside.’ (473)

In comparison with the other stories, this one is told in more colloquial language (“that did not turn out well”, “at any rate”, etc.) and includes short sentences. Like Gandalf, he takes account of his interlocutor’s point of view (“you would call it a very long time ago”) and gives voice to doubts and speculations (“I never can tell”, “I believe”, “I cannot remember”). Most of the text concerns what he witnessed himself, as with Legolas’ account of Gollum’s escape. Treebeard’s narrative mode changes when he tells of the mythological past of “his people”, the “Ents”: ‘It is rather a strange and sad story,’ he went on after a pause. ‘When the world was young, and the woods were wide and wild, the Ents and the Entwives—and there were Entmaidens then: ah! the loveliness of Fimbrethil, of Wandlimb the lightfooted, in the days of our youth!—they walked together and they housed together. But our hearts did not go on growing in the same way: the Ents gave their love to things that they met

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in the world, and the Entwives gave their thought to other things, for the Ents loved the great trees, and the wild woods, and the slopes of the high hills; and they drank of the mountain-streams, and ate only such fruit as the trees let fall in their path; and they learned of the Elves and spoke with the Trees. But the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees, and to the meads in the sunshine beyond the feet of the forests; and they saw the sloe in the thicket, and the wild apple and the cherry blossoming in spring, and the green herbs in the waterlands in summer, and the seeding grasses in the autumn fields. […] Yet here we still are, while all the gardens of the Entwives are wasted: Men call them the Brown Lands now.’ (475–476)

Another part of the history of Middle-earth is revealed, with a summarizing technique similar to the mythological accounts previously examined (“they walked together and they housed together”); this summarizing also extends to emotions (“the Ent gave their love to things […]”). There is alliteration (“the woods were wide and wild”) and, more importantly, parallelism (“the Ents loved the great trees […]”, “the Entwives gave their minds to the lesser trees”). The structure of the sentences is simple; they are usually connected paratactically by the conjunction “and”. There is enumeration (“sloe […] wild apple […] cherry […] green herbs […] seeding grasses”) and polysyndeton: “[…] the Entwives desired order, and plenty, and peace” (476). On the whole, this account sounds somewhat archaic, quite unlike Treebeard’s narration about Saruman. Most of these stories are told from a personal and subjective point of view. While they never turn out to be wrong, they invariably contain only part of the true, composite picture, and the storytellers show their awareness of the limitations of their knowledge. Tellers of tales repeatedly emphasize that there are mysteries which lie behind what they have heard. What matters here is not only that the stories are told from a subjective point of view; they are also listened to from the subjective points of view of the hobbits. The art of storytelling emerges as a complex system of intersubjective interaction. Apart from these common features, the styles of storytelling tend to be idiosyncratic. Merry’s account of his experiences is given in present-day, colloquial English. He plays around with his reader’s experiences, makes use of paradox and skilfully creates tension. The same applies to Gandalf,


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who addresses his listeners directly and refers to their specific points of view. Sometimes he anticipates his listeners’ questions before answering them. At the same time his stories reach out into the remote, mythological past, and it is then that some archaic features, such as anaphora, creep in. Merry and Gandalf share their communicative technique of storytelling with one other character, Gollum: while Gollum’s way of speaking has quite a few features peculiar to himself, such as colloquial ellipsis, it is continuously informed by his awareness of his listeners and his desire to please them. By contrast, the other characters, Elves, Treebeard, Dwarves and Men, rather speak in ways which do not encourage interruption. We may call their ways of speaking “literary” as they make use of figures of speech and artificial sentence structures which readers of The Lord of the Rings may know from reading old texts such as the Bible as well as ancient epic poetry and romance. The styles of Elrond and, to an even greater extent, of Treebeard are characterized by factuality, grammatical simplicity and some archaisms. Elrond and Treebeard answer questions but certainly do not invite them. Their extreme longevity allows them to tell about the mythological past from their own experiences. While they acknowledge the limitations of their knowledge, they are quite clear about what they have to say. Clarity is enhanced and rendered visible by short sentences and paratactic constructions. To some extent this also applies to Legolas. Legolas’ mode of speech also changes depending on what he is talking about. When telling his audience about Gollum’s escape, his account is simply factual. When telling the mythological tale of Nimrodel and recounting his experience with Aragorn and the “shadow host”, his modes of speech comes close to the “epic style” used by the Dwarves and the Men. It is the Dwarves and the Men whose speech sounds strangest and most archaic. Glóin and Gimli as well as Aragorn, Boromir, Théoden, Faramir and his soldiers construct their sentences in old and stilted ways, using inversion, negations without “to do”, as well as clusters of archaic vocabulary. At the same time, their approach to the main events is an indirect and sophisticated one, and emotionality, self-assertion and self-­ pity are invariably added to the intimation of facts. They usually refer to old tales as the source of their information and to the channels these tales

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have come down to the present from a remote past. Their archaic language makes them appear to be ancient heroes themselves or the parodies of these heroes. While there are certainly some reflexes of the Homeric epics or Virgil’s Aeneid, there are even more resemblances to Macpherson’s Ossian tales. The archaic register used by Dwarves and Men forms a stark contrast to the language of the hobbits and of the narrator, who, as we have seen, usually tells the story from the hobbits’ points of view. While the latter style is informed by the nineteenth-century novel, the tales told by Aragorn and the other “humans” definitely derive from pre-texts which are quite different. The fact that the Men speak strangely while the hobbits and Gandalf speak “normally” certainly indicates one of the most characteristic features of The Lord of the Rings: the variety of literary discourses exhibited. Readers who have begun to sympathize (if not “identify”) with the hobbits, will only  gradually be drawn into the archaic worlds and world views of Aragorn, the Elves and the Dwarves. With stories taking up so large a part in the structure of The Lord of the Rings, it comes as no surprise that storytelling itself is a recurrent topic. There are countless instances of metanarrative commentary, and the novel as a whole could be considered to be a discussion of the role of stories as constituting our humanity and defining the human being as “the story-­ telling animal” (62), as Graham Swift put it in Waterland (1983). When the heroes assembled at the House of Elrond conduct their council on how best to defeat the Enemy, Bilbo the poet and writer looks at the stories told from the viewpoint of a literary critic, and he pays Frodo an ironical compliment on his account of his journey to Rivendell: “‘Not bad,’ Bilbo said to him. ‘You would have made a good story of it, if they hadn’t kept on interrupting’” (249). The implication is that Frodo’s account is not a “good story”, even though the information conveyed is quite pertinent to the issue at hand. While Boromir and Aragorn were allowed to tell their respective stories without being interrupted, this changes with Frodo’s contribution: “every step of his journey from Hobbiton to the Ford of Bruinen was questioned and considered, and everything that he could recall concerning the Black Riders was examined” (249). Bilbo’s remark draws attention to the stories told at the Council as being literary artefacts and invites the reader to speculate on what a good story is.


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The Tom Bombadil episode also focuses on the art of storytelling, the more so as the stories’ content is not provided. We have only a summary, from the hobbits’ point of view: ‘[…] It’s a good day for long tales, for questions and for answers, so Tom will start the talking.’ He told them many remarkable stories, sometimes half as if speaking to himself, sometimes looking at them suddenly with a bright blue eye under his deep brows. Often his voice would turn to song, and he would get out of his chair and dance about. He told them tales of bees and flowers, the ways of trees, and the strange creatures of the Forest, about the evil things and good things, things friendly and things unfriendly, cruel things and kind things, and secrets hidden under brambles. As they listened, they began to understand the lives of the Forest, apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the strangers where all other things were at home. Moving constantly in and out of his talk was Old Man Willow, and Frodo learned now enough to content him, indeed more than enough, for it was not comfortable lore. Tom’s words laid bare the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers. It was not called the Old Forest without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten woods; and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. (129–130)

What is offered to the reader here is not the stories but the effects of the stories; they do not convey information but a feeling, that of a natural world or ecosystem in which Frodo and his friends are intruders; Tom Bombadil obviously represents a primeval world of trees, which was then usurped and destroyed by animals and humans. The natural world is found to be full of life—which implies that it is full of stories. These are not “comfortable” stories, like Bilbo’s, but those which show the agonies of living things fighting for survival. These stories thus convey knowledge and make an ethical appeal. They can, moreover, wander “into strange regions beyond their [the hobbits’] memories and beyond their waking

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thought”, thereby producing ‘enchantment’ and a “spell” (131), which appears to change the weather. The two mythological stories about female Elves, Aragorn’s tale of the love of Beren and Tinúviel, and Legolas’ story of Amroth and Nimrodel, also contain metanarrative elements. Aragorn begins by chanting a song which he then supplements with a prose narrative: ‘That is a song,’ he said, ‘in the mode that is called ann-thennath among the Elves, but is hard to render in our Common Speech, and this is but a rough echo of it. It tells of the meeting of Beren son of Barahir and Lúthien Tinúviel. Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was the daughter of Thingol, a King of Elves upon Middle-earth when the world was young; and she was the fairest maiden that has ever been among all the children of this world. As the stars above the mists of the Northern lands was her loveliness, and in her face was a shining light. In those days the Great Enemy, of whom Sauron of Mordor was but a servant, dwelt in Angband in the North, and the Elves of the West coming back to Middle-earth made war upon him to regain the Silmarils which he had stolen; and the fathers of Men aided the Elves. […]’ (193)

Unlike Gandalf ’s, Aragorn’s story is not interrupted. His story follows the conventions of epic poetry in providing the ancestry of the main characters and in personifying the world (“when the world was young”). While Aragorn’s speech is generally characterized by archaic features, they appear to be overdone here: Lúthien is the “fairest maiden”, not among humans but “all the children of this world”. There are epic comparisons (“As the stars above the mists of the Northern lands”) and metaphors (“[…] in her face was a shining light”). Aragorn himself draws attention to the language used when stating that the “Common Speech” translation of the song can only qualify as a “rough echo”. Readers are invited to examine the language of this tale and wonder about its features, such as hyperbole as the appropriate linguistic instrument to praise a lady. At the end of this tale, the limited third-person narrator comments on the effect of the story on the listeners, and the quality of otherness of the story, as perceived by the hobbits:


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As Strider was speaking they watched his strange eager face, dimly lit in the red glow of the wood-fire. His eyes shone, and his voice was rich and deep. Above him was a black starry sky. Suddenly a pale light appeared over the crown of Weathertop behind him. The waxing moon was climbing slowly above the hill that overshadowed them, and the stars above the hill-top faded. (194)

The narrative situation marks the story as special and moves it away from the actual lives of the travellers: Aragorn’s face is “strange”, it is given an unusual colour and it is framed by the “black starry sky” and the rising moon. For the moment the story stands by itself; it is only later that the reader will discover its place in the history of Middle-earth and its parallelism with the personal history of Strider/Aragorn. Like Aragorn, Legolas also tells a story about a mythological female character, by means of both a poem and a prose narrative. As the travellers approach Lothlórien, Legolas’ home, Legolas sings to them “a song of the maiden Nimrodel” (339): The voice of Legolas faltered, and the song ceased. ‘I cannot sing any more,’ he said. ‘That is but a part, for I have forgotten much. It is long and sad, for it tells how sorrow came upon Lothlórien, Lórien of the Blossom, when the Dwarves awakened evil in the mountains.’ ‘But the Dwarves did not make the evil,’ said Gimli. ‘I said not so; yet evil came,’ answered Legolas sadly. ‘Then many of the Elves of Nimrodel’s kindred left their dwellings and departed, and she was lost far in the South, in the passes of the White Mountains; and she came not to the ship where Amroth her lover waited for her. But in the spring when the wind is in the new leaves the echo of her voice may still be heard by the falls that bear her name. And when the wind is in the South the voice of Amroth comes up from the sea; for Nimrodel flows into Silverlode, that Elves call Celebrant, and Celebrant into Anduin the Great, and Anduin flows into the Bay of Belfalas whence the Elves of Lórien set sail. But neither Nimrodel nor Amroth came ever back. […]’ (341)

The story is connected to a central motif traditionally associated with elves or fairies: nostalgia. Formerly elves used to dance on the hills or in the woods, now they are gone. The emotion of sadness is connected to an

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archetypal situation, that of tragically unfulfilled love. The story may also remind us of aetiological folktales: phenomena of nature can be explained as the ongoing effects of a tragic story which happened in the past. Like other stories, such as Aragorn’s about Tinúviel, the language has some archaic features, such as the negatives: “I said not so” and “she came not”. The two names of a river are reminiscent of the alternative language of the gods in Homer’s Iliad (e.g. 14, 291).9 When Théoden informs Merry about “the Paths of the Dead” (797), he also refers to the genre of the tale told, thereby providing metanarrative comments on the act of storytelling: ‘No man knows,’ said Théoden; ‘yet ancient legend, now seldom spoken, has somewhat to report. If these old tales speak true that have come down from father to son in the House of Eorl, then the Door under Dwimorberg leads to a secret way that goes beneath the mountain to some forgotten end. But none have ever ventured in to search its secrets, since Baldor, son of Brego, passed the Door and was never seen among men again. A rash vow he spoke, as he drained the horn at the feast which Brego made to hallow new-built Meduseld, and he came never to the high seat of which he was the heir. ‘Folk say that Dead Men out of the Dark Years guard the way and will suffer no living man to come to their hidden halls; but at whiles they may themselves be seen passing out of the door like shadows and down the stony road. Then the people of Harrowdale shut fast their doors and shroud their windows and are afraid. But the Dead come seldom forth and only at times of great unquiet and coming death.’ ‘Yet it is said in Harrowdale,’ said Éowyn in a low voice, ‘that in the moonless nights but little while ago a great host in strange array passed by. Whence they came none knew, but they went up the stony road and vanished into the hill, as if they went to keep a tryst.’ (797)

References to folklore abound in this passage. Several factors combine to render the stories about the “secret way” particularly remote: the age of the tales, the fact that they are rarely told and the reference to anonymous “folk” as the source of information, which is supplemented by the passive construction used by Éowyn: “it is said”. This remoteness goes along with negative pronouncements and adjectives which connote absences: “secret


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way”, “forgotten end”, “none have ever ventured”, “was never seen”, “no living man”, “hidden halls”, “like shadows”, “stony road”, “moonless nights”, “strange array” and “vanished”. This negativity also accounts for the “low voice” in which Éowyn conveys her information. Théoden’s and Éowyn’s distancing account of old traditions is contrasted with Aragorn’s recent disappearance at the place in question and with Merry the hobbit’s curiosity as to what Strider/Aragorn is up to. Questioned by Merry, Théoden then comes up with a more specific story, which provides a clue which connects the present to the remote, mythological past: the legend also tells about a piece of information given to Brego and Baldor, who tried to use this way through the mountain. The legendary quality of the story is expressed by means of archaisms, such as inversion and the form of negation: “Indeed for stone they took him, for he moved not” (798). The old man who appears to guard the door seems to give concrete shape to the motif of old age. It comes as a surprise that this old man is capable of speech, even though he only tells us what we knew before: that the secret way is impassable: “And then a voice came out of him, as it were out of the ground, and to their amaze it spoke in the western tongue: The way is shut” (798). As the old man specified it will remain shut “until the time comes” (798), and Théoden suggests that “the time foretold has come” at last (798). The speech can thus be understood as a prophecy which links the legendary past to the present. Quite a few of the characters of The Lord of the Rings are aware that they themselves are part of a tale. Elrond, for example, refers to the story of the Ring as a “Tale” (242), and Gandalf speaks of “the last chapter in the Tale of the Ring” (256), which seems to refer to the present volume, The Lord of the Rings. Sam and Frodo also discuss the idea of being part of a tale. When on the “stairs of Cirith Ungol” (703), they find themselves in a particularly tight corner, partaking of “what they expected would be their last meal before they went down into the Nameless Land” (711), Sam unexpectedly embarks on a long discussion of various types of adventure tale: ‘[…] I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’ ‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind

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of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’ ‘No, sir, of course not. Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did […] and the Silmaril went on and came to Eärendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got—you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?’ (712)

The literary discussion first appears as way for Sam to come to terms with the uncertainty of their situation. It then leads to a realization of their own place in a seemingly remote myth—an idea which obviously provides some comfort. But being in a tale is not the same as being put into a tale by some storyteller, and this is the idea Sam then pursues: ‘[…] Still, I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course, but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!” And they’ll say: “Yes, that’s one of my favourite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?” “Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.”’ ‘It’s saying a lot too much,’ said Frodo, and he laughed, a long clear laugh from his heart. Such a sound had not been heard in those places since Sauron came to Middle-earth. To Sam suddenly it seemed as if all the stones were listening and the tall rocks leaning over them. But Frodo did not heed them; he laughed again. ‘Why, Sam,’ he said, ‘to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. “I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?”’ (712)

Frodo’s laughter is all the more remarkable as he and Sam “are still stuck in the worst places of the story” (713), as he then remarks. It is also remarkable as he had been rather depressed ever since setting out with Sam, and as he is nowhere else in The Lord of the Rings described as


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laughing. His “long clear laugh from the heart” is obviously due to the liberating function of literature. No matter how hard life can be, it becomes a source of amusement when it is transformed into a narrative and used for the social activity of storytelling or reading from a book. It is significant that Tolkien here draws attention to storytelling as a social activity, suitable to provide moments of intimacy between a father and a son. Just as tales in The Lord of the Rings are told to a community, and songs are a communal affair, the present volume will serve as material for social exchange. While all of these stories combine to construct the mythological past and to link the various narrative strands to a master narrative, we also see that they are told in widely different ways. Their form and language may vary according to situation and character, and these variations may assume a metanarrative function. Stories are conceived of as belonging to traditions of oral storytelling which may reach out into a remote past, both in terms of content and in terms of genre or narrative tradition. While their respective pre-texts can be found in ancient epic poetry as well as in historiography or newspaper reporting, they all integrate well into a narrative which is largely characterized by third-person narration featuring a limited point of view. Just as Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin’s outlook is a circumscribed one, the tellers of tales invariably warn their listeners that their knowledge is limited. There is, for example, a linguistic barrier which prevents men and hobbits from fully understanding traditions in the Elves’ languages. Other barriers are forgetfulness (as in the case of Legolas, 341), doubts (as in the case of Gandalf, 251), imperfect instruction in deciphering old writing (Faramir, 670), the instability of oral traditions (as with Théoden, 797) or simply lack of information (as with Treebeard, 473). The reader is put into the position of a philologist or historian who also has to piece together his sources to provide a composite, if still imperfect, picture of the past. At the same time, some of the characters speculate on how much Sauron, the “Enemy”, knows (cf. 59, 241, 642). The battle for world supremacy to a large extent appears as a competition in the acquisition of knowledge. Our examination of the stories told in The Lord of the Rings again demonstrates the breadth of Tolkien’s literary achievement. With the help of stories, the broad mythological and cosmological visions of early European

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writing are connected to minute psychological analyses familiar from recent novels. At the same time, stories appear as a malleable form capable of displaying distinctions of character and situation, and draw attention to language as the base of human and cultural interaction.

Notes 1. On the traditions of “retrospective narration” originating from Homer’s Odyssey and Heliodorus’ Aethiopica, cf. McDermott 20–21 and 47–48. 2. On Cervantes’ method of “interlace”, cf. Quint, esp. 3–7. 3. On “the ancient and pre-novelistic device of entrelacement” or “interlace” as “the basic structural mode of The Lord of the Rings”, cf. West, Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth, 120–126, Holmes 136–137 and Solopova 239–241. 4. In a single but significant instance, Tolkien departs from the rule of conveying additional narrative information through stories told to other characters: In the Mines of Moria, the Company finds a book which contains records of the Dwarves who had settled in these mines 30 years earlier (321–322). This narrative device of supplying information by means of a manuscript found—written by people who are dead by the time of the narrative present—obviously goes back to the Gothic novel tradition; it is found in, for example, Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (1791) and Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights. On this “novelistic device”, cf. Simonson 186–187. 5. These references to a remote past certainly contribute to what has been called “the impression of depth” in The Lord of the Rings, cf. Drout, Hitotsubashi and Scavera. 6. On Glóin’s way of speaking, cf. Shippey, J. R. R. Tolkien 70–72. 7. As Saxton notices, Gandalf “exhibits an enormous vocal range and flexibility during the Council of Elrond, reproducing the voices of Isildur, Saruman, the Gaffer, Radagast, Gwaihir, Denethor, and even the Black Speech of Mordor” (173). 8. On the (almost) Bakhtinian polyphony of the stories told at the Council of Elrond, cf. Saxton, esp. 172–173. 9. The style of this story presents a remarkable contrast to Legolas’ earlier account of Gollum’s escape (255–256). Not only are the characters distinguished by the way they tell stories; different types of stories also seem to demand different styles, even when told by the same character.


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Works Cited Primary Texts Homeri Opera, ed. David B.  Monro, Thomas W.  Allen, vols. 1–2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1920. Swift, Graham. Waterland. 1983. London: Pan, 1992. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

Critical Works Cited Drout, Michael D.  C., Namiko Hitotsubashi and Rachel Scavera. “Tolkien’s Creation of the Impression of Depth.” Tolkien Studies 11 (2014). 167–211. Holmes, John R. “The Lord of the Rings.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 133–145. McDermott, Hubert. Novel and Romance: The Odyssey to Tom Jones. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989. Quint, David. Cervantes’s Novel of Modern Times: A New Reading of Don Quixote. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003. Saxton, Benjamin. “Tolkien and Bakhtin on Authorship, Literary Freedom, and Alterity.” Tolkien Studies 11 (2014). 167–183. Shippey, Tom A. The Road to Middle-earth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982. Shippey, Tom A. J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. London: HarperCollins, 2001. Simonson, Martin. The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2008. Solopova, Elizabeth. “Middle English.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 230–243. West, Richard C. “The Interlace and Professor Tolkien: Medieval Narrative Technique.” Orcrist, 1 (1967): 26–47.

8 Poems and Songs Thomas Kullmann

Throughout The Lord of the Rings, narrative prose is supplemented by poems and songs.1 While this practice does not correspond to the established conventions of nineteenth- and twentieth-century novel writing, it was a common feature of prose fiction from antiquity right up to the end of the eighteenth century. Prose romances of antiquity, like Achilles Tatius’ Leucippe and Clitophon (second century A.D.) or Heliodorus’ Aethiopica (third century A.D.), are interspersed with verse, and this practice was imitated in Renaissance prose romances, such as Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (ca. 1580) and Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605–1615). The practice also occurs in Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho, where the heroine regularly puts her experience into poetry. In the nineteenth century, it persisted in children’s fiction, as in Charles Kingsley’s The Water-­ Babies (1863) and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).2 In The Lord of the Rings, more than 60 poems and songs can be found. These poetical texts are of varying length and make use of many different metres and rhyme schemes (see Table appended).3 All of them, however, A previous version of this chapter appeared in Connotations: A Journal of Critical Debate (Kullmann, “Poetic Insertions”). We thank Waxmann Verlag, Münster, for permission to reuse this article. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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are sung or recited by one (or several) of the characters for the benefit of a specific group of listeners; they form part of the communicative interaction and communal experiences of the novels’ characters. Moreover, all of them appear to fulfil a specific function within the narrative; they are part of the plot and are motivated by narrative developments4 and they characterize the persons who sing or recite them.5 By contrast, the poems under survey do not conform to common definitions of poetry or “the lyric” which emphasize the subjectivity of poetry and its function of expressing the poet’s personal feelings and “the immediacy of felt experience” (Lindley 3),6 qualities which are certainly found in the work of “canonized” poets like Petrarca, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Keats. In The Lord of the Rings, it is only in a handful of poems (listed on the table under the heading of “meditation”, no. 13) that the speaker or singer gives words to his or her personal outlook and plans, using the first-person singular pronoun. One example of this is the song Bilbo sings to Frodo when the latter leaves Rivendell with the “Company”: I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen, of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been […] (278)

The experience recorded by Bilbo is not in any way special—which precisely seems to be the point: Bilbo has attained a state of easy and commonplace happiness and content which to Frodo is still out of reach. This feeling of content is connected to a certain nostalgia: the “summers that have been” have obviously gone. In contrast to Bilbo’s song, Galadriel’s song about her lost home beyond the seas has a wider outlook, but its import is much the same: I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew: Of wind I sung, a wind there came and in the branches blew […] O Lórien! Too long I have dwelt upon this Hither Shore And in a fading crown have twined the golden elanor. But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me, What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea? (372–373)

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Galadriel expresses her nostalgia, her longing to go home. But actually she is quite happy where she is, not “sitting by the fire” but twining “the golden elanor”. Both Bilbo and Galadriel give voice to a typical experience reminiscent of Romanticism. Their poems also share the same metre: iambic heptameter with a caesura after the fourth stress, the “common metre” (Russom 57), which is the regular metre of English ballads—a metre mainly used for narrative poetry rather than poetical introspection. The same metre is used in a poem of comfort Sam repeats when captured by orcs: “In western land beneath the Sea” (908–909). The poem can be interpreted as a declaration of intent: “I will not say the Day is done,/ Nor bid the Stars farewell” (909). Legolas’ song “To the Sea” (956) also contains such a declaration. Usually, however, poems inserted into the narrative of The Lord of the Rings serve more specific communicative purposes, which may be grouped under four heads: • There are poems which tell mythological stories, mostly about the past of Middle-earth (Table  8.1, no. 1). Sometimes they accompany or supplement prose stories, as discussed in the last chapter: Strider/Aragorn’s “tale of Tinúviel” is introduced by a long poem which tells part of the story of this mythological heroine (191–193), similarly to Legolas’ “song of the maiden Nimrodel” (339–341). Other poems tell complete stories: Bilbo’s “Eärendil was a mariner” (233–236) about “elvish” mythology, Gimli’s “The world was young, the mountain’s green” (315–317) about Durin, the Dwarves’ hero, and Sam’s rather comic “Troll sat alone on his seat of stone” (206–208). Sam’s verses of Gil-galad (185) are said to be part of an incomplete poem about ancient times, which nevertheless turns out to be of particular relevance to the plot. • Many poems accompany some activity and render this activity a communicative event (Table 8.1, nos. 2–5). In this group of poems, songs about walking and wandering are particularly conspicuous: when Bilbo leaves the Shire, he sings “The Road goes ever on and on and on” (35); Frodo later repeats it when he sets out with the Ring, with a slight but significant variation (73), and Bilbo varies it once more to indicate his refusal to leave Rivendell (987). The hobbits’ journey is then accompanied by further wandering poems, “Upon the hearth the


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Table 8.1   List of poems and songs found in The Lord of the Rings I: Mythological tales: 1.1 “Gil-galad was an Elven-­ 12 Iambic tetrameter king” (183) lines Iambic tetrameter, 1.2 “The leaves were long, the 72 complex (strophic) grass was green” rhyme scheme (191–193) 1.3 “Troll sat alone on his seat 56 Irregular, complex of stone” (206–208) (strophic) rhyme scheme 1.4 “Eärendil was a mariner” 124 Iambic octameter (233–236) (62) 46 Iambic tetrameter 1.5 “The world was young, the mountains green” (315–317) 1.6 “An Elven-maid there was 52 Ballad stanza (4 + 3 of old” (339–341) iambic stresses, alternate rhymes) II: Functional Poetry: 2. Wandering/ walking 8 Iambic tetrameter 2.1 “The Road goes ever on and on” (35, slightly changed 73, changed 987) 2.2 “Upon the hearth the fire 30 Iambic tetrameter is red” (77–78) (with irregular, strophic coda) 2.3 “Farewell we call to 14 Iambic tetrameter hearth and hall” (106) 2.4 “O! Wanderers in the 7 Iambic tetrameter shadowed land” (112) 3. Drinking: 3.1 “Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle 6 Irregular, four stresses I go” (90) 3.2 “There is an inn, a merry 65 Irregular (four/three old inn” (158–160) stresses), strophic 4. “Bath-song”: 4.1 “Sing hey! for the bath at 16 Irregular, four stresses close of day” (101) 5. Memorizing: 5.1 “Learn now the lore of 11 Alliterative verse, Living Creatures” (464) unrhymed (continued)

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Table 8.1  (continued) 5.2

“Ents the earthborn” (586) 4

III: Warfare, praise and complaint: 6. War songs: 6.1 “We come”/”To Isengard” (484, 485, partly repeated 565) 6.2 “Arise now, arise, Riders of Théoden!” (517, text changed 838) 7. Heroic tribute: 7.1 “When evening in the Shire was grey” (359–360) 7.2 “The finest rockets ever seen” (360) 7.3 “In Dwimordene” (514) 7.4 “From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning” (803) 7.5 “Mourn not overmuch” (843) 7.6 “Faithful servant” (845) 7.7 “We heard of the horns of the hills ringing” (849) 7.8 “Long live the Halflings!” [partly in Elvish] (953) 7.9 “Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor” (963) 7.10 “Out of doubt, out of dark” (976) 8. Complaint: 8.1 “Through Rohan over fen and field” (417–418) 8.2 “Where now the horse and the rider” (508) IV: Hymns, Incantations, and so on 9. Hymn (evocation of mythological past) 9.1 “Snow-white” (79)

Alliterative verse, unrhymed

9 (36)

Iambic dimeter (some alternating rhymes)


Alliterative verse, unrhymed


Iambic tetrameter, alternate rhymes


Iambic tetrameter

10 21


Iambic tetrameter Alliterative verse, unrhymed Alliterative verse, unrhymed Irregular, four stresses Alliterative verse, unrhymed Irregular, unrhymed


Irregular, unrhymed


Alliterative verse, unrhymed






Iambic tetrameter

3 2 27



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Table 8.1  (continued) 9.2



9.5 9.6 9.7 10. Incantation: 10.1 10.2 10.3 11. Riddling information, prophecy: 11.1




11.5 11.6

“A Elbereth Gilthoniel” [in Elvish] (238, partly repeated, 3 English lines added 1028) “Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen” [in Elvish] (377–378) “Gondor! Gondor, between the Mountains and the Sea!” (423) “Ere iron was found” (544) “Tall ships and tall kings” (597) “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” [in Elvish] (729)


Iambic tetrameter (?)


Iambic pentameter (?)


Irregular couplets (alexandrines?)

4 6

Iambic tetrameter Irregular


Iambic tetrameter

“Cold be hand and heart and bone” (141) “Annon edhellen” [in Elvish] (307) “When the black breath blows” (865)


Irregular, four stresses


Irregular, four stresses


Irregular, two stresses

“Three rings” (50, partly repeated 254 in the “language of Mordor”) “All that is gold does not glitter” (170, repeated 247) “Seek for the Sword that was broken” (246. partly repeated 658) “Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?” (503) “Legolas Greenleaf” (503) “Grey as a mouse” (646)




Dactylic trimeter, alternate rhymes


Dactylic trimeter, complex rhyme scheme Irregular, four stresses


4 22

Dactylic tetrameter Dactylic dimeter, some unstressed first syllables (continued)

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Table 8.1  (continued) 11.7

“Over the land there lies a 12 long shadow” (781)

12 (a) Evocation of natural magic: 12.1 “Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!” (119–134, 142–148) 12.2 “In the willow-meads of Tasarinan” (469) 12.3 “When Spring upfolds the beechen leaf” (477) 12.4 “O Orofarnë” (483–484) 12.5 12.6 12.7


Irregular, seven stresses


Irregular, unrhymed


Ballad stanza (iambic heptameter) Strophic (iambic dimeter/trimeter Iambic dimeter Irregular, two stresses

8 (20)

“The cold hard lands” (620) 10 “Alive without breath” 14 (621) “Silver flow the streams” 7 (875)

12 (b) Seasonal advice: 12.8

“When winter first begins to bite” (273) V. Personal meditation 13.1 “I sit beside the fire and think” (278–279) 13.2 “I sang of leaves” (372–373) 13.3 “Out of doubt” (847)

Alliterative verse, unrhymed

Irregular, unrhymed


Iambic tetrameter


Ballad stanza (iambic heptameter) Ballad stanza (iambic heptameter) Alliterative verse, unrhymed Ballad stanza (4 + 3 iambic stresses, alternate rhymes) Irregular, four stresses Iambic tetrameter

14 4


“In western lands beneath 16 the sea” (908–909)

13.5 13.6

“To the Sea” (956) “Still round the corner” (1028)

12 6

fire is red” (77–78), “Farewell we call to hearth and hall!” (106) and “Of wanderers in the shadowed land” (112). Another activity accompanied by poetry is drinking, as in the hobbits’ “Ho! Ho! Ho! to the bottle I go” (90) and in the comic song sung by Frodo at Bree to entertain the guests at “The Prancing Pony”: “There is an inn, a merry old inn” (158–160). Even bathing is accompanied by song when Pippin at Crickhollow sings “one of Bilbo’s favourite bath-songs” (101).


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This sort of poetry may be described as functional. During long walks, singing may alleviate the stress of continuous exertion. This can be compared to the use of verse for the purpose of memorization, as in the Ents’ alliterative poems “Learn now the lore of living creatures! ” (464) and “Ents the earthborn” (586). • Another type of functional poetry is connected to warfare (Table 8.1, nos. 6–8). There are two short war songs: one is sung by the Ents as they march to battle (“We come”/“To Isengard” [484–485]) and the other by Théoden, who calls the Riders of Rohan to arms (“Arise, now, arise, Riders of Théoden! ” [517, 838]).7 War can end in glory or in despair; accordingly, there are poems paying tribute to heroic deeds as well as complaints. At Lothlórien, Frodo sings a song as a tribute to Gandalf who he thinks has died: “When evening in the Shire was grey” (359–360); Gandalf himself sings a song of praise of Galadriel (514). When Théoden sets out from Edoras, a song of praise, supposedly composed later, serves as narration: “From dark Dunharrow in the dim morning” (803), just as after a day of battle outside of Minas Tirith: “We heard of the horns in the hills ringing” (849). When Frodo and Sam return from Mount Doom, they are given ceremonial, poetic praise: “Long live the Halflings!” (953), and the victory over Sauron is celebrated by song: “Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor” (963). Two further poems can be classified as complaints, a “duet” sung by Aragorn and Legolas when they hear of Boromir’s death (“Through Rohan over fen and field” [417–418]) and an old song about the death of ancient Rohirrim heroes (“Where now the horse and the rider?” [508]). • A final group of poems and songs is connected with worlds beyond this world (Table 8.1, nos. 9–12): hymns, incantations, riddles, prophecies, spells and invocations of natural powers. The plot of The Lord of the Rings evolves out of a poem which Gandalf claims to have translated from the language of Mordor and which can be classified as “riddling prophecy”: “Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky” (50). Gandalf includes another prophecy in his letter to Frodo: “All that is gold does not glitter” (170), which Bilbo later reveals as his own composition (247). At the Council of Elrond, Boromir recites the prophecy: “Seek for the Sword that was broken” (246). When reunited with

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Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, Gandalf conveys to Aragorn and Legolas the prophecies of Galadriel (503). Later Sam repeats a poetic description of “oliphaunts” (646) which he had hitherto considered “nonsense”, and Aragorn recites a prophecy about the “Paths of the Dead” (781). A hymn, obviously addressing an Elvish deity, marks the hobbits’ first encounter with the Elves: “Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear” (79); other Elvish hymns are given in Elvish languages (238, 377–378). Aragorn recites a hymn to Gondor (423), and Gandalf repeats old riddling rhymes (544, 597). Frodo hears an incantation obviously sung by a barrow-wight (141), and in Minas Tirith, the “herb-master” quotes an old healing rhyme (865). Tom Bombadil’s verse (84 lines altogether, distributed on pages 119–134, 142–148, without counting his poetical prose) could be considered as evocations of natural magic, as can Treebeard’s “In the willow-meads of Tasarinan” (469) and his recitation of a poetical dialogue between an Ent and an Entwife: “When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf” (477). Bregalads lamentation “O Orofarnë” (483–484) could also be considered a “complaint” although it is about the destruction of trees, not warriors. Even Gollum engages in “a sort of song” which evokes his natural habitat (620, 621). Legolas poetically evokes “the green fields of Lebennin” (875), and Bilbo gives good (if obvious) advice on the seasons (273). Like its prose, the poetry of The Lord of the Rings is characterized by its variety. All of the poems, however, appear to belong to well-established poetic genres and traditions. Some of these genres can be traced back to Anglo-Saxon poetry: riddles, charms, complaints (or “elegies”), poems of memorizing as well as tales of heroic deeds (corresponding to nos. 5, 7, 8, 10 and 11 on the Table appended).8 The nature poems (no. 12) may remind us of songs in Middle English, like the Harley Lyrics, and their French and Provençal antecedents. Another major source of the poems and songs in The Lord of the Rings is English “folklore”; they are reminiscent of songs sung at festivals, in taverns, in the nursery, in barracks, at school or in church, serving communal functions specific to these different environments.9 This


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particularly applies to the poems and songs which accompany habitual social activities. Drinking songs (no. 4) have been recorded since antiquity, and some are also found in modern anthologies of English folksong;10 similarly, military officers have always made use of the stimulating effects of music and song (no. 6). Walking songs (2) are rather well known in Germany, while they may have been less prevalent in England. Hymns can also be considered “functional poetry” as they obviously accompany some kind of religious observance.11 Narrative and celebratory poems belong to poetic traditions which undoubtedly flourished (and continue to flourish?) at festivals and in taverns. Narrative verse, in the form of “ballads”, constitutes the bulk of the texts found in anthologies from Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) to The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs (2012). Many of the traditional ballads deal with England’s or Britain’s historical and mythological past (like “The Ancient Ballad of Chevy Chace”, “The Ancient Ballad of the Battle of Otterbourne”, “Sir Lancelot du Lake”, etc.)12 and can thus be compared to the tales told in verse about Gil-­ galad, Tinúviel and Eärendil (1.1, 1.2, 1.4).13 An analysis of the metrical forms used corroborates these observations. The poems and songs of The Lord of the Rings make use of a wide variety of metres, the most original of which is certainly the alliterative verse used by the “Ents” and the “Riders of Rohan”, which clearly follows the rules of Old English alliterative poetry (as, e.g. in the Beowulf epic).14 It is mainly used for heroic praise (7) and memorizing (5)—two “genres” which are also found in Old English poetry.15 Most (if not all) of the other metres used are part of the repertoire of English folksong. The most prominent metre found in the novel is iambic tetrameter, with rhyming couplets. This metre is mainly used for the walking songs (no. 2), for some of the hymns (9) and some of the mythological tales (1). Tolkien here resorts to a metre sometimes found in narrative folk poetry—there are several examples in Percy’s Reliques16—but which was also used by Geoffrey Chaucer (The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame and The Romaunt of the Rose) and occurs in Renaissance pastoral poetry (e.g. Marlowe, “Come live with me and be my love”),17 in some metaphysical poems (e.g. Marvell, “Had We but World Enough and Time”)18 and in nineteenth-century children’s poems (e.g. Stevenson,

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“In winter I get up at night”).19 While it is a very simple metre, it is also a metrical form which links Tolkien to canonized, highbrow poetry. Sometimes iambic tetrameter poems take a more sophisticated form by using alternate rhymes (7.1) or a complex strophic structure (1.2). The poems listed under the heading of “riddling information/ prophesy” (11) are mostly composed in a dactylic mode, with lines in which a stressed syllable is followed by two unstressed ones.20 This metre naturally allows for verse which is closer to the rhythms of English prose; many narrative folksongs make use of this metre.21 Another of the metres used, however, has often been considered to be characteristic of folklore: the ballad metre which can be analysed as iambic heptameter, with a cesura (or even a pause) after the fourth stress, used for poem 12.3 (“When spring unfolds the beechen leaf ”) and 13.2 (“I sang of leaves”).22 There may also be a rhyme at the end of the first part of the heptametric line so that we could speak of a ballad stanza (with four stresses in lines 1 and 3, and three in lines 2 and 4) rhyming alternately; this is the metre used in a song sung by Legolas, telling a mythological tale (1.6), and in the meditative verses by Bilbo (13.1) and Sam (13.4). In Percy’s Reliques the “ballad metre” is the most prominent form of narrative verse (e.g. “King Estmere”, “Sir Patrick Spence”, “Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne” and “The Children in the Wood”).23 The iambic octameter used in the long tale of Eärendil the mariner (1.4; 233–236), which on the page is rendered as four-line stanzas with four metrical feet each, the second and fourth line rhyming, also constituted a metrical form much used in popular narrative verse.24 Some of the poems and songs found in The Lord of the Rings, however, resist metrical categorization: while they are rhymed in couplets and contain a fixed number of stresses, the number of unstressed syllables between the stresses is not determined. In traditional prosodic terms, we would be obliged to classify these metres as “irregular”; this term, however, might be considered a misnomer, for, in the poetry in Old and (in part) Middle English, as well as in the early stages of the ballad and folksong traditions, it is “regular” for stresses rather than syllables to be counted.25 As an Anglo-Saxon scholar, Tolkien may have considered syllabic metres as an import from French and other Romance languages and set store by the “accentual metre” (Leech 118) characteristic of native (Germanic) poetic


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traditions (cf. Cawsey 62–63). Characteristically, accentual (rather than “accentual-syllabic”) metres most commonly occur in songs and poems which belong to Old English genres: incantations (no. 7, but also cf. 11.1), praise (7)26 and complaint (8); they are also used for “familiar” poetry: drinking and bathing songs (3, 4), and “natural magic” (12).27 We have seen that Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings makes use of a wide variety of traditional and popular metrical forms, choosing metres with respect to situation and genre. Sometimes a variation coincides with a shift in the addresser or addressee: in Frodo’s elegy on Gandalf, supposed dead, his lines rhyme alternately; when Sam adds a stanza, he switches to couplets (7.1; 360). The message in verse by Queen Galadriel addressed to Aragorn is much less regular than that given to Legolas (503). Using all these variations, Tolkien consistently avoids the metres prominent in canonized and anthologized poetry ranging from Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare to Wordsworth, Keats and Tennyson—most notably iambic pentameter, rhymed or unrhymed.28 As with the poetic genres, Tolkien seems to draw attention to a rich literary and cultural undercurrent which (while it has been the object of study of antiquarian and folklore societies and individual researchers since the sixteenth century)29 has not usually been recognized by representatives of the literary establishment. His pre-­ texts from popular or folk culture can be located in forms known from the periods of Old and Middle English, as well as folkloristic traditions from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.30 There are two aspects, however, that the poems do share with much canonical poetry and Romantic poetry in particular: first, they are sometimes difficult to understand; and, second, they often give voice to some transcendental experience, opening up vistas into a “world beyond”.31 In The Lord of the Rings, it is the listeners and sometimes even the singers themselves who are baffled by the poems’ words, and this uncertainty sometimes provides suspense and furthers the plot.32 It should also be noted that while the poems are an integral part of the plot, they are clearly marked as a distinct type of utterance; they are sung or recited; and the beginning and end of song or recitation are clearly marked. On the printed page this distinction between poetry and prose is emphasized by the italics invariably used to reproduce poetry.33

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As an example of the transcendental quality of poetry, consider the poem recited by Gandalf the wizard (no. 11.1): Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. (50)

Alliterations (“Mortal men”) and repetitions (“Dark Lord on his dark throne”) serve to set off the poetic text from ordinary narrative prose and evoke the sentiment of a world beyond the ordinary world, full of mystery and danger. The poem climaxes in a kind of incantation, describing the superior powers of the One Ring, with its triadic phrasing and the repetition of the place name of Mordor. With the discovery of this very Ring, the supernatural world, or rather the world beyond, has entered the cosy environment of Frodo the hobbit at Hobbiton in the Shire. To the reader, Frodo’s experience of the supernatural is conveyed as an experience of poetic language. The shift from prose to poetry serves to direct the focus of the reader’s attention away from the meaning to sound and form, from the signifié to the signifiant. It is the beauty of the language, of repetition, metre and rhyme, which suggests a notion of a world beyond, the extent of which cannot be comprehended in ordinary words, that is, words which merely convey meaning rather than an experience of sound. It comes as no surprise that the Elves are also introduced through a poetic insertion. At the hobbits’ first meeting with the Fair Folk, they hear a song (no. 9.1): Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear! O Queen beyond the Western Seas! O Light to us that wander here Amid the world of woven trees! (79)


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If the hobbits only partly understand the song, so will the readers: the Elves sing of a world “beyond the Western Seas”, which we have not heard about yet. This world is apparently characterized by beauty, extreme whiteness, light, shining and silver. The hobbits’ excitement at meeting the Elves, this supernatural people, is conveyed to the reader as an experience of language, with repetition, metre and rhyme elevating the words from common speech. The language does not just denote beauty, it becomes beauty. This is not least because of the beautiful names mentioned in stanzas 2 and 4, of Elbereth and Gilthoniel, names which emphasize the letter l, which obviously characterizes this people of Elves. Their association with the letter and sound of l seems to convey the notion of the Elves being -l-ight, -l-iquid, e-l-usive, possessing a set of characteristics conveyed by the sound itself, which is clearly iconic in that it appears to resemble the meanings attached to it.34 The Elvish song, of course, becomes pure sound, pure signifiant, when we hear or read it in the original Elvish tongue (poem no. 9.2).35 This use of invented languages, as well as the frequent references to “translations” made by Bilbo or Gandalf, creates a metalinguistic awareness of the properties of language and the historical information provided by certain words. The main phenomenon, however, which characterizes the poetry found in The Lord of the Rings is the embedding of these poems in the narrative: the characters do not just recite or listen to poetry, they usually set about commenting on it or interpreting it.36 Their interpretations do not primarily consist in elucidating the meaning; indeed, sometimes uncertainties are left as they are. What interests the characters more is the provenance of these poetic texts. The poems and songs of The Lord of the Rings have a history which is often discussed by the listeners and sometimes proves to be relevant to the plot; like the ballads mentioned above, they also appear to be part of a living tradition, as some of the characters are shown as being engaged in translating and communicating ancient as well as more recent poetry. Let’s look at the first quotation again containing the poem about the Rings: Frodo finds, engraved on the mysterious and indestructible Ring, an unreadable script, which is represented on the printed page. The mystery of the Ring’s magic is conveyed to the reader as a mystery about a piece of ancient writing. Gandalf can identify the characters and the

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language as “Elvish, of an ancient mode” (49). It was not just written by Elves, but by Elves of some former period of time. Gandalf, however, also knows the meaning, which he renders in poetic language, using the Common Tongue spoken by the hobbits, rendered as English on the printed page. It is the complexity of the provenance of the poetic text which greatly enhances its significance and conveys a notion of the Ring’s importance to the reader. At the same time, Gandalf ’s competence as a wizard manifests itself as a philological competence, which the reader can witness on the printed page. The hobbits themselves also engage in a philological exercise. When Frodo sets off on his quest, he recites a poem to express his feelings about reaching out into an unknown world (2.1): The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with weary feet, Until it joins some larger way, Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say. (73)

As before, it is through the poetic devices of repetition, metre and rhyme that this experience of crossing boundaries is represented. To the hobbits the poems offer a chance to discuss both the poem’s provenance and the philosophy of life it contains: ‘That sounds like a bit of old Bilbo’s rhyming,’ said Pippin. ‘Or is it one of your imitations? It does not sound altogether encouraging.’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo. ‘It came to me then, as if I was making it up; but I may have heard it long ago. Certainly it reminds me very much of Bilbo in the last years, before he went away. He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to […]”’ (73–74)


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Actually, the words of the poem are almost identical to those sung by Bilbo 17 years and 38 pages before (35), when he says goodbye  to Gandalf. If the poem, as recited by Frodo, “does not sound altogether encouraging”, this is clearly due to a slight but significant change in the wording: while the fifth line in Frodo’s version reads “Pursuing it with weary feet”, Bilbo sung “Pursuing it with eager feet”. This change of adjectives obviously characterizes the greater psychological depth of Frodo’s quest, which, more than Bilbo’s journeys, can perhaps be understood as emblematic of the storms and stresses of human life.37 While Bilbo sung the lines, Frodo speaks them. The reader is invited to become a philologist to make an attempt at supplying those pieces of interpretation which the characters are trying to assemble.38 Bilbo is certainly unique among the hobbits in imagining life as a journey towards the unknown, to a world beyond, a journey beset by dangers and uncertainties. Frodo and the reader become part of this imaginary journey when Frodo sets out on his quest; the poem emphasizes the importance of this step. Note further that, as with the poem on the Ring, its significance is enhanced by its being old. If Frodo had made it up on the spot, it would not carry any connotations of ancient wisdom and general truth. The poem just discussed invites comparison with another, which two other hobbits, Pippin and Merry, partly make up, occasionally drawing on phrases from previous texts (2.3): Farewell we call to hearth and hall! Though wind may blow and rain may fall, We must away ere break of day Far over wood and mountain tall. (106)

The narrator informs us that this song “was made on the model of the dwarf-song that started Bilbo on his adventure long ago, and went to the same tune” (106). The reference is to the story of Bilbo and the dwarves setting out to regain the treasure stolen by Smaug the dragon, as told in Tolkien’s previous work of fiction, The Hobbit (1937). Readers of The Lord of the Rings are invited to look up the reference themselves, if they have a copy of The Hobbit at hand. The main similarity consists in the

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exclamation: “We must away! We must away! / We ride before the break of day!” (106). In The Hobbit, the song contains several stanzas with a very similar wording; this is what Bilbo hears when going to sleep: Far over the misty mountain cold To dungeons deep and caverns old We must away, ere break of day, To find our long-forgotten gold. (59, cf. 44–45)

Actually the messages or tendencies of the two songs are rather different. While the song in The Hobbit conveys the dwarves’ greed and stubbornness, Pippin and Merry give voice to a spirit of adventure, looking forward to seeing the Elves, among other things.39 There are also other borrowings in evidence: readers of The Lord of the Rings will easily recognize the line: “and whither then we cannot tell” (106), from Bilbo’s and Frodo’s song (35, 73). The poem turns out to be a composite of previous texts. This, of course, as Julia Kristeva has taught us (66), applies to all texts, but in The Lord of the Rings, this intertextual mechanism is rendered explicit “metatextually”.40 A different sort of metapoetical reflection is provoked when Frodo answers the poem as if it were an ordinary communicative utterance: ‘Very good!’ said Frodo. ‘But in that case there are a lot of things to do before we go to bed—under a roof, for tonight at any rate.’ ‘Oh! That was poetry!’ said Pippin. ‘Do you really mean to start before the break of day?’ (106)

Pippin seems to share the assumption of many amateur poets that poetry is not to be taken seriously, that it is an exercise in wit rather than in conveying some truth. Frodo will soon remind his friends of the real dangers awaiting them on their journey, which do indeed necessitate an early start. Poems, and indeed texts in general, are shown to be dependent on one another, and thus to tell a story, additional to the information conveyed by the words. The poetic sensibility of the characters of The Lord of the Rings, and, by implication, the reader, is based on an aesthetics of


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imitation rather than originality. The value of a poetical text is enhanced by its age and history. In reading and appreciating the story told by a poem’s history, readers become philologists. Another example of philology entering the plot of The Lord of the Rings occurs when Sam Gamgee recites a poem, provoked by Strider’s remark on the history of the ground they are crossing: ‘[…] It is told that Elendil stood there watching for the coming of Gil-­ galad out of the West, in the days of the Last Alliance.’ The hobbits gazed at Strider. It seemed that he was learned in old lore, as well as in the ways of the wild. ‘Who was Gil-galad?’ asked Merry; but Strider did not answer, and seemed to be lost in thought. (185)

Strider, whom the hobbits only knew as a wanderer, unexpectedly turns out to be learned in “old lore”. But more surprises come when Sam Gamgee begins “murmuring” the poem (no. 1.1): Gil-galad was an Elven-king. Of him the harpers sadly sing: the last whose realm was fair and free between the Mountains and the Sea. (185)

If the company was surprised by Strider, their surprise is even greater when learning that Sam, the ordinary hobbit, has also been infiltrated by Elven-lore. Sam rather inadvertently provides a poetic answer to the question “Who was Gil-galad?” by repeating a song he had heard from Bilbo but never understood. Now, however, it is Strider’s turn to be surprised, as he never knew that Bilbo had been aware of Elven-lore to that extent. Sam’s lines appear as “part of the lay that is called The Fall of Gil-­ galad, which is in an ancient tongue” (186). Readers of The Lord of the Rings will of course be able to notice the similarity of the line on Mordor: “in Mordor where the shadows are” (185) to that of the Ring poem, “in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie” (50) and begin to be aware of the hidden connectedness of the ancient history of Middle-earth.41 They are also put in a position to reflect on the process of oral tradition:

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just as with some nonsensical nursery rhymes, words and sounds may have been preserved while the meaning has not. Poetry emerges as the main medium in the process of handing down ancient history or myth. This also applies to the tale of Tinúviel which is told, or rather “chanted”, by Strider (no. 1.2): The leaves were long, the grass was green, The hemlock-umbels tall and fair, And in the glade a light was seen Of stars in shadow shimmering. Tinúviel was dancing there To music of a pipe unseen, And light of stars was in her hair, And in her raiment glimmering. (191)

Strider then proceeds to give the footnotes: the song is a translation of an elf poem composed in a special genre which is given an elvish name, “ann-thennath” (193). As the present version only provides a “rough echo” (193) of it, curiosity is raised to know the original. The hobbits’ desire to see the Elves is conveyed to the reader as the philological desire to discover a hidden source and understand an ancient language.42 Strider’s introduction to his chanting contains a discussion of the effects of this poem: it is fair, it is sad and it may lift up hearts (191). The poem tells an archetypal love story; it is fair because the beauty of the lady is conveyed through the beauty of the song’s form, tune and language; it is sad because we are induced to imagine the difficulties experienced by the lovers and it is uplifting because it allows us to experience the grand feeling of love und brings us closer to the ultimate potential of humanity.43 An experience out of the ordinary (the passion of love) is experienced as language out of the ordinary.44 On the plot level, the poem takes the hobbits deeper into the world of the Elves and the history of Middle-earth, in which they are going to take a part; they can certainly do with an uplifting of hearts, given the heroism which will be expected of them. Strider’s interpretive remarks allow the reader to see the potential of the interpretation of old texts for widening one’s outlook on the world.45 As the reader will discover later, there is a


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close link between this poem and the plot of the novel: the love of Beren and Lúthien prefigures Aragorn’s own love story with Arwen Evenstar. In another instance it is the readers again who are called upon to become philologists: like many other songs in The Lord of the Rings, the song sung by Frodo at the Prancing Pony inn (no. 3.2) is said to have been written by Bilbo; its genre is given as “ridiculous song” (158). It is written using a five-line stanza which may remind us of nineteenth-­ century comic verse.46 Before the text of the poem is given, the narrator gives the reader a subtle hint as to the poem’s intertextual connections, saying: “Only a few words of it are now, as a rule, remembered” (158). It is only in the course of reading the poem that we become aware of the words we remember.47 At the beginning the poem records a rather idyllic scene at a country inn so that it could serve as a song which accompanies drinking. There are, however, quite a few nonsensical elements: the Man in the Moon, who patronizes that inn; a tipsy cat, who provides entertainment as a fiddler; and a dog, who can understand jokes. There is an inn, a merry old inn beneath an old grey hill, And there they brew a beer so brown That the Man in the Moon himself came down one night to drink his fill. The ostler has a tipsy cat that plays a five-stringed fiddle; And up and down he runs his bow, Now squeaking high, now purring low, now sawing in the middle. (158)

The cow who begins to dance when listening to music could even be considered to be from real life (stanza 4): They also keep a hornéd cow as proud as any queen; But music turns her head like ale, And makes her wave her tufted tail and dance upon the green. (158)

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It is when the Man in the Moon has drunk a lot that the dish and the spoon begin to dance, too, which is possibly a quirk of the man’s drunken imagination (6th stanza): The Man in the Moon was drinking deep, and the cat began to wail; A dish and a spoon on the table danced, The cow in the garden madly pranced, and the little dog chased his tail. (159)

The mad prancing of the cow in the garden and the little dog chasing his tail, however, appear to belong to real life. So do the motifs of the man rolling beneath his chair, the innkeeper’s worries about the man in the moon’s horses, the attempts of the fiddler (the cat) to wake the man by fiddling hard and the removal of the man outside. It is then that things get out of hand. The man is bundled back into the moon, the dish runs up with the spoon, the cow and horses stand on their head, and finally (penultimate stanza): With a ping and a pong the fiddle-strings broke! the cow jumped over the Moon, And the little dog laughed to see such fun, And the Saturday dish went off at a run with the silver Sunday spoon. (159)

Here, if not before, we recognize the few words of this song which are still remembered. They consist of the famous nursery rhyme: Hey diddle diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon; The little dog laughed To see such sport, And the dish ran away with the spoon. (The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, no. 213 [240])


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Like many nonsensical nursery rhymes, this one might originally have carried some meaning which, however, has never been elucidated.48 As Thomas Honegger (43) notes, Frodo’s song was originally published by Tolkien in 1923, entitled “The Cat and the Fiddle: A Nursery Rhyme Undone and its Scandalous Secret Unlocked”. Through Frodo’s song, Tolkien obviously offers a playful theory on how to account for this nursery rhyme. While Honegger in his article concentrates on the literary antecedents of the Man in the Moon motif, we should like to make some remarks on the impact of Frodo’s song on the readers: they are presented with a source text with playful intent and invited to deal with it philologically, that is, to engage in tracing the further developments of this text until it reaches its present mutilated form. We are also invited to speculate on the plausibility of this comic drinking song being the origin of the rhyme.49 To add to this philological game, Tolkien appends two footnotes to the text of this poem. One of them refers the reader to another footnote in one of the appendices, where Tolkien, as author, explains that the hobbits observe as holidays Fridays rather than Sundays and that he substituted the original references to Thursday and Friday in the poem by Saturday and Sunday (1084). The other footnote provides an explanation of the personal pronoun given to the sun: “Elves (and Hobbits) always refer to the Sun as She” (160). Readers with some philological training will realize that this gendering follows Germanic conventions, as in German, for example, rather than the English poetic convention of referring to the sun as “he”, as in Latin. Poetic insertions in The Lord of the Rings invariably serve to introduce the notion of a world beyond that of ordinary experience. They do so by turning the readers’ attention to the element of language, of language change and language history, and they induce the reader to become philologists in order to enter the intricacies of the plot. These metalinguistic elements thus create an awareness of the historical dimension of human experience and invite comparison with the scholarly endeavour of historical philologists like Tolkien himself. The Lord of the Rings is to a considerable extent a comment not just on language and literature but on philological scholarship. Not only does it afford a glimpse of the academic study of Old and Middle English but also of the research of folklorists, not infrequently undertaken by amateur scholars.50

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Notes 1. “[…] the verse embedded throughout The Lord of the Rings […] must count as the most widely read poetry of the century” (Jones 13). In spite of this fact, Tolkien has apparently not been mentioned in any account of twentieth-century English poetry. 2. On further models of “prosimetric composition” including Old Icelandic sagas and their imitations by William Morris, see Phelpstead, “‘With chunks of poetry in between’”. 3. On the variety of “forms, metres, and styles” of the poetry found in The Lord of the Rings, cf. Verlyn Flieger, “Poems by Tolkien”. 4. As Tolkien himself pointed out in a letter to his son Michael, “the verses in The L.R. are all dramatic: they do not express the old professor’s ­soul-­searching, but are fitted in style and contents to the characters of the story that sing or recite them, and to the situations in it” (Letters 396). Cf. Holmes 144–145, and Cawsey 53–54. 5. “The outstanding feature of the verse in The Lord of the Rings is the individuation of poetic styles to suit the expressive needs of a given character or narrative moment” (Rosebury 118). 6. For a discussion of the generic qualities of lyric poetry, see Lindley 1–24, and Shurbanov 16–55. From a structuralist point of view, Todorov (130–131) distinguishes between literature engaged in “présentation”— poetry in verse or prose, and “représentation”—epic narration and prose fiction. If we follow this dichotomy, most of the poems in The Lord of the Rings, being representations of past or imagined events, could not be considered poetry at all. Nor could the bulk of medieval poetry or English folklore be considered “poetic”. 7. As Tom Birkett (253) notes, Théoden’s outcry on the Pelennor Fields (838) is written “in imitation of Old English verse”, but also displays a “mental imprint” of the Old Norse Völuspá poem. 8. On the genres of Old English poetry, see, for example, Pilch and Tristram 21–81. 9. On the Englishness of the hobbits and their environment, cf. Harvey 114: “Hobbits represent the archetypal pre-Industrial Revolution English yeomen with simple needs, simple goals, and a common-sense approach to life”. See also Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 76–79. 10. For example, “Ye Mar’ners all”, English Folk Songs 101.


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11. Cf. A. L. Lloyd’s thesis: “In primitive Europe nearly every song was performed for a particular occasion or purpose, notably for seasonal magicmaking, for social ceremonial, and for work” (53). 12. These are nos. 1.1.1 and 2, and 1.2.9  in Percy, Reliques (vol. 1:1–32, 175–180). 13. Many other traditional English ballads, of course, tell stories of various forms of sexual misconduct and their tragic or comic consequences. This topic, it is true, is not represented (and appears to be strenuously avoided) in The Lord of the Rings. A. L. Lloyd contends that “the road of the ballad runs from the magical to the heroic to the domestic. What was once a kind of narrative incantation becomes a complex tale in recitative form whose aim is to encourage and inspire, and finally the sung narrative becomes a romance with little more purpose than to divert and entertain” (131). If Lloyd is right, ­examples of all three stages of ballad are found in The Lord of the Rings; the second, “heroic”, type, however, seems to be predominant. 14. Concerning Tolkien’s use of the Old English metrical rules, see Shippey, “Tolkien’s Development”; and Phelpstead, “Auden and the Inklings” 440–447. Phelpstead (“Auden and the Inklings” 445) also comments on the “cultural kinship” of “the Riders of Rohan” to Anglo-Saxons. 15. On Tolkien’s “mastery of an astonishing variety and range of poetic structures” and his “extreme care with and attention to rhyme, rhythm, and overall sound” (54), cf. Cawsey. 16. For example, “Lady Anne Bothwell’s Lament” 2.2.13 (vol. 2:162–164), “Jane Shore” 2.2.26 (vol. 2:209–219), “The Lady Turned Serving-Man” 3.1.17 (vol. 3:99–103). The last text mentioned “is given from a written copy, containing some improvements (perhaps modern ones) upon the popular ballad, entitled ‘The famous flower of Serving-men; or, the Lady turned Serving-man’”, Percy 3:99. As Roy Palmer points out, the ballad was written and published in 1656 (Everyman’s Book of British Ballads 187). Palmer himself prints a gorier version, recorded in 1908, the metre of which had undergone a change to a dactylic rhythm (“The Flower of Serving Men”, no. 91, 187–88). 17. Hayward, ed. The Penguin Book of English Verse, 31–32. 18. “To His Coy Mistress”, The Penguin Book of English Verse, 135–36. 19. Robert, Louis Stevenson, A Child’s Garden of Verses, 1. 20. In spite of the fact that the first stress is often preceded by an unstressed syllable, this metre should not be called “a special form of iambic

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t­rimeter” as Russom suggests (60), as the pattern of two unstressed syllables following a stressed one is fairly regular. 21. For example, “Golden Glove”, Roud, Bishop, eds. The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, no. 26 (64–65); “The Bonny Blue Handkerchief ”, no. 61 (149–150); “The Wild Rover”, no. 88 (213–214), and so on. The metre is also found in recent children’s books (e.g. Donaldson, The Gruffalo [1999]: “A mouse took a stroll through the deep, dark wood […]”) 22. On the ballad metre and its musical setting, see Julia Bishop, “Introduction to the Music”, The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, xlvi. 23. Reliques 1.1.6–8 (Percy, vol. 1:51–78) and 3.2.19 (vol. 3:172–177). Alternate rhyming occurs, for example, in “The More Modern Ballad of Chevy Chace” and “Gilderoy”, Reliques, 1.3.1 and 12 (vol. 1:216–231 and 271–275). According to Percy the “modern” version of “Chevy Chace” “cannot be older than the time of Elizabeth” (1). 24. For example, “The Heir of Linne”, Reliques, 2.2.5 (Percy, vol. 2:106–113); “Lord Bateman”, New Penguin Book of English Folk Song, no. 33 (78–80). On this poem’s metre, cf. Russom 59–60. As Russom remarks, “by undoing the usual relations between rhyme and meter, Tolkien encourages us to look more deeply into both” (60). 25. As Saintsbury remarks, “a strictly syllabic system of prosody has hardly at any time been a sufficient key, even in appearance, to English verse […]. It is, of course, French in origin” (14). Saintsbury proceeds to describe English prosody as a system of “feet” (19–36) which allows for a certain variation in the number of unstressed syllables. His examples are usually taken from the literary canon (which he himself helped to establish). This system, however, is based on the quantitative prosody of ancient Latin and Greek, and would not be sufficient to account for the “irregular” metres found in some early English ballads as well as some Tolkien poems; on the inadequacy of “traditional prosody” based on the notion of “feet”, see Leech 112–114, esp. 113: “When we turn away from the learned tradition, towards the ‘folk prosody’ of nursery rhymes and popular songs, the metrical foot becomes a patently unsuitable tool of analysis.” Leech himself describes the metre “which has dominated English prosody for the past six centuries” as “‘accentual syllabic’; that is, it is a pattern of regularity both in the number of syllables and in the number of stresses” (111). Concerning “accentual metre” as “the type of metre


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based on an equal number of stresses per line, without respect to the exact number of syllables per stress”, Leech states that “although in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was replaced by the continental accentual-syllabic metric as the main syllabic foundation of English poetry, it has survived in popular verse (ballads, nursery rhymes, etc.), and has enjoyed a revival at the hands of twentieth-century poets like Eliot and Auden. Hopkins’ ‘sprung rhythm’ is also a variant of accentual metre” (118). It could be added that the metres used in present-day English pop songs, from the Beatles to Ed Sheeran, can also in many cases be characterized as accentual rather than accentual-syllabic. 26. As Lynn Forest-Hill points out, the great Eagle’s song “Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor” (10.9) is “composed in the style of psalms in the Authorized Version of the Bible” (93) and may be considered to be part of the story’s “spiritual dimension” (92). 27. Concerning the metre of Tom Bombadil’s poetry (12.1) and its resemblance to that of “Good King Wenceslas”, cf. Russom 63–64. 28. Cf. Russom 53. If the metre of the song sung by Galadriel “in the ancient tongue of the Elves beyond the Sea” (368, no. 9.3) is iambic pentameter, it might be considered the exception which proves the rule. 29. Cf. for example, Roy Palmer, “Introduction”, Everyman’s Book of British Ballads 9. 30. On the history and dating of folksong and ballad composition in England, see Lloyd 149 and 161. 31. On connections between Tolkien and Romanticism, cf. Hither Shore: Interdisciplinary Journal on Modern Fantasy Literature 7 (2010). While the articles collected in this issue discuss Romantic ideas and attitudes at some length, little attention is paid to formal aspects of poetry or prose, or to specific literary motifs. 32. Cf. Shippey’s assessment of the poetic technique of “Eärendil was a mariner” (1.4): “Describing the technique is difficult, but its result is obvious: rich and continuous uncertainty, a pattern forever being glimpsed but never quite grasped. In this way sound very clearly echoes or perhaps rather gives the lead to sense. Just as the rhymes, assonances and phrasal structures hover at the edge of identification, so the poem as a whole offers romantic glimpses of ‘old unhappy far-off things’ (to cite Wordsworth), or ‘magic casements opening on the foam/ Of perilous seas, in faery lands, forlorn’ (to remember Keats)” (The Road to Middleearth 146).

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33. Tolkien’s prose might certainly also be called “poetic”, but the “poetry” of the prose narrative certainly follows other rules that of the poems; for a possible exception (Tom Bombadil’s speeches), see Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 81. 34. “Tolkien’s idea of poetry mirrored his ideas on language; in neither did he think sound should be divorced from sense. In reality this ‘elvish tradition’ was an English tradition too” (Shippey, The Road to Middle-­ earth 148). 35. Shippey’s suggestion that readers can to some extent “feel” what the Elvish poem means (The Road to Middle-earth 88), appears to me to be a romantic misconception. The narrative point is that the hobbits cannot understand the song, but that this failure of comprehension only enhances their fascination by the exoticism and beauty of the sounds (cf. Gymnich 10, who points out that the Elves’ languages linguistically establish “the otherness of the Elves” and “enhance the air of mystery” surrounding them). The import of the song in its situational frame is provided by the narrative—in English—which precedes and follows the lines in Elvish. That the Rivendell song (9.2) is in “Sindarin”, while Galadriel’s (9.3) is in “Quenya” (The Road to Middle-earth 88) need not concern us here as the names of the Elvish languages are not mentioned in the text of The Lord of the Rings and obviously not supposed to be known by the novel’s implied reader. As Tolkien points out in a letter to a reader, “Part of the attraction of The L.  R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background […] To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed” (Letters 333)—as might happen, if “the ancient tongue of the Elves beyond the Sea” (368) were given a name. It is true that there is some discussion of the languages provided in the appendices (1087–1093, 1101–1102), but, to quote from another Tolkien letter (to his publisher, Rayner Unwin): “those who enjoy the book as an ‘heroic romance’ only, and find ‘unexplained vistas’ part of the literary effect, will neglect the appendices, very properly” (Letters 210). 36. For another analysis of this phenomenon, see Zimmermann. Zimmermann calls the narrative text which surrounds a poem “semantic co-text” (60), rather strangely, for what is “semantic” about it? 37. Cf. Shippey’s interpretation of the poem and its variants (The Road to Middle-earth 140–142). According to Shippey, “the Road” can be seen as an image of life and Providence, and Frodo seems to be much more


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aware of his doubts about the future and the necessity of “will-power” to pursue it to its end. See also Kelly 173, and Zimmermann 72–74, who contends that the “empirical code” used by Bilbo has changed into a “figurative code” in Frodo’s version. In Bilbo’s song, however, the “Road” already carried a metaphorical meaning, as becomes obvious from Bilbo’s Road philosophy as recounted by Frodo. 38. This is not meant as a “joke”, as an anonymous reader supposed. I believe that analysing the relationship between a text and its implied or intended readers is a legitimate critical concern, and I would like to suggest that (implied and actual) readers of The Lord of the Rings are indeed meant to join the game of trying to make sense of obscure textual material—as in detective stories, some modernist fiction (like Joyce’s Ulysses) and, most prominently, children’s and young adults’ fiction (as in Kingsley’s WaterBabies, George MacDonald, John Buchan etc.). This requires some philological competence—which we have all given proof of by successfully acquiring our mother-tongue. 39. As Shippey notes, “Hobbit poetry does not lend itself well to tidy listings,” as it is characteristic of “a living oral tradition” rather than “a literary tradition” (“Indexing and Poetry in The Lord of the Rings” 236–237). 40. On intertextuality, cf. Chap. 1 above. 41. Cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 85. 42. As Drout, Hitotsubashi and Scavera point out, an impression of “depth” is produced “when a character explicitly quotes an older text” (175) as in the case of Sam’s Gil-galad poem, and “textual depth” is created by Aragorn’s song of Beren and Tinúviel, as it implies the existence of an original text in an Elvish language of which the present text in the “Common Speech“ is only a “rough echo” (Drout, Hitotsubashi and Scavera 178–179). 43. On this poem, see Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 147. While Shippey duly notices the romantic elements of the poem, he does not do justice to the metapoetical quality of Aragorn’s comments. 44. On the sound effects of this “elvish poem”, cf. Kelly 184–191. 45. The poem, as Petra Zimmermann notes, also offers a glimpse at Strider’s/Aragorn’s own outlook at the world, as the tale of Beren and Tinúviel clearly mirrors that of their descendants, Arwen and Aragorn himself (Zimmermann 66–67). 46. It occurs, for example, in Edward Lear’s “The Jumblies” (The Complete Nonsense 71–74), published in 1871.

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47. It should be noted that the capacity of establishing intertextual connections is one shared by characters (like Sam who remembers the poem about Gil-galad [185]), readers (who will be reminded of the Ring poem by the line on Mordor [185]) and the narrator (who establishes a connection between Bilbo’s song about the Man in the Moon and the nursery rhyme known from the primary world). The world of fictional myth is thus connected to the reader’s textual world and may be considered as (in a certain sense) mirroring it. 48. Opie/Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (240–241) provides a list of theories about the poem’s possible origins which only confirms the notion that the rhyme is indeed unexplained. 49. Cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 28–30, and Donnelly 142–146. Referring to the narrator’s comment that “only a few words are now, as a rule, remembered”, Donnelly remarks, “[…] the comment opens the potential for wonder: how many such paleolinguistic fragments do we utter daily without any sense of the forgotten worlds, stories, and people by which they came down to us? Such wonder could well induce an unsuspecting reader toward affections resembling philology” (146). 50. Cf. Cawsey’s assessment: “In his embedded poetry […] Tolkien is reaffirming the value of the medieval, the archaic, the devalued and […] challenging the values of the modern” (64). To the “medieval” and “archaic”, we should add “the popular”. Tolkien does not just reaffirm outdated values and cultural practices but implicitly establishes the claim that these values and practices are very much alive in English popular culture.

Works Cited Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts Donaldson, Julia, and Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo. London: Macmillan, 1999. Hayward, John, ed. The Penguin Book of English Verse. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1956. Lear, Edward. The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear. Ed. Holbrook Jackson. London: Faber and Faber, 1947.


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Opie, Iona, and Peter Opie, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. 1951. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Palmer, Roy, ed. Everyman’s Book of British Ballads. London: Dent, 1980. Percy, Thomas. Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 3 vols. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1866 [repr. Elibron Classics, 2005]. Roud, Steve, and Julia Bishop, eds. The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. London: Penguin, 2012. Stevenson, Robert Louis. A Child’s Garden of Verses. 1885. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Annotated Hobbit, ed. Douglas A. Anderson. London. HarperCollins, 2003. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007. Vaughan Williams, Ralph, and A.  L. Lloyd, eds. English Folk Songs. 1959. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2009.

Critical Works Cited Birkett, Tom. “Old Norse.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 244–258. Cawsey, Kathy. “Could Gollum Be Singing a Sonnet? The Poetic Project of The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies 14 (2017). 53–69. Donnelly, Phillip J. “A Portrait of the Poet as an Old Hobbit: Engaging Modernist Aesthetic Ontology in The Fellowship of the Ring.” In Ralph C. Wood, ed. Tolkien among the Moderns. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. 131–169. Drout, Michael D.  C., Namiko Hitotsubashi and Rachel Scavera. “Tolkien’s Creation of the Impression of Depth.” Tolkien Studies 11 (2014). 167–211. Flieger, Verlyn. “Poems by Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings.” In Michael D.C. Drout, ed., J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York: Routledge, 2007.522–532. Forest-Hill, Lynn. “Poetic Form and Spiritual Function: Praise, Invocation and Prayer in The Lord of the Rings.” In Tolkien’s Poetry. Ed. Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2013. 91–116. Gymnich, Marion. “Reconsidering the Linguistics of Middle-earth: Invented Languages and Other Linguistic Features in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In Reconsidering Tolkien. Ed. Thomas Honegger. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2005. 7–30.

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Harvey, David. The Song of Middle-earth: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Themes, Symbols and Myths. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1985. Holmes, John R. “The Lord of the Rings.” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 133–145. Honegger, Thomas. “The Man in the Moon: Structural Depth in Tolkien.” In Root and Branch: Approaches towards Understanding Tolkien. Ed. Thomas Honegger. 1999. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2005. 9–70. Jones, Chris. Strange Likeness: The Use of Old English in Twentieth-Century Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Kelly, Mary Quella. “The Poetry of Fantasy: Verse in The Lord of the Rings.” In In Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 170–200. Kristeva, Julia, “Word, Dialogue, and Novel.” 1967. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. New  York: Columbia University Press. 1980: 64–91. Kullmann, Thomas. “Poetic Insertions in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” Connotations: A Journal of Critical Debate, 23.2 (2013/14). 283–309. Leech, Geoffrey N. A Linguistic Guide to English Poetry. Harlow: Longman, 1969. Lindley, David. Lyric. London: Methuen, 1985. Lloyd, A. L. Folk Song in England. 1967. St Albans: Paladin, 1975. Phelpstead, Carl. “Auden and the Inklings: An Alliterative Revival.” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 103 (2004): 433–57. Phelpstead, Carl. “‘With chunks of poetry in between’: The Lord of the Rings and Saga Poetics.” Tolkien Studies 5 (2008). 23–37. Pilch, Herbert, and Hildegard Tristram. Altenglische Literatur. Heidelberg: Winter, 1979. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Russom, Geoffrey. “Tolkien’s Versecraft in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.” In J.  R. R.  Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth. Ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons, 53–69. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Saintsbury, George. Historical Manual of English Prosody. 1910. London: Macmillan, 1922. Shippey, Tom A. “Indexing and Poetry in The Lord of the Rings.” In Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2007. 235–41.


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Shippey, Tom A. The Road to Middle-earth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982. Shurbanov, Alexander. Shakespeare’s Lyricized Drama. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2010. Todorov, Tzvetan. Les genres du discours. Paris: Seuil, 1978. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981. Zimmermann, Petra. “‘The Glimmer of Limitless Extensions in Time and Space’: The Functions of Poems in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In Tolkien’s Poetry. Ed. Julian Eilmann and Allan Turner. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2013. 59–89.

9 Language and Character Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann

In the previous chapters we have retraced Tolkien’s literary journeys through centuries and millennia of creative handling of language. It is when comparing the direct speech produced by his characters, however, that the literary function of this juxtaposition of styles becomes most apparent.1 The unique quality of the speech of some of the characters has long been noted. The most conspicuous example is Gollum, who speaks of himself in the third person, is particularly fond of s-sounds and makes use of the third-person singular “s” even with plural nouns.2 The peculiar, or non-standard, varieties of Sam Gamgee’s and of Strider/Aragorn’s speech have often been commented upon as well. In fact, the speech of each of the eight main characters who (together with Boromir, who drops out at an early stage) form the “Fellowship of the Ring” displays characteristic features, which place these characters into specific literary contexts and traditions. We therefore propose to analyse the direct speech used by the eight main characters, combining linguistic analysis with literary interpretation, before embarking on an examination of the literary functions of this multiplicity of styles. There are two major lines of research into the © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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analysis of character speech: one which studies the relationship between real and fictional language variation, and another which studies individual characters and their idiosyncrasies for their own sake. The present study is of the second type, but it may not be amiss to say a few words at the outset about similarities and differences between character speech in the nineteenth-century novel and in The Lord of the Rings. If we restrict our analysis to character speech, we find that apart from obvious features such as the frequent use of proper nouns (Frodo, Gandalf, Shire) and words that describe inhabitants of the fantasy world (hobbit, orc), three categories of Tolkien-specific uses may be distinguished. The first is the use of words that do not normally occur in speech; these are often archaic. Examples include thieve, await, foretell and kindred. A second type of category is overuse of words that are only rarely featured in naturally occurring speech: wary, wield, valiant, peril and so on. Third, Tolkien uses a number of “older” lexical units almost systematically to replace their modern equivalents. Thus, he uses the verb journey in place of travel, deadly instead of fatal and dwell rather than live. Some words have undergone semantic change and are therefore no longer used in the same senses in present-day English (queer). Here is a list of some of the content words which are highly specific to character speech in The Lord of the Rings: ruffian, lore, gear, league, healer, realm, healing, wield, trail, nose around, naught, land(s), folk, ford(s), havens, thieve, flow (v: flows), deem: I deem, doom, blade, foes, unlooked-for (unexpected), journey (v) (travel), valiant/ valour, kindred, await, renown, starlight, peril, spy (spies), tale (tales), ending (the ending of the world), esquire, unfriendly, shed(s), slay (slain), tarry, boats, songs, messages, deeds, beast(s), log (“a usually large section of a trunk or limb of a fallen or felled tree”), foretell, fade, climb, willow, riddle(s), (be) wary, lie (v): lies, weapon(s), swift, warn, foul, perilous, queer, accursed, dwell (live), keep, draw (near), assault, perish, reckoning, deadly, errand(s), guess (v/n), wrought, ridden, dwellings, shadows, seemingly, wander, how(ling), feast, lad(s), wither(ed), tread..

Among deictic words that are rather specific to speech in The Lord of the Rings and must have sounded rather old-fashioned even in nineteenth-­ century speech, we find yonder, hither, thither, unto, westward, afar,

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whence and nigh. Interestingly, these archaic words occasionally contrast with the use of colloquial words which are perfectly normal even today: guess and anyway. Let us now consider individual characters one by one. It may be expedient to begin with the most extreme examples, the colloquial speech of Sam Gamgee and the archaic and literary idiom used by Aragorn, before proceeding to the characters whose speech is less remote from standard English: Legolas and Gimli, on the one hand, and Merry and Pippin, on the other. The language of the two characters who speak most, Gandalf and Frodo, will be treated last. While their ways of speaking are close to the standard variety of English, they are also the most flexible ones. As will be shown, Gandalf as well as Frodo dispose of a wide variety of means of expression, which allows them to connect with the various plot strings and creatures they come across. Sam Gamgee is first introduced to the reader as talking to Ted Sandiman “the miller’s son”, in The Green Dragon inn (44). His way of speaking appears to be in tune with this rural, and lower-class, setting: “Queer things you do hear these days, to be sure” (44).3 The do-periphrasis in an affirmative sentence certainly belongs to Sam’s colloquial mannerisms, as does the addition of “to be sure”, which could be analysed as a “hedge”, qualifying the preceding statement. The specificities of Sam’s speech could be classified as follows: • Grammatical peculiarities: Apart from the do-periphrasis quoted, we may note the use of as as a relative pronoun: “There are some, even in these parts, as know the Fair Folk and get news of them” (45). Sam will also speak of “them as was willing” (105). “It was Mr. Bilbo as taught me my letters” (186). He renders narration more graphic by adding a deictic “this” which in standard English would be unwarranted: “this here black rider comes” (75), “it’s a big house this” (225) and “this here Redhorn” (285). Another grammatical characteristic is double negation: “he hasn’t done no harm” (76). “I never heard no good of such folk” (165) and “I don’t want to see no more magic” (363). The use of the third-person singular s with the first-person pronoun is exclusive to Sam as well: “says I to the Gaffer” (75); in another instance, the third-person singular s is dropped: “if it don’t let them go”  (118).


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While some of these peculiarities may strike us as old-fashioned and dialectal, others may remind us of children’s language: “famousest of hobbits” (712) and “beautifuller” (1026). There are also some evident archaisms: “I couldn’t have a borne it” (406) and “may no foul creature come anigh you” (733), when he believes that Frodo is dead. Sam’s constant use of contracted forms, including the archaic or dialectal “it ain’t” (206, 655), is remarkable inasmuch as the other characters either do not use them at all (Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli) or more sparingly (Gandalf, Frodo, and even Merry and Pippin). Similarly, Sam displays a particular fondness for progressive forms. He regularly introduces his contributions by “begging your pardon” (105, 238, 403, 665, 911, 927, 929), introduces explanations by “meaning” (225, 657) and uses them to refer to social interactions in which standard grammar would demand a simple form: “if you would be wanting” (238), “if you’re willing” (362, cf. 105, 152) and “I was wondering” (371). Again, this feature of Sam’s language distinguishes him from the speech of the other characters who rather tend to avoid progressive forms. • Specific vocabulary: Sam is the only character to use to reckon in the sense of to think: “[…] and I daresay there’s more truth in some of them than you reckon” (45), “I reckon we may go a good deal further and see naught better, nor queerer” (148) and so on. Some of the words Sam uses have an archaic sound: “leastways” (63), “I didn’t give much heed to it” (76) “Hark at it [the tree] singing about sleep now” (117), “bar shouting” (190), “after nightfall” (210), “we aren’t etten yet” (298), “darksome holes” (315), “I can’t abide fog” (389), “hobnobbing” (642), “mostway” (700) and “I durstn’t go outside this dell for any money” (194). Other words are infantile: “I’m drownded” (406), “daffadowndilly” (680) or dialectal: “taters” (654). The most important person in Sam’s life, next to Frodo, is, of course, Sam’s father, to whom he, in common with the other hobbits from Hobbiton, invariably refers as “the Gaffer” (22)—which used to be a colloquial form of “godfather”. • Colloquial phrases: Sam’s speech is marked by a succession of well-­established colloquial phrases: “Lor bless you” (63), “send this rider to the rightabouts” (96), “it gave me the shivers” (186), “clear out quick” (189), “like as not” (362), “what a fix” (603), “and no mistake”

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(148, 299, 603), “more’s the pity” (637), “do you good” (655), “shinylike” (382), “small and slender like” (680), “may I live to tell them” (721), “if I may make so bold” (713) “Well, I never” (917), “We’ve got to make a dash for it” (928), “we’d best be getting away” (934) and “[…] beats me” (956). Furthermore, Sam often emphasizes a proposition by stating that he would be prepared to risk something for it. “I’ll warrant” recurs several times (603, 623, 717), in one instance the will-­ future is replaced by the simple present: “I warrant” (617), but we also find “I’ll bet” (605, 654), “I’ll wager” (298), “I’ll be bound” (386) and “I would take my oath” (388). While all of these phrases are well-­ known colloquialisms, their synonymous use by a single character is rather startling and definitely significant. Sam’s linguistic inventiveness is also evident by metaphorical phrases some of which are conventional: “my heart’s in my toes” (298), “somebody’s going to catch it hot” (363), while others appear to be neologisms: “busier than badgers” (315), “I’ll never wet my toes in a puddle again” (393), “plain as a pike-staff it is” (396), “by a long bite” (604) and “it’s no good Sam Gamgee putting in his spoke just now” (396). • Hedges and qualifications: Sam regularly refers to his uncertainty about finding the correct words and achieving his communicative aims. Many of his statements are qualified by additions like “if you know what I mean” (63, 82), “if you understand me” (87, 679, 950), “if you take my meaning” (344, 351, 360) or simply “if you take me” (707), “as you might say” (371, 611, 624, 911, 1024), “in a manner of speaking” (361) and “so to speak” (382, 403). Sometimes he expresses doubts as to the appropriateness of a particular term: “it ain’t what I call proper poetry” (206), “it ain’t quite what I’d call right” (655), “Pretty hopeless, I call it” (923), or he qualifies his expression by an adverb or adverbial phrase indicating vagueness: “made my heart sink somehow” (189) and “in a manner of speaking” (361). He also often expresses insecurity as to the correctness of the information he has to offer: “if I remember rightly” (71), “for all I can see” (171), “I don’t know what it is” (194), or emphasizes the subjectivity of his statement by adding “[…] I’m thinking” (361, 609) or “I’ve been thinking” (383, 913, 934, 937). Of course, Sam’s usage of hedges and qualifications does not imply that he is an insecure character. On the contrary,


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throughout the narrative he will always speak his mind, venture his advice and ask for information required. The hedges listed here rather indicate Sam’s wish to connect with his interlocutors, they establish an environment of mutual trust and thus point at Sam’s social competence. Taken together the peculiarities of Sam’s speech, on the one hand, firmly place him among lower-class rather than middle- or upper-class people, and among rural rather than urban speakers. Sam is quite conscious of his rank, and indeed rather proud of it. Throughout The Lord of the Rings, he addresses Frodo as “Mr. Frodo” or “master”, even in the most intimate moments of their companionship. On the other hand, the narrative clearly emphasizes the extraordinary range of the means of expression Sam has at his disposal, the wealth of his linguistic and cultural background. Sam’s linguistic competence not only manifests itself in his interactions with characters like Aragorn and Galadriel, whose rather elevated way of speaking in no way confuses or intimidates him. Most prominently, however, he functions as a repository of old tales and a knowledge of a world beyond the everyday life of the Shire. When talking to Ted Sandiman in The Green Dragon, the mention of the Elves renders Sam poetical; he is “half chanting” (45) the words which refer to the Elves’ disappearance over the western sea. It is on their way to Rivendell, however, that Sam will really surprise his companions, and the reader, with his knowledge of a song which answers Merry’s question: “Who was Gilgalad?” (185). Sam is obviously meant to stand for the rich traditions of English rural culture. In praising these traditions, Tolkien clearly follows the lead of early twentieth-century authors like Rudyard Kipling and Mary Webb. He also follows the ideology propagated by politicians such as Stanley Baldwin, who saw in rural culture an epitome of Englishness.4 The motif of a servant functioning as a cultural and linguistic repository quite obviously goes back to Cervantes’ Sancho Panza, who, in Don Quixote, appears as a walking dictionary of proverbs. Sam is also fond of them, sometimes relating them to the instruction he received from “the gaffer” (e.g. 700, cf. 680). It is his non-standard use of language, however, which in The Lord of the Rings stands out as his contribution to the rich linguistic mosaic provided by the narrative. In characterizing a minor

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character by a distinctive way of speaking, Tolkien follows nineteenth-­ century novel conventions. The best-known example is certainly the character of Joseph in Wuthering Heights, whose utterances in the Yorkshire dialect contrast with the standard way of speaking used by the family he serves, and Nelly Dean, the narrator. While Joseph, however, mainly emerges as a figure of fun, the reader is clearly invited to sympathize with Sam, who, as discussed before, functions as a narrative focalizer during large parts of the novel. While Sam may strike the reader as the embodiment of a down-to-­ earth character, Aragorn seems to have “come on the wings of song out of the forgotten days” (511), as Théoden’s guard puts it. When he first introduces himself to the hobbits and to the reader, however, he uses standard formulas of polite conversation among strangers. He is “very pleased to meet” Frodo (156–157); when he makes a request, he adds “if you please” (161), and like a lawyer, he promises to tell Frodo “something to [his] advantage” (161). When Frodo and Sam begin to suspect him of some evil plot, he tries to win their confidence by exclaiming, “Don’t be alarmed” (163) and “Now don’t mistake me” (164).5 As soon as they listen to him, however, Aragorn starts to reveal his otherness by displaying peculiar features of language.6 These can basically be grouped into categories of vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure, imagery and indications of time or, more specifically, of longue durée. • Vocabulary: Aragorn is fond of literary words which in spoken discourse may appear stilted or old-fashioned: the hobbits may be “glad to grant” (163, cf. 238, etc.) his request (rather than happy), he listens to “tidings” (172, 233, 262, 418, 435, etc.) of the affairs of Middle-­ earth (rather than news), he tells his companions to be “wary” (187) rather than cautious, he undergoes “perils” (253, 287, 338, 778) rather than dangers, and at the end of the day he is “weary” (358, 427, 518, etc.) rather than tired. Buildings, tales and maidens are “fair” (185, 191, 193, 338, 866) rather than beautiful. Aragorn advises Gimli to be “swift” (334) rather than quick, and the river runs “swiftly” (390) rather than fast. “Servants of the Enemy”, “doom and great deeds” and “signs” are “at hand” (191, 197, 247, 489; or “to hand”: 388) rather than close or imminent; Aragorn should “deem” (442, cf. 780, 879,


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886) rather than consider certain tales “only fables” and from fights he emerges “unscathed” (338, 414) rather than unharmed. He “desires” rather than wishes for things to take place (338, 392) While he can be “afraid” of treachery (182) or invite others not to be afraid (311), he prefers to refer to his or his enemies’ “fear” (190, 255, 393, 500, 501, etc.). By using these words, Aragorn removes himself from the worlds of the hobbits and the reader to take them into the realm of tales and legends, of books.7 Sometimes (and inadvertently, of course) he even quotes Shakespeare: Frodo, he realizes, is “made of sterner stuff” than he had guessed (198, cf. 171), which echoes Julius Caesar, 3.2.94, and when he discovers Frodo’s “mithril-coat”, he rhymes, “Here’s a pretty hobbit-skin to wrap an elven-princeling in!” (336), following A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2.1.255–256. • Grammar and sentence structure: A characteristic feature of Aragorn’s language is the use of save in the sense of “except” or “except for”: “nor will he count the heads of the enemy save with a sword” (433), “save to give us a long and fruitless chase” (498) and “save Elendil’s heir” (511). As in written usage, “but” can mean only: “is but half a mile below us” (390), and “must needs” stands for “insists on”: “If a man must needs walk in sight of the Black Gate” (255). The use of the archaic conjunction ere is also peculiar to Aragorn: “ere I set out to war” (276, cf. 394, 500, 772, 775, 778, 780, 879, 881). He also loves to introduce explanations by the rather formal conjunction for: “for I do not think […]” (188, cf. 198, 201, etc.). This habit, however, he shares with Legolas, Gimli, Elrond and the narrator, if not with Sam and the other hobbits. Another formal and literary feature of Aragorn is the formation of conditional clauses by placing the auxiliary verb first: “had I known” (327) and “were I to go where my heart dwells” (784). The preference for shall and should as auxiliaries indicating an assumption about the future also distinguishes him from the other characters: “more shall be made clear to you” (246), “For I shall take you by the road” (334) and so on. Exclamations of frustrated desire are introduced by would: “Gondor! […] Would that I looked on you in a happier hour” (422) and “Would that the day was here” (530, cf. 864). While Sam makes use of the do-periphrasis when it is not required, Aragorn sometimes leaves it out when it is: “Speak no evil of the Lady

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Galadriel” (358), “Speak no more of it!” (388) and, most strikingly, “Fear not!” (393) This imperative, which of course recalls Luke, 2.10 in the Authorized Version of the Bible, obviously fulfils a specific function, as Aragorn also has the phrase “do not be afraid” (311) at his disposal. It marks the moment of his crossing into his ancestral kingdom and his linguistic assumption of kingship. As the narrator indicates, he is no longer the “weatherworn Ranger” but “Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect […] a king returning from exile to his own land” (393). Similarly, the two negative imperatives quoted before are used to mark a particularly elevated, or even sacred, moment: Aragorn defends Galadriel, the queen of the Elves of Lothlórien and grandmother to Arwen, Aragorn’s future queen. The most conspicuous grammatical feature of Aragorn’s utterances, however, is inversion or fronting. Many of Aragorn’s pronouncements do not begin with a noun phrase as subject but put a direct object or an adverbial of time or place into initial position: “there my heart is” (202), “then perils he will have” (253), “glad I am” (238), “more hope we have” (539), “only through darkness shall I come to it” (375), “but of these great matters we will speak later” (434) and “In this Elvish sheath dwells the Blade that was Broken” (511). This use of inversion, or rather this foregrounding of certain objects or qualities, obviously characterizes Aragorn as an epic character, whose origin is indeed the “wings of song”. Examples of inversion are found in, for example, Milton’s Paradise Lost, translations from ancient Greek and Latin epics, and in Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian. It is in Ossian, as well, that characters are told to “behold” a certain sight, just as Aragorn asks his companions to “behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings” (392), the mountain-tops which mark the border of Gondor or to “behold Eorl the Young” (512), a mythical hero represented on a tapestry in the Hall of Théoden. • Imagery: Aragorn’s language is rather figurative. He regularly uses phrases in which abstract nouns are personified: Weathertop “commands a wide view” (183), “when need presses” (187), “this accursed knife that gave the wound” (198), “I must put mirth aside” (233), “let us weigh the matter in our minds” (287), “morning is wearing away”


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(404), “evil was afoot” (575), “doubt ever gnaws him” (780), “hope and despair are akin” (867). Mental processes are visualized as sources of physical discomfort, and the conflicts on the plot level are elevated to the stage of a philosophical battle between good and evil forces. There are three areas where Aragorn’s use of images is particularly noticeable: he often speaks about paths and roads, which in a novel concerned with travelling is not surprising. What is significant, though, is the frequent blurring of boundaries between literal and metaphorical meanings. When Strider at the Prancing Pony inn offers his services as a guide to the four hobbits, he promises, “Strider can take you by paths that are seldom trodden” (165). He certainly refers to his experience as a traveller in the woods between Bree and Rivendell, but he clearly implies a reference to his resourcefulness in a more general way. When setting out with Gimli and Legolas to look for Merry and Pippin, he declares that they “may have to search for [their] path in hard bare lands” (420), which, on the one hand, refers to the real country around the Gap of Rohan but also to the hardships we all have to go through in the journey of life. The metaphorical implication is even more obvious when he addresses Frodo on the hill of Cerin Amroth in Lothlórien: “[…] here my heart dwells ever, unless there be a light beyond the dark roads that we still must tread, you and I” (352). Light clearly stands for the success of their respective quests, while the darkness of the roads encapsulates the dangers and difficulties both of them will have to overcome. When success is achieved, Aragorn, addressing Sam, sums up their hardships: “A long way for us all, but yours has been the darkest road” (954). Like the pathway images, the imagery of light and darkness recurs several times. Trolls, as Aragorn tells the hobbits, “became an evil people, as legends tell, for they fell under the shadow of Angmar” (201). Though they no longer live there, “a shadow still lies on the land” (201). Later, he tells the Council of Elrond that “the fear of Sauron lies black on his [Gollum’s] heart” (255) and informs Galadriel that “Gandalf the Grey fell into shadow” (355), euphemistically referring to his supposed death. Another field of images used is vegetation. Aragorn warns Merry that taking part in the war might be disastrous: “Many hopes will

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wither in this bitter Spring” (773). When he sees Merry again in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, he expresses his affection for him by the wish: “May the Shire live for ever unwithered!” (870). It is with regard to Éowyn, however, that Aragorn’s plant imagery is most significant: When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die? (866)

The opposition of flower and steel summarized the dual nature of Éowyn as princess and as warrior, and her tragic inability of reconciling her female nature and her bravery. The reference to frost then alludes to Éowyn’s tragic infatuation with Aragorn—a motif which encapsulates this dilemma. When we look at Aragorn’s grammar, vocabulary and imagery, we may certainly detect a resemblance with another literary “ranger” who spends most of his life in the wilderness, who loves to talk about his philosophy of life and who considers himself morally superior to both wilderness and civilization: Natty Bumppo of J.  F. Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. A clause like “If I read the sign back yonder rightly” (425) could also occur in one of these American novels. Like Leatherstocking, Aragorn is a pathfinder (though not a deerslayer, apparently). He displays many of the linguistic features characteristic of this “noble outlaw”; additionally, however, he is characterized by an element which is emphatically lacking in the Cooper novels: an awareness of a historical and mythological past and continuity. • Indications of time: A distinguishing feature of Aragorn’s speech acts is certainly the high proportion of pronouncements about himself, which are usually connected with evocations of things past. At the very beginning of his interview with Frodo at the Prancing Pony, he tells him: “I have hunted many wild and wary things” (163). The present perfect as well as the quantifier “many” suggest that Aragorn refers to a long span of time, which appears all the longer for being unspecific.


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His further statement: “A hunted man sometimes wearies of distrust and longs for friendship” (170) also appears to indicate that his experience as a hunted man has been a long one. Furthermore, Aragorn often refers to historical or mythological time long past: “The Men of the West did not live here; though in their latter days they defended the hills for a while against the evil that came out of Angmar” (185). The past is removed from the present several times. “The Men of the West”, who neither the hobbits nor the reader know about at this stage, obviously belong to the past, but these past people themselves have a history. It was in their “latter days” that the buildings were erected. Days which are “latter” are obviously less significant than the earlier ones so that a vista is opened up to a still more glorious past than that indicated by the ruin of a “tall and fair” tower. A bit later Aragorn will “chant” (191) a song about Beren and Lúthien who lived “when the world was young” (193). Instead of giving specific dates of historical events (as does “Appendix B” at the end of the book), Aragorn evokes a sense of duration, of longue durée. Most emphatically Aragorn evokes this sense of duration in the speech he makes at the Council of Elrond: he looks back to a long life: “I have had a hard life and a long […] I have crossed many mountains and many rivers […]” (248), but the time span he evokes in his listeners is considerably longer: “For here the heirs of Valandil have ever dwelt in long line unbroken from father unto son for many generations” (248). After explaining what his ancestors and relatives were doing during the long span of time between the reign of Isildur and the present, he adds, “while the years have lengthened and the grass has grown” (248). Years do not lengthen, they add up, and grass will grow every year. The formula, however, emphasizes length and slow movement, as grass is proverbial for growing slowly. At the same time he anticipates becoming a figure of legend himself, thus reaching out into the future: “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time” (434). What a contrast to the hobbits, and to Sam in particular, whose sense of time usually reaches back to their last meal and forward to their next one. In many respects the language used by Sam appears as the very opposite of that of Aragorn. Surprisingly, however, there are quite few linguistic

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features they have in common. The two of them share certain archaic words and phrases: Sam says that he “didn’t give much heed” (382) to a “log with eyes” he spots in the river, while Aragorn tells his companions that the Rohirrim “do not heed the wrath of Fangorn” (441). Sam realizes that Frodo “can’t go on riding after nightfall” (210), and Aragorn is anxious to reach a place “before nightfall” (189). Both Sam and Aragorn tend to personify natural objects: “The River seems set on taking us right into their [the Orcs’] arms” (386), Sam suggests, while Aragorn states that “the hills have forgotten them [the Men of the North Kingdom]”. While Sam’s suggestion can be seen as an instance of magical thinking, Aragorn’s personification rather appears to belong to an epic style of narration—which may alert the reader to the fact that some of the stylistic features of epic narration may have originated from the same magical thinking which can be observed in Sam. Another similarity is that both Aragorn and Sam are given to gnomic statements, indicating their habit of generalizing from particular experiences: Aragorn states his approval of Pippin’s dropping of a jewel by declaring, “one who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters” (564), and metaphorically comments on Saruman’s fate of being in a “cleft stick of his own cutting” (564). Speaking of Sauron and the imminent battle, he pronounces, “The hasty stroke goes oft astray” (780). Sam states that the Gaffer “often said I’d come to a bad end, if I didn’t watch my step” (637). He tells Gollum, who protests against Sam’s cooking: “Our bread chokes you, and raw coney chokes me” (654), turning individual food preferences into a general statement about difference. When he crosses into Mordor, he removes the Ring in order to see more clearly: “Better have a look at the worst […] No good blundering about in a fog!” (899). The most striking commonality of Sam and Aragorn, however, is their recurring references to their heart as a metonymy for their most intimate feelings. Commenting on his meeting with the Elves, Sam declares, “But it was the singing that went to my heart” (82), and when the hobbits and Aragorn are on their way to Rivendell, pursued by Black Riders, he says that their provisional shelter “makes [his] heart sink somehow” (189). Aragorn refers to Rivendell as the place where his “heart is” (202), that is, where Lady Arwen lives whom he is going to marry. The hill of Cerin


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Amroth in Lothlórien, however, is the place where “his heart dwells ever” (352), where he apparently once met Lady Arwen. In highly emotional moments both Sam and Aragorn become poets. It is Sam who remembers verses about Gil-galad (185), which, together with Aragorn’s tale of Tinúviel (191–193), introduce the mythological dimension of the story. When describing the beauty of the heroine, Lúthien Tinúviel, Aragorn’s language turns metaphorical: “As the stars above the mists of the Northern lands was her loveliness, and in her face was a shining light” (193). When Sam tells Faramir about Galadriel, he also indulges in poetical images: […] I wish I could make a song about her. Beautiful she is, sir! Lovely! Sometimes like a great tree in flower, sometimes like a white daffadowndilly, small and slender like. Hard as di’monds, soft as moonlight. Warm as sunlight, cold as frost in the stars. Proud and far-off as a snow-mountain, and as merry as any lass I ever saw with daisies in her hair in springtime. […] (680)

Again we may be struck by the width of Sam’s poetic imagination as well as by the wealth of images he has at his disposal.8 What Aragorn and Sam may have in common is perhaps that of all the characters they are the most natural ones—they are largely untouched by “culture and its discontents” which Sigmund Freud discussed in his essay of 1929. The direct speeches of Legolas the elf and Gimli the dwarf share certain features with Aragorn’s, most notably their consistent literary diction. Contracted forms are absent, and archaic vocabulary is used: to all of them, things and persons they like to look at are “fair”. Gimli alone sometimes alternates “fair” and “beautiful” (e.g. 547). They all regularly introduce explanations by the conjunction for. Like Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas indulge in gnomic pronouncements, relating present experiences to general truths. Legolas, for example, states, “let a ploughman plough, but choose an otter for swimming” (292), “the passing seasons are but ripples ever repeated in the long long stream” (388) and “Follow what may, great deeds are not lessened in worth” (877). Gimli’s very first speech acts contain general moral maxims: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens” (281) and “Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart” (281). Later, he pronounces, “Indeed sooner would I bear a

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horse than be borne by one” (522), “it is ever so with the things that Men begin: there is a frost in Spring, or a blight in Summer, and they fail of their promise” (873). Legolas and Gimli, again like Aragorn, often refer to the past, but while in Aragorn’s view, the purpose of past history was largely to prepare the glorious future time of his own kingship, Legolas and Gimli rather live in the past. Legolas refers to the present time as “these after-days” (378), and Gimli speaks of “these latter days” (341).9 In spite of these commonalities, there are also subtle but significant differences. Legolas’ speeches are characterized by sentences which are comparatively long and follow the rules of twentieth-century sentence structure. Inversion occurs much less often than in Aragorn’s speeches. In common with Aragorn, however, Legolas sometimes uses archaic grammatical forms, such as negative statements without do-periphrasis: “For in the autumn their leaves fall not” (335) and “He stands not alone” (433). As Legolas correctly uses do-periphrasis elsewhere, these instances obviously have a special significance, which can be seen in Legolas emotional involvement when describing the mallorn trees or defending Gimli. Other grammatical phenomena found in Legolas’ speech include the preposition/conjunction ere: “[…] ere long it escaped our skill” (256), “ere morning it will be in the East” (429), “ere you came here” (874); the preposition save: “save as a name in song” (341) and “save that it is laden with the sadness of Mortal Men” (508); and the use of but in the sense of only: “the passing seasons are but ripples” (388), “but for the darkness and our own fear” (488). Like Aragorn, Legolas loves to communicate his feelings in a literary way which some readers might consider stilted and which forms a definite contrast to the hobbits’ speech. Like Aragorn (but more often) he introduces a complaint by the interjection “Alas”, as in his first speech, when he tells the Council of Elrond of Gollum’s escape (255). What he typically complains about is things which cannot be changed: “Alas that it is winter” (337), “alas for the folly of these days” (348), and finally, when he feels the call of the sea: “Alas! for the gulls” (873). Like Aragorn he suffers from “weariness” rather than being tired (339, 355). A feeling of happiness he conveys by the adjective glad: “My heart would be glad if I were beneath the eaves of that wood” (335), “we walked in gladness on the fair paths of Lórien” (355) and so on. There is one notable exception,


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though. Speaking of Fangorn forest he states, “I could have been happy here, if I had come in days of peace” (491). He could have been happy in Fangorn just like ordinary mortals could be happy living in a certain beautiful seaside or mountain resort. As Legolas represents the “silvan folk” (283), it is not surprising that trees, grass, time of day and the seasons characterize his vocabulary (e.g. silvan, rainbow, moonless, beech and elm) and feature prominently in his images. Speaking of the sun, he states, “She is walking in the blue fields of the South” (292) and “Rede oft is found at the rising of the Sun” (429). Speaking of Gondor he tells Gimli, “[…] great must have been its glory in the days of its rising” (873) and defends the “deeds of Men”: “Yet seldom do they fail of their seed […] And that will lie in the dust and rot to spring up again in times and places unlooked-for” (873), thus comparing the buildings of Minas Tirith and human endeavour in general to the movements of celestial bodies and the growth of a plant from a seed.10 Legolas, we realize, is characterized by a specific inventory of language which characterizes him as a person close to the processes of nature and aware of their aesthetic appeal, while remaining in a state of contemplation rather than action and being critical of the ideas of progress and change. As examples of this attitude, the diaries of Francis Kilvert might be quoted, just as Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Gimli represents a contrasting attitude which is also reflected in his language. Gimli’s speeches resemble those of Aragorn in other respects than those of Legolas. A characteristic grammatical feature they share with Aragorn’s is inversion: “faithless is he …” (281), “and of old it was not darksome […]” (315), “Yet more fair is the living land of Lórien” (356), “faint cries I heard” (876) and so on. While Legolas’ speeches typically contain a narrative or assessment of a certain situation, Gimli is given to exclamations and apostrophes: “O Kheled-zâram fair and wonderful!” (334), “You rascals, you woolly-footed and wool-pated truants!” (557), “This Treebeard at any rate has not starved you” (561), “Stout men and lordly they are” (776) and “Mighty indeed was Aragorn that day” (876). Like Aragorn, Gimli loves to speak about himself. A large proportion of his speeches contain first-person messages, which may range from declarations of intent to indications of anger, frustration and enthusiasm: “I will tread the path with you” (297), “I do not like the look of this Fangorn” (490),

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“Happy was the chance that drove me there!” (548), “Hammer and tongs! I am so torn between rage and joy, that if I do not burst, it will be a marvel!” (557), “my blood runs chill” (786) and so on. At the same time, he is probably the most communicative one of the three non-hobbits discussed. He constantly asks the others for information and for their opinions and sympathies. His description of the caverns of Helm’s Deep fascinates Legolas so much that he suggests going on a tour with Gimli, to visit the caves and Fangorn Forest (548). Like Legolas, Gimli has a characteristic field of imagery. Gimli’s images and fantasies are connected to stones, work and the production of beauty. He asks himself if he will ever return to the “smithies of [his] home” (376); the smithies function as pars pro toto of the comforts of his natural environment. In order to praise Galadriel’s hair, he refers to mineral resources stating that it “surpasses the gold of the earth as the stars surpass the gems of the mine” (376). Halbarad’s men are “worn like weathered rocks” (776). While the Elves obviously do not work, and everything they do appears effortless, Gimli, in the House of Elrond, refers to the mountains the Company is going to pass through as places “where our fathers worked of old” (283). Unused to horse-riding, he remarks, “riding is tiring work” (532), and he praises Pippin’s ingenuity in breaking away from the Orcs as “smart work” (564). He also warns Aragorn and Legolas that the “labour” of building a cairn as a memorial for Boromir would be “hard and long” (415). The concepts of mining and jewellery, traditionally associated with dwarves, also lend themselves to the light-and-­ darkness imagery Aragorn is fond of. In the caves of Moria, Gimli informs his companions that they are staying in “the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not darksome, but full of light and splendour, as is still remembered in our songs” (315). Darkness here becomes an outward sign of degeneration and of “the Enemy’s” advance. With reference to Galadriel, Gimli remarks, “I would not have come, had I known the dangers of light and joy” (378). The metaphorical meaning of “light” supersedes the literal one—and points at the metaphorical applicability of the Moria adventure. Incidentally, we may notice that Gimli experiences “joy” (cf. 333. 557) rather than gladness, as Aragorn and Legolas might have done. His experience is clearly a more passionate one than might be available for his two companions.


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Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli use ways of speaking which to most readers would appear unfamiliar and strange. Their speeches form a contrast to those of the hobbits, whose subject position the reader is invited to share.11 As we follow the Company on their journey from Rivendell, however, we will soon notice subtle differences in the speeches of the three characters, which are in tune with the associations connected to their specific communities: all of the three characters are somehow connected to experiences of the transcendental: Aragorn’s identity is shaped by his descendance from ancient heroes of myth, Legolas dreams of a state of ultimate harmony and beauty reached through a union with nature, and Gimli tries to achieve perfect beauty by means of hard work with unearthly materials. To shape these three characters or attitudes with regard to the possibilities of life, Tolkien resorts to the vast repository of English, and international, literary and linguistic tradition, selecting and combining elements with which most of the readers will be vaguely familiar. He makes use of the various associations evoked by these elements to create unique characters. In contrast to the three “epical” characters discussed, the hobbits Merry and Pippin certainly strike most readers as particularly “normal”. Their language closely follows the rules of the British standard English current in Tolkien’s day, or rather its colloquial variety. They regularly use contracted forms and avoid archaisms. At the end of the day, they are “tired” (172, 466, 569, 588) rather than “weary”. When Pippin, in Minas Tirith, talks to Beregond, the reader is alerted to this choice of word: ‘You are weary of this day?’ said Beregond. ‘Yes,’ said Pippin, ‘very: tired out with idleness and waiting […]’ (808)

The normality of Pippin’s language serves as a background, to give shape to his heroic or mythical environment, in tune with his role as focalizer.12 It is only in his parodic welcoming speech in front of the tower of Orthanc that Merry speaks of Pippin as “overcome with weariness” (556). Merry and Pippin do not “reckon” (like Sam) or “deem” (like Aragorn) that something is the case, but “think” (76, 106, 147, 226, 358, 454, 585, etc.) or “suppose” (458, 560, 826, etc.) so. When they feel threatened or lost, they are “afraid” (173, 203, 561), “scared” (102) or “frightened”

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(850), but do not “fear” anything. On rare occasions, however, a certain choice of word reminds the reader of their folkloristic background, as when Pippin reports that Denethor is “fey and dangerous” (827) or when Merry tells Farmer Cotton about the supposed number of adversaries: “If you’re right in your reckoning, we haven’t dealt with a tithe of them yet” (1011). Merry and Pippin are less given to poetical images than all the other main characters, including Sam. Their imagination concentrates on one another’s well-being, and on their next meal, most notably breakfast (72, 109, 448, 760, etc.), the prospect of which provides a “crumb of comfort” to Merry (178), and the lack of which gives rise to a “burning question” (761) in Pippin’s mind. Most other images, however, are rather conventional. Merry states, for example, that “someone must get there and warm the house” (68), “you are not a very easy nut to crack” (105), “we have still got to […] put the finishing touches on the packing” (108), “I’ll tackle Strider by the camp-fire” (589), “don’t leave me behind […] like baggage to be called for when all is over” (773), “there are things deeper and higher” (870) and “it seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded” (997). Merry’s most daring image, however, is found in the penultimate chapter when he decides to “raise the Shire”: “they [the Shire-folk] just want a match […] and they’ll go up in fire” (1007)— which is characteristic of the self-assurance he acquired during his travels. Pippin asks Frodo if he really thought he had “thrown dust in all our eyes” (103) and declares “it would be the last straw, if we had to go out in the dark to look for him” (172). He is afraid that the Black Riders might “penetrate” their “disguise” (174), and calls the necessity to do without a fire “a plague and a nuisance” (285). Later, he will complain that Frodo has “been away ages now” (404) and tell Aragorn that “it was a wrench” to let go Galadriel’s brooch (564). At Isengard he complains that Gandalf is “sitting on” information “like a hen on an egg” (591). He confesses to Gandalf that being questioned by Sauron (when looking into the Palantir) was “like being stabbed with knives” (593), Shadowfax, the horse, is “the apple of the king’s eye” (761), and Gandalf, Pippin supposes, is “in the thick of things” (826).13 While Merry and Pippin speak the same language, make use of the same register and display the same range of linguistic capacity and


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inventiveness, their respective speech acts differ from one another significantly. Merry’s sentences usually consist of statements which end in a full stop. There are commonsensical assessments of the situation, friendly advice based on average middle-class wisdom, mildly proffered disbelief and unobjectionable suggestions.14 A high proportion of his sentences are probably part of the active linguistic repertory of the average reader: “So there you are at last” (97), “there’s something funny about all this” (98), “don’t worry about that” (103), “you must admit that it was very intriguing” (105), “it’s no good arguing” (108), “there is no other way out that I can see or think of ” (115), “I daresay it will be homelike enough” (148), “I am afraid this has been too much for Frodo” (203), “Better not to know, I expect” (458), “We can’t go on like this” (461), “one feels the need of something solid” (561), “is this the time, I ask you” (591), “my turn will come soon enough” (796), “I am frightfully sorry” (870), “I should like to know what all this is about” (998) and so on. Pippin’s speech, by contrast, largely consists of questions and exclamations rather than statements. He is younger than Merry, “not yet of age” according to hobbit custom, and much more curious and impressionable than his friend is.15 One of his narrative functions is certainly to ask those questions which need answering to move the narrative forward: “what is he doing in this part of the world?” (75), “What is the plan for today?” (86), “Who made the track […] and why?” (115), “do you think we may be pursued, tonight?” (147), “Where did you learn such tales, if all the land  is empty and forgetful?” (201), “how are we to get down there?” (293), “What is Isengard like?” (481) and so on. Some of his questions reveal a self-centred desire for bodily comfort: “I wonder how long it is since I slept in a bed?” (590), “And how I should like breakfast! Do these people ever have it, or is it over? And when do they have dinner, and where?” (760). Others show a curiosity about the connections between different parts of the plot he is living through: “Please, Treebeard […] could I ask you something? Why did Celeborn warn us against your forest?” (467). Some other questions are rhetorical and amount to an exclamation indicating regret or admiration: “It was a wrench to let it go; but what else could I do?” (564) and “What did we come for? We are not wanted” (577). Referring to his ride with Gandalf on Shadowfax, he “asks”, “How

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fast is he going? […] And how light his footfalls are!” (596), and speaking of Aragorn, he says, “Was there ever anyone like him?” (870). Pippin is also one of the few characters who use tag questions: “The Ents made up their minds rather quickly, after all, didn’t they?” (485) and “But it was not coming for me, was it?” (599). The other specialty of Pippin is exclamations, which can indicate enthusiasm, fear, impatience and distaste, and which can be used to issue encouragement or warnings. When, together with Frodo and Sam, he is invited by the Elves to join them, he exclaims, “O Fair Folk! This is good fortune beyond my hope” (80), he tells Frodo that he will “follow [him] into every bog and ditch” (88). Providing an account of the Ents’ fighting against Saruman, he comments: “It was staggering. They roared and boomed and trumpeted […]” (568). Pippin is also the first to notice the fires lit by the people of Gondor to summon their allies (747). Earlier on, he described Farmer Maggot as a “terror to trespassers [who] keeps ferocious dogs” (91). Insisting that he and Merry should accompany Frodo, he says, “You do not understand! […] You must go—and therefore we must, too” (104), and at Rivendell, “We don’t want to be left behind” (276). On their journey, however, he is annoyed about Aragorn’s decision not to light a fire: “Well if that isn’t a plague and a nuisance! […] All because of a pack of crows! I had looked forward to a real good meal tonight: something hot” (285). Approaching Lothlórien he is afraid Legolas might suggest passing the night in one of the trees: “I cannot sleep on a perch!” (342). His alertness when meeting with danger will render him the right person when Denethor raises a fire to burn himself and Faramir: “I am frightened […] The Lord is out of his mind, I think” (850). He can be proud, but then his pride can be tempered by irony. Speaking to Sam and Frodo after their recovery from Mount Doom, he tells them, “We are knights of the City and of the Mark, as I hope you observe” (955). Later, his new-won self-assurance will serve a serious purpose, when, back in the Shire, he tells a group of ruffians: “You are speaking to the King’s friend […] Down on your knees in the road and ask pardon, or I will set this troll’s bane in you!” (1005). When it comes to giving advice to his fellow-hobbits, Pippin is rather outspoken, too. “It’s time you made it up” (92), he says to Frodo, who had told him about his former clashes with Farmer Maggot. When at the


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Prancing Pony inn, Merry announces that he will go out for a “sniff of air” and asks the others to “mind” their “Ps and Qs”, Pippin answers, “Mind yourself! Don’t get lost, and don’t forget that it is safer indoors” (154). After discovering a troll-hole, Pippin warns Aragorn and Merry: “Come out, you two, and let us get away […] we had better get off it quick” (205). When Frodo is given task to carry the Ring to Mordor, Pippin insists on accompanying him: “We hobbits ought to stick together, and we will” (272). At Minas Tirith he feels confident enough to give good advice to Beregond and his fellow citizens: “if his [Gandalf ’s] will is of any value to this city, you will treat Shadowfax with all honour” (761). His confidence may also be connected to a certain playfulness, which then makes him address Shadowfax himself: “Good morning! […] Gandalf will come as soon as he may. He is busy, but he sends greetings, and I am to see that all is well with you; and you resting, I hope, after your long labours” (762). The language Pippin uses here mirrors his development. Like Merry, and possibly the reader, his is quite at home now in the strange archaic and urban world which he has got to know through participating in Frodo’s quest.16 The character of The Lord of the Rings who speaks most is Gandalf. His accounts of what happened elsewhere, outside of the sequence of events narrated, are long and detailed, and while he disappears from the plot now and then, he quickly resumes a leading role as soon as he is back. He is also the most versatile of the characters as he is considered a close friend by the hobbits just as much as by the Elves, by Aragorn the Ranger and by the people of Gondor. His way of speaking should therefore be of particular interest. Initially, however, when Gandalf is talking to Bilbo and then to Frodo, his speech certainly does not strike the reader as remarkable. It is neither colloquial nor literary, and it does not contain archaisms or any other peculiarities, but rather resembles the style of the third-person narrator. Sentences are certainly more complex than is usual in direct speech: “I suppose you feel that everything had gone off splendidly and according to plan?” (32), “[…] and it seemed to me necessary to give your guests something else that would seem to explain your sudden vanishment.” (32)

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“It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it” (46) “Though he had found out that the thing needed looking after; it did not seem always of the same size or weight; it shrank or expanded in an odd way, and might suddenly slip off a finger where it had been tight” (47)

While Gandalf seems to avoid contracted forms, he uses them occasionally when talking to Frodo: “But I don’t think you need go alone” (63) and “don’t be absurd!” (65). Generally, he appears as a friendly and wise companion to the hobbits who can be trusted to give good advice. At one stage in his conversation with Frodo, however, his speech indicates that there is another side to him. When Frodo offers him the Ring, “his eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. ‘Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself […] The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me’” (61). For the first time, Gandalf uses the literary conjunction “for” to introduce an explanation, and for the first time, he speaks of “perils” rather than dangers. His speech here resembles that of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. His short and stark sentences will recur with Elrond’s speech at Rivendell and form a sharp contrast to his relaxed explanations which preceded this speech. Apparently, Gandalf ’s register changes according to circumstances. When faced with the need to take momentous decisions, his way of speaking approaches the epical style of the heroes we are going to encounter later. When Gandalf sees Frodo again at Rivendell, Gandalf talks to him in his original relaxed way: “You are lucky to be here, too, after all the absurd things you have done since you left home” (219), “they are all safe and sound” (219) and “That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all” (219). When he talks at the Council of Elrond, however, his style changes, “Some […] would think the tidings of Glóin, and the pursuit of Frodo, proof enough that the halfling’s trove is a thing of great worth to the Enemy” (250) and “for now we learned that he was seeking ever more eagerly for the One” (250). Gandalf again uses the “for” construction, as well as archaic vocabulary (“tidings”, “trove”), just as a few pages later: “For even the Wise might fear to withstand the Nine” (257).


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There will also be inversion: “Into what deadly perils he had gone alone I dared not guess” (253), as well as imagery: “a cloud of anxiety was on my mind” (256). It appears that Gandalf ’s choice of register is informed of who he is talking to, as well as of his subject-matter. Gandalf moves in and out of the world of legend and adventure, in which the hobbits (and the reader) will always be outsiders.17 Nevertheless, the hobbits, and the reader, get in touch with the world of legend, as when Pippin inadvertently looks into the Palantir. It is through Gandalf ’s choice of words that we realize that Pippin has indeed trespassed on matters which belong to the world of legend and adventure: when Gandalf states that “This is a grievous turn to things” (592), the archaic word “grievous” confirms that things are indeed serious. “Peril comes in the night when least expected” (594), he tells Aragorn and the others, indicating that what happened belongs to their sphere, and when he tells Pippin about the history of the palantíri, his archaic vocabulary emphasizes their mythical origin: “Fëanor himself, maybe, wrought them, in days so long ago that the time cannot be measured in years” (597). On his ride to Gondor, Gandalf retains this heroic diction, even though he is talking to Pippin: “The dark shadow yonder is the mouth of the Deeping-coomb” (600). Upon being asked how far Minas Tirith is away, Gandalf answers, “Leagues upon leagues […] thrice as far as the dwelling of King Théoden, and they are more than a hundred miles east from here, as the messengers of Mordor fly” (600). To indicate distance, Gandalf uses “leagues” as an archaic unit of length, although he still measures a distance by miles. The phrase “as the crow flies” is transformed in a sinister way, pointing at trouble to come. When speaking to Denethor, Gandalf makes use of the same heroic diction (758), even though he changes back to “normal” when talking to Pippin. To Denethor he says: “And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?” (758), and to Pippin: “[…] I hope it may be long before you find yourself in such a tight corner again between two such terrible old men” (759). Shortly before Lady Arwen’s arrival at Minas Tirith, Gandalf shows Aragorn a sapling of an old tree of significant symbolical value:

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Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake […] (971–972)

In addition to archaic or literary grammar (“ere”, “for”), rhetorical flourish (“who shall say”), personification (“lie sleeping”) and indications of longue durée (“none can foretell”), we come across biblical language (“verily”, “and that […] and that”). When taking leave of the hobbits, Gandalf speaks as follows: […] I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand? My time is over: it is no longer my task to set things to rights, nor to help folk to do so. And as for you, my dear friends, you will need no help. You are grown up now. […] (996)

Gandalf appears as a linguistic chameleon. He can be tired (318, 991) or weary (57, 312, 495); he can be afraid of something (62, 285 748, 993) or fear it (260, 262, 300, 309); he can get news (67, 250) or tidings (261, 749, 860); he can “guess” (253, 301, 321), “think” (63, 264, 273) or “deem” (550, 856, 880) that something is the case, in accordance with the context and with his interlocutor. It is this malleability which gives him so much authority with the other characters. In connection with the motif of authority we may also note the one feature which distinguishes his speech acts from those of the others: many of them are commands, utterances in the imperative mood: “Go away and leave it behind” (34), “Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement” (59), “Do not tempt me!” (61), “Don’t be absurd!” (65), “Fly, if you value your foul skin!” (298), “Pray, do nothing of the kind again!” (313), “Off you go, all of you” (326), “come now, tell me of yourselves!” (495), “For behold! The storm comes” (512), “look out upon your land!


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Breathe the free air again!” (515) and “Sleep again, and do not be afraid!” (748). While only some of these commands are peremptory or contain a warning and others rather serve as a friendly encouragement, all of them demonstrate that Gandalf is in charge. He can command others, just as he can command his own use of the English (or “Westron”) language. While no character speaks more than Gandalf, no one speaks more often than Frodo. Most of his speech acts, however, are rather short, consisting of simple questions, answers and exclamations. While Gandalf provides background stories as well as directions, Frodo is the one who often establishes connections between the characters. His way of speaking clearly groups him with the three other hobbits: he regularly uses contracted forms (“don’t”, “it’s”, “I’ve”, etc.), he asks for “news” (223, 360) or “information” (83) rather than “tidings”, and his speech contains certain colloquialisms “just to see him off” (36), “when he had the chance” (59), “I shall get myself a bit into training too” (68), “to pay him out for being so late” (74), “as a matter of fact” (76), “It is no good our starting to go in zig-zags” (90), “old Butterbur has made a mess of things” (170), “thank goodness” (222) and “I feel quite myself again now” (610). Sometimes, however, Frodo forms sentences which are more complex than those of Sam, Merry and Pippin: “And I daresay it amused his wickedness to start a game which might end in providing him with an easy victim, but if he lost would not hurt him” (54), “As far as I understand what you have said, I suppose I must keep the Ring and guard it, at least for the present, whatever it may do to me” (62), “I shall not ride him, if I am to be carried off to Rivendell or anywhere else, leaving my friends behind in danger” (211), and “And I’m thinking that I won’t spend a moment longer than I need, stuck up on this edge with the eyes of the Dark Country looking over the marshes” (609). Like Gandalf, he uses alternative forms side by side, so he can be “tired” (604, 621, 911) like Merry and Pippin as well as “weary” (668, 910) like Aragorn and Gandalf. At one critical moment, on his way to Mount Doom, he is both: “I’m tired, weary, I haven’t a hope left. But I have to go on trying to get to the Mountain” (918). He is “afraid” (222, 307, 397, 668), but also has “fears” (383, 645, 930, 989). In moments of satisfaction he can be “glad” (398, 406, 974) like Aragorn, Legolas and Gandalf, but unlike Sam or (with few exceptions) Merry and Pippin.

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Frodo’s wide repertory of words corresponds to his ability to code-­ switch when coming across non-hobbits.18 At the hobbits’ first meeting with Elves, he tells them “I like walking under the stars. But I would welcome your company” (80). While Pippin expresses enthusiasm at meeting the Elves (“O Fair Folk! This is good fortune beyond my hope”) and Sam is “speechless”, Frodo seems to know the right words: “‘I thank you indeed, Gildor Inglorion,’ said Frodo, bowing. ‘Elen sila lúmenn’ omentielvo, a star shines on the hour of our meeting,’ he added in the High-elven speech” (80–81). Gildor answers him appropriately: “Hail, Elf-friend” (81).19 In the hall of Elrond’s house, Frodo will have another chance to display his courtly competence: ‘Welcome and well met!’ said the dwarf, turning towards him. Then he actually rose from his seat and bowed. ‘Glóin at your service,’ he said, and bowed still lower. ‘Frodo Baggins at your service and your family’s,’ said Frodo correctly, rising in surprise and scattering his cushions, ‘Am I right in guessing that you are the Glóin, one of the twelve companions of the great Thorin Oakenshield?’ (228)

When Frodo and Sam are discovered by Faramir, Frodo soon wins that Captain’s confidence by well-chosen words: But as for us, we are Hobbits of the Shire, far to the North and West, beyond many rivers. Frodo son of Drogo is my name, and with me is Samwise son of Hamfast, a worthy hobbit in my service. We have come by long ways—out of Rivendell, or Imladris as some call it […] Seven companions we had: one we lost in Moria, the others we left at Parth Galen above Rauros […] (657–658)

Frodo’s speech contains several of the features which characterized Aragorn’s idiom. He rhetorically emphasizes the distance the hobbits have travelled, includes their fathers’ names and draws attention to his quality as feudal lord who has a worthy person in his service. The inversion (“Seven companions”) also follows the conventions of heroic, or epic, diction. At the end of this interview, Frodo resumes his courtly discourse:


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‘Farewell!’ […] We would go with you, if we halfling folk could hope to serve you, such doughty men and strong as you seem, and if my errand permitted it. May the light shine on your swords! (658)

Frodo improvises a compliment and a blessing, using rare, archaic-­ sounding words: “doughty”, “errand” and “permitted” (rather than “allowed”). No wonder Faramir concludes that “the Halflings are courteous folk, whatever else they be” (658). The various registers Frodo has at his disposal, however, even manifest themselves when he is speaking to his companions. “I am not made for perilous quests” (61), he tells Gandalf, using for the first time the term “quest” which already points at the archaic or heroic contexts of the world he is going to be part of. “Perilous” rather than “dangerous” also indicates the elevated quality of this endeavour. It is in moments of crisis, when Frodo becomes aware of the far-reaching consequences of his decisions that he reverts to this heroic diction. When approached by Boromir on Amon Hen, he says to him, “But I do not think that any speech will help me. For I know what I should do, but I am afraid of doing it, Boromir, afraid!” (397). What is unusual is the uncontracted form of “do not” and the conjunction “for”. When Boromir pressurizes Frodo to give him the Ring, Frodo tells him, “[…] I am glad to have heard you speak so fully. My mind is clearer now” (398), implying that he has now realized the danger inherent in the Ring and accepted that there is no alternative to carrying it to the fire of Mount Doom. Frodo speaks of his “gladness” like one of the “heroes”, just as a few pages later, when he comments on Sam’s unexpected appearance: “But I’m glad, Sam. I cannot tell you how glad” (406). Gladness is clearly connected to heroism, to the willing acceptance of toil and danger which accompanies Frodo’s decision to leave the Company. Once more Frodo will experience gladness: after Gollum has bitten off Frodo’s finger and disappeared with the Ring in the chasm of Mount Doom, and Sam has carried Frodo out of the mountain. Frodo summarizes his achievement as follows: But do you remember Gandalf ’s words: Even Gollum may have something yet to do? But for him, Sam, I could not have destroyed the Ring. The Quest

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would have been in vain, even at the bitter end. So let us forgive him! For the Quest is achieved, and now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam. (947)

Frodo makes use of several features of heroic language: grammatical constructions: “but for him”, “for” as a conjunction; words which do not belong to colloquial discourse: “quest”, “forgive” and “glad”. The most striking feature of his speech, however, is the sequence of short, and stark, sentences which may remind us of Elrond’s speech in Rivendell. Frodo here casts himself into the role of the epic hero who sacrifices himself, and even seems to enjoy this role. It is only Sam who, together with his everyday speech, keeps up common sense: ‘I am glad that you are here with me,’ said Frodo. ‘Here at the end of all things, Sam.’ ‘Yes, I am with you, Master,’ said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. ‘And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.’ ‘Maybe not, Sam,’ said Frodo; ‘but it’s like things are in the world. Hopes fail. And end comes. We have only a little time to wait now. We are lost in ruin and downfall, and there is no escape.’ ‘Well, Master, we could at least go further from this dangerous place here, from this Crack of Doom, if that’s its name. Now couldn’t we? Come, Mr. Frodo, let’s go down the path at any rate!’ (950)

Frodo’s language is characterized by heroic, gnomic simplicity. He elevates his experience into a general statement about the world order (“Hopes fail. And end comes”), which appears forceful because of its brevity. He also seems to be in love with the idea of being a tragic hero who at the end of his journey is “lost in ruin and downfall”. Sam’s speech, on the other hand, is marked by hedges and colloquialisms (“somehow, if you understand”); he indicates that he is at odds with the epic phraseology (“if that’s its name”). By his attitude of staying normal, as indicated in colloquial speech, he saves his and Frodo’s lives.20 It should be noted that Frodo’s heroic attitude only emerges in a few special moments. In the context of the plot, it is clearly a sign of failure.


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Feeling like a hero, Frodo does not manage to cast the Ring into the chasm of Mount Doom on his own.21 His usual attitude is the one which qualifies him to be the Ringbearer: an attitude composed of continuous doubts and a lack of self-assurance, of insecurity, an awareness of not knowing the way and being in need of help.22 When he is informed of the character of the Ring and becomes aware of his own responsibility as its possessor he tells Gandalf that he “should like to save the Shire, if [he] could” but feels “very small, and very uprooted, and well—desperate” (62). The reader immediately realizes that this is the correct attitude, as Gandalf answers, “Hobbits really  are amazing creatures, as I have said before […] I hardly expected to get such an answer, not even from you. But Bilbo made no mistake in choosing his heir, though he little thought how important it would prove” (62). Gandalf ’s confidence in him does not make Frodo reckless; having decided upon leaving the Shire, he admits that he has no idea where to turn: “For where am I to go? And by what shall I steer? What is to be my quest?” (66). At Bree, he takes the responsibility for his wrong decision to mix with the company: “Why on earth did we behave so foolishly?” (164). “I did not know what to do without you” (220), he tells Gandalf at Rivendell. “I haven’t any courage to keep up” (223), he answers Gandalf—although this is clearly wrong. He expatiates on the fears he experienced when attacked by the Black Riders (222), and in the caves of Moria, he tells the others, “I feel as if I had been caught between a hammer and an anvil” (328) when attacked by orcs. Speaking to Boromir he admits to being “afraid of doing” (397) what he knows he should do. Having crossed the mountains of Emyn Muil, he feels “all naked on the east side” (605). Faramir’s tale “fills” Frodo “with foreboding” (667) and “dread” (668). He tells Faramir that he does not think he will ever reach his aim (682), and Sam, repeatedly, that “the whole thing is quite hopeless” (914). All of these expressions of self-doubt are couched in colloquial language, giving them credibility. Of all the other characters, only Pippin ever expresses self-doubts, stating that he should not have joined the Company and indicating that “I am no good after all” (298). But while Pippin cheerfully admits his own sense of inadequacy, Frodo is constantly being tormented by it. Of course, this also places him in a superior

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position with regard to his fellow-hobbits, for example when he admits to Gandalf that “there have been times when [he] thought the inhabitants [of the Shire] too stupid and dull for words, and [has] felt that an earthquake or an invasion of dragons might be good for them” (62). It is because of his humility that he can adapt to the customs and language of the Elves and Men. Incidentally, he is also the only character who is ever depicted as saying “thank-you” to other characters (80, 95, 278, 676). We have seen that characterization in The Lord of the Rings is to a large extent achieved through means of language. The characters use different registers and literary styles which are associated with specific character traits. The juxtaposition of varying styles certainly contributes to drawing the reader’s attention to linguistic matters—as do several parodies and imitations of different ways of speaking. All the four hobbits indulge in imitation or parody, as does Aragorn when he introduces himself to them: not only does he use contracted forms, against his usual practice, but he also imitates Sam’s non-standard grammar: “‘[…] There are queer folk about. Though I say it as shouldn’t, you may think,’ he added with wry smile, seeing Frodo’s glance” (157). At this very meeting, Frodo himself will find occasion to imitate Aragorn’s speech. Aragorn, taking up a lawyer’s diction, tries to give good advice to Frodo: ‘[…] Maybe Mr. Baggins has an honest reason for leaving his name behind; but if so, I should advise him and his friends to be more careful.’ ‘I don’t see what interest my name has for anyone in Bree,’ said Frodo angrily, ‘and I have still to learn why it interests you. Mr. Strider may have an honest reason for spying and eavesdropping, but if so, I should advise him to explain it.’ (164)

Frodo tells Aragorn that he has met his equal, and the reader gets the feeling that Frodo’s linguistic versatility testifies to his ability as a traveller and a questant. Later on, Frodo will echo Faramir in a rather more courteous way which indicates his submission to his host and confidence in his good-will: at Frodo’s insistence, Gollum is handed over to him:


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Faramir sat for a moment in thought. ‘Very good,’ he said at last. ‘I surrender you to your master, to Frodo son of Drogo. Let him declare what he will do with you!’ ‘But, Lord Faramir,’ said Frodo bowing, ‘you have not yet declared your will concerning the said Frodo, and until that is made known, he cannot shape his plans for himself or his companions. Your judgement was postponed until the morning; but that is now at hand.’ (690)

Frodo’s formal way of speaking constitutes an act of deference to Faramir, who had already indicated that he does not intend to harm Frodo and Sam or to stop them from continuing their journey. Although Sam has his own particular way of speaking, he can imitate Gollum’s speech convincingly: “And where were you off to in the cold hard lands, Mr. Gollum? […] We wonders, aye, we wonders. To find some of your orc-friends, I warrant” (617). Sam’s imitation of Gollum’s use of the third-person singular s for a first-person pronoun is obviously meant to ridicule Gollum, whom he does not believe. When Gollum attacks Frodo during their ascent of Mount Doom and is overpowered by Sam, Gollum begs for his life: “Don’t hurt us with nassty cruel steel! […]”. Sam tells him to go away, echoing Gollum’s words: “[…] be off. Or I shall hurt you, yes, with nasty cruel steel” (944). Merry and Pippin also demonstrate their ability to listen to others by imitating their wording: Merry’s welcoming speech in front of the tower of Orthanc, which contained many features of the heroic way of speaking of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas, has been discussed in Chap. 6. Later on, Merry witnesses Saruman’s speech, in which he refers to the hobbits as “small rag-tag that dangle at your tail” (583). When the Company sets out again, Gandalf takes Merry on his horse: ‘Are we riding far tonight, Gandalf?’ asked Merry after a while. ‘I don’t know how you feel with small rag-tag dangling behind you; but the rag-tag is tired and will be glad to stop dangling and lie down.’ ‘So you heard that?’ said Gandalf. ‘Don’t let it rankle! […]’ (588)

Merry demonstrates his alertness to what is happening and what is being said, and makes use of it to persuade Gandalf to let him rest.

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When after their meeting and Merry’s speech Théoden addresses the hobbits, it is Pippin who takes it upon him to answer the king in due form: ‘So these are the lost ones of your company, Gandalf? The days are fated to be filled with marvels. Already I have seen many since I left my house; and now here before my eyes stand yet another of the folk of legend. Are not these the Halflings, that some among us call the Holbytlan? […] ‘You are gracious, lord; or I hope that I may so take your words,’ he said. ‘And here is another marvel! I have wandered in many lands, since I left my home, and never till now have I found people that knew any story concerning hobbits.’ (557)

Taking his cue from Théoden’s “marvels”, Pippin makes a courtly speech, paying a compliment while assuming the role of an experienced traveller. Similarly, he will win Denethor’s confidence by his courteous account of Boromir’s death: […] But I honour his memory, for he was very valiant. He died to save us, my kinsman Meriadoc and myself, waylaid in the woods by the soldiery of the Dark Lord; and though he fell and failed, my gratitude is none the less. (755)

While he is still a hobbit who will soon claim his next breakfast, he easily chimes in with the discourse of chivalry, speaking of honour and valour, and giving Merry his full name while calling him “kinsman”. Quite often the characters when speaking provide reports of the direct speech of other characters, which certainly constitutes another metalingual element. At the Council of Elrond, Gandalf quotes Saruman’s heroic if fraudulent words: “Fear not! His hope will cheat him. Have I not earnestly studied this matter? Into Anduin the Great it fell; and long ago, while Sauron slept, it was rolled down the River to the Sea. There let it lie until the End” (251). Saruman, as the reader then learns, was hiding his ambition to achieve world power himself, and Gandalf was momentarily taken in. As in many other instances, the reader is warned that it might be appropriate to distrust “grand” words and to rather rely on colloquial common sense. In a key moment of the narrative, Frodo recalls his own


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conversation with Gandalf in which Gandalf explains why Bilbo did not kill Gollum: “It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need” (615). Frodo then decides to let Gollum live—which certainly shows the potential of the spoken word and its lasting impact. The variations described do not only define character, however. The reader is time and again invited to reflect on the different ways of speaking and on the wealth of the English language.23 Literary and colloquial styles interact and thus draw attention upon themselves. If we accept that The Lord of the Rings is supposed to be an English epic, the English language certainly takes centre stage, and its varieties are shown to present its vast potential.

Notes 1. It was probably Elizabeth D. Kirk who first drew attention to the significance of the variety of styles used in The Lord of the Rings: “The primary impact of these various styles comes from their juxtaposition. Elements of high and low can play against each other in a single passage, to strike a certain balance of tone” (298). 2. On Gollum’s speech, see, for example, Rosebury 81, and Gymnich 20–22. For a comprehensive characterization of Gollum, cf. Nagy. 3. On “class awareness” in The Lord of the Rings and the “accent and idiom of Sam” as “those of a rural peasantry”, cf. Curry 40–41. Cf. also Gymnich 19, who considers the variations of hobbit speech as indicative of “linguistic realism”. 4. Cf. Thomas Kullmann, “The Secret Garden and the Redefinition of Englishness”, esp. 101–102. 5. As Simonson notes, Aragorn begins “in novelistic terms” before assuming “a much more formal and serious tone” foreshadowing his later identity as epic hero (Simonson 154). 6. On Aragorn’s way of speaking, cf. Shippey, J.R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century 72–73. 7. Commenting on Aragorn’s “high style”, which is accompanied by “characters stepping back, swelling shining”, Shippey remarks, “[…] it is a mistake to think that the only literary modes which exist are those one period is familiar with. By his continual switching from one level of style

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to another, and his equally continual use of characters as ‘internal reflectors’ of embarrassment or suspicion, Tolkien showed at least that he was aware of this very predictable mistake, and ready to do what he could to help his readers round it,” The Road to Middle-earth, 161. We should like to contend that Tolkien, by having other characters comment on Aragorn’s heroic words and appearance, is not just “helping his readers round” but actually drawing attention to the archaic features of Aragorn’s speech. 8. When Sam concludes his description by saying, “But that’s a lot o’ nonsense, and all wide of my mark” (680), he shows his usual diffidence. His remark can be considered another one of his linguistic hedges, but it definitely does not “advertise” a “potential value of nonsense for the reader”, as Walker (148) assumes. Faramir certainly does not consider Sam’s description nonsensical. Neither does this speech show “Sam’s sincere wish to adapt his language and attitude to Faramir’s demands”, as Simonson contends (208–209). Faramir’s own speeches are rather unpoetical, although he is impressed by Sam’s poetical outburst. Opinions may be divided as to whether Sam’s “poetic skills” are “limited” (Simonson 209). 9. On the archaic vocabulary used in The Lord of the Rings, cf. Walker 153–54. 10. On the archaic quality of the language of this conversation, cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 166–67. As Shippey also notices, Legolas’ words contain a reference to Matthew 13.18–23, the parable of the seed that fell on stony ground. 11. On this archaic diction and “hovering between styles”, cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 167. 12. It can thus be considered an example of Tolkien’s “invitational prose”, which takes the reader to experience “not only the actuality of the transcendent, but also […] the numinousness of the commonplace”; Walker 7. On the “juxtaposition of discourse styles”, cf. also Turner 401. 13. According to Walker (154–155), “Tolkien infuses fresh insight into hackneyed expectations by reactivating cliché, by a contextual catalysis that causes worn idioms to call up original connotations with the kind of enthusiasm that led originally to their overwear.” While Walker is certainly right about contextual catalysis, we cannot go along with calling established colloquial phrases “clichés” or “worn idioms”. 14. As Bradley (79) notices, “Merry, like a perfectly cast supporting actor, performs his quiet background activities in a perfectly consistent way”.


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15. On Pippin as the “spoiled youngest child”, cf. Bradley 78–79. 16. On The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit) as “works of mediation”, cf. Shippey, The Road to Middle-earth 169. Commenting on Merry’s interaction with Théoden, Simonson remarks, “Théoden will stick to his epic discourse in his later conversations with Merry, while the latter will modify his speech in order to make it more compatible with the King’s” (Simonson 109). 17. Simonson discusses Gandalf ’s “intertraditional flexibility” in the context of narrative traditions of epic, romance and novel, all of which, he asserts, are in evidence in The Lord of the Rings (Simonson 178–182, esp. 181). 18. As has been noted (cf., e.g. Turner 395), Tolkien, or rather the implied author of “Appendix F”, comments on Frodo’s stylistic versatility himself: “It will be noticed that Hobbits such as Frodo, and other persons such as Gandalf and Aragorn, do not always use the same style. This is intentional. The more learned and able among the hobbits had some knowledge of ‘book-language’, as it was termed in the Shire; and they were quick to note and adopt the style of those whom they met” (The Lord of the Rings 1133). 19. “[…] the hobbit manages to keep his discourse on a level above the colloquial tone he has employed in his interaction wish Sam and Pippin, but without yielding totally to the ceremonious diction of romance” (Simonson 134). 20. On the relationship of Sam and Frodo, cf. Grant 180–181. 21. Cf. Flieger’s assessment: “[…] as the narrative progresses, Frodo gradually comes apart, his nature splitting into component light and dark” (Splintered Light 149). Frodo’s linguistic versatility certainly helps establish the opposing sides of his personality. 22. Jane Chance Nitzsche (105–109) also comments on the changes Frodo undergoes in the course of the novel. However, we cannot go along with her notion that “he must learn there is both dwarf and elf in his heart, a Mines of Moria and Lothlórien buried in his psyche” (109). What Frodo leans is adaptability and self-effacement. This is how he manages to pass through the Mines of Moria and Lothlórien and many other places unharmed. 23. As Walker states, “Tolkien is first and foremost a philologist, and his fiction is founded in his philology. He loves language, cherishes words with an ardor that looks beyond surface appearance to inmost potential”; Walker 115.

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Works Cited Fiction, Poetry, and Other Primary Texts Carroll, Robert, and Stephen Prickett, eds. The Bible: Authorized King James Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G.  Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. The Holy Bible (Revised Version). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1892. Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

Critical Works Cited Bradley, Marion Zimmer. “Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship.” In Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, ed. Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil. D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 76–92. Chance Nitzsche, Jane. Tolkien’s ‘Art: ‘A Mythology for England.’ London: Macmillan, 1979. Curry, Patrick. Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity. London: HarperCollins, 1998. Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2002. Grant, Patrick. “Tolkien: Archetype and Word.” In Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism, ed. Rose A.  Zimbardo and Neil. D. Isaacs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. 163–182. Gymnich, Marion. “Reconsidering the Linguistics of Middle-earth: Invented Languages and Other Linguistic Features in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.” In Reconsidering Tolkien. Ed. Thomas Honegger. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2005. 7–30. Kirk, Elizabeth D. “‘I Would Rather Have Written in Elvish’: Language, Fiction and The Lord of the Rings.” In Mark Spilka, ed. Towards a Poetics of Fiction. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1977. 289–302. Kullmann, Thomas. “The Secret Garden and the Redefinition of Englishness.” In A Hundred Years of The Secret Garden: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Children’s Classic Revisited. Ed. Marion Gymnich, Imke Lichterfeld. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2012. 91–103.


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Nagy, Gergely. “The ‘Lost’ Subject of Middle-earth: The Constitution of the Subject in the Figure of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.” Tolkien Studies 3 (2006). 57–79. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Shippey, Tom A. The Road to Middle-earth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982. Shippey, Tom A. J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. London: HarperCollins, 2001. Simonson, Martin. The Lord of the Rings and the Western Narrative Tradition. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2008. Turner, Allan. “Style and Intertextual Echoes.“ In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Malden, Mass.: Wiley, 2014. 389–403. Walker, Steve. The Power of Tolkien’s Prose: Middle-earth’s Magical Style. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

10 Tolkien’s Position in Literary History Thomas Kullmann and Dirk Siepmann

In the foregoing chapters we attempted to demonstrate that the language and style of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings firmly place this great novel within the traditions of English novel-writing. This book is not a solitary monolith but intimately bound up with manifold literary discourses as well as oral traditions of language use. Narrative elements imitated in The Lord of the Rings include conventions of epic poetry from ancient Greece, Ireland and England; early modern romances, folklore and fairy tales; rhetorical traditions and popular poetry. Tolkien’s particular debt to Old and Middle English pre-texts has long been recognized, but these texts form only one of many discursive fields which provide linguistic and literary input to Tolkien’s artistic endeavour. As a “mosaic of quotations” from a great variety of textual sources and literary traditions, The Lord of the Rings appears as a particularly rich and colourful mosaic or tapestry, and perhaps it is this combination of a wide variety of pre-texts that has earned The Lord of the Rings its enduring appeal.1 The tradition Tolkien owes most to, however, is nineteenth- and early twentieth-century novel-writing. While this debt has often been overlooked,2 the present study has tried to show the various ways in which Tolkien’s novel follows the conventions found in nineteenth-century realist novels. Clearly, the most significant of these is the presentation of a © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,



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story through the point of view of a character. Rather than providing a straightforward account of an action, the narrator records a character’s perceptions, thoughts and feelings. This “limited” point of view may alternate with passages recording the omniscient narrator’s point of view and, of course, with direct speech. In limiting the point of view to one of the hobbits, the text narrows the gap between the reader and an environment foreign to the reader, just as in novels by Jane Austen and Joseph Conrad. As in the nineteenth-century novel, there is a focus on subjective experiences and their psychological repercussions, and tension is raised by withholding narrative information from the reader. Landscape descriptions certainly constitute a significant feature of The Lord of the Rings, just as of the nineteenth-century novel. While Tolkien’s Middle-earth is, of course, a fantastic world, descriptions of woods, trees and flowers are surprisingly realistic. As we have tried to show, Tolkien follows the conventions of nineteenth-century novel-writing in attributing narrative meaning to these landscapes. As in the Gothic novel, the novels by the Brontë Sisters and Thomas Hardy, landscape descriptions accompany, illustrate and provide comments on the protagonist’s experiences and the plot in general. The technique of characterization by means of non-standard direct speech, as with Sam or Gollum, also goes back to nineteenth-century novels, such as Wuthering Heights and David Copperfield. In other respects the structure of Tolkien’s narrative corresponds to older models of prose fiction, as with the high amount of intercalated stories, the amount of poetry inserted and the convention of announcing intentions in the form of long and elaborate speeches. As can be seen through metanarrative comments, Tolkien was keenly aware of the wide range of techniques combined in the writing of The Lord of the Rings, a work which he did not call novel but “tale” or “story” or, occasionally, “romance” (Rosebury 13). This work appears to be based on a profound awareness of the European, and English, history of writing fiction. If we examine it as being “unique” and “separate” and only connect it to the other writings of Tolkien himself, we are bound to miss out on its most significant literary features. To demonstrate the high status of Tolkien’s novel, some critics have embarked on comparisons with the literary giants: Shakespeare and Joyce.

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We should like to follow suit in playing this game—not to take part in a misguided attempt to show that Tolkien is as great as, or perhaps even greater than, either Shakespeare or Joyce, but in order to show that Tolkien’s work deserves that kind of critical attention which is profusely given to the two authors mentioned. When embarking on his comparison of Tolkien and Shakespeare, Tom Shippey sets out to explain Tolkien’s professions of dislike for the dramatist (The Road to Middle-earth 133) and to highlight the two writers’ different attitudes with regard to cultural tradition. Tolkien, Shippey contends, may have felt that Shakespeare neglected “old English stories and traditions” in favour of “later and sillier interests” like “the gaudy fictions of Geoffrey of Monmouth” which supplied the plot of King Lear (The Road to Middle-earth 138).3 At the same time Shippey is aware of the fact that Tolkien read at least some of Shakespeare’s plays “with keen attention” and paid tribute to Shakespeare’s masterly use of words in The Lord of the Rings.4 We would rather lay the focus of our argument on evident similarities: one of the main features of Shakespeare’s work is his linguistic versatility, which can be seen, among other things, in the range of his vocabulary. With 29,000 different types5 (ca. 22,000 lexical entries), his vocabulary is more extensive than that of any other author in the English language. The extraordinary width of his vocabulary is of course due to his time, which was characterized by rapid word formation, mainly on the basis of Latin and French words. The range of his vocabulary is matched by the variety of discourses and antecedents used: Shakespeare draws upon epical, dramatic and romance language; he is acquainted with rhetoric, historiography, courtliness, pastoral, scientific, juridical, medical and religious discourses—which in turn were perhaps more diverse than at any other age in British cultural history. In his plays Shakespeare often juxtaposes different ways of speaking, setting prose and verse side by side, alternating between bawdy prose among servants and courtly conversations in verse. As all of the discourses mentioned are inscribed in language, his texts easily lend themselves to analyses and provide an inexhaustible store of material for scholarly and critical examination. Analyses which are based on the notion of Shakespeare’s genius and his privileged personal knowledge of humanity,


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by contrast, have not usually been considered successful. Whatever “greatness” Shakespeare may possess is inextricably bound up with the discursive wealth of his age, of Renaissance, and Elizabethan, culture. In terms of awareness of the scientific discourses of his time, Tolkien, of course, cannot compete with Shakespeare. Tolkien’s vocabulary, which is also extensive,6 and the range of grammatical options at his disposal go back to an extraordinary range of literary discourses, though. As a philologist in the field of Anglo-Saxon studies and a highly educated and culturally aware person, he was acquainted with literary modes which stretch over three millennia as well as the whole continent of Europe. Like Shakespeare, Tolkien juxtaposes seemingly incompatible discourses for literary effect. In his case this often means that archaic or literary words and phrases are set side by side with more modern and colloquial ones, and archaic words are used in modern patterns or vice versa. Nonstandard speech alternates with standard varieties. As in Shakespeare, these juxtapositions serve purposes of characterization as well as widening and narrowing the gap between his text and his readers. We may also spot a resemblance in that both Shakespeare’s and Tolkien’s individual stories and concerns are embedded in an encompassing world order. Shakespeare invariably sets his private stories into a political framework which may also have a spiritual dimension, and in Tolkien, the hobbits play a significant role within the universe Tolkien created, even though they are not usually aware of it. The similarities mentioned testify to the linguistic versatility of both Shakespeare and Tolkien, a similarity which is open to philological analysis. It is by means of subjecting Shakespeare’s and Tolkien’s texts to linguistic and literary scrutiny that we can identify the ‘pre-texts’ which went into them. This analysis will help us to understand Shakespeare and Tolkien better—but what is more important is that we also gain insight into the history of language use as well as cultural history. When we compare The Lord of the Rings to Joyce’s Ulysses, we can certainly draw similar conclusions. There are even more features, though, which invite comparison: both works of fiction are rather long and have often been noted for their extraordinary complexity.7 Both writers were engaged in “updating” the genre of epic, even though they may have done so, as Manganiello (171–172) remarks, “from opposing angles”.

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Both Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings are characterized by an original and daring use of mythological motifs, by manifold allusions to previous works of literature, by the technique of juxtaposing different literary discourses and by their implicit claim to counter pre-World War I traditions of writing fiction. These features mark out both Joyce and Tolkien as modernists—even though the term has not usually been applied to the author of The Lord of the Rings.8 Once more, Tom Shippey and other critics alert us to the differences between the two novelists. In Joyce’s Ulysses, he states, the relation between Homeric “myth” and modern novel is one of “irony and transformation”. While Leopold Bloom is an “anti-hero”, the original myth “is given a higher and more assured status as something less sophisticated, more archetypal, closer to the holy and the divine” (The Road to Middle-earth 158, 160). Tolkien, by contrast, treats “his source-texts, like Beowulf, or Snorri’s Edda, or Layamon’s Brut, as the works of individuals like himself ”. While some Ulysses fans hotly contest the notion that Leopold Bloom is an anti-hero,9 we may certainly accept this distinction as based on the evident opposition of a mythological and a contemporary real-life setting. But again, we should also notice the similarities: both Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings engage in an intense dialogue with old mythological stories and draw their literary effect from involving the reader in this dialogue. Moreover, both novels emphasize their relatedness to old mythology on the level of words and phrases—Ulysses by means of quotation and allusion, and The Lord of the Rings through stylistic imitation and emulation.10 Their particular position in the literary output produced at their respective times of publication, and the demands both texts make on their readers, may explain why both Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings soon acquired a highly partisan readership. While many early readers of either book found them distasteful and incomprehensible, others professed that no other book in the history of literature could measure up to either Ulysses or The Lord of the Rings (rarely, if ever, both). Readers gathered (and are still gathering) in circles of fans in order to find out more about the hidden profundities of the respective works; both authors were (and still are) venerated as saints, and minute circumstances of their private


T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

lives were recalled and discussed, in spite of the fact that the private lives of both Joyce and Tolkien were rather ordinary and commonplace. The fundamental difference between the two books with regard to reception, however, rests in the fact that Ulysses was adopted into the academic canon of English Literature Studies and has received a prominent position in any book-length account of the history of English Literature, while The Lord of the Rings has come to be classified as, in the word of Edmund Wilson, “juvenile trash”, and “detractors still tend to look down on the Oxford writer as a mere dabbler who has been completely overshadowed by the towering Irish canonical modernist” (Manganiello 171). How come? We think that one reason for boosting Joyce and neglecting Tolkien may lie in the politics connected to the formation of English Literary Studies as an academic subject in the 1920s. Even before the publication of Ulysses, Joyce was well-connected in the literary scene of aspiring modernist poets and writers who gathered at Paris. The scandals connected to the obscenities found in the novel certainly furthered his notoriety. At British universities, English Literature Studies was a new subject which set store by its modernity. At the same time, lecturers felt the need to justify their subject by referring to the seriousness of the issues discussed, a seriousness which called for realism, as can be seen in F. R. Leavis’ The Great Tradition and Q. D. Leavis’ Fiction and the Reading Public.11 In taking as its narrative base the squalor of the “real life” of early twentieth-century Dublin, Ulysses was sufficiently realistic to qualify for the canon. The realism inherent in Tolkien’s description of the Shire, by contrast, was damaged by the claim that this world was inhabited by fantasy creatures—and, we may suspect, by the insufficiently critical attitude taken with regard to the “real” world described. Tolkien, to be sure, was also well-connected. If Joyce knew lots of influential people, so did Tolkien. In Tolkien’s case, it was fellow academics, such as C. S. Lewis, who shared his fondness for philology as well as for ancient, pre-Enlightenment discourses. Modernist literature and art they viewed with considerable distaste, a distaste which certainly extended to those colleagues who professed to practise literary criticism in a new-­ fangled course of studies which was no longer based on a minute, philological examination of the texts studied. Leavis and Co., by contrast,

10  Tolkien’s Position in Literary History 


professed to set up “practical criticism” as an alternative to established and old-fashioned philology. Their concept of literary analysis demanded a certain kind of text, and texts which did not fit were not considered worth glancing at.12 What might appear to be petty squabbles within the academic world may reveal a central feature which renders The Lord of the Rings unsuitable for the interpretive treatment accorded to Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf: Tolkien’s novel requires that kind of philological analysis which was practised in the discursive environment in which it was written. To Tolkien and his friends, words do not just more or less felicitously hit upon a certain meaning but carry a history of their own. The significance of Aragorn’s archaisms and Sam’s rural colloquialisms goes beyond what is usually termed characterization: they evoke certain discursive environments and draw attention to the wealth of the English language, which is seen as a historical phenomenon and not restricted to the specific code of a certain age or genre. Recent publications in the field of literary history seem to suggest that the dismissive attitude of the likes of Edmund Wilson is beginning to weaken.13 A suitable approach to integrating Tolkien into the story of twentieth-century novel-writing, however, has not yet been found. There is still a gap between the mainstream, to which the modernist authors mentioned above belong, and sidelines such as fantasy fiction, to which Tolkien is relegated. The aim of the present study has been to fill this gap, not just between realist and fantasy texts but between the interpretive approaches usually accorded to modernist fiction and philological analysis as demanded by Tolkien’s work. Corpus linguistics, we believe, can be a tool which does justice to both kinds of texts and research interests, as it examines words and constructions both quantitatively and qualitatively. In line with the latest research in corpus stylistics (cf. Novakova/Siepmann), we have attempted to provide pertinent examples of how lexico-syntactic sequences form literary motifs that serve specific discursive functions in Tolkien’s prose. The Lord of the Rings conveniently illustrates the blurring of the boundaries between popular and “literary” fiction postulated by literary critics, since its style only superficially resembles “low-brow” or


T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

children’s fiction. A closer, corpus-driven inspection reveals numerous similarities with “high-brow” style. In the area of literary scholarship, the present study has tried to look at narrative features from the perspective of longue durée, looking for pre-­ texts both among texts which immediately precede The Lord of the Rings and textual and literary traditions from previous ages, antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. These approaches, we think, on the one hand, demonstrate Tolkien’s versatility, while they show, on the other hand, that he clearly belongs to the novelistic discourses and traditions of his age and culture. We cannot claim, of course, that our endeavour to convey a sense of Tolkien’s literary artistry has been exhaustive. Apart from the fields we examined, there may be plenty of others which we have left untouched. We do hope, however, that the analytical instruments put to use in this study may prove helpful to future researchers, both those who work on Tolkien and those who interpret the work of other authors. At any rate, we hope to have shown that Tolkien should be treated as an author who belongs to the literary canon of twentieth-century English fiction.

Notes 1. Shippey contends that The Lord of the Rings, on the one hand, “has created its own genre”, while, on the other hand, it partakes of all the five “literary modes” defined by Northrop Frye in An Anatomy of Criticism: myth, romance, high mimesis, low mimesis and irony (J. R. R. Tolkien 221–222.). Tolkien could create this composite genre because of “the flexibility of his many styles and languages” (J. R. R. Tolkien 225). 2. One of the reasons for this oversight is, of course, Tolkien’s own professions of lack of interest in “English Literature”, cf. Groom 286–287. But when Tolkien contends that he has “not been nourished by English Literature”, this does not mean that he has not read English novels. Neither should his claims that he “regarded nearly everything worthy of praise in English culture to have ended in 1066” (Wood 247) be taken at face value. 3. For a more recent attempt to compare Tolkien and Shakespeare, see the volume edited by Croft (2007). In a review of this volume, I (Thomas

10  Tolkien’s Position in Literary History 


Kullmann) claimed that “while Shakespeare and Tolkien can both be called ‘great,’ their respective qualities are of a highly diverse kind” (186). In the light of the research done for the present study, I cannot altogether uphold this statement. 4. The Road to Middle-earth 136–139. Michael D. C. Drout draws attention to a rather thorough stylistic and thematic engagement with Shakespeare’s King Lear in the fifth book of The Lord of the Rings (esp. 137–146). As Nick Groom points out (287–289), Tolkien studied Shakespeare, lectured on Shakespeare and attended performances of Shakespeare’s plays. His expression of “cordial dislike” for the dramatist may well be considered a provocative act of eccentric self-fashioning, characteristic of Oxford dons. 5. Marvin Spevack’s Concordance (v) lists 29,066 different words (from a total of 884,647). 6. In The Lord of the Rings there are 15,493 types and a total of 481,103 words. 7. As Charles H. Fischer and Paul Edmund Thomas (313) note, both books “have been voted the greatest novels of the twentieth century”. 8. Cf., though, Mortimer, who establishes a case that The Lord of the Rings shares many concerns and characteristics with literary modernism. A less convincing attempt to place The Lord of the Rings with modernism is made by Hiley, “The Lord of the Rings and ‘Late Style’”. If modernism is really characterized by “the disappearance of subjectivity and ensuing fragmentation” (63), The Lord of the Rings can hardly serve as an exemplar. There is nothing “fragmented” about Tolkien’s novel. Cf. also Hiley, The Loss and the Silence, esp. 221–226. 9. On discussions of Leopold Bloom’s heroism, cf., for example, Manganiello 175–180. 10. Cf. the entry on James Joyce in the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: “Both were deeply interested in the linguistic and mythological underpinnings of early European literature […] Furthermore, both writers achieved an impression that a vast historical and cultural antiquity formed the background for their fiction” (Fischer and Thomas 313–314). 11. On the processes which led to the formation of the prevalent canon, cf. my article on “Canon Formation in English Literature Studies” (esp. 279–285). 12. These two opposing camps have sometimes been given the labels “conservative” and “progressive”—which probably does not do justice to the political opinions of either Joyce or Tolkien. 13. See above, Chap. 1, p. 2.


T. Kullmann and D. Siepmann

Works Cited Primary Text Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings. 1954–55. London: HarperCollins, 2007.

Critical Works Cited Croft, Janet Brennan, ed. Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language. Jefferson, N. C.: McFarland, 2007. Drout, Michael D.  C. “Tolkien’s Prose Style and Its Literary and Rhetorical Effects.” Tolkien Studies 1 (2004). 137–163. Fischer, Charles H.; Paul Edmund Thomas. “James Joyce (1882–1941).” In Michael D.C. Drout, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. New York: Routledge, 2007. 313–314. Groom, Nick. “The English Literary Tradition: Shakespeare to the Gothic” In A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014. 286–302. Hiley, Margaret. “The Lord of the Rings and ‘Late Style’: Tolkien, Adorno and Said.” In Thomas Honegger, Frank Weinreich, eds. Tolkien and Modernity 2. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2006. 53–73. Hiley, Margaret. The Loss and the Silence: Aspects of Modernism in the Works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. Zürich: Walking Tree, 2011. Kullmann, Thomas. “Canon Formation in English Literature Studies: A Comparison of Britain and Germany.” In Barbara Schaff, Johannes Schlegel, Carola Surkamp, eds. The Institution of English Literature. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2017. 273–294. Kullmann, Thomas. Review of “Tolkien and Shakespeare […], ed. Janet Brennan Croft.” Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen 246/161 (2009). 185–187. Leavis, Frank Raymond. The Great Tradition: George Eliot, Henry James, Joseph Conrad. 1948. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993. Leavis, Q.  D. Fiction and the Reading Public. 1932. London: Chatto & Windus, 1965.

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Manganiello, Dominic. “Pouring New Wine in Old Bottles: Tolkien, Joyce, and the Modern Epic.” In Ralph C. Wood, ed. Tolkien among the Moderns. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015, 171–193. Mortimer, Patchen. “Tolkien and Modernism.” Tolkien Studies 2 (2005). 113–129. Novakova, Iva; Dirk Siepmann, eds. Phraseology and Style in Subgenres of the Novel: A Synthesis of Corpus and Literary Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Shippey, Tom A. The Road to Middle-earth. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982. Shippey, Tom A. J.  R. R.  Tolkien: Author of the Century. 2000. London: HarperCollins, 2001. Spevack, Marvin. The Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare. Hildesheim: Olms, 1973. Wood, Ralph C. “Tolkien and Postmodernism.” In Ralph C. Wood, ed. Tolkien among the Moderns. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015. 247–277.



Achilles Tatius, 227 Leucippe and Clitophon, 227 Aetiological tale, 221 Alexander, Michael, 2 Allen, Graham, 19 Alliterative verse, 236 Alps, 25, 136 Althusser, Louis, 18 Anglo-Saxon, 3, 155n26, 235, 237, 300 Antiquarianism, 34n42, 111 Applicability, 97, 118, 275 Aragorn, 15–17, 25, 50, 91, 98, 102, 105, 106, 112–115, 118, 121, 133–135, 141, 144, 161, 162, 169–173, 175–177, 183–185, 194, 195, 201, 203–206,

209–211, 213, 216, 217, 219–222, 229, 234, 235, 238, 246, 254n42, 254n43, 254n45, 259, 261, 262, 264–277, 279–282, 284, 285, 289, 290, 292n5, 292–293n7, 294n18, 303 Archaic diction, 113, 115, 208, 293n11 Archaism, 27, 50, 111, 124n22, 125n25, 163, 172, 174, 176, 187, 187n3, 209, 216, 222, 262, 276, 280, 303 Aristotle, 187n2 Attebery, Brian, 32n20, 34n45 Auerbach, Erich, 115 Austen, Jane, 42, 119, 298 Pride and Prejudice, 91, 92 Authority, 23, 121, 283

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021 T. Kullmann, D. Siepmann, Tolkien as a Literary Artist,


310 Index B

Bal, Mieke, 123n8, 125n34 Baldwin, Stanley, 264 Ballad, 229, 236, 237, 240, 250n13, 250n16, 251n22, 251–252n25, 252n30 Barnard, Robert, 1 Barrie, J. M., 23 Peter and Wendy, 23 Baum, L. Frank, 11 The Wizard of Oz, 11 Beatles, 252n25 Beauty, 9, 52, 95, 96, 98, 101, 110, 135, 140, 146–149, 151, 161, 169, 171, 175, 183, 184, 197, 201, 239, 240, 245, 253n35, 272, 275, 276 Beowulf, 5, 6, 22, 50–52, 64, 117, 118, 122n3, 129, 207, 236, 301 Berber-Sardinha, Tony, 43 Bible, 115, 207, 216, 267 Bilbo, 11, 12, 14, 20–24, 27, 50, 90–92, 105, 112, 161, 162, 164, 167–169, 174, 177, 178, 181, 183, 185, 187, 188n9, 193, 194, 202, 217, 218, 228, 229, 233–235, 237, 240–244, 246, 254n37, 255n47, 261, 280, 288, 292 Bildungsroman, 41, 42 Birkett, Tom, 249n7 Blackmore, R. D., 145 Lorna Doone, 145 Black Rider, 55, 85, 97, 104, 140, 142, 162, 178, 194, 203, 217, 271, 277, 288 Booth, Wayne C., 125n34

Bombadil, Tom, 97, 121, 131, 147, 149, 150, 161, 170, 189n15, 193, 200, 201, 218, 235, 252n27, 253n33 Boromir, 25, 98, 101, 105, 106, 108, 112, 118, 133, 160, 163, 164, 194, 208–210, 213, 216, 217, 234, 259, 275, 286, 288, 291 British National Corpus (BNC), 5, 43, 49, 59, 60, 72 Brontë, Emily, 42, 137, 138, 193, 225n4 Wuthering Heights, 137, 193, 225n4, 265, 298 Brontë Sisters, 25, 136, 298 Buchan, John, 92, 94, 111, 119, 254n38 Witch Wood, 92–94, 104, 119 Buck, Claire, 153n4 Byatt, A. S., 4 C

Campbell, Liam, 153n7, 153n9, 154n21 Capitalism, 3 Carroll, Lewis, 23, 227 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 11, 23, 227 Carter, Ronald, 1, 6 Celtic languages, 3 Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de, 90, 159, 193, 227 Don Quixote, 90, 122n3, 159, 193, 227, 264 Chance Nitzsche, Jane, 122n3, 188n7, 294n22


Chaucer, Geoffrey, 175, 236 Children’s Literature, 2 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 17 Collins, Wilkie, 136 Comedy, 121, 168, 169, 229, 233, 246, 248, 250n13 Conrad, Joseph, 92, 298, 303 Conservatism, 149 Corbet, Richard, 175, 189n18 Corpus linguistics, 4, 29, 71, 303 Corpus stylistics, 4–8, 303 Courtliness, 299 Coyle, Martin, 1 Croft, Janet Brennan, 304n3 Curry, Patrick, 30n1, 30n7 D

Daiches, David, 1 Deforestation, 3 Desolation, 119, 129, 139, 140 Dickens, Charles, 9, 10, 111, 136, 188n9 David Copperfield, 298 Oliver Twist, 9 Discourse, 5, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26–29, 34n44, 39, 47, 94, 119, 124n24, 125n25, 161, 173, 178, 180, 182–184, 188n8, 203, 217, 265, 285, 287, 291, 294n19, 297, 299–302, 304 Donaldson, Julia, 251n21 Donnelly, Phillip J., 255n49 Dragon, 7, 11, 19, 20, 22, 23, 53, 65, 178, 213, 242, 289 Dunning, Ted, 43 Durrell, Laurence, 2, 4



Edda, 29, 33n37, 129, 301 Elegy, 235, 238 Eliot, George, 42, 111, 155n23 The Mill on the Floss, 92 Eliot, T. S., 2, 154n15 Elrond, 11, 44, 102, 105, 110, 112, 113, 118, 121, 160–165, 167, 171, 176, 182–184, 186, 187, 187n3, 187n5, 188n8, 195, 200, 207–211, 213, 216, 222, 266, 281, 285, 287 Elves, 3, 12, 19, 26–28, 95, 96, 98, 106, 123n12, 129, 134, 142–144, 146, 148, 149, 169, 171, 172, 174, 175, 181, 183, 194, 198–200, 208, 214–217, 219, 220, 224, 235, 239–241, 243, 245, 248, 275, 279, 280, 285, 289 England, 16, 24, 61, 130, 135, 140, 146, 147, 150, 155n26, 236, 252n30, 297 Englishness, 131, 148, 149, 154n22, 249n9, 264 Enlightenment, 136 Ents, 99, 131, 148–150, 194, 195, 203, 204, 214, 215, 234–236, 279 Epic poetry, 29, 90, 113, 171, 216, 219, 224, 297 Ethnography, 26 Evans, Jonathan, 22 F

Fairy tale, 9–11, 20, 22, 23, 29, 91, 96, 119, 131–133, 135, 152, 183, 184, 297

312 Index

Fantasy fiction, 8, 9, 13, 19, 77, 119, 120, 303 Finnish, 3, 33n35 Finnsburg Fragment, 117 Flaubert, Gustave, 125n34 Flieger, Verlyn, 31n17 Focalization, 122n5 Folklore, 26, 29, 152, 200, 201, 221, 235, 237, 238, 249n6, 297 Forest-Hill, Lynn, 252n26 Forster, E. M., 123n13 Howards End, 123n13 Foucault, Michel, 18 Fowler, Alastair, 1 Free will, 107 French, 235, 237, 251n25, 299 Freud, Sigmund, 272 Friedman, Norman, 120 Frodo, 12, 44, 91, 131, 160, 228 Frye, Northrop, 304n1 G

Gaelic, 111 Galadriel, 110, 139, 161, 162, 169, 174, 175, 183, 184, 188n10, 228, 229, 234, 235, 252n28, 253n35, 264, 267, 268, 272, 275, 277 Galsworthy, John, 2 Gandalf, 12–14, 20, 21, 27, 31n12, 91, 97, 99–101, 104, 105, 112–114, 118, 121, 122, 125n31, 133, 160–162, 164, 165, 167, 171–176, 178, 181, 182, 185, 187, 188n8, 194, 195, 197, 201–203, 210–217, 219, 222, 224, 225n7, 234,

235, 238–242, 261, 262, 268, 277, 278, 280–284, 286, 288–292, 294n17, 294n18 Garbowski, Christopher, 32n25 Gaskell, Elizabeth, 42, 155n23 Gasque, Thomas J., 123n12 Gee, Henry, 31n12, 155n25, 189n19 Genette, Gérard, 4, 33n33, 122n5, 125n34 Geoffrey of Monmouth, 299 Germanic poetry, 113 Gibbon, Edward, 198 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 198 Gimli, 26, 98, 102, 113, 114, 118, 134, 141, 161, 165, 171, 173, 183, 189n17, 194, 203–205, 216, 220, 229, 235, 261, 262, 265, 266, 268, 272–276, 281, 290 Gollum, 11, 12, 15, 27, 48, 53, 108, 109, 117, 118, 121, 124n17, 134, 161, 162, 166, 167, 179–182, 186, 194, 197, 200, 202, 203, 211–214, 216, 225n9, 235, 259, 268, 271, 273, 286, 289, 290, 292, 298 Good and evil, 13, 33n26, 45, 50, 118, 268 Gothic novel, 23, 25, 29, 39, 131, 140, 143, 225n4 Grahame, Kenneth, 20, 146, 274 The Golden Age, 146 The Wind in the Willows, 20, 146, 148, 274 Grammar, 27, 28, 59, 208, 262, 265, 266, 269, 283, 289



Greece, 297 Grimm, Brothers, 10 Groom, Nick, 111, 305n4

Irony, 23, 91, 123n6, 189n20, 279, 301, 304n1 Italy, 147, 151, 152



Hardy, Thomas, 25, 27, 42, 111, 136, 137, 140, 155n23, 298 Tess of the d’Urbervilles, 92, 137, 140 Harley Lyrics, 235 Harvey, David, 249n9 Heliodorus, 111, 193, 227 Aethiopica, 111, 193, 227 Heroism, 21, 119, 144, 180, 183, 245, 286 Highbrow/lowbrow literature, 2, 40 Historiography, 26, 198, 224, 299 Hodgson Burnett, Frances, 146 The Secret Garden, 146, 153n6 Holmes, John R., 249n4 Homer, 19, 90, 159, 187, 193, 200, 201, 207, 221, 225n1 Iliad, 159, 160, 200, 201, 221 Odyssey, 19, 29, 159, 193, 200, 225n1 Honegger, Thomas, 30n4, 248 Hostetter, Carl F., 30n9

Jack the Giant-killer, 22 Jacobs, Joseph, 22 Jakobson, Roman, 4, 10 James, Henry, 119, 120, 125n34 Jefferies, Richard, 146 Bevis, 146, 148 Jones, Chris, 249n1 Joyce, James, 4, 8, 64, 154n15, 254n38, 298–303, 305n12 Ulysses, 254n38, 300–302


Imagery, 115, 117, 164, 165, 184, 208, 210, 267–269, 275, 282 Interlace, 225n3 Intertextuality, 4, 18–29, 33n35, 41 Inversion, 40, 82, 107, 113, 115, 116, 172, 174, 176, 186, 202–204, 207, 209, 216, 222, 267, 273, 274, 282, 285


Kalevala, 29 Keats, John, 173, 228, 238, 252n32 Kelly, Mary Quella, 254n37 Key collocations, 5, 39–67 Key words, 5–8, 39–67 Kilgarriff, Adam, 43 Kingsley, Charles, 11, 227, 254n38 The Water-Babies, 11, 227 Kipling, Rudyard, 146, 147, 154n19, 264 Puck of Pook’s Hill, 146, 147, 154n19 Kirk, Elizabeth, D., 40, 292n1 Koch, Stefan, 71 Kristeva, Julia, 4, 18, 28, 29, 243 Kullmann, Thomas, 33n32, 61, 152n1, 305n3

314 Index L

Landscapes, 14–17, 23–25, 29, 41, 44, 45, 53, 58, 59, 64, 86, 96, 98, 124n14, 129–152, 298 Lanser, Susan, 93, 120, 121, 122n5, 123n8, 124n18, 124n19, 125n34 Latin, 111, 248, 251n25, 267, 299 Lawrence, D. H., 4, 27, 303 Layamon, 301 Brut, 301 Le Guin, Ursula, 33n26 Lear, Edward, 254n46 Leavis, Frank Raymond, 2, 119, 302 The Great Tradition, 2, 302 Leavis, Q. D., 2, 9, 302 Fiction and the Reading Public, 2, 9, 302 Leech, Geoffrey N., 237, 251–252n25 Legallois, Dominique, 71 Legend Arthurian Legends, 118 saints’ legends, 22 Welsh legends, 132 Legolas, 16, 86, 98, 102, 113, 114, 118, 135, 141, 142, 149, 161, 171, 173, 189n17, 194, 195, 200, 203, 204, 211–214, 216, 219, 220, 224, 225n9, 229, 234, 235, 237, 238, 261, 262, 266, 268, 272–276, 279, 281, 284, 290, 293n10 Lewis, Clive Staples, 151, 152, 302 The Horse and His Boy, 151 Lindley, David, 228, 249n6 Literary history, 1–4, 29, 30n4, 122, 131, 154n15, 297–304

Lloyd, A. L., 250n11, 250n13 Lodge, David, 9 Small World, 9 Longue durée, 195, 200, 201, 265, 270, 283, 304 Lorrain, Claude, 130 Lubbock, Percy, 120, 122n5, 125n34 Lucretius, 132 De rerum natura, 132 M

Macdonald, George, 11 The Princess and Curdie, 11 Macpherson, James, 116, 118, 205, 217, 267 Ossian, 29, 118, 217, 267 Magic, 12, 100, 104, 106, 135, 165, 184, 185, 202, 235, 240, 252n32, 253n35, 261 Manganiello, Dominic, 300, 302 Marlowe, Christopher, 236 Marvell, Andrew, 236 Maturin, Charles Robert, 193 Melmoth the Wanderer, 193 McDermott, Hubert, 225n1 McRae, John, 1 Meredith, George, 42, 52 Merry (Meriadoc Brandywine), 91, 92, 97–104, 106, 118, 121, 132, 135, 161, 173, 174, 177, 178, 194, 200, 203, 204, 213, 215, 216, 221, 222, 224, 242–244, 261, 262, 264, 268, 269, 276–280, 284, 290, 291, 294n16 Metafiction, 20, 23, 112, 120, 298 Metalinguistic awareness, 240


Metaphor, 8–17, 50, 100, 107, 108, 121, 138, 144, 153n14, 165, 172, 175, 184, 210, 212, 219 Metonymy, 8–17, 107, 165, 196, 271 Metre, 5, 227, 229, 236–241, 250n16, 250n20, 251–252n25 Middle Ages, 21, 304 Middle English, 3, 6, 51, 129, 235, 237, 238, 248, 297 Midlands (England), 15, 130 Milbank, Alison, 33n25 Miller, J. Hillis, 137 Milton, John, 130, 188n8, 267 Modern fiction, 6, 7, 46–50, 54, 58, 68, 77, 83 Mordor, 3, 49, 99, 106, 112, 119, 129, 141, 142, 150, 151, 154n15, 154n16, 161, 163, 165, 166, 172, 199, 204, 205, 209, 210, 219, 234, 239, 244, 255n47, 271, 280, 282 Murdoch, Iris, 4 Mythology, 29, 33n35, 34n45, 118, 155n27, 195, 198, 200, 202, 229, 301 N

Narrative syntax, 71–87 N-gram, 5, 42, 59–60, 71 Nibelungenlied, 122n3 Nineteenth-century fiction, 5, 8, 42–46, 49, 50, 55, 58, 61, 65, 68, 141 Nonsense, 169, 188n11, 235, 293n8 Novakova, Iva, 71, 303


Novel, 2, 3, 8, 10, 11, 14–16, 23–26, 29, 39, 43, 45, 47, 54, 55, 61, 64, 85, 89–93, 95, 98, 104, 105, 111, 113, 115, 118–120, 122, 123n6, 124n22, 125n34, 129, 130, 133, 136, 137, 139, 140, 142, 143, 145, 146, 152, 159, 165, 178, 182, 193–195, 200, 201, 213, 217, 225, 225n4, 227, 228, 236, 246, 253n35, 260, 265, 268, 269, 294n17, 294n22, 297, 298, 301–303, 304n2 Nünning, Ansgar, 122n5 Nursery rhymes, 245, 247, 248, 251–252n25, 255n47 O

Odysseus, 21–23, 132, 159 Old Norse, 3, 30n8, 111 Omniscient narrator, 75, 91, 99, 111, 112, 120, 298 Opie, Iona, 255n48 Opie, Peter, 255n48 Oral tradition, 200, 224, 244, 297 Orcs, 12, 65, 74, 95, 99, 106, 143, 144, 146, 166, 181, 194, 212, 229, 271, 275, 288 P

Paget, F. E., 23 The Hope of the Katzekopfs, 23 Palmer, Roy, 250n16 Paratexts, 111

316 Index

Parody, 21, 23, 124n19, 168, 174, 187, 217, 289 Pastoral poetry, 236 Pathetic fallacy, 25, 26, 74, 138 Peck, John, 1 Perceval, 21, 185 Percy, Thomas, 111, 236, 237, 250n16 Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 111, 236 Pernot, Laurent, 188n13 Personification, 25, 96, 101, 107, 133, 137, 139, 143, 146, 147, 153n14, 165, 172, 175, 176, 186, 197, 198, 271, 283 Persuasion, 160, 161, 165, 188n13 Petrarca, Francesco, 228 Petzold, Dieter, 32n23 Phelpstead, Carl, 30n6 Phraseology, 58, 168, 287 Pippin (Peregrin Took), 91, 92, 97–102, 106, 107, 118, 121, 124n18, 132, 149, 162, 168, 174, 177, 185, 194, 203, 204, 213, 214, 224, 233, 241–243, 261, 262, 268, 271, 275–280, 282, 284, 285, 288, 290, 291, 294n19 Plants, 8, 16, 29, 41, 45, 60, 61, 66, 100, 130, 131, 138, 145–150, 152, 169, 176, 269, 274 Poetry, 4, 10, 29, 90, 113, 117, 140, 159, 169, 171, 175, 187, 216, 219, 224, 227–229, 233–240, 243, 245, 249n1, 252n25, 252n31, 253n33, 253n34, 254n39, 255n50, 263, 297, 298

Point of view, 16, 31n12, 89–100, 102–109, 111, 113, 115, 117, 119, 120, 122n5, 123n8, 123n9, 125n34, 156n28, 194, 204, 205, 211, 213–215, 218, 224, 298 Politics, 302 Potatoes, 146, 147 Proust, Marcel, 4, 125n34 Provençal poetry, 235 Psychomachia, 107, 109 Psychonarration, 93, 96, 100, 105 Q

Quest, 11, 12, 14–17, 19, 23, 27, 59, 65, 105, 108–110, 112, 119, 121, 140, 144, 152, 162, 168, 178, 180, 183–185, 195, 206, 241, 242, 268, 280, 286–288 R

Radcliffe, Ann, 25, 111, 136, 143, 225n4, 227 The Mysteries of Udolpho, 136, 137, 227 The Romance of the Forest, 225n4 Raffel, Burton, 5, 31n11, 155n28 Rayson, Paul, 60 Realism, 4, 8, 11, 23, 24, 61, 75, 89, 125n26, 134, 302 Regional novel, 145 Register, 27, 29, 79, 118, 173, 180, 185, 217, 277, 281, 282, 286, 289 Reilly, R. J., 32n22


Renaissance, 90, 111, 193, 227, 236, 300, 304 Rhetoric, 3, 9, 160, 161, 163, 164, 166, 167, 170, 177, 185, 196, 299 Rhetoric ad Herennium, 187n4 Riddle, 65, 234, 235, 260 Riffaterre, Michael, 4, 18 Ritual, 167, 168, 174, 177, 183, 184 Romance, 19, 22, 23, 29, 39, 42, 90, 111, 119, 122, 122n3, 125n26, 129, 159, 172, 173, 176, 181, 182, 185, 186, 193, 216, 227, 237, 250n13, 294n17, 294n19, 297–299, 304n1 Romanticism, 10, 123n9, 131, 173, 229, 252n31 Rosa, Salvator, 130 Rosebury, Brian, 4, 23, 28, 32n23, 40, 122n3, 123n6, 124n22, 124n24, 125n25, 125n31, 155n27, 249n5, 298 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 136 Julie ou La Nouvelle HéloïseJulie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse, 136 Rushdie, Salman, 4 Ruskin, John, 25, 138 Russom, Geoffrey, 229, 251n20 S

Saintsbury, George, 251n25 Sale, Roger, 124n20 Sam Gamgee, 27, 181, 244, 259, 261, 263 Sanders, Andrew, 1


Saruman, 12, 13, 99, 115, 161–163, 165–167, 171, 173, 174, 185, 188n7, 188n8, 194, 203, 210–215, 225n7, 271, 279, 290, 291 Sauron, 25, 64, 105, 107, 117, 118, 121, 125n26, 134, 144, 151, 154n16, 162–167, 175, 195, 200, 202, 206, 207, 210, 212, 219, 223, 224, 234, 268, 271, 277, 291 Scotland, 130, 148 Scott, Mike, 43 Scott, Sir Walter, 111 Waverley, 101, 119 Sex, 250n13 Shakespeare, William, 9, 34n46, 125n27, 181, 228, 238, 266, 298–300, 304–305n3, 305n4 Sheeran, Ed, 252n25 Shippey, Tom, 4, 23, 30n8, 32n20, 33n27, 33n28, 122n3, 129, 188n6, 188n7, 225n3, 249n9, 250n14, 252n32, 253n33, 253n34, 253n35, 253n37, 254n39, 254n43, 255n49, 292n7, 293n10, 294n16, 299, 301, 304n1 Shurbanov, Alexander, 249n6 Sidney, Sir Philip Arcadia, 90, 111, 159, 227, 238 Siepmann, Dirk, 71, 303 Signifiant signifié, 18, 29, 239, 240 Simonson, Martin, 155n23, 188n9, 225n4, 292n5, 293n8, 294n16, 294n17, 294n19 Sketchengine, 43, 71

318 Index

Sméagol, 13, 134, 161, 162, 166, 180, 185, 186 Snell-Hornby, Mary, 7, 47 Snorri Sturlusson, 129 Solopova, Elizabeth, 225n3 Song drinking song, 236, 248 folksong, 236, 237 walking song, 236 Spacks, Patricia Meyer, 5 Speech deliberative speech, 160, 176 epideictic speech, 169 welcoming speech, 161, 174, 276, 290 Spenser, Edmund, 238 The Faerie Queene, 122n3 St. Brandan’s Isle, 132 Standard English, 27, 261, 276 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 236 Stories, 2, 3, 9, 11–13, 16, 19, 29, 30n8, 32n21, 32n22, 34n45, 49, 53, 65, 67, 89, 90, 102, 103, 105, 108, 112, 113, 118, 120, 121, 124n19, 129, 131, 138, 155n27, 159, 160, 193–195, 199–204, 206, 207, 209–225, 225n4, 225n9, 229, 242–245, 249n4, 250n13, 252n26, 254n38, 255n49, 272, 284, 291, 298–301, 303 Stubbs, Michael, 5 Style colloquial style, 203, 292 literary style, 5, 199, 289 poetic style, 249n5 Sub-creation, 30n6 Sublimity, 136

Supernatural, 92, 110, 132–134, 142, 149, 152, 200, 239, 240 Swift, Graham, 115 Waterland, 217 Synecdoche, 10, 196, 198 T

Tennyson, Alfred, 238 Thackeray, W. M. The Rose and the Ring, 23 Théoden, 99, 101–103, 161, 162, 165, 171, 173, 174, 189n17, 195, 200, 201, 216, 221, 222, 224, 234, 265, 267, 282, 291, 294n16 Thomas, Paul Edmund, 123n7 Tobacco, 147 Todorov, Tsvetan, 124n18, 249n6 Tolkien, Christopher, 50 Tolkien, J. R, R., 1, 39–67, 72, 89, 129, 159, 193, 236, 259, 297–304 “On Fairy-Stories,” 17, 31n16, 32n22 The Hobbit, 1, 20, 26, 32n23, 92, 242 Tomlinson, Charles, 2 Travel guides, 111 Treebeard, 99, 100, 149, 150, 173, 194, 195, 200, 203, 213–216, 224, 235, 274, 278 Trees, 7, 8, 14, 45, 55, 56, 61, 74, 85, 86, 96, 99, 107, 110, 116, 117, 129–132, 135, 137, 139–142, 145–152, 154n17, 155n24, 155n25, 155n28, 169, 175, 176, 215, 218, 235, 260, 262, 272–274, 279, 282, 283, 298


Turner, Allan, 44, 85, 123n10, 125n26, 125n30, 153n14, 294n18 Twilight, 136, 142, 143 V

Victorian novel, 137, 188n9 Vincensini, Jean-Jacques, 71 Virgil, Aeneid, 90, 193, 217 Vocabulary, 6, 46, 53, 64, 113, 216, 262, 265, 269, 272, 274, 281, 282, 299, 300 W

Wales, 130, 148 Walker, Steve, 4, 34n40, 40, 41, 45, 92, 123n6, 124n14, 124n16, 154n16, 188n11, 293n8, 293n13, 294n23


Walpole, Horace The Castle of Otranto, 92, 123n9 Warwickshire, 24 Waugh, Evelyn, 2 Webb, Mary, 264 Gone to Earth, 92 Weinreich, Frank, 30n4 West, Richard C., 139, 142, 175, 197, 208, 219, 225n3, 244, 270 Wilson, Edmund, 2, 3, 40, 302, 303 Wood, Ralph C., 304n2 Woodland Trust, 147 Woolf, Virginia, 4, 8, 9, 64, 119, 303 Mrs Dalloway, 9 Wordsworth, William, 228, 238, 252n32 Z

Zimmermann, Petra, 253n36, 254n37, 254n45