Tolkien’s Sources…

From SRP Author Taylen Carver:

Authors can go to extraordinary lengths to build their fictional worlds.  They have travelled the world, and spent decades in research.

James Cameron has gone where few men have gone before–in ocean depths that few have ever seen.  Based on his research he wrote The Abyss (one of my favourite movies ever) and Titanic.

J.R.R. Tolkien invented entire languages for the fiction species of Middle Earth.

Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic languages and classic literature, so inventing a whole language doesn’t sound quite as stupefying, given that sort of facility with already dead languages.

I have been aware of Tolkien’s expertise for a long time, although in one respect I was wrong.  I thought that Tolkien had played on the Norse Mythology name for Earth–Midgard–and from there arrived at “Middle Earth”.  I think I even read that somewhere–there has been a ton of speculation about Tolkien’s sources over the years.

Turns out I was wrong (and so were a lot of other people).

[And in a nearly-related sidebar to this, I recently read a book, Why We Love Middle-Earth, by Shawn E. Marchese and Alan Sisto, that was all about not just Tolkien himself and his sources of inspiration — in which the Book of Exeter did not receive a mention, I add — but the book also broke down the storylines of every Middle-Earth-set story Tolkien wrote.

These guys are amazing uber-fans of Tolkien and Middle-Earth. They made me feel like a slacker in comparison. One of the authors speaks Quenya (Elvish tongue)!

They and their ode to all things Middle-Earth made me want to rush to my collection and read it from start to finish. If you like Tolkien, you’ll love this book. I highly recommend it.]

The Book of Exeter, shown above, is one of the very few complete Anglo-Saxon texts that have survived until this day.  It was re-discovered in the 19th century, and it’s a sure bet that Tolkien would have studied it as a professional linguist.  Heck, he could probably read the script like we read modern type.

The book is a bit of a mystery.  The contents are a scattered collection of miscellaneous tales and writing including, apparently, a lot of penis jokes.  (Seriously.)

In fact, I know Tolkien studied the book, because in a poem called Christ I, there is a line that goes: “Hail Earendel brightest of angels, / over Middle Earth sent to men.”

Perhaps this is one of the snippets that came back to haunt Tolkien years later, popping into his mind when he was inventing his world, just as he needed it.

Taylen Carver

SRP Fantasy Author

Taylen Carver generally writes contemporary fantasy, but has been known to dabble in epic fantasy from time to time.
Browse Taylen’s books here.