Embracing elements of an ancient lifestyle which he valued greatly, yet which he viewed as diminishing in modern-day society, J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings reveals to his readers a world as broad and as deep as the medieval literature he admired, studied, and taught. His sub-creation hearkens back to a literary community shrouded in mystery and Faërie, always seeking, as he remarked, “to revive its spirit even in our own times.”
Available from Oloris Publishing in autumn 2013, Dr. Deborah A. Higgen’s Anglo-Saxon Community in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will add to the field of Tolkien scholarship a detailed study of how Tolkien entered into the community of Anglo-Saxon storytellers as a scholar and critic, but also as an insider, recasting historical details, heroic codes, and literary themes and motifs as he composed his most celebrated novel.
In two critical essays, “On Fairy-Stories” and “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” Tolkien discusses the manner in which ancient poets and writers created their great fairy-stories. Through an examination of these essays, Higgens demonstrates how the same principles and techniques were employed by Tolkien in writing The Lord of the Rings, as he integrated into his own sub-creation the themes of the Anglo-Saxon mead hall and its feasting protocol, the lord as gift-giver, the comitatus bond, and the role of the aristocratic woman in her function as cup-bearer. Anglo-Saxon Community in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ will prove to be an informative and fascinating read for Tolkien fans and scholars of all types.
Dr. Deborah A. Higgens is director of the C.S. Lewis Study Centre and lives at The Kilns, the former home of C.S. Lewis, located in Oxford, England. She is known by her students as a professor of medieval and Renaissance literature and the works of C.S. Lewis; however, she is renowned by her most diligent students for taking them to the local Renaissance festival, examining medieval weaponry such as long bows and hand-crafted swords, and sharing stories of her favourite sport, falconry. Dr. Higgens also enjoys travelling, and has lived across the world in such places as Germany, Turkey, and Costa Rica, before venturing over to her now beloved England.
“Much of my life has been spent studying and teaching the enchanting works of medieval literature. The further back in time I read, the more fascinated I became. When my doctoral program required I translate Beowulf from Old English to Modern English, I trembled; then I gathered the texts and began to translate, line by line, and I fell in love with the language, the word-hoard, the weavings of story, the structure, the culture revealing itself through its own language. I leaned over the Beowulf text sitting on my desk and, overwhelmed with emotion, I wept. Thus my journey began.
My passion found itself in books of history, poetry, and of all places, in Rohan. J.R.R. Tolkien, as professor of Anglo-Saxon, not only felt what I felt, but explained it in his articles and wove it into his own fairy story. It is my wish to take you along with me on my journey into a fascinating culture of Anglo-Saxon warriors, ladies, landscape, and mead halls and their reinvention in Théoden, Éowyn, Galadriel, Lothlórien, Meduseld, and Rohan. May the journey stir your souls as it has mine.”
~ Dr. Deborah Higgens
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