Myth

On Middle Earth

My copy of Tolkein’s The Silmarillion includes a copy of Ainulindalë, which he subtitles ‘The Music of the Ainur’ (literally, the ‘singing of the Holy’). This creation myth betrays Tolkien’s indebtedness to Norse/Germanic, Finnish, Greek and Roman myths, and is, I believe, critical to understanding Tolkein’s vision of Middle-Earth. Moreover, it is the most theologically significant creation story that I have ever read. Wikipedia offers a neat overview of the tale. All this is by way of saying that for any who may be interested, I noticed a flyer this week (while I was away in the Lakes District) of an up and coming short course on Tolkein and Middle Earth. More information can be found here. The blurb reads: ‘The fantasy world of Gollum, Gandalf and Frodo has been introduced to and absorbed a new generation, following the hugely successful trilogy of The Lord of the Rings films. On this highly enjoyable new course, you will find out more about the mythological world of Middle Earth, as we explore both the popular and lesser-known fictional works of JRR Tolkien. We shall place Tolkien in the context of the Oxford academic world of the 1940s and 50s, his participation with the Inklings and his friendship with fellow scholar and writer, CS Lewis. Among the themes we shall explore are the role of Christian fantasy, medieval influences and the moral centre of his work, including his portrayal of the machine as the modern form of magic. In addition to The Lord of the Rings, we shall consider the unfinished work The Silmarillion, as well as literary essays on fairy stories and Beowulf. This promises to be a fascinating and popular insight into one of the 20th century’s most influential writers on myth and fantasy.’ For those who can spare the time, it sounds most worthwhile.