J. R. R. Tolkien: Overview

Citation metadata

Author: Stephen Medcalf
Editor: D. L. Kirkpatrick
Date: 1991
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,033 words

Document controls

Main content

Article Preview :

What may be the central virtue of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the of the Rings had its origin in accident, but in an accident corresponding so closely to his life's direction as to seem inevitable. It is the sense of a world that, like reality, is dense, indefinitely various, and rooted in a history: a world that contains both an alien viewpoint which would annihilate it if it could comprehend it, and an inner world from which the total universe would be seen in its living and wonderful reality, if we could arrive there. The inner world is that of the elves: in their country, Lothlorien, Sam Gamgee says ``I feel as if I were inside a song.'' We have fragments of their language, and the possibility of understanding it haunts the book. We also have fragments, finely conceived in their hideousness, of the speech of the opposed kingdom of Sauron, the language of the orcs. In contrast, the weakest point of the book, the unreliability of the narrative English—which varies from high fustian to banality, with a wide variety of better styles in between—has a Babel-like appropriateness. Roger Sale has suggested that this English is at its best when describing the variety of Tolkien's world, a variety revealed by light, and threatened with reduction to a monotonous, perpetually self-destroying darkness. In contrast, the chronicles of men's battles, where the powerful myth is less directly at work, are exercised on old legendary themes put in to fill out the frame, in which certain irritating mannerisms (e.g., inversion...

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420008004