J.R.R. Tolkien, Old English, and the Creation of Middle-Earth

9 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2019

See all articles by Michael Shammas

Michael Shammas

New York University School of Law

Date Written: September 25, 2019


“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something,” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. “You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” In early adulthood, after years of poking about in the annals of a centuries-old language, Tolkien stumbled upon something that would change his life—and therefore millions of lives—forever. What Tolkien “found” was Old English literature, which in turn inspired everything from his naming of Middle-earth to his shaping of the beloved settings of "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings," and the lesser-known "Silmarillion." Given that Tolkien’s passion for Old English legends played such a pivotal role in the legends he crafted, it is curious how little has been written about Old English’s extensive influence on his creation of Middle-earth. Without his discovery of and subsequent passion for Old English, a language resembling German more than modern English, it is doubtful he would have ever produced his masterpieces. For through the likes of the "Crist" poems, "The Wanderer," and "Beowulf," powerful ideas emerged in his mind that found prominent places in his writings.

Keywords: old english, tolkien, j.r.r. tolkien, the lord of the rings, the hobbit, the silmarillion

Suggested Citation

Shammas, Michael, J.R.R. Tolkien, Old English, and the Creation of Middle-Earth (September 25, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3459810 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3459810

Michael Shammas (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/

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