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Comparitive Myth


Submitted By bernardg3
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Ladies and gentlemen please join me to on a journey to a realm filled with fantasy, lore, adventure and mayhem. Lend me your ear as we unravel the mythical inspirations behind one of the greatest, epic movie trilogies of all time: The Lord of the Rings! We learned in our first lesson together that studying myths introduces other cultures to us and provides us with different perspectives through which to view our own (Myth & Knowing, page 2). The Lord of the Rings trilogy truly introduced us to culture of a mythical proportions and allowed us to perhaps see our own world's history in a different light. Let us begin with a quote from the author J.R.R. Tolkein, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us" (Tolkien, page 3). So let's make the best of it shall we! As a professor at Oxford, Tolkien, while grading papers, one of the students left this phrase on a blank page of his answer book. "In a hole in the ground there lives a hobbit (Tolkien Society, 2002.)" Curiosity got the best of Tolkien as he set out to discover what a hobbit was. Answers to his discoveries were revealed in stories he told his children, stories he embellished and those stories manifested themselves into the book called the Hobbit and eventually The Lord of Rings. The Lord of the Rings stories were inspired by many myths but none more prevalent than the Germanic poem called Beowulf. Tolkien explained to his editors that "Beowulf is among my most valued sources (Colbert page 21). Many similarities exist between Beowulf and the Lord of the Rings. For example, the hellish Orcs in the LOTR come from orcneas. This word was also used for monsters in Beowulf (Colbert page 22). Another example is the setting. LOTR displays large mead halls, where "Tolkien expert Thomas Shippey notes, the Elf Legolas (one of my favorite characters, I might add) describes Meduseld (the Golden Hall) with the same line that describes the mead hall in Beowulf: "The light of it shines far over the land (Tolkein,The Lord of the Rings. page 496)". Also, in Beowulf and LOTR they share the same themes. The heroes in both, must fight the urge to turn into the very evil that they fight. This very theme is present today in the various conflicts throughout our world today. The challenges of our mythical heroes is not unfamiliar to many of our world leaders today. Next, we shall discuss some of the myths that inspired Tolkien to develop some of the characters in LOTR. We shall start with the ugly first. The Orcs. Some of you might have been considering the Dwarfs as ugly, but Gimli's bravery and loyalty improves his lot. The name Orcs come from the Roman god Orcus. He was the god of the underworld. Orcus is also the Latin word for Hell. Since many of the Orcs hang out in a fiery, underground hell this name fits perfectly (Colbert page 130). Now that we know where the handsome Orcs name came from, let's talk about their creator, Sauron aka a big meanie as my daughter calls him. The all mighty chief Norse god Odin himself was an inspiration to Tolkien for the all evil Sauron. "...the story of how Odin loses one eye may be the most important, because it reveals the source of his power." Odin lost his eye in return for the "world's knowledge". "Afterwards Odin often appears as an old man with a single blazing eye (Colbert page 126). When you think of Gandalf, do you think of Merlin the Wizard? I did. However, I am your enlightened lecturer and I am going to share my newfound knowledge with you. Once more we find Norse mythology influencing Tolkien. Odin, who was the inspiration for evil Sauron is also the inspiration for the noble, wizened Gandalf. They are not exactly paired at the hip but they do share similar qualities. Colbert explains, "Odin is depicted as a long-bearded old man, often with a walking stick. He has supernatural power. Like Gandalf, he seems to be wondering alone on a quest that others cannot understand Magic World, In conclusion, we have learned of the many things that have inspired Tolkien to create and develop his famous Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Particularly how myth from days of old has influenced the manifestation of a masterpiece. I hope that you are now more sensitive to the background of the story the next time you watch these classics on film. Works Cited Colbert, David "The Magical Worlds of The Lord of the Rings." 2002: pages 21,22,30,53,103,126. 3 Oct. 2012
"J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch." The Tolkien Society. 2002. Web. 14 Oct. 2012
Tolkien, J.R.R. (John Ronald Reul) "The Fellowship of the Ring" 1954: pages 3, 496. 3 Oct. 2012

Leonard, Scott and McClure. Myth & Knowing: An Introduction to World Mythology. McGraw-Hill, 2004. page 2. Print.

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