Guide Beowulf: The Storybook Version

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This has been a matter of widespread debate and misunderstanding, mostly resulting from the usage in The Hobbit Tolkien had changed his mind about it by LotR but the confusion in the earlier book was made worse by inconsistent backwards modifications.

There are a couple of statements in The Hobbit which, if taken literally, suggest that Orcs are a subset of goblins. If we are to believe the indications from all other areas of Tolkien's writing, this is not correct. These are: some fairly clear statements in letters, the evolution of his standard terminology see next paragraph , and the actual usage in LotR, all of which suggest that "Orc" was the true name of the race.

The pedigrees in Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia are thoroughly inaccurate and undependable. What happened was this. The creatures so referred to were invented along with the rest of Tolkien's subcreation during the writing of the Book of Lost Tales the "pre-Silmarillion". His usage in the early writing is somewhat varied but the movement is away from "goblin" and towards "orc".

It was part of a general trend away from the terminology of traditional folklore he felt that the familiar words would call up the wrong associations in the readers' minds, since his creations were quite different in specific ways. For the same general reasons he began calling the Deep Elves "Noldor" rather than "Gnomes", and avoided "Faerie" altogether.

On the other hand, he was stuck with "Wizards", an "imperfect" translation of Istari 'the Wise' , "Elves", and "Dwarves"; he did say once that he would have preferred "dwarrow", which, so he said, was more historically and linguistically correct, if he'd thought of it in time In The Hobbit , which originally was unconnected with the Silmarillion, he used the familiar term "goblin" for the benefit of modern readers.

By the time of LotR, however, he'd decided that "goblin" wouldn't do -- Orcs were not storybook goblins see above. No doubt he also felt that "goblin", being Romance-derived, had no place in a work based so much on Anglo-Saxon and Northern traditions in general. Thus, in LotR, the proper name of the race is "Orcs" capital "O" , and that name is found in the index along with Ents, Men, etc.

There are a handful of examples of "goblin" being used always with a small "g" but it seems in these cases to be a kind of slang for Orcs. Tolkien's explanation inside the story was that the "true" name of the creatures was Orc an anglicized version of Sindarin Orch , pl.

As the "translator" of the ancient manuscripts, he "substituted" "Goblin" for "Orch" when he translated Bilbo's diary, but for The Red Book he reverted to a form of the ancient word. It has nothing to do with cetaceans. A detailed discussion can be found in my essay, "What is Tom Bombadil? This question has been a widely debated, sometimes far too vehemently. Part of the difficulty is the complexity of Tom's literary history. Tom was originally a doll with blue jacket and yellow boots owned by Tolkien's son Michael.

The doll inspired a story fragment, such as he often invented for his children's amusement. That fragment was in turn the basis for the poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", published in , which also introduced Goldberry, the barrow wights, and Old Man Willow the poem was the source of the events in Chapters 6 through 8 of Book I. In a contemporary letter Tolkien explained that Tom was meant to represent 'the spirit of the vanishing Oxford and Berkshire countryside'.

Parke Godwin

Letters, no Tom fit the original slightly childish tone of the early chapters which resembled that of The Hobbit , but as the story progressed it became higher in tone and darker in nature. Tolkien later claimed that he left Tom in he decided that however portrayed Tom provided a necessary ingredient see last paragraph. Whichever of these is correct, Tom's function inside the story was evidently to demonstrate a particular attitude towards control and power. But if you have, as it were taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless.

Tom represented "Botany and Zoology as sciences and Poetry as opposed to Cattle-breeding and Agriculture and practicality. No definite answer was given to this question within the story. However, Tolkien did comment on the matter in two letters, and while he was careful to say "I think" and "I do not know", nevertheless the tone of these comments was on the whole pessimistic. Moreover, he doesn't seem to have changed his mind over time.

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The following was written in in fact before the publication of LotR :. What happened to them is not resolved in this book. I think that in fact the Entwives had disappeared for good, being destroyed with their gardens in the War of the Last Alliance Second Age when Sauron pursued a scorched earth policy and burned their land against the advance of the Allies down the Anduin. They survived only in the 'agriculture' transmitted to Men and Hobbits.

Classics Summarized: Beowulf

Some, of course, may have fled east, or even have become enslaved: tyrants even in such tales must have an economic and agricultural background to their soldiers and metal-workers. If any survived so, they would indeed be far estranged from the Ents, and any rapprochement would be difficult -- unless experience of industrialized and militarized agriculture had made them a little more anarchic.

I hope so.

I don't know. Letters, Note that the above reference to a "scorched earth policy" by Sauron makes the destruction of the Entwives' land seem a much more serious and deliberate affair than was apparent from the main story, in which Treebeard merely said that "war had passed over it" TT, 79 III, 4. As for the Entwives: I do not know. But I think in TT, it is plain that there would be for the Ents no re-union in 'history' -- but Ents and their wives being rational creatures would find some 'earthly paradise' until the end of this world: beyond which the wisdom neither of Elves nor Ents could see.

Though maybe they shared the hope of Aragorn that they were 'not bound for ever to the circles of the world and beyond them is more than memory. While the above comments do not sound hopeful, there nevertheless remains the unresolved mystery of the conversation between Sam Gamgee and Ted Sandyman in The Green Dragon. It took place during the second chapter of FR and has been pointed to by many as possible evidence of the Entwives' survival:.

They do say that one bigger than a tree was seen up away beyond the North Moors not long back. He works for Mr. Boffin at Overhill and goes up to the Northfarthing for the hunting. Thrain was about to put on his helmet, but Skarphedin came at him first and swung his axe at him and hit him on his head and split it down to the jaw, so that the molars fell out on the ice. This happened in such rapid sequence that no one could land a blow on Skarphedin; he went gliding away at a furious speed.

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Tjorvi threw a shield in his way, but he hopped over it and kept his balance and glided to the end of the ice slab. Then Kari and the others came up to him. The script to the next big action movie? A rip-off of Lord of the Rings? Actually, none of those. I grew up reading folklore, fairytales, and other mythological stories. The Ruby Knight had everything that a boy could want: swordfights, monsters, magic, true love, and terrible villains. From that moment onward, I was hooked on fantasy.

Eventually, I decided that I should try to expand my knowledge and read some classic fantasy. Yes, stuff written hundreds and even thousands of years ago is fun! Read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf. It has the monster Grendel, a thrilling underwater fight, and an ancient dragon. Tolkien loved Beowulf so much, he based parts of The Hobbit on it. In fact, Gandalf is named after a Norse dwarf!

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If you find Beowulf too hard, try Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton, which retells the same story in a modern novel. I loved the soaring adventure in those books, the way they could transport me into another world, where anything was possible. I dreamed about dropping out of school and grabbing a hatchet, a bow and arrow, and a backpack and just marching off into the mountains to find a quest of my own. I believed that life really was like a storybook and that when I grew up, I could do all the things I had read about. However, I have had an incredible series of adventures because of what I read growing up. I taught myself to make knives and swords—I even built a forge for myself—I climbed local mountains, and, eventually, I wrote my own story, Eragon , which has taken me all around the world. Snorri Sturluson.