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"Tricksy Lights": Literary and Folkloric Elements in Tolkien's Passage of the Dead Marshes

"Tricksy Lights": Literary and Folkloric Elements in Tolkien's Passage of the Dead Marshes MARGARET SINEX n his chapter "The Passage of the Marshes" in book four of The Two Towers, Tolkien creates a memorable landscape, one that has received significant critical attention to date. Recent scholarship has probed the biographical inspiration for the Dead Marshes, that is, the rich parallels they share with the topography of northern France in World War I where Tolkien himself served for some months in 1916. Yet, with its focus on battlefield memories (recollections whose role Tolkien himself acknowledged) scholarly discussion has not highlighted its preternatural elements--its many paradoxes. The terrible topography of the Somme cannot fully account for these crucial features. The Mere of Dead Faces is a unique liminal zone marked by cryptic ambiguities (e.g. the living dead, fire in water) and located between the living lands nourished by the Anduin and the lifeless desolation before the Black Gate. In addition, few (Tom Shippey excepted) have explored in any detail the scene's function in the work as a whole. The Hobbits' passage of the Marshes presents them with a particular spiritual trial and their successful passage transfigures them in such a way as to render their perseverance on the quest the more poignant and http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Tolkien Studies West Virginia University Press

"Tricksy Lights": Literary and Folkloric Elements in Tolkien's Passage of the Dead Marshes

Tolkien Studies , Volume 2 (1) – May 16, 2005

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 West Virginia University Press.
ISSN
1547-3163
Publisher site
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Abstract

MARGARET SINEX n his chapter "The Passage of the Marshes" in book four of The Two Towers, Tolkien creates a memorable landscape, one that has received significant critical attention to date. Recent scholarship has probed the biographical inspiration for the Dead Marshes, that is, the rich parallels they share with the topography of northern France in World War I where Tolkien himself served for some months in 1916. Yet, with its focus on battlefield memories (recollections whose role Tolkien himself acknowledged) scholarly discussion has not highlighted its preternatural elements--its many paradoxes. The terrible topography of the Somme cannot fully account for these crucial features. The Mere of Dead Faces is a unique liminal zone marked by cryptic ambiguities (e.g. the living dead, fire in water) and located between the living lands nourished by the Anduin and the lifeless desolation before the Black Gate. In addition, few (Tom Shippey excepted) have explored in any detail the scene's function in the work as a whole. The Hobbits' passage of the Marshes presents them with a particular spiritual trial and their successful passage transfigures them in such a way as to render their perseverance on the quest the more poignant and

Journal

Tolkien StudiesWest Virginia University Press

Published: May 16, 2005

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