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"With chunks of poetry in between": The Lord of the Rings and Saga Poetics

"With chunks of poetry in between": The Lord of the Rings and Saga Poetics CARL PHELPSTEAD uch previous scholarship has investigated the ways in which Old Norse-Icelandic literature influenced J.R.R. Tolkien's creative writing.1 This work has concentrated almost exclusively on thematic rather than formal connections, but the present essay examines one of the most striking formal similarities between The Lord of the Rings and the Icelandic sagas: the mixing of verse and prose.2 Prosimetrum, the mixed verse and prose form, is a world-wide phenomenon attested in Indo-European literatures from ancient Sanskrit onwards, and Tolkien was familiar with prosimetric writings in other languages besides Old Norse-Icelandic: Latin and early Irish are the two most obviously relevant literatures; Lisa Spangenberg rightly notes, for example, that "Perhaps the most striking connection between The Lord of the Rings and Celtic mythology is one of form; Irish medieval stories mix verse and prose, with songs and poetry interspersed in the prose narrative." (448). 3 The influence of Icelandic prosimetrum must, however, have been more significant than that of early Irish saga, reaching Tolkien not only directly through his reading of Old Norse literature (in translation and in the original), but also indirectly through earlier prosimetric fantasy by William Morris.4 In a letter to his fiancée, Edith Bratt, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Tolkien Studies West Virginia University Press

"With chunks of poetry in between": The Lord of the Rings and Saga Poetics

Tolkien Studies , Volume 5 (1) – Jul 9, 2008

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 West Virginia University Press
ISSN
1547-3163
Publisher site
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Abstract

CARL PHELPSTEAD uch previous scholarship has investigated the ways in which Old Norse-Icelandic literature influenced J.R.R. Tolkien's creative writing.1 This work has concentrated almost exclusively on thematic rather than formal connections, but the present essay examines one of the most striking formal similarities between The Lord of the Rings and the Icelandic sagas: the mixing of verse and prose.2 Prosimetrum, the mixed verse and prose form, is a world-wide phenomenon attested in Indo-European literatures from ancient Sanskrit onwards, and Tolkien was familiar with prosimetric writings in other languages besides Old Norse-Icelandic: Latin and early Irish are the two most obviously relevant literatures; Lisa Spangenberg rightly notes, for example, that "Perhaps the most striking connection between The Lord of the Rings and Celtic mythology is one of form; Irish medieval stories mix verse and prose, with songs and poetry interspersed in the prose narrative." (448). 3 The influence of Icelandic prosimetrum must, however, have been more significant than that of early Irish saga, reaching Tolkien not only directly through his reading of Old Norse literature (in translation and in the original), but also indirectly through earlier prosimetric fantasy by William Morris.4 In a letter to his fiancée, Edith Bratt,

Journal

Tolkien StudiesWest Virginia University Press

Published: Jul 9, 2008

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