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"Beneath the Earth's dark keel": Tolkien and Geology

"Beneath the Earth's dark keel": Tolkien and Geology Gerard Hynes "O Valar, ye know not all wonders, and many secret things are there beneath the Earth's dark keel" (Lost Tales I 214). So Ulmo explained the Earth's structure to the Valar. It is curious that they, having materially participated in the making of the world, should be uncertain of its form, but Tolkien was himself uncertain how to depict Arda, at this stage (c.1919) and for decades afterwards.1 Henry Gee has rightly observed that it is unsurprising Tolkien was interested in the earth sciences given his own view of his profession: "I am primarily a scientific philologist. My interests were, and remain, largely scientific" (Gee 34; Letters 345). Tolkien, like any educated person of his generation, was exposed to and to a degree internalized both the scientific method and the scientific worldview. For example, in "On Fairy-stories" Tolkien chose to use a geologic metaphor when discussing the preservation of ancient elements in fairy-stories: "Fairystories are by no means rocky matrices out of which the fossils cannot be prised except by an expert geologist" (OFS 49). As Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson note in their commentary, "The geologic comparison here is both timely and intentional: geology http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Tolkien Studies West Virginia University Press

"Beneath the Earth's dark keel": Tolkien and Geology

Tolkien Studies , Volume 9 (1) – Aug 3, 2012

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West Virginia University Press
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Copyright © 2008 West Virginia University Press.
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Abstract

Gerard Hynes "O Valar, ye know not all wonders, and many secret things are there beneath the Earth's dark keel" (Lost Tales I 214). So Ulmo explained the Earth's structure to the Valar. It is curious that they, having materially participated in the making of the world, should be uncertain of its form, but Tolkien was himself uncertain how to depict Arda, at this stage (c.1919) and for decades afterwards.1 Henry Gee has rightly observed that it is unsurprising Tolkien was interested in the earth sciences given his own view of his profession: "I am primarily a scientific philologist. My interests were, and remain, largely scientific" (Gee 34; Letters 345). Tolkien, like any educated person of his generation, was exposed to and to a degree internalized both the scientific method and the scientific worldview. For example, in "On Fairy-stories" Tolkien chose to use a geologic metaphor when discussing the preservation of ancient elements in fairy-stories: "Fairystories are by no means rocky matrices out of which the fossils cannot be prised except by an expert geologist" (OFS 49). As Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson note in their commentary, "The geologic comparison here is both timely and intentional: geology

Journal

Tolkien StudiesWest Virginia University Press

Published: Aug 3, 2012

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