Saturday, 8 January 2011

The History of Middle Earth - A Chapter by Chapter Exploration

Some former students (including yours truly) of Dr Dimitra Fimi's excellent
Tolkien Myth and Middle Earth in Context through the University of Wales (UWIC) have banded together as a group called the Tolk-lings to start a chapter by chapter exploration of the twelve volume bedrock of Tolkien scholarship The History of Middle Earth. Thanks to Dr. Fimi and UWIC we have been given permission to use the UWIC Fantasy literature discussion board to explore and discuss each chapter and very excited with the group of UWIC students and others who are joining in
(and anyone can join as well)

Another thread of this blog, in addition to Wagner and Tolkien, will be some key observations On The History of Middle Earth as I journey chapter by chapter through it with a specific focus on the development in the legendarium of the language system of the Elves and Men (we have now received our first glimpse of the language of the first men, Taliska is Parma Eldalamberon 19)

So here is my first posting on the first chapter of Book of Lost Tales One - The Cottage of Lost Play

Tolkien's Early Concept of the Olore Malle - The Path of Dreams

So much in the opening chapter so where does one start? Well, one concept that has always interested me mainly because it is introduced in this chapter and then slowly fades away (or does it) is the Olore Malle - the pathway of Dreams on which mortal children travel to Valinor in their dreams as Tolkien illustrates in the poem "You and Me and The Cottage of Lost Play (Lost Tales I, pp 28-31). As Christopher Tolkien says the entire conception of the Children who went to Valinor was to be abandoned almost without trace (Lost Tales I, p. 27) with only two other major references to it throughout the rest of the Book of Lost Tales. So this was a very early concept of travel into faerie through dreams which Tolkien brought into the development of the Book of Lost Tales and then "abandoned.". One of the most fascinating aspects of the Book of Lost Tales, for me, is even at this earliest point in the formal development of his legendarium, Tolkien had already developed a body of poetic works about his early world. John Garth's excellent Tolkien and the Great War and Dr Dimitra Fimi's award winning Tolkien, Race and Cultural History are key sources for charting the development of these pre Book of Lost Tales works and their influences. As Dr Fimi indicates an important early influence of Tolkien and the specific development of the Olore Malle was J.M Barrie's Peter Pan which Tolkien saw as a child. Dr Fimi indicates that the idea of children coming and staying in fairy land parallels the story in Barrie's Peter and Wendy in which reference is made to Peter Pan living with the fairies and who when children died accompanied them part of the way so they would not be frightened (Fimi, p.37). So this early concept comes out of the Edwardian and Victorian fairy tradition that soon faded, as did this concept, in the harsh light of the aftermath of World War One. But did it? Actually the concept of "travel" in dreams to faerie actually persists in Tolkien's writings as we will see later on in his time travel stories The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers.

I was also struck on this re-read by how much of the atmosphere of the hall found it's way into the Hall of Fire in Rivendell where great tales are also told.

Works Cited

The Book of Lost Tales 1 in The History of Middle Earth (Part 1), edited by Christopher Tolkien. (London: HarperCollns: 2002)

Fimi, D (2010) Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: London: Palgrave

Also stop presses!!! Professor Corey Olsen otherwise known as The Tolkien Professor has announced a new course which he will make available for iPod listening called Faerie and Fantasy .

His course last year on Tolkien's major works was brilliant and I think a key event in Tolkien scholarship and looking at the reading list which includes Middle English literature, Chaucer, Dunsany, Lewis, Tolkien and more looks really exciting.

Professor Olsen should receive one of the rods of the Istari for opening up and allowing exploration of the works of Tolkien and others to international audiences!! I will be reading and listening along to this one.

Posted from Andrew Higgins IPAD

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