The Medieval in Middle-Earth: Rings of Power

Dutch Anglo-Saxonist

As a professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford, J. R. R. Tolkien could not help but be inspired by the language and literature he studied and taught. As a result, his fictional world is infused with cultural material of the Middle Ages, particularly Old English language and literature. In this post, I focus on the Rings of Power used by Sauron to gain dominion over those who would wear them…

7fdf67087e7a37dceb80c71ab1e9f45d Good guy Sauron meme (source)

“hringa fengel” (Beowulf, l. 2345): the original ‘Lord of the Rings

Why does Sauron give rings to the elves, men and dwarves he wants to control rather than any other object? The answer may be found in the Old English poem Beowulf, one of the texts Tolkien studied closely.

In Beowulf, kings are often described with metaphorical phrases such as “sincgyfan” [giver of treasure] (l. 1012a), …

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One Response to “The Medieval in Middle-Earth: Rings of Power”

  1. giaconda Says:

    I enjoyed reading your blog post on the rings of power in Tolkien and how they relate to Anglo-Saxon power structures. I am particularly interested in links between Tolkien and Beowulf, especially the portrayal of King Theodon of Rohan as a ‘good cyninga’ to his people and how Tolkien explores this central theme in Beowulf in the characters of Theodon and Aragorn. Theodon’s ‘Golden Hall’ is very close to Heorot, not only in the description but also in the function of the hall as a symbol of the people and their relationship with their king. Further parallels can be drawn between the dragon episode and the disturbance of Smaug by Burglar Baggins and the resulting carnage that follows. Bilbo takes on the character of the slave who wakens the sleeping dragon and causes him to attack the people. I think I need to write a full blog post on this…

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