John Garth on Tolkien


Interesting Guardian article on Tolkien, in particular the spark of his mythopoesis:

“Birth of a New World:  The Tolkien Poem that Marks the Genesis of Middle-Earth”

On the similarities between Tolkien’s poem and an earlier Shelley poem, Garth writes:  “Tolkien consciously uses Shelley’s classical template as a vessel for a Germanic-style myth, as if to say: enough with the Mediterranean, it’s time English literature looked north. The big step, however, was the realisation that he could turn philological reconstruction into creative narrative.”

I think that’s the most inspirational of Garth’s points for me.  I’m interested in the construction of new narratives that may come to have something like a “mythic” significance, but most interested in the relationship between new narratives and older ones.  Did the previous myth “evolve” into new forms, based simply on which variants survived?  Or did someone creatively use the old myth as raw material, and perhaps (as with Tolkien) as practical instruction on how myths work and what their potential can be?  And in particular, is the audience‘s exposure to previous myths essential for understanding this author’s intent?  What schemas are needed to decode the new myth?

I wonder what someone who’d never heard of King Arthur would make of The Mists of Avalon


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