J. R. R. Tolkien's Influences
In his writings, in particular the fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings as well as the related novel The Hobbit and the posthumously published collection of stories The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien is cited as having had a number of influences. Several critics have made the assumption that Tolkien’s novel was directly derived from Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. Many parts of his work were, as he freely admitted, influenced by other sources. Some of the influences include philology (his field), religion (particularly Roman Catholicism), fairy tales, Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology, and numerous sources from Finnish, Greek, Persian, Slavic, and Celtic mythology. Tolkien was also influenced by his and his son's personal military service experiences during World War I and World War II, respectively.
One of the greatest influences on Tolkien was the Arts and Crafts polymath William Morris. Tolkien wished to imitate Morris's prose and poetry romances, along with the general style and approach; he took elements such as the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings and Mirkwood in The Hobbit from Morris.
Books by the Inkling author Owen Barfield are known to have influenced Tolkien, particularly The Silver Trumpet (1925), History in English Words (1926) and Poetic Diction (1928).
Edward Wyke-Smith's Marvellous Land of Snergs, with its 'table-high' title characters, strongly influenced the incidents, themes, and depiction of Bilbo's race in The Hobbit.
Tolkien also cited H. Rider Haggard's novel She in a telephone interview, stating: 'I suppose as a boy She interested me as much as anything—like the Greek shard of Amyntas, which was the kind of machine by which everything got moving.' A supposed facsimile of this potsherd appeared in Haggard's first edition, and the ancient inscription it bore, once translated, led the English characters to She's ancient kingdom. Critics have compared this device to the Testament of Isildur in The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's efforts to produce as an illustration a realistic page from the Book of Mazarbul. Critics starting with Edwin Muir have found resemblances between Haggard's romances and Tolkien's.
In his biography of Tolkien, Carpenter notes that in the limited amount of time Tolkien could apply to the reading of fiction, he “preferred the lighter contemporary novels,” and the stories of John Buchan are listed as an example in the next sentence. Critics such as Hooker have detailed the resonances between the two authors.
Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers has likewise been shown to have reflections in Tolkien.
Tolkien wrote of being impressed as a boy by Samuel Rutherford Crockett's historical novel The Black Douglas and of basing the Necromancer - Sauron - on its villain, Gilles de Retz. Incidents in both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are similar in narrative and style to the novel, and its overall style and imagery have been suggested as having had an influence on Tolkien.
Tolkien was greatly inspired by early Germanic, especially Anglo-Saxon literature, poetry and mythology, which were his chosen and much-loved areas of expertise. These sources of inspiration included Anglo-Saxon literature such as Beowulf, Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Nibelungenlied and numerous other culturally related works.
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“I dont believe in villains or heroes, only in right or wrong ways that individuals are taken, not by choice, but by necessity or by certain still uncomprehended influences in themselves, their circumstances and their antecedents.”
—Tennessee Williams (19141983)