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Belloc vs. Tolkien: Two Views of Anglo-Saxon England

Eruonen
Half-elven


Mar 5, 2:50am

Post #1 of 19 (15496 views)
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Belloc vs. Tolkien: Two Views of Anglo-Saxon England Can't Post

https://theimaginativeconservative.org/...d-joseph-pearce.html

"Although Belloc and Tolkien had much in common, not least of which was their shared and impassioned Catholicism, it is intriguing that they should differ so profoundly on the importance of the Anglo-Saxons. Belloc’s view of history, for the most part astute and penetrative, was always skewed by a less than balanced Francophilia and an almost shrill Germanophobia."


squire
Half-elven


Mar 5, 9:41pm

Post #2 of 19 (15422 views)
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Pearce is clearly on the Anglo-Saxons' side [In reply to] Can't Post

He seems to be using Tolkien as a mouthpiece to relate for us his own appreciation of Christian Anglo-Saxon England.

And he certainly makes a strong enough case - leaving us to wonder what on earth Belloc was talking about, or where he was coming from, in saying that Anglo-Saxon England was 'unimportant' to English or Christian history.

Simply saying "Francophilia" and "Germanophobia" isn't enough. Since Pearce has no interest in setting up a balanced debate even as he praises Belloc's greatness as a Catholic writer, can anyone else decode Belloc's position as more than inane ignorance or provocation?

Thanks for this! Pearce is always an interesting essayist, and the Imaginative Conservative often carries his or Brad Birzer's pieces on Tolkien's conservativism and religiosity.



squire online:
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Eruonen
Half-elven


Mar 5, 11:24pm

Post #3 of 19 (15416 views)
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Is Belloc alluding to the Holy Roman Empire (Charlemagne etc) as the center of [In reply to] Can't Post

European Christianity? This is rather funny considering the Franks were a Germanic tribe converted a little earlier than the Anglo-Saxons (Clovis 496). I am not sure in what way he ascribes importance to one over the other. Scholarship?


Eruonen
Half-elven


Mar 9, 5:14pm

Post #4 of 19 (15291 views)
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Interesting historical find that rather refutes some of Belloc [In reply to] Can't Post

"Charlemagne built a new camp at Karlstadt. In 777, he called a national diet at Paderborn to integrate Saxony fully into the Frankish kingdom. Many Saxons were baptised. The Carmen de conversione Saxonum celebrates this event.

Charlemagne and the Saxons, A. de Neuville, c. 1869
The chief purpose of the diet was to bring Saxony closer to Christianity. Missionaries, mainly Anglo-Saxons from England, were recruited to carry out this task. "

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxon_Wars


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 24, 6:05pm

Post #5 of 19 (14364 views)
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Tolkien grieved the loss of Anglo-Saxon literature. [In reply to] Can't Post

In Letter 131 Tolkien said:

“Also – and here I hope I shall not sound absurd – I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands. There was Greek, and Celtic, and Romance, Germanic, Scandinavian, and Finnish (which greatly affected me); but nothing English, save impoverished chap-book stuff.”

Why is there so little Anglo-Saxon literature, and almost none that is pre-Christian? Even Beowulf is given a Christian facade.

Some blame Christianity, but the Celtic people retained many of their pagan tales despite converting to Christianity. So did the continental Germanic people. So why did the Anglo-Saxons in England lose such tales?

One theory that seems plausible is that the Normans suppressed such tales not because they were pagan, but because they glorified their Anglo-Saxon subjects. Instead the Normans favored the French tales of a Celtic King Arthur fighting the cruel and barbarous Anglo-Saxon invaders. Tolkien was not a fan of the tales of King Arthur, in large part because Arthur and his knights were not Anglo-Saxon — that is, they were British but not English. As Tolkien said in that same Letter 131:

“Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is not perfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing. For one thing its 'faerie' is too lavish, and fantastical, incoherent and repetitive. For another and more important thing: it is involved in, and explicitly contains the Christian religion. For reasons which I will not elaborate, that seems to me fatal."

Maybe the Normans did not deliberately suppress Anglo-Saxon stories, but simply let them die along with the Saxon nobles who were gradually executed for rebellions and replaced with Normans. Without patrons, the Anglo-Saxon poets, bards, and storytellers adapted to Norman tastes or found another line of work.

Where Belloc welcomed the influence of the French, and dismissed the Anglo-Saxons as unimportant, Tolkien resented the influence of the French, preferring “that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.” (Letter 45, in which Tolkien told his son about his grudge with Hitler for “[r]uining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed” that noble northern spirit.)


(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 24, 6:08pm)


Eruonen
Half-elven


Mar 24, 6:29pm

Post #6 of 19 (14316 views)
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Yes, that appears to be a likely explanation. [In reply to] Can't Post

Celtic "myths" persisted due to some of their more remote and isolated areas and because the Celtic church adapted the stories like elsewhere in the world. Many features of Celtic paganism were compatible with Christian.

https://www.academia.edu/...nism_to_Christianity

I think the Normans has much more control over the country of England and the church was ever present in squashing any pagan Anglo-Saxon bardic tales. "The Normans made changes to the Church. The Saxon bishops were replaced. Ecclesiastical law was changed. It’s role within society altered. The relationship of the Church to the Monarchy and Papacy altered. " https://schoolshistory.org.uk/...urch-norman-england/

Meanwhile, Celtic paganism persisted in the far corners of Britain....The Hebrides, western Ireland, remote Scottish areas

Of course, even today the old religion has made a kind of comeback:
https://theculturetrip.com/...-modern-day-scotland


(This post was edited by Eruonen on Mar 24, 6:29pm)


squire
Half-elven


Mar 25, 1:04am

Post #7 of 19 (13500 views)
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One cruel and barbarous invasion is as good as another [In reply to] Can't Post

On the question of why Tolkien's longed-for Anglo-Saxon literature was lost or died out. When you propose, and then seem to reject a theory that the Normans didn't actually 'suppress' an existing Anglo-Saxon literature, but "instead ... favored the French tales of a Celtic King Arthur fighting the cruel and barbarous Anglo-Saxon invaders", I would tend to agree that this makes no sense, compared to your second idea that the Normans just outlasted the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition, taking care to execute the A-S nobility and patrons of that tradition.

After all, would it make sense for the Norman overlords to promote the Arthurian "Celtic" tales of repelling a "cruel and barbarous Anglo-Saxon" invasion, when they were trying to pacify and win over an Anglo-Saxon peasantry who resented the much more recent cruel and barbarous Norman French invasion?

It's very good to see you on the RR board again, Curious! I hope you and your family are well and even prosperous, after all these years.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 25, 9:56pm

Post #8 of 19 (11227 views)
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Very good to see you again, Curious. [In reply to] Can't Post

And interesting thoughts on the fate of pre-Christian literature.

I hope all is well with you and yours. It's nice to see a familiar face from earlier years in the RR.


The Passing of Mistress Rose
My historical novels

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 26, 12:37am

Post #9 of 19 (10664 views)
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Good to see you, too! [In reply to] Can't Post

Are the old Reading Room posts preserved somewhere, or lost forever?


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 26, 12:37am

Post #10 of 19 (10650 views)
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Thanks! You, too! [In reply to] Can't Post

 


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 26, 12:51am

Post #11 of 19 (10614 views)
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Very good to see [In reply to] Can't Post

an old friend come re-visit these Boards!

And also hoping all has been well with you and the family!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 26, 12:54am

Post #12 of 19 (10622 views)
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Alas! [In reply to] Can't Post

A couple of times Altaira has mentioned seeing if she could get the raw data from those Boards, and several folks have expressed an interest in helping transcribe them, but we haven't heard anything further for a long time. Unsure


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 26, 2:07am

Post #13 of 19 (10444 views)
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Oh well. sniff... [In reply to] Can't Post

And yes, thank you, we are all well.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Mar 27, 2:18pm

Post #14 of 19 (8415 views)
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Nice to see you again, Curious// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 27, 2:28pm

Post #15 of 19 (8414 views)
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Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Aelfwine
Rivendell

Mar 27, 3:38pm

Post #16 of 19 (8379 views)
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"Why is there so little Anglo-Saxon literature, and almost none that is pre-Christian?" [In reply to] Can't Post

Two major factors seem to be overlooked here:

1) Literacy (and thus literature) and Christianity went hand-in-hand in Northern Europe generally.

2) The dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 27, 4:03pm

Post #17 of 19 (8340 views)
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"Literacy (and thus literature) and Christianity went hand-in-hand in Northern Europe generally." [In reply to] Can't Post

And yet it's my understanding that the Celtic people and continental Germanic people retained many of their pagan tales despite converting to Christianity. That's why I think the Norman conquest was a key factor.


Aelfwine
Rivendell

Mar 27, 4:26pm

Post #18 of 19 (8325 views)
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"The Celtic people and continental Germanic people retained many of their pagan tales" [In reply to] Can't Post

Which raises another factor: English itself underwent a far more radical transformation after the introduction of literacy than did the Celtic or the other Germanic languages, such that what Old English literature there might have been became (in very short order, as these things go) largely uninterpretable to most. Yes, the Norman Conquest played a significant (arguably even catalytic) role in this transformation, but by influence (chiefly in vocabulary) not by imposition (of either phonology or grammar) or replacement.

--
Carl F. Hostetter


Owlyross
Rohan


Apr 9, 8:17am

Post #19 of 19 (453 views)
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The language of literature is important here [In reply to] Can't Post

As pre-Norman invasion any mythic literature tended to be written in Anglo Saxon or Germanic languages (preserved in areas like Frisia). The likes of The Wanderer, Beowulf and the Norse Eddas.

The language of Christianity was Latin and the only reason many of the earlier myths were preserved was thanks to the work of Bede. Once the Norman invasion happened, the courts and the institutes of learning became Latinised/Frenchified, so that the languages of literature as it existed in Britain (written by those with the time and education to do so) became latinised and obviously pushed more towards subjects which were pleasing to rich patrons. Therefore we get La Mort d'Arthur, St George and the Dragon, and the Christianised mythologies of England.

It's not exactly a 'book burning' more than a wholesale replacement of the former culture. At least among the gentrified society who would preserve and popularise literature.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
Benjamin Franklin
The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
Horace Walpole (1717 - 1797)

 
 

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