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William Morris and Tolkien


Oct 5 2012, 3:57pm

Post #1 of 3 (944 views)
William Morris and Tolkien Can't Post

In reading Tom Shippeys The Road to Middle Earth he mentions some of the books that JRRT most likely read and was influenced by, including the three novels by William Morris (possibly the 1st "modern" fantasy novels):

Per Wiki -

The House of the Wolfings

"The House of the Wolfings is Morris' romantically reconstructed portrait of the lives of the Germanic Gothic tribes, written in an archaic style and incorporating a large amount of poetry. It combines his own idealistic views with what was actually known at the time of his subjects' folkways and language. He portrays them as simple and hardworking, galvanized into heroic action to defend their families and liberty by the attacks of imperial Rome.

Morris' Goths inhabit an area called the Mark on a river in the forest of Mirkwood, divided according into the Upper-mark, the Mid-mark and the Nether-mark. They worship their gods Odin and Tyr by sacrificing horses and rely on seers who foretell the future and serve as psychic news-gatherers.

The men of the Mark choose two War Dukes to lead them against their enemies, one each from the House of the Wolfings and the House of the Laxings. The Wolfing war leader is Thiodolf, a man of mysterious and perhaps divine antecedents whose ability to lead is threatened by his possession of a magnificent dwarf-made mail-shirt which, unknown to him, is cursed. He is supported by his lover the Wood Sun and their daughter the Hall Sun, who are related to the gods."

"This book also influenced J. R. R. Tolkien's popular The Lord of the Rings. In a December 31, 1960 letter published in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, (p. 303), Tolkien wrote: 'The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme. They owe more to William Morris and his Huns and Romans, as in The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains."

One chapter is titled:
Chapter XII—Tidings of the Battle in Mirkwood <<

The Roots of the Mountains

"The story is set in the Burgdales, a group of small Germanic settlements in the valleys at the foot of a mountain range, and the neighboring woodlands and pastures. The area is inhabited by the interdependent Dalemen, weavers, smiths, and traders, Woodlanders hunters and carpenters, and Shepherds, respectively. Their society is challenged by disruptions from the outside world in the form of the Sons of the Wolf, the descendants of the Wolfings from the previous novel, and the invading Huns or "Dusky Men." The Sons of the Wolf, driven from their original country to the Burgdales by the Huns, continue to resist the invaders as a frontier force guarding their new home. The somewhat troubled integration of the Sons of the Wolf into the society they are protecting is told in the story of five lovers representing both peoples, four of whom eventually marry."

The Story of the Glittering Plain

"The book concerns the quest of Hallblithe of the House of the Raven to rescue his fiance the Hostage, who has been kidnapped by pirates, which ultimately takes him to the utopian Land of the Glittering Plain, also known as the Land of the Living Men, whose inhabitants are supposedly immortal."

Fortunately, they are online for reading though obtsaining the novels would be a great reissue, it appears the copyright is gone and they are in the public domain:



You can buy editions at Amazon etc.

(This post was edited by Eruonen on Oct 5 2012, 4:07pm)


Oct 5 2012, 4:10pm

Post #2 of 3 (664 views)
"Gandolf and the horse Silverfax" [In reply to] Can't Post


"Tolkien considered much of his literary work to have been inspired by an early reading of Morris, even suggesting that he was unable to better Morris's work; the names of characters such as "Gandolf" and the horse Silverfax appear in The Well at the World's End."



Oct 6 2012, 6:18pm

Post #3 of 3 (766 views)
I am very interested [In reply to] Can't Post

 in the Arts and Crafts movement, founded by William Morris, I know more about the artistic background that influenced Tolkien. Many of Tolkien's paintings show Arts and Crafts/Art Nouveau designs there is some information on that they were a lasting inspiration to him, It seems clear, too, that he agreed with the underlying philosophy of Morris and his followers, which looked back to a much earlier time: that the 'lesser' arts of handicraft embodied truth and beauty no less than the 'fine' arts of painting and sculpture. They go on to note the many references to crafts in Tolkien's written works - in Smith of Wootton Major, for example, and in the Elves of Middle-earth.
This was picked up by the artists who designed the movie sets and props, Rivendell especially is strongly influenced by Art Nouveau, very appropriately so; the combination of natural subjects and stylized design seems very Elf-like to me.


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