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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Ivanhoe and Tolkien?


Oct 2 2012, 5:13pm

Post #1 of 11 (2259 views)
Ivanhoe and Tolkien? Can't Post

I found a copy of Ivanhoe at a library book sale awhile back and finally decided to read it. Which made me wonder about whether or not Ivanhoe was ever considered to be an influence on Tolkien.

I could not find an entry under "I" in my Tolkien Encyclopedia, alas, but I did find some references on a website. Here's an excerpt:

"As far as I can discern with the help of my assistant, Google, this isn’t a comparison that many have made, though the connection is so obvious to me that Sir Walter’s influence on The Lord of the Rings is just begging to be explored. In some ways, Ivanhoe is a stronger reminder of Tolkien than any post-Tolkien high fantasy I’ve ever touched—which, I’ll grant, isn’t much; I adore Tolkien, but have very little patience for his legion of imitators. It reads like a distillation of all the elements of The Lord of the Rings that people forget to copy: the centrality of language to the characterization of individuals as well as society; the genuine, folkloric Englishness that drips from every line of dialogue, whether it is the rustic speech of a servant or the decorative rhetoric of a nobleman; the periodic digression into verse and song, usually with the complicity of a pint of ale.

For more, here's the link to the site: http://www.nicholastam.ca/...y-book-club-ivanhoe/

Any comments on the Tolkien comments? Or other insights/comments on Ivanhoe and Tolkien?

I'm only into the very early part of the story now, but so far it reads more like The Once and Future King than LOTR to me...



Oct 2 2012, 9:47pm

Post #2 of 11 (1740 views)
ivanhoe and Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post


I found this brilliant article on this subject, well worth a read. Wink

(This post was edited by Elenorflower on Oct 2 2012, 9:48pm)


Oct 2 2012, 10:07pm

Post #3 of 11 (1708 views)
Interesting... [In reply to] Can't Post

"...It reads like a distillation of all the elements of The Lord of the Rings that people forget to copy: the centrality of language to the characterization of individuals as well as society; the genuine, folkloric Englishness that drips from every line of dialogue, whether it is the rustic speech of a servant or the decorative rhetoric of a nobleman; the periodic digression into verse and song, usually with the complicity of a pint of ale."

Having read and loved both books, I never once got a Tolkienic vibe rising from Sir Walter Scott. When the blogger states "the centrality of language to the characterization of individuals as well as society", I get that from Dickens as well. Do we not know who is who status-wise in Oliver Twist or David Copperfield based almost soley on figures of speech and the colloquial jargon or clipped upperclass bluster they employ?

Actually, I get more of Sir Walter Scott in T.H. White than Tolkien. White channeled both Malory and Scott in making The Once and Future King (even borrowing Robin and Marian for a tale several centuries before King Richard and Prince John).

As for "the genuine, folkloric Englishness that drips from every line of dialogue, whether it is the rustic speech of a servant or the decorative rhetoric of a nobleman", aren't there any number of British authors who drip...ummm...Englishness? One of course gets the most Englishness from Hobbits, who Tolkien specifically wanted identified as English, right down to Sam being Frodo's loyal WWI batsman.

But the Elves, the dwarves, Gondorions and Rohirrim? They do not strike me as anglicized, although a case could made that Rohan is peopled with prototypical Beowulfian Anglo-Saxons, but the Anglo-Saxon warriors of Beowulf bare more resemblance to their Germanic forefathers and not at all to the Normanized Saxon lords of Ivanhoe (Tolkien, after all, was no francophile).

Finally, regarding "the periodic digression into verse and song, usually with the complicity of a pint of ale", this is not a motif exclusive to Sir Walter Scott. It is as much present in Chaucer and Shakespeare as it was to the unknown author of Beowulf as it was to writers on the continent such as Chretien de Troyes or Boccaccio. Medieval and Renaissance works of Romances and Chansons are filled with such poetic digressions, melancholy moonings and ribald balladry.

In ages dependent on the spoken word, even the greatest knights were expected to be able to dash off a bit of poesy to prove their chivalric mettle. William IX the Duke of Aquitaine, Bertrand de Born, Eustache Deschamps, Philippe de Mézières, etc., were all warrior poets. Tolkien takes his cue from Beowulf, and there is much singing, as in a Danish bard singing Beowulf's story, or the Danish warriors returning to Hrothgar's hall singing songs in praise of Beowulf.

I do not see the same pattern the author does, or at least I feel the points he hits on are coincidental. Also, Tolkien refers to other writers in his letters (Chaucer, Plutarch, Malory, Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Anderson, Enid Blyton, Isaac Asimov, George MacDonald, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, etc.), but never once Sir Walter Scott nor Ivanhoe. One would think if Tolkien had even an inkling of debt to Scott, he might have mentioned it.

Please visit my blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.


Oct 3 2012, 1:16am

Post #4 of 11 (1700 views)
Scott wrote "historical novels", not fantasy. [In reply to] Can't Post

Having Ivanhoe and a number of other books by Scott, whom I adore, I agree that there isn't really much similarity beyond what would be dictated by the general literary qualities of period English writing. Tolkien wrote in the idiom of English historical novels, because aside from the fact that his "history" was actually fantasy, that's what he wanted to write. So, you can point to a whole genre for "influence" if that's what you're looking for.

But I'm very glad you're enjoying Ivanhoe. I love that book!

Join us NOW in the Reading Room for detailed discussions of The Hobbit, July 9-Nov. 18!

Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Oct 3 2012, 8:53pm

Post #5 of 11 (1679 views)
Scott was so popular [In reply to] Can't Post

in his own day that I'm sure his influence must have been felt by Tolkien, even if Tolkien never thought enough about it to mention it. I don't think Tolkien mentioned Kipling either, but if you read something like Puck of Pook's Hill you can see that Kipling and Tolkien drew from many of the same sources, and I think the same can be said for Scott and Tolkien.

Whether Tolkien got it direct from Scott or whether they got it from a common source, there is one thing that links them in my mind - the Mirrormere. In Scott's poem The Bridal of Triermain, he tells of
"...that sable tarn,
In whose black mirror you may spy
The stars, while noontide lights the sky."
Scott's poem draws on legends of King Arthur, while Tolkien usually said that he didn't draw his inspiration from Arthurian legend. Yet as that very interesting article posted by Elenorflower shows, Tolkien seems to have been influenced by Arthurian "tropes", even if he didn't take them as conscious inspiration. Heck, the story of the Return of the King, of Aragorn as the new Elendil, is pretty much the legend of Once and Future King right there!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings


Oct 10 2012, 2:29am

Post #6 of 11 (1595 views)
thank you for that link! [In reply to] Can't Post

I am late in being able to stop back and reply to you, sorry!

I did check out the link and you were right --definitely worth a read. Given the new Arthur-themed Tolkien book coming out, it was interesting to check out the Arthur references in here as well as the Ivanhoe one. Thanks!



Oct 10 2012, 2:36am

Post #7 of 11 (1574 views)
Agreed... [In reply to] Can't Post

Ivanhoe seems closer to TH White to me than Tolkien, in terms of plot and style.

I imagine someone, somewhere may have done some scholarly work about links between Scott and Tolkien, but it's not any kind of widely known or referenced thing from what I can tell. And you're right it could just all be coincidental more than anything.

Thanks for your comments and insights!



Oct 10 2012, 2:39am

Post #8 of 11 (1592 views)
I'm halfway through the book right now... [In reply to] Can't Post

I was surprised to find so many strong women characters...and the politics of the story seems very modern day, really!

What other Scott works would you recommend? Even though I was an English major in college, this author somehow escaped me, so it's been interesting to "find" him.



Oct 10 2012, 2:49am

Post #9 of 11 (1647 views)
that makes sense... [In reply to] Can't Post

That Tolkien would have drawn from the same "pool" of sources as Scott, so that would give them some kind of kinship...

The very strong Anti-Norman tone of the book was one thing that I would have thought Tolkien would have liked, given how he felt about what the Normans did to the original culture of his land. I was kind of surprised by that aspect of Ivanhoe, not anything I expected -- the Normans really come off very badly, though Scott has fun with the Saxons as well.

I was also under the impression Tolkien did not really like the Arthur sagas a whole lot -- I'm kind of intrigued by that new Tolkien Arthur book, just to understand more of how he looked at those legends.



Oct 10 2012, 11:46am

Post #10 of 11 (1756 views)
I found reference to this interesting exhibition book [In reply to] Can't Post

on Tolkien gateway. maybe its worth a look if you need further information?

The Romance of the Middle Ages is an exhibition book from the Bodleian Library, featuring 70 colour illustrations. The book reproduces a manuscript page from The Two Towers and a page from C.S. Lewis's copy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, edited by Tolkien and E.V. Gordon
From King Arthur and the Round Table to Alexander the Great's global conquests and encounters with fire-breathing dragons, the stories of romance appear in some of the most beautiful books of the Middle Ages, and still resonate today. This book provides an engaging, scholarly, and richly illustrated guide to medieval romance and its continuing influence on literature and art. Romance's conjunctions of chivalric violence, love, sex, and piety, and its openness to the miraculous, monstrous or bizarre mark it out as the most fertile narrative form of the Western Middle Ages. This book examines the development of romance as a literary genre, its place in medieval culture, and the scribes and readers who copied, owned, and commented on romance books, from magnificent illuminated manuscripts to personal notebooks and chance survivals. It also explores the complex anatomy of human desire in romance, as portrayed by writers including Dante, Chaucer, and Thomas Malory. Medieval romance was hugely popular after the Middle Ages. Shakespeare, Spenser, and Walter Scott imbibed its motifs, Mark Twain parodied them, and the Pre-Raphaelites based an aesthetic movement around them. The Romance of the Middle Ages traces the influence of the genre to the twentieth century and beyond, encompassing the stories of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling, the Jedi knights of Star Wars and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Nicholas Perkins is Fellow and Tutor in English at St Hugh's College and University Lecturer in Medieval English, University of Oxford. Alison Wiggins is Senior Lecturer in English Language at the University of Glasgow


Oct 11 2012, 3:09am

Post #11 of 11 (1818 views)
thanks again! [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting to see that the passage you quoted led all the way to Monty Python and Star Wars!

This is only a taste, not doubt, of all that is out there in terms of scholarship and publications on some aspect of the things Scott, Tolkien and others were writing about or influenced by. Not being a scholar, it kind of makes my head spin, but I thank you and the others who replied for opening my eyes about all of this!



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