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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Some Tolkien connections

geordie
Tol Eressea

Oct 14 2012, 4:16pm

Post #1 of 12 (644 views)
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Some Tolkien connections Can't Post

This being a quiet Sunday, I've been noodling around the stacks of the geordie library; picking up an item here and there, and finding what I feel to be connections between some of Tolkien's works - bear with me...

To take as a starting point 'The Review of English Studies', Volume I (1925). This academic journal was issued in four parts. Tolkien contributed two articles to this volume - 'Some Contributions to Middle English Lexicography' in pt 2 (April) and 'The Devil's coach-horses' in pt 3 (July). These are interesting for themselves, but also for the fact that they were published at around the time Tolkien was applying for the Chair of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.

Looking at Tolkien's 'Contributions' article, I see he examined a series of Middle English phrases to be found in the Early English Texts Society ed. of Hali Maidenhad (1922). Prof. Tolkien weighed in straight away by remarking that the title ought to have been 'Meidhad', (and gave his reasons for it) - but what struck me was this phrase:

'medi widh wiccen'.

The EETS translation is, 'deal with witches', but they suggest this ought to be emended to 'medli' - which would neatly form the first incidence of the word 'meddle'; so, 'meddle with witches'. But Tolkien was adamant; for several reasons (not least alliteration) Tolkien reckoned the word _was_ 'medi', which in this case would translate to 'bribe, purchase the service of, witches'.

That was in 1925. Twenty years later, Tolkien had published a tale of a childless lord who purchased the services of a witch - a corrigan, actually - with disastrous results. This was his poem 'The Lay of Aotroun and Itroun', published in 'The Welsh Review' (Vol.IV, no.4, December 1945). Part of this poem runs:

'He heard her voice, and it was cold
as echo from the world of old,
ere fire was found or iron hewn,
when young was mountain under moon.'
(p.261)

These lines were themselves echoed some nine years later, in Gandalf's poem about the Ents -

'Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon,
Ere ring was found or wrought was woe,
It walked the forests long ago.'

(TT, 'The Road to Isengard')

And as for 'medi widh wiccan' - well, that comes through in LotR too, of course; but in the 'incorrect' form;

'Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger'.

A lot of folk spend a lot of time looking for Tolkien's 'sources'. Sometimes, he provided his own sources; from both his academic works, and his own fiction. Connections, connections...


(This post was edited by geordie on Oct 14 2012, 4:19pm)


Escapist
Gondor


Oct 14 2012, 5:02pm

Post #2 of 12 (304 views)
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Sometimes everything seems to be connected, [In reply to] Can't Post

especially if you look hard enough.

The art of translation makes a big difference. For example, I wouldn't consider "bribe" and "purchase the service of" to be synonyms. However, both of those do fit under the more generic umbrella of "meddling" which apparently is disastrous for witches but simply unrecommended for wizards.

This strikes me somehow as creepy, in spite of the Halloween season.


Hamfast
Rohan


Oct 14 2012, 6:37pm

Post #3 of 12 (300 views)
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A delightful Sunday read geordie [In reply to] Can't Post

Simply love how it coincides with the current season... with the wiccens, corrigans, witches, moons, etc.

It is interesting that Tolkien would borrow a line from himself word for word... " when young was mountain under moon "...but what a great line it is Smile


Modtheow
Lorien


Oct 14 2012, 7:03pm

Post #4 of 12 (305 views)
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Interesting borrowings [In reply to] Can't Post

I find the fact that Tolkien borrowed lines from an earlier poem of his very interesting.

ere fire was found or iron hewn,
when young was mountain under moon (from "The Lay of Aotroun and Itroun")

and

Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon (from TT)


He must have found "mountain under moon" a memorable sound and image. I wonder if he uses it anywhere else? It seems to me that he's working much like the poets who used an oral style in the early Middle Ages: repeating memorable phrases (especially when there's alliteration to bind the phrase together) and using other phrases as a template to fill in with appropriate details for a specific context, like "fire" and "iron" in the Lay which are switched for "iron" and "tree" in The Two Towers, where Ents are concerned.


geordie
Tol Eressea

Oct 14 2012, 8:02pm

Post #5 of 12 (288 views)
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Not quite - [In reply to] Can't Post

- that is, I can't recall offhand whether Tolkien used the phrase 'mountain under moon' elsewhere; but he did use a similar phrase in one of my favourite of his Hobbit poems:

'Roads go ever, ever on over rocks and under tree...

...Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.'
(TH, 'The Last Stage')

.


Modtheow
Lorien


Oct 14 2012, 8:18pm

Post #6 of 12 (266 views)
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Same meter [In reply to] Can't Post

"mountain under moon" and "mountains in the moon" = same number of syllables, same stresses.


squire
Valinor


Oct 14 2012, 10:03pm

Post #7 of 12 (292 views)
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That's a very interesting example of Tolkien's recycling habit [In reply to] Can't Post

You roused my curiosity about Tolkien's re-use of this couplet:

Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,
When young was mountain under moon
(The Lord of the Rings, III.8)

ere fire was found or iron hewn,
when young was mountain under moon.'
(The Lay of Aotroun and Itroun)

Which came first? Which was refashioned for a second usage? The chapter "The Road to Isengard" was published in the 1950s as you say, of course, but it was largely written in mid-1942, according to Hammond and Scull's summary Chronology - three years before the 1945 publication of the Lay. However, the excerpts from the LotR composition drafts that appear in The History of Middle-earth do not include Gandalf's verse about the Ents. As is so often the case, Christopher Tolkien does not take it upon himself to account for every change between the drafts he publishes, and the final version. So we have no indication of when the lines were actually put into The Lord of the Rings - it could have been anytime between 1942 and 1952, it seems. Verlyn Flieger's article on "Poetry in The Lord of the Rings" in the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia notes that the quatrain is a bit of an orphan. It is given no provenance within Middle-earth, so that it seems to be present only to add some ancientry to Gandalf's lore. She missed the connection you so cleverly spotted, possibly because it was Tom Shippey who wrote the companion article on non-LotR poetry including the Lay of Aotroun and Itroun!

The Lay has an equally obscure background: As Shippey notes, it was originally composed in 1930, but was substantially re-written in ... wait for it ... late 1941 to early 1942, according to Hammond and Scull. I don't know much about this poem, except that Paul Kocher admired it greatly for its blending of medieval models with Tolkien's own poetic style and themes. Kocher's quotes from the poem remind me of the Lay of Leithian, which was written in the same period and has the same meter and rhyme scheme.

So, based on the dates above, the couplet in the Lay of Aotroun and Itroun seems to precede the one from LotR by no less than half a year. No surprise: it was certainly Tolkien's style to borrow from his earlier poetic works when he wanted some verse for his growing epic: besides Tom Bombadil's motifs and Frodo's 'Man in the Moon' song, 'Light as Leaf on Linden Tree' was the source for Aragorn's song of Luthien at Weathertop, and Gimli's poem about Khazad-dum is partly lifted from the Lay of Leithian. So let's say the Lay does take pride of composition, just as you speculated based on the coincidence of publication dates.

However, I have to say I find the second version quite as interesting as the first. The Lay's "Ere fire was found or iron hewn" is a perfectly good image for a "world of old" before Man acquired civilization, although it is rather modernly industrial in its outlook - I miss some kind of Adamistic imagery in this Christian poem. And I think "hewn" is an odd choice of verb for the iron; it seems chosen more for its rhyme than for its suitability. When the subject is switched to the origin of the Ents in the second version, it is now the iron that is not yet "found", and it is trees that are not yet hewn. This fits beautifully the idea that Ents predate the Elves, who only later on used the iron-working skills they learned from the Vala Aule to cut down the Ents' wards, the trees. Hewn is as right for trees as it is wrong for iron, I think.

Thanks for the note, Geordie!



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'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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geordie
Tol Eressea

Oct 14 2012, 11:10pm

Post #8 of 12 (275 views)
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Well, how about this? [In reply to] Can't Post

- in reply to:

'The Lay's "Ere fire was found or iron hewn" is a perfectly good image for a "world of old" before Man acquired civilization, although it is rather modernly industrial in its outlook - I miss some kind of Adamistic imagery in this Christian poem.'

I think another 'echo' exists in Tolkien's versions of 'The Hoard', esp. the first two versions, both published under the same name - 'Iumonna Gold Galdre Bewunden:

'Ere Hell was digged, ere the dragons brood
Or the dwarves were spawned in dungeons rude;
And men there were in few lands
That caught some cunning of their mouths and hands...'
(The Gryphon, ns4, no.4, January 1923, p.130)

In this version the gold and silver in the hoard originated with the elves (note: no capitalization), but in the second version, it is the 'gods' who sang of silver and gold 'when the moon was new and the sun young'.

'Ere the pit was dug or Hell yawned,
Ere dwarf was bred or dragon spawned,
There were elves of old, and strong spells
In green hills under hollow dells
They sang as they wrought many fair things...'
(The Oxford Magazine, March 4th, 1937)

Tom Shippey examines these things in his paper 'The versions of "The Hoard"' in his collection of essays 'Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien' (2007)

*that was a fine piece of literary detective work, Squire - thanks.





(This post was edited by geordie on Oct 14 2012, 11:17pm)


Hamfast
Rohan


Oct 15 2012, 12:41am

Post #9 of 12 (267 views)
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All of this mountain and moon talk [In reply to] Can't Post

reminded me of a verse from the dwarves song in The Hobbit...

The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying fall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Oct 15 2012, 3:07pm

Post #10 of 12 (238 views)
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That seems far to obvious to be accidental. Wonderful! It makes me think [In reply to] Can't Post

of Bach "shamelessly" (as it's sometimes put) borrowing from himself, to our great enrichment. It's much the same here, with your Tolkien examples. Luckily, there's no copyright limitation using one's own material--we would be missing out on an awful lot!


geordie
Tol Eressea

Oct 15 2012, 4:49pm

Post #11 of 12 (240 views)
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I just remembered - [In reply to] Can't Post

- in reply to:

'And I think "hewn" is an odd choice of verb for the iron; it seems chosen more for its rhyme than for its suitability. When the subject is switched to the origin of the Ents in the second version, it is now the iron that is not yet "found", and it is trees that are not yet hewn... Hewn is as right for trees as it is wrong for iron, I think.'

- Tolkien uses the word 'hewn' in an interesting way, here -

'But through them there came striding up, roaring like beasts a great company of hill-trolls out of Gorgoroth... Like a storm they broke upon the line of the men of Gondor, and beat upon helm and head, and arm and shield as smiths hewing the hot bending iron.'
(RotK, 'The Black Gate Opens')

One of my favourite passages, that - how could I have forgotten it?
.






(This post was edited by geordie on Oct 15 2012, 4:51pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 15 2012, 6:42pm

Post #12 of 12 (478 views)
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Nice little thread Geordie [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you Sir!

Incidentally, if you ever feel like pulling together a list for another instalment of A Middle English Vocabulary Challenge, I for one would appreciate it!

 
 

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