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Na Vedui

Jan 11 2014, 11:24pm

Post #1 of 9 (342 views)
Beleriand Can't Post

Just been reading Barry Cunliffe’s book about Pytheas, the Greek who made a voyage of exploration to Britain and northwards beyond, some time before 300 BC - and I came across something intriguing:
Pytheas’ own account is lost now, but some of it survives in later works, so some of these are quoted in the book. Among them is Diodorus Siculus’ “Bibliotheca Historica” (from around the time of Julius Caesar), which describes Britain as of triangular shape and gives names to the promontories at each corner. Two of these names are still in use today. “Orkas” is Orkney (now meaning the islands off the northern tip of Scotland rather than the northern tip itself) and “Kantion” is Kent in southeast England. The third promontory is of course the southwestern tip of Cornwall, and this is named “Belerion”.
Ancient accounts of Britain are just the sort of thing that would have interested Tolkien, and this term is so like “Beleriand” that I can’t help wondering whether it was the inspiration for that name. The Cornish peninsula is like Beleriand In other ways than the name, being the remains of a larger piece of land, some of which is now under the sea. There is a legend of the lost land of Lyonesse, but also plenty of archaeological evidence for prehistoric activity in areas now under water.

Na Vedui

Jan 12 2014, 12:36am

Post #2 of 9 (176 views)
Further to this.. [In reply to] Can't Post

Google just threw up a couple of excerpts from Tolkien's "The Book of Lost Tales" where the name for this western area is actually "Belerion" rather than Beleriand! So it does look possible that the old word for Cornwall was indeed his inspiration for that name.


Jan 12 2014, 12:38am

Post #3 of 9 (210 views)
No connection - as far as the Boss knows [In reply to] Can't Post

In volume II of History of Middle-earth, the 'Book of Lost Tales pt. 2', Christopher Tolkien presents his father's fragmentary and oft-revised notes on the pivotal character known as Aelfwine or Eriol. He is the 'English mariner' from the early Middle Ages who, in J. R. R. Tolkien's early mythology, sailed to the Elven Lands across the Sea. There he heard and recorded the ancient tales that make up the story-cycle later published as The Silmarillion.

You would probably get a lot out of this chapter, now that you've begun to dive into the ancient sources on English history and geography. For one thing - and I certainly hadn't noticed this until your inquiry got me looking - Aelfwine is said to have sailed from the English harbor called Belerion. That is, on his various voyages to encounter the Elves, he leaves from and returns to Belerion, which is certainly meant to be on Land's End, the westernmost point of English land.

However, I hope you'll be amused to find that Christopher Tolkien has anticipated your question. At the bottom of page 329, in parentheses, he states:
(I have found no trace of any connection between the harbour of Belerion and the region of Beleriand.)

When CT speaks, the fanbase squeaks. What are ya gonna do?

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'.
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squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

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Na Vedui

Jan 12 2014, 2:01am

Post #4 of 9 (179 views)
Thanks for this - [In reply to] Can't Post

That's very interesting. It confirms that Tolkien not only knew but used the old name for Cornwall in his writings. I think Christopher T would be right that Tolkien didn't in any way intend to imply that Belerion/Cornwall corresponds to Beleriand - it's the sort of thing he would know - and maybe Tolkien did not even deliberately base one name on the other, but I still find the likeness in the names, combined as they are with the similar associations of lost land, suggestive. "Beleriand" may have been a case of an "invented" name that felt right because it rang the right bells, consciously or unconsciously. Tolkien's very good at this "feels right" naming - part of his wide scholarship and instinct for language - and sometimes possible "bells" turn up - this may be one.The processes of creativity are very complicated and mysterious!


Jan 12 2014, 7:24am

Post #5 of 9 (165 views)
The fate of Beleriand (semi-OT) [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm sure everyone who reads the Sil has had a moment of looking at the map, and (remembering the map of Middle Earth in the Third Age) had the shock of recognizing that there has been a Major Geological Event.

Lately I've wondered (and have been too busy/lazy to look it up in umpteen sources) whether the fate of Beleriand in the War of Wrath was in the original tales or "discovered" by Tolkien to account for the differences in these maps. I suspect the latter.

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Jan 12 2014, 7:26am)

Fredeghar Wayfarer

Jan 12 2014, 10:21pm

Post #6 of 9 (137 views)
Probably meant to invoke those legends [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know if Beleriand was literally supposed to equate with Belerion in Tolkien's mind but it was likely inspired by it. In the earliest version of The Book of Lost Tales, Tolkien imagined the "Great Lands" as corresponding with England in an ancient, forgotten past. He was trying to write a myth for England. So it makes sense that he would choose a name that invoked those stories of the ancient British Isles.

The Tolkien Gateway mentions that an earlier name for Beleriand was Broceliand, which was the name of a legendary forest in Arthurian literature. So it seems that, at least in origin, Beleriand was connected to England in Tolkien's mind. Later, he revised this but kept a name that felt right to him for that legendary English feel.


(This post was edited by Fredeghar Wayfarer on Jan 12 2014, 10:24pm)

Na Vedui

Jan 13 2014, 1:26am

Post #7 of 9 (121 views)
So the plot thickens [In reply to] Can't Post

... for Broceliande is in Brittany, France.


Jan 13 2014, 11:16am

Post #8 of 9 (117 views)
It's a complicated plot... [In reply to] Can't Post

The Arthurian legends began in Britain, but were carried to Brittany by British (=Ancient British/Celtic) refugees after the Anglo-Saxons and other tribes invaded Britain from the east after the departure of the Romans at the start of the so-called "Dark Ages".

For historical reasons, it's the French-Breton versions of the legends that were first written down, but the oral tales they are based on originated on the island of Great Britain. Various places in both Britain and France are claimed as the sites of the stories, and I assume that's because as in many legends, events become attached to local sites where the stories are told. So I can easily imagine that Tolkien might have imagined that the "original" Broceliande (which I think he spelled as the more anglicized 'Broseliand') might have been in Wales or Cornwall, with the legend carried to Britanny later.

The legends were only written down after the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066, and as we know, Tolkien considered that their true nature had been lost because by then they were both Frenchified and Christianised. I'm guessing that his 'Broseliand' may be an early attempt to reclaim the ancient British legend before he decided to move to other mythologies for his main inspiration.

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

Na Vedui

Jan 13 2014, 10:42pm

Post #9 of 9 (115 views)
This .... [In reply to] Can't Post

"So I can easily imagine that Tolkien might have imagined that the "original" Broceliande (which I think he spelled as the more anglicized 'Broseliand') might have been in Wales or Cornwall, with the legend carried to Britanny later."
sounds entirely possible.


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