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J. R. R. Tolkien´s "The Lord of The rings" - Mythology, Philosophy, Allegory
"Facharbeit" - Essay by Manuel Steiner, written ´00 p.r.i.

III. Language and style

For a number of different reasons, The Lord of the Rings contains various levels of rhetoric and style. One point is that it was to be printed in numbers and so it was to reach a broad and anonymous public, not a private circle of friends Tolkien could read the book to aloud. The point of criticism that "the unevenness of tone, the occasional slovenliness of metaphor or simile, (...) may be due in part to this uncertainty about audience response." (Moseley, 43; my italics) is built upon this fact. Because of this, Tolkien had to drop a certain amount of high-style narration he used in former works; and the level of language only rises with that of the action by the end of book one. Before that, especially when still in the Shire, The Lord of the Rings was planned as a direct sequel to The Hobbit, using those stylistic devices to create a book for children.

Later, the author is still confronted with the task of aligning the speech of characters to their background, as he has to draw together "different worlds of words" (Moseley, 44). Indeed, it is clearly visible that Tolkien did nothing else than to link utterance and choice of words to a character´s way of thinking; with orcs and trolls using simple and crude speech, high elves speaking solemnly and elegiac, and the Rohirrim resembling old Anglo-Saxons in their stave-rhyming, heroic tone.

Medium tone and a certain joyfulness are presented by the hobbits, as their colloquial style and words are familiar to us. High style is achieved by Tolkien´s often found solemn, parallelistic and polysyndetic sentences, like the description of the Rohirrim arriving at Minas Tirith (comp. LOTR, 820) or the passage where splendid King Aragorn Elessar is beheld entering the city (comp. LOTR, 947).

Along with this linguistic device goes another one, the "lift of linguistic register and [the use of] deliberate archaisms" (Moseley, 51). Of the latter Tolkien provides many: old forms for common words, when writing "hither", "thither" and "whither" or "nigh", "naught" and "aught", and through archaic expression no longer, at least not frequently, used: the solemn "tidings" for the modernistic "news", or the phrase "to be loath to" instead of "reluctant". As formal and elegiac these may be, they are also sometimes a contrast to other phrases, and due to the complexity of narration, a unity of style and language is never to be achieved; only an isomorphic relation of utterance to character which equals the impression that "Tolkien seems never fully to solve the problem of rhetorical level" (Moseley, 42).

The poems Tolkien throws in mostly fit into the respective characters´ rhetoric and background as well. The Hobbits have jolly, sometimes unsuitingly humorous verses, "nursery rhymes", as they are called frequently by Shippey. Elven poems express their race´s dignity and solemnity with their melodic rhythm, which is, in those verses held solely in Sindarin, also the only aspect the reader realises. Special attendance is laid on the rhymes and songs of the Rohirrim, and more than once they resemble their role models, old Anglo-Saxon and mainly Old Norse poetry in more than merely structure. These are stave-rhyming poems, with the heroic ideals and the fury of their people expressed in their songs, but parallels to the Poetic Edda are there in an imitative degree, too: thus the battle-cry of Théoden charging reminds clearly of a stave in the Voluspá. There the world´s end is described with the words "axe-age, sword-age / sundered are shields / wind-age, wolf-age / ere the world crumbles" (Moynihan,330; quoted from Lee M. Hollander, The Poetic Edda, 9); Théoden´s cry imitates this both in rhythm and meaning, and also uses similar words: "Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered, / a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!" (LOTR, 820). Similarly, the Long List of the Ents on pages 453 and 572 appears like a lore-poem such as the Grímnismál, as both tell of the names of things and living creatures. But as the first example shows, this parallel is just formal, with different context, and not an allegory, which I will prove later. With Tolkien´s love for poetry, there are still many poems which do not improve the overall of the novel, and it is true that the "poems only really work when tightly linked to their narrative context, to heighten that moment." (Moseley, 51).

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