Want to learn a language? Ask J. R. R. Tolkien how.

J. R. R. Tolkien was a gifted philologist. His philological interests, according to the Professor himself, were largely scientific, and that shows clearly in his own literary work. Just a read through The History of Middle-earth with its linguistic bits, in-depth philological essays, carefully crafted and restored etymologies for his own invented languages demonstrates as much. These languages were first and foremost, the starting point of Tolkien’s tales.

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Driven by the oath.

When it comes to stories by J. R. R. Tolkien, you can always rely on him in providing his readers with the most many-dimensional characters. There are rather few who are either absolutely good or absolutely evil: most individuals in the tales of Arda are rather complex and have their own — not always easy — fates. Maedhros, the eldest son of Fëanor, is definitely one of such characters.

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Years the countless.

Whenever we meet Elves in Tolkien’s tales, their age is often very hard to discern. To mortal eyes they may appear as middle-aged individuals in full vigour, but in reality they can be thousands years old. Having a different life-span to that of Men, Elves grow older much more slowly, but grow older they do. Even though their ageing may not always be visible to mortal eyes, Elves feel it most acutely.

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His sharp tongue or Fëanor’s talent to insult.

Fëanor the Spirit of Fire was the most gifted of all the Elves in linguistic lore. He could use language so well that his speeches affected those who heard them and inspired them to do different, though not always sensible, things. Thus, being gifted with words and able to use them potently, Finwë’s eldest son was also exceptionally good at insulting others.  Read more

On the wonders of Faërie.

Mortals’ attitude to Faërie and being there defines the nature of their experience in the Otherworld. Arrogance, impudence, importunity or inner evil, though unwitting at times, can lead to various degrees of disaster. What is the best way to approach Faërie then? There is a character in Tolkien’s writings who shows how mortals can visit the world of Elves happily, enjoy the experience and become enlightened by it. It is Smith from Wootton Major. Read more

On the perils of Faërie.

“Faërie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold”.

J. R. R. Tolkien (On Fairy-Stories)

When it comes to Faërie, mortals must exercise great care in dealing with it. While the land of eternal life and plenty presents a desirable destination for many, it is not fit for earthly beings, save for a temporary abode or occasional visits, most likely for a special reason and with a seal of approval from Faërie inhabitants themselves. Read more

Escape to the book: J. R. R. Tolkien’s view on escapism from the realia of the Robot Age.

When we speak about fantasy or fairy-tales, the term “escapist literature” often goes hand in hand with them. However, it is not always used in a good sense: while some view escapism as good and harmless, others treat it with contempt and mistrust. Read more

When the Nine are abroad.

Following the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien was asked to write the sequel to it: the publisher and the public wanted more adventures of the Hobbits. As the Professor began working on the follow-up to his story, the new tale, which eventually became The Lord of the Rings, was slowly diverging from the light tone of The Hobbit and the area of children’s literature into the darker and more sinister realm. One of the chief contributors to the darkness of the new tale were the Black Riders. Read more