The Mythological Origins of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales

Many modern authors have drawn on ancient mythologies in their works. One of these was J.R.R. Tolkien. While mainly recognized for his widely read books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he also wrote (and continued to write, from 1917 until his old age in the early 1970’s) an extremely detailed “mythology” of his own, in the form of two, posthumously published titles, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. These were intended by Tolkien to resemble the legends of other lands, which he encountered repeatedly during his career as a philologist, and to serve as a mythology for his own, myth-starved England. He wrote of his country’s lack, in a comment on the Finnish myth, the Kalevala, that “I would that we had more of it left- something of the sort that belonged to the Finnish (Carpenter Tolkien 89), and of his aspirations to fill it, to “make a body of more or less connected legend…which I could dedicate simply: to England, to my country” (Carpenter Tolkien 89-90). As such, there are many stories in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales that can be traced back to their mythological roots.

The stories that were so derived can be divided as such: At the start of The Silmarillion (which is really The Silmarillion and four small appended works) there is the “Ainulindale”, Quenya for “the song of the holy ones” (Foster 5-6). (Tolkien, prior even to the creation of his literary world, created languages, the two most complete of these, and the two most utilized in his work, being Quenya- High elven (the spelling is Tolkien’s; Foster 414-415), and Sindarin- (Grey-elven; Foster 460).) This is an account of the beginnings of time and the creation of the world. In the body of The Silmarillion, among other tales, there are three heroic romances that Tolkien wrote in succession while on medical leave from the British army during 1917 through the spring of 1918: “Of Beren and Luthien”, “Of Turin Turambar” (which is also included in Unfinished Tales under the title “Narn I Hin Hurin”- Sindarin for “The Lay of the Children of Hurin” (Foster 362), and “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” (Carpenter Tolkien 92-98). Near the end of The Silmarillion, and resolving and tying together many of its loose ends, is “Of the Voyage of Earendil and the War of Wrath”. And at The Silmarillion’s end is the “Akallabeth”, Adunaic (the common speech of the men of Numenor, a minor tongue of Tolkien’s invention) for “The Downfallen” (Foster 2), which recounts the ruin of the island kingdom of Numenor. A companion to the “Akallabeth” is “A Description of the Island of Numenor” in the Unfinished Tales.

Tolkien’s universe- that is, our universe in its ancient eras- begins with music:
There was Eru, the One, Who in Arda (Earth) is called Illuvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad…the music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void…But when they were come into the Void, Illuvatar said to them: “Behold your music!” And he showed them a vision, giving to them sight were before there was only hearing; and they saw a new World made visible before them, and it was globed amid the Void, and it was sustained therein (Tolkien Silmarillion 15).
This idea of a celestial symphony is an ancient one. Plato, in The Republic, Book X, propounds that each of the heavenly spheres has a siren “who goes round with them, singing a single tone or note.” The more scientific Aristotle has it that the hard, glossy, heavenly spheres rub against each other in their rotation, creating sound, Even earlier, the Bible (Job 38:4, 7) indicates the presence of music in God’s work: “When I laid the foundations of the earth…the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for jot” (Helms 23, 27).

The Bible, whose historical-mythological style Tolkien often imitates, is echoed in the “Ainulindale” and The Silmarillion, which follow a Biblical, mainly Christian pattern of universal history: creation, fall of an angelic being and of many of his followers, ensuing period of extended universal disharmony, and redemption. Creation, which occurs in the Bible by Fiat- “Let there be”, is here “Ea! Let these things Be!” Spoiling the initial perfection is the Satanic Melkor, an Ainu (single tense of “Ainur”, the gods of our world) who “meddled in all that was done”. Both Melkor and Satan experience a fall, drawing others with them: Satan, in Revelation 12:9, 12, “was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him…Woe unto the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come unto you”, and Melkor “descended through fire and wrath into a great burning, down into Darkness…But he was not alone. For of the Maiar (lesser angels, demi-gods) many were drawn to his splendour in the days of his greatness, and remained in that allegiance down into his darkness”. Melkor is persued by the equivalent of the Biblical archangel, Tulkas, the warrior god, “whose anger passes like a mighty wind, scattering cloud and darkness before it; and Melkor fled from his wrath and his laughter” (Helms 26-29, 36).

Following the evil power’s expulsion, the labor of creation continues. In The Silmarillion, “Aule (the god of smith-work)…wrought two mighty lamps”, just as in Genesis 1:16 “God made two great lights”. Close thereafter, “There arose a multitude of growing things great and small, mosses and grasses and great ferns, and trees whose tops were crowned with cloud…beasts…came forth and dwelt in the grassy plains”, as in the Bible’s “let the earth bring forth grass, and herb yielding seed after its kind, and the tree yielding fruit” (1:11) and “the living creature after its kind, and the cattle after their kind” (1:25). In both works there is an Eden: In Scripture, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden”, and, in The Silmarillion, the earth entire, which is for the gods “a garden for their delight”. In the garden grow two powerful trees, the Biblical trees of Life and Knowledge, and Tolkien’s “Two Trees…about (whose) fate all the tales of the elder days are woven” (Helms 29-30).

Tolkien’s earth is in time populated by the two kindred of Elves and Men, who are beset and oppressed by Melkor, the evil and powerful being who, like Satan, was expelled from heaven and entered their world. Their redemption is to come at the hands of the gods, but these are waiting for “one person speaking for the cause of both Elves and men, pleading for pardon on their misdeeds and pity on their woes”. The hero that Tolkien created for this task bears a great resemblance to Jesus, who is, in Hebrews 9:12, said to have “by his own blood…entered…into the holy place…having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Helms 37-38).

This hero was Earendil, a poetic representation of Christ, with additional roots in much European mythology. In Tolkien’s mind he began with two lines out of the Crist of Cynewolf, a group of Anglo-Saxon religious poems that the author read in 1913 while he was studying to be a philologist: “Eala Earendel engla beorhtast / ofer middengard monnum sended”- “Hail Earendel, angel brightest / over middle-earth unto men sent” (Helms 1). The poem refers to the planet Venus, “Earendel” or Shining Light, but Tolkien felt something deeper in the words. He said in retrospect, “I felt a curious thrill, as if something had stirred in me, half wakened from sleep. There was something very remote and strange and beautiful behind those words” (Carpenter Tolkien 64).

Tolkien was to encounter Earendel again, in the form of its Old-Norse cognateAurvandil”. In the Old Norse Younger or Prose Edda (the Eddas being collections of ancient Icelandic legend), which he studied, Aurvandil is a man who was rescued from “giantland” by the god Thor, who carries him on his back in a basket. As the tale goes, one of Aurvandil’s toes sticks out of the basket and freezes, so that Thor breaks it off and throws it into the sky. It stays there, and becomes the heavenly body known to the Norse as Aurvandil’s toe, Venus (Helms 2). Another cognate of Earendel, this one in Old High German, is “Orendel”. In Teutonic mythology, Orendel is a heroic mariner, who suffers a shipwreck and takes shelter with the fisherman Eisen, later marrying the beautiful woman Breide (Helms 2).

Tolkien’s Earendil is a fusion of his predecessors: a mariner-hero who weds a beautiful woman, petitions the gods for mercy on the peoples of the Earth, and becomes a star. As a child, Earendil- half elf, half man- comes with the other refugees of the ravaged fortress of Gondolin to the port of Arvernien. There he learns to love the sea, and becomes a mariner. He marries the beautiful Elwing, also half-elven, and possesses beauty, wisdom, and hardiness. In Quenya, “Earendil” means “sea-lover”, and in his ship Vingilot, Earendil sails to the uttermost west, to Aman, the realm of the gods. There, representing both elves and men, he intercedes with the gods for mercy. His request is granted- the gods utterly vanquish Melkor and banish him form the earth, and Earendil and his ship are set in the sky as a sign of hope, as a new star. This star corresponds to Venus, as well as to the Evening and Morning Stars (Foster 134).

Earendil’s redemption of Elves and Men closely parallels the Biblical description of Christ’s sacrifice for humankind. As Christ had a divine father and a human mother, so Earendil, as a representative of the two kindreds of Elves and Men, has an elven, immortal mother and a human, mortal father. As Christ said to Pilate, describing his mission in John 18:37, “To this end I was born into the world”, so Earendil is described by Ulmo (the god of the waters), “For this he was born into the world”. As Christ sacrificed his life to gain mercy for humanity, and is said by Paul in Galatians 3:13 to have “redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us”, so Earendil risks his life in a dangerous voyage, a “peril I will take on myself alone, for the sake of the Two Kindreds” (Helms 39-20).

In the lines of the Crist of Cynewolf, following the “Eala Earendel” which so inspired Tolkien, the hero-star is described in Christ-like terms:
Lo! thou Splendor of the darkness, fairest of the angels sent to men upon earth, thou Radiance of the Sun of Righteousness, bright beyond the stars, Thou of Thy very self dost illumine all the tides of time! Even as Thou, God begotten of God, Son of the true Father, didst ever dwell without beginning in the glory of heaven, so Thine own handiwork is in its preset need imploreth Thee with confidence that Thou send us the bright sun, and come in Thy very person to enlighten those who long been covered with murky cloud, and sitting here in darkness (Helms 38).
Similarly, Tolkien’s Earendil, himself an echo of the pagan Earendel, Aurvandil, and Orendil, and the Christian Christ, is described in The Silmarillion by Eonwe, herald of the gods:
Hail, Earendil, of mariners most renowned, the lookes for that cometh unawares, the longed for that cometh beyond hope! Hail, Earendil, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon! Splendour of the Children of the Earth, star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant in the morning! (Helms 39)
Many eons, however, lapse between Melkor’s fall from heaven and the god’s salvation of the Elves and Men from his dominion on earth. In this interval, there arise kingdoms and cities in Middle-earth (the region of the earth, corresponding to Europe and Western Asia, in which much of Tolkien’s writing is set), which rival at times Melkor’s dungeons and strongholds. Although they can never utterly defeat him on their own, the Two Kindreds, as the Elves and Men are called, wage battle after battle against this evil power. The balance of power fluctuates: for a time, Melkor is held at bay, until his forces breach the barricades that restrain his expansion and he must be contained again. The body of The Silmarillion deals with this period, the time when there still existed noble Elvish realms and yet they were never secure. Of the tales that comprise that body, the three that were written first, successively, in the 1910’s, can be seen to arise form clearly defined mythological sources.

The first of these is “Of Beren and Luthien”, which deals with the immense love of a mortal man, Beren, for the immortal elf-maiden Luthien. Together they pass through great peril to retrieve for Luthien’s father, King Thingol of Doriath the bride-price that he demands: a Silmaril, one of the three ancient, beautiful and holy jewels, the Silmarils (hence, “The Silmarillion”, the tale of the Silmarils), which Melkor had stolen and set in his iron crown. Beren initial captivation with Luthien in a re-enactment of a common pattern in Northern Europena legend. Wandering in a forest, he comes upon her dancing, whereupon “he fell into an enchantment” (Tolkien Silmarillion 165). Indeed it is an archetype that Tolkien had utilized previously in The Silmarillion, when recounting the meeting of Luthien’s parents, Thingol the elf and Melian the Maia. The ancient model is a familiar one “a man who comes across elves in a forest is likely to find himself enchanted, if not worse” (Helms 13).

”Of Beren and Luthien” abounds with further mythological connections, especially parallels to the Welsh tale The Mabinogion, which also tells the tale of a love-struck hero who must succeed in a dangerous quest in order to win the hand of a princess in marriage. Here the lady in question is Olwen, the unattainable daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, a powerful ruler. Although she loves the legend’s hero Culwch, she cannot marry him until he, like Beren, can bring back to her father the results of an impossible quest. Among the demands of Ysbaddaden are:
the cup of Llwr son of Llwtrion…thou shalt not have it of his won free will, nor canst thou compel him…The hamper of Gwyddnew Long-shank..He will give it to no one of his own free will, nor canst thou compel him…The horn of Gwlgawd Goddodin…He will not give it of his own free will…The harp of Tiertu…The birds of Rhiannon…The Cauldron of Diwrnach…The tusk of Ysgithrywyn Chief Boar…The blood of the Black Witch…the bottles of Gwddolyn the Dwarf…” (Helms 16)
The list goes on for eight pages, seemingly a near hopeless mission. King Thingol makes a similar demand:
Bring to me in your hand a Silmaril from Morgoth (Sindarin for “dark enemy”, another name for Melkor)’s crown, and then, if she will, Luthien may set her hand in yours. Then you shall have my jewel, and though the fate of Arda (Earth) lie within the Silmarils, yet you shall hold me generous.” (Helms 18)
More similarities arise once Culwch and Beren set out on their quests. Both heroes enlist the help of a great king: Culwch is assisted by King Arthur, and Beren by King Finrod Felagund. Both carry an identifying ring: Culwch uses his to be allowed into Ysbaddaden’s castle, Beren, to be allowed into King Finrod’s city of Nargothrond. Both are aided by a great dog: Culwch is helped by King Arthur’s dog Cafall, who helps kill Ysgithrywyn Chief Boar, and Beren is helped by the valiant hound Huan, who kills the great werewolf of Melkor, Carcharoth. Both quests require the capture of a magical blade from a powerful figure to reach their success: Culwch must retrieve for Ysbadadden the sword of the giant Wrnach, who will never give it up, and Beren must steal the knife Angrist from the Elf-lord Curufin, in order to cut through Morgoth;s iron crown and remove the Silmaril. And both missions end in triumph: the hero returns against overwhelming odds to claim his treasure, his princess bride (Helms 17).

Another of Tolkien’s earliest stories, written in 1917, is Narn I Hin Hurin, Sindarin for “The Lay of the Children of Hurin”. The author consciously based the lay on the crude medieval story of Kullervo in the Finnish mythological poem the Kalevala, saying that it was “an attempt to reorganize…the tale of Kullervo the hapless, into a form of my own” (Carpenter Letters 214). Also called “The Tale of Grief”, “Narn I Hin Hurin” tells of the tragic fates of the children of Hurin, his son Turin and his daughter Nienor (Foster 362).

Kullervo, the mythological basis of Tokien’s Turin, is born after a great battle, in which his father Kalervo is killed. He grows up in the house of his noble uncle Untamo. While there, he makes repeated mischief, until his disgusted guardian sends him to Ilmarinen, who puts him to work as a cowherd. Kullervo soon quarrels with Ilmarinen’s wife, and turns all of the cattle into bears and wolves, which kill her. He then flees from his master’s wrath, but later returns to his own people. There he attempts to seduce a young girl, and is rejected by one and then a second. Changing his tactic, he sees a third maiden and forces her bodily into his sled. He tempts her with a hoard of wealth, and she relents and spends the night with him “in merry-making”. In the morning, they belatedly exchange names and realize that they are brother and sister! Horrified, the girl drowns herself and Kullervo falls on his sword (Helms 6-8).

The life of Tolkien’s Turin greatly resembles that of Kullervo, the main difference being in their respective characters. Kullervo is a lustful murderer and bully, but Turin is a noble figure, a victim of a curse that Melkor put upon the family of his father Hurin (Foster 270). He (Turin) too is born after a great battle, Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Sindarin for “Tears Unnumbered”; Foster 373), in which Hurin is taken prisoner. As a child he is sent to live in the house of King Thingol of Doriath, his great, great uncle in-law (Beren being the cousin of his grandfather; Foster 565). In Doriath, he kills Saeros, a member of the royal court who begrudges Turin the honor that he had received as the king’s foster son, and who had attempted to ambush him. Turin flees, and becomes an outlaw, and, after much ill fortune, settles with the people of the Haladin, a kindred not far removed from his own (Foster 506-507).

Present by now in the tale is the dragon Glaurung, with whose introduction it begins to resemble other tales of dragons, the Elder Edda and Beowulf. Glaurung is the malevolent force responsible for Turin and Nienor’s Kullervo-like incest, as it was he who “laid a spell of utter darkness and forgetfulness on her, so that she could remember nothing that had ever befallen her, nor her own name” (Helms 9). So amnesiatic, and mad with fear at the sight of this terrifying and evil creature, Nienor is found by Turin, who pities her and names her Nienel, or “Tear Maiden”. They have not seen each other since their childhood, and so do not recognize each other. In time they fall in love and are married, and she is pregnant (Foster 507).

Soon after, Glaurung attacks the land of the Haladin. Turin, like Beowulf, volunteers to go forth against the dragon alone. He kills him in a scene reminiscent of Sigurd killing the dragon Fafnir in the Elder Edda. Sigurd digs a great trench across the dragon’s path, and lies in wait there, so that when Fafnir crawls over the trench, he stabs his from below. His cowardly partner Regin flees during the fight. So too, Turin, abandoned by his fearful companion Dorlas, hides in a deep and narrow gorge and thrusts his sword through the belly of the dragon lying above (Helms 10).

At this point the tale resumes its mirroring of the Kalevala. Nienor finds out her husband’s indentity, and her own, not from Turin, but from the dying Glaurung. Like Kullervo’s sister, she casts herself into a river. And Turin’s death occurs in much the same way as Kullervo’s. The Kalevala recounts that Kullervo:
Grasps the end of his broadsword,
Asks the blade the simple question:
“Tell me, O my blade of honor,
Dost though wish to drink my life-blood,
Brink the blood of Kullervoinen?”
Then his trusty sword makes answer,
Well divining his intentions:
“Why should I not drink thy life-blood,
Blood of guilty Kullervoinen,
Since you feast upon the worthy,
Drink the life-blood of the righteous
Kullervo then kills himself. So Turin:
drew forth his sword, that now alone remained to him of all his possessions, and he said: “Hail Gurthang (the name of the sword)! No lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee. From no blood wilt thou shrink. Wilt though therefore take Turin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?” And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer: “Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly…I will slay thee swiftly.”
Turin then kills himself, ending his ill-fated life (Helms 11).

The last of the three tales in The Silmarillion that derive from mythology, “Of Tuor and the fall of Gondolin”, is the most catastrophic. The name of the fallen city, “Gondolin”, is Sindarin for “rock-hidden” (Foster 219). This city is situated in a secret mountain vale, and is sealed so that few ever enter of leave it, and so it flourishes even as, outside its walls, one by one every other elven realm falls to Melkor. The king of Gondolin is the elven Turgon, his daughter is the princess Idril, and his nephew and councilor, Maeglin (Foster 219-220). Amthough Maeglin loves Idril, she feels nothing for him (Foster 273). Instead she marries Tuor, a man who had been sent to Gondolin by Ulmo the god of the waters to warn Turgon that destruction was imminent. Turgon does not heed the warning, but Tuor remains, rises in the king’s graces, and marries the princess (Foster 503-504). Maeglin’s unrequited love turns to lust and jealousy, and although once straight-hearted, his integrity fails completely- he betrays Gondolin, revealing to Melkor the location of the secret mountain pases needed to enter it, whereupon it is overrun by the armies of the enemy (Foster 316-317). Gondolin is razed, and its people are slaughtered, but a small remnant of its population escapes, and with them Tuor, Idril, and their son…Earendil (Foster 273).

”Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” contains many parallels to another account of a city’s fall, Homer’s Iliad. Tolkien’s hero, Tuor, can be seen as a reflection of Homer’s warrior Achilles, who is also in the special favor of a deity of the seas, Thetis, his mother. Maeglin, the tale’s antagonist, brings to mind Paris, who is willing to risk everything in order to posses Helen, the beautiful and sought-after woman who is akin to Idril. Each tale has a king- the Iliad’s Agamemnon and “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin”’s Turgon- both of who receive a warning of an approaching war. Playing but a small role in Homer’s work is Odysseus, who later undertakes a vast journey, his legendary return home. Similarly, there is one very significant character in “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” who is too young to have any large part in its story, Earendil, who later saves the people of the world from Melkor with a later journey of his own (“Comparative Mythology- Tolkien’s Gondolin”).

The two tales are alike in their recurring themes as well. The first that they share is an overwhelming lust, which drives a character to insane lengths: Paris kidnaps and fights a war for the object of his desire, Maeglin reveals to his city’s enemy the information that he needs to destroy it, and with it his loved one, her husband, and her child. This leads us to a second shared theme: destruction, brought about by the passion of a mad leader or powerful figure. A last, lingering motif is the interference of the gods. It is the god of the sea who warns of Gondolin’s doom, and it is a fallen god, Melkor, who destroys it. The gods are similarly involved in the destruction of Troy sending messages in many forms to the warriors, and choosing sides during the battle (“Comparative Mythology- Tolkien’s Gondolin”).

After the destruction of the elven kingdoms, of which Gondolin was the last, and Earendil’s voyage and plea for mercy, the gods wage the War of Wrath, in which they vanquish Melkor, and expel him from the earth, ending the First Age of the World. At this time the gods raise an island in the western sea and give it to the men of the three houses that remained faithful to the elves and never served or worshipped Melkor. These men inhabit their new land and name it Numenor, a Quenya word resembling “west-land”. As recorded in “A Description of the Isle of Numenor” in the Unfinished Tales, it is an exceedingly fertile and beautiful land, shaped like a star and abounding in mineral, vegetable and animal resources. Numenor becomes the most powerful realm of its time, and its people are enriched by godly gifts of wisdom and longevity. They are placed under one ban however: they are forbidden to sail west and seek, as Earendil did, Aman, the immortal continent that is home to the gods (Foster 383).

So thwarted, the Numernoreans sailed not west but east, becoming great mariners and building and expanding their maritime empire. Although they originally come to the men of the primitive lands they explore as teachers and bearers of gifts, the subtly change, eventually arriving as conquerors and exactors of tribute. They grow dissatisfied with their gifts- their lands, their wealth, and their human mortality, each person fearing and dreading his or her death, and desirous of the immortality possessed by the elves and god. Here they misunderstand the nature of their own transience: it was in truth a gift, envied by the immortals, who grow tired of the world yet remain bound to it (Foster 382-383).

The Numenorean dominion continues to expand, clashing inevitably with the major dominator of Middle-earth at this time, Sauron. Originally a lieutenant of Melkor, Sauron was not destroyed along with his master, and he had by now created his own evil realm, Mordor. An emerging, but not yet entirely secure, power, he is in time attacked by the proud Numernorean legions. Sauron surrenders, and, taken back to Numenor as prisoner, he creates more damage than would have been possible through open warfare alone. With his tools of flattery and deceit, Sauron rapidly rises in the favor of the Numernorean people and king. Working with their resentment and misinterpretation of their gift of mortality, he sours all that remains of the Numenorean relationship with the gods. So powerful is his influence that only 57 years after his capture the king of Numenor leads a fleet of ships against Aman (Foster 383).

At the moment that this armada, this display of insolence and pride, lands in the deathless land of Aman, Eru, the creator and God to whom those that are called “gods” are but servants, sinks the island of Numenor back into the sea from which it had arisen. All of its inhabitants, excepting a small group of “The Faithful”, who flee in a fleet of ships that they had prepared ahead of time, drown. Numenor is thereafter called “Atlante”, Quenya for “downfallen”, and its tale is recounted in that attatchment to The Silmarillion, the “Akallabeth

Of all of Tolkien’s works, the “Akallabeth” is clearly the most calculated a retooling of an ancient myth. The ‘real’ story of Atlantis, the sunken island that Tolkien recalls, stretches back to Greek times. Plato, in his Timaeus, retells an even older Egyptian story, in which the “great and wonderful” island empire of Atlantis attempts to conquer the entire Europe and Asia. The city of Athens, backed by the goddess Athena, successfully opposes the invasion, “But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods, and in a single day and night of misfortune all…(the)warlike men in a single body sank into the earth, and the islands of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea” (Helms 65). Tolkien blends the Atlantis myth with another tale of man’s over-reaching: the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. His Numernoreans desire not only conquest but godliness, that is the immortality, the endlessness and permanence that the gods had (Helms 67). Their punishment, too, is immediate and severe.

Although the literature he created was distinctly his, J.R.R. Tolkien made extensive use of the mythological material to which he was repeatedly exposed during his education and career. The Silmarillion and the Unfinished Tales contain many examples of these sources, his mixing of the original, often simple, morbid or crude, which his own moral and character-driven elements. That product which he, time after time, aimed to create was, as Tolkien himself out it, “‘high’, purged of the gross, and fit for the …mind of a land long steeped in poetry” (Carpenter Tolkien 90). Judging from the fascinating connection between his published works abd the myths that they resemble, yet alter, it is fair to see that he succeeded.


  • Carpenter, Hunphrey, ed. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981
    Tolkien, The Authorized Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981

  • “Comparative Mythology- Tolkien’s Gondolin”.

  • Foster, Robert. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth. New York: Ballantine Books, 1978

  • Helms, Randel. Tolkien and the Silmarils. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981

  • Tolkien, J.R.R. The Silmarillion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981
    Unfinished Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977

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