Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Under the influence

I've always been a Tolkien fan (not sure whether that's cool or not nowadays), so I read Brian Appleyard's article in the Sunday Times about the forthcoming release of a new volume, The Children Of Hurin, with interest.
It's good stuff, but it annoyed me in one respect, namely when Appleyard claims that the main influence on the story is Wagnerian. Now I'm no expert on The Silmarillion and that side of Tolkien's invented mythology, but I'm pretty sure that the whole Turin story (which forms the heart of this new edition) took its lead from the Finnish Kalevala. Even more importantly, when he did use Germanic myths, Tolkien certainly took nothing directly from Wagner. Instead, both drew from the same sources, with the difference being that Tolkien generally knew them at first-hand, in their original forms. He had a pretty low opinion of the composer, particularly the way in which he allowed Teutonic myth to be used for rather dubious German nationalist purposes.
Elsewhere, I'm still going at NaPoWriMo2007, with variable success. Yesterday was a bit rushed, but the weekend did produce a couple of pieces that might go somewhere with a little work.
On the birding front, you can catch up with things at the Bird Watching blog. Nothing spectacular, but in addition to what's mentioned there, there are a few Curlews around on my patch at the moment, apparently breeding. I hope so. They're always favourites of mine.


Kirk Wisebeard said...

True... a lot of the Silmarillion does take its lead from Kalevala, but there is definitely something Teutonic about the whole Hurin cycle... especially the Narn-i-Hin Hurin, or Tale of the children of Hurin, which bears some striking similarities with the Sigfried cycle and the Nibelunglied.... Turin's betrayal by fate, killing his best friend mistakenly, fathering a child on his own sister without realising it.... even down to the killing of Glaurung/Fafnir the Dragon... other parts are less easy to reconcile.... the parallel story of his cousin Tuor, for example... though I'm no expert...From what I remember, where JRR took the Kalevala as his start for the rest of Quenta Silmarillion, he used the Finnish epic as the older, more "Elvish" part of the story, the part where myth turns to legend (although, in Tolkien's world, even this is within living memory of some of the characters in LOTR...) and "blurred in" the "newer" Teutonic story to show the more "modern" Mannish part of the story, where legend starts to become history... but I agree that this makes the story of Hurin and Huor, those ill fated brothers, and their offspring Turin, Tuor and Niniel, Teutonic rather than wagnerian.... mind you, thinking further... it is during this period of the silmarillion that things start getting even darker for men and elves... the very moment when men stop being subservient to the elves and attempt to do great deeds against a foe far beyond them.... to their ultimate destruction... could there be a hint there that Tolkien preferred the purer Finnish myth, and blamed the coarser Teutons for submerging them?? That he held the Nibelunglied noble, but not mythic?? Who knows... maybe I just have too much time on my hands....

Matt Merritt said...

Yes, you do!
Glad to have things cleared up by someone who knows - I admit I've never actually finished The Silmarillion.
But it doesn't alter the fact that Tolkien didn't draw anything directly from Wagner - instead he would have been familiar with all the source material as it appears in the Eddas, and so on.