Chris has alerted me to the fact that the link I posted for Laura’s comments doesn’t go in the direction I had expected, so I am posting the whole document as she sent it to me. This means that some things in the blog report will be repeated, but at least the full text will be acessible, even though the pictures still don’t transfer.
JOTTINGS ON WOLFINGS
Not all the versions of the House of the Wolfings have an intro so for information:
JRRT mentioned in his letter of October 1914 to Edith the Kalevala and that he was trying to turn one of the stories into a short story “…somewhat on the lines of Morris’ romances with chunks of poetry in between…..” (Turin?) He also wrote in December 1960 to Professor Forster that: “…..The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the battle of the Somme. They owe more to William Morris and his Huns and Romans as in the House of the Wolfings………..”
There doesn’t seem to be anything that bleak in the early chapters of the Wolfings – rather more idyllic in an idealised pastoral scene protected by warriors – although it does come out they have fought previous battles of course. Although the various tribes in the Marks are Goths, they could be idealised Victorian Anglo-Saxons or Teutons. Think Alfred’s statues or the enormous statue of Herman the German celebrating the victory of the Teutoburg forest (9AD)!
There is a lot in the THOTW that also appears in Tolkien’s work. The war arrow; a love affair between a non-human and a human; a sinister enemy; the horse culture of the Goths and Rohan; the dwarf hauberk; a war horn; Mirkwood; an emerald artefact; the mysterious origins of the Goths/men; dark haired grey eyed people.
They of course both share knowledge about the sagas etc – the thing stead for example. Also in the chapter with the Wood Sun she foresees the mead hall on fire and there is a hint of the Finn and Hengest fragment when a red light is seen through the windows of the hall (not dragons, not gables on fire but armed men coming).
At the beginning of the book, Morris starts with “The tale tells that in times long past…………”, a phrase which crops up several times. This is a scene setting which Tolkien uses as well to give the sense of history becoming myth becoming legend etc… Is it true anyway? Also that this could be a story being told in a mead hall especially with the poetry.
Like Tolkien, Morris uses older forms of words or possibly dialect words eg “drave” in the first chapter presumably to give a sense of a mediaeval romance – thinking Gawain here. Neb – I thought this was a Liverpool word. Also stithies – not a misprint for smithies but a Norse word for anvil and where an anvil if housed!
The Man’s Door and The Woman’s Door concepts are intriguing. I like the idea that men have obviously go to lower their heads, implicitly bowing to the lord! No door warden? I couldn’t work out if the Woman’s Door leads to the women’s quarters rather than straight into the hall – more weaving and sewing! All buildings need a second means of escape – perhaps there were fire exit signs – always important for a mead hall! The description of the hall is very reminiscent of Tolkien’s drawing of Beorn’s house although I don’t think there are the windows.
The description of the Thing-stead is highly similar to the sagas we read. Morris does use the word “mote” but has obviously chosen to go Norse rather than AS. Morris has also given a sense of history to the doom giving by saying it was an historic event from before settlements and that it is still honoured.
The girl Hall Sun reminds me of the maia who looks after the sun, travelling across the sky, in the Silmarillion – although she volunteered. It might not have been the Hall Sun’s choice so she might be like Eowyn – trapped in her role.
On this reading I didn’t find the poetry quite so intrusive or artificial – particularly as a welcome to the person bringing the war arrow – although if he could barely catch his breath (..gotten his breath again….! Is this an example of English crossing the pond and coming back as an Americanism??) would he be speaking in rhyming couplets?.
In the second poem by Thiodolf said to the messenger, there is a description of the work that women will have to take up – a definite pre-echo of the world wars.
I liked the reference to the Huns biting their shields which is a berserker action, recorded on some of the figures of the Lewis chess set.