Anglo-Saxon Themes

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Utulien 07/Dec/2006 at 12:54 PM
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Ok, so the Rohirrim are supposed to speak Old English. That’s known and confirmed by Tolkien himself. My question is what other things are there in the LotR and the appendicces that link Rohan with the Anglo-Saxons.
Magradhaid 07/Dec/2006 at 01:06 PM
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>That’s known and confirmed by Tolkien himself
Not really. The Rohirrim spoke a language related to the common tongue (Westron). In LotR, Westron was translated into English and the Rohirian tongue translated into the Mercian dialect of Anglo-Saxon (Old English). All the names, phrases, etc. in Old English applied to the Rohirrim are translations from the ’original’ language. For example, we have OE holbytla and Eng. hobbit, but Roh. kd-dkan and W. kuduk. I can’t really comment on similarities/differences betw. the Rohirrim and Anglo-Saxons other than linguistic as I know little about the latter, save that horses played far less an important role in their society.
Utulien 07/Dec/2006 at 02:23 PM
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Yes, really. I’ve read the appendices and know that the whole book is supposed to be a translation of the Red Book, and if you look at it that way the Rohirrim shown in the lotr is just a translation. However, since OE was substituted entirely for that language, it is safe to say that Rohirric is in fact, OE. If you read through Tolkiens letters, he refers to Rohirric as Anglo-Saxon numerous time.

But what I am really looking for here is not so much to do with the language, as historic events, common themes, and shared values, such as the mention of Brytnoth being both lord and kin to a warrior in the Battle of Maldon compared to Eowyn’s piece in the Battle of Pellenor Fields.
geordie 08/Dec/2006 at 02:26 AM
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Ok, so the Rohirrim are supposed to speak Old English. That’s known and confirmed by Tolkien himself.

Sort of.    

However, since OE was substituted entirely for that language, it is safe to say that Rohirric is in fact, OE.

Not quite -

If you read through Tolkiens letters, he refers to Rohirric as Anglo-Saxon numerous time

Actually, in all the relevant letters I’ve read, Tolkien says that the language of Rohan was meant to relate to Westron in the way that A-S related to modern English - as Tyrhael say, above. But the words the Rohirrim use are not authentic Ango-Saxon [not all of them], but ’modernisations’ as Tolkien calls them.

Tolkien was pretty adamant that the Rohirrim did’nt resemble the Anglo-Saxons - in note 6 to App. F he writes:

’This linguistic procedure does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances; a simpler and more primitive people living in contact with a higher and more venerable culture, and occupying lands that had once been part of its domain’

Now that’s what Tolkien said, and meant - as a pedantic old philologist. However, others take a different view - eg Tom Shippey, in his book The Road to Middle-earth. [ch.4 - A Cartographic Plot]. It is Shippey who coined the phrase ’Anglo-Saxons on horses’ to portay the Rohirrim.

But what I am really looking for here is not so much to do with the language, as historic events, common themes, and shared values, such as the mention of Brytnoth being both lord and kin to a warrior in the Battle of Maldon compared to Eowyn’s piece in the Battle of Pellenor Fields.

Of course, Tolkien used elements from a lot of old sources, mixed up in what he called ’the leaf-mould of the mind’ and added that if one’s training is in Language, then the leaves which go to make up that mulch must be of a linguistic nature. He used a lot of elements from Old English literature, and other Northern sources.

For example, Theoden’s bodyguard all died around him on Pellenor Fields - this is an ancient theme, present in Maldon, where Beorhtnoth’s comitatus chooses to die alongside their lord rather than be allowed to leave the field. But the idea was old even in 991, the date of the battle. Tacitus mentions this sort of thing, in the Germanic tribes he saw.

The theme you pick up - the relationship between a lord and a young warrior - is also ancient. The concept of ’sister-son [and in this case, sister-daughter] is an old English one. It’s also echoed in The Hobbit - Fili and Kili fell protecting the wounded Thorin with shield and body ’because he was their mother’s brother’. Many, many themes - the stealing of a golden cup; the approach of Gandalf and the Three Hunters to Meduseld - these too have their parallels in Beowulf. Shippey does a good job at looking at this area.

Going on to your point about echoes of Maldon in LotR - well, as you may know, Tolkien wrote a poem himself, placed after the Battle of Maldon. It’s called ’The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son’. Although a poem, it’s written also as a two-man play; and very good it is too. Tolkien recorded it himself once; in his living-room in Sandfield Rd. Excellent stuff. The poem was first published in Essays and Studies in 1953, and is accompanied by two essays - ’Beorhtnoth’s Death’ and ’Ofermod’. Two valuable contributions to Old English studies.

But I’ve gone on for some time now; and strayed off the ’language’ side. Maybe you’d like to start a thread in Basic lore to explore the connections between A-S and Tolkien’s works?

Brandywine74 08/Dec/2006 at 06:37 PM
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Well one major thing that says the Rohirrim aren’t Saxons is the fact that they are a horse culture which was not a big part of Anglo-Saxon culture at all. In fact the Saxons would be more of a sea culture than anything else. This is how they invaded Britain in the first place.

I’ve heard a theory that Tolkien made the Rohirrim a horse culture as he thought that if the Saxons had had cavalry at the battle of Hasitngs, the Normans may not have won and Anglo-Saxon culture been changed. Tolkien regarded this Norman influence as a disaster for Anglo-Saxon culture and bitterly regreted that it had happened.

geordie 09/Dec/2006 at 12:43 AM
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I’ve heard a theory that Tolkien made the Rohirrim a horse culture as he thought that if the Saxons had had cavalry at the battle of Hasitngs, the Normans may not have won and Anglo-Saxon culture been changed.

Yes, Tom Shippey says that, in one video documentary or other. But I think that’s Tom’s opinion - I’ve never heard of Tolkien mentioning it. And since he insisted that the Rohirrim _were’nt_ Anglo-Saxons, I’d think it unlikely.