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  1. Comments on Tolkien, David Jones, and the God Nodens

    Please use this thread to share your thoughts on Carl Phelpstead's Scholars Forum essay 'Tolkien, David Jones, and the God Nodens'.

    Many thanks to Professor Phelpstead for sharing a very illuminating essay with us. I personally had not been familiar with David Jones before, and am certainly grateful for the introduction. It's certainly interesting to see how others of Tolkien's generation engaged with the fascination of the past on the edges of history. And I particularly liked the focus on the (direct or indirect) influence of what's generally seen as one of Tolkien's minor works of scholarship - the Nodens essay - in other works of the day. (Unfortunately I wonder if the essay is now rather more inaccessible than it used to be, despite its reprint in TS: with the decline in the study of Greek and Latin, an important doorway to the grammatical aspects of the essay is lost.)
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  2. Aye, thanks indeed!

    I have little to add to what LotR has already said. Like him, I think the focus on Tolkien's less known scholarship is very interesting, and fortunately interest in this seems to be rising: Phelpstead's own book, Tolkien and Wales, quite naturally has much to say about Tolkien's O'Donnel lecture, English and Welsh, and Verlyn Flieger has written about his early work on the Finnish Kalevala.
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  3. Lilu Olnathron's Avatar
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    #3
    Has it been considered that Nodens could also be Njrr?

    Sometimes spelt as Njord, Njrr is a member of the Vanic tribe of Gods. A god of fertility, the wind, the sea and its riches, he was often invoked before setting out to sea on hunting and fishing expeditions. He is also known to have the ability to calm the waters as well as fire. As well as being a fantastic mediator, he is said to be a generous god and grants his follows "just enough" to ensure they always have what they need.

    Njrr is father of Freyr and Freyja, who were born when he was said to be married to Nerthus, an Earth goddess. In some sources, Nerthus is said to be Njrr's sister.

    After the Aesir/Vanir war, Njrr was sent to to the Aesir to help form a truce and was wed to Skadi for a short period. It didn't work out [1]. Skai (Skadi) is a a Jotunn (giantess), seen by some to be a goddess of bow-hunting, skiing, and winter. When Skadi’s father was killed by the Aesir she was granted three acts of reparation, one of which was to let her choose a husband from among the gods. She was allowed to pick her new husband but the choice had to be made by looking only at the feet. She had a thing for Baldr, but picked Njrr by mistake, assuming his feet were Baldr's. Njrr and Skai could not agree on where to live. She didn’t like his home Natn at the Sea, and he didn’t like hers Trymheim, in the mountain with large woods and wolves, so they lived the first half of the year in Natn and the other half in Trymheim. Njrr is said to be one of the Gods who survives Ragnark, according to stanza 39 of the poettic Edda, Vafrnisml.

    The sea monsters and fish around the discovery described in the essay remind me of this deity a lot.

    The root of the Vanic gods, seems to date back to the times of the Germanic Tribes (i.e. the Cimbri). As they migrated, it would be natural for them to specify and adapt existing legends and beliefs to develop their own deities. A clear example of this would be Wotan/Woden/Odin, but there are many more that are a bit trickier to put together. Ultimately the "Celts" and the "Norse" all stemmed from one ancient people, and their gods would be very similar. I've seen burial mounds in Sweden and Denmark that are identical in style to ones in Ireland and Cornwall, so early belief systems would appear to be quite alike.

    [1] Snorri Sturluson, Eddas

  4. Saranna's Avatar
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    #4
    http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/reviews...cle1232964.ece

    I don't know if this will be of interest in this thread, but the TLS has an article about David Jones this week - maybe useful just as background?
    Remembering halfir by learning more each day

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  5. Lilu, while there were certainly a lot of connections between Germanic speaking peoples and Celtic speaking groups (of many sorts: common linguistic and cultural heritage, as well as repeated and various contacts over the course of millennia - not to mention common contacts with other cultural groups of northern Europe), Njǫrr and Nodens can't originally have been the same. For one thing, linguistically the names don't match. Njǫrr is from a Proto-Germanic form *Neruz (interestingly recorded in Tacitus as a goddess Nerthus). This in turn seems to come from a Northwest Indo-European word *nertus meaning 'strength'. The ordinary Welsh word today for 'strength, might' is nerth, a direct equivalent.

    Nodens, on the other hand, comes from a pre-Celtic form *neud-ents. The root, *neud, is directly cognate with English net, and its original sense seems to have been 'capture, obtain for one's own use': Tolkien ends his 'Nodens' essay with a comment about 'the ancient fame of the magic hand of Nodens the Catcher'. If he had had a Germanic form, it would have been something like *Neutandaz, Norse *Njótandi.

    So while they look a bit similar in their most famous forms, and both have a connection to the sea (though this is a little tenuous for Nodens, and possibly secondary for Njǫrr), they aren't the same in either form or meaning. And they don't seem to share any of their most prominent traits: Njǫrr is most known for the tale of his marriage, and Nodens for his hand. So aside from their original non-identity, it's unlikely that the two were ever conflated to any really significant degree.

    For what it's worth, while some of the individual gods later called Vanir seem to be pan-Germanic, the concept of the Vanir as a group seems to be specifically Norse, and thus post-Common Germanic. Also, I'm curious about the idea of Óinn being a result of contacts in any meaningful way. His popularity certainly seems to have spread throughout the Germanic world relatively late, but the forms of his name correspond as if a Proto-Germanic god *Wōanaz underwent normal phonetic development in each corner of the Germanic world, and most of his principal attributes appear to be connected to the etymology of his name. That is to say, he looks like a Germanic deity who had 'always' been around, but whose popularity might have seen a relatively late upswing. This is both a bit nitpicky and off-topic, but too interesting not to comment on!
    It is laden with history, leading back into the dark heathen ages beyond the memory of song, but not beyond the reach of imagination.

  6. Lilu Olnathron's Avatar
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    #6
    Thank you for clearing that up Lord of the Rings! Very informative. As for your latter remark concerning Odin, it's quite a kettle of fish to investigate! I'll be having a good look at all of that at some point, but at the rate I'm going at the moment, it may not be until later this year. I've just spent 2 weeks looking at the Eostre/Bede conundrum... *shudders* :-)

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