Beowulf’s Influence on Tolkien

Beowulf’s Influence on Tolkien

Beowulf’s influence on Tolkien The Anglo-saxon poem Beowulf has made one of the most significant literary and folkloric influences on Tolkien’s writing in his later years. One of the pieces that Tolkien had his inspirations from Beowulf is The Hobbit. I come to notice a few parallels in the roles of the monster and the hero between The Hobbit and Beowulf. One of the most prominent uses of Beowulf by Tolkien is the role of the monster, Dragon. In Beowulf, the dragon guards a horde of treasure in a hidden mound.

A thief from Geatland steals the dragon’s goblet, which enrages the Dragon and endangers the entire clan to be put on fire. Similarly, in The Hobbit, when Bilbo Baggins musters his courage to enter the Dragon’s lair, his first instinct is to “grasp a great two-handled cup, as heavy as he could carry…” (Tolkien 198). Bilbo’s success in stealing the cup delights the dwarves, but infuriates the Dragon to burn out the entire Lake Town. The correspondence of the Dragons demonstrates the impact the folklore has on Tolkien’s writing.

One other one-to-one parallel between Beowulf and The Hobbit is the roles of heroes, Beowulf and Beorn. First of all, their names share the identical prefix: “Beo. ” Beowulf is pronounced as “Beo-wolf”, while Beorn is pronounced similarly to “Bear. ” Secondly, as implied by their names, both of the two characters have incredible strength to defeat the foes. In the folklore, Beowulf tears off the monster’s arm as easily as blowing off dust. In The Hobbit, Beorn arrives at the battle timely, in the shape of a bear. The roar of his voice was like drums and guns; and he tossed wolves and goblins from his path like straws and feathers” (Tolkien 264). Beorn’s madness frightens most of the goblins, securing the success of the war. From Beowulf, Tolkien incorporated the idea of heroism and the differences among races present in the poem into his mythology. Composed around the seventh century, the poem Beowulf is a blend of historical events and Scandinavian legends. It is evident that Tolkien is inspired by the story of Beowulf hunting for monsters in his story of Bilbo’s adventure of retrieving the dwarves’ treasure.

In the poem, Beowulf defeats Grendel, Grendel’s mother and the Dragon both as a physical hero and a spiritual leader of the Geats; in Tolkien’s mythology, Bilbo gradually develops into a heroic character though adventures and battles against the evil Goblins, Wargs and Smaug. Another topic that Tolkien may have found inspiration from the poem Beowulf is the different races, except The Hobbit has more complex races than the poem sets. In Beowulf, people are divided into tribes and clans.

The monster Grendel suffers from the exclusion of human community, because he is the descendant of Cain, who murdered his brother and was outcast by God in the Bible. Among Tolkien’s imaginary tribes: dwarves, humans, elves, goblins and trolls differ from another physically, psychologically and morally. Elves, for example, are innately good, which is in contrast to the evil Goblins. Bibliography Beowulf: A Prose Translation. Ed. Nicholas Howe. Trans. E. Talbot Donaldson. New York: Norton, 2002. Print. Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2012. Print.