Tags: Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde EssayBest Places To Publish Personal EssaysEssay On Working As A GroupAlternative Fuel Statement ThesisHelping Your Child With HomeworkCritical Thinking Test QuestionsNumber Theory Solved ProblemsWhat Makes America Great Essay Stossel
Tolkien returns to the monsters, and regrets we know so little about pre-Christian English mythology; he resorts instead to Icelandic myth, which he argues must have had a similar attitude to monsters, men and gods. The Southern (Roman and Greek) pagan gods were immortal, so to Tolkien (a Christian), the Southern religion "must go forward to philosophy or relapse into anarchy": death and the monsters are peripheral.But the Northern myths, and Beowulf, put the monsters, mortality and death in the centre.His thesis not only convinced many critics but inspired them to follow his example, with the result that Tolkien's own position has been outflanked.
Tolkien takes a moment to dismiss another criticism, that monsters should not have been made to appear in both halves.
He replies he can see the point of no monsters, but not in complaining about their mere numbers; the poet could not, he argues, have balanced Beowulf's rise to fame through a war in Frisia, against death by dragon.
The Beowulf poet uses both what he knew to be the old heroic tradition, darkened by distance in time, along with the newly acquired Christian tradition.
The Christian, Tolkien notes, is "hemmed in a hostile world", and the monsters are evil spirits: but as the transition was incomplete in the poem, the monsters remain real and the focus remains "an ancient theme: that man, each man and all men, and all their works shall die".
Similarly, he dismisses notions that the poem is primitive: it is instead a late poem, using materials left over from a vanished age: When new Beowulf was already antiquarian, in a good sense, and it now produces a singular effect. The scholar and translator Roy Liuzza commented that Tolkien's essay "is usually credited with re-establishing the fabulous elements and heroic combats at the center of the modern reader's appreciation of the poem." Liuzza at once went on to write, however, that "the separation of the poem into 'mythical' and 'historical' elements is a false dichotomy".
For it is now to us itself ancient; and yet its maker was telling of things already old and weighted with regret, and he expended his art in making keen that touch upon the heart which sorrows have that are both poignant and remote. He argues that if myth can condense and hold the deepest sources of tension between self and the social order, and dramatises current ideologies by projecting them into the past, then even the hero Beowulf's mythic fights are at the same time throwing light on society and history.
Tolkien argues that the original poem has almost been lost under the weight of the scholarship on it; that Beowulf must be seen as a poem, not just as a historical document; and that the quality of its verse and its structure give it a powerful effect.
He rebuts suggestions that the poem is an epic or exciting narrative, likening it instead to a strong masonry structure built of blocks that fit together.
He builds a tower with some of it, but when people find the stones are older than the tower, they pull it down "to look for hidden carvings and inscriptions". Tolkien notes that Ker's opinion had been a powerful influence in favour of a paradoxical contrast between the poem's supposed defect in speaking of monsters, and (in Tolkien's words) its agreed "dignity, loftiness in converse, and well-wrought finish".
Tolkien cites other critics, such as Raymond Wilson Chambers and Ritchie Girvan, who objected to the poem's "wilderness of dragons" and its unworthy choice of theme.