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Beowulf as a source text for Tolkien's monsters


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Šoltić, Nina. (2015). Beowulf as a source text for Tolkien's monsters. Diploma Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature
Department of English Language and Literature. [mentor Pavličić, Pavao and Ciglar-Žanić, Janja].

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In my thesis I will discuss the influence of the Old English poem Beowulf on J. R. R. Tolkien and his works. My focus will be on comparing the monsters of Beowulf to those of The Lord of the Rings, but I will also mention Tolkien‘s other works like The Silmarillion and The Hobbit. I will draw comparisons between Grendel and Gollum, Grendel‘s mother and Shelob, and the dragon of Beowulf and Sauron. As a special case,I will compare the dragon of Beowulf to that of The Hobbit because those two have the most in common. Tolkien‘s Smaug owes much to the dragon of Beowulf. I will use Vladimir Propp‘s Morphology of the Folktale as a theoretical background for a few interesting instances of a character playing two roles at once. Furthermore, I will discuss Tolkien‘s essay The Monsters and the Critics in which he claims that monsters are the most important part of the epic poem as they demonstrate the protagonist‘s physical strength and wisdom. Here I will explain how the weakest monster is fit for the beginning of the protagonist‘s warrior life, and how the strongest one is fit for the end of that life. The emphasis will be on the fact that the first monster stands for physical sin and the last one for psychological sin. The weakest monster only seeks to satisfy its physical needs, such as hunger. The strongest one, on the other hand, seeks to satisfy psychological needs like greed and pride. I will also mention how the monsters represent the evil side of heroic life, and how the fight against them is actually a fight which the hero leads against himself. There is good and bad in every hero and by defeating the monsters, he defeats the bad side of his own self which, in turn, makes him a well-respected warrior. Thus every fight described in Beowulf represents a psychological victory of the protagonist‘s good side, which makes him a better warrior and later king. Tolkien transferred that same inner fight into his stories.

Item Type: Diploma Thesis
Subjects: English language and literature
Comparative literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Department of English Language and Literature
Supervisor: Pavličić, Pavao and Ciglar-Žanić, Janja
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2015 11:31
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2015 11:31

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