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The Fanes' Saga - Researches on the legend

Wolff and J.R.R. Tolkien: an uneasy comparison


Over one year ago, Norbert Spina, a Tolkien devotee belonging to the Proudneck clan, who also is an enthusiast of the Fanes, arose my attention by his lecture that compared Dolasilla with Eowyn, the fighting princess of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. We recently exchanged our opinions further, opinions that don't exactly coincide, so that I resolved writing down a short synthesis of what I have in mind, in the hope that he - or other experts as well - may find the time and will to widen the argument and/or answer back, possibly on this very site. In the meanwhile, Norbert has made the text of his lecture available to everybody: you can find it here (in Italian!).


My reasoning starts from Tolkien's deep knowledge of old anglo-saxon poetry (Beowulf, Arthurian cycle...), as well as of the German and Finnish mythology, of which he often made the most both by extracting ideas for specific episodes, and by deriving the general ambiance of his Middle-Earth, that perfectly fits them. More exactly, Tolkien's cycle is wonderfully built so that it can represent the mythical antefact of the history of the "real" world. I mean that, had Tolkien's tales really happened at the very beginning of mankind, the layers of the anglo-saxon mythological world as we know it today would be but their straightforward consequence, from dragons elves and orcs to the gods of the Walhalla and even to the Christian God!

This suggests me the proposal that one of Tolkien's purposes may have been that of re-enlivening the ancient anglo-saxon legendary world, by creating a new epos able to transcend it, but not as a contradiction, on the contrary embracing it in its entirety.

From this point of view, it seems to me that a comparison with Wolff can clearly be advanced, notwithstanding their obvious differences: both Authors strive to recreate the spirit of an ancient mythology they are deeply in love with, but Tolkien can build his literary work upon rich folkloric bases that are well-assessed and stable, while Wolff must begin his labour by looking for them among the ruins of popular memory. In his anxiety to recover the epos and the poetry he wants to find out at all costs, he - maybe unconsciously - idealizes his findings, and therefore modifies them, and partially destroys them, just at the same time as he brings them back to life.