An exploration of Tolkien's changing visions of Faërie through his non-Middle-earth poetry

Penelope Anne Holdaway
2021
Faërie, being the realm or state in which fairies have their being (OFS: 32), was a central element to Tolkien's fantasy literature, artwork, even his academic teaching, yet little attention has been paid to how his vision of this concept changed over his lifetime. This might stem from the fact that much of the academic work on Tolkien has focussed on Middle-earth, a world which by necessity is constrained, for a successful imaginary world requires keen and clear reasons for its form and
more » ... n and overall consistency (OFS: 5). Although often neglected by scholars, Tolkien's non-Middle-earth poetry serves as an important resource to rectify this deficit in scholarship for: i) it falls outside his legendarium thus allowing Tolkien to give full reign to his imagination; ii) Tolkien continued to write poems throughout his lifetime allowing scholars to examine different phases of his exploration of Faërie; and iii) he often revised or rewrote poems at different stages in his life and the subtle changes in imagery and language point to changes in his vision of Faërie. This thesis analyses the themes, language, and folklore of Tolkien's nonMiddle-earth poetry, arguing that it is possible to see three sometimes overlapping phases in Tolkien's changing vision of Faërie: an initial phase when he explored who and what the fairies were, a second divergent phase where Tolkien at once studied the worlds and poetic styles of the medieval works he taught at Oxford yet also used his Faërie poems to protest the excesses of modern living, and a third phase where he increasingly merged his Christian beliefs with his concept of Faërie. It concludes by demonstrating how Tolkien utilized the threads generated in his poems to form his final image of Faërie, Smith of Wootton Major, revealing how his non-Middle-earth poetry acted as a kind of sandbox for his construction of Faërie.
doi:10.5525/gla.thesis.83263 fatcat:xc7tqzn6a5at3ejgcraakx4qdu