Wagner and Tolkien: Mythmakers

Renée Vink

Cormarë Series No. 25

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Wagner and Tolkien: Mythmakers

"Both Rings were round and there the resemblance ceases", wrote J.R.R. Tolkien about the rings in his epic The Lord of the Rings and Richard Wagner's opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung. Or did he? The answer is not as straightforward as many Tolkien fans believe, whether they agree with the statement or consider it misguided. Nor is the statement itself as transparently defensive as some Wagner buffs suggest.

Much has been said and written about Wagner and Tolkien, a subject that tends to generate a certain amount of heat, mostly due to the former's controversial status as Hitler's favourite composer. But until now the various, often contradictory opinions and the facts and perceptions on which they are based were rarely discussed at length or analysed in depth. The publication in 2009 of Tolkien's The Legend and Sigurd and Gudrún with its partly Wagnerian content reinforced the need for a systematic treatment of the subject. This book offers one.

There is more to both Rings than their common roundness, and the resemblance between Tolkien and Wagner goes beyond a Ring of Power and some narrative elements: they shared a number of preoccupations and interests – Nature, nation, the North, death and immortality, language and above all, myth. This is a book about the two great mythmakers of their times, and about what they have in common despite everything that separate them.

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Table of Contents:

Introduction

The Master and the Professor - Wagner and Tolkien

Part One, Two Round Rings

Chapter 1, A Conspiracy Unmasked?
1.1. A Ring of Power
1.2. Two round rings
1.3. How well did Tolkien know Wagner?

Chapter 2, Searching for Sources
2.1. A list of similarities
2.2. 'Faint and disparate echoes'
2.3. Common sources

Chapter 3, What has it got in its pocketses?
3.1. No
Birzer / Bratman / Spear / Müller / Scott Rohan / Ridpath
3.2. Yes
Hillard / Shippey / Haymes / Bayreuth and sundry / Ross, Kasper, and sex / The racism card, Schwartz & Arvidsson / Hate-speak
3.3. Deliberately
Hall / O'Donoghue / Spengler / 'Thief Tolkien'

Chapter 4, Other Approaches
4.1. The evils of power
Werner / Luke, and Ross again / What power? / Views of evil / Fear of the end
4.2. A poisoned imagination?
Chism and the poisoned sources / From myth to history

Chapter 5, Conclusion

Part Two, Myths, Fairy Tales and Endings

Chapter 6, Romanticism and Mythmaking
6.1. Introduction
6.2. National myths
Tolkien in England / Wagner in Germany
6.3. Modern myth

Chapter 7, Nature and its Defilement

Chapter 8, A World too Much? Fantasy versus (Stage) Drama
8.1. Myth and drama
Dramatic narrative / Faërian drama / Visual representation
8.2. Fantasy drama
8.3. Music, words and the invisible stage

Chapter 9, Tragedy, Elegy, Eucatastrophe
9.1. Tragedy versus comedy
9.2. Revolution versus restoration
9.3. The end of myth
9.4. The end of the world?

Chapter 10, Conclusion

Part Three, The Amateur and the Professional

Chapter 11, Sources and Resources
11.1. Pure and adulterated northernness
11.2. Sigurd versus Siegfried

Chapter 12, Language
12.1. Words, grammar and syntax
Tolkien's archaisms / Attack and defence / Wagner's archaisms / Wordplay / Philological jests / Kennings
12.2. Alliterations
Stave rhyme rediscovered / Some technicalities / Wagner's verse / Tolkien's development / Rhythm and patterns
12.3. Proverbiality

Chapter 13, Narrative Elements
13.1. The Ring and the Legend – correspondences
Introduction / From the beginning to Ragnarök / Baldr / The solar hero and the Saviour / Odin and Wotan
13.2. The Ring and the Legend – differences
Assorted differences / Characteristic choices / Half-brother and full brothers
13.3. Solving a conundrum: The ring at the core
The sources / The botched tradition / The ring of fire / Did they do it?

Chapter 14, Conclusion

Afterword

Bibliography

Index of fiction

General index

Announcements

Wagner/Tolkien studies reviewed in Beyond Bree (3rd March 2013)
New publication – Wagner and Tolkien, Mythmakers (20th June 2012)
Upcoming publications (30th January 2012)

See also our page on Tolkien and Wagner

 

 
300 pages, Walking Tree Publishers 2012, Cormarë Series No. 25, ISBN: 978-3-905703-25-2.
 


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