The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages by Brian Bates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Middle Earth was a real place or should I say time and place. Most readers have head the term before as the mythical setting for the Lord Of the Rings and the Hobbit and assume it was a fiction that existed in J.R.Tolkien’s mind. Tolkien often admitted that his sources of inspiration came from different mythologies. One of his main sources was Norse Mythology.
The Middle Earth occupied Northern Europe and parts of England. It was a time and place occupied by Vikings ,Norse Tribe s and Celtic tribes. Their mythologies and beliefs have many overlapping points in common. To these residents of the Middle Earth the forest and land was a place infused with vital lifre force and imagination. These people lived close to nature and liked being in close proximity to the spirits of nature.
Dragons as we know it are huge scaly creatures who guard treasure buried in a cave. It cannot be taken as there is no getting a gift without owing something in return. Dragon did not give it away in fact it could be said that they represented greed. One never knew when they would step on a dragon. They were underworld creatures. Who were feared even if they could not be seen. Often times Romans were seen as dragons. They violated nature’s codes and were thus punished as a result. That is why when the Norse came they avoided the remaining Roman villas despite their relative comfort.
The Earth was a place of enchantment. Rivers, trees, nights and well were all places of magic imbued with particular spirit. Elves were nature beings supposedly made of starlight. They were believed to inhabit the other world or underworld. To mess with their dwellings or run against a ley line could incur sickness or wrath. Elves infected people with elf arrows small tiny pin like objects. This would make a person sick. Some times this was combatted with a chanting of psalms and some herbs. Herbs or [plants had spirits that could help heal a person when combined with incantations and prayers. Wells often led to underground and were scene as portals to the underworld. People prayed there for health and future spouse. They left offering of food and sometimes needles so the elves could make use of them.
There were many creatures mentioned in the Lord of the Rings and in the Middle earth in general. Ravens who ate the remains of the dead were seen as being able to fly to both this world and the underworld. They were also seen as messengers. For the Celts , Ravens were associated with Morrigan and for the Anglo-Saxon they were associated with Odin. Wolves were sometimes viewed as a threat a they would attack if hungry enough and they often ate the same food as men did. Bears were supposedly a lot like humans. They walked and had round head. They would die for the winter and then revive. They were considered underworld animals and also the strongest in battle. Boars also had lots of repsect. Shape shifters would don a wolf hide or wear a token of the animal that served to connect them to the animals energy. There spirit would change shape byt not the body. Sibnce berserkers often shape shifted into a bear they could prove to be very dangerous fighters on the battle field. Odin it was said went on a wild rade to collect souls to take to the underworld.
Certain of the creatures in Tolkien’s mythos were showcased in the ancient world. Ents represented giants of the world who had fallen. We must remember that the giants gave birth to the gods and that eventually the Gods waged war on the giants and exiled them to an island on the outer reams of midgard. Dwarves made jewelery and craftsmanship, in fact they did it so well that the gods even came to them for stiuff. The giant spider Shelob has an ancient counterpart. In North Europeans Shamanism the spider is the one who takes the future shaman to the other world . A rather positive role.
Many of the elements discussed in this article were somehow featured in Tolkien’s classic works. They maybe altered a bit but if you study both the text and the Middle Earth chronicles you will see the parallels. Excellent work.
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