Tolkien’s medieval middle-earth


Dr Elizabeth Baldwin, academic

J.R.R. Tolkien is now known as the author of The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings, works so influential that one critic could say: ‘His example created a genre almost single-handed’. He was, however, primarily a philologist and medievalist, first at the University of Leeds and then for most of his career at Oxford. Tolkien draws on both medieval language and literature in creating his world of Middle Earth. He saw himself as rediscovering and reclaiming the forgotten genre of the heroic legend of Northern Europe. At the same time, he was also engaged in teaching, translating and commenting on medieval literature. This course examines how the medieval works he studied and taught influenced Tolkien’s creative work.



  1. Monsters and critics: language vs literature
  2. ‘He esteemed dragons’: The Hobbit and Beowulf
  3. The failure of the hero: Sir Gawain, Frodo and ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth’
  4. Mythology, not allegory: The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings
  5. A fairy story for adults: The Lord of the Rings

This course will be offered on the Microsoft Teams platform. Participants will be sent a link.

Recommended reading: (any editions of the following works)

Tolkien, J.R.R. 1936. ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’. London: The British Academy. (Most easily found in: Tolkien, C. (ed.). 1997. The Monsters and the Critics and other essays. London: HarperCollins.)

Tolkien, J.R.R., 1991. (1937) The Hobbit. London: Harper Collins.

Tolkien, J.R.R., 2003. The Lord of the Rings London: Houghton Mifflin.

Tolkien, J.R.R., 1977. The Silmarillion. London: Allen & Unwin.


Date: 1822 January
Time: 9.15 am