Of Eagles, Bears and Songs of Power

by Björn Axén

This post is a diparture from the language creation of Zhâburi. which I have taken a pause of. I realized that I needed to develop the Angband Orcish. But I have for long time felt that I really needed to delve deeper into Arda. So I started to read the The History of Middle Earth (HME) by Christopher Tolkien. Having read all but the last two volumes (vol XI. The War of the Jewels and XII The Peoples of Middle Earth) I realized that I really wanted to know more about the development the Third Age which Tolkien started create when he wrote The Hobbit.* This phase  is actually not part of the HoME series but John D. Rateliff have written an excellent book (in either one or two volumes) called The History of The Hobbit (HH) which I’m currently reading.  

What is really interesting of  HH is that the author really digs deep into the sources of where Tolkien could have been inspired by in his creation of Arda. Something which Christopher explicitly chooses not to do. Quite understandable  because the shear volume of HME is vast and would probably be unworkable. 

But I must say I was a bit disappointed by two things (and I have only read about a third of the book). First the minor thing that he does not mention that the first name for the character later known as Beorn was the slavic word for bear spelled Medwed. And in addition it could be mentioned that the name of the helper bear of the Father Christmas letters named Karhu means bear in Finnish. But this is just minor details. 

What more irritating is in the discussion about sources for the Eagles. The author writes some interesting thing about the eagle as an old European symbol and how it figured in medieval ideas. 

What is really missing is references to the Finnish mythological epos Kalevale which is known to have influenced Tolkien very much. Especially his saga about Túrin Turambar in Narn i Chîn Húrin (The Children of Húrin) in which Tolkien loaned much from the story about Kullervo. And Finnish is of course a major influence for Quenya. The Author mentions Kalevala in other topics and even the similar Estonian epos Kalevipoeg (which is on my reading list).

In Kalevala the main hero Väinämöinen is rescued by an eagle several times very much like the eagles rescues different characters in Tolkien’s works. 

Another example that I find quite striking from Kalevala is how the songs are very potent instruments of power. The characters are actually battling each other with song. Very much like Finrod Felagund battles Sauron in The Silmarillion.  

* When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit it was really in the same setting as Quenta Silmarillion but after the War of Wrath and the three ages was not created yet. The forest Mirkwood was Taur-nu-Fuin. During this time Tolkien also started to develop Númenór but hadn’t connected it to the tales of the Silmarillion yet.