A Conversation for The Life and Works of JRR Tolkien

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 1


Tolkien's story although highly original and amazing in its scope, gets its primary plot from "The Song of the Nibelungen", a Germanic epic poem. This is odd because as the h2g2 entry states that one of Tolkien's purposes in writing about Middle-Earth "was originally intended to try to provide England with mythological creatures and traditions."
Tolkien largely does just this, even creating rich languages for his mythology, but one does wonder, if he was creating a whole English mythology, why did he copy large portions of plot from a German poem.
A poem that Wagner made into an epic opera, The Ring of the Nibelungen, 75 years prior to Tolkien's publication.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 2


Very interesting point. However, I wonder if we could even trace source material for 'The Song of the Nibelungen'; the point being that nothing is quite original and that all stories are reputed to originate from a basic set of just five original tales. I wonder if Norse epic sagas share the same similarities too - I know that Tolkein was an avid student of these, as well.


Samsmiley - smiley

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 3


Actually the Germanic writings of the time of "The Nibelungenlied" or "The Song of the Nibelungen" are Norse, and this poem was developed from oral tradition very similar to Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey".
So you are correct in stating that it has Norse beginnings; but it was also a traditional story. Just as if you asked almost any ancient Greek, he would be able to tell you about the stories of Homer, a German from the time of "The Nibelungenlied" would be able to tell you of the story contained in it.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 4


I just wanted to point out that it is not that all stories come from 5 original tales, but that at the base of every story one can see an underlining theme that is basic. In other words, there is no secret stash of stories or ever was that has the 5 stories that everything is based on. Rather, one reading a story now can see elements from other stories.
People are not referening to plot of the story, just general action: as in this is a love story, tragedy, etc.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 5


Surge! I need to tell you, for people to talk to you at your page, you need to put something there first... Just hit the "Edit Page" button to the right. If you don't do that, You can't discuss there.

-Mystrunner - Your Friendly Neighborhood ACE.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 6


>>>I just wanted to point out that it is not that all stories come from 5 original tales, but that at the base of every story one can see an underlining theme that is basic.

Ha! Surge, yes! You've expressed yourself better than I did. It's what what I meant to say myself (I wasn't for a minute suggesting that there were five 'original' stories. Although it's nice idea.smiley - smiley)

It's a bit like songwriting really; millions of songs, but when you pare it down, there are only a few 'core' themes.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 7


Although Tolkien almost certainly took some inspiration from the Nibelungenlied, it's wrong to assume that it is just a German idea. As you said yourself, it's GERMANIC, which is significantly different to German.

As previous posters have commented, the poem would have derived from an oral tradition, one which would have been shared by other Germanic peoples, including the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons certainly knew of these legends, with slight variations.

SO, although the Nielungenlied itself is German, the underlying stories are as much English as they are of anywhere else.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 8

Otto Ill

It is important to avoid confusion between the "Nibelungenlied", from the 12th century, and its adaption in the opera tetralogy "Der Ring des Nibelungen" by Richard Wagner 600 years later. The story about the fights for the ring were taken by Wagner from the Norse "Thidreksaga", which is another version (from Saxon sources) of the Siegfried saga.

The Song of the Nibelungen

Post 9


I think Tolkien used source material from around the world to create his world ,but which pre-dated the source material he used! He was suggesting that his story was the original mythology that sources like the epic of Gilgamesh and the Nibelung etc drew upon. His story of the fall of Numenor, he said was his "Atlantis" story , having been haunted by dreams of tidal waves as a younger man . It has been suggested that tolkien drew his timeline for the mythology according to the philosopher Plato's estimation of the era when Atlantis really existed! And on a linguistic level, it is possible to understand how words change over time and therefore working backwards,to invent words which are similar and could well have existed before the ones we now know of, ie. sanskrit came after a presumed language called proto Indo-european .Tolkien was an expert, some say genius at this skill known as etymology, and its this skill that has made his world so believable. Tolkien always claimed(at least in print)that the stories were copied from the Red book of Westmarch (see the hobbit )and Tolkien enjoys suggesting the vast age of man and myth and has little time for the new narratives of the most recent two thousand years of our mythology . Ive typed way more than I planned, hope its of interest if you want to read more, why not go to the library and get T.A. Shippy, The road to middle earth. it opened new levels of understanding of the work for me.smiley - smiley

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