Investigating J.R.R. Tolkien's Many Inspirations While Writing 'The Hobbit'
Celebrating 80 years of Bilbo, Gandalf, and the One Ring.
Where did author J.R.R. Tolkien come up with his incredible world and characters? What were his artistic inspirations? His novels (including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) gained the writer immense fame, millions of fans, and an everlasting legacy as the chief authority on wizards, dwarves, and, seemingly, every other fantastic creature we dream of meeting as children (and, ahem, adults).
Now, 80 years after the first printing of The Hobbit in 1937, let's take a look back at Tolkien's process. Where did he look for inspiration and reference when creating Middle-earth? Maybe the next Tolkien is out there right now, reading the author's words and imagining another fantasy world we'll read about in years to come. Once upon a time, it was Tolkien looking for creative inspiration. Here's a small taste of where he looked:
1. Tolkien was a well-known Beowulf scholar and he called the epic poem one of his "most valued sources." The idea of a fearsome, but intelligent, dragon who resides in a place only accessible by hidden passageway seems lifted straight from it.
2. Old English sources also inspired Tolkien's inclusion of named swords and blades decorated with runes.
3. Tolkien was heavily influenced by Samuel Rutherford Crockett's novel The Black Douglas, and some believe he based Sauron on its villain, Gilles de Retz.
4. The goblins in The Hobbit were influenced by George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, and MacDonald helped shape the way Tolkien thought about the world of fantasy within his Christian faith.
5. Tolkien scholar Mark T. Hooker described many similarities between The Hobbit and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. Among them are both novels' uses of hidden symbolic messages and celestial alignments that act as maps or guides.
6. Tolkien borrowed the motif of dragons as Earth destroyers capable of killing landscapes from British Arts and Crafts leader and poet William Morris.
7. Norse mythology and Germanic philology were heavy influences on Tolkien and two of his lifelong passions. Norse mythology, especially from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, gave Tolkien many character names (Fíli, Kíli, Oin, Glói, Bivör, Bávörr, Bömburr, Dori, Nóri, Dvalinn, Bláin, Dain, Nain, Þorin Eikinskialdi and Gandálfr).
8. Norse myths not only inspired Tolkien's character names, they were his source for places (Misty Mountains, Bag End) and the idea to accompany his text with illustrated maps.
9. The personalities of the dwarves (a term coined by Tolkien, who, incidentally, also helped write the Oxford English Dictionary) were inspired by the famous works of the Brothers Grimm, including Snow White and Snow White and Rose-Red.
10. The talking bear in Snow-White and Rose-Red also gave Tolkien the idea for Beorn, and the name Radagast was reportedly inspired by the Slavic deity Rodegast.
[h/t to Wikipedia and Tumblr]