•  
  •  
 

Abstract

In “Orphic Powers in Tolkien’s Legend of Beren and Lúthien,” I consider three interrelated strands that influenced the development of Tolkien’s most precious story: Tolkien’s own life experience, sources from classical mythology and medieval literature, and the hope inherent to the Christian faith, especially for resurrection and eternal life, as symbolized in the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. This study suggests that Tolkien’s relationship to his wife, Edith, inspires the legend and renders it a psychological allegory. Three Ovidian tales from classical mythology that were later re-told in medieval literature also influence it: the rape of Philomela, the self-sacrifice of Alcestis, and the love-story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Finally, Tolkien interweaves symbolism from the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, especially as it was developed in the fourteenth-century dream vision, Pearl, and transforms it in his Silmarils. The Silmaril that Beren prised from the iron crown of Morgoth will eventually find its place in the heavens above Middle-earth, where it is called the Morning Star, a clear allusion to Christ, who is the apotheosis of Tolkien’s Christian faith.

 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.