In his published materials, Tolkien rarely ever directly mentioned by name any philosophers or literary theoretics he might have been influenced or outright inspired by in forming his own views on the origin, nature, and purpose of myth, imagination, and literature as presented in his essay On Fairy-stories. However, as an Oxford Don, he must have been well acquainted with the theoretical-philosophical work of one of the greatest British literati and, I daresay, progenitor of the fantasy genre in the Isles, Samuel Coleridge. Anyone conversant with Tolkien’s lore who starts reading Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria must be stricken by how much these two Oxbridge alumni had in common, despite living the span of Bilbo’s life apart, starting with shared inspirational philosophical and theological sources (for example, Aristotle, Aquinas, Henry Newman), critical interest in a number of the same works and writers (such as Shakespeare), ascribing the same value to poetry as the highest form of art, and the need to look at things anew, similar views on sound symbolism, and finally also similar theological views, especially regarding the role of art as a kind of evangelisation tool and the relation of artistic activity to God’s creativity. This paper aims to explore some of the aspects of Tolkien’s literary theory that are seemingly rooted in Coleridge’s so much that they made some critics deem Tolkien’s theory a revision and an extension of Romanticism principles as defined by the Lake Poets.


The paper was presented at the 6th Tolkien Conference at Károli Gáspár University, Budapest, Hungary on 25 June 2022.

The paper is a part of a project KEGA 009UKF-4/2022 - Poetry as lingua franca – effective approaches to teaching poetry as a vehicle for personal growth within the context of international cross-cultural communication



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