Those Who Cling in Queer Corners To The Forgotten Tongues and Memories of an Elder Day' J.R.R. Tolkien, Finns and Elves
Dr. Andrew Higgins
In this paper I will explore how several historic, literary and mythic associations of the Finnish people with elements of magic, the supernatural and the 'other' influenced J.R.R. Tolkien in imbuing the character and language of his own Elves with a similar quality of magic and 'arresting strangeness'.I will explore several characterisations of the Finns, the People of Kalevala, Tolkien would have encountered in his early study of the Kalevala, several Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon texts as well as other characterisations drawn from more contemporary treatments of the supernatural elements of the Finns in Victorian and Edwardian sources.I will argue that the greatest influence of this connection can be see in two key elements of Tolkien's mythology: first in Tolkien's use of the Finnish language to create a phonetic sound-sense for his own invented language for the Elves of Qenya/Q(u)enya which would evoke a sense of 'a forgotten tongue'. Secondly, in Tolkien's early attempt to incorporate into his own mythology the character of the artisan Volundr, in his Anglo-Saxon characterization Weland, known to be both a son of a Finnish King and a 'prince of Elves' and who has survived to be one of the few known characters of the lost English mythology Tolkien was seeking to reimagine and repurpose. My paper will show how the literary constructions and mythic representations of the otherness and supernatural qualities of the Finns played its part in inspiring Tolkien to imbue his own Elves with a similar 'queer' and 'strange' quality in both their character, history and language who by the third age of Middle-earth did 'cling in queer corners' while remembering 'the memories of an elder day' until they were called back to Valinor.
Higgins, Andrew Scott
"'Those Who Cling in Queer Corners To The Forgotten Tongues and Memories of an Elder Day': J.R.R. Tolkien, Finns and Elves,"
Journal of Tolkien Research: Vol. 3:
2, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholar.valpo.edu/journaloftolkienresearch/vol3/iss2/2