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The Wanderer: social context, pagan and Christian

elements, feelings of the character and influence in authors
like J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Wanderer:
social context,
and Christian
elements, feelings
of the
character and
influence in authors
J.R.R. Tolkien.


Benjamin Thorpe who said about it that it had a “considerable evidence of originality” named it The Wanderer. Tolkien was never agree with the name given by Thorpe and in 1926 considered alternative titles like “An Exile” or “Alone The banished Man”. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. even nowadays it is not totally clear.R. Leofric. pagan and Christian elements. but despite of the pressure the poem is still called with Thorpe’s title. it is extremely necessary to make an analysis as complete as possible of this poem. The most common opinion holds that the body of the poem is related as a monologue and the prologue and epilogue are voiced by the poet acting as the narrator. Tolkien. it develops the ideas of Anglo-Saxon society. Tolkien got from this kind of works and how can we recognise theses influences on his books and histories. 2º grado en estudios ingleses Cultura de los países en habla inglesa This essay is aim at explaining some different points of view of the old English poem called “The Wanderer”.R. To get this objective. It is a hard work because we do not know who the author is and even do not know how many characters appear in this poem. This means that we will consider all the options available.R.The Wanderer: social context. the social context as well as the historical. The second part of this essay will be focussed in the influences that poems of this age and this style took place in more modern authors. The Wanderer is an elegiac poem dated by some scholars around 597 (date in which Saint Augustine arrived to England) and by others in the 10 th century. it was found in the Exeter Book. he tried again in 1964 to rename it as “The Exile’s Lament”.R. In 1826 John Conybeare made a compilation of Anglo-Saxon poetry and erroneously he treated it as a part of the poem Julianna. These kinds of works are very common in Old English poetry. However. the author’s feelings and intentions and the influences that could affect him. so we only can make suppositions and try to find some ideas according to the little information we have. some scholars think that it is just a 1 .R. a good example of this idea is the influence that the great writer J. but finally in 1842 was recognized as a separate work. which was kept in the Exeter Cathedral by its first bishop. the way in that the author compounds it. There are many theories about how many characters appear in the poem.R. The writer J.

a warrior that has lost everything. Tolkien. we can find these feelings in the entire poem. In the main body of the poem it is possible to get all the information about how feels the wanderer. the main body and the epilogue. “All earth’s kingdom is wretched. but in the conclusion it is possible to recognise them clearly: “It will be well with him who seeks favour.R. who had a glorious past with his lord. loneliness and his distress. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. friends and family but now has not got anything and remembers nostalgic how blissful he felt.R. the world beneath the skies is changed by the work of the fates”. The character is always speaking about sadness. 2 . where for us all stability resides”. but there are some clear examples with these phrases: “All delight has gone”. Due to this.The Wanderer: social context. comfort from the father in heaven. “The wise warrior must consider how ghostly it will be when all the wealth of this world stands waste”. It is possible to know the ideas that will be developed in the poem just with the beginning: “He who is alone…” These words introduce us to the poem showing that an stereotype of character and feelings are going to be described. the prologue. pagan and Christian elements. The entire poem contains Christian and pagan elements. soliloquy and also there is a group that believe there could interact even three persons. it is possible to find three differentiated parts.

especially in language. for example. buildings. it was the evolution of the Ingvaeonic that was a German dialect. the use of plants and medicines was treated by Christians as witchcraft. during this age is easy to find a lot of proofs of this “christianisation” because there are many pagan and christian elements invading all rests of Anglo-Saxon culture. so this situation leaded in a mixture of words and even nowadays it is possible to find Latin influences. Romans were not always fighting with Vikings. Vikings were continuously attacking them and finally Romans were expelled from Britain in 410 AD. Anglo-Saxon people destroyed almost all Roman buildings made of stone (only have survived some ruins of fortresses and walls) and replaced them with their own wood constructions. but now it is time to introduce ourselves in the context that involved it at the moment of its creation historically and culturally. But it is easy to discover that Roman culture left its legacy in the Anglo-Saxon society. and introduced their own traditions finishing completely with Romans’ ones. Tolkien.R. they called their own language with the name of “Englisc” (“sc” in Old English were pronounced as the “sh” in Modern English is). Their language was the Old English. it is the base of the modern English we know nowadays. this can be interpreted as an opposition movement to the ancient German and Scandinavian culture of Anglo-Saxon people. but in 597 Saint Augustine arrived to the islands sent by the pope Gregory and started the Christian conversion finishing the enterprise in 616 with the death of the king Ethelbert. this is evident. but there is a period of coexistence between this pagan culture and Christianism.The Wanderer: social context. A good example of this replacement of cultures could be the buildings. some of these people tried to deal with them because it was more profitable and safe for their own families. they conquered the islands but never paid much attention on these territories because they thought it was a terrible place to live and there were not natural treasures like gold or gemstones that could increase the wealth of the empire. Anglo-Saxons arrived to England and brought their own religion and gods. These “barbarians” (Romans called them with this name) were settlers that emigrated from some places of Germany (Angeln and Saxony) and Netherlands (Jutland). feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. It is clear that they brought to the country their own culture. At this point of the essay it has been possible to know about the structure of the poem and what is it dealing on. pagan and Christian elements. Great Britain was initially Roman. language and religion.R. It is possible to think that before the 3 .

specifically The Wanderer has to do with the feelings of this type of character that only lived for the battle and his overlord and now he is homesickness without illusions. destiny. according to this. this is a reliable theory because in this age only priests were able to read and write and were the only ones who had access to manuscripts and libraries in churches. but always taking care about not generalize or get wrong ideas. these type of heroic poems never speak about farmers.R. this is the reason why we find in this work the theme of this age: the warriors. pagan and Christian elements. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. Most of old English manuscripts and works must have been modified by Christians. we have to remember that this is only literary. the author composed the poem some centuries before its recompilation in the Exeter Book. arrival of the Christian religion to England.. only treat about glorious battles and the skills and relationships between the heroes and their lord and what was their way of life. carpenters or fishermen. Tolkien. fate. not when it was written.The Wanderer: social context. Firstly it is necessary to situate ourselves in the moment in which the poem was created. Returning to the poem. These concepts (wyrd. it is easy to understand that it was very important for people to have a lord who protected them. monasteries and cathedrals. Of course that it brings us closer to the manners that governed Anglo-Saxon people. But we cannot think that this was the way of life in the community. The poem reflects the Anglo-Saxon culture because this is an age full of wars between Anglo-Saxons and Normans.) are completely opposite to Christian religion because the pope of Rome defended that God 4 . than being lonely in this society full of problems and battles. we only have the literature that has been conserved from this period of time. Anglo-Saxon believed in an afterlife due to the rests found in tombs that contained grave goods and even skeletons of dogs or horses or human slaves next to their died masters or lords. they were responsible of the recompilation of all the wisdom and history of the moment. the fate and destiny that were present in warriors and Scandinavian and German pagan cultures. it is always treating about a pagan theme: “the wyrd”. The Wanderer is a poem that makes us to think about the possibility of this theory concerning the modification of the original works.R. when Christianism had not arrived to England yet and pagan culture was dominating the islands.. it was much more important belonging to a community that would provide you security and home.

R. These types of works served as a way of inspiration for a lot of modern authors. Tolkien). it is possible to find again pagan and Christian elements in his books. he wrote an essay about monsters in the epic poem Beowulf. how is it possible to find in the poem Christian elements? Most probably is that a priest was charged of its transcription to the written paper and Christian elements were introduced by him in order to continue with his religious beliefs. he even invented the languages. In 1936. One of these known and famous writers is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (J. traditions and history of all the races that lived in the middle earth (it is the continent where The Lord of the Rings develops the epic adventure) this name is based in the concept that 5 . He mixed styles and skills from the epic poems from this age. his origins were German. he was an expert in this area and he spent his whole life creating an English mythology based in Nordic. It is not a coincident the similar aspects of Tolkien’s works with the Anglo-Saxon culture. pagan and Christian elements. respecting the poem but introducing them without alter the main idea. Tolkien. This book was acclaimed and he promised to continue the history. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. an imaginary world. a “thief” that was contracted by a group of dwarves in the company of a wizard (Gandalf) and how he obtains the Ring of Power.The Wanderer: social context. This is the reason of his deeply catholic convictions. so it is impossible the believe in the destiny or the fate. one of the poems that influenced him all his live. His first published work was “The Hobbit” in 1937 it related the fantastic adventures of Bilbo Bolson. this essay was called “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”. he started to write The Silmarillion in 1917 and it deals about a fantastic history of how was created Arda.R. He did not create only an entire world. in the middle of a war between good and evil. It was published in 1977 by his son Christopher Tolkien.R. due to this. an epic adventure that assimilates all the values and skills of Old English epic poems mixed with fantasy and fiction. Tolkien was born in 1892 in the city of Bloemfontein in South Africa. then.R. the great creator of The Lord of the Rings. At twelve years old he was orphaned and his aunt and a priest were charged of his education. so in 1954 – 1955 was published his greatest work: “The Lord of the Rings”. writer and professor in the University of Oxford. was the big creator and his wishes were who guided us in our way through the world. He was philologist. but he lived in England. who recompiled all notes and information that his father left after his death in 1973.

pagan and Christian elements. It is strictly necessary to pay attention in the “ubi sunt” and “tempus fugit”. why he used them? It is so easy. the capital of Gondor. wise but unlearned. after the manner of the children of Men before the Dark Years”. where lives Theoden. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. Denethor is the seneschal that lives there while the legitimate king is in the exile. German had of the world. bold but not cruel. In the Lord of the Rings. generous in thought and deed. and Minas Tirith. we can imagine that Tolkien was describing us how Anglo-Saxon people were if we consider the manuscripts that have been found of this age and making similarities with Rohirrim. warriors and servants living in a close community. writing no books but singing many songs. for example the hall. he would not have lost against the Normans of William the Conqueror and Anglo-Saxon culture would not have been modified as it happened.The Wanderer: social context. the lord of Rohan.R. tried to describe people in the Anglo-Saxon age with his books. two terms that are alive in The Wanderer in the entire poem and we can find clearly that the famous writer used them as a source of inspiration as we can see in these two pieces: In the poem. There is only one difference between this people and the Anglo-Saxons: the horses. Tolkien uses all the features found in Old English epic poems. the place where they could rest and stay with their families after the brutality of the battle and share their experiences in a full camaraderie. Tolkien always hated the changes that affected Anglo-Saxon when they were conquered by Normans and he knew that in 1066 if Harold II in the battle of Hastings would have had cavalry. Rohirrim were brave warriors and very powerful in the battle because of these animals. Tolkien. These images are found in both human fortress in The Lord of the Rings: Medusel. a big continent surrounded by water. for example. but they are true-hearted. The hall is treated in these poems as the lord in his castle surrounded by all his knights. the wanderer made reference to this feeling like this: “Where has the horse gone? Where the young warrior? Where is the giver of treasure? What has become of the feasting seats? Where are the joys of the hall? 6 . Tolkien.R. as if it was their home. but if Tolkien wanted to represent Anglo-Saxon people with Rohan. he treated eorlingas (warriors from rohan) like this: “They are proud and willful. Due to this.

feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning? Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?” As we can see the similarities are evident between the Old English poem and The Lord of the Rings. but we must consider. Gimli and Aragorn are contemplating the barrows on the hill. At this point of the analysis we have to emphasize in one of the main characters of Tolkien’s work: Gandalf. this character has the same skills than Gandalf. Legolas. vanished beneath night's cover. the mailed warrior! Alas. Alas.R. or Merlin from the King Arthur. as we have seen before. Tolkien. and the red fire glowing? Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing? They have passed like rain on the mountain. when Gandalf. this character has been compared with the Norman god Odin. the physical aspect is the same. an exiled warrior without lord and home that is continuously moving searching new adventures. and the bright hair flowing? Where is the hand on the harp string. his purpose was to create the own English mythology. Väinämöinen is defeated and thrown to the sea. Aragorn starts to sing a song in rohirrim language that is very similar to the extract that we have seen before in The Wanderer: “Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? Where is the helm and the hauberk. something that is very similar to what happened in the Lord of the Rings between Gandalf and Saruman. Gimli and Legolas arrive to Medusel in order to speak to Theoden about Saruman’s betrayal. the prince's glory! How that time has gone. and is an ancient powerful wizard that has to fight versus the young wizard Joukahainen.R. just as if it had never been!” In the work of Tolkien. the bright cup! Alas. This character is named as “the grey pilgrim”. both wizards have their power in the voice and after fighting to each other. and in this scene he is trying continuously to leave Gandalf in a bad place. where he will be rescued by an eagle. like a wind in the meadow. firstly he reproaches the wizard that why 7 .The Wanderer: social context. this aspect makes us to remember again the poem The Wanderer. the days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow. pagan and Christian elements. when Gandalf. Grima Wormtongue is Theoden’s servant but hi is working for Saruman. We can find more resemblances in this character with Old English poems. that Tolkien was not only inspired in this poem. but there are much more similarities with Väinämöinen Runoya from the epic Finnish novel Kalevala. Aragorn. for example.

R. he created an entire mythology. because we cold not know how they were and lived without them and a lot of great works like The Lord of the Rings perhaps would never have been written. An author that even lost his friendship with C. are like a treasure. He only tried to represent the continuous fight between good and evil acclimated in a mythological environment full of fantasy and at the same time. Grima tells that calamities are behind Gandalf like crows. crows are related to bad news and disasters. and ill news is an ill guest they say. and compares him with one of them. in the English tradition crows were symbol of hope. Master Stormcrow? 'Láthspell' I name you. Tolkien. It is for this reason why the manuscripts that have been conserved and anonymous works dated from that age. but Tolkien is a very good expert in English culture and although it seems to be an insult. make Anglo-Saxon culture more alive and introduce us to those people. Gandalf Stormcrow? Why indeed should welcome you. but the reality is so different. the 8 . in this age of difficulties. Lewis. a world. but there are a lot of modern works that have influences from this age and this culture. One of the most important authors that was in love with this culture was Tolkien.S. but it is possible to find again a big Old English influence in Tolkien in the next words from Grima to Gandalf: “Why should I welcome you. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J.” In this piece of text.The Wanderer: social context. If Norman would not have conquered the Islands.R. Ill-news. even languages. we usually do not realize it. he does not bring with him an army instead of his words. It is not a simple coincidence because the Nordic god Odin is always surrounded the crows Huninn and Muninn so this is another argument that remembers us the way in which Tolkien was inspired when he wrote his greatest work. some people even said that he was nazi and that he was representing the World War in his books. maybe he was labeled of nazi because of his religious ideas. pagan and Christian elements. maybe this culture would have survived more time and their manners and ways of life would have been more alive than they are nowadays. Anglo-Saxon culture has served as a way of inspiration for a lot of authors. but he was an extreme catholic person that always criticized the two forces. he has been always criticized because people thought that he was writing for children. In the tradition.

 An invitation to Old English and Anglo-Saxon England Mitchell.H.W. Ed. 2003  Imagining the Anglo-Saxon past: the search for anglo-saxon paganism andanglo-saxon trial by jury / Eric Gerald Stanley. S. Michael N. John Oxford University Press .R. Volume 1.php?id=2360  Brewer. and wizards: exploring the wonders and worlds of J.php  http://www.dor-lomin.  http://www.anglo-saxons.php  http://www. Cambridge: D. but that was very jealous of the success of Tolkien. 01/2005  Hobbits.anglo-saxons. Tolkien's "The Lord of the rings" . 2000 Internet references:  http://www. January 4. Norton & Company. Stanton. with the same style and genre than him.. 111-113  Church in Anglo-Saxon Society Blair. Bibliography:  The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 2006. 8th Edition.htm  http://www.R. feelings of the character and influence in authors like J. by M. creator of the Chronicles of Narnia. Inc. elves. pagan and Christian et al. Bruce Oxford: 9 .The Wanderer: social context.