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Tolkien Mythology

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"Tolkien Mythology" and "the legendarium" are both terms for the entire system of connected, fantastical stories that exemplify the beliefs and philological expertise of J.R.R. Tolkien. These stories make up what is canonical as well as "precanonical" in all published works of his.

For an explanation of the variants of the qualifiers "canon" and "precanon" on this Wiki, see LOTR:Canon.

These stories are not true, but much of them are founded in some sort of fact about the natural world or as a way of explaining a natural phenomena. J.R.R. Tolkien, who intended his works to be a creative legendarium for the continent of Europe, created it. "A single, fictional, imaginary, fanciful world" is a correct way to describe the legendarium, so use of the grander and wider term "fictional universe" should be halted. Legendarium is a more accurate term for the mythology of the The Lord of the Rings and of Tolkien's other works concerning Middle-earth - when the term legendarium is used, it represents both the final, canonical lore of Middle-earth and lore that is precanonical or semi-invented (such as Tolkien's writings of Eriol and Kullervo).

Tolkien's great mythological tales of Middle-earth are meant to be taken fictitiously, as an ancient history of the Earth, particularly of Europe, from several thousand years before the modern era. The world Middle-earth is actually supposed to be a fictional period in our Earth's own past 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. Tolkien's large book, the Legendarium, is often called "Middle-earth mythology".

Mythological Roots of Tolkien's LegendariumEdit

It is a well known fact that Tolkien had an interest in the mythology and linguistics of Northern Europe specifically that of the Germanic people, namely the pagan mythologies of the Norse and English peoples. The other main influence was Finnish Mythology; it having played a major role in the creation of The Silmarillion.

Many of these influences can be seen in the languages; the language used for the Rohirrim was substituted by Old English (the language that English is derived, known as English at the time), and the language spoken in Dale and Esgaroth, Old Norse, which is the language of the epic sagas and poems of the Norse .

Many of the events such as Smaug's awakening and rampage, the finding of the ring and the reforging of Narsil all have parallels in Germanic Mythology. The epic poetry of Northern Europe's heathen past such as 'Beowulf' and 'Völsungasaga' have been cited as influencing Tolkien and his legendarium.

The rampage of Smaug could be seen to be inspired by the English Epic Poem 'Beowulf', in which a cup is stolen from the sleeping wyrm. The dragon then leaves his cave for revenge before being defeated by Beowulf (who dies in the act).

The One Ring has been said by many to be inspired by the ring in the Norse sage of the Völsungs, and its later German version, the High Medieval 'Nibelunglied'; however comments by Tolkien make it unclear as to whether it was a reference to the 'Völsungasaga' or not. Alternatively the ring could be based on a ring of invisibility from Greek Mythology.

Éowyn's disguising as a man and many tales of 'Shield-maidens' and ’Valkyries’ from the myths of many Germanic people likely inspired her to fight alongside her kinfolk.

The thread of mythology runs so deep that even the name of the continent, Middle-earth has its origins in the North's Mythology. The name derives from the Old English 'Middanġeard' (Middle-Yard, meaning middle enclosure) which latter became the Middle English Middel-erde (meaning now Middle-earth rather than the older sense of Middle-Yard, though it should be noted that in this case it is applied to the same meaning, that of the land of men).

This name for our world has cognates in the various other Germanic languages, was known in Norse as ‘Miðgarðr’ (rendered as Midgard in Modern English), and is cognate of the Modern German 'Mittelerde'.

The World of ArdaEdit

The World of Arda, created by Eru Ilúvatar from his thoughts and the spirits Ainur, are all the wonderful creations of the great fictional genius J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote the books The Lord of the Rings and the famous "The Hobbits" both of which contain adventures led by important mainstream characters that appear in both the volumes, for example, Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo Baggins, etc. J.R.R. Tolkien even upholds the fact that some of the Hobbits that have survived through the ages are still present and "still linger in the North-West of the Old World, East of the Sea."

But what this wikiPage is trying to address is compressing all the small historical elements and events that have taken place in the course of time since the creation of the Ainur by the God, Eru Illuvatar, or known as "the One".

The Creation of Arda Edit

Main article: Ainulindalë

The Creation of Arda can also be attributed to Eru Illuvatar, the One. He is the God in Tolkien's Universe. Arda is also known as Eä, which means in elven-tongue: To be.

Originally Eru, from his thoughts, produced angelic spirits, all good in nature, and asked them to sing to Him a melodious tune, to which he added his own splendourous themes, which defined the changes and events that will take place on Arda after its approaching manifestation. One of the Ainur, or the great angelic spirits produced by Eru's thoughts, was Melkor, later called Morgoth, who was evil, and ultimately from whom all evil stems on the plains of Middle-earth and Arda as a whole. Melkor introduced his own evil discords into the main musical theme which disrupted its harmony. Eru put a stop to the music at once, and manifested it immediately.

Some of the Ainur were surprised by the grandeur of this new creation and were obviously attracted to it and wished to experience, so did Melkor, but with wholly different purposes. Eru granted the Ainur with the choice of living in Arda or staying with him in the Timeless Halls, free of physical form and time itself. Some of the Ainur chose to enter Arda, and so did Melkor. Eru's first intentions during the Ainulindalë, or the music created by the Ainur, also called the First Music of the Ainur, was to create a somewhat symmetrical world, flat in nature. But Melkor's discords marred it beyond repair and is supposedly what created the vast mountain ranges and hills.

The Ainur that entered Arda were called the Valar (in singular, a Vala). Melkor was a Vala. The leader and most powerful of the Valar was Manwë. Melkor, or Morgoth was also the most powerful Valar during those times, before his reign as Dark Lord over Arda. Under the Valar, were less powerful spirits called the Maiar, amongst whom Sauron was one, the main antagonist in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson and in the books. Maiar were often categorized to specific Valar leaders, each Valar given a particular skill, carried out by the Maiar below him. Sauron was the leader amongst the Vala Aulë's Maiar, whose specific skill was Smithing. Thus Sauron gained a lot of knowledge through his interactions with Aulë and the other Maiar.

The Physical State of Arda (Eä)Edit

Arda, after its creation was originally flat in shape, containing mainly the continent of Middle-earth and Aman to Extreme West, also called the Undying Lands, where the Valar lived and later on where the Elves lived during the dawn of the Dominion of Men. When the King of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn tried to reach the Undying Lands as a way to become immortal, due to the corrupting powers of Sauron and Morgoth, Eru Illuvatar, at the request of the Valar, removed the entire continent from Arda and reshaped it into a sphere, which is the shape of the Earth today.

Even though Aman was removed from Arda, and all paths on Arda are now bent, there remained a straight path across the sea that only the Elves or those granted special access (like the Ringbearing Hobbits Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, along with Gimli) could travel. In this way those allowed to take this path were able to travel outside the realm of Arda and so pass to Aman. Because this path was only open to the Elves, the mortal races of Middle-earth (Men, Dwarves, Hobbits etc.) were unable to ever again come within sight of the Blessed Realm during life.

Dagor Dagorath (The War of Wars)Edit

It was not explicitly mentioned by Tolkien or in any of his texts (but he did speak of the End of Arda, in form of an ultimate Battle of Battles), but his eldest son of three, Christopher Tolkien mentioned in books like "The Shaping of Middle-earth", of a certain Dagor Dagorath or The War of Wars that would define the End of Arda, and would consist of a Great Battle between the Forces of Light and Darkness, namely the Valar and the return of Morgoth and Sauron from the Door of Night.


The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien said, was a book created with the theme of Death integrated into it. The story gives people a wider perspective into the dangers of greed, malice, lust and power-hunger symbolically through the image of the One Ring.

Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee are two of the characters in The Lord of the Rings who show a willful acceptance of death much before their time, seemingly experiencing memories during their travels to Mordor of never having a return journey back, implying their impression of dying after destroying the One Ring in the Crack of Doom. They return, only for Frodo to leave with Gandalf and Bilbo to Aman or the Undying Lands where Frodo passes away, accepting Eru Illuvatar's Gift.

Samwise Gamgee also makes this journey Westward to the Undying Lands after living a happy life with Rosie Cotton and conceiving many children.

Tolkien tries to imply the fact that every one of us must accept Death as a Natural part of our Lives on Arda, and must not give into the immoral aspects of Life, brought about due to the Dark presences of Morgoth and Sauron. Tolkien even, as explained above, attributes Arda as not another fictional dimension of the Earth, but a set of actual events happening about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago in our own history.


Tolkien Mythology is told largely in the following books:

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