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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2012

“A Far Green Country Under a Swift Sunrise” — Tolkien's Eucatastrophe and Malory's Morte Darthur

from Essays
Summary

Not all stories concerning armored men on horseback, with swords and spears and pursuing high endeavor, are the same story. If they were, The Song of Roland, or El Cid, or any of Chrêtien's romances, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, (etc.), would be merely repeated narrations of that one fictive work. These tales are not solely iterations. It is nonetheless true that certain similarities pertain and that these parallels can be investigated with perhaps-interesting results. Equivalences between Arthurian romances and J. R. R. Tolkien's epic fairy-story The Lord of the Rings have been noted by others; in this essay I discuss what I have come to see as similarities in the approaches underlying both Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur and Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The congruities are less important in themselves than in what these resemblances imply: a way of approaching the Morte which differs from the tragic reading usually given to the piece by modern audiences.

Consider the plot:

A group of companions, some of them very unlikely warriors, band together to accomplish a glorious task, or (as it happens) a series of tasks. Among them is a kingly figure and a mysterious wizard. As they strive to achieve their goals, they face a variety of enemies, some of whom employ evil magic against them. The wizard appears to drop out of the story fairly early in the series of adventures. The companions persevere in the face of all difficulties, and by dint of their activities bring about a new age — but they must withdraw from what they have won and leave the remainder of their company. The chief among the companions has accomplished his assigned, essential duty, but he is not allowed to rest; wounded, he must go to another place.

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Fifteenth-Century Studies
  • Online ISBN: 9781571137623
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