‘Fantasy’s just made-up stuff, though, isn’t it.’
Ah, if only it were that simple, it would be far easier to write. Let’s think about it for a second. Did Tolkein simply make it all up? Or did he, as a Professor of Anglo-Saxon, manage to distill a lifetime of research and knowledge into an epic narrative that succeeded in speaking first to the English, then Europe, and then the entire world?
For me, it’s the latter. That is the monumental achievement that even today has readers’ jaws smacking the floor in wonder and awe. He captured a “lost past” for us and brought it back to life… through mere words. For the main legacy of the Anglo-Saxons was linguistic – most archaeological evidence of their wood-based culture has rotted away of course.
Tolkein could have chosen to write a dry treatise on the Anglo-Saxon vocabulary that still survives in English today – and he would have had precious few readers had he done so. Fortunately for us, however, he decided to recreate something of the life, dreams, agonies and culture of the Anglo-Saxons instead. He resurrected the Anglo-Saxons for us, breathed fresh life into them and introduced us to them. And helped us see that we wouldn’t be who we are now without them…[and the rest of the article is hosted here: http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2014/04/the-greater-fantasy-a-guest-post-from-a-j-dalton/]