The Making of an English Mythology; from Reality to Fantasy and back again, 1917-1954: Tolkien’s Creative Years.

Following his recovery from the Somme and ‘trench fever’ on his return from France in 1916, Tolkien was determined to create an entire mythology for England. He had hinted at this during his undergraduate days at Oxford when he studied and wrote of the Finnish ‘Kalevala’:

“I would that we had more of it left – something of the sort that belonged to the English.”

This idea now grew during his recuperation until it reached ‘epic’ proportions. This is how Tolkien expressed it when recollecting many years later:

“Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen), I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large to the cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story – the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths – which I could dedicate simply: to England, to my country. “

J. R. R. Tolkien & Birmingham, 1896-1916: The Formative Years, Part One (to 1908) – Middle English

The South African Prelude – Beginnings in Bloemfontein: Arthur Reuel Tolkien and Mabel Suffield (pictured above in the family group), both from Birmingham, were married in Cape Town Cathedral on 16th April 1891, after which came an exhausting railway journey of nearly seven hundred miles to the capital of the Orange Free State. Less thanContinue reading “J. R. R. Tolkien & Birmingham, 1896-1916: The Formative Years, Part One (to 1908) – Middle English”

Who are the Ukrainians? Mythology & History, Part I, 862-1796: Kyivan Rus & Cossacks; Great Powers & Empires.

Fake History & The Russian World-View: “As you know, this conflict did not start today. It is my firm belief that its initiators are not the peoples of Russia and Ukraine, who came from one Kievan baptismal font, are united by common faith, common saints and prayers, and share common historical fate.“ In a 10Continue reading “Who are the Ukrainians? Mythology & History, Part I, 862-1796: Kyivan Rus & Cossacks; Great Powers & Empires.”

Bible Battles & The ‘Ascent of Man’: Nineteenth-Century Sceptics & Critics – Religion, Philosophy & Science.

Victorian Britain – An Age of Conformity? For many people in the early twenty-first century, the title ‘mid-Victorian Britain’ conjures up an image of church-going, sabbath seriousness, packed pews and the head of the household, invariably the father, questioning his progeny on the points of the morning sermon. The very word ‘Victorian’ has passed intoContinue reading “Bible Battles & The ‘Ascent of Man’: Nineteenth-Century Sceptics & Critics – Religion, Philosophy & Science.”

Scenes from Baptist History: Persecution of the Puritans, Evangelical Revival & William Carey, 1662-1812.

Persecution of All ‘Nonconformists’, 1662-87: It was not until 1687 that the dissenting or ‘nonconformist’ churches felt able to look back upon ye Times of our late Troubles since the Act of Uniformity in 1662 had taken away the relative toleration they had experienced in the Interregnum. The Presbyterian minister Richard Baxter (1615-91) had takenContinue reading “Scenes from Baptist History: Persecution of the Puritans, Evangelical Revival & William Carey, 1662-1812.”

More on Poetry & History: The Middle Marches of Wales, the Welsh Bards & the Love Poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym.

The Conquest of ‘the Middle March’ & The Mortimers, 1240-1330: Searching for the history behind the legend of the ‘Massacre of the Five Hundred Bards’ entails a more detailed understanding of the nature and events surrounding ‘royal Montgomery’ and what became known as ‘the Middle March’, including the lands held (often temporarily) by the MortimerContinue reading “More on Poetry & History: The Middle Marches of Wales, the Welsh Bards & the Love Poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym.”

Welsh Bards & Hungarian Balladeers: Imagining the Past – Poetry & History.

Wars of Independence: In 1857, the legendary martyrdom of the courtly poets of Wales by Edward I was used by the nineteenth-century Hungarian poet János Arany to serve as a parable of resistance to another Empire after the ‘heroic’ uprising and war of independence of 1848-49 in his native country. Arany’s poem, Walesi bardok (The Bards ofContinue reading “Welsh Bards & Hungarian Balladeers: Imagining the Past – Poetry & History.”

The End of Saxon England? Revisiting the Norman Conquest, 1035-1135: Chapter II – Castles, Abbeys, Cathedrals & Churches.

Knights, Barons & Castles: The knights who served William ‘the Conqueror’ were armed in many respects as their English opponents, wearing mail hauberks and conical helmets, and carrying kite-shaped shields, lances, swords and maces. If battlefield tactics were dominated by the mounted knight, the strategies of war were increasingly subject to the powerful influence ofContinue reading “The End of Saxon England? Revisiting the Norman Conquest, 1035-1135: Chapter II – Castles, Abbeys, Cathedrals & Churches.”

The End of Saxon England? Revisiting the Norman Conquest: Chapter I – The Confessor, the Conqueror & the House of Wessex, 1035-1135

The Tragedy of Harold Godwinson: The story of the Norman ‘takeover’ of England has been told very often, most vividly in one of the earliest accounts in the form of Queen Matilda’s tapestry, still kept in Bayeux, which gives it the name it is better known by. French legend maintained the tapestry was commissioned andContinue reading “The End of Saxon England? Revisiting the Norman Conquest: Chapter I – The Confessor, the Conqueror & the House of Wessex, 1035-1135”

Afghanistan – ‘An Anatomy of Reporting’; Twenty-Five Years On: 1996-2021.

The BBC Journalist John Simpson had won the Richard Dimbleby award in 1991 and the News and Current Affairs award in 2000 for his coverage, with the BBC News team, of the Kosovo conflict, when he was asked to meet the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, in a hotel car park in Islamabad in SeptemberContinue reading “Afghanistan – ‘An Anatomy of Reporting’; Twenty-Five Years On: 1996-2021.”