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J.R.R. Tolkien on myth making

The Hill - Hobbiton across the water
Hobbiton in the Shire, an imagined (or imaginal) location which Tolkien features as the opening setting of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. From Rarely Published Maps and Paintings by J.R.R. Tolkien Go Online

J.R.R. Tolkien, one of the most influential fantasy writers of the 20th century, was deeply interested in the creation of myths, which he called "mythopoeia." According to Tolkien, mythopoeia is the act of creating myths or mythic stories, which are essential for the spiritual health and cultural identity of a society. Tolkien believed that the creation of new myths was a vital part of the literary tradition, and that writers should not only draw upon existing myths but also create new ones.

Tolkien was heavily influenced by his study of Anglo-Saxon and Norse mythology, and he believed that these myths were an essential part of English cultural identity. In his writings, he sought to create a mythic framework for modern England that drew upon the ancient traditions of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse peoples. He felt that the creation of new myths was necessary to counteract the fragmentation and disillusionment of modern society.

Tolkien believed that mythopoeia was a collaborative effort between the writer and the reader. He felt that the writer could not create a myth in isolation but had to engage with the reader's imagination and help the reader to see the world in a new and mythic light. For Tolkien, the creation of a new myth was not just an artistic endeavor, but a spiritual one, and he saw it as an opportunity to communicate deeper truths about the world and the human condition.

In his most famous work, The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien created a richly detailed world with its own mythology and history. The world of Middle-earth is a place where magic, mythology, and legend are woven into the fabric of everyday life, and where ordinary people are called upon to play a heroic role in a grand narrative. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien shows how the creation and preservation of myths are necessary for the survival of a culture, and how these stories can inspire people to acts of great courage and sacrifice.

Tolkien's approach to myth had a profound impact on the field of fantasy literature. His work inspired countless writers to create their own mythic worlds, and his vision of the heroic journey and the importance of mythic stories continues to influence contemporary literature and culture. Tolkien's mythopoeic approach to storytelling reminds us that myths are not just relics of the past, but are living and evolving stories that can inspire us to imagine new possibilities for ourselves and our world.

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