17 May – “The Hobbit”

We began this book club by looking at the life and times of J.R.R. Tolkien and cultural influences that inspired his work. We looked at his background as a professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at Oxford, and heard the epic  poem Beowulf  recited in the original Anglo-Saxon language (together with a translation into modern English!)

We talked about works by other artists which may have had an influence on Tolkien, in particular the huge operatic cycle “The Ring of the Nibelungs” by the German composer Richard Wagner, and listened to  Siegfried’s Death and Funeral Music from the opera Gotterdammerung, the final of the four operas which make up the “Ring” cycle.

We also looked at Runes and the Runic alphabet ;  runes were an ancient Germanic writing system with which Tolkien was familiar, and incorporated into his works. Students read chapters 1, 2 and 3 for homework……An unexpected journey begins!

"Wotan visits Mime and offers him his help." Illustration to Richard Wagner's Siegfried by Arthur Rackham. 1911
“Wotan visits Mime and offers him his help.”
Illustration to Richard Wagner’s Siegfried by Arthur Rackham. 1911

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