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Tolkien studies

"...there is much else that may be told." — Glóin
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This article is about scholarly research. For the the journal, see Tolkien Studies.

Tolkien studies is the scholarly research of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien this includes his fictional literature and languages and his philologist research.



Tolkien's Scholarship

Tolkien's own academic research has had a great impact within the field of philology.

Tolkien wrote many of the entries under "W" in the Oxford English Dictionary and many of those entries still survive this day as he originally wrote them.[1] He also wrote the groundbreaking A Middle English Vocabulary which looked at common words instead of exotic words.[2]

His lecture titled Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics changed scholars understanding of the epic poem. During his time it was largely viewed as a historical document, but Tolkien argued that it should be examined as a literay work of art. This method of studying Beowulf is now popular today.[3]

Age of Innocence

Generally, the history of Tolkien scholarship is divided into four time periods:

  • the book reviews
  • the cult period and the fierce reactions to it
  • the acceptance of Tolkien as a literary agent
  • and lastly, the post-movie phase, featuring expanded volumes, reprints, and a wide variety of subjects.[4]

The first two periods have been summarized by Tom Shippey as the "Age of Innocence": the time before the publishing of The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and The History of Middle-earth. After the publishing of at least some of those, many musings, theories and guesses were flattened by additional information.[5] The field of literary critics taking interest was still thin, and serious academic research was rare. The first conference on Tolkien's literature was held in 1966; before that, only collected works on children's literature had picked up serious attention for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.[6]

1,800 New Entries

A major turn in scholarship was the publishing of The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien. The book included the history of things that were previously no more than a "background-word", such as Beren[7] or Gondolin.[8] Apart from many expanded entries, the second edition of J.E.A. Tyler's The Tolkien Companion included some 1,800 new entries.[9] A landmark publication of this time was Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth.[4]



Invented languages

Main article: Languages






"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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There are a number of universities and colleges that offer course work in Tolkien studies. This is a listing of some of the courses devoted solely to Tolkien studies. There are some institutions that offer Tolkien studies as part of another course.

See also


  1. Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, Edmund Weiner, The Ring of Words
  2. Margaret L. Lee, "Middle English", published in The Year's Work in English Studies, vol II (1922), pp. 41-53, esp. 42-3
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, "Introduction"
  4. 4.0 4.1 Brian Rosebury, "Tolkien Scholarship: An Overview", published in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (edited by Michael D.C. Drout), pp. 653-654
  5. Tom Shippey, "Foreword" published in A Tolkien Compass (third edition) (edited by Jared Lobdell), pp. vii-xi
  6. Richard C. West, "Tolkien Scholarship: First Decades: 1954-1980", published in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (edited by Michael D.C. Drout), pp. 654-656
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark", "Song of Beren and Lúthien"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Short Rest", Elrond explaining the origin of Glamdring and Orcrist
  9. Colin Duriez, Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings, p. 47
  10. Exploring Tolkien: There and Back Again
  11. English 318: J. R. R. Tolkien
  12. English 321: Tolkien & Oxford Christianity
  13. ENGL 227 – Tolkien and Medieval Literature