BOOKS THAT INFLUENCED J R R TOLKIEN

  1. Beowulf, by Anonymous
    Beowulf is a classic tale of good vs. evil that pits the hero, Beowulf, against two monsters and a dragon. Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University from 1925 to 1945 and read and wrote extensively about Beowulf and other Old- and Middle English epic poetry. Tolkien delivered a seminal lecture on Beowulf called "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" in 1936 and a hard-to-find book on the subject, “Beowulf and the Critics."
  2. The Worm Ouroboros, by Eric Rücker Eddison
    This very densely written and highly imaginative fantasy novel about a heroic King versus the Lords of Demonland was published in 1922. While Tolkien didn’t buy the philosophical beliefs put forth in the novel and denied that Eddison was an influence on his own writing, he nonetheless once wrote in a letter that “I still think of [Eddison] as the greatest and most convincing writer of ‘invented worlds’ that I have read.” The term “middle Earth” is used in the book, too.
  3. The Prose Edda, by (probably) Snorri Sturluson, and the Poetic Edda, by Anonymous
    Both of these are quintessential classics of Ancient Norse literature, poetry and mythology. Tolkien wrote about, lectured on and translated these works himself over the course of many years at Oxford University. In addition, many character names like “Gimli” derive directly from Norse mythology. “Gandalf” can be translated as “magic elf” in Old Norse and many believe that Gandalf is inspired by Odin, one of the main Gods in Norse mythology.
  4. The Marvelous Land of the Snergs, by A. E. Wyke-Smith
    Tolkien called this 1927 collection of tales about a Hobbit-like character (a Snerg) named Gorbo (who is “only slightly taller than the average table”) a “Sourcebook” for The Hobbit and read the book to his children. Read more about the similarity between Snergs and Hobbits here//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Marvellous_Land_of_Snergs#Snergs_and_Hobbits.
  5. The House of the Wolfings and The Roots of the Mountains, by William Morris
    Tolkien read these early fantasy novel reconstructions of early Germanic life as a child and was profoundly influenced by them. In particular, the name “Gandolf” can be found in these books and scholars suggest that Gollum and The Dead Marshes from The Lord of the Rings draw inspiration from Morris’s works. Fangorn forest and the character of Wormtongue are also said to be inspired by characters from Morris.
  6. The Book of Wonder, by Lord Dunsany
    Lord Dunsany was a prolific fantasy short story writer (primarily) who wrote around the turn of the 20th Century. Tolkien mentions Dunsany’s works many times in his collected letters. In one letter he talks about Dunsany’s fantasy character-naming abilities & later in life Tolkien writes fondly about Dunsany’s “Chu-Bu and Sheemish” story. Tolkien also once presented a scholar, Clyde S. Kilby with a copy of The Book of Wonder to help prepare him for his role working on Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.
  7. She, by H. Rider Haggard
    Haggard is perhaps best known for his book King Solomon’s Mines which was later made into a several Hollywood movies. But She is acknowledged as one of Haggard’s most influential works—on many writers and books that followed She’s 1887 publication. Tolkien once said in an interview “I suppose as a boy She interested me as much as anything” and also said that another Haggard novel, Eric Brighteyes, was “as good as most sagas and as heroic.”
  8. The Red Fairy Book and The Lilac Fairy Book, Edited by Andrew Lang
    “The Story of Sigurd”, the last tale in The Red Fairy Book, contains many parallels to Tolkien’s The Hobbit including magic rings, a magic sword and a grouchy, terrible, ferocious dragon. “The Story of Sigurd” is itself a retelling of the Sigurd story from the Völsunga saga, an ancient Icelandic saga that Tolkien was also quite fond of and studied at Oxford University. I think I’m the only one to point out that the odd word, “Moria” also appears in the title of another The Red Fairy Book tale.
  9. A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay
    Tolkien says in a letter in the 1930s that he read the book “with avidity” “as a thriller” and praised it as a work of philosophy, religion, and morality. Fellow Inkling member C. S. Lewis liked it so much that he later wrote his entire Out of the Silent Planet trilogy based on A Voyage to Arcturus’s central premise (which is: traveling spiritually to another planet).
  10. The Princess and the Goblin, by George McDonald
    McDonald, a prolific Scottish writer of adult literature (and a minister), also wrote several fantasies, including this book which influenced The Hobbit, most strikingly its goblin characters. McDonald’s The Princess and the Curdie also was an influence on Tolkien, as were McDonald’s fairy tales, especially “The Golden Key.”