Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Tolkien's Beowulf and The Hobbit

Carol Downing writes:
Claire Randall, Jane Sanderson Photo: Carol Downing
This evening’s presentation was by Claire Randall on Tolkien and the influence of the great Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf on his tales of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Interludes of Celtic Harp were given by Jane Sanderson which beautifully complimented Claire’s poetic reading.

Claire began with a scholarly introduction exploring first the literary origins of Beowulf and then gave many detailed examples of instances where Tolkien used images or vignettes from the former work in his own imaginative pieces, including some valuable insights on how poetic imagination works from the Professor himself.

Claire then read out the first few lines of Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon to demonstrate old words which Tolkien used for proper names of things and people and followed with excerpted readings of some of the examples given from Tolkien’s own 1926 prose translation, which he must have substantially worked on while he lived locally in the years preceding.

A number of audience members commented favourably on the presentation and the way that the harp augmented the mood of the evening.  Claire’s reading and the research that had gone into editing together the excerpts were appreciated, bringing out the relevant themes from what can be a challenging text to the newcomer.

The atmosphere created by this combination was apparently so successful that some felt that the setting (the children’s corner in the library with bright colours) was not equal to the material being presented, and that more subdued lighting or setting would have been appropriate.  A measure of the appreciation of the audience for the presentation can be gleaned from the feedback and comments that were made.
Audience comments:

‘Excellent presentation of the poem and the harpist was a great choice. Well organised’. 

‘Loved the Speaking, Loved the Music, Both together a brilliant combination, idea well realised’

‘An enjoyable and lyrical reading of this epic tale with detailed references to the inspiration of this work on Tolkien's themes and story-lines

An atmospheric accompaniment of harp music, liking the sections of the reading’.

‘Great absorbing reading and the harp was beautiful and went well with the story. It would have been a lot more affective and atmospheric if the lighting had been lower though.  It did jar somewhat with the brightly lit children’s section’.

‘A fascinating evening! wonderful poetry with beautiful harp music that took one into another world, a world closer to the spirit than the one we live in today.  Really glad I came to this!’

‘Excellent, Very well researched and presented and enhanced by the Celtic harp playing live’.

‘A wonderful combination of story-telling and harp playing.  Interesting Anglo-Saxon reading and evocative music. Very enjoyable!

‘Interesting and quite funny story from JRR Tolkien.  I had lessons from the book ‘The Hobbit’ in my English lessons at school and I have seen two of the ‘Lord of the Rings films at the cinema.  Claire was very good describing the story and Jane was particularly good on the harp’.

‘A very enjoyable evening, Harp music complimented Claire’s reading, thank you!’

‘Really enjoyed in in the musical interludes with the harp, which worked really well, and it was lovely hearing the intro – linking it with Tolkien’s other work to put it into context’.

‘Really interesting and well-delivered.  Harp link spoken voice a great combination!.  (Also really enjoyed the Tolkien walk Claire did last year).

‘Atmospheric and well done, got me interested in Tolkien’.

‘I enjoyed the reading and harp music, A more atmospheric venue might have suited the evening better.  Thank you for the tea, coffee and biscuits’.

‘Great event – good introduction to this reading and the harp made a good interlude’.

‘Very enjoyable’

‘Introduction too long otherwise very good reading and harp interludes’

‘Very impressive delivery, complimented by the harp music. A most unusual event!’

‘I’ve never been to an event like this before, and didn’t know what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Where can I attend more events like this?’

‘The music was beautiful and the Beowulf very enjoyable. A very pleasant evening’.

‘Excellent, worth attending just for the music which was rich, harmonious and entirely fitting on such an occasion’.

‘It was very different.  I enjoyed the poetry from Beowulf and the Harp music.  Well done to all involved’.

‘The format of reading and music works very well.  Could do with less introduction, maybe, really enjoyed it on the whole’.

‘Great idea – well delivered’.

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