Language as Mediation in Tolkein's Mythology

Katherine Hyon, Georgia State University

Presented at Graduate English Association New Voices Conference 2007, pp. 1-13.


In his detailed accounts concerning Middle-earth and its inhabitants throughout various Ages of existence, Tolkien made his desire to write a mythology for England a reality. Although his work has delighted readers of all ages for decades, to dismiss Tolkien as a mere writer of children‟s fantasy or escapist science fiction would be to do him a great disservice. Tolkien was, above all, a philologist; his great love and obsession with language is obvious in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and especially The Silmarillion. Tolkien was also a product of his time; he was a lover and a teacher of ancient languages in a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization, and this unique position he occupied, as well as his desire to somehow reconcile the two extremes, also found its way into his own fiction. To that end, Middle-earth is primarily a world of mediation between the old and the new, between history and modernity, and Tolkien uses language as the foundational mediating device.