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Old 05-09-2010, 01:12 PM   #1
Peregrin Took
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Tolkien The Lord of the Rings and...The Fall of Lucifer?

Greetings everyone! I apologize for my lack of posting here at The Barrow-Downs - alas, I have been consumed by school and I post also at my other home, the LotR Plaza.

I've always been a medievalist, Tolkien brought this out in me full-well. Thus, in college, I made it a priority to take any class I could concerning the Middle Ages. This landed me in "Medieval Drama", a 300 level English class (and I apologize for those who do not attend college in the US - I'm not sure how it works in other areas) studying the medieval Cycle plays --- the plays that were first recorded in York, England during the 14th century but most likely had been going on years prior. These plays told the stories of the Bible and beyond, creatively re-weaving the Biblical stories into works of great artistic merit. The plays consisted almost entirely of lines not in the Bible, and for dramatic purposes they made up a ton of lines for characters including Lucifer, God, Jesus, Mary, and any other biblical figure you could think of. They even created their own characters, and even personified virtues such as "Good Deeds," which played a pivotal role in the brilliant (and my personal favorite) morality play, "Everyman." They were performed by guilds, or, a group that tended to a specific trade. For example, "Joseph's Trouble About Mary" (an extremely comical take on what Joseph was thinking when he discovered Mary pregnant) was put on by The Pewterers and Founders, who made jugs, pans, and other vessels out of pewter and other metals.

So, upon studying for my final exam, this minor correlation hit me between "The Lord of the Rings" and one play in particular, not belonging to York but part of the Chester cycle entitled "The Fall of Lucifer." The tale is an updated version of the York "The Fall of the Angels," bringing (about a century later after "Angels") a slightly new take on Lucifer's fall and how God banished him and his followers to Hell. Reading through the play, which is written in middle-English, I found some interesting, yet very minor, correlations between Tolkien's story and the play.

We know that there are nine orders of angels, which the play speaks of and which mirrors The Fellowship and the Black Riders, but obviously that is not solely pertaining to this play. I found it interesting that as Tolkien did, the writers of this play paid the most attention to Lucifer's pride and how his fall offered no redemption, unlike Boromir's fall, which granted him redemption for defending Merry and Pippin. Many of the angels warn Lucifer of his over-bearing pride before he attempts to betray God by sitting on His throne. The following are excerpts showing this, taken from Greg Walker's "Medieval Drama: An Anthology" published by Blackwell Publishing in 2000.

Our Lorde comaunded all that bene here
To keepe there seates, bouth more and lesse.
Therfore I warne the[e], Luciffer,
This pride will torne to great distresse.

Destresse? I commaunde you for to cease
And see the beautie that I beare...

And later,

(translated in the footnote)
Alas, that pride walls beauty around,
And turns your thoughts towards great offence.

We know that Tolkien saw pride as probably the worst sin of all, if I am correct? I found this interesting, although I am sure that other works I have not yet read in other mythologies focus on pride as being worst sin of all. I just thought it was interesting that even the fall of the most corrupt angel in all of biblical history, Lucifer, fell because of over-bearing pride, like many of Tolkien's characters, including Boromir (at least, when he tried to take the Ring.)

What also stood out to me was the play's use of the word "ruffian," which we know as the chumps who help Sharkey take over the Shire:

Ruffyn, my frende fayer and free,
Loke that thou keepe mankinde from blesse.

And in the introduction to the play, Walker states that the "ruffian" Lucifer calls upon was a demon. Tolkien's ruffians, although surely not fallen angels, were at least evil - at the very least they were certainly described as "evil-looking" in "The Scouring of the Shire."

Although these are rather minute findings and meanderings between "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Fall of Lucifer," I thought it to be very interesting and wanted to share it here. I apologize that the information is not substantial! If you've made it this far, thank you for reading!
"I am not a fighter. But it would be politer in any case for the challenger to say who he is."
Formerly MatthewM, joined Jun 2006.
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Old 05-10-2010, 01:05 PM   #2
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Hi Peregrine,

fascinating stuff! The medieval plays do seem to have some very close parallels in Tolkien's work, but for me I think the closest are in The Silmarillion, in particular the fall of Melkor / Morgoth.

I guess JRRT is tapping in to the common theme that inspired Milton as well.

Morgoth ends up being pretty much the same as Lucifer. One of the fairest/most powerful of the Angels/Valar, but falls due to his pride, which in Morgoth's case involved creating disharmony in the song of creation by wanting his own theme to take precedence.
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