19 January 2013
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics
“There is not much poetry in the world like this; and though Beowulf may not be among the very greatest poems of our western world and its tradition, it has its own individual character, and peculiar solemnity;…” (113). Tolkien has successfully undermined the criticism of all of those opposed to how Beowulf was written. Tolkien also studies and analyzes how the structure of the poem fits into the meaning of the article. The most important point of Tolkien’s speech I find is that Tolkien finds this poem not to be an epic. In the speech that Tolkien gives, he is able to show how the critics are wrong, how the structure impacts the storyline, and why this poem does not qualify as an epic.
J.R.R. Tolkien takes it upon himself to show how all of the critics are wrong in their criticisms of Beowulf. The most prevalent and memorable way he does this in his speech is through the allegory of the tower. Tolkien states that a man uses old stones to build a tower in a field, and generations later, there are people who come to examine it and knock it down without even climbing the steps to it. In the sense of the allegory, the people who come to examine the tower are the critics, and the tower itself is the poem of Beowulf. When the people knock the tower down, the see that it is in a muddle. The critics seem to look at the individual stones and think that there is nothing amazing about those stones and therefore believe that the individual parts of the tower are very weak and lacking of information. If the critics had taken the time to climb the tower before knocking it over, they would have been able to see how the structure and history of the poem shaped Beowulf. The critics would have realized how the poem fit together and found that it is in fact a viable and wonderful story.
“The general structure of the poem, so viewed, is not really difficult to...