10 Influences From The Norse Mythology In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Works

It is no secret that J. R. R. Tolkien found inspiration in many cultures and mythologies from all across the world prior to finishing writing the highly critically acclaimed ‘Lord of the Rings’ high-fantasy trilogy (1954–1955) and its predecessor, ‘The Hobbit’ (1937). Amongst his most notable influences it is very much indicated to mention the Norse culture (alongside that of the Anglo-Saxons, naturally). Below you can read a list of 10 distinct facts on the Norse influence on J. R. R. Tolkien’s works.

19th century artist’s impression of a Viking raid. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

10. The names of the dwarves from ‘The Hobbit’ were actually not only inspired, but almost identical to those found in the Prose Edda.

9. Gandalf was also the name of a dwarf found in the same Prose Edda which was written at some point during the 13th century.

8. The Elves are based on the same supernatural beings found in the Norse mythology and the Scandinavian folklore.

7. In the legendary 13th century Vǫlsunga saga, the magical ring Andvaranaut (worn by the dwarf Andvari) which produces gold was the fantastic object that was behind the crafting of the One Ring.

6. Although the name of Gandalf was that of a dwarf (as previously mentioned), his wizard-wise figure was significantly influenced by the Norse god Odin (in particular his journeys as an all-knowing wanderer and prophet).

5. The legendary swords of Gram and Tyrfing formed the basis for the blade Narsil in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

4. The dragon Fafnir which was slayed by Sigurd/Sigfried could have well been the inspiration for the dragon Smaug, as both had an immense lust for gold.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien along with fellow Leeds University professor E.V. Gordon formed during the 1920s a cultural club known as the Viking Club. The main goals of the club was to share knowledge about extinct Germanic languages as well as to discuss Germanic history and culture.

2. Midgard, or the realm of the mortal men in the Norse cosmology, was the main geographic influence for the Middle Earth (although other interpretations have been also suggested, including the continents of the real world).

1. The different versions of the Norse Runic system were doubtlessly assimilated with the the runes found in Tolkien’s legendarium.

Documentation sources and external links:

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11 Responses to 10 Influences From The Norse Mythology In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Works

  1. magnus r€obberstad says:

    King Gudrød of West Folde is a historical figure borrowed from the old norse saga of Heimskringla, written by Snorri Sturlason. He was an existing king in the landscape of Vestfold, on west side of Oslo fiord before year 800.

  2. Thanks for sharing the interesting story of J.R.R. Tolkien. I was really unaware about this fact.

  3. Tyrfingur and Torfi are Icelandic names from Galic roots. They are made from the word “Tarfur – Tarf” a Galic loan word in Norse/Icelandic) = bull” like in Clontarf (Bull’s glen). The meaning is “bull” or “like a bull – due to the “umlaut””

  4. Tom Aardahl says:

    Gandalf was not a dwarf. The historic Gandalf was the king of Alfheim (Elfshome) in the early viking age. You can read about him in both Snorre’s Heimskringla and Flateyarbook.

  5. His mentor was Sir William Craigie who specialised in all this at the time. Literally he wrote the book on it and helped influence fairy tales and Tolkien.

  6. Bobbye Melendez says:

    Hello thedockyards.com owner, Your posts are always a great source of knowledge.

  7. Dave Davis says:

    In Beowulf (which is an Anglo-Saxon text but likely derived from Danish sources) a /thief/ steals a /cup/ from a dragon-hoard.

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