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Old English: 'The Tree of Tongues' Tolkien's Medieval Languages:

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Mark Atherton, Senior Lecturer in English, Regent's Park College, Oxford, gives the fourth talk in the Tolkien: The Maker of Middle Earth lecture series. This lecture focuses on Tolkien and old english.
Old English (Anglo-Saxon) is the early form of English which King Alfred spoke and in which Beowulf is written: as Professor of Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien taught this language, and as a writer he used its literature to inspire his fiction, but privately he saw himself as heir to the Old English of Mercia (the modern-day Midlands where he grew up), and he made this the language of the Riders of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings.
This series, convened by Dr Stuart Lee, presents five Oxford academics who examine the medieval languages that J.R.R. Tolkien studied and taught. Each lecture will present a short introduction to a language and its literature. The lectures will show how Tolkien's linguistic and philological scholarship inspired him to create names for characters and places in his literary works, and to invent the languages of Middle-earth.
Part of the BODcasts series. The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford is the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. It includes the principal University library - the Bodleian Library - which has been a legal deposit library for 400 years; as well as 28 other libraries across Oxford including major research libraries and faculty, department and institute libraries. Together, the Libraries hold more than 12 million printed items, over 80,000 e-journals and outstanding special collections including rare books and manuscripts, classical papyri, maps, music, art and printed ephemera. Members of the public can explore the collections via the Bodleian’s online image portal at or by visiting the exhibition galleries in the Bodleian's Weston Library. For more information, visit

Date Published: 30 June 2021