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Word Count: 259
Tolkiens work makes for an interesting case study when examining the suggestion that along with the wish to revere the medieval world goes an apparently irresistible urge towards satire parody and other forms of comic subversion of it1 This is due to the fact that he wrote both literary criticism of medieval texts and fictional alternate medieval mythology and used humour in both His reverence for medieval literature is obvious in his defence of Beowulf 2 in the influential essay Beowulf The Monsters and the Critics3 But with lines like the Jabberwocks of historical and antiquarian research burble in the tulgy wood of conjecture fitting from one tum-tum tree to another4 it is also often a very amusing essay I think his creative work The Hobbit5 is similarly both reverent and humorous Although set in an Otherwhere rather than a realistic recreation of the medieval world it has much in common with the Beowulf poem It makes use of comic devices such as riddling puns parody and satire However although in both of these texts it is obvious that Tolkien reveres the early medieval poem of Beowulf is it really the medieval world of the poem that he attempts to subvert with his humour Is the humour linked to the medieval subject matter at all or is its presence coincidental In this essay I will explore Tolkiens use of the comic in the Beowulf essay and The Hobbit in order to try and discover whether it is the medieval world which is his target
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