Medieval dragons and newly discovered drawings by Tolkien
Earlier today I encountered these two images almost side by side in my Twitter timeline. The top picture is from a famous 15th-century prayer book, the other one is a drawing by J.R.R. Tolkien. The latter is one of a hundred images he drew in the 1930s to accompany the first edition of the Hobbit. Some made it into that edition, but the majority was not and got lost - until they were found not long ago among Tolkien’s papers. The appearance of dragons in both his work and medieval manuscript is no coincidence. As you may know, Tolkien was a professor of Anglo-Saxon language and literature. Not only did he have a professional interest in medieval manuscripts, he will actually have handled many of them himself for his research. It is well-known that his works - The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion in particular - are filled with references to medieval texts and culture. What someone ought to do, I thought when I saw these two dragons flying around, is compare the images drawn by Tolkien to drawings in medieval manuscripts. Was he inspired by medieval drawing techniques as much as he was by medieval literature? To what extent did he follow medieval examples, and what did he add himself? Sounds like a great undertaking, don’t you think? Something for you?
Pics: J. Paul Getty Museum MS 37, 15th century (full page here). Your point of entry to more lost-but-found drawings from Tolkien here (via @brainpicker). Some reading on the link to medieval culture and manuscripts in Tolkien’s work here.