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Classical Traditions in Modern Fantasy$
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Brett M. Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190610050

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190610050.001.0001

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Ancient Underworlds in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Ancient Underworlds in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

(p.121) 5 Ancient Underworlds in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit
Classical Traditions in Modern Fantasy

Benjamin Eldon Stevens

Oxford University Press

Benjamin Eldon Stevens, in “Ancient Underworlds in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit,” examines how J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel revises the ancient motif of the journey into the underworld, focusing on Bilbo’s encounters with Gollum and Smaug. In this chapter, Stevens examines how The Hobbit is subterranean in a particular way, recalling and altering earlier depictions of underworlds as resting-places for the dead. Drawing on Tolkien’s own statements about the effects produced by ancient and medieval literature, Stevens argues that The Hobbit consciously draws on—and departs from—ancient images of the underworld to emphasize themes of forgetting and thus achieve Tolkien’s preferred melancholic “impression of depth.”

Keywords:   Hobbit, The katabasis, Tolkien, J. R. R, Underworlds, Virgil, memory

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