Suite101: A Long Time Ago, in a Middle-earth Far, Far Away... - What place is there for folklore and tall tales in a world where Elven memories and scholarship can recall the slightest historical detail?

In The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, a book of poems Tolkien compiled for his aunt, Jane Neave, he included a couple of stories which were most likely Hobbit fairy-tales. 'Princess Mee"' is a nonsense-poem about an ancient Elf princess who dances on water and becomes fascinated with her reflection. 'Fastitocalon' tels about a giant turtle in the ocean which pretends to be an island, enticing unwary sailors to their deaths."
In this week's Suite101 article, Michael Martinez reminds us that J.R.R. Tolkien's story-telling is steeped in the tradition of fairy-tales and folklore. But he even found time (and room) to drop a few of his own fairy-tales and folk stories into the larger composition.

Here is an excerpt:

In the early 1970s the Charlie Daniels Band hit the pop rock scene with a song called "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". It was common for songs of that period to tell a story, and this one focused on a violin duel between the devil and a good old boy named Johnny. The stakes were a golden fiddle (violin) and Johnny's soul. The devil got his commeuppance, as so often happens in folklore.

Scratch, or the devil, is a popular figure in American folklore. He crops up in various places looking for people's souls, tricking people into signing eternity away for usually small stakes. One story has a famous lawyer defending a poor soul before a jury of demons. The lawyer makes such an impassioned plea he reduces the jury to tears and they find in favor of the defense, leaving Scratch scratching his head once again. That may be the only story where lawyers are depicted favorably in American folklore.

Middle-earth folklore is a bit tame compared to the tall tales we dreamed up for ourselves. There is no one like Pecos Bill and Catfish Sue in the tales passed around Tolkien's imaginary corner of the past, except perhaps for the Bandobras' Took's invention of the game of golf. Bandobras, called "Bullroarer", led the defense of the Shire in the year 2747 when a band of Orcs from Mount Gram, led by Golfimbul, invaded the Shire from the north. Bandobras met the Orcs in battle near the town of Greenfields and he reportedly knocked the Orc-leader's head off his shoulders with a club.

That's not quite on the scale of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox raising the Rocky Mountains, but it's a story which provides a glimpse into Hobbit folklore.

Please click on the link below to read the entire article.

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