The Truth of Myth : JRR Tolkien and the return of the mythos

Lord of the Rings is the best-selling English langauge novel ever. And its close competitors – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter – share an important feature.

They are all works of mythopoiea…myths for the modern world.

JRR Tolkien had a very important insight. He saw that the modern world had lost its myths. Indeed, the modern world had run screaming from myths like god or heaven. Tolkien believed that was a mistake.

He wasn’t alone. When the philosopher Nietzsche said God Is Dead his point was that, without the old myths, men would invent new ones. And they would be much, much worse. Freddy was proven right as Communism and Fascism burst into the world, killing millions in war and genocide.

Tolkien lived through the wars and mass murder of the 20th century. He believed the world needed its myths back, so he wrote Lord of the Rings. The success of his great myth inspired many other creators, and sparked the return of the mythos to the modern world.

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Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

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