Archaic Pronouns in The Lord of the Rings


  • Florence Cobben Leiden University


Tolkien, archaic pronouns, the Lord of the Rings, Early English


Given the interest in JRR Tolkien’s love of the medieval and in his language use, it is surprising that so little attention has been given to his use of second-person archaic pronouns. This study examines how archaic second-person pronouns in JRR Tolkien’s fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings underpin the three literary requirements of fantastical realism, as outlined in Tolkien’s lecture “On Fairy Stories” (1939). These are, (1) the story must be consistent and immersive in its quality, (2) it must teach its audience something when they “return” to the real world, (3) the climax of the story must point towards Jesus’ defeat over evil (eucatastrophe). The paper demonstrates, via close reading and the comparative study of similar Early English texts, that archaic pronouns are used (1) consistently in dialogue according to a linguistically unmarked/marked distinction, reminiscent of their use in Early English that thus strengthens the story’s “inner consistency of reality”; (2) in the invocation of oaths and traditions, which creates the depth associated with Tolkien’s world-building and also teaches readers the importance of language for the recall of the past; (3) to symbolically link the events of Rings with Jesus’s defeat over evil, which Tolkien considers the most “true” of all stories. These three tenets give the story emotional, historical, and spiritual depth and support the immersive world Tolkien is so celebrated for. The original paper was nominated for the Eric Kooper Prize.


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How to Cite

Archaic Pronouns in The Lord of the Rings . (2024). Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English, 45.