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Przemyslaw Mroczkowski

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File:Przemyslaw Mroczkowski.jpg
Mroczkowski in the late 1960s

Przemyslaw Mroczkowski (alt. spelling: Przemysław Mroczkowski) (June 28, 1915 - July 12, 2002) was a Polish Anglicist and medievalist, and friend of J.R.R. Tolkien.


Przemysław Mroczkowski was born in Krakow and graduated in 1933. He then started studying Roman languages at the Faculty of Philosophy, Jagiellonian University, graduating in 1938 by defending his thesis. Simultaneously, he had also studied English philology under professor Roman Dyboski.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Mroczkowski served in the regiment of heavy artillery. Afterwards, he returned to Cracow, where he was arrested by the Gestapo and spent a few weeks in prison in Montelupich. After release from prison, even in times of occupation, he earned his living by teaching languages. After the war he spent a short time as a school teacher in Krakow, and later as a reader at the Academy of Mining and Metallurgy. Mroczkowski spent the 1946-1947 academic year as a Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame in the U.S., where he worked toward his doctorate in English literature (MA in English Studies acquired in 1946). During a short time after his doctorate, he worked at the Catholic University of Lublin, where for several years he directed the English Department. In the fifties, after 1956, he went to spend a year to Oxford, thanks to Graham Greene, who had visited Poland shortly before. In Oxford he met J.R.R. Tolkien, who acquainted him with the other members of The Inklings.

Professor Mroczkowski has described his first encounter with Tolkien in an interview with Tomasz Fiałkowskim in the pages of Tygodnik Powszechny (No. 14, 1994): "It was at the British Council in Oxford, I do not remember all the topics of conversation, but I remember that I presented myself to Tolkien in the following way: I come from Mordor, I come from Mordor ...". In the article, Professor Mroczkowski also described Tolkien in the following way: "(...) a much, much older and more eminent colleague, expert in Old English philology, "Germanist" (in the broad sense) of the highest quality, which since 1925 was a professor at Oxford, and since 1945 held the chair in the local Merton College, joining[?] the linguistics of the early literary period".

Besides Tolkien, Professor Mroczkowski also met some other people from the group around Tolkien: C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Neville Coghill and others. He described the The Inklings with these words: "The Inklings were a group of really unique people, [...]. They were people thinking in the same way and there were clashes between them and discussions, and thus formed a vibrant community" (ibid.).

Like Tolkien, Mroczkowski was a Catholic. He said that Tolkien "was a very traditional Catholic. Tolkien was unable to reconcile, for instance, the Mass prayed in English and the Latin missal [?]" (ibid.).

About Tolkien's two most famous works of fiction, Mroczkowski said: "I read with great interest The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. [...]Tolkien was primarily a writer - and a teacher and scholar. His creative abilities, moreover, tied with linguistics. They led him to create [fictional] alphabets, grammar, vocabulary. Tolkien was fascinated with words - both the spoken word, [...] and the written word, and finally with the letters as such. I remember that I showed [a book of Tolkien] to prof. George Kuryłowicz, a linguist of international renown, who immediately pointed to the resemblance of Celtic - a special variety of ornamental letter - in Elvish writings invented by Tolkien. The old documents which Tolkien had read Tolkien as a philologist, a scholar, opened for him a fantasy land" (ibid.).

In the early 1960s, Professor Mroczkowski returned to Krakow, where he directed the Department of English Philology. From 1975 to 1981 he was director of the newly formed Institute of English Philology. Before he retired, he was given the Order of the British Empire. In 1985, Professor Mroczkowski retired, but still remained an active researcher for many years. He died on July 12, 2002 in Krakow.

Bibliography, selected

  • 1973: Tygodnik Powszechny, nr 40
    • "Uczoność i wyobraźnia w Oxfordzie" ["Scholarship and Imagination in Oxford"]
  • 1994: Tygodnik Powszechny, nr 14
    • "Oksfordzcy mistrzowie wyobraźni" ["Oxfordian Masters of Imagination"; interview with Tomasz Fiałkowskim]

Mroczkowski also wrote a number of favorable reviews and opinions about the works of Tolkien, which were published in Poland in the 1960s.

A selection of Tolkien's correspondance with Mroczkowski, and with his wife Mrs Mroczkowska, can be found in Christie's Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts 1 June 2009.


  • This article is an edited version of "Opowieść o dwóch mediewistach - profesor Tolkien i profesor Mroczkowski" ["A Tale of two Medievalists: Professor Tolkien and Professor Mroczkowski"], written by Dariusz Piwowarczyk and published on Simbelmynë (external link). Since the original article is in Polish, a number of question marks ([?]) are used above to denote especially uncertain translations.