The Keys of Middle-earth

From Tolkien Gateway
The Keys of Middle-earth:
Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
Publication Information
authorStuart D. Lee & Elizabeth Solopova
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Released16 December 2005
FormatHardcover; Paperback

The Keys of Middle-earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien is a scholarly book by Stuart D. Lee and Elizabeth Solopova, published in 2005. It aims to provide an understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy writings in the context of medieval literature, including Old English, Middle English, and Old Norse.

The main body of the book offers short excerpts from fourteen medieval literary works in these languages. Each section consists of a plot summary of the relevant part of Tolkien's story; an introduction to the medieval text; a discussion of Tolkien's use of the text; and finally a text. The texts are facing-page (parallel) with new line-by-line translation if it's Old English or Old Norse, or no translation but plentiful notes for Middle English.

A second edition was published in 2015, adding several new texts and essays, with updated discussions in the light of more recent publications.


  • How to Use This Book
  • Introduction
    • Background
    • Medieval literature and language: the basics
    • Specific medieval languages and literatures
    • Thematic and technical parallels
  • The Editions
  • The Texts
    1. Túrin Turambar – the Kalevala
    2. Eärendil – Christ I
    3. Gandalf and the Dwarves – Völuspá
    4. Bilbo and Gollum's Riddle-Game – Solomon and Saturn II; Vafþrúðnismál; and two Old English riddles
    5. Bilbo meets Smaug – Beowulf
    6. The Elves at Rivendell – Sir Orfeo
    7. Legolas's 'Lament of the Stones' – The Ruin
    8. The Fight at Balin's Tomb – The Fight at Finnsburg and 'Cynewulf and Cyneheard'
    9. The Crossing of the Nimrodel – Pearl
    10. Boromir's Death – Beowulf
    11. Treebeard's List – Maxims II
    12. The Rohirrim – The Wanderer and Beowulf
    13. The Battle of Pelennor Fields, the Death of Théoden, and the Arrival of the Mûmakil – The Battle of Maldon, Ælfric's Homily on the Maccabees, and Jordanes' Getica
    14. The Landscape of Mordor – Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
    15. The final journey – The Seafarer
  • Bibliography
  • Index

From the Publisher

The Keys of Middle-Earth uniquely introduces the reader to the world of Medieval Literature through the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Using key episodes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, readers are taken back to the works of Old, Middle English and Old Norse literature that so influenced Tolkien. The original texts are presented with helpful new translations to help the reader approach the medieval poems and tales, and introductory essays draw on recent scholarship and Tolkien's own unpublished notes. Presenting a new era of Tolkien studies, this book will be of use to students (and teachers) of Medieval/Old English literature and general readers interested in the origins of Tolkien's most widely-known works.

Publication history and gallery

2005 first edition
2005 first edition  
2015 second edition
2015 second edition  

External links

A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
On Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
Mr. Bliss · Roverandom · Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.