In The Hobbit, what are two specific elements that Tolkien borrows from Beowulf or other Norse (Viking) works? How does Tolkien synthesize these two elements to create a specific effect in The Hobbit?

Two specific elements that Tolkien draws from Beowulf and Norse mythology are in his naming of things, places, and people and his use of an episodic plot in The Hobbit. Thus, The Hobbit has the effect of seeming authentically ancient and therefore realistic.

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In The Hobbit, Tolkien draws from Beowulf in his use of names and in his plot structures. Tolkien is influenced by the naming conventions found in Beowulf. Tolkien names swords, which is also common in Beowulf and Norse mythology. For example, Beowulf’s sword is named Hrunting, and Bilbo Baggins’s sword is named Sting. Tolkien also uses names that are near-direct borrowings of names in older Norse stories. For instance, King Thror of Moria and the Norse god Thor are quite similar. Additionally, Tolkien’s place names are often composed of short words that have been combined to form one new meaning. One example is the place Rivendell, whose name is a combination of "riven" and "dell." Similar to this, in Beowulf there are descriptive phrases called kennings that are composed of several separate words, such as in "wave-cutter" to describe a ship.

Another point of influence is the plot of The Hobbit, which is episodic and therefore shares a similar mode of storytelling as ancient legends such as Beowulf. For instance, Beowulf follows the main hero Beowulf as well as other kings and warriors in their quests. After a series of discrete episodes detailing different quests, the story ends with Beowulf’s final fate. Similarly, Bilbo goes on a series of quests that, while often seemingly digressive, also bring him and his comrades to their fate and ultimate goal of reclaiming the Lonely Mountain. Incorporating names and plot forms similar to those of Beowulf and Norse mythology, Tolkien reminds his readers of ancient techniques as they explore the narrative. In this way, The Hobbit feels authentically like its own kind of legend or myth to modern readers.

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