Russian Middle Earth

Frank Jacobs, over at Big Think, takes a gander at what Tolkein’s Middle Earth looks like from a Slavic point of view.

This map, however, adds something to the Russian translation of The Hobbit. The map is the work of Mikhail Belomlinsky, who illustrated a translation of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by N. Rahmanova. The artwork provides the story with a decidedly Slavic ambiance, as incongruous here as it in the case of Huck Finn. Exactly what is so Slavic about this map – and whether or not it (or the translation itself) has socialist overtones – is a bit harder to establish. […]

o what makes this a particularly Slavic map? The Cyrillic lettering helps, obviously. And so do the log houses (didn’t Hobbits live in holes?), the wolves, the pine trees and the dark, brooding, xylographically rendered landscape. All somehow adding up to the conceit as if Middle-earth were some kind of magical Siberia.

But maybe there’s a deeper link between The Hobbit and the Russian soul than even this map suggests. For it seems that this work by Tolkien, even if so much more lightheartedly narrated than the Ring trilogy, meticulously conforms to the 31 motifs [5] that form the structural basis for much of Russian folklore, as described by the Soviet scholar Vladimir Propp, in his Morphology of the Folk Tale (1928).

[Thanks, Zack!]

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