Free speech May 27, 2021



J.R.R. Tolkien had a higher dosage of reality than most of us, and was therefore able to incorporate a high dose of reality into his fictional novels. There’s no better example of this than the Anglo-Saxon poem called The Wanderer, A poem Tolkien loved, studied, translated, and even quoted from during a valedictory address.

Composed orally somewhere around the 5th or 6th century by an anonymous poet, It’s about a medieval warrior who, as the name implies, is forced to wander the earth because his people have been defeated in battle and Completely wiped out. His friends are slaughtered and his lord is slain. His home is destroyed. He has nowhere to return to or live. He is forced to travel, to wander the earth. He is a broken man.

And this poem captures that sense of brokenness magnificently. Psychologically speaking, It’s a shockingly sophisticated poem. We can think of it in terms of the stages of medieval grief:

1. Isolation-Repression

2. Dream-Fantasy

3. Sadness-Depression

4. Acceptance-Wisdom

5. Disorientation-Confusion

6. Piety-Courage