Artists and Illustrations Included in This Record

Modern statue of Beorhtnoth at Maldon, facing Northey Island, and the causeway from Northey Island. It is still covered by the tides of the Blackwater Estuary for several hours each day (photographs by the author).


Tolkien’s Fall of Arthur has at its heart the theme of ofermod, a theme which appears throughout Tolkien’s criticism and creative work. In his essay “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son,” he argues that the Anglo-Saxon word ofermod in the poem The Battle of Maldon condemns the warband’s leader for an over-reaching pride which places his men in desperate straits. This paper conducts a study of the word and its derivatives in various Anglo-Saxon texts, taking the Microfiche Concordance to Old English as its starting point, and traces Tolkien’s creative use of the theme in both his tales of Middle-earth and his pastiche of “The Battle of Maldon” to establish the patterns of its temptation, attraction, use, and effect in his work before analyzing these same patterns as driving motivations for the characters in The Fall of Arthur.

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