Hearing Tolkien in Vaughan Williams?

Keri Hui*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


In recent years, musicians and Tolkien readers alike have associated Ralph Vaughan Williams’ music, particularly Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910), The Lark Ascending (1914), and Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934), with Tolkien’s fantasies. This article explores this tendency to hear Tolkien’s Middle-earth in Vaughan Williams’ musical fantasies, calling attention to the similarities in their shared devotion to the idea of English consciousness, interest in combining ecclesiastical and folk materials, and pastoral vision. A juxtaposition of their approach and philosophies not only helps explain the musical echoes, however, but also confirms an appealing mark of Tolkien’s craft is its reluctance to fully separate fantasy and reality, myth and memory, the spiritual and the secular, the otherworldly and the historical, and the universal and the local. In hearing echoes of Tolkien in Vaughan Williams, we are also reminded that music, as Tolkien himself suggests, has the power to create and sub-create.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Tolkien Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


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