Tolkien’s Ainulindalë and Bernardus Silvestris’s Cosmographia

Winthrop Wetherbee calls the twelfth-century Bernardus Silvestris’s Cosmographia an “anthology of major motifs from the authors in the Chartrian canon” (Wetherbee, “Introduction” in Cosmographia, 31). (Silvestris’s Cosmographia, by the way, is where C.S. Lewis got his Oyarsa from the Space Trilogy.) The Cosmographia, in any event, is a largely Platonic and pagan cosmology. The similarities amid the profound differences between Tolkien’s Ainulindalë and Bernardus’s Cosmographia suggest the former as a remarkable engagement with, borrowing from, and yet orthodox and even specifically Thomistic critique of the latter. I hope someday to write a comparison of the two works. John Houghton’s comment in “Augustine in the Cottage of Lost Play” is pertinent here, namely that, along with Genesis and Plato’s Timaeus, the Ainulindalë would have constituted for the medievals a “third” creation-account. Bernardus’s Cosmographia would make a fourth.

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2 thoughts on “Tolkien’s Ainulindalë and Bernardus Silvestris’s Cosmographia

  1. I just found this blog post after doing a search for Tolkien & Bernardus Silvestri. I’ve actually been working on Bernard’s influence on C. S. Lewis, but keep thinking of ways in which that influence also is evident in Tolkien. I don’t know Tolkien well enough to write on that, since my knowledge beyond LOTR is really cursory. So have you written the paper you were hoping to write? And is it published somewhere so I could read it? That would really helpful!

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