Middle earth Lore: Fantasy or Pseudo-history?

Introduction

Taking a break from hot button topics again. This time I want to talk about something on my mind after a while of not revisiting the fictions of Middle-earth:

Is the Middle earth setting Fantasy or Pseudo-history?

The answer is: BOTH

The Fantasy Elements

Putting aside the obvious Fantasy elements…

…the fact that the very first four books set in this fictional setting [The Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King] each had a very distinct story for their respective times [The Hobbit = 1930’s, all of the latter three = 1950’s] makes them primarily Fantasy. Plus the fact that characters are developed and the story is marketed as purely fictional and as none of the stories really parallel anything from history or reality is the Fantasy aspect of Middle-earth

The Pseudo-History Elements

The book of The Silmarillion [published in the 1970’s] feels to many more like history than fantasy. Well, the fair way to make this observation – regardless of whether you mean it as a good observation or a bad one – is to call it “pseudo history”. Why?

  • The First Age part of the book feels technologically like the Ancient Iron Age, like before even the times marked as “Ancient History”
  • The Second Age histories of Middle-earth are an awful lot like the Ancient History Age in terms of technology and how the civilizations and characters of Middle-earth use it
  • The Third Age histories are not just technologically similar but also chronologically similar to the Medieval Age of History. Also called Post-classical history.
    • Examples include the Great Plague,
    • the similarities of Gondor to Medieval Byzantium,
    • the similarities the Easterling nation has to the Seljuk Empire under Nûr al Din of High-Medieval West Asia,
    • how similar the Haradrim nation is to the Fatimid Knights of Egypt during the days of Salah al Din in High-Medieval North Africa,
    • and of course the prevalence of Medieval-style castles and houses and such

Conclusion

I think that about wraps it up for this reflection. Thank you all for reading this,

~TLN

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