Robert Browning and Tolkien- Dark and Mysterious

robert_browning_sml   In looking at this past week, a large focus was on comparing the video game realm Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) to texts such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings- Part 1- Fellowship of the Ring a poem by Robert Browning.

Our class focused on Robert Browning’s Poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” This poem has a particularly dark, almost agrarian style attached to it, referring to many icons that are thought of to be “medieval” of sorts. Specifically, Browning discusses icons such as castles, treasures and the mention of the name Giles- which may be an allusion to Giles Corey- a name that I will get to later in this discussion. Synonymously- in John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, there is discussion of towers and a treasure of some sort with regards to the actual ring.

Looking at stanza three in  Browning’s poem, it reads,

“If at his counsel I should turn aside                                                                                                   Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower.”

This seems to be describing Roland could not find anyone reliable to count on- and to find someone worthy to be with is as difficult as finding one’s way through a dark tower at night. It seems to point out the struggles that of finding one’s way.

In comparison, looking at Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, he writes,

“The Dark Tower had been rebuilt, it was said. From there the power was spreading far and wide, and away far east and south there were wars and growing fear. Orcs were multiplying again in the mountains.”

What is entailed here lies the discussion of trying to navigate one’s way through the land combined with the unknown brought about from war and unrest- not to mention the mountains that Tolkien describes- creating another barrier, element of mystique.

Looking at stanza 17, Browning writes,

“Giles then, the soul of honour – there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first,
What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.”




Here lies an allusion of the man Giles Corey. Giles Corey was accused of witchcraft in Salem, MA and was pressed to death by stones. Another dark connotation and entails a discussion of morality and telling the truth, and the consequences that result from not doing so in the eyes of one’s peers.


source: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Giles Corey of Salem Farms,” in . Houghton Mifflin Boston, 1902. Artist John W. Ehninger, 1880, p. 752.

Author: joeghianni

Undergraduate Clerk, Vanderbilt Law School

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