“The Monsters and the Critics”

In 1937, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote an essay that transformed the world of Beowulf studies. Indeed, one could argue that before this essay, there had been no “Beowulf studies.”  This essay is called “The Monsters and the Critics.”


In his essay, Tolkien disagrees with much of what many critics had said before him.  These critics, many wonderful ones, generally approached Beowulf from a folkloric point of view. They studied the manuscript. But they found the monsters’ presence “tasteless.”

What Tolkien did was point out how the monsters were vital to the text.  The monsters “made” the poem work.

And because of this essay, people came to love and appreciate the poem even more.

You can learn more about this essay here, at the J. R. R. Tolkien Estate website.

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