Tolkien was fascinated by the concept he called “the theory of courage”, which exemplified one of the highest qualities in the literary Northern hero: that of unflinching courage, steadfast resolve and sheer determination of will in the face of impossible odds.
In Beowulf, the epic Anglo Saxon poem, we unearth such a concept in some of its verses. As the titular character finds himself in dire need of aid against the fury of the dragon, Wiglaf – companion of Beowulf – bravely stands beside his beloved lord.
Besides Northern courage, Tolkien also discussed quite in detail this theme of pride and overbearing confidence in certain Anglo Saxon characters.
The word “ofermode” is somewhat ambiguous in its meaning and has been much debated, not least by Tolkien himself. He wrote an essay on “ofermode” in which he goes into detail to try and explain its true significance.
Ofermod can be seen as a direct result of extreme Northern courage. When the unflinching will goes beyond the point of no return, it turns into selfish chivalry and overconfidence. Characters should therefore be aware of this and not fall into the trap.
As The Hobbit reaches the climax of the story, and Elves, Men and Dwarves find themselves hard pressed to defend the Mountain against the swarming Orcs, Thorin emerges unlooked for from his hold and charges forward with his twelve companions. [Read the full article]