The Return of the King
The idea that a great legendary king will return and restore peace to the kingdom is in many ways also medieval. Despite the fact that the Middle Ages were considered a modern era at the time, there was a clear expectation that Jesus would eventually return to judge the living and the dead. The world was old! An expression one finds both in the medieval sources and in The Lord of the Rings. The medieval mystic Joachim of Fiore (1135–1202) divided the world into three ages: The Age of the Father, the Age of Son and the Age of the Holy Spirit. The last age would begin in 1260 – an idea the Church still considers heretical.
A number of medieval stories and legends also include the concept that a king will return. The best known are the stories of King Arthur and Charlemagne. King Arthur is a legendary English king from the 6th century, but whether he ever actually existed is unknown. He can be found in older poetry as a great warrior who battles the natural and supernatural enemies of the British crown. In the 12th century, a whole body of literature emerges about Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their quest for the Holy Grail. This literature has in many ways contributed to Tolkien’s universe.
A number of legends in the Middle Ages told of how Charlemagne, the Frankish emperor in the early 9th century, would come back and help defeat the enemies of Christianity. Stories about the King’s return were also linked to the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (1194–1250), who would return in the time of need.
In Denmark, it was not a king, but of one of Charlemagne’s heroes, the mighty warrior Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane). In the 16th century, Holger Danske was believed to have conquered all the countries from Jerusalem at the centre of the world, to paradise in the east, and converted them to the Christian faith. The stories of Holger Danske’s feats were widespread in Christian II’s time when the court historian Christiern Pedersen sat working with them. He deduced that Christian II was a direct descendant of the old proto-crusader. The legend went that the slumbering Holger Danske would awaken and come to the rescue of Denmark in the hour of need. In the early 19th century, folklorist J.M. Thiele linked the story to Kronborg, where Holger Danske sits to this day.