sobota, 31 sierpnia 2019

1260: first trace of the Tolkien family in Prussia!

I want to thank dr hab. Radosław Biskup
for his help in obtaining the documentation for my research
of the history of mediaeval Tolkien family in Prussia.

Rps 54/III (Toruń) Di Kronike von Pruzinlant
A fragment with Milgede

ûf der burc sô kûne ein man,
der dâ torste in bestân

mit kampfe sundir helfe pflicht.

Und dô Milgede dî geschicht
'There was a man called Miligedo in the castle at this time who was so strong, manly and bold (kûne), and so brave in the battle that the Prussians regarded him as equal to half the garrison in the castle (...)'

This story is maybe not so epic as the narration of the Silmarillion but it is also dramatic. And it tells about an ancestor of J. R. R. Tolkien! Its language is very interesting! It is Middle High German (MHG) used by J. R. R. Tolkien's ancestors from Prussia in the fourteenth century. The rythm of Nikolaus von Jeroschin's (circa 1290-1341) poetry is very similar to Tolkien's A Elbereth Gilthoniel (so called ann-thennath in Sindarin). This is Di Kronike von Pruzinlant ('The Chronicle of Prussian land' - whole poem in MHG can be found here) and it was dedicated to the patron saint of the Teutonic Knights, the Virgin Mary, and expanded upon the earlier work of Peter of Dusburg. Thanks to my most recent discovery in the old documents from the State of the Teutonic order (enclosed in the Preußisches Urkundenbuch) we can say that this story is a part of the history of the Tolkien family. Let us start with the year 1254 and the story of the Great Prussian Uprising (1260-1274, see here). The major revolt began on September 20, 1260...
Dî Samin einen houbtman
kurn, der hîz Glande;
dî von Ermelande
Glappin in ûzweltin;
zu hergrêven zeltin
Auctume dî von Pogezên;
dî Nattangin sach man gên

an Heinrîche, der Monte hîz;

der Bartin dît sich vorlîz
an einen, der hîz Diwan,
daz der solde sî vorstân.
As the uprising was spreading through Prussian lands, each clan chose a leader: the Sambians were led by Glande, the Natangians by Herkus Monte, the Bartians by Diwanus, the Warmians by Glappe, the Pogesanians by Auktume
Ouch sach man von dem Rîne,
von Sachsin, von Duringin,

von Mîsin sô her swingin

und von landin manchirwein

manchin ellinthaftin dein

von gravin, rittirn, knechtin,

dî dâ woldin vechtin (...)
'Many bold warriors, counts, knights and their knechts arrived from Rhineland, Saxony, Thuringia, Meissen and from many diffrent lands.' German princes and knights came to Prussia to help defending Christian faith... And in 1260 during the siege of the castle Bartenstein (today's Bartoszyce in Poland)
Milgede der valscheit irschrac,
want er nicht zurucke
immochte ûf gelucke.
Dî vart er nâch dem kempfin wûc
und in an dem loufe slûc,
daz er tôt dâ ligin bleib (...)
See the English translation of this story by Mary Fisher:


Miligedo was a hero of the defence of the castle of Bartenstein which lasted for four years. Finally he was killed but before it many Prussians and Germans joined him. About 75 years later descendants of these people were rewarded with goods by the Teutonic Order. What was my discovery of the last month was that the Primus Gentis of the Tolkien family in Prussia was a knight who joined Miligedo in circa 1360 in Bartenstein (today's Bartoszyce). His name was Bernhard von Markelingerode and he probably came to Prussia together with his count or prince of Saxony in the beginning of the Prussian uprising (c. 1260). His son was Heinrich Tolkin (such form in 1306, CDW I, 137), a negotiator and translator of the bishop of Warmia, and his grandson, Johann Tolkyn (this form in 1339 in PU III Nr. 224) received many lands in reward for Bernhard's military help agains Hercus Monte ("Heinrich Muriche"). General note: the form Tolkin/Tolkyn is earlier in the sources than the form Tolk.

Bartenstein (Bartoszyce) by Ch. Hartknoch (17th c.)


Let us move to the year 1339. According to the privilege found in the Preußisches Urkundenbuch (PU) III, p. 183-184:
„(…) fidelem adhesionem dilecti nostri quondam Millegeden, quam nostris fecit fratribus ad ipsos relictis bonis suis uxoreque et pueris declinando eisque constanter et fideliter adherendo, dum transactis temporibus Henricus Muriche et universi Prutheni ac Sambite a christiana fide prophannasent et contumaciter apostotassent” etc.

„Item sub premisso tenore et forma per omnia ut prefertur, pretermissa tantum narracione principii de apostasya Pruthenorum et adhesione Milgeden sonat privilegium Mathie et Iohannis dictorum Sachsen, quibus damus viginti mansos et undecim iugera in campo Korken necnon quadraginta mansos in campo Gawsislawsks sub omnibus clausulis” etc.


it is about making the land grant in the Bartenstein region to Mathias and Johannes called Sachsen [they were called Tolkin/Tolkyn in other documents] for their ancestor's joining Miligedo in his fight against "apostasya Pruthenorum" during the uprising of Herkus Monte ["Hercus Muriche"]
Some Prussians and some Germans who did not join the 1260 pagan Prussian uprising were rewarded. The Teutonic Order made the land grants to their descendants. The land given to them lay in the region of Bartenstein. And so Matthias and his father, Johann called Sachsen received the land in Gawsislawks (or Gausilauken) and in another grant the land in Kirschitten and Grositten which later became the center of the goods of the noble Tolkien family (in Middle High German spelling: Tolkyn). According to my research but also according to the author of the Preußisches Urkundenbuch Sachsen ('Saxon') is alternative name of the Tolkyn (Tolkien) family:

In fact it was a Saxon family called von Markelingerode (and later Merklichenrad; Markelingerode lay very close to Wernigerode in today's Sachsen-Anhalt) which in Prussia can be found under the following names: Sachse (or Sachsen), Tolk (or Tolkin, Tolkyn), von Powarschen and von Loßainen. According to my research the family of J. R. R. Tolkien may be descended from this noble Tolkien family (in fact the unbroken line of J. R. R. Tolkien's ancestors uncovered by me reaches the beginning of the seventeenth century and the town of Kreuzburg in Prussia; the earliest proved ancestor of the Professor was Michel Tolkin, c. 1625-1701 from Globuhnen and Kreuzburg).

And below a song in Middle High German (Polish readers know the song called Tamdaradei from the movie Krzyżacy):

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