Digging up what’s in your own head

Tolkien made an interesting comment when he tried, early on, to try and explain his new mythology.

He soon came to feel that the composition of occasional poems without a connecting theme was not what he wanted. Early in 1915 he turned back to his original Earendel verses ad began to work their theme into a larger story. He had shown the original Earendel lines to G.B. Smith, who had said that he liked them but asked what they were really about.

Tolkien had replied: ‘I don’t know. I’ll try to find out.’

Not try to invent: try to find out. He did not see himself as an inventor of story buy as a discoverer of legend. And this was really due to his private languages.

-Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p.83

The language was what was invented, though still based on a deep knowledge of linguistics. Then the mythology came later as a way of explaining how the words developed (and they were already developed). The language poured a huge slab of concrete for him to build his cathederal upon.