Many people know that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but how many know where he got inspiration for his epic adventures? Yes, in the tales of a little Hobbit who sets on big quests, multiple ideas for characters may have come from the author's inspiration from the grand tales from the past:
DEALING WITH DRAGONS: In the Hobbit, a young Bilbo Baggins goes with a few friendly Dwarves to claim back their old, mountain kingdom. When he gets there, he confronts a nasty Dragon by the name of Smaug and incurs his wrath by stealing a golden cup from the beast's horde. This is like a scenario that occurs in the story of Beowulf. A little background: A king asked Beowulf to come kill a monster. The deed was done, and the monster's mother was also killed later. When both the king and his son perished, Beowulf becomes king and rules for fifty years. Now, there was a Dragon in that land who had a vast quantity of treasures. A passing peasant stole one of the Dragons gold items-a cup (what a surprise)-, and the Dragon went on a rampage. He burned villages, just like Smaug does when Bilbo angers him. While Beowulf finds and slays the Dragon in his poem, the Hobbit's monster is killed by a man named Bard, who shoots him with an arrow.
THE WEAPONS OF WONDER: Narsil and Excalibur, two very famous swords bestowed upon two equally famous kings. Narsil was used to cut the One Ring from the finger of the Dark Lord of Mordor and that would-be-world-conqueror: SAURON! Excalibur is the sword of King Arthur, given to him by the mysterious Lady of the Lake. Narsil, now in pieces, is to be given to the Lord Aragorn, rightful king of the throne and descendant of Isildur, he who cut the Ring from Sauron. Now forged, it shall be wielded by Aragorn in battles to come. Arthur uses his sword to protect his kingdom. In the battle that shall be his last (in some versions), Arthur uses his sword to fight his nephew Mordred (or illegitimate son, depending on the author) and ultimately slaughters his foe on the field of battle with its mighty blade.
THE HERO IS HELL BOUND: Great. That's the last place ANY of us wish to go, right? Well, sometimes to prove themselves, heroes had to go down under... and we're not talking about Australia here! No, this is the land beyond the river Styx (in Roman and Greek myth), and it could be your very last trip: A one-way road to the bowels of doom. In many Greek and Roman tales, a hero had to go to Hades in order to rescue the soul of his loved one from the clutches of the god of the dead. So did Aragorn. But this was to prove who he was, so that he could claim his throne when Sauron was defeated, so that he could wed his girlfriend. The things one does for love. He travels down the Paths of the Dead and gathers the Shadow Host to his side. However, after they scare the skin off of some of Gondor's (Aragorn's kingdom) enemies, he bids them off to a peaceful afterlife.
So, you can see where Tolkien was greatly influenced by the tales of old. I guess, if you want to be a writer, you should read, read, read. These legends are cool and can give grand inspiration to any who seek it from them.