Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Crispin, Jan 6, 2005.
i think that it is based on the world war, as many parts of the book point to this idea
Influenced by both World Wars most definitely, based on - I doubt it.
I don't think he sat down and thought, "hmmm - ok Mordor is Germany and North West Middle Earth is England" etc...
Like anyone in their formative years during both Wars it would be quite difficult NOT to be influenced in some capacity. Tolkien fought in the trenches in the Great War and was writing LOTR during the second, it would be kind of a challenge not to have his experiences spill over into his everyday existence let alone his writing.
Even as a kid, when I wrote my silly stories or drew my fantasy maps the West and North it seemed was always the "good" guys and East and South were always the "bad" guys. Did Tolkien influence me or my Social Studies teachers? Or both?
The only problem is that Tolkein himself directly repudiated the theory that he was writing based on WWII. He wrote in the introduction to the American versions:
"As for any inner meaning or "message", it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allgorical nor topical. As the story grew it put down roots (into the past) and threw out unexpected branches; but its main theme was settled from the outset by the inevitable choice of the Ring as the link between it and The Hobbit. The crucial chapter, "The Shadow of the Past", is one of the oldest parts of the tale. It was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted. Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and little or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.
"The real war does not resemble the legendary saw in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Souron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed by occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves."
He adds a few more comments about his dislike of allegory and a little about his experience with WWI. So if the author himself is to be believed, if there is one thing this story is NOT based on, it is WWII. Scandinavian mythos and epic storytelling almost certainly were influential, however.
Like all writers, Tolkien created his world by writing what he knew about. So, of course his experiences in the war/s influenced some aspects of LOTR.
For example, the fact he was part of the cavalry regiment during WWI, birthed his love of horses and thus resulted in the Riders of Rohan and indeed, the love and respect for horses throughout his work.
His experience of friendship and love in his life, had a lot to do with the relationships between Sam and Frodo, Arwen and Aragorn and so on.
Tolkien loved the countryside and hated how industry raped the land, he was also a witness to the growth in machines in warfare, such as tanks and so on. This theme of war machines and the destruction of the countryside to build them and industry itself, is strong throughout LOTR.
So I would say I can see many 'influences' in LOTR, including the wars, but in answer to your question, I can't quite decide between 'Friendship' or 'Hope' as what the LOTR is based on.
It was most definently influenced by the war he was in at the time. He wrote little notes while he was in the middle of the war that helped him write "The Hobbit". See, the war was a traumatic experience for him because he witnessed all his friends die around it, which is why you'll notice why the series has a "hoplessness" sense about it. I watched a television show that was about Tolkien and why he wrote it. Most of it was tied in with the war.
You're right Mercapeman. He was in WWI, and his experiences there heavily influenced the writing of LOTR, particularly the relationship between Frodo and Sam mirroring that between a British officer and his "batman" (valet, assistant, etc.). However, I don't think the course of either WWI or WWII directly influenced the plot.
Hmmm... You may be right, only.... Well, the hoplessness part about had something to do with the war. The basic plot didn't have influence (the ring... yeah....).
Have you had a look at the LotR DVD Appendices? Some fascinating stuff there, some I knew about, some were revealing. They spoke to a number of Tolkien scholars and the view that comes across is that is that LotR is not allegory (where there is a one-to-one relationship between e.g. Hitler & Sauron, Germany & Mordor). He says as much in the introduction of LotR.
An inspiration was the Finnish epic "Kalevala"(sp?) but Tolkien wanted to write a similar literary heritage for the Anglo-Saxons that wasn't "Frenchified"; sort of a Kalevala for the English. He felt that William the Conqueror's victory in 1066 resulted in the 'Frenchification' of the British during which time much of Anglo-Saxon culture was lost; the oral traditions etc.
His experiences, growing up and of WWI clearly influenced him as a person and a writer too.
It is important to seperate out Tolkien's writings when considering what (if anything) they are based on.
They are all based to a greater or lesser extent on his invented languages. The languages came first. The creation of a world and history to support them came when he realised that a language could not exist in a void.
The Silmarillion is based on many things. Some of Beren and Luthien is based on feelings about his wife. Some of Turin is based on the Kalevala. The genesis for the legend of Earendil was from a single verse of old poetry that he came across. Elements from Norse myth and others also found their way into it. The legend of Numenor came both from his wish to write an Atlantis myth and a recurrent dream he had as a child (that was later given to Faramir).
The Hobbit is pretty much the old child out. Written solely as a story for his children it has only a passing connection to his (by that time well developed) mythos. The Hobbit has far more to do with conventional fairy tales than anything else although Riddle Games (as with Gollum) and Dragons with weak spots have Norse antecedents. Gandalf was based on a picture from a postcard that Tolkien came across and the names of the Dwarves from the Elda Edda (if I remember rightly).
The Lord of the Rings has elements taken from his WWI experience as already mentioned. In particular the Frodo and Sam relationship. The Aragorn/Arwen story has obvious overtones of Beren/Luthien and hence his relationship with his wife. His dislike of machinery and perhaps progress is bound in there pretty tightly too. The Rohirrim were based on the Anglo Saxons and their relationship with horses based on feelings that Tolkien had about what would have happened differently to England had the Saxons had cavalry when the Normans invaded.
Overall there were a myriad of influences on the works as is often the case.
I'm just reading some posts, especially the previous one.... very interesting
Based on? Well, in a direct sense, Norse mythology and the works of ER Eddison, Lord Dunsany and CS Lewis.
In an allegorical sense (though Tolkien claimed it wasn't allegory, I don't believe that he could write this completely objectively without his own opinions and experiences coming into it):
Possibly the Second World War - Mordor as Germany, Shire as Britain, Elves as America? Possibly. I don't think Tolkien was racist though, as some have claimed.
Modernisation and Industrialisation - probably. He shows the evil side with all of their industrialisation and promotes the image of the rural, agrarian past with the good side.
Some useful articles on Tolkien, and his influences:
Epic Pooh - Michael Moorcock
Article by M John Harrison
And finally, a much more controversial article on Tolkien:
China Mieville's article
In the Foreword to the book (the part before the prologue), Tolkien strongly denies that the book is allegory. He clearly denies that it is based on any of the World Wars.
I know - he didn't intentionally write an allegory. But his religious principles are very clear in the book, and all authors are influenced to some extent by their own beliefs. While he may not have intended it as a direct allegory, there are clear parallels that can be drawn with the Second World War, or industrialisation, for example.
The Second World War, I don't really agree on. I just don't see it. There's no fascist-like, nazi-like element, besides the fact that it's just a huge war.
But industrialization, definitely. That was a major theme, for sure, but doesn't mean it's 'based on' any actual events. It's not like, say, Orwell's Animal Farm, where there was a specific animal to represent every character of the Russian revolution (i.e. a pig to represent Stalin, a pig for Lenin, a pig for Trotsky, etc.)
Also, while Tolkien's religious morals may be visible, he tried his hardest not to include any religious symbolism. This is where him and his friend C.S. Lewis (author of Narnia) disagreed, and actually argued. The Narnia books are full of religious symbolism (Aslan = Christ), but LOTR isn't. In fact, LOTR is actually pretty 'pagan' with all it's gods and wizards and creatures, and I think some fundamentalist groups believe it's an evil piece of writing!
I think both LOTR and CON
are both proto-Christian. Lewis is just more obvious about it.
The exalted status Tolkien affords Galadriel is, IMO, directly related to his Roman Catholicism and the adoration of the Holy Mother. I also once readan interesting and persuasive article that compared Bombadil to Melchizedek of the Old Testament.
I once wrote a letter to Lin Carter (whom, BTW, I consider a moron) after reading his book Fantasy Worlds in which he states there is no religion in LOTR, which he sees as a major flaw. I challenged his statement. It's true there are few if any direct references to exotic pantheons of gods (he saves that for The Silmarillion) or elaborate religious ritual, but the book is full of religious meaning. That book profoundly affected me, and led me from agnosticism to Christianity--and I've talked to enough other people to know I am far from the only one to be affected that way.
LOTR may not be Christian in its superficial trappings, but spiritually its essence is Christian to the core.
Bah!!! Please dont flame JRRTolkien with allegory. Thats a rather shallow interpretation and contrary to what the author specifically alludes to. If only people would spend time thinking (or even read all his books) before they come to these kinds of conclusions about some 'professors' life-times work. We are not talking todays money spinners or quick sells. For me LoTR was just the tip of the iceburg, literally, the 'literary vistas' are what I so appreciated.
Time-line sketch (correct me if you will) >>>
Elven language >>> stories of the Silmarillion >>> childrens tales (incl. Tom B.) >>> The Hobbit >>> vistas vistas >>> LoTR >>> more decades of Silmarillion...
There are, what, 40 yrs between the Silmarillion and the LoTR?
To call it allegory is a slight on the creator of Eru, Thingol, Feanor, Beren, Tuor, Turin..... down to Smeagol himself.
I really don't see how what you have posted has anything to do with what I said
about the essentially proto-Christian nature of LOTR. I've been around enough Tolkien discussion groups to know there are a lot of people, mostly non-believers, who try (in vain) to separate Tolkien's faith from what he has done in LOTR. I put them in the same category as Lewis puts people who (as he says in Mere Christianity) say they are willing to accept Jesus as a great teacher, but not as divine--way off track. I'm sorry, but if you read LOTR as just a rip-roaring good fantasy tale (which you can, if you are a shallow enough person, or one determined not to accept it's clear spiritual essence ) you are missing the whole point.
Read the books? LOL, my dear fellow! I've read everything Tolkien ever wrote in english. I've read The Silmarillion twice, The Hobbit three times, his shorter works all at least once. And as for LOTR itself? I've lost count, but it must be at least a dozen times (that's probably a pretty conservastive estimate, actually) cover to cover including the appendices. Like all great works of literature, I get something new from it each time.
Now you can disagree with me about the niceties of whether it is allegorical or not (and that question means squat to me) but let's not have any patronizing crap about my not having read or thought about the books (there have been periods of my life when that was something I thought about constantly). I stand by what I said; LOTR is a testament to Tolkien's abiding Christian faith. Yes, he had fun with the languages (as a philologist, how not?) but to read LOTR as a an exercise in language creation is to entirely miss the meaning of the book, as you evidently have, either through legitimate misunderstanding it or willfully not wanting to understand it.
When I have time I`ll try to give a more balanced answer, but two things immediately spring to mind.
1) You read it a dozen times? Thats small time believe me.
2)"if you are a shallow enough person, or one determined not to accept it's clear spiritual essence"
"but to read LOTR as a an exercise in language creation is to entirely miss the meaning of the book, as you evidently have, either through legitimate misunderstanding it or willfully not "
It seems only one person is willfully not wanting to understand it. It is possible to find religious symbolism in any piece of work, from Tolkien to my 1st year essay on the big yellow duck. You went looking for it, and found what you wanted, no harm but you were always going to. Religion and hopeful interpretation go hand in hand (no greater evidence than the bible for that).
The author has stated that the LotR is NOT allegory. Is he then a shallow man who willfully doesnt want to understand what he has written? I'm sorry but those two statements of yours are pure religious (insert word here) of the kind that has years ago destroyed any faith of mine.
Easy gentlemen, or ladies... whatever.
This thread has been silent since June, and now we have some hot debate! Let's try and keep it as just that - debate, and not personal attacks, please.
It really doesn't matter that you have differing views on the themes in the work, but to suggest one of them is wrong is utterly pointless and arrogant. Everything is relative and quite frankly, someone who read the LOTR purely for entertainment, and only once, has just as much ownership and legitimate argument in what they got out of the book/s as a language expert, war historian and/or a christian who has read it a thousand times.
Keep it civil please.
The book has some mild Christian themes, particularly those of pity and mercy, which lead to the destruction of the Ring.
But that's it.
Bryheinnen, you are most definitely exaggerating the amount of religious content in the story, and you are also saying that anyone who doesn't see it your way is clearly misunderstanding the whole book. I respectfully disagree. I myself have read it at least a half dozen times, and I love every word of it, but when I finish it I am in no way religiously inspired/empowered/or otherwise moved. Yet it remains my favorite book of all time, and means very much to me. So what do you say about that? I have no idea what I'm reading, and I'm missing the entire point?
Separate names with a comma.