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Thread: I need help

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Okay fellas here's the deal. A friend of me asked mefor help about the similarities between Lord of the Rings and the 1. World War. I, myself, know some stuff about it but since this is a project for university, i thought it'd be better to ask people whose knowledge is way greater than mine. So, Grondy, Val, Nell, i need your help.
3 days and no reply? To be honest that wasn't what i expected... Oh well... Sad Smilie
vampyr, i thought the second world war was more of an influence? the marshwiggle Sad Smilie
Nope the First World War was the major influence as he was a serving officer (lieutenant) in our British Army, served in 1916 till the end of that year, sent home with some injuries but mainly as a consequence of severe "Shell-Shock".

Main themes I think that influenced his works as a result of his experiences of the Great War, are IMHO:

(Senseless)Carnage on an unprecendented scale.

The contrast between his Rural Home and pastoral origins with that of the barbarous and primitive living conditions on the Western Front.

Technocracy and the Mechanization of Warfare, Howitzers, Machine guns, Tanks, Barb-wire etc...

I think its dangerous to personalise, as some writers have done, the view that Great Evils like Sauron and Melkor were meant to be portrayals of the Kaiser or the German War-machine, rather i feel that the "World" had changed irrevocably in Tolkiens opinion, and not for the better. Many like him had similar views, Wilfred Owen as an example.

I'm sure there is more to add... but i hope this little helps; otherwise i suggest reading some biographicals on Tolkien, and other literary figures of WWI.

Wink Smilie
I apologize Vampyre,
I didn't see your post until today. It would seem to most that WWI had influenced LOTR, especially since he began the shaping of Middle Earth during his recuperation after his return from WWI. I will have to get back to you on this as I have to head to work now. If you can get hold of a copy of Tom Shippey's JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century, he does address this question.
Hi Vamps.... I apologise too for not replying earlier. This was not the thread for a quick answer, however, and I have been a bit too rushed recently to spend an hour or so researching someone's homework for them. I've had similar questions raised through emails too, so what I'll do here is paste the contents of a couple of replies I made to someone else a few weeks ago.

This was a reply to someone asking for similarities between LotR and the WW's.

There are several threads on the Planet Tolkien forum board in which that
topic has been discussed. I cannot remember the titles of them just off
hand, but they shouldn't be too difficult to find (they are most likely in
the Author or General Discussion sections).

Obviously with JRR being involved in the WW1, and losing several close
friends there, it has undoubtably effected his writing. I find this
particularly so in the Silmarillion, where the feeling of loss and despair
is quite strong. Inferences could also be drawn, like you suggest, to the
Humans and Elves etc being Allies to the Orcish Germans. I don't really feel
there, though, the connection is really much stronger than could be assigned
to the opposing combatants of any armed conflict.

LotR, itself, tends to concentrate on the battle between Good and Evil. I
feel, particularly in the case of WW1, it wasn't a battle between Good and
Evil, just a number of powers fighting for what they believed in. Neither
side were really Evil, or for that matter Good. In this way, the concept of
Good and Evil fighting it out predates any events of the World Wars.

Also, in the case of Saruman, I feel Tolkien is contrasting the beauty and
naturalness of the pre-industrial era (Elves and Hobbits etc) with that of
the post industrial revolution (Saruman's fiery pits and primitive heavy

When you look deeply into his work, I think many things influenced Tolkien's
writing, although he has worked hard not to let any one of them stand out
too strongly.

This one was a further response to the same person.

I think if your assignment is to actually find comparisons between LotR and the World Wars, then yes you should be able to find plenty of similarities. What I was attempting to portray in my last mail was that while these similarities exist, it was not necessarily Tolkien's intention.

I agree with you about the Uruk hai. In a WW2 setting they could be compared to the German Stormtroopers. Just as easily, however, in another setting they could represent the elite forces of any army.

Some people compare also the Easterling and Haradrim peoples of Middle Earth (generally portrayed as being evil) with the Japanese and Arabian peoples. I don't believe Tolkien was a racist, but he was writing in a period that was less politically correct than the one we live in today. I think when you are creating a world, you are bound to carry over stereotypes from your own world even if you do not intend to.

Like I said before, although I don't believe LotR represents in any way WW2 as say Animal Farm represents the Russian Revolution, Tolkien did seem to draw his ideas from many sources. So, basically, although LotR is not a mirror of WW2, if you look close enough you will undoubtably be able to find instances that have been influenced by it.

My knowledge of figures in the WW2 isn't really sufficient to be able to find Tolkien equivalents for you I'm afraid.