Tolkien & World War One

Interesting piece from the BBC’s iWonder website on how JRR Tolkien’s writing was affected by his experiences in World War One.

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2 thoughts on “Tolkien & World War One

  1. A fascinating topic, especially because he so adamantly resisted critical efforts to connect his work thematically or metaphorically to either Great War–one wonders if he was just being coy or if he truly was blind to the impact his experiences played in his work. Even the film interpretation, removed from the author by time, distance, and the demands of audience expectations, have in their battle scenes a distinctly world war 1 feel–all that infantry meeting headlong in the field of battle, pummeled by artillery (catapults & tresbuchets) and cavalry. Great link–thanks for it.

    • Thank you, and thanks for the comment. It’s one of the really interesting things about Tolkien. I don’t think he was blind to the impact of his wartime experiences – I think he was paying his readers the courtesy of not foisting simple interpretations or explanations on them, but instead letting them find their own meaning in his work. And regarding the film versions, I think Peter Jackson and his collaborators have been explicit in interviews about the WWI parallels – Sam Gamgee being Frodo’s batman, for example. The fascinating thing with Tolkien is the way he synthesizes the many different influences on his writing – Beowulf, the Icelandic sagas, his experiences as a boy seeing industrial Birmingham gobbling up the countryside, his war service – into this satisfying whole that manages to be more than the sum of its parts. I think it’s because of those deep wellsprings he draws upon that his books continue to have such an influence.

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