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Old 01-31-2001, 12:53 AM   #1
Heliotrope
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Ring Parallels between LOTR and WWII?

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In the Author's Foreword to my 1970s Ballantine paperback edition of Lord of the Rings, Tolkien says his epic was never intended to be an allegory of World War II, as some people thought.
He said that he detested all allegory or roman-a-clef writing; furthermore, if LOTR had followed the actual course of events, the One Ring would not have been destroyed, but rather taken by the Allies and used against Sauron; Barad-Dur would have been occupied rather than destroyed; Saruman would have discovered enough information to build his own Ruling Ring, and eventually would have challenged &quot;the self-styled Master of Middle-Earth. ... And in that conflict hobbits would not have lasted long, as both sides would have held them in hatred and contempt.&quot;
Can anyone help me reconstruct the parallels JRRT makes here for the sake of argument? (Keeping in mind that his larger point is that these parallels clearly don't hold if you look at the actual plot of LOTR.) To start with, the Alliance of Elves, Men, and Dwarves that overcomes the dark power of Sauron would stand for the Allies of WWII.
Sauron = the Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Japan, and Italy)?
The One Ring = the nuclear bomb?
Barad-Dur = Germany and/or Japan?
Saruman = the Soviet Union? (Although this isn't a very close parallel. Saruman was an ally before the war, then gradually became (or was discovered to be) an enemy. The USSR was an enemy to the West right before WWII, what with its invasion of Finland and non-aggression pact with Germany, but then reversed and became an ally. Then the minute the Axis was defeated, the USSR grew into an enemy in its own right.)
&quot;the self-styled Master of Middle-Earth&quot; -- first of all, in the book this presumably would have been whatever Good character gave in to the temptation Gandalf and Galadriel resist, and Boromir temporarily gives in to, of taking the Ring and its power for their own purposes, right? The real-life counterpart = the U.S.?
Hobbits = ?? The Jews, maybe? Finland? Hungary, Czechoslovakia? Any small and peaceable country that doesn't care to become a satellite of either the West or the East? Pacifist and/or noncombatant individuals? Nuclear scientists? Your guess is as good as mine.

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Old 01-31-2001, 01:53 AM   #2
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Hmm

Strange, I never thought of LotR and WWII as parallels; but I see where you are going, Heliotrope. There are some striking similarities I agree, but only very basic and singular comparisons i.e. Sauron is the bad guy, the One Ring is going to cause thousands of cases of radiation sickness etc. but the two will never fully comply; as you quoted Tolkien as saying, it was not meant as an allegory of WWII. However, all that aside; France has always struck me as a Rohan, (It's green <img src=tongue.gif ALT=":b"> ) and England as The Shire, although England played a much larger role in WWII than the Shire did in LotR. However, you are missing something...Winston Churchill. Ai! <img src=wink.gif ALT=""> PS Welcome to the Barrowdowns. I'm new myself. <img src=smile.gif ALT="">

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Old 01-31-2001, 05:02 AM   #3
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Re: Hmm

Well, if we're going to go into LotR=WW2 speculation...

Gandalf = Churchill, perhaps?
Hobbits = Either the Jews or any group of pacifists.

Hmm. I can't seem to find many paralells. At least, not any that get past the level of vague similarity. (Probably because any resemblance to WW2 would be entirely unintentional...)

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Old 01-31-2001, 05:06 AM   #4
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Re: Hmm

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Old 01-31-2001, 08:31 AM   #5
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Re: Hmm

Yes, welcome to the downs.

I doubt it is even really possible to think that WWII and LotR are one in the same. I don't know for sure(would it be in Letters?), but I assume that LotR was pretty much written before then. It was published around '54 or '55, yet if he did as many rewrites as he did on some of his other stories...

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Old 01-31-2001, 08:54 AM   #6
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Re: Hmm

it's may proove better answer than any, and I believe oyu'll forgive me it's longivety:

<blockquote>Quote:<hr> 31 July 1947&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Merton College, Oxford
Dear Unwin,
I will certainly address you so, cum permissu, though it hardly seems a fair exchange for the loss of 'professor', a title one has rather to live down than to insist on.
I was surprised to get the instalment of The Ring back so quickly. It may be a large book, but evidently it will be none too long in the reading for those who have the appetite. And it was very kind of you to send me Rayner's impressions. Any criticism from outside the small circle that has known the thing as it has grown (and becoming familiar with its world have long ceased to be overpowered) would be welcome; but this critic is worth listening to.
I must now wait with patience until he has seen more. I will send another instalment at the end of August. And I have now another urgent reason, in addition to the clamour of the circle, for finishing it off, so that it can be finally judged.
I return Rayner's remarks with thanks to you both. I am sorry he felt overpowered, and I particularly miss any reference to the comedy, with which I imagined the first 'book' was well supplied. It may have misfired. I cannot bear funny books or plays myself, I mean those that set out to be all comic; but it seems to me that in real life, as here, it is precisely against the darkness of the world that comedy arises, and is best when that is not hidden. Evidently I have managed to make the horror really horrible, and that is a great comfort; for every romance that takes things seriously must have a warp of fear and horror, if however remotely or representatively it is to resemble reality, and not be the merest escapism. But I have failed if it does not seem possible that mere mundane hobbits could cope with such things. I think that there is no horror conceivable that such creatures cannot surmount, by grace (here appearing in mythological forms) combined with a refusal of their nature and reason at the last pinch to compromise or submit.
But in spite of this, do not let Rayner suspect 'Allegory'. There is a 'moral', I suppose, in any tale worth telling. But that is not the same thing. Even the struggle between darkness and light (as he calls it, not me) is for me just a particular phase of history, one example of its pattern, perhaps, but not The Pattern; and the actors are individuals – they each, of course, contain universals, or they would not live at all, but they never represent them as such.
Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in Truth. So that the only perfectly consistent allegory is a real life; and the only fully intelligible story is an allegory. And one finds, even in imperfect human 'literature', that the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily can it be read 'just as a story'; and the better and more closely woven a story is the more easily can those so minded find allegory in it. But the two start out from opposite ends. You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if you like: an allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for all attempts to defeat evil power by power. But that is only because all power magical or mechanical does always so work. You cannot write a story about an apparently simple magic ring without that bursting in, if you really take the ring seriously, and make things happen that would happen, if such a thing existed.
Rayner has, of course, spotted a weakness (inevitable): the linking. I am glad that he thinks that the linking has on the whole been well done. That is the best that could be hoped. I have done the best I could, since I had to have hobbits (whom I love), and must still have a glimpse of Bilbo for old times' sake. But I don't feel worried by the discovery that the ring was more serious than appeared; that is just the way of all easy ways out. Nor is it Bilbo's actions, I think, that need explanation. The weakness is Gollum, and his action in offering the ring as a present.1 However, Gollum later becomes a prime character, and I do not rely on Gandalf to make his psychology intelligible. I hope it will come off, and Gandalf finally be revealed as perceptive rather than 'hard put to it'. Still I must bear this in mind, when I revise chapter II for press : I intend, in any case, to shorten it. The proper way to negotiate the difficulty would be slightly to remodel the former story in its chapter V. That is not a practical question; though I certainly hope to leave behind me the whole thing revised and in final form, for the world to throw into the waste-paper basket. All books come there in me end, in this world, anyway.
As for who is to read it? The world seems to be becoming more and more divided into impenetrable factions, Morlocks and Eloi, and others. But those that like this kind of thing at all, like it very much, and cannot get anything like enough of it, or at sufficiently great length to appease hunger. The taste may be (alas!) numerically limited, even if, as I suspect, growing, and chiefly needing supply for further growth. But where it exists the taste is not limited by age or profession (unless one excludes those wholly devoted to machines). The audience that has so far followed The Ring, chapter by chapter, and has re-read it, and clamours for more, contains some odd folk of similar literary tastes: such as C. S. Lewis, the late Charles Williams, and my son Christopher; they are probably a very small and unrequiting minority. But it has included others: a solicitor, a doctor (professionally interested in cancer), an elderly army officer, an elementary school-mistress, an artist, and a farmer.2 Which is a fairly wide selection, even if one excludes professionally literary folk, whose own interests would seem to be far removed, such as David Cecil.
At any rate the proof-reader, if it ever comes to that, will, I hope, have very little to do. I was bowed under other work and had no time to look over the chapters I sent in. Belisarius must have been scribbled as a suggestion over the name Hamilcar3 in a few cases. The choice matters little, though the change had a purpose; but at any rate I hope that most detestable slovenliness of not keeping even a minor character's name firm will not disfigure the final form. Also: it is inevitable that the knowledge of the previous book should be presumed; but there is in existence a Foreword, or opening chapter, 'Concerning Hobbits'. That gives the gist of Chapter V 'Riddles in the Dark', and retells the information supplied in the first two pages or so of the other book, besides explaining many points that 'fans' have enquired about: such as tobacco, and references to policemen and the king (p. 43),4 and the appearance of houses in the picture of Hobbiton. The Hobbit was after all not as simple as it seemed, and was torn rather at random out of a world in which it already existed, and which has not been newly devised just to make a sequel. The only liberty, if such it is, has been to make Bilbo's Ring the One Ring: all rings had the same source, before ever he put his hand on it in the dark. The horrors were already lurking there, as on page 36, and 303 ;5 and Elrond saw that they could not be banished by any White Council.
Well, I have talked quite long enough about my own follies. The thing is to finish the thing as devised and then let it be judged. But forgive me! It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other. I fear it must stand or fall as it substantially is. It would be idle to pretend that I do not greatly desire publication, since a solitary art is no art; nor that I have not a pleasure in praise, with as little vanity as fallen man can manage (he has not much more share in his writings than in his children of the body, but it is something to have a function); yet the chief thing is to complete one's work, as far as completion has any real sense.
I am deeply grateful for being taken seriously by a busy man who has dealt and deals with many men of greater learning and talent. I wish you and Rayner a good voyage, successful business, and then great days among the Mountains.6 How I long to see the snows and the great heights again!
Yours sincerely,
J. R. R. Tolkien.
<hr></blockquote>

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Old 01-31-2001, 11:25 AM   #7
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Re: Hmm

The initial post (was it Heliotrope?) I thought summarized things rather well.

I would say, however, that the Hobbits were simply the common-folk of the free nations. The &quot;little guy!&quot;

I've always thought of the West as America in allegory (if we continue against Tolkien's express wishes to play this game!).

Gandalf would be Churchill. That would make Denethor, Roosevelt!

The allegory quickly breaks down, as even intentional allegory does upon close examination.

And I always thought the Dwarves would have been like the Jews. Of course, the forced-allegory does not contain a Holocaust.

Even though it is not an allegory, what I think makes it feel like one is the applicability to war and especially to modern war with its ultimate weaponry.

This is a serendipitous function of Tolkien's reach into the deep archetypes of our myths and legends. There is Truth in these, that is felt even through the fiction. It is that Truth about apocalyptic war that we feel applies to the Reality of the modern potential for apocalypse.

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Old 01-31-2001, 04:21 PM   #8
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Parallels between LOTR and WWII

Gilthalion, I like your explanation of the Hobbits' real-world analogy in WWII best. Both literally and metaphorically the &quot;little guy&quot;! (It's clear from history and literature of the 1930s on that loss of freedom, individualism, and tradition were symptoms of Modernism, in the West just as much as under totalitarianism. Cf. &quot;Brave New World&quot; and Auden's poem &quot;To the Unknown Citizen.&quot
You make a good point that any meaningful story will contain insights that are applicable to the world around us, even if there is absolutely no attempt at either realism or allegory. (As Tolkien himself said in the letter the previous poster shared.)
It's interesting to speculate how LOTR might have turned out if Tolkien *had* made it follow the course of WWII, at least to the extent of the Good Guys keeping the Ring for their own purposes rather than destroying it. JRRT makes it quite clear that the Ring will only work evil in the long run, although its effect will be muffled by a wearer's lack of interest in exerting its power. From his point of view, any ending other than destroying the Ring would have been an unmitigated tragedy for Middle-Earth -- even if it had been wielded by someone as radiantly good and wise as Galadriel, or as kindly and harmless as Sam, because it would have perverted all their best intentions.
I wonder what he might have thought of the nuclear arms race, or the United States' rise to superpower status. What if Boromir and Denethor had succeeded in snaffling the Ring for Gondor? Imagine Middle-Earth counterparts to Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ, John Foster Dulles, Khrushchev, Kim Philby, J. Edgar Hoover, Ho Chi Minh, etc. etc. (No, too mundane and depressing...)

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Old 01-31-2001, 09:25 PM   #9
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Re: Parallels between LOTR and WWII

All throughout history and in many great stories, there are a few things that are common. The good guys, the bad guys, the victims of the bad guys and whatever it is they're fighting over-ranging from the control of the world to nuclear technology. As was made clear by the above letter, Tolkien did not attempt an allegory. But those few factors remain the same, thus likening it to World War II.

Not all those who wander are lost.</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://www.barrowdowns.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_profile&u=00000038>the Lorien wanderer</A> at: 1/31/01 10:51:42 pm
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Old 02-01-2001, 01:22 AM   #10
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Re:Hmm

I don't even want to see any parallels between lotr and the most disgusting war
that ever happened. <img src=eek.gif ALT=":eek">

And even though you said you just want to do it for fun.. let's not talk about it anymore....


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Old 02-01-2001, 08:34 AM   #11
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Re: Re:Hmm

I don't have any input for the topic at the moment, but I think it is a good one. Quite interesting.

Refusing to talk or mention a topic such as WWII won't make it go away. Only time will heal wounds and there have been 55+ years and a lot of healing already.

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Old 02-01-2001, 08:47 AM   #12
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Re: Re:Hmm

One little thing I noticed once is something where it might be possible that JRRT could actually have been inspired by WWII.
Saruman's Uruk-Hai:

-a black elite unit with white s-runes on their uniforms.
-They showed exceptional leadership and courage.
-They were 'devised' only lately and first used in that war.
-They got aided by volunteers (Dśnlendings).
-They were a merciless troop on a merciless side.
-They considered themselves as being far superior to others, both in skill and in blood


The German SS ('Schutzstaffel') and Waffen-SS in WWII:-a black elite unit with white s-runes on their uniforms.
-They showed exceptional leadership and courage.
-They were 'devised' only lately and first used in that war.
-They got aided by volunteers (Scandinavia, Balkans etc.).
-They were a merciless troop on a merciless side.
-They considered themselves as being far superior to others, both in skill and in blood



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Old 02-01-2001, 08:54 AM   #13
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Re: Re:Hmm

...and they were large phsycally. Elite SS soldiers had a minimum height requirement.

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Old 02-01-2001, 08:59 AM   #14
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Re: Re:Hmm

Yes of course! I thought of it today at work and forgot it.
And they used advanced weapons (straight swords - best mg's and tanks).

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Old 02-01-2001, 09:13 AM   #15
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Re: Re:Hmm

Not to mention that their superior size and strength were reportedly the result of a eugenics program.

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Old 02-01-2001, 09:16 AM   #16
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Re: Re:Hmm

That does not really apply to the SS, though.
Even if so, they were only the starting seed for Himmler's program; still there's a resemblance...

And did I mention that both were somehow envied and/or mistrusted by the other soldiers (Dśnlendings -SA/Wehrmacht)?

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Old 02-01-2001, 09:32 AM   #17
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Re: Re:Hmm

Exactly what I meant re: the SS, Sharkū, only I expressed it rather poorly in my previous post. Good points on all other fronts.

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Old 02-01-2001, 12:11 PM   #18
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Re: Re:Hmm

Ahh... I think I know what you mean now <img src=smile.gif ALT=""> Alright then

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Old 02-03-2001, 03:09 AM   #19
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Re: Re:Hmm

The field where the whole allegory, even if one tried to hold it, becomes obsolete, is the field of military tactics and methods.

Where is the parallel to airforces? They changed the whole style of warfare in WWII. Where are the tanks? They made war mobile again. Where the AD-guns? Legolas shooting a Nazgūl? Hardly so. Where are the fleets? Naval invasions? The battlefield of Africa? Scorched earth in Eastern and Middle-Europe? The convois? Nippon? The Pacific battlefield?

This list can be continued ad infinitum. Tolkien knew such aforementioned things. They do not show in his books. Hence no allegory possible.


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Old 02-03-2001, 06:02 PM   #20
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Air Power

Actually, the Nazgul on winged steeds were a new factor. It gave them speed and frightening power.

In THE HOBBIT, Smaugs aerial tactics were a real consideration.

The use of birds high overhead for surveilance could be like aerial reconnaisance.

And of course, the rescue of Frodo and Sam from Mount Doom, not to mention other tactical uses and advantages enjoyed by the Eagles comes to mind.

Of course, all allegories and analogies break down. It's just a fun mental challenge.

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Old 02-03-2001, 06:17 PM   #21
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Re: Air Power

Actually, the Nazgūl on winged steeds could remind of the German Junkers 52 tac bomber which became known as 'Stuka' (for Sturzkampf-Flieger, because of their head-on attack style). Both had similar use, were quite new to warfare, and had a psychological effect of scaring enemies (the Nazgūl with their screams, the Stukas with their head-on attack and built-in sirens).

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Old 02-04-2001, 12:22 PM   #22
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Re: Air Power

I came across this quote in Letters and thought it very interesting in the context of the current drift of this discussion:<blockquote>Quote:<hr> But it is the aeroplane of war that is the real villain. And nothing can really amend my grief that you, my best beloved [Christopher], have any connexion with it. My sentiments are more or less those that Frodo would have had if he discovered some Hobbits learning to ride Nazgūl-birds, &quot;for the liberation of the Shire&quot;.<hr></blockquote>

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Old 02-04-2001, 01:24 PM   #23
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Re: Air Power

Of course an easily understandable point by Tolkien. WWII showed clearly how vile aeroplanes can be in warfare with their ability to easily wage war on civilists far behind the front; and to which simple killing-mechanism war can further be reduced when you not even stand face to face with your opponent, and not even on the same level.

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