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Old 10-14-2011, 06:22 PM   #1
Galadriel55
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Tolkien In a hole in the trench there lived a soldier

...Or, in other words, another hint in Tolkien's writings about his experiences of World War One.

Quote:
In a hole in the ground thre lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, [...]: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

~TH, An Unexpected Party
Compare:

In the hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a dugout, but a proper dwelling.


What do you think of this parallel? It looks like visions of the war still popped up in JRRT's mind unconciously. Did you notice any other instances where there are, as if, references (read: NOT allegories) to either World War? Other moments of Tolkien's life?



I know that there was a similar thread about parallels to the Wars somewhere, but I can't remember the name and the search was not fruitful. If someone finds the thread(s) a mod should probably delete this one.
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Old 10-14-2011, 08:15 PM   #2
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I'm not sure that particular example *is* a WWI parellel, G55. I'd say it's just addressing the reader's preconceptions– explaining it wasn't the kind of place you'd automatically think of when you hear the phrase "hole in the ground".
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Old 10-14-2011, 09:03 PM   #3
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No, it's not a parallel. It's more of a subconcious memmory showing through. Though maybe you're right about this one.
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Old 10-15-2011, 02:06 PM   #4
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Just like Nerwen, I'm not sure indeed whether the "dugout" necessarily refers to any "trench memories", even if it was unconscious. However, I shouldn't have a say on this at all since I am not a native English speaker, so I have no idea which connotations the word might have in general.

I would believe, however, that there might be some real "slips" like that present in the works here and there. Now I am not really talking about some deeply psychological stuff - the mere idea of starting to dissect Tolkien's works in order to find some Freudian slips or other stuff pointing to his past traumas or whatever makes me sick, I don't think it would be even appropriate. But there are, of course, things, which he himself had reported to be in some way inspired by his WW (ahem! I hope you all do know how to read this abbreviation) experiences, like the Dead Marshes or stuff like that. And I think that it might be indeed possible to find something which may not be so "obvious" on first sight - not in the sense that "oh, the fact that he had not mentioned Balrog's wings points to the fact that when he was seven, a magpie had stolen his favourite toothbrush", which is basically the kind of things I meant above, but more like the "dugout" stuff, if it was indeed true.

Random thing that comes to my mind, and I'm not even sure if I haven't read about this somewhere - the scene when Bilbo wakes up after the Battle of the Five Armies, wasn't this somehow connected to some war experiences of Tolkien, or maybe some impressions or things that had occured to him (awakening after the battle when nobody was there anymore)? Does anybody know whether there really wasn't anything written about that anywhere? Or if not, do you think it would be possible that such a thing would be something inspired by the War experiences (I don't know, like, spending some time unconscious and missing a large part of the battle)?
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Old 10-15-2011, 03:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
Random thing that comes to my mind, and I'm not even sure if I haven't read about this somewhere - the scene when Bilbo wakes up after the Battle of the Five Armies, wasn't this somehow connected to some war experiences of Tolkien, or maybe some impressions or things that had occured to him (awakening after the battle when nobody was there anymore)? Does anybody know whether there really wasn't anything written about that anywhere? Or if not, do you think it would be possible that such a thing would be something inspired by the War experiences (I don't know, like, spending some time unconscious and missing a large part of the battle)?
I feel like I've read somewhere that Tolkien blotting out Bilbo's narrative perspective during the Battle of the Five Armies is a statement on the "glory of war." The Men, Elves, and Dwarves win, but their goodness (their "glory," one might say) is not derived from their war prowess. This makes sense to me, and it puts Tolkien in a position of some opposition to parts of the epic/mythic tradition he is writing in. The reason it makes sense to me is precisely because of his statements in The Letters about the horrors of war. Who more than a WWI veteran would recognize the futility of war? Even when, as a Catholic, he would be willing to support a Just War, I can't see Tolkien ever glorifying it.

In this connection, Tolkien's other depictions of battles might be interesting to consider. The battles of the First Age that get the most attention are almost the exact opposite of the Battle of the Five Armies: laid out in full detail, but the forces of good are utterly crushed (the Nirnaeth is the main battle that comes to mind, but Túrin's losses on Amon Rûdh, at Nargothrond, and the fall of Gondolin come to mind). The victories in "the Silmarillion," on the other hand, are like the victory in The Hobbit: the War of Wrath is never given much detail, neither are the first three great Battles of the First Age, such as the victorious Dagor Aglareb ("glorious battle").

The Lord of the Rings is interesting in this respect, and I'm not quite sure if it will fit with the idea I'm running with, since the good guys tend to win the battles that are laid out: Helm's Deep, the Pelennor, and the Morannon. The only thing that springs immediately to mind is that all three battles are eucatastrophes, as outnumbered forces of good win out against the odds--and through the intervention of another force showing up just in time. In other words, one might say that without Gandalf (and the Valar), any one of these battles could have been a minor Nirnaeth.

It's food for thought, anyway--and, as I said, Tolkien's rejection of glory in war is on par for a WWI vet.
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Old 10-15-2011, 04:19 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Legate of Amon Lanc View Post
However, I shouldn't have a say on this at all since I am not a native English speaker, so I have no idea which connotations the word might have in general.
This word isn't really used now, as they became things of the past by WW2 (yes, I also use this abbreviation). I only came upon this term in my research for History class. And I thought of the description of what Bag-End wasn't.

Generally speaking, though, I think one would think "nasty, dirty, wet, squished, rat-infested, etc, hole in the mud that does little but keep the rain off your head". Not a very pleasant description. The quote from TH is certainly much milder.

Quote:
Random thing that comes to my mind, and I'm not even sure if I haven't read about this somewhere - the scene when Bilbo wakes up after the Battle of the Five Armies, wasn't this somehow connected to some war experiences of Tolkien, or maybe some impressions or things that had occured to him (awakening after the battle when nobody was there anymore)? Does anybody know whether there really wasn't anything written about that anywhere? Or if not, do you think it would be possible that such a thing would be something inspired by the War experiences (I don't know, like, spending some time unconscious and missing a large part of the battle)?
http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/in...&pagename=Arts

I found this article. It doesn't say anything about JRRT being unconcious. However, I see other instances that repeat themselves in the legendarium. It mentions the Dead Marshes in the end. Mrs. Sumner is like Rosie, Captain Evers is like Gandalf, and Tolkien himself is like Faramir. The list could go on forever.

However, I don't want to turn this into yet another thread that looks for direct parallels between the WWs and LOTR/TH/The Sil. I'm looking more for the subtle things, such as accidental references or descriptions that match an experience.


You could say that Sam's thoughts about the dead Haradrim in Ithilien were a reflection of Tolkien's own reaction to the War, though I'm not sure it's accidental.

Edit: xed with Form

Quote:
Originally Posted by Form
Tolkien's rejection of glory in war is on par for a WWI vet.
Most certainly!
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Old 10-15-2011, 05:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
I feel like I've read somewhere that Tolkien blotting out Bilbo's narrative perspective during the Battle of the Five Armies is a statement on the "glory of war." The Men, Elves, and Dwarves win, but their goodness (their "glory," one might say) is not derived from their war prowess.
Well said! And actually, I think the most direct expression of this attitude is in the person of Faramir, I have just recently been rereading the second part of TT, and this struck me:

Quote:
"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom."
(...)
"...[we] can scarce claim any longer the title High. We are become Middle Men, of the Twilight (...) For as the Rohirrim do, we now love war and valour as things good in themselves, both a sport and an end; and though we still hold that a warrior should have more skills and knowledge than only the craft of weapons and slaying, we esteem a warrior, nonetheless, above men of other crafts."
This, I believe, definitely proves (in the hierarchy of Tolkien's world, and I would say in this case at least, very likely in his own thinking too) the glory in battle as a thing which should not be praised the most, as those who "love war and valour as good things in themselves" are of "lower" status then the kind of Men who don't. At least this is the hierarchy among Men, and logically (since the High Men are the closest to the Elves) probably among Elves also, too. From the viewpoint of "objective good", so to say, war should probably at most serve the ends mentioned by Faramir in the first part of what I have quoted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/in...&pagename=Arts

I found this article. It doesn't say anything about JRRT being unconcious. However, I see other instances that repeat themselves in the legendarium. It mentions the Dead Marshes in the end. Mrs. Sumner is like Rosie, Captain Evers is like Gandalf, and Tolkien himself is like Faramir. The list could go on forever.
Thanks for the find, I will definitely take a look at it.

Quote:
However, I don't want to turn this into yet another thread that looks for direct parallels between the WWs and LOTR/TH/The Sil. I'm looking more for the subtle things, such as accidental references or descriptions that match an experience.
Sure. That's what I have been thinking of as well.

Quote:
You could say that Sam's thoughts about the dead Haradrim in Ithilien were a reflection of Tolkien's own reaction to the War, though I'm not sure it's accidental.
Indeed; I believe that part just screams "personal experience", and once again, I believe he had even confessed to that somewhere.
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Old 10-16-2011, 07:29 PM   #8
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A few quick thoughts-

I'd disagree with Galadriel re British use of the word dugout, probably because I'm older (yet another birthday has just passed, but a very enjoyable one!). Dugout would certainly have a military connotation, and more than likely be associated with the First World War, where the front lines were relatively static for so long. This would be a familiar word to Tolkien's generation, to the Second World War generation, and likely their children (due to war films, comics etc).

The times don't fit for the start of The Hobbit, but I guess later on many families might see the hobbit-hole as a reflection of their garden bomb-shelters like the Anderson shelter, though these were often more on the dank, cold and slimy end of the spectrum so I've heard.

The Dead Marshes and Sam's Southron have been mentioned already.

In the early Fall of Gondolin Morgoth unleashes monstrous machines, that have some similarities with tanks and armoured carriers. This reflects JRRT's antipathy for the 'machine', also remember Saruman's devices, including the ent-killling flamethrower-like contrivance.

Tolkien was also dismayed by aerial warfare (despite CT joining the RAF), and I have a theory that the terrifying wails of the Nazgul were suggested by the sirens of Nazi Stuka dive-bombers that demoralised the defenders of France in 1940.

There are also some interesting parallels between the writing of LoTR and course of the Second World War. The story-writing stalled at Balin's Tomb in Moria sometime in late 1940, according to the Foreword. At this time Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone and nobody knew that the Blitz and the U-boat campaigns would, in the end, fail to bring Britain to her knees. Maybe JRRT even considered the book pointless or useless in some way compared with the great struggle proceeding all around him? It's interesting that he continued only in late 1941, by which time both the USSR and the USA had allied to Britain and victory seemed achievable.

I think though, that the main wartime impact on Tolkien is shown by Sam. He seems the ideal 'batman' - an ordinary soldier that accompanied a junior officer and looked after the officer's day-to-day needs in the field, cleaning kit, fetching food etc. To me he represents the 'Tommy', ie the British soldiers in both World Wars. Stereotyped as stubborn, loyal and cheerful and often regarded as possessing more wisdom than their superiors, or at least a more practical sort, as the article that Galadriel posted makes clear.
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Old 10-16-2011, 08:01 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Rumil View Post
I'd disagree with Galadriel re British use of the word dugout, probably because I'm older (yet another birthday has just passed, but a very enjoyable one!). Dugout would certainly have a military connotation, and more than likely be associated with the First World War, where the front lines were relatively static for so long. This would be a familiar word to Tolkien's generation, to the Second World War generation, and likely their children (due to war films, comics etc).
I know of a use of dugout from WW II. General Douglas MacArthur's (American) troops in the Philippines had a rather derisive poem about him, set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock
Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock
Dugout Doug is eating of the best food in Bataan
And his troops go starving on.


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Tolkien was also dismayed by aerial warfare (despite CT joining the RAF), and I have a theory that the terrifying wails of the Nazgul were suggested by the sirens of Nazi Stuka dive-bombers that demoralised the defenders of France in 1940.
The description of the War of Wrath in The Silmarillion has an interesting aerial component, that's always reminded me of the terror air power can have against ground forces.

Quote:
Out of the pits of Angband there issued the winged dragons....and so sudden and ruinous was the onset of that dreadful fleet that the host of the Valar was driven back, for the coming of the dragons was with great thunder, and lightning, and a tempest of fire.
Now that's a pretty accurate description of an air raid, I think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil View Post
There are also some interesting parallels between the writing of LoTR and course of the Second World War. The story-writing stalled at Balin's Tomb in Moria sometime in late 1940, according to the Foreword. At this time Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone and nobody knew that the Blitz and the U-boat campaigns would, in the end, fail to bring Britain to her knees. Maybe JRRT even considered the book pointless or useless in some way compared with the great struggle proceeding all around him? It's interesting that he continued only in late 1941, by which time both the USSR and the USA had allied to Britain and victory seemed achievable.
Certainly the Battle of Britain would have been a major concern for him. I wonder of all the collateral damage wrought on British civilians by the Luftwaffe was echoed later in the burning of Rohan by Saruman's troops?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil View Post
I think though, that the main wartime impact on Tolkien is shown by Sam. He seems the ideal 'batman' - an ordinary soldier that accompanied a junior officer and looked after the officer's day-to-day needs in the field, cleaning kit, fetching food etc. To me he represents the 'Tommy', ie the British soldiers in both World Wars. Stereotyped as stubborn, loyal and cheerful and often regarded as possessing more wisdom than their superiors, or at least a more practical sort, as the article that Galadriel posted makes clear.
That makes a good deal of sense. Not the brightest bulb in the pack, but then, he didn't have to be. Planning of strategy was not his duty, just, as you say, loyalty and service to "superiors".
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Old 10-17-2011, 05:47 PM   #10
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Hi Inzil,

yes indeed, the Foreword is a bit vague about when JRRT 'stalled' on writing LoTR, it might be interesting to check through HoME for dates and see if there are any relationships between current affairs and the progress of the book, but I don't have the patience for that!

As for the Battle of Britain, maybe Beregond and Pippin looking out from the White Walls of Minas Tirith while Nazgul wheel overhead might chime with looking out from the White Cliffs of Dover during the Battle? But I think this is getting a bit tenuous.

The burnings in Rohan possibly, but these aren't closely described in the books, maybe Sam's vision of the Burning of the Shire might be relevant, or Frodo's comment regarding an invasion of dragons!

I also vaguely remember a thread about Tolkien being approached by the ULTRA organisation or similar at Bletchley regarding his expertise in German linguistics, but apparently nothing much came of it.
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Old 10-18-2011, 08:17 PM   #11
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I'd disagree with Galadriel re British use of the word dugout, probably because I'm older (yet another birthday has just passed, but a very enjoyable one!). Dugout would certainly have a military connotation, and more than likely be associated with the First World War, where the front lines were relatively static for so long. This would be a familiar word to Tolkien's generation, to the Second World War generation, and likely their children (due to war films, comics etc).
Thanks for correcting me. I must admit that I haven't been reading too many WW1 books (compared to the number of WW2 books I've read), but that's probably because in my original country's WW1 contributions were overshadowed by the revolution in literature...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil
In the early Fall of Gondolin Morgoth unleashes monstrous machines, that have some similarities with tanks and armoured carriers. This reflects JRRT's antipathy for the 'machine', also remember Saruman's devices, including the ent-killling flamethrower-like contrivance.
Just a question for anyone who knows - wasn't this one of the first tales that Tolkien started to write from The Sil -to-be? If yes, this couldn't have been coincidence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil
Tolkien was also dismayed by aerial warfare (despite CT joining the RAF), and I have a theory that the terrifying wails of the Nazgul were suggested by the sirens of Nazi Stuka dive-bombers that demoralised the defenders of France in 1940.
Nice find. Thinking about it, though, it might have older roots, going down to the sound shells make as they fly, and shell-shock (or simply the reflex reaction of taking cover). But your theory works just as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil
There are also some interesting parallels between the writing of LoTR and course of the Second World War.
Yet another great find!


What do you think about some of Bilbo's lines in Rivendell when he volunteered to take the Ring? Doesn't that also scream "personal experience"? Just like JRRT in WW2 accepted to take a position, but was told in the end that his services were not required, and that he had his share of the war... And also, he wrote "about" a war ("about" in quotation marks because, as we all know, legendarium is not exactly set in the 1900s ) he fought in and considered lucky to survive, but had to watch another war from the side...
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Old 10-19-2011, 12:49 PM   #12
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I totally missed the most obvious one: Mordor landscape.

Quote:
The gasping pools were chocked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and gray, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. High mounds of crushed and powdered rock, great cones of earth fire-blasted and poison-staines, stood like an obscene graveyard in endless rows...

~The Passage of the Marshes
Quote:
Indeed the whole surface of the plains of Gorgoroth was pocked with great holes, as if, while it was still a waste of soft mud, it hadbeen smitten with a shower of bolts and huge slingstones. The largest of these holes were rimmed with ridges of broken rock, and broad fissures ran out from them in all directions. It was a land in which it would be possible to creep from hiding to hiding, unseen by all but the most watchfull eyes: possible at least for one who was strong and had no need for speed. For the hungry and worn, who had far to go before life failed, it had an evil look.

~Mount Doom
I think both passages could be describing the landscape of the Somme...
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