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Old 03-28-2003, 12:55 PM   #1
Aule
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The Eye Numenor and the British Empire

Tolkien lived through the height of the British Empire right through to its fall. I was just thinking that do you think, or is there any evidence in any of his letters that this may have influenced his idea of Numenor, a mighty empire that had fallen by the time of LotR.
I have searched the forums for any past posts but they all seem to concern WW2 or Gandalf as Jesus. But if any of you have any info on this topic i would be most grateful
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Old 03-28-2003, 04:35 PM   #2
The Squatter of Amon Rdh
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The story of Nmenor and its fall are inspired, at least in part, by the legend of Atlantis. To the best of my knowledge Tolkien intended no reference to the British empire, although his opinions about imperialism in general are clear from this extract from one of his letters, written not long after the German surrender in 1945:

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Though in this case, as I know nothing about British or American imperialism in the Far East that does not fill me with regret and disgust, I am afraid I am not even supported by a glimmer of patriotism in this remaining war. I would not subscribe a penny to it, let alone a son, were I a free man.
(at the time Christopher Tolkien was serving in the Royal Air Force).

In another letter he said
Quote:
For I love England (not Great Britain and certainly not the British Commonwealth (grr!))
In this case at least the great island nation that founds an empire owes more to Plato than twentieth-century geopolitics.
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Old 03-28-2003, 08:25 PM   #3
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Sting

This will no doubt be answered more completely by someone else, but Tolkien intended originally that Britain be represented in a physical sense by the island Tol Eressea (see BoLT2). In later years, as I understand it, The Shire of the Hobbits came to represent England culturally as Tolkien fleshed out his mythology.
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Old 03-28-2003, 09:43 PM   #4
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If ME is intended to represent Europe, that analogy cannot be- Britain hever conquered much of Europe, while Numenor settled all over the coasts of ME.

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Old 03-29-2003, 03:57 AM   #5
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Good point, while i dont think Numenor was a direct representation of the British Empire it could well be that an island kingdom that ruled 1/4 of the world may have influenced the creation of an island kingdom that ruled a large part of m/e in his fiction.
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Old 03-29-2003, 04:46 AM   #6
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Sting

Hmm that's an interesting and thought-provoking comparison.
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Old 03-29-2003, 06:54 PM   #7
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Sting

Quote:
Good point, while i dont think Numenor was a direct representation of the British Empire it could well be that an island kingdom that ruled 1/4 of the world may have influenced the creation of an island kingdom that ruled a large part of m/e in his fiction.
No it couldn't. Tolkien didn't like the British empire. He based Nmenor on the vast island kingdom of Atlantis, as described in two of Plato's dialogues, Timaeus and Criteas. Atlantis was an island continent that ruled territory on both sides of the ocean that bears its name. If nothing else, the manner of Nmenor's fall in the Akallabth is an obvious reference to the earlier myth. The only similarity with Britain is the establishment of a maritime empire, but this is clearly a coincidence.

Not only is Nmenor more like Atlantis than Britain, but also Tolkien specifically cites the myth as his inspiration. He refers to Anadn as "the great 'Atlantis' isle" and "Nmenor-Atlantis" in letter #131, and in letter #154 he says:
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The particular 'myth' which lies behind this tale, and the mood both of Men and Elves at this time, is the Downfall of Nmenor: a special variety of the Atlantis tradition. That seems to me so fundamental to 'mythical history' - whether it has any kind of basis in real history, pace Saurat and others, is not relevant - that some version of it would have to come in.
Nmenor is not even remotely based on the British empire, being a version of the Atlantis myth. Tolkien says so. End of discussion.
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Old 03-29-2003, 10:20 PM   #8
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Just as compelling is the fact that in the Akallabeth, one of the names ascribed to Numenor is 'Atalante'.
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