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Lord of the Rings and WW2

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Mud Flaps, Dec 22, 2003.

  1. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    For all of those who don't know, many believe Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings as a metaphor for World War Two.

    I think I may have it figured out:

    The Eagles: Americans

    Saruman and Army: Japanese

    Sauron and Mordor: Germany

    The Wild Men: The Ottoman Empire

    The Dwarves: Soviets

    The Elves: British

    If that's all good, what does the ring represent? And who represents the Italians? Who do the Ents represent? Why does Saruman return to the Shire? Who do the Hobbits represent?
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    No - that's far too simplistic - watch the extra DVDs on the 2 Towers - they go through the influences and references to war in the 20th century.

    So - Tolkien and his fellow writers in their local group - including his brother and CS Lewis - had direct experience of the 1st World War - they fought in the trenches of the Somme etc - and it's clear this was included in the battles' descriptions of LOTR.

    The Hobbits are quite clearly British and Tolkien's friends/relatives -but satirised of course.

    The scenes of Saruman addressing vast hordes however, were based on Hitler's speeches in WWII Germany - but his hordes symbolise the rise of machines in the 20th Century and the migration in England from country to factory with the subsequent decline of local "shires"!

    I could go on...but suggest you watch the DVD extras as mentioned! ;)
  3. oddentity

    oddentity Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2000
    In the foreword to my copy of LOTR (not sure which edition, but probably from the 60s), JRR Tolkien explicitly states that the story is not an allegory of any sort for WWII.

    Concerning Saruman's takeover of the Shire, he states that the main inspiration was how, as a boy, he witnessed the pastoral countrysides of rural England transformed into bleak industrial wastelands full of smokestacks and factories.
  4. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    Actually he doesn't just limit it to the war. He states that it's not an allegory for anything at all. He felt that allegories were (excuse the phrase) beneath him and were a simplistic and over-used tool. Most certainly aspects of the story were influenced by his life experiences (this is well-covered in the National Geographic documentary) but his intention in creating the Lord of the Rings was to create a national mythology that could be embraced by England. He was very into mythology and was somewhat disappointed that England didn't have a mythology of it's own. So he set out to create one.

    brad cook
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes - that's what I meant by the original poster's view being too simplistic - although of course, things like Tolkien's friends, relatives, experiences etc. all went into making up the characters and locations.
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I said that!! ;)
  7. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Man, was I way off...
    Let's see, I thought:
    The scarecrow = the farmers
    The tin man = industry
    The lion = nature

  8. jazzcatb17


    Dec 27, 2002
    Louisville, Ky
    LOTR isn't a direct allegory for anything, but it contains symbolism for many things. Things such as industrialization(notice how good charactors are very nature like, whereareas evil have a industrial streak to them) Christianity(very popular belief, the ring represents sin which controls man, and men can use it and think there in control, but it really has the power. An end is brought by the return of the king, the end of the world and defeat of sin will be heralded by return of the king Jesus, Gandalf sacrifices himself to save others the rises, Jesus sacraficed himself to save others and rose. There are alot of other correlations supporting this veiwpoint, not as a direct allegory, but instead a loose use of Christian symbolism) or just a picture of WW2. More than likely, as all good writers do, Tolkien drew from all of these, and perhaps many more, to create his story.
  9. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Another interesting ring parable is found in Lessing's Nathan The Wise, where the (then believed) 3 world religions, christianity, judaism and íslam are represented by rings.
  10. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    Has anyone here read the Silmarillion? That might provide some good insight.
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I have read it three times. It is like ancient mythology for the peoples in the time of the trilogy. It is not one work, and most of the works that it is comprised of are not complete, nor were they intended to be.


    Jun 1, 2003
    Orlando, FL
    I am!

    i just got it (and the hobbit) and am trying to finish btoh before school starts back in january. like embellisher said, its like the mythology/back story and such, things like how middle earth was created etc. good read, i highly recommend it!
  13. Electricmayhem


    Dec 18, 2003
    In regards to the Silmarillion,let's just say I attempted it and seventh grade and got really bored...

    I'm actually planning on reading it all the way through in the near future.
  14. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Another interesting British author in this genre
    was E.R. Eddison.

    The Worm Ourobouros - the worm that eats his own tail, was a vast epic of conflict and battles.

    Yet, not the 'fantasy' genre that seems to have now taken over the Sci-Fi field.
  15. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I hear you. I attempted to read The Silmarillion several times, and couldn't get into it. It kept me from reading The Hobbit and LOTR, because my cousin told me that I would appreciate those more after reading it.

    When Fellowship of the Ring came out, I watched it and was spellbound for the whole 3+ hours.

    I read The Silmarillion in a week, and proceeded to read the other 4 books over the next two weeks.

    Once I got into The Silmarillion, it became my favorite, alhtough I am still missing some of Tolkien's other work. But I have read The Silmarillion 5 times since, and enjoy it thoroughly every time.