What if he didn't go to War?

Discussion in 'J.R.R. Tolkien : The Creator of Middle-earth' started by ingolmo, Jun 25, 2005.

  1. ingolmo

    ingolmo The Voidroamer

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    How do you think Tolkien's stories would have been affected if he hadn't gone to war? Would some battles, relationships, values, and themes have been different? What do you think, and give some things that would have changed.

    Hi! I'm over here! Does anyone mind replying?!

    I think I'll answer my own question. I think that if Tolkien hadn't gone to war, some of the relationships between characters, like Frodo and Sam's, and some of the war scenes wouldn't have been so deep and interesting.
     
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  2. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

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    I don't think war is a necessary experience to write a deep and interesting story.
     

  3. Firawyn

    Firawyn Verbatim et litteratim.

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    I agree with Thorondor. For example, Stephan Crane wrote the Red Badge of Courage, at the age of 18, and he had never been in battle. The story was about a young Civil War soldier who went to war thinking it was all glory and honor and finds a very grusome war. The descriptions of the dead soldiers and the battle were horrific and wonderfuly written...by a kid who had never seen battle...
     
  4. ingolmo

    ingolmo The Voidroamer

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    I'm not denying that the story would have been interesting without Tolkien's war experience, but I'm just saying that some finer points of his story, and some attitudes would have been a little different. It would have been good, nevertheless...
     

  5. Eledhwen

    Eledhwen Cumbrian

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    I've read that Tolkien was in the Somme when he first began to form what became the Silmarillion. I have also read that listening to the enlisted men's conversations inspired what he termed 'Hobbit talk'. Think about it. He was raised in South Africa, then placed in selective schools in England, then raised by a clergyman, and then became an academic. The only place he was ever going to get that wonderfully English pub talk was during his war experience with the Lancashire Fusiliers. I like to imagine that my own Grandad was one of those hobbits, as he also served with the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Somme and was definitely working class.

    The horrors of, for instance, Turin Turambar's life, and the sheer hopelessness of battle - "the long defeat" as Galadriel put it; came, I think, from Tolkien's personal knowledge and understanding of what warfare does to the individual soul. I don't think any of us can imagine the horror of the Great War; but I know that when my Grandad was in his eighties, weeks before he died, he imagined himself back in the trenches. He was trying to burn ticks of his arms; and my younger brother would leap up and down to stamp on imaginary rats for him. Yet friendships were forged in those grim fields that last a lifetime. No-one can help but be moved when seeing the century-old soldier being wheelchaired for the first time to the graveside of his WW1 comrades and weeping openly with grief, even today!
     
  6. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

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    Good points Eledhwen, but, for the gifted and non-gifted alike, the capacity to produce great works is somewhat independent of wordly experience.
     
  7. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

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    I doubt that any of it would have been written, and Tolkien would have become just one more musty fusty dusty unknown-to-the-world-at-large philologist.

    Barley
     
  8. Eledhwen

    Eledhwen Cumbrian

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    I'm sorry but I disagree with this as a principle; though I am sure there must be exceptions. I think the key ingredients is love. Only those who have truly loved and lost know the tearing grief it brings. And yet it is only in knowing pain that we can really appreciate happiness.
     
  9. Firawyn

    Firawyn Verbatim et litteratim.

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    Barly! That's blasphamy! Don't say that about Master Tolkien... he was way to imaginative to have not written any of it. I agree, that it would not have been as deep, perhaps it would be more along the dephth level of CS Lewis' Narnia books. Easy enough to read one of the Chronicalsin a day, but still a magnificent work of art.

    On the other hand, Lewis was also in war, and his stories were not filled with horror and death. It really comes down to the person. Master Tolkien was just an amazing man.
     
  10. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

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    Why do you think the war experience is an essential element of the success he enjoys?
    Is it your point that we can fully love only if we have experienced loss? Where is the necessary implication?
    And even if true, to what extent do artists have to experience what they are trying to portray, in order to make a great work of art?
     
  11. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

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    Just my personal opinion, but I believe that the horrors he suffered in WW I demanded that he deal with them somehow before they ate him alive. He suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, though they didn't call it that in his day (I believe they called it "shell-shock"). Many combat soldiers with the ability wrote about their experiences once they could bring themselves to that point, and their writings — expressed as truth or fiction — were carthartic for them. I think that a great deal of Sil and LOTR was the distillation and transformation of his combat experiences.

    Well, Eledhwen made those points, but I'll speak to them from my point of view: there are profound experiences that one needs to exerience personally before one can do any authentic writing about them, such as the experience of great love, great loss, and suffering from a serious disease — or, watching someone very close to one going through these things.

    Barley
     
  12. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

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    Is there any reason to believe that him dealing with his personal problems was more critical to the success of his books than his talent as a writer?
    So you agree that personal experience isn't a prerequisite of great works of art concerning certain subjects? I think a better approach is this: other people's experiences (which are seen, read or heard) can compensate for the lack of personal experiences, if the author has sufficient capacity for empathy.
     
  13. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

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    What's your point?

    I am speaking of horrendously traumatic experiences. Anyone can write about anything. Some are better at it than others. Some are more convincing than others. Personal experience always makes it more authentic. But my point is that writing his ME saga was Tolkien's way of exorcising some pretty horrific demons — my opinion.

    Barley
     
  14. Thorondor_

    Thorondor_ Registered User

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    And my opinion is that, while I agree that he went through a cathartic experience, it was his writing talent in itself that led to the success of his books. Even if he wouldn't have went to war, his empathy towards other people's experience of suffering could have compensated for his lack of experience of such suffering - I find no necessary reason to believe otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2005
  15. Barliman Butterbur

    Barliman Butterbur Worthy Keeper/Bree Roué

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    So don't! I believe one thing, you believe another, so what? Of course he had talent! Of course he used it! All the same, without his experiences during WW I, talent or not, I think he wouldn't have been motivated to write as he did. Believe what you like — you have your opinion, I have mine, neither one changes a thing!

    Barley
     
  16. Eledhwen

    Eledhwen Cumbrian

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    No, you've got it the wrong way round. We only really know the full grief of loss if we have loved that which we have lost. Whether it be a person, a way of life, or even a possession (though with a possession, I would have to say that such love was misplaced if it brought the same grief as the lost of a life!). Remember, Tolkien lost all but one of his close circle of friends from the TCBS in the Great War, and those who have not experienced such loss can but guess on the effect it might have. Incidentally, I haven't read it yet, but there's a book on this very subject (see here) that I may well get hold of and read (let's see if the library's got it for free first!)
     
  17. ingolmo

    ingolmo The Voidroamer

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    True. Some things can only be experienced, and thus written down to the fullest, not if you've gone to war, but if you've experienced something scintillating that will influence you all throughout your life. And that experience for Tolkien was war. And as Eledhwen stated,
    And can we imagine how much, physically, mentally and emotionally Tolkien lost when he went to war? I think not.
     
  18. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    If Tolkien hadn't gone to War, Frodo and Sam's relationship wouldn't have been as moving nor intense. He based the Master-Servant roles of Frodo and Sam off the Officers and Batmen who served said officers.

    According to John Garth, he
    ,
    but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with

    .

    "[57]


    Tolkien later lamented,
    [57]

    According to John Garth:
    In later years, Tolkien indignantly declared that those who searched his works for parallels to the Second World War were entirely mistaken:

    [62]

    Tolkien also saw the Batman as a man superior to himself.

    If Tolkien didn't go to War, Frodo and Sam's entire brotherhood would be nothing compared to what it is in the book. If anything, and I cannot believe I am saying this, War did him a service, at least, for his writing, and us readers to an extent.

    CL
     
  19. Andy*

    Andy* Member

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    I don't think that one needs to go to war in order to write well.
    That said , I have been to a war and other combat deployments as well and speaking only for myself here...
    Those experiences have defiantly shaped my outlook on life in all ways one might consider.
    Andy
     

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