War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

Overview

Having participated in the First World War, and having seen two of his sons serve in the Second, Tolkien was concerned with many of the same themes that interested other writers in the post-war period. The rhythm of war flows through his writings, but his own interpretation of the themes, symbols, and motifs of war, however, were influenced by his religious views and his interest in fantasy, which add another layer of meaning and a sense of timelessness to his writing. Croft explores the different aspect of ...

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Overview

Having participated in the First World War, and having seen two of his sons serve in the Second, Tolkien was concerned with many of the same themes that interested other writers in the post-war period. The rhythm of war flows through his writings, but his own interpretation of the themes, symbols, and motifs of war, however, were influenced by his religious views and his interest in fantasy, which add another layer of meaning and a sense of timelessness to his writing. Croft explores the different aspect of Tolkien's relationship with war both in his life and in his work from the early Book of Lost Tales to his last story Smith of Wootten Major, and concentrating on his greatest and most well-known works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This timely addition to the critical literature on Tolkien sheds new light on the author's life and works.

Tolkien, one of the world's most beloved authors, was a World War I signaling officer who survived the Battle of the Somme, and two of his sons served during World War II. Such experiences and events lead Tolkien to a complex attitude toward war and military leadership, the themes of which find their way into his most important writings. His fiction, criticism, and letters demonstrate a range of attitudes that would change over the course of his life. In the end, his philosophy on human nature and evil, and the inevitability of conflict, would appear to be pragmatic and rational, if regretful and pessimistic. Still, Croft is able to uncover a strain of hopefulness, as befitted his Catholicism, about the ultimate fate of the human soul. She concludes that his personal life and values informed his reading and his writing and the way in which he interpreted his own experiences. This valuable consideration of war in the life of Tolkien is essential reading for all readers interested in deepening their understanding of this great writer.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

JANET BRENNAN CROFT is Head of Access Services at the University of Oklahoma. Previously, she was Library Director at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee. Her articles have appeared in numerous scholarly journals.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 The Great War and Tolkien's memory 13
3 World War I themes in The hobbit and The lord of the rings 33
4 World War II : "the young perish and the old linger, withering" 57
5 Military leaders and leadership 73
6 "The dull backwaters of the art of killing" : training, tactics, strategy, and battlefield communication 105
7 "War must be, while we defend our lives" : philosophy, pathology, and conclusions 127
App. A A chronology of J.R.R. Tolkien's World War I experiences 149
App. B A chronology of J.R.R. Tolkien's family's World War II experiences 155
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