Tolkien and the Two World Wars

by Fingolfin-(TV)
December16, 2008
Tolkien Site > ArticlesTolkien Tolkien and the Two World Wars

    During the last weeks I have been reading several historical books concerning the two World Wars; this studying made me realize the deep influence these two wars may have had on Tolkien. We should consider that Tolkien first received the idea of Middle-earth during WW I , and that he had participated as a soldier in the war, but the Lord of the Rings was written after WWII . Also Tolkien was  forty-seven years old at the beginning of WW II and at least two of his sons took part in it; as a result he lived really closely to the two World Wars.  

    Following are some similarities between our history and that of the two Wars of the Ring of Tolkien’s Middle-earth:

    First of all, in the Lord of the Rings two great wars ( labeled as “Wars of the Ring” similarly to the two World Wars) took place between the “Forces of the West” and the “Forces of the East”; in our history, the USA, England, and France were major western forces while Germany was a major eastern forces. Furthermore, Tolkien described the “Wars of the Ring” from the side of the west, and in real life he was on the side of the west.

    Other similarities can be found in the nature of the powers and the relationships between them. During the first War of the Ring, both Elves and Men were at their peak, while in the second one their strength was less than before;  this is like the strength of France and England in the two World Wars. Also, France’s early defeat in WW II ,and the guerilla war afterwards, is similar to the fact that the elves played a relatively small role during the second WoTR. Another interesting “state” of the WoTR is Isengard (which is similar to Japan, which in the first World War was an ally of England but turned against it during the second) that attacks without warning Rohan, which is similar to the USA which, even though it had a fairly insignificant role at WWI, defeated Japan-Isengard in Lord of the Rings- by itself.

    Finally, I believe that Sauron’s failed assault to the North, against the Dwarves, is similar to Hitler’s failure against the U.S.S.R. which greatly contributed to the allies winning the war at the west. The significance of this campaign’s failure is pointed out by Gandalf in the Return of the King where he says that the victories achieved at Minas Tirith and the Black Gate would have been impossible without the Dwarven victory in the North.

    I think that these clearly imply a connection between Tolkien’s Wars of the Ring and the two World Wars that occurred in the first half of the previous century.