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 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. This book explores the different aspects 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 concentrates 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, we are able to uncover a strain of hopefulness, as befitted his Catholicism, about the ultimate fate of the human soul. We can conclude 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.
War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien presents a comprehensive and successful attempt by Janet Croft to investigate the influence of the two World Wars on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien as well as his attitudes to war. It is a long time ago I read a book of this quality on J.R.R. Tolkien.
This is the first book to examine war as a central theme in all of Tolkien's works, and is essential reading for Tolkien scholars. Croft brings together Tolkien's experience of both World Wars and his expertise in ancient heroic literature and shows how they influenced what he wrote. She also details how readers and critics have responded to the role and depictions of war in his writings. Some have disparaged Tolkien as a war-monger and others have praised him as a pacifist. Early Tolkien criticism tended to force The Lord of the Rings into a pattern of allegory for World War II, with the Ruling Ring cast as the atom bomb. More recently commentators have seen Tolkien as one of many authors deeply influenced by their experiences in World War I. This book brings these contradictory strands together to demonstrate Tolkien's "well-thought-out, comprehensive, and realistic philosophy of war."
The seven chapters lead us through Tolkien's life, showing how he developed the beliefs about of war that are fundamental to all his works.
2. The Great War and Tolkien's Memory
3. World War I Themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
4. World War II: "The Young Perish and the Old Linger, Withering"
5. Military Leaders and Leadership
6. "The Dull Backwaters of the Art of Killing": Training, Tactics, Strategy, and Battlefield Communication
7. "War Must Be, While We Defend Our Lives": Philosophy, Pathology and Conclusions
Now every one of us is in the front line of a new war (the war on terror). Croft shows how Tolkien's complex attitude to war is applicable to our present lives: some wars are just wars; true leaders lead from the front; dogged endurance must replace heroic action; and an attitude of mercy can lead to unexpectedly good results. By showing us this, she also shows us why even today Tolkiens books still touch us and why so many people find courage and hope inside the works.
A number of recent books about Tolkien appear to have been rushed to the marketplace. This one is refreshingly free of typographical errors, and even more important, it has no mistakes about Tolkien's texts. I can only recommend this book!