In the extended edition DVDs of the Fellowship of the Ring, for those of you who watch these annually, you might remember interviews with the cast and crew during which they said that they didn’t believe that Tolkien intended his novels to be allegorical. I think Master Tolkien himself said something to that effect. My question is, who said that any writing has to be allegorical? Most of the time authors don’t intend for their work to be so. It is left to the reader to notice any connections between fiction and reality, however incorrect they may be.

As an author (as yet unpublished), there is usually no intention to use allegory in a piece of writing. My experience is this; life has a way of bleeding into everything. Looking back on everything that I’ve written, I often find myself wondering, “Why did I write that?” as I recognise moments from my past. Life can leave scars and sometimes those scars don’t heal properly.

Tolkien fought in World War I. Let’s stay away from the literary aspect of this argument for a while and focus on the psychological effects of this. War in itself is such a disharmonius activity, to accomplish what? Can anyone of us really say that war solved any problems? Look back, if anything it just bred more discontent and hatred.

There are several scenes in all of the movies. The one that jumps out at me the most occurs in the second movie – The Two Towers. Faramir had just killed one of the Haradrim on their way to war on the Pelennor Fields before Minas Tirith. As he stands over the dead body of the unknown warrior, he wonders out loud who he was, if he had a family and if he knew why he was fighting. Now, this didn’t happen in the book, Faramir’s words in the movie were actually Sam’s thoughts in the novel. But that’s beside the point. The point is, this scene would have been Tolkien’s reality during that time of war. It may even have been his thoughts exactly as written. We may never know but we can make an educated guess.

I can understand why he disliked allegory though. Many people likened the Ring to atomic power when it’s really a  power of a different kind. The kind of power that comes from greed, pride, misguided ambition, hatred and jealousy. The kind of power that can take something good and pure and blacken it beyond recognition. The kind of power that Melkor craved and Sauron after him, both of whom have similar characteristics to our most hated fallen angel – Lucifer.

One of the most haunting scenes for me was in the Fellowship, as Frodo and Sam along with Gollum are crossing the Dead Marshes. It depicts the cost of war to both sides, good and evil – depending on which side one is fighting and for what cause. I say this because, one person’s idea of good could be another person’s idea of evil, nevertheless, the outcome of death is always the same, regardless. Bodies littered on the ground or in water or wherever his comrades fell would have been burnt into Tolkien’s memory.

To me, the effects of war upon our humanity, is almost like standing in a beautiful, serene garden, scratching rusty nails against a blackboard – jarring and unsettling.

I find it helps to read his novels in this order to really understand:

  • The Silmarillion (first and foremost)
  • The Unfinished Tales ( which could be read in conjunction with the Silmarillion and serves as a sort of history and reference book – if you want to take it that far).
  • The Hobbit
  • The Trilogy (could be read with the Silmarillion as a guide).

Can anyone of us really say why he wrote these books? Perhaps he never had any intention of writing about war…it just happened. There it is. Though we may try to hide, deny or forget them, life experiences of the past, have a way of showing up, imposing themselves on our daily routines, joy riding on our subconscious, waiting for unsuspecting moments when they can slip right back into our present.


© Reshma Mituram and WordCupid 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reshma Mituram and WordCupid with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.