12/05/2001"Nazis = Orcs"
I read The Lord of the Rings by flashlight under bedcovers when I was 12 years old. I circumvented my mother's all-powerful 10:30 p.m. lights out rule by piling blankets on top of me and holding a flashlight up to my books. I went through a lot of batteries. She never caught on, I think.
Orcs as metaphors
for Nazi Stormtroopers
It occurred to me then that the books were a metaphor for World War II. The Hobbit was published in 1937 as the Nazi Party was coming to power in Germany. Tolkien's Ring trilogy would be written over the course of the 1940s and ultimately published in 1954. The "evil in the East," Sauron, I saw as Hitler while Saruman, a lesser but undeniably evil character, as Mussolini. Sauron's ghastly army of Orcs were undeniably his stormtroopers while the Nazgul were the SS. The British were the Hobbits, peaceful child-like people who love food and drink and are terribly naive about the forces of Darkness stirring next door to them. The Elves are the Americans. They are allies and, after the conclusion of the War against Mordor, leave to go west over the ocean.
Denethor is established as a symbol of paranoia that threatens to break apart the allies when he takes his own life much like the USSR did when it signed its peace treaty with Nazi Germany against a Western alliance who hoped to isolate and confine Nazism.
I read years later that Tolkien denied that his novels were a metaphor for World War II. However, I can't help but think that he must have been shaped unconsciously by the war while writing. Or, maybe he just didn't want to admit it. Anyone else?
] As Tolkien repeatedly made clear, the Shire, the comfortable homeland from which his hobbit heroes Bilbo and Frodo Baggins set out on their quests, is nothing more nor less than the woods and hills around Sarehole, in Warwickshire and nearby Worcestershire (where his mother's family originated). Much later, he wrote that he himself grew up "in 'the Shire' in a pre-mechanical age."
It's unwise to read "The Lord of the Rings" as allegory in any strict sense, but this commonplace personal odyssey, one shared by millions in the modern age, is strikingly echoed in its plot. Frodo, the child-size hero, must leave his beloved Shire and travel into Sauron's domain of Mordor, with its slag heaps, its permanent pall of smoke, its slave-driven industries. When he returns after much danger and difficulty, he discovers that the malicious wizard Saruman -- as Shippey points out, a techno-Utopian who began with good intentions -- has industrialized the Shire itself, cutting down its trees, replacing its hobbit-holes with brick slums and factories and poisoning its rivers.
||Posted by Nix
Wednesday, December 5, 2001 at 11:10
I did a paper on Frank Herbert's "Dune" being about the fall of colonial empires in the late 19th century. I think your theory is more interesting.
||Posted by Scriptz
Thursday, December 13, 2001 at 11:04
LOTR is indeed influenced by WW2, it says so on a preface by Tolkien himself on a certain edition of the book.
||Posted by P. Hooks
Thursday, January 10, 2002 at 02:10
I can't deny that Tolkien's writing was almost certainly colored to some extent by what he saw going on in Europe, but I think it is rather dangerous of us to read too much of our own impressions into someone else's work. I know that it is all too human of us to do so, but let's give the old boy the benefit of the doubt. I can make just as valid a case that Hitler was Saruman to Stalin's Sauron. After all, red stars and cossack sabres are a pretty close match to the lidless eyes and scimitars of the orcs. I even suppose that a day will come when some future reader will point the finger squarely in our direction. Yikes!
Keep in mind that in most elvish mythology 'going west over the sea' equates to dying for them.
||Posted by Jen
Monday, March 25, 2002 at 06:16