A first version of the following post appeared a couple of years ago, and proved popular among some people - including Fantasy author L Jagi Lamplighter. I though I'd re-run it, lightly edited and slightly expanded...
In his Foreword to the 1966 Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was at pains to emphasise that the book was Not an allegory: in particular it was not an allegory of the 1939-45 World War:
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
We could, inverting Tolkien's point, play with the idea of what would have happened in WW II if it had followed the lines of LotR...
The One Ring = The Atom Bomb
Sauron = Hitler
Mordor = Germany under National Socialism
Saruman = Stalin
Isengard = Moscow
The Free Peoples = USA and UK
The plot would focus on the destruction of the Atom Bomb (and implicitly all knowledge required to make it) by a small team of English patriots led by George Orwell, who infiltrate Germany and destroy the evil research establishment which is making the A-bomb.
The team are 'helped' by a slimy little creature called Mussolini, who gets them into the lab but intends to seize the death weapon for himself.
The climactic end would be the death of Mussolini; killed when the ready-for-use bomb prototype explodes in his face as he tries to steal it. A chain reaction speads through Nazi HQ and Hitler and his Nazi-Nazguls are caught in the conflagration, ending the National Socialist regime.
Orwell and his 'batman' servant Monty are airlifted from the blazing ruins at the last moment.
Europe comes under the rule of the
restored King Albrecht - the exiled Duke of Bavaria, and heir to the
United States monarchy. He had been given the throne by popular
acclaim during the course of the war, and is now ruling from his palace
in Richmond, Virginia.
The Holy Roman Empire is thus restored.
En route there would be the destruction of the Soviet Union, the restoration of the Tsar, and the exile of Stalin.
After Moscow is obliterated by enraged Finns wearing Mech suits; Stalin makes his way to England, where he is welcomed by the quisling Communist Prime Minister, Konni Zilliacus. Stalin swiftly invites foreign mercenaries, takes over in a secret coup, enslaves the native English and manages to pollute or destroy much of the countryside before Orwell and his English patriots return and raise a successful counter-revolution.
After the scouring of England, the defeated Stalin is stabbed by his creepy deputy Lavrentiy Beria - who is immediately executed by a mob of pitchfork-wielding rustics (despite Orwell's protests...).
England repudiates industrialisation, is demilitarised, sealed against immigration, and made into a clan-based dominion ruled by benign hereditary aristocrats - under the personal protection of King Albrecht.
Orwell, traumatised and made consumptive by his wartime experiences, sails West toward the sunset in a small boat and eventually arrives in... Ireland; where he ends his days peacefully as a subsistence crofter.
(...No wonder Tolkien cordially disliked allegory, 'in all its manifestations'...)
The Notion Club Papers (NCPs) is an unfinished (posthumous) novel by JRR Tolkien. The Notion Club was a fantasy version of The Inklings. My overview of NCPs is at: http://notionclubpapers.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-companion-to-jrr-tolkiens-notion-club.html. I was winner of the Owen Barfield Award for Excellence 2018.
Sunday, 18 February 2018
Wednesday, 14 February 2018
Tolkien and Giants
Tolkien included Giants in several of his stories - although not in The Lord of the Rings - despite their appearance in The Hobbit. This was natural, since there is abundant evidence for the historical reality of Giants - including in Britain, where they were the first inhabitants. Giants are, understandably therefore, probably more evident and important in the oldest English history/ legend/ folklore than elves, dwarves or dragons.
How to discover more about such matters? Well, Geoffrey of Monmouth had access to a now-lost book of the deep and mythic history of Albion - a book which, I imagine, would have provided almost exactly what JRR Tolkien felt was missing from his country's culture - 'a mythology for England'.
Our modern Geoffrey - Geoffrey Ashe, the Greatest Living Englishman - made a really excellent job of filling this gap with his Mythology of the British Isles of 1990.
Ashe uses Monmouth's book as a skeleton, fleshed out with all other available and relevant sources to provide a clear and concise mythical account at the start of each chapter, followed by scholarly commentary and footnotes.
If someone extracted the mythical sections, and arranged them sequentially; when imaginatively-illustrated and published as a unity, this could make a wonderful Child's History of Albion.
The first Geoffrey - of Monmouth - clearly influenced Tolkien who draws upon it often (as have so many hundreds or thousands of other writers for many centuries - including Shakespeare, via Holinshead), but the 'flavour' of his great book was not really to Tolkien's taste. It is, indeed, over-filled with bloodthirsty battles, intrigues and deceptions. But then, so are the Norse Sagas...
Nonetheless, Monmouth's is our best annalistic source for mythically imaginative hints of deep truths from our island's story; hints that may intuitively be developed into real myths.
And our contemporary Geoffrey has made from it an even better resource for modern fantasy writers.
Posted by Bruce Charlton at 09:32 2 comments:
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