Tolkien and his inspiration….

Write what you know. Most teachers tell their students to write what they know, or the essay will be bland and not fun to read. This same rule applies to fiction writers. Stephen King says, A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.” This essay is about what “scars” inspired Tolkien to write “Lord of the Rings”.

Some of the inspiration of LOTR was inspired by Tolkien’s childhood. When he was walking in the family garden one day, he was bit by a spider. His fear of spiders can be clearing seen with the “Flies & Spiders” chapter in The Hobbit, and the giant spider Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. (Doughan, David )

In 1896, tragedy struck when his father passed away. He was only 4 years old. Due to his untimely death, Tolkien, his mother, and brother Hilary moved to Sarehole, England. (Doughan, David ) Sarehole was a country town in England near the city of Birmingham. (Birmingham) The Miller’s residence in Sarehole looks almost exactly like the Miller’s residence in LOTR.

He even modeled the hobbits themselves after the people, such as the Miller. Tolkien and his friends even gave the Miller a hard time like Sam, Merry, Pippin, and Frodo did in the first LOTR book. (Birmingham) The “Old Forest” is modeled after Mosley Bog in Sarehole. The people in Sarehole are not three feet tall like hobbits. Nor do they live inside holes with yellow doors. He said he made the hobbits small in height because the people were small in imagination, but strong in courage. Much like Frodo in the first LOTR.  (Birmingham)

When Tolkien got older tragedy struck again when his mother died of complications from diabetes November 4th, 1904. The orphaned kids were then put into custody of the local Catholic priest, Father Francis. This could be looked at as inspiration for Frodo, due to the fact Frodo’s parents drowned, and Frodo was sent to live with his Uncle Bilbo. (Doughan, David)

Tolkien devoted himself to the study of languages, such as Greek and Latin, and becoming fluent in languages. He also found himself fascinated by epic poems, such as Beowulf , of which he wrote many a paper on the subject. (Doughan, David)

When he was a teen, like many other teens he had a girlfriend . This romance is what inspired him to write the love story of Beren and Luthien in the Silmarrilion. (Doughan, David) This started to worry Father Francis, for he was worried this relationship would make him stray from schoolwork and God, so Francis forbade Tolkien to see his girlfriend until he came of age. (Doughan, David)

The beauty of nature is very much present in his  books. Tolkien was not born when the Industrial Revolution first began, but he saw the lasting effects. He watched in horror as men both young and old , were dragged into the mines. He watched once great farmland get covered with factories. These events inspired him to write about

Men destroying the world by industry, like in the book The

Two Towers with Isenguard becoming industrialized, and in the Return of the King when Hobbiton was being corrupted by Saruman. (NatGeo) “He and his foul folk are making havoc now. Down on the border they are felling trees– good trees. Some of the trees they just cut down and leave to rot—orc-mischief that; but most are hewn up and carried off to feed the fires of Orthanc. There is a smoke rising from Isengard these days.” Saruman is himself a man, and he is a representation of man and his greed and thoughtlessness of the world surrounding him. (NatGeo)

In 1916, World War 1 broke out. As a lot of young men back then, Tolkien and his friends went away to fight in World War 1. They were sent to France, and encountered weapons never used before in warfare. Poison gas, machine guns, tanks. He fought in some of the bloodiest battles in WW1, such as the Battle of the Somme, where over a million people were slain. (NatGeo)

In the last few months, all of Tolkien’s friends had passed away. He wrote this when they died: ....in huts full of blasphemy and smut, or by candle light in bell-tents, even some down in dugouts under shell fire. (Doughan, Dave)  He almost died of trench fever, from the crowded trenches where disease ran rampant. The British sent Tolkien home when he became severely ill.

When he was sent home this was the time when Tolkien wrote down most of the Lord of the Rings mythology, like the battle against Morogoth, and tales of the Elves and their languages Quenya and Goldogrin. (Doughan, Dave) These stories would become the basis for The Silmarilion. (NatGeo)

In Lord of the Rings, the home of Frodo is always peaceful, and when he gets out of Hobbiton he is caught up in war and death. Every time there is a big battle in Lord of the Rings, there is always a cost unlike in a lot of fiction at the time, in which war was looked at as a grand adventure. (NatGeo)

Tolkien was accused when he wrote Lord of the Rings as an allegory of World War 1, or World War 2 which was the most recent war at the time. This is what Tolkien said: “An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience.” Some people thought the ring symbolized the Atomic Bomb, and that Hitler and Stalin were represented by Sauron and Saruman respectively. (NatGeo)

When the Lord of the Rings was originally published, it was the 1950’s. Since Fantasy or Science Fiction novels were not very popular it didn’t sell well. Then, the 1960’s came around, someone thought it would be great to make pirated copies of Lord of the Rings.

During this time, America was being transformed, due to the very unpopular Vietnam War and the Hippie movement. These hippies were tired of war, and of societal mores. They also believed doing drugs was okay, and love was free. They were also some of the first of modern environmentalists.

When they got a hold of Lord of the Rings, they loved it because of the environmentalism, and it treated wars as horrible, and because of this Hippies loved the books even more. It had become almost the “bible” for hippies. (Doughan, David)

And out of the blue, a sort of mini cult appeared. There were clubs, literary journals, buttons that said FRODO LIVES or GANDALF FOR PRESIDENT, and other fantasies inspired by Tolien rode on the success of Lord of the Rings. (NatGeo)

Tolkien was shocked, like all bestselling writers got shocked when their book became immensely popular. It was a doubled edged sword for Tolkien. He was happy his work became so popular, but he wasn’t impressed by hippies at all. It mortified him that someone thought doing drugs and reading Lord of the Rings was fun. (Doughan, David)

He even got phone calls at 3 a.m, with rabid fans demanding to know if Frodo finished his quest, or asking if Balrogs had wings, e.t.c. He even had people spy on his house! He and his wife had to move, change their phone number, and made his phone number ex-communicated from the phone book! (Doughan, David)

Tolkien passed away in 1971. Thirty-nine years later, Lord of the Rings is as popular as ever. His genre, of Fantasy, he helped climb out of its infancy and is still going strong. Tolkien’s books are still being sold, and are still inspiring readers.

Sources

J.R.R Tolkien: A Biographical Sketch

By David Doughan

http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/biography.html

The Tolkien Society

Tolkien’s Childhood in Birmingham

Birmingham: Global. City. Local. Heart

Birmingham City Council

http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Lib-Central-Archives-and-Heritage%2FPageLayout&cid=1223187284543&pagename=BCC%2FCommon%2FWrapper%2FInlineWrapper

Beyond the Movie: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

National Geographic

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/ngbeyond/rings/influences.html

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