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The shell-shocked hobbit: the First World War and Tolkien's trauma of the Ring.

In a letter to Professor L. W. Forster written on New Year's Eve, 1960, J.R.R. Tolkien reemphasized his insistence that the mythology of Middle-earth was not reliant on the events of the two World Wars that spanned much of the first half of his life: "Personally I do not think that either war (and of course the atomic bomb atomic bomb or A-bomb, weapon deriving its explosive force from the release of atomic energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy nuclei (see nuclear energy). The first atomic bomb was produced at the Los Alamos, N.Mex. ) had any influence upon either the plot or the manner of its unfolding. Perhaps in landscape. The Dead Marshes Literature
Once the ancient battlefield of Dagorlad, the Dead Marshes lie north-west of the Morannon, the principal entrance to Mordor. Several battles were fought here, most notably the Battle of Dagorlad at the end of the Second Age when the Last Alliance met the forces of
 and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme" (Letters 303). (1) There are some critics who have fought Tolkien on this point, insisting that The Lord of the Rings be read as a massive allegory for one or both of the World Wars, and it is certainly tempting to do so. (2) There are, after all, a number of intriguing parallels between Tolkien's Middle-earth and twentieth-century Europe: Saruman's destruction of Fangorn, for example, has much in common with modern industrialization industrialization

Process of converting to a socioeconomic order in which industry is dominant. The changes that took place in Britain during the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th century led the way for the early industrializing nations of western Europe and
 at the expense of nature, and his technological tampering with nature is eerily reminiscent of the arms race of the World Wars that culminated in the Manhattan Project Manhattan Project, the wartime effort to design and build the first nuclear weapons (atomic bombs). With the discovery of fission in 1939, it became clear to scientists that certain radioactive materials could be used to make a bomb of unprecented power. U.S. . Even a quick glance at the geography seems strangely familiar, with the island-like Shire representing England, Gondor for France, and Mordor in the place of Germany. (3) And, even though he vociferously denied the accusation that his work was an allegory for the events of the twentieth century, Tolkien admitted: "An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience [...]. One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression" (LotR I: Foreword, xvii). And as a young man Tolkien had, indeed, "come under the shadow of war," for he lost some of his best friends to the First World War, and he personally fought at the Battle of the Somme. (4) No surprise, then, that the psychological realities of the horrors that Tolkien saw at the "carnage of the Somme," as he called it (Letters 53), should have left indelible marks on his writings. Tolkien, as we have already seen, admits that the geography of the Somme might be reflected in his portrayal of parts of Middle-earth, but he denies further specific influence. (5) The purpose of this essay, then, is two-fold: I would like not only to recall some general influences of the Somme on Tolkien's Middle-earth, but also to delve a bit deeper into the strong influence of Tolkien's war experiences on the character of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings and in particular on his odd behavior following the destruction of the One Ring at Mt. Doom. Frodo, as we shall see, bears all the qualities of a veteran soldier returning from combat. To put a modern term to the transformation in Frodo's character at the end of The Return of the King, it appears that Frodo is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mental disorder that follows an occurrence of extreme psychological stress, such as that encountered in war or resulting from violence, childhood abuse, sexual abuse, or serious accident. , more commonly known as "shell-shock." (6)

That Tolkien was at the Battle of the Somme is without question, yet it is still worth recalling the nature of this five-month slaughter in order to begin to understand its effects on the young writer:
    The British began with a week-long artillery barrage that chewed the
  ground into a pockmarked obstacle course and obliterated the German
  outposts and front trenches, but left the main body of defenders
  untouched in their meticulously constructed dugouts, some as deep as
  forty feet underground. When the bombardment lifted on 1 July [1916],
  all possible resistance seemed to have been blown apart, and the
  British advanced almost nonchalantly in formations learned on the
  parade ground--six feet separating each man across the line, a hundred
  yards between each assault wave, and each soldier carrying a minimum
  backpack of sixty-six pounds. The Highland Regiments marched into
  battle behind their pipers. Meanwhile the Germans had scrambled up
  their steep tunnel-like shafts, pulling their machine guns with them,
  and were ready for action. (Kleine-Ahlbrandt 30)

Thus the battle proper began when roughly 100,000 men rose up out of the Allied trenches and marched across the crater-torn and razorwire-strewn waste of what was called No-Man's Land No-Man's land Hand surgery A fanciful term for the fibrous sheath of the flexor tendons of the hand, specifically in the zone from the distal palmar crease to the proximal interphalangeal joint. See Rule of threes. . The official opening day casualties for the British army The British Army is the land armed forces branch of the British Armed Forces. It came into being with unification of the governments and armed forces of England and Scotland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.  alone have gone down to history as 57,470, of which 19,420 were fatal. Both numbers still stand as gruesome world records for loss of life in one day's fighting. (7) By contrast, the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  lost less than 60,000 men during the entire duration of the Vietnam War Vietnam War, conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. . In his memoirs, David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, OM, PC (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was a British statesman who was Prime Minister throughout the latter half of World War I and the first four years of the subseqeunt peace.  writes of the course of the battle:
    It is claimed that the Battle of the Somme destroyed the old German
  Army by killing off its best officers and men. It killed off far more
  of our best and of the French best. The Battle of the Somme was fought
  by the volunteer armies raised in 1914 and 1915. These contained the
  choicest and best of our young manhood. The officers came mainly from
  our public schools and universities. Over 400,000 of our men fell in
  this bullheaded fight and the slaughter amongst our young officers was
  appalling. (Lloyd George 9-10)

The addition of at least another 200,000 casualties among Allied forces by the time the campaign ended in November brings the total Allied losses to nearly 600,000 men--all lost in order to press the lines 10 kilometers closer to Germany.

Tolkien was in reserves on the day of the opening battle, but one of his best friends, Rob Gilson, was killed in the first wave (though Tolkien would not learn of his death until some weeks later). (8) And even in reserves Tolkien would have witnessed "clear signs that things had not gone according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 plan on the battlefront: wounded men in their hundreds, many of them hideously mutilated mu·ti·late  
tr.v. mu·ti·lat·ed, mu·ti·lat·ing, mu·ti·lates
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.

2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably: mutilate a statue.
; troops detailed for grave-digging; and a sinister smell of decay" (Carpenter 82). Then, on 14 July, Tolkien and his company were called into action and he saw for himself the results of what he would later call "the 'animal horror' of trench warfare trench warfare. Although trenches were used in ancient and medieval warfare, in the American Civil War, and in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), they did not become important until World War I. " (Carpenter 84). The account of another participant in the Battle of the Somme is perhaps useful here for another perspective on the events that Tolkien witnessed. John Raws had to apply to the Australian Corps The Australian Corps was a World War I army corps that contained all five Australian infantry divisions serving on the Western Front. It was the largest corps fielded by the British Empire army in France.  twice before he was accepted, and just weeks before his own death in the battle, he described what he saw in a letter to a friend A Letter to a Friend (written 1656; published posthumously in 1690) , by the 17th century philosopher and physician Sir Thomas Browne is a medical treatise full of case-histories and witty speculations upon the human condition. :
    The glories of the Great Push are great, but the horrors are
  greater. With all I'd heard by word of mouth, with all I had imagined
  in my mind, I yet never conceived that war could be so dreadful. The
  carnage in our little sector was as bad, or worse, than that of
  Verdun, and yet I never saw a body buried in ten days. And when I came
  on the scene the whole place, trenches and all, was spread with dead.
  We had neither time nor space for burials, and the wounded could not
  be got away. They stayed with us and died, pitifully, with us, and
  then they rotted. The stench of the battlefield spread for miles
  around. And the sight of the limbs, the mangled bodies, and stray
    We lived with all this for eleven days, ate and drank and fought
  amid it; but no, we did not sleep. Sometimes, we just fell down and
  became unconscious. You could not call it sleep.
    The men who say they believe in war should be hung. And the men
  who won't come out and help us, now we're in it, are not fit for
  words. Had we more reinforcements up there many brave men now dead,
  men who stuck it and stuck it and stuck it till they died, would be
  alive today. Do you know that I saw with my own eyes a score of men go
  raving mad! I met three in 'No Man's Land' one night. Of course, we
  had a bad patch. But it is sad to think that one has to go back
  to it, and back to it, and back to it, until one is hit. (Raws)

For the next months, Tolkien was in and out of these trenches, somehow managing to survive unscathed until he was felled by trench fever trench fever: see rickettsia.  on 27 October; he was pulled from the lines and eventually sent back to England. He had survived the war, but he had not left it. On 3 December he learned that another of his best friends, Geoffrey Smith Geoffrey Smith (1943, Michigan — ) is a radio presenter, author and former jazz percussionist currently working in the UK. Smith is the regular host of BBC Radio 3's Jazz Record Requests and also hosts other programmes on the network. , had died from gas gangrene gas gangrene
A form of gangrene occurring in a wound infected with anaerobic bacteria, especially species of Clostridium, and characterized by the presence of gas in the affected tissue and constitutional septic symptoms.
 in northern France. By the end of the First World War, Tolkien later wrote, "all but one of my close friends were dead" (LotR I: Foreword, xvii)

That the "shadow of war" would leave marks in Tolkien's writing, then, is not surprising. And, in addition to Tolkien's admitted borrowing of geographical description in the Dead Marshes and the approaches to Morannon, critics have discovered a number of intriguing parallels between the Somme (and the First World War in general) and The Lord of the Rings. (9) Barton Friedman, for instance, points out the similarity of the faces in the bogs of the Dead Marshes to specific descriptions of the Somme, of the Noman's Lands of northern France to the "Noman-lands" (LotR IV:2, 617) between the Dead Marshes and Morannon, of the shrieking of the Nazgul to incoming mortar rounds and their respective effects on men (Friedman 121). Hugh Brogan Hugh Brogan is a British history professor and biographer.

A 1959 graduate of Cambridge University, Brogan has been on the history faculty of the University of Essex since 1974.

He is the son of Denis Brogan.
 has also seen similarities: in how the description of Sauron's destruction echoes contemporary descriptions of shell-bursts, in the polarizing of consciousness between "us" and "them," in the reversal of day and night, in the road that leads from home to the front, and in even such small details as the ore who snarls "Don't you know we're at war?" (LotR VI:2, 910)--perhaps an echo of the wartime "Don't you know there's a war on?" (Brogan 362). William H. Green has shown that the technological leanings of Tolkien's goblins owe much to the machinery of war that the author saw utilized to such horrible effect at the Somme (Green 70-71), (10) and Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have pointed to the similarities between the vast camps of Mordor and the "extensive army camps to which Tolkien was posted during the First World War, in particular those situated in Staffordshire on Cannock Chase Cannock Chase (grid reference SK000165) is a mixed area of countryside in the county of Staffordshire, England. The area has been designated as the Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chase gives its name to the Cannock Chase local government district. ," and between Sam and the "typical foot soldier" (Hammond and Scull 608, 610). In his recent study of Tolkien's war experiences, John Garth lists a number of additional reminiscences:
  the atmosphere of pre-war tension and watchfulness, Frodo Baggins's
  restless impatience with his parochial countrymen in the Shire, the
  world's dizzying plunge into peril and mass mobilizations; tenacious
  courage revealed in the ordinary people of town and farm, with
  camaraderie and love as their chief motivations; the striking absence
  of women from much of the action; the machine-dominated mind of
  Saruman. (Garth 311)

Brian Rosebury perhaps goes furthest of all in likening lik·en  
tr.v. lik·ened, lik·en·ing, lik·ens
To see, mention, or show as similar; compare.

[Middle English liknen, from like, similar; see like2
 "the emotional ambivalence" of Tolkien's works to "the mingled relief and regret of the war-survivor," concluding that LotR "might indeed be seen in certain respects as the last work of First World War literature, published almost forty years after the war ended" (126). These are all interesting observations, of course, but few of them contain what I would call real substance: they are mostly the cataloging of Tolkien's borrowing of details (probably inadvertent for the most part) from the memory of one terrible event in the describing of another. Frodo's behavior at the end of LotR, however, is no small thing. And it is my belief that his change in personality directly reflects the real changes that Tolkien witnessed in surviving veterans of the Great War.

As the historian Ben Shephard For the American musician, see Ben Shepherd.

For the English historian, see Ben Shephard (English historian).
Benjamin Peter Sherrington Shephard (born 11 December 1974 in Essex) is an English television presenter.
 has observed, the term "shell-shock" was coined in February 1915 by Dr. C was a fictional scientist from the TV series Cro. She and her companion, Mike, went to the Arctic and thawed out a mammoth, who could talk. That mammoth now tells stories of life in the stone age with his friend, Cro, and his fellow mammoths. . S. Myers on the battlefields of the First World War (1). (11) But it was at the Somme that that psychiatrists and psychologists really began to take note of the condition now known clinically as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder since
    On the Somme, shell-shock and 'nervous disorders of war', hitherto a
  marginal medical problem, became a major drain on manpower. According
  to the British official history, 'In the first few weeks [of July
  1916] several thousand soldiers were rapidly passed out of the battle
  zone on account of nervous disorders and many of them were evacuated
  to England'. The inadequate official figures show that the numbers of
  men returned as 'shellshock battle casualties'--suffering 'shell-
  shock' after actually being shelled [...] tripled in the last six
  months of 1916 [...]. These are the only surviving British figures and
  do not cover 'Shell-shock Sick'. They probably need to be multiplied
  by at least three to give a real sense of scale of the problem.
  (Shephard 41)

The earliest doctors to study Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder found that symptoms could last anywhere from months to years, and that the cause of the condition, not surprisingly, was the experience of a disturbing trauma that led to persisting recollections of that trauma over long periods of time. In psychiatric terms, the traumatic event A traumatic event is an event that is or may be a cause of trauma. The term may refer to one of the followiong:
  • Traumatic event (physical), an event associated with a physical trauma
  • Traumatic event (psychological), an event associated with a psychological trauma
 that is the first criteria for diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is termed a stressor, and it must meet two basic requirements: the situation must have mortal consequences, and the person's reaction to the situation must have been one of "intense fear, helplessness, or horror" ("Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Posttraumatic stress disorder

An anxiety disorder in some individuals who have experienced an event that poses a direct threat to the individual's or another person's life.
" 467). (12) War, especially of the brutal, horrific kind that was trench warfare, clearly meets such criteria; but what of Frodo's experiences?

Like many of the members of the Fellowship, Frodo saw war, and he certainly was in mortal danger Mortal Danger by Eileen Wilks is the 4th novel in the World of the Lupi series. It was released on November 1st, 2005.

It was nominated for the 2005 Romantic Times Best Werewolf Romance Novel. Plot summary
Former homicide cop Lily Yu has a lot on her plate.
 on many other occasions: his injuries on Weathertop and in Shelob's lair, for instance, or the flight from Moria, or his capture at Cirith Ungol This article is about the location in Middle-earth. For the band, see Cirith Ungol (band).

Cirith Ungol is a location in J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth.
. While none of these events substantially sets him apart from other members of the Fellowship, they are, taken as a whole, indicative of a clear history of trauma. And setting Frodo even further apart, of course, is the Ring. As bearer of the One Ring, the Ring of Power that is ever-leeching upon his mind and upon which the fate of Middle-earth itself rests, Frodo exists in psychological state that is unnaturally tenuous: for him, even small moments of trauma carry substantial weight and make substantial impact. In clinical terms, then, we might say that Frodo is under two stressors: the primary stressor of the weight and power of the One Ring and the secondary stressor of life-threatening physical situations at the hands of monster, demon, and man alike.

Once the existence of a stressor is established, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is typically diagnosed by one of three distinct symptoms: (1) the reliving of the event in the form of nightmares and, particularly, flashbacks; (2) the "[p]ersistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness"; and (3) the changing of personal demeanor and behavior ("Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" 468). The third of these symptoms, a generalized change in demeanor and behavior, is clear enough throughout the course of Frodo's journey to Mordor; but it is only after the destruction of the One Ring (his primary stressor) at Mount Doom that we can begin to speak of Frodo post-trauma.

The first sign of lasting change in Frodo's character occurs within hours of his rescue from Mordor, immediately after his reunion with the surviving members of the Fellowship in Ithilien. Removing his old raiment and preparing to dress for a feast in his honor, Frodo is very reluctant to wear a sword, even an ornamental one (LotR VI:4, 933). (13) Such behavior would be familiar to Tolkien from his war experiences, as an aversion to violence is a common post-traumatic symptom of combat veterans in particular. This is not to say that Frodo was a violent, hardened warrior before his journey to Mordor--just as one cannot say the same for the generation of young men who went to the trenches of northern France--but Frodo had previously worn (and used) blades with pride. His unwillingness to wear one in Ithilien seems to be the result of a change in his character: he is simply no longer comfortable with bearing a weapon. The lingering trauma of his experiences destroying the Ring is already beginning to prey upon his still-fragile mind.

Frodo's symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder grow stronger as he begins to journey back toward the Shire. Indeed, it is at the Ford of Bruinen, the site of his miraculous escape from the Ringwraiths, that the form of Frodo's anxiety comes into startling star·tle  
v. star·tled, star·tling, star·tles
1. To cause to make a quick involuntary movement or start.

2. To alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly. See Synonyms at frighten.
    At last the hobbits had their faces turned towards home. They were
  eager now to see the Shire again; but at first they rode only slowly,
  for Frodo had been ill at ease. When they came to the Ford of Bruinen,
  he had halted, and seemed 10th to ride into the stream; and they noted
  that for a while his eyes appeared not to see them or things about
  him. All that day he was silent. It was the sixth of October.
    "Are you in pain, Frodo?" said Gandalf quietly as he rode by Frodo's
    "Well, yes I am," said Frodo. "It is my shoulder. The wound aches,
  and the memory of darkness is heavy on me. It was a year ago today."
    "Alas! there are some wounds that cannot be wholly cured," said
    "I fear it may be so with mine," said Frodo. "There is no real going
  back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I
  shall not be the same. I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and
  a long burden. Where shall I find rest?"
    Gandalf did not answer. (VI:7, 967)

All the major symptoms of shellshock are here. Frodo is "ill at ease," a far cry from the young and vibrant hobbit A microprocessor from AT&T that was used in a variety of portable devices. It is no longer made.

1. Hobbit - A Scheme to C compiler by Tanel Tammet <>.
 who set out from the Shire. Surely all of the members of the Fellowship have been changed by their journey, but Frodo's change in demeanor is set out in particular: they do not need to ride slowly for Sam, Merry, or Pippin Pippin. For Frankish rulers thus named, use Pepin. 

A multimedia game and Internet machine from Apple that used the PowerPC architecture and a limited version of the Mac OS.
, but for Frodo alone. One year had passed since Frodo's injury on Weathertop, and no doubt seeing the Ford again--where he nearly died of the Ringwraith's wound--helped to trigger the recollection of that trauma. The Ford therefore represents multiple traumas for Frodo: the fight with the Ringwraiths and its resulting wound, as well as the near-death experience near-death experience, phenomenon reported by some people who have been clinically dead, then returned to life. Descriptions of the experience differ slightly in detail from person to person, but usually share some basic elements: a feeling of being outside one's  that resulted from it. Frodo's unwillingness to cross the stream is symptomatic of both an avoidance of trauma-related stimuli (i.e., the stream), and a sign of Frodo's flashback flash·back
1. An unexpected recurrence of the effects of a hallucinogenic drug long after its original use.

2. A recurring, intensely vivid mental image of a past traumatic experience.
 to his wounding on Weathertop.

Frodo's unwillingness to wear a sword in Ithilien has, by the time the hobbits In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Hobbits are a fictional race related to Men. They first appear in The Hobbit and play an important role in the The Lord of the Rings story.

This is a list of hobbits that are mentioned by name in Tolkien's works.
 return to find the Shire in the hands of Saruman/Sharkey, turned into outright pacifism pacifism, advocacy of opposition to war through individual or collective action against militarism. Although complete, enduring peace is the goal of all pacifism, the methods of achieving it differ. . At The Green Dragon in Bywater, the hobbits encounter the first of the ruffians who have overrun their beloved country. When one of them insults "King's messengers," Pippin is so incensed that he draws his blade (VI:8, 982). Merry and Sam do likewise, but Frodo most conspicuously does not. And after the ruffians flee, Frodo is alone in his pity for Lotho. When Pippin remarks on the irony in their fighting to rescue Lotho, Frodo makes his irenic i·ren·ic   also i·ren·i·cal
Promoting peace; conciliatory.

[Greek eir
 hopes clear: "nobody is to be killed at all, if it can be helped"(VI:8, 983). Merry's reaction is perceptive, and worth note:
    "But if there are many of these ruffians," said Merry, "it will
  certainly mean fighting. You won't rescue Lotho, or the Shire, just by
  being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo." (ibid.)

That Frodo is characterized by shock, sadness, and an unwillingness to partake in Verb 1. partake in - be active in
participate, take part - share in something

2. partake in - have, give, or receive a share of; "We shared the cake"
partake, share
 violence is, once again, evidence of shell-shock. His pacifism could stand alongside similar impulses among veterans from any number of wars, though Tolkien would, of course, know it from the Somme. Again and again, Tolkien makes it a point to emphasize Frodo's pacifism: as the folk begin to gather for what comes to be known as the Battle of Bywater, Frodo once more makes clear that he has hopes for no killing, and he demurs from helping in the planning of the fight, leaving such things to Merry (VI:8, 987). Though he does play a role in the battle, Tolkien pointedly states that he did not draw his sword "and his chief part had been to prevent the hobbits, in their wrath at their losses, from slaying those of their enemies who threw down their weapons" (VI:8, 993). And when they surround Saruman, it is Frodo who refuses to see him slain, even after Saruman tries to stab Frodo with a hidden blade (VI:8, 996). When Wormtongue kills Saruman and tries to flee, he is felled by arrows before Frodo is able to "speak a word," an implicit testament to the fact that Frodo would surely have tried to save even that miserable wretch (ibid.). Like many victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Frodo simply cannot bear to see more violence enter the world.

Even after the Battle of Bywater is finished and Frodo is home in Bag End, he is unable to escape from his experiences. On 13 March, one year after being attacked by Shelob, Frodo is found ill in bed, "clutching a white gem that hung on a chain about his neck and he seemed half in a dream." The white gem is Arwen's, given to Frodo in order to help him when he is troubled by "the memory of the fear and the darkness" (VI:6, 953). Frodo's half-conscious mutterings as he grasps Arwen's pendant could just as easily be the words of a shellshocked veteran of the Somme: "'It is gone for ever,' he said, 'and now all is dark and empty'" (VI:9, 1001). Most critics have assumed that what is gone forever here is the One Ring, but this is not explicit in the text: we are not told what exactly "it" is. Might we also here understand a loss of innocence, or of hope? Answers, since they cannot be found in the text, must lie in the eye of the beholder. But perhaps knowing precisely what Frodo believes he has lost does not matter so much as the fact that it was something entirely vital to him: without it "all is dark and empty." It is well worth remembering here that it wasn't those who died in the Great War who made up Europe's Lost Generation; it was those who survived. (14) It does not seem like a stretch of the imagination to posit that Tolkien, like other writers of his generation, was somewhat disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion  
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.

1. The act of disenchanting.

2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted.
 by the slaughter of the First World War. (15) Verlyn Flieger Verlyn Flieger (1933-) is an author, editor, and professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland at College Park. She specializes in comparative mythology and modern fantasy, especially the works of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Flieger holds an M.A. (1972) and Ph.D.
 makes a similar connection when she argues that the "The literature of the post war period in which Tolkien, like many others, began to write, spoke with the voice of the 'lost generation' trying to come to terms with incommunicable in·com·mu·ni·ca·ble  
1. Impossible to be transmitted; not communicable: an incommunicable disease.

 experience" (219). (16) But, unlike many of his counterparts--T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land, for example--Tolkien does not appear to have perceived that the slaughter, incommunicable though it might be, was senseless and indicative as a loss of meaning; quite to the contrary, even while he is at the Somme he writes in a letter to his friend Geoffrey Smith that the nature of the war was "for all the evil of our own side with large view good against evil" (Letters 10). (17) Not a senseless slaughter, then, but its antithesis: a slaughter of the most profound importance; a position that is not surprising from a man who would create such equally profound battles between good and evil in his fiction. Still, Tolkien realized that the horrors he witnessed at the Somme were a sign that something had gone terribly wrong in the world. In the same letter to Smith, he writes that his "chief impression" about the war's effect on his relationship to his friends "is that something has gone crack" (Letters 10). Even if, like Frodo, Tolkien could not be specific about what was wrong, he could not deny that something was wrong.

One would hope that time could heal the psychological scars of trauma, but, at least in Frodo's case, we see that this is not so. Sam notes that "Frodo dropped quietly out of all the doings of the Shire" (VI:9, 1002), and his deeds are not celebrated by the Shire-folk. If I might be clinical once more, Frodo appears to be entering into that "vicious cycle Noun 1. vicious cycle - one trouble leads to another that aggravates the first
vicious circle

positive feedback, regeneration - feedback in phase with (augmenting) the input
 of rejection and recrimination A charge made by an individual who is being accused of some act against the accuser.

Recrimination is sometimes used as a defense in actions for Divorce. Traditionally the underlying theory was that a divorce could be granted only when one individual was innocent and the
" that is so common with victims of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; he cannot escape the incommunicable fear and trembling
For the novel by Amélie Nothomb, see Fear and Trembling (Nothomb).

Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven
 of his past and the inexplicable guilt of living (Miller 9). And the specific pains of his past continue to recur in nightmarish flashbacks:
    One evening Sam came into the study and found his master looking
  very strange. He was very pale and his eyes seemed to see things far
    "What's the matter, Mr. Frodo?" said Sam.
    "I am wounded," he answered, "wounded; it will never really heal.
  "(VI:9, 1002)

Sam later realizes that it is 6 October, the second anniversary of Frodo's wounding at Weathertop. Time has not healed his wounds, any more than time would make the loss at the Somme of Tolkien's best friends any easier to bear.

Frodo is again ill the following March (the second anniversary of the fight with Shelob) (VI:9, 1002), and in September, as the third anniversary of Weathertop approaches, Frodo and Sam meet Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, Bilbo bil·bo 1  
n. pl. bil·boes
An iron bar to which sliding fetters are attached, formerly used to shackle the feet of prisoners.

[Origin unknown.]
, and the remaining elves for the journey west to the Grey Havens; in taking the ship west, Frodo admits that he cannot find solace even in his beloved Shire. Like veterans returning to England, Frodo finds that he is a stranger in the land that he fought so long and hard to save. He might well have been speaking for the veterans of the trenches when he says to Sam: "I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them" (VI:9, 1006). Tom Shippey Thomas Alan Shippey (born September 9, 1943) is a scholar of medieval literature, including Anglo-Saxon England, and of modern fantasy and science fiction, in particular the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, about whom he has written several scholarly studies.  has pointed out the similarities between Frodo's words and those inscribed in·scribe  
tr.v. in·scribed, in·scrib·ing, in·scribes
a. To write, print, carve, or engrave (words or letters) on or in a surface.

b. To mark or engrave (a surface) with words or letters.
 on a monument in honor of those who died at Imphal-Kohima in the Second World War (Century 156), (18) but perhaps it is more fitting to hear an echo of Siegfried Sassoon Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, CBE MC (8 September 1886 – 1 September 1967) was an English poet and author. He became known as a writer of satirical anti-war verse during World War I, but later won acclaim for his prose work. , an English poet who wrote some of his finest work in the trenches of the First World War, including some written during the opening days of the Battle of the Somme:
    You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
    Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
    Sneak home and pray you'll never know
    The hell where youth and laughter go. (Sassoon)

I find that Sassoon's melancholic mel·an·chol·ic
1. Affected with or being subject to melancholy.

2. Of or relating to melancholia.
 tone--delved in the actual horrors of warfare--is quite apt of Frodo and the end of The Lord of the Rings: Frodo does not desire to be a martyr; he does not wish to be celebrated or even remembered. He simply wishes to be whole once more. But his trauma is too great. This world, for which he fought so hard, holds nothing but continued pain for him. He cannot be healed here (Shippey, Century 155). The world he has saved, sadly, is one to which he can no longer relate. As Mark Eddy Smith states the matter:
    Some injustices cannot be remedied in this Middle-earth. Fingers
  don't grow back. Nor do friends. The Ring, though he did not ask for
  it, has corrupted Frodo. [...] At the final test he chose the Ring for
  himself alone and refused to cast it into the fire. There is no
  condemnation possible for this, for the task, by anyone's standards,
  was too big for him. But a part of Frodo was broken during the long
  journey to Mordor, and no one and nothing, neither plant nor animal,
  can restore him to wholeness. (Smith 133)

Ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, Frodo had to leave Middle-earth: only in the Undying Lands would he be able to find succor.

Sadly, there was no such "cure" for Tolkien and his fellow veterans. Like the members of the Lost Generation, they had to continue to try to continue on with their lives, to live past what they had lived through. It is interesting in this light to recall that Tolkien once said of Sam Gamgee Gamgee may refer to:
  • John Gamgee, English physician, developer of Glaciarium and Zeromotor, a perpetual motion machine
  • Arthur Gamgee, English physiologist
  • Sampson Gamgee (1828 – 1886), English physician
 that he was meant to be "a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself" (Carpenter 81). What it is that Tolkien sees as "far superior" to himself in other veterans might be their ability to make that final step away from the field of battle, their ability to move on. Frodo sees precisely this in Sam, saying to him: "you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be" (LotR VI:9, 1003). Tolkien, it seems, relates himself more closely with the shell-shocked Frodo than he does with the resilient Sam: for him, the scars of the Somme have cut too deeply to heal fully.

Gandalf's exchange with Bilbo at the end of The Hobbit, a tale written before the outbreak of the Second World War, is often taken as a foreshadowing fore·shad·ow  
tr.v. fore·shad·owed, fore·shad·ow·ing, fore·shad·ows
To present an indication or a suggestion of beforehand; presage.

 of that event. Tolkien, according to this argument, was well aware that the resonance of the First World War was still working itself out, the Great War not yet finished:
    Even as they left the valley the sky darkened in the West before
  them, and wind and rain came up to meet them.
    "Merry is May-time!" said Bilbo, as the rain beat into his face.
  "But our back is to legends and we are coming home. I suppose this is
  a first taste of it."
    "There is a long road yet," said Gandalf.
    "But it is the last road," said Bilbo. (Hobbit 311)

It is true, I think, that we can hear in this passage that the resonance of the Great War was still working itself out. But I think it equally true that we should not be looking forward to the Second World War here, but backward to the painful memory of the First World War, of the blood-mixed mud of northern France, of the trench-scarred Somme and its No-man's Land, its fields of bloating bloating Vox populi A lay term for post-prandial abdominal fullness or swelling  corpses, its dead faces floating in water-filled craters. Tolkien often spoke about how his "mythology (and associated languages) first began to take shape" during the First World War (Letters 221). Gandalf and Bilbo's exchange is doubly appropriate, then, since the journey to Middle-earth was, for Tolkien, a journey into the Undying Lands, where he might eventually find healing for the wounds of war that would not heal. The road to healing is, as Gandalf observes, a long one. And, perhaps spiritually as well as physically, it is the last road.

Works Cited

Brogan, Hugh. "Tolkien's Great War." Children and Their Books: A Celebration of the Work of Iona and Peter Opie. Eds. Gillian Avery and Julia Briggs. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989. 351-67.

Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Company is a leading educational publisher in the United States. The company's headquarters is located in Boston's Back Bay. It publishes textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, reference works, and fiction and non-fiction for both young readers , 1977.

Croft, Janet Brennan. War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Westport: Praeger, 2004.

Ellison, John. ""The Legendary War and the Real One': The Lord of the Rings and the Climate of Its Times." Mallorn 26 (1989): 17-20.

Flieger, Verlyn. A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to Faerie. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1997.

Friedman, Barton. "Tolkien and David Jones David Jones is a common name, particularly in Wales, and there have been several well-known individuals with this name. Variations include Dave Jones and Davy Jones. : The Great War and the War of the Ring." Clio 11.2 (1982): 115-36.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. 25th anniversary ed. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Oxford UP, 2000 (1975).

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Green, William Green, William, 1872–1952, American labor leader, president of the American Federation of Labor (1924–1952), b. Coshocton, Ohio. He rose through the ranks of the United Mine Workers of America, of which organization he was (1912–24)  H. The Hobbit: A Journey into Maturity. Twayne's Masterwork mas·ter·work  
See masterpiece.
 Studies. Ed. Robert Lecker. Vol. 149. New York: Twayne, 1995.

Hammond, Wayne G., and Christina Scull. The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Keegan, John. The Face of Battle. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.

Kleine-Ahlbrandt, William Laird William Laird may refer to:
  • William Laird (1780-1841), Scottish shipbuilder and entrepreneur who founded the Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead, England.
  • William R. Laird, III (1916-1974), United States Senator from West Virginia.
. Twentieth-Century European History. St. Paul St. Paul

as a missionary he fearlessly confronts the “perils of waters, of robbers, in the city, in the wilderness.” [N.T.: II Cor. 11:26]

See : Bravery
: West, 1993.

Lewis, C.S. "The Dethronement de·throne  
tr.v. de·throned, de·thron·ing, de·thrones
1. To remove from the throne; depose.

2. To remove from a prominent or powerful position.
 of Power." A Reader's Companion to the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1995. 37-42.

Lewis, Warren. Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis. Eds. C.S. Kilby and M.L. Mead. San Francisco San Francisco (săn frănsĭs`kō), city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden : Harper and Row, 1982.

Lloyd George Lloyd George, David. First Earl of Dwyfor. 1863-1945.

British politician who served as prime minister from 1916 to 1922. He introduced (1911) Great Britain's National Health Insurance program.
, David. War Memoirs of David Lloyd George, 1915-1916. Boston: Little Brown, 1933.

The Lost Generation. 2003. Wikipedia. Available: <http://en.wikipedia.orgwiki/Lost_Generation>. 26 October 2003.

Miller, Laurence. Shocks to the System. New York: Norton, 1998.

Petty, Anne C. Tolkien in the Land of Heroes. Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Press, 2003.

"Posttraumatic Stress Disorder." Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders /Di·ag·nos·tic and Sta·tis·ti·cal Man·u·al of Men·tal Dis·or·ders/ (DSM) a categorical system of classification of mental disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, that delineates objective : DSM-IV DSM-IV
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). This reference book, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the diagnostic standard for most mental health professionals in the United States.
. 4th ed., text revision ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the main professional organization of psychiatrists and trainee psychiatrists in the United States, and the most influential world-wide. Its some 148,000 members are mainly American but some are international. , 2000. 463-68.

Raws, John. Letter to a Friend 12 August 1916. Available: <>. 29 August 2006.

Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Critical Assessment. New York: St. Martin's St. Martin's or St. Martins may refer to:
  • St. Martins, Missouri, a city in the USA
  • St Martin's, Isles of Scilly, an island off the Cornish coast, England
  • St Martin's, Shropshire, a village in England
, 1992.

Sassoon, Siegfried Sassoon, Siegfried, 1886–1967, English poet and novelist. A heroic and decorated officer in World War I, he nonetheless expressed his conviction of the brutality and waste of war in grim, forceful, realistic verse—The Old Huntsman (1917), . "Suicide in Trenches." Collected Poems Among the numerous literary works titled Collected Poems are the following:
  • Collected Poems by Chinua Achebe
  • Collected Poems by Conrad Aiken
  • Collected Poems by Kay Boyle
  • Collected Poems by Robert Browning
. New York: Viking, 1949. 78.

Shephard, Ben. A War of Nerves war of nerves
n. pl. wars of nerves
A conflict marked by psychological tactics, such as intimidation and threats, that are intended to confuse, exhaust, and demoralize an enemy.

Noun 1.
: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001.

Shippey, Thomas A. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

___. "Tolkien as a Post-War Writer." Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992. Eds. Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. GoodKnight. Altadena: Milton Keynes Milton Keynes (mĭl`tən kēnz`), town (1991 pop. 36,886) and borough, S central England. Milton Keynes was designated one of the new towns in 1967 to alleviate overpopulation in London. It is the seat of the Open Univ.  Tolkien Society, 1992. 84-93.

Smith, Mark Eddy. Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.

Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the for details.
This article has been tagged since April 2007.

Since the publication of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R.
. Downers Grove Downers Grove, village (1990 pop. 46,858), Du Page co., NE Ill.; settled 1832, inc. 1873. Downers Grove has undergone population growth and commercial development that include the construction of new office complexes. , IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966.

___. The Letters, of J.R.R. Tolkien: A Selection. Eds. Humphrey Carpenter Humphrey William Bouverie Carpenter (April 29 1946 – January 4 2005) was an English biographer, author and radio broadcaster. He was born, died, and lived practically all of his life, in the city of Oxford.  and Christopher Tolkien Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November 1924) is the youngest son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), and is best known as the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. . 1st Houghton Mifflin pbk. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

___. The Lord of the Rings. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

(1) For further contemporary descriptions of the Western Front and its relation to the Dead Marshes in particular, see Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull's The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion (453).

(2) Tolkien's fellow Inkling C. S. Lewis perhaps unintentionally provided fuel for just such a search when he commented in an early review that the War of the Ring "has the very quality of the war my generation knew. It is all here: the endless, unintelligible UNINTELLIGIBLE. That which cannot be understood.
     2. When a law, a contract, or will, is unintelligible, it has no effect whatever. Vide Construction, and the authorities there referred to.
 movement, the sinister quiet of the front when 'everything is now ready,' the flying civilians, the lively, vivid friendships, the background of something like despair and the merry foreground, and such heaven-sent windfalls as a cache of choice tobacco 'salvaged' from a ruin" (C. S. Lewis 39-40).

(3) Such contemporary similarities were noticed even before the book was printed: on 12 November 1949, Warren Lewis Major Warren Hamilton (W.H.) Lewis (June 16, 1895 – April 9, 1973) was a soldier and historian, best known as the brother of the British writer and academic C.S. Lewis. Warren Lewis was a supply officer in the British army during and after World War I.  (brother of C. S. Lewis) read a MS copy of the text and noted in his diary that "a great deal of it can be read topically--the Shire standing for England, Rohan for France, Gondor the Germany of the future, Sauron for Stalin [...]"(W. Lewis 231).

(4) The argument that follows might be thought to imply that the Second World War had little impact on Tolkien, but this is not my intention. Indeed, one need look no further than the criticism of Tom Shippey for positive signs of Second World War influence on his work ("Post-War"). Also of note is John A. Ellison's "The Legendary War and the Real One: The Lord of the Rings and the Climate of Its Times."

(5) The most specific study of Tolkien's war experiences is the recent work of John Garth: Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Though Garth's project is primarily biographical in nature, he does provide many insights into how this period gave new impetus to Tolkien's mythology.

(6) Since the completion and acceptance of this essay, a number of other studies have appeared, making similar connections between Frodo's behavior and that of traumatized war veterans. Chief among these studies are Anne C. Petty's Tolkien and the Land of Heroes: Discovering the Human Spirit, especially p. 282, and Janet Brcnnan Croft's War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, especially pp. 133-38. To Ms. Croft is owed particular notice, since after taking editorship of Mythlore she allowed the publication of this present study despite its being pre-empted and out-classed by her own fine and far-ranging work.

(7) Arguments have been made that the Battle of Towton The Battle of Towton in the Wars of the Roses was the largest and bloodiest ever fought on British soil, with casualties believed to have been in excess of 20,000 (perhaps as many as 30,000) men. Roughly one in every hundred Englishmen of that time died at Towton.  on 29 March 1461 in Yorkshire, the battle in which Edward IV Edward IV, 1442–83, king of England (1461–70, 1471–83), son of Richard, duke of York. He succeeded to the leadership of the Yorkist party (see Roses, Wars of the) after the death of his father in Wakefield in 1460.  won his crown over Lancastrian forces, saw heavier death-tolls: some estimates hover around 28,000 killed. It is also worth noting that the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 saw 60,000 soldiers of the British army taken captive, though that day's fatalities were far fewer.

(8) A fuller account of Tolkien's war experiences is provided by Garth in Tolkien and the Great War.

(9) I have limited this discussion to LotR, but traces of the First World War are to be found in his other works, as well. Garth, for instance, shows how the Hammer of Wrath in "The Fall of Gondolin In the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, the "Fall of Gondolin" is the name of one of the original Lost Tales which formed the basis for a section in his later work, The Silmarillion. " is quite possibly a partial allusion to the actions of the "C" Company of Tolkien's 11th Lancashire Fusiliers The Lancashire Fusiliers was a British infantry regiment that was amalgamated with other Fusilier regiments in 1968 to form the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. History
Formation and early history
 (294-95). A more lengthy account of war influences on Tolkien's work can be found in Croft, pp. 16-32.

(10) Tom Shippey's observation that the Rammas Echor in Gondor has certain similarities with the Maginot Line in France might also be worth including in this list (Century 165).

(11) A good, albeit dated, bibliography of work on combat stress can be found in John Keegan's The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme (337-43).

(12) I am pleased to acknowledge that the appropriateness of a direct clinical diagnosis of Frodo via the DSM-IV was first pointed out to me (independently) by two observant students in one of the courses that I taught on Tolkien at the University of Rochester The University of Rochester (UR) is a private, coeducational and nonsectarian research university located in Rochester, New York. The university is one of 62 elected members of the Association of American Universities.  many years ago. My thanks, then, to both Jennifer Case and Lisa Richards.

(13) It is worth noting that Frodo's aversion to violence is so strong that he is later unwilling to shed the blood of Saruman, who has caused so much grief to the Shire (VI:8, 996). For more on Frodo's pacifism, see Croft, pp. 130-33.

(14) The Lost Generation, technically, refers to a group of American literary figures in 1920s and 1930s Paris--figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald Noun 1. F. Scott Fitzgerald - United States author whose novels characterized the Jazz Age in the United States (1896-1940)
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald
, Ernest Hemingway, Sherwood Anderson, and Gertrude Stein--who might be generally categorized as being disillusioned by what they perceived as the senseless slaughter of the First World War; they were cynical and "disdainful dis·dain·ful  
Expressive of disdain; scornful and contemptuous. See Synonyms at proud.

dis·dainful·ly adv.
 of the Victorian notions of morality and propriety of their elders" (The Lost Generation).

(15) Tom Shippey gets close to this perspective when he writes that Tolkien's "work expresses along with a strong belief in (a kind of) Providence, the disillusionment Disillusionment
Adams, Nick

loses innocence through WWI experience. [Am. Lit.: “The Killers”]

Angry Young Men

disillusioned postwar writers of Britain, such as Osborne and Amis. [Br. Lit.
 of the returned veteran" (Century 156). Going even further, Verlyn Flieger speculates that Frodo is more than just a disillusioned veteran: he also represents the loss of youth and future that comes from war (224).

(16) In The Great War and Modern Memory, still one of the finest overviews of the literary repercussions repercussions nplrépercussions fpl

repercussions nplAuswirkungen pl 
 of World War One, Paul Fussell makes much of this gap between veterans and civilians, even seeing it as a parallel development to that yawning gap between pre- and post-Great War culture.

(17) For discussion on how Tolkien's notions of evil can be associated with that of other post-war writers, see Shippey ("Post-War" 92).

(18) The inscription reads "When you go home tell them of us and say/For your tomorrow we gave our today."
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Neil (Member):  9/21/2009 3:59 AM
I had read into some of the connections between The Lord of the Rings and the great war but this really has opened my eyes to the kind of horrors Tolkien must have faced for it to come through so strongly in his work.

Thank you.

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Date:Sep 22, 2006
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