The Chronicles of War Repercussions in J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis’s Life and Work

by Nora Alfaiz

B.A. in English, May 2007, King Saud University M.A. in English, May 2011, American University

A Dissertation submitted to

The Faculty of The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences of The George Washington University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

August 31, 2020

Dissertation directed by

Marshall Alcorn Professor of English

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences of The George Washington University

certifies that Nora Alfaiz has passed the Final Examination for the degree of Doctor

of Philosophy as of May 06, 2020. This is the final and approved form of the


The Chronicles of War Repercussions in J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis’s Life and Work

Nora Alfaiz

Dissertation Research Committee:

Marshall Alcorn, Professor of English, Dissertation Director

Kavita Daiya, Associate Professor of English, Committee Member

Maria Frawley, Professor of English, Committee Member


© Copyright 2020 by Nora Alfaiz All rights reserved

iii Dedication

To the writer of The .

And to my mother, who nudged me towards bookshops and calls me her Precious.

iv Acknowledgments

I could not have made it this far without my Dissertation Director, Marshall

Alcorn, whose class lectures spurred my interest in trauma studies and eventually led to

years of office visits and samosa meetings as I looked more into the Great War’s

influence on my writers. I am also grateful to Kavita Daiya and Maria Frawley for their invaluable support from the first classroom discussion till the end of my doctoral experience. I would also like to thank my readers, Daniel DeWispelare and Aparajita De, for graciously offering their time to this project. In addition to the professors I met at

George Washington University, I am thankful to the many I met during my summer

programs at University, and the academics who embraced and challenged my

thoughts on Tolkien at the T. S. Eliot Summer Program in .

And then, of course, there is my fellowship, who kept me company and

generously offered me space to think aloud when the Ring was far too heavy a weight to

carry: Patrick Henry, Amy Fox, Meg Smith, Lynette Ballard, Jenny Lorenzo, Patricia

Martini, Anthony Cirilla, Nellie Berri, David Tokarz, mom, Sarah, Fahad, and my cats

Sylvia and Toffee. Thank you for your continued encouragement and companionship.

v Abstract of Dissertation

The Chronicles of War Repercussions in J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis’s Life and Work

This dissertation examines the influence of the Great War on the lives and works of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. By situating the influence of the Great War on these fantasy writers, along with the longstanding popularity of their works, I place them on the forefront of post-war studies. Ultimately, I examine moments of personal and fictional responses to war to argue that Tolkien and Lewis generated reparative to respond to the horrors they witnessed. They did so by embracing the threats of war as necessities in the epic battles of good versus evil, and such responses helped them find meaning in the chaos of war.

My first chapter examines the historical and biographical accounts of Tolkien’s experiences in World War I, where I argue he uses fantasy fiction to represent horrifying experiences rooted in his times in the trenches. The second chapter analyzes and to contend that Tolkien uses the fantasy genre as an avenue to express his frustrations with war, particularly military technology and post-war national memory. The third chapter traces Lewis’s similar war experiences, where I argue both writers used the fantasy genre as a unique refraction to articulate their war frustrations.

The fourth chapter analyzes The Chronicles of to argue that Lewis represents his war frustrations in the way he addresses familial loss, governmental ascendancy, and traditional patriotic war portrayals. The coda presents a plethora of ideas for prospective biographical and analytical advances that show how a single war can generate many studies on the influence of war on Tolkien, Lewis, and other fantasy writers of the twentieth century.

vi Table of Contents

Dedication ...... iv

Acknowledgements ...... v

Abstract ...... vi

Table of Contents ...... vii

Introduction ...... 1

Chapter 1. “Something Has Gone Crack”: J. R. R. Tolkien and Mythologizing the Great War ...... 20

Chapter 2. The Lord of the Wars: Post-war Memory and Military Technology in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Works ...... 63

Chapter 3. “Friendship with Lewis Compensates for Much”: Lewis’s Wartime Influences and His Friendship with Tolkien ...... 104

Chapter 4. The , the Witch, and the (War)drobe: Familial Loss and Governmental Ascendancy in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia ...... 147

Coda. The Breaking of the Fellowship of Tolkien and Lewis’s Life and Works ...... 184

Works Cited and Consulted ...... 194

Appendix ...... 206

vii Introduction

Both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis participated in World War I and used

fantasy to help represent their traumatic war experiences. The war caused insurmountable

loss that marked both writers. In a touching statement, the philologist Tolkien lamented,

“By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead” (The Fellowship of the Ring 44).

The declaration, taken from his foreword to The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), echoed

his fellow Lewis’s recollection: “I remember five of us [training] at Keble, and I am the only survivor” (Letters 1: 317-319). The two of them lost their friends to the war, a time in which war veterans became disillusioned over political good intentions: all were sent to the trenches and to a potentially inevitable death. Tolkien and Lewis found fantasy to be the appropriate literary genre to address their horrifyingly unreal war experiences and losses. Both adopted Tolkien’s fantasy related concept of eucatastrophe, a lifting of heart as a result of reading fantasy, to imagine ways to make meaning out of war as their nation moved towards even more loss and chaos in World War II. As such, I argue that Tolkien and Lewis, responding to the traumatic suffering of their war experiences, were generating reparative fantasies. These fantasies do not represent trauma in a clinical sense, but they do respond to near traumatic suffering and seek to create new formulations for meaning and social engagement. As such, they embraced the threats of war without fear and instead find the fears to be an essential element of the necessary and epic battles of good versus evil.

Many similarly experienced contemporaneous post-war soldiers became writers

and used literature to address the dark matter of war and human corruption, though

1 Tolkien and Lewis were unique in their usage of fantasy. For example, there is George

Orwell’s witnessing of the uprise of fascism in the Spanish Civil War and his reactionary

Animal Farm (1945) followed by Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) as a post-WWII

commentary, Robert Graves’ memoir Good-Bye to All That (1929) tracing his bleak days

in World War I, and Siegfried Sassoon’s asylum formed friendship with Wilfred Owen

and their resulting towering presence as authoritative poets on World War I. Within the

authors listed above and their publications of memoirs, biographies, poetry, and fiction,

the only comparable writer with exceptional similarity to the two authors examined in

this book is Orwell and his dystopic piece of science-fiction Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Orwell’s dystopic metaphorical mode of representing a significantly traumatic event of

the twentieth century was by using science-fiction, while our two authors turned to the mode of fantasy to powerfully comment on and communicate their experiences in the

Great War when other forms of writing weren’t adequate enough for the war horrors they wanted to represent.

Tolkien and Writing After WWI

Tolkien was busy inventing his own and a national for , and he wrote in the trenches while other soldiers were reading old mythologies to escape their present situations and stresses in the trenches. As Fussell words it, World War I was a time in which soldiers were reading old mythologies and believing in un-modern superstitions in a war “especially fertile in rumor and legend” (The Great War and

Modern Memory 15). “I was not a good officer,” (Letters 90), confessed Tolkien to his

2 son Christopher, and he explained that he was often absent-minded scribbling new word formations for languages he was inventing while in the trenches and while under fire. He was set on forming a northern mythology for his country, and he found himself adding scenes and themes that were directly affected by his experiences in the trenches. He served in the British Army as Battalion Signaling Officer to the 11th Batallion of The

Lancashire Fusiliers during the Battle of the Somme, and fought from July to October

1916. His unit was stationed in the northern part of the Somme, but he soon contracted trench fever and was evacuated to England to recover. It is important to note here that neither Tolkien nor Lewis experienced trauma in particular, and the purpose of this dissertation is not to diagnose them but to highlight certain evidence that they did encounter and respond to some traumatic qualities found in the war front. For example,

Judith Herman defines traumatic events as those that “overwhelm the ordinary systems of care that give people a sense of control, connection, and meaning” (Trauma and

Recovery 33). She adds that “Unlike commonplace misfortunes, traumatic events

generally involve threats to life or bodily integrity, or a close personal encounter with

violence and death” (Trauma and Recovery 33). These initial definitions of trauma do apply to what Tolkien and Lewis encountered, as evidenced in the published letters I

explicate in this dissertation. They do not necessarily, however, exhibit specific qualities

she focuses on, namely some symptoms such as constriction, intrusion, and hyperarousal.

Again, I do not clearly see all of these qualities in Tolkien and Lewis, but I do have strong evidence that some of these qualities are part of experience. As such, though

Tolkien did not return to the trenches, he kept returning to his overwhelming war memories. He worked these war memories into forming stories for his invented

3 languages, and he kept passionately expanding his legendarium as he responded to his

war issues and tried to find meaning in them.

As such, Tolkien busied himself with reinventing a mythology to represent post-

war England and restore a personal sense of meaning when the Great War bombarded

him with the loss of friends, grief, horrifying deaths, and injuries that necessitated hospital stays for recovery from. In 1954 and 1955, Tolkien published a grand epic fantasy with the title of The Lord of the Rings and presented it as a manuscript from our own past. The sales for the story, published in trilogy form, are estimated to have sold

150 million copies (Shippey xxiv). The publications featured geographical maps and illustrations of the letterings of the different languages he invented for his work, spanning from the language of with its and to the language of Black

Speech, which belongs to the evil realm of the dictatorial . Tolkien used his love for languages and language creation as a base for the setting he makes in the legendarium, a word used to refer to the whole of Tolkien’s mythopoeic works. The narration is presented to us as a written manuscript from an earlier time in our world, when a fellowship of allies from differing species of , elves, dwarves, men, and

the wizard embark on a journey to destroy the Ring, a destructive device Sauron

forges to enable him to control and conquer all of Middle-earth. The immense continued

success proves that Tolkien’s reinvention of mythology to articulate his frustrations with

war in a post-war England were brilliantly represented in a capsule of timelessness that

his fellow war memoirists and poets don’t share. As a result, Tolkien’s writing is a more accessible representation of the dangers of war, and this in turn earns him a deserving spot next to the wartime writers of the twentieth century.

4 As mentioned, Tolkien used his fantasy realm as an imaginary place where he

could share his war experiences, and he makes his world more realistic by setting it in

England. For example, in his creation of Middle-earth, Tolkien noted that the realm is geographically ours while it belongs to a historical moment which fictitiously takes place in our past. In copy of a letter Tolkien wrote to the poet W.H. Auden in 1956, Tolkien explained that “The theatre of my tale is this earth, the one in which we now live, but the historical period is imaginary” (Letters 256). The letter ends with the repetition: “Mine is not an ‘imaginary’ world, but an imaginary historical moment on ‘Middle-earth’—which is our habitation” (Letters 260). To reiterate, the time in which Tolkien’s stories are set is imaginary, but the rest is based on our world. In fact, the etymology of ‘Middle-earth’ is no other than a rewording of ‘earth’ taken from Middle English, as Tolkien elaborated in a 1955 letter he wrote to his publishers:

‘Middle-earth,’ by the way, is not a name of a never-never land without relation

to the world we live in (like the of Eddison). It is just a use of Middle

English middel-erde (or erthe), altered from Middangeard: the name

for the inhabited lands of Men 'between the seas’. And though I have not

attempted to relate the shape of the mountains and land-masses to what

geologists may say or surmise about the nearer past, imaginatively this 'history' is

supposed to take place in a period of the actual Old World of this planet. (Letters


Tolkien made a distinction in this letter between his Middle-earth and two other fictional

texts to emphasize how Middle-earth differs. It is, according to Tolkien, not a typical

never-never land—most likely an allusion to the famous Neverland in J.M. Barrie’s Peter

5 Pan stories (1904-1911)—and is not the world of Mercury found in Eric Rücker

Eddison’s fantasy The Worm Ouroboros (1922). The etymological explanation Tolkien

provided serves to boost the ethos of his argument, which is that his world emulates our own. In other words, Tolkien’s use of escapism isn’t simply a means of leaving reality behind the way the former writers did. What he did was use the fantasy realm to portray a fictional history of ours, and use that period to reflect on wartime experiences that weren’t easy for his contemporaries to articulate in memoirs and poetry.

Moreover, Tolkien’s Middle-earth has a specific geographical location: the

Midlands in England. As Tolkien noted, is “in fact more or less a

Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee” (Letters 248). Colin

Duriez shares in A Guide to Middle Earth that many culinary features in the Shire relate to Tolkien’s childhood home, whether they are Sam Gamgee’s references to potatoes, stewed rabbit, or, at one point, even fish and chips (48). Additionally, Tolkien objected to changes translators attempted to make to the names of his places, languages, and characters when the success of The Lord of the Rings led to numerous translations to reach more international readers. He even objected to a Dutch translator’s attempts to change the names of places in The Lord of the Rings to Dutch sounding names that would have been more suitable to the Dutch language and culture. ‘“The Shire is based on rural

England and not any other country in the world—least perhaps of any in Europe or

Holland, which is topographically wholly dissimilar,” he wrote in his response (Letters

267). He noted in the same letter: “The toponymy of The Shire, to take the first list, is a

‘parody’ of that of rural England, in much the same sense as are its inhabitants: they go together and are meant to.” He then added that the book’s nature is English, written by an

6 Englishman, and that attempting to change certain words in a translated work would only

“destroy the local colour” of the story (Letters 267). Additionally, he commented on his childhood in a BBC Radio interview in 1971 and was blunt in relating his childhood

environment to the Shire, which is the region his hobbits inhabit:

The Shire is very like the kind of world in which I first became aware of things . .

. [to] find yourself in a quiet Warwickshire village, I think it engenders a

particular love of what you might call Midlands England countryside, based on

good water stones and elm trees and small quiet rivers and so on, and of course

rustic people about. (Gerrolt)

The letter to the Dutch translator, when placed next to the excerpt from the radio interview, reveals the specific location Tolkien had in mind when he created his world, in addition to his reasoning behind critiquing any changes that may affect his chosen locale and cultural background. He did, after all, want to form a mythology for England even though the association between his stories and a mythology for England was the initial inspiration behind his writing. As explains in Interrupted Music: The

Making of Tolkien’s Mythology, Tolkien’s academic and personal interest in national , such as the Finnish tale , inspired him to create a mythology that the people of England could call their own. She indicates that he expressed this particular wish in 1912, and that during that time “national mythologies were being discovered or rediscovered at an astounding rate” (27). Flieger’s note on discovering and rediscovering national mythologies indicates the timeliness of Tolkien’s creation of his own myth.

Fussell says the poet David Jones’s epic poem In Parenthesis, a piece published in 1937 and based on his experiences as an infantryman, reflects a “desire to rescue and

7 reinvigorate traditional pre-industrial religious and ethical connotations” (The Great War

145) and reattach “traditional meaning to the unprecedented actualities of war” (146).

The intention behind Jones’s work is similar to Tolkien’s hope of creating a northern mythology for his country by soaking his works in Norse mythology inspirations, and by

doing so, Tolkien also established the second intention behind Jones’s work, which is to

provide a -led fantasy mode for interpreting and representing his experiences of the

Great War in post-war England.

Tolkien, Lewis, and Recovery in Fantasy

There was no avoiding the desolate memory of no ’s land and its decaying corpses, and Tolkien summed the trench experience he witnessed as “animal horror” due to the irrational, inhumane ways young men were destroyed and left to decay (Letters

83). The review Lewis wrote for The Lord of the Rings documents that he could see elements of World War I in Tolkien’s fantasy, both because he could empathize as a fellow soldier in World War I and because he could see that Tolkien was using the fantasy story as a pedestal to express the experiences he and similar soldiers of his time collectively encountered. Lewis appreciated the value of the literary work he reviewed, and he emphasized its importance as a representative both of and for the twentieth- century war experiences:

[Tolkien’s] war has the very quality of the war my generation knew. It is all here:

the endless, unintelligible movement, the sinister quiet of the front when

‘everything is now ready,’ the flying civilians, the lively, vivid friendships, the

8 background of something like despair and the merry foreground, and such

heaven-sent windfalls as a cache of tobacco ‘salvaged’ from a ruin. (“On -

Stories” 88)

A similarly telling piece can be found in Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-stories,” where he

wrote: “[a] taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood,

and quickened to full life by war” (56). The quote shows his self-awareness of the

inspiration behind Tolkien’s work, and his admittance that he was already thinking of

expressing himself through the means of fairy-tale, a form that went against the grain of his contemporaries and the realistic ironic form they used to represent the war.

How the war experiences quickened his literary inspiration is clearly stated in a letter

Tolkien wrote his son Christopher years later when he, in turn, served in the Royal Air

Force in World War II. “I sense amongst all your pains (some merely physical) the desire to express your feeling about good, evil, fair, foul in some way: to rationalize it, and

prevent it festering,” he wrote. “In my case it generated and the History of the

Gnomes” (Letters 90), which, as we see in Christopher’s posthumous publications of his

father’s works, ultimately became , portraying Sauron’s past as a servant

of the fallen Morgoth far before Sauron forged the rings of destruction we know of in The Lord of the Rings.

Both Tolkien and Lewis used fantasy as a mode to represent their experiences in

the trenches. , the literary advisor of the estate of C. S. Lewis, shares in a

memoir that Lewis adopted some of Tolkien’s theories in “On Fairy-stories” regarding

fantasy as a genre, specifically the concept of “sub-creation,” the process of forming and creating mythologies (Hooper 156). Both writers specify the importance of fantasy, as it

9 provides the author with the ability to bring the reader to experience a world other than

their own and allow them to review their own world from this distancing perspective. An

important element of fairy-story that is important for readers is that it provides a “good

catastrophe,” that which Tolkien coined as ‘eucatastrophe:’ a “lifting of heart” that

happens in a miraculous turn of events near the conclusion of the plot (“On Fairy-Stories”

32-33, 75-76). Fantasy has the ability to equip readers with new perspectives in handling

real life, in addition to the effect of a lighter heart caused by a “gleam come through

[reading]” which is that of eucatastrophe (75-76). In a post-war society dealing with the

confusion of loss and recovery, and the horrors witnessed in the trenches, fantasy becomes a consoling and strengthening refuge. As a result, the eucatastrophe that results from reading becomes useful for a nation moving toward World War II, as it provides different moral dynamics to help find meaning in war.

Lewis similarly described the merits of reading George MacDonald’s fantasy

Phantases: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women (1858), and looking at his description reinforces how his achieves the same literary accomplishments.

In his forward to the story, Lewis described the genre as “one of the greatest arts; for it produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets” (x).

Lewis’s stories in the magical world of Narnia provide readers with delight and an opportunity, not a barrier, to raise questions about the current way of life and seek meaning in a world ravaged by the horrors of war and man’s thirst for power.

10 Lewis and Writing After WWI

Lewis’s war experiences were as horrible as Tolkien’s, and he initially referred to

literature to understand the unrealistic events unfolding around him, and eventually found shelter in it again by writing fantasy fiction. On November 17, 1917, Lewis found himself sloshing through the French village of Monchy-le-Preux. He was a soldier of eighteen years of age, and he turned nineteen while going through what he later recalled in as “the frights, the cold, the smell of H.[eavy] E.[xplosives], the smashed men still moving like half crushed beetles” (196). He then added a comment to that recollection, surmising that “It is too cut off from the rest of my experience and often seems to have happened to someone else” (196). Lewis’s comment indicates he felt himself a spectator, not a participant, and much of that chapter is a forced light summary of his experiences: he discussed the many friends he made, how his elders were particularly nice to him, and how “memory fills those months with pleasant, transitory contacts” (189). The sense of disbelief and disconnect from the realness and gruesomeness of what the experienced in the trenches were like is a response many soldiers at the time were familiar with. In The Great War and Modern Memory, Fussell

provides ample examples of soldiers’ accounts of feeling like what they were

experiencing was unreal, particularly an example of a soldier’s recollection of trenches feeling “unreal, unforgettable enclosure[s] and constraint[s]” (51). Many soldiers were unable to shake off such experiences, and this particular soldier found himself walking down narrow alleys in , years later, and saw the tight spaces turn into his memories of his time in the trenches (51).

11 Lewis was similarly haunted by his experiences in the Great War. He ended the autobiographical chapter about the Great War by briefly and abruptly spending a few lines saying he was hit by a bullet and in the moment felt an indifference and the thought that “This is War. This is what Homer wrote about” (196). The chapter ends with these exact words, and it is jarring to learn, from biographies written about him, that the shrapnel injury was so dangerous doctors left a piece near his heart. Lewis carried the piece in his body for the rest of his life. As for his comment on Homer, it is striking to include Zaleski and Zaleski’s hypothesis that Lewis calmly and comparatively referred to

Homer in such a critical moment because literature was how he could view and understand the unrealistic, horrible events unfolding around him (The Fellowship 82).

This theory complements the quote above where Lewis passively commented that his experiences in the trenches seemed “to have happened to someone else.”

Lewis carried many of his wartime experiences with him and they found themselves in his works. Many years later, between the years 1950 and 1956, Lewis published a series of seven under the name of The Chronicles of Narnia. The stories relate the adventures of several children who experience the growth of the sublime world of Narnia, a magical containing talking mythical beasts and animals.

The children belong to our own world, and they transport to the world of Narnia through various magical means when they are called upon by the lion to help protect the world from danger and destruction. Just like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Lewis also accompanied his stories with a map. However, the remaining illustrative devises are cover and interior illustrations provided by the artist , whose work was heavily influenced by the Narnia chapters she was given to read and who was introduced

12 to Lewis because he was friends with Tolkien. By then, the influence Tolkien and Lewis

had on one another’s literary lives was tangible enough that even the simplest things, like

today’s familiarity with the classic Narnia book illustrations, wouldn’t have been so had

Tolkien not introduced Lewis to Baynes.

Lewis’s trench influences of the Great War expanded to include the Second

World War many years later, which makes his fantasy fiction as rife with discussions of

war as contemporary wartime writers. Lewis’s creation of Narnia’s famous introduction,

that of the four Pevensie children being sent to Professor , is heavily lifted

from a letter he wrote his brother while his brother was called back to service as England

was preparing for the beginning of World War II in 1939. He wrote:

This book is about four children whose names were Ann, Martin, Rose and Peter.

But it is most about Peter who was the youngest. They all had to go away from

London suddenly because of Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the

Army, had gone off to the War and Mother was doing some kind of war work.

(Hooper 151)

Lewis’s home was one of many households that received and hosted children

sent from London to Oxford to remain safe during the Blitz. Lewis made it so that the contemporary reality of his time, that of children being evacuated to safer homes during

World War II, was a historically accurate setting for the imaginary world he built and connected to our own. Unlike Tolkien’s Middle-earth being our own world in a fictitious past, Lewi’s world takes place in his own current time in the twentieth century. Like

Tolkien, Lewis used his reinvented mythology to provide a realm where he could address his frustrations with war in a manner that is relatable and beneficial to readers.

13 Similarly to Tolkien’s English setting, Lewis rehashed and reused mythology in

the creation of his fantasy fiction. However, where Tolkien was influenced by Norse

mythology and conscientiously lifted from a single mythology, Lewis provided a jumbled

assembly of myths disassociated from their Greek, Roman, German, and Celtic origins:

, , naiads, , , river gods, and , to name but a few.

Lewis made Narnia a world where miscellaneous mythologies coexist to face the

aftermath of a war similar to World War I and II, where people, or creatures, deal with

the loss of calm domestic life, power corruption, treachery, and the ’s

harmful geopolitics versus Aslan and his followers’ resistance. As Lewis provided a

nurturing fantasy story with established connections to the real world and the aftermath

of war, he, just like Tolkien, provided a quest-led fantasy mode of interpreting

contemporary war.

A Note on Structure

The following four main chapters are structured to examine how and why

experiences in World War I in particular, and World War II in general, have been vital to

Tolkien and Lewis’s creative output as writers and the way their friendship and shared war experiences provided the impetus for their creative work. This, in turn, leads to my argument that Tolkien and Lewis used the fantasy genre to transform their traumatic war

experiences into written stories that interpret post-war England in a time when post-war writers were struggling to use non-fantasy forms to represent the unreal horrors of war.

Both used fantasy to seek and create new formulations for meaning and social

14 engagement, and this emphasizes that they embraced the threats of war without fear as they found war threats to be an essential element of the necessary and epic battles of good versus evil. To allow a coherent organization of a dissertation focused on two writers, I have divided my dissertation in half: the first half focuses primarily on Tolkien while the other half belongs to Lewis. As for the methods that best provided the foundation of my work and informed how to situate both writers’ works, they are those of trauma studies, life writing, and biographical studies. As such, I refer to biographies, autobiographies, and letters written by or about these particular writers. I also bring in historical accounts and studies, and close analyses of published fantasy works, to further delve into the historical and cultural context that these writers were responding to in their fantasy literary works.

In chapter 1, I claim that Tolkien made use of fantasy fiction as a place to convey traumatic experiences embedded in his times in the World War I trenches. I start with a brief biographical overview that touches on Tolkien’s childhood influences for a few pages, which include his mother and his childhood friends, to observe how these influences transform after facing the Great War. As such, I focus on the First World War and look at his training and trench experiences. I examine the damaging cultural impact the war had on him and other writers in the twentieth century, the loss of all but one of his childhood friends, his fortuitous ailment of trench fever, and its consequential productive recovery time and the way war themes seeped into the birth of his fantasy realms. Since most of the chapter examines the cultural reaction to war, an experience both Tolkien and Lewis shared, there will be an allusion to what is to come in the third chapter, which will, in turn, focus on Tolkien’s budding relationship with Lewis and their

15 mutual influence on their writing careers. I contend that Tolkien used his war experiences

to reconstruct his understanding of the loss of his friends to the war, and I argue that he channeled his various war frustrations by writing a literary piece that reinvents

mythology to form and reconfigure his understanding of the horrific war experiences he attempted to process. In this chapter, I mark the beginning of approaching Tolkien, and, later, Lewis, not as fantasy writers isolated from their lives in the twentieth century, but as engaged in the same post-war frustrations as their contemporaneous wartime memoirists and poets.

In Chapter 2, following the biographical overview, I argue that Tolkien used the fantasy genre as a medium to articulate his grievances with war, and I focus on his

reactions in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to societal distortions of technology

and memory in a post-war world obsessed with domination. I contend that Tolkien’s

fictional work was a response to the post-war frustrations represented and detailed in the

previous chapter. I then argue that Tolkien used these frustrations as the impetus to

produce timeless post-war themes that caution readers against the human tendency to

forget its past history and jump into new wars. Observing his most popular works, The

Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I relate, first, how his legendarium is a representation

of post-war disillusionment with the concepts of nationalism and historical remembrances

of wars. As such, the complex structure of his stories represent nations and nationalism in

a post-war reality, and they demonstrate how memory can be both useful and treacherous in a nation’s formation of history and national unity. Second, I look at the ways Tolkien criticized and revealed the many negative outcomes of the ways nations vying for power manipulate technology. He provided readers with the consequences of the destructive

16 quest for ultimate power and the susceptible nature of humans. This chapter pulls together two post-war themes to emphasize that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are timeless literary works that challenge readers to understand the horrors of war, and,

consequentially, are works that are more accessible than post-war memoirists and poets in Tolkien’s century.

In Chapter 3, I argue that both Lewis and Tolkien used the fantasy genre as a unique refraction to formulate and articulate their frustrations with war. Lewis represented his critiques of war in fantasy literature, and he did so as a result of the encouragement Tolkien provided in pushing him to write more fantasy work. This motivation helped Lewis fully articulate his war frustrations through his writing. As such,

I provide an overview of Lewis’s childhood with its many adventures with his brother

Warnie, the strong friendship they developed throughout their lives, and his personal

understanding of the incidents he experienced and witnessed in World War I. Since the

second half of Chapter 1 addresses the contemporaneous cultural reaction to war, this

chapter, in turn, looks at the ways in which Lewis particularly survived the Great War.

After looking at Lewis’s war experiences, I move to a discussion of how Lewis formed his friendship with Tolkien after moving back to Oxford and how they started reading and critiquing one another’s works. The chapter then focuses on showing examples of

how their friendship grew as their mutual encouragement made them the influential

fantasy writers of the twentieth century. The chapter pulls together several posthumous editorial notes written by Tolkien’s son Christopher as he comments on Tolkien’s fiction writing process and progress as he addressed Lewis’s many critiques and notes, as well as book reviews Lewis wrote about Tolkien’s works, and letters where Tolkien addressed

17 his publishers to encourage them to accept Lewis’s work along with letters where they

both comment on their friendship and literary influence. This third chapter shows how

Lewis and Tolkien reinstated their sense of community belonging after losing their friends to the Great War, and how their friendship motivated them to address their war frustrations and reinvent a timeless mythology while doing so.

In Chapter 4, following the biographical overview, I argue that Lewis used fantasy genre as an avenue to represent his frustrations with war, and I concentrate on themes related to familial loss, antipacifist ascendancy, and defying conventional patriotic war representation and commemoration in the children’s series The Chronicles

of Narnia. Though the Chronicles are presented as children’s books, they manage to

convey realistic representations of war the way Lewis witnessed it through his own harrowing encounters. The Chronicles of Narnia is almost never fully free from war, as it makes its presence known either in the backdrop of Narnia or in the forefront as the children scramble to maintain the safety of Narnia and its inhabitants. There are many strewn war elements in Lewis’s works, and this chapter, as a result, focuses on two themes to help review the first two books in The Chronicles of Narnia. As such, the chapter examines both The ’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe to show how Lewis articulated and resolved issues of betrayal and loss that emerge from surviving familial disconnect caused by wars, such as the Pevensie children being sent to the Professor’s house to keep them safe from city bombings. I then look at

the way Lewis used the White Witch’s megalomaniac urges for power and ascendancy,

and her symbolic forms of weapons of mass destruction, as a post-war form of critiquing

governmental ascendancy. This chapter pulls together these two themes to analyze how

18 Lewis made The Chronicles of Narnia a timeless piece that illustrates war’s lack of glory

and provides readers with space to similarly face and resolve their own frustrations with

war just like the Pevensie children do by visiting the land of Narnia.

Through these four chapters, this dissertation tracks how Tolkien and Lewis’s inclusion of their World War I experiences and values make their tales relevant for scholars looking into the influences of World War I on twentieth-century fiction. In a response Tolkien wrote to a fan in 1958, Tolkien acknowledged that The Lord of the

Rings is “merely an imaginative invention, to express, in the only way I can, some of my

(dim) apprehensions of the world” (Letters 298). Tolkien repeated this sort of discussion on the applicability of experience in stories several times in his critical writings. At times, he denied direct analogies, such as scholars’ claims that The Lord of the Rings was directly related to the events of World War II, particularly the nuclear bomb. He did, however, nudge readers towards historical moments and experiences that led to his stories, such as losing all but one of his friends in World War I, which is one of many examples this introduction already tackled. He acknowledged that his works contained important truths, truths that were important to him and expanded from Middle-earth to our world. As such, Tolkien and Lewis’s stories enable us to see our reality from a

different point of view by distancing us from our world, and this enables us to see the

universality of war issues, such as the consequences of World War I, and address it differently.

19 Chapter 1

“Something Has Gone Crack”: J. R. R. Tolkien and Mythologizing the Great War

So far my chief impression is that something has gone crack. I feel just the same

to both of you — nearer if anything and very much in need of you —I am hungry

and lonely of course – but I don't feel a member of a little complete body now.

[. . .] Still I feel a mere individual at present — with intense feelings more than

ideas but very powerless. (Letters 14)

Tolkien mailed the letter to his “dear old Geoffrey” Smith a few weeks after receiving a late letter informing him that their childhood friend Rob Gilson was killed in action. By the end of the same year in 1916, Tolkien and Christopher Wiseman, who was the other member of their group, lost this “dear old Geoffrey” to shrapnel that killed him within four days of injury. The same letter mourning the loss of his friend as if something had “gone crack” in their life also had a thread of hope in it. In the letter, Tolkien urged

Gilson that they keep their friend’s death as an everlasting memory to motivate them to become even more productive in their own lives as a form of tribute. Many years later, in his foreword to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien reflected: “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead” (The Lord of the Rings 44). The shadow of the death of his close childhood friends, and “the shadow of war” (The Lord of the Rings 44), personally affected Tolkien and influenced his writings on the happenings in the fantasy world of

Middle-earth. WWI, for many soldiers like Tolkien, destroyed their sense of meaning and national identity. It left them feeling engulfed in a “hideous” “shadow of war” (44) as

20 Tolkien recollected in his foreword. In Tolkien’s case, he channeled the feelings of loss

and trauma into his works, as he busied himself for the rest of his life with reinventing

old mythologies, particularly Norse mythologies. He then added his own inventions to

form a new mythology that could represent his vision of post-war England. Tolkien

engaged in the issues of his days, a time plagued with hordes of dead soldiers who didn’t

survive World War I and were sent there as a result of rising nationalist sentiments and

political unrest that later transformed into Nazism and Fascism.

Tolkien’s writing life began as a response to the stress of combat. He began writing while in the trenches and he wrote later during his hospital recovery. He continued to write as he settled back into university to teach, and the themes, myths, and geography of this original imaginative work continued to develop. The shadow of the war haunted him all his life and deeply informed all his literary work. In part, Tolkien attempted to restore a personal sense of meaning through this writing, tied to returning

England to the same pastoral countryside where he grew up. What I argue in this chapter is that textual details about his life and close readings of his letters provide ample material proving the importance of his fantasy literature. Tolkien’s fantasy writing is a form of literary genre that Fussell ignores in his assessment of important literature written in and about the Great War. As a result, modernist literary studies have neglected to pay attention to the relationship between WWI and the emergence of popular fantasy literature spearheaded by Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Conversely, scholars who studied fantasy genre have neglected studying these works in the context of war and trauma. Therefore, I look into Tolkien’s reactions to the Great War to assert that he personally witnessed the same horrors other soldiers experienced and dealt with, and

21 he dealt with these resulting frustrations in his fantasy work. I argue that Tolkien used fantasy fiction as a place to write about traumatic experiences rooted in his times in the trenches of World War I. These fantasies do not represent trauma in a clinical sense, but they do respond to traumatic suffering as he sought to create new formulations for meaning and social engagement. In the process, the fantasy genre provided the means for him to articulate his traumatic war experiences, and he left readers with a vast collection of fantasy works—and more that his son published posthumously—that represent his war encounters, his attempts at understanding what he witnessed, and, finally, his sense of the repercussions of war. As a result, fantasy literature is a rich literary reference for understanding the relationship between writers in the twentieth century and how they responded to WWI. Tolkien’s work emphasizes the significance of how he used fantasy fiction to articulate his frustrations with the repercussions of his war experiences, and his creative implementation of the fantasy genre, as a result, makes his publications as important as other war writers of his time.

Literary Criticism and the Missing “Fantasy”

Paul Fussell’s monumental yet outdated The Great War and Modern Memory, published in 1975, contributes to historical and literary scholarship through the analysis of major themes that poets, memoirists, and fiction writers shared. However, his entire chapter on “Myth, Ritual, and Romance” doesn’t mention the popularization of the fantasy genre between 1914 and 1918. He mentions C. S. Lewis twice in the book, though he only does so to exemplify ’s aesthetic influence on the young

22 man (169), and again to add Ruskin’s influence on the way Lewis viewed landscape and art (61). Fussell could have done more in his consideration of this “representative young man of the period” (61) by looking at his combat experiences. If he had done so, he would have been able to utilize the significance of fantasy and how it clearly helped

Lewis and Tolkien and many other writers write about their experiences and memory of the horrors of the Great War. Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher that many of the invented languages that made their way to The Lord of the Rings originated “in grimy canteens, at lectures in cold fogs, in huts full of blasphemy and smut, or by candle light in bell-tents, even some down in dugouts under shell fire” (Letters 90). The mythic world, heroic action, and created languages of Tolkien’s world had their origin in the canteens, fogs, and bell tents of the Great War. As such, this dissertation includes these two writers to add to Fussell’s investigation on the literature of WWI and to exemplify the similarities Tolkien and Lewis shared with non-fantasy writers. By placing them in dialogue with non-fantasy war writers of their time, I demonstrate how the war snuck into their works and how rich their fantasy works are when it comes to identifying cultural reactions to the war.

In The Road to Middle-Earth, Shippey states that among criticism The Lord of the

Rings received was an allegation that it does not reflect “an adult experience of the world” (103) and uses escapism as a form of evading reality and everyday life. This binary debate over the realism of Tolkien’s fantasy distracts us from appreciating the use of fantasy to manage harrowing war experiences. For example, when the hobbits return to their home at the end of Tolkien’s , they are appalled at the mixture of the familiar yet unfamiliar in the environment they grew up in and briefly left

23 for the duration of their journey. What the hobbits experience is a form of shock that

many of the soldiers involved in the Great War must have felt. This is reality at the heart

of fantasy. In fact, authors who shifted from realism to fantasy fiction were occupied with

and concerned about realism’s inadequacy in representing the complex emotional

outcomes of war experience. The example above is only one of numerous ways Tolkien

addressed the confusions and upheavals caused by two destructive wars and the lull of

uncertain safety between them. In J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, Shippey claims

that both Tolkien and Lewis are similar to other twentieth-century writers, who he refers

to as “traumatized authors” (xxx). He adds that their similarity lies in how they used

“fantasy and ” (xxx) to recount the horrible events they witnessed on the battlefields.

Shippey’s claim is partly correct, but its implications are not fully elaborated. Though my

studies reveal that Tolkien did suffer from intrusion and memories of his war

experiences, he does not portray elements essential to a trauma victim, namely: intrusion,

hyperarousal, and constriction. This leads me to argue against Shippey’s claim that

Tolkien and Lewis were “traumatized authors” in the clinical definition, but probably so

if the term is used to represent a general sense of having experienced overwhelming

horrors that were too much for them to handle in the moment.

What Tolkien and Lewis were able to do, however, is witness trauma in surviving

veterans and depict them in their fantasy characters, such as Tolkien’s in

The Lord of the Rings. Though Shippey makes an interesting observation, I agree most with Michael Livingston, who argues that Frodo’s transformational personality by the end of the book reflects “the real changes that Tolkien witnessed in surviving veterans of the Great War” (14). Livingston’s claim supports my argument that Tolkien and Lewis

24 didn’t suffer from trauma and represent it in their fantasy literature, but rather that they portrayed characters with aspects of trauma who were inspired by the surviving trauma veterans they shared their trenches with. While Tolkien and Lewis used their fantasy fiction to process and describe their war experiences, there is a gap in current scholarship regarding an in-depth account of how WWI seeped into their Middle-earth and Narnia.

The moral visions of Lewis and Tolkien are very real and potent. They engage in issues of the day, a time plagued with piles of dead young soldiers on battlefields erected by regimes of rising nationalist sentiments and political unrest that later led to Nazism and

Fascism. It is important, as a result, to look closely at how their witnessing the war shaped and inhabited their fictional worlds, because modernist studies have neglected to attend to the relationship between fantasy genre and twentieth-century literary responses to WWI.

Tolkien and Lewis, particularly Tolkien for this chapter, grew up with an idyllic view of rural England that influenced some of their writing. I follow the brief section on his childhood with how these idyllic childhood views shattered along with the loss of friends and close companions who shattered in the Great War. His childhood passion for nature and imaginary languages evolved into abiding and sustaining themes that his works employ to critique the usage of technology to gain power. Following this chapter’s investment in the cultural influence of rural England as it becomes altered by the experience of the Great War on Tolkien, I interpret how Tolkien used his war experiences to reconstruct his sense of loss and self by channeling his frustrations over the war and energy over losing his friends in his construction of Middle-earth. Tolkien reinvented a mythology that revives his ideals of the England he grew up in, and he provided England

25 with a mythology of its own that is rife with his interpretation of the wars he experienced in the twentieth century.

The Boy with the “Tolkien Eyes:” Tolkien’s Childhood Influences

Tolkien’s war experience left him with great grief and emptiness, and he managed these feelings by consoling himself with reinvigorating his childhood passions in his writing. This story of Tolkien’s childhood must begin with consideration of his early years in South Africa, the painful early loss of his father and mother, and his restorative interaction with the woods and pastoral tranquility of rural England.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in the city of

Bloemfontein, located in one of two Boer Republics in South Africa that gained independence from British rule. His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, married Mabel Suffield a year earlier, and he was a bank manager at the Bloemfontein branch of the Bank of

Africa. Two years after Tolkien was born, his mother gave birth to his only sibling,

Hilary, and it was around the same time that Mabel realized Tolkien’s health was diminishing in the torrid climate of the South African city. A year later, she left her husband Arthur Tolkien to travel with her sons to for a short family visit in a climate more suitable for baby Tolkien’s health. Little did they know they were never going to see Arthur or visit the faraway city of Bloemfontein again. Arthur’s financial struggles meant he could not afford to take leave from work and visit with his family, and while they were away he suffered a severe hemorrhage caused by rheumatic fever. Arthur

Tolkien passed away soon afterward in 1896, and his pride in his family shows in a letter

26 he wrote home to share the first good news regarding their expanding family: “The baby is (of course) lovely. It has beautiful hands and ears (very long fingers) very light hair,

‘Tolkien’ eyes and very distinctly a ‘Suffield’ mouth” (Tolkien: A Biography 12). The boy with the ‘Tolkien’ eyes lived the rest of his childhood in rural England, in the village of , a short trip from the city of Birmingham. The agreeable climate and thriving greenery left their impression on Tolkien later in life. “If your Christmas tree [in

Bloemfontein] is a wilting eucalyptus,” he begins his response to an interviewer on BBC


and if you’re normally troubled by heat and sun, then to have (just at the age

when your imagination is opening out) suddenly found yourself in a quiet

Warwickshire village . . . engenders a particular love of what you might call

central Midland England countryside, based on good water, stones, and elm trees

and small, quiet rivers and . . . rustic people. (Gerrolt)

The new and lush environment and experiences Tolkien had after moving to England enriched his memories and his appreciation for his surrounding greenery. Tolkien’s love for nature, particularly trees, was a childhood infatuation that influenced his writing outlets as an adult. As shared in his authorized biography on

Tolkien: “Though he liked drawing trees he liked most of all to be with trees. He would climb them, lean against them, even talk to them. It saddened him to discover that not everyone shared his feelings towards them” (Tolkien: A Biography 22). His appreciation for nature and his intuitive observation that “not everyone shared his feelings” became one of the many themes his books delved into. He particularly focused on how the negligence and evisceration of nature is one of the many victims of war and human self-

27 interest in the struggle for power. His , for example, are an old tree-like race who precede other races of Middle-earth and were created as shepherds of forests to protect trees from harmful destruction. The anthropomorphic tree creatures are slow to rally due to their patient nature, but in , their simmering anger at ’s destruction of their brethren in forming his industrial army results in full destruction of his tower of Orthanc. Their assault is an act of self-preservation when their fellow trees are left to rot without any concern from other races. As , one of the oldest creatures to inhabit Middle-earth, answers the hobbit Pippin’s demand on his position in the fight between good and evil: “I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them” (The

Two Towers 83). Tolkien’s passion for myth and fairy story, or, as he wrote, “heroic

legend on the brink of fairy-tale and history” (Letters 167), inspired him to expand his

invented languages to include additional suitable stories and legends. He identified the

tone and quality that he looked for with England in particular. He grew up in rural

England where he discovered his love for trees, and that is why he later developed Ents

and associated evil characters with manipulating technology to destroy nature and assert

dominance over others, which the next chapter discusses.

Another factor that influenced Tolkien’s literary and professional life was his

early exposure to varying language structures as a result of having his mother as his tutor.

The tutoring sessions later grew into a passion for languages, a profession as a

philologist, and writing works heavily influenced by and inspired by forming languages

in need of myths to associate them with and help them grow. In 1900, Mabel converted

from Anglicanism to Catholicism and did the same for her sons despite her family’s

28 objection. The conversion caused a rift between Mabel and her family, and what resulted

was their refusal to help her financially. In 1904, Mabel’s diabetes put her in a coma that

ended her life (Tolkien and the Great War 12). She left the boys orphans when Tolkien

was twelve. Left with no father and no mother, Tolkien suffered an early profound loss

much like the loss he would experience later with losing his closest friends in the Great

War. Even though he still had his brother, Tolkien’s loss of his mother left him “capable

of bouts of profound despairs” (Tolkien: A Biography 31), and resulted in him becoming,

as Humphrey Carpenter argues, “a man of many extreme contrasts” (Tolkien: A

Biography 133) with no moderation. Zaleski and Zaleski reach a more balanced opinion in their joint biographical research: Tolkien was depressed about his work and the happenings around him, but his creative bursts, family life, and friends provided him with enough contentment to avoid becoming the bitter man he could have been (The

Fellowship 212). His wife, Edith, in particular, had such a profound influence on his life

that he later compared the devastation of losing her to the suffering he felt when his

mother passed away. Tolkien wrote to his son Michael in 1972 that his mother Mabel

died right when his life was beginning, and that two special individuals kept him

company in his life: Father Francis Xavier Morgan, a Roman Catholic priest who became

of Tolkien and his brother, and his wife Edith (Letters 416). His loyalty and

appreciation for his mother were never forgotten. “My own mother was a martyr indeed,”

he shared in a letter Carpenter included in his biography, “and it is not to everybody that

God grants so easy a way to his great gifts as he did to Hilary and myself, giving us a

mother who killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith”

(Tolkien: A Biography 31). In a letter addressed to poet and friend W.H. Auden, Tolkien

29 related that he wrote his first story when he was seven. He also added that his mother was the spark that accelerated his infatuation with languages, as she taught him how to read by the age of four and also taught him the rudiments of Latin, German, and French. The only thing he remembered about his first story was the philological memory of his mother, who reviewed his written achievement and explained to him that one couldn’t say “a green great ” but had to say “a great green dragon” (Letters 229). Tolkien was puzzled and intrigued as to why the phrasing had to be different, and his lifelong infatuation with languages began. His academic career was inseparable from his love of language, as he learned Greek, Old Icelandic, Old and Middle English, Medieval Welsh, amongst other languages. The infatuation with languages, which began with his mother’s tutorials and grew as the years passed, was what led to forming many languages strictly associated with Tolkien nowadays. Examples are namely the Elvish forms of Quenya and

Sindarin, which are etymologically linked to the core of his formation of his legendarium of Middle-earth stories.

Despite their financial struggles, Mabel’s homeschooling gave Tolkien early access to writing and reading story books, thus profoundly influencing his intellectual development. She gave him and his brother a good grounding in mathematics, languages, botany, and love for literature. Tolkien was intrigued by Alice’s Adventures in

Wonderland (1865), though he had “no desire to have adventures like Alice” (Carpenter

22). He later elaborated on his critiques of ’s story in his essay “On Fairy-

Tales,” where he provided it as an example of what to avoid in the creation of a secondary world. For Tolkien, Alice’s eventual realization that she dreamt up her whole adventure when she fell asleep takes away from the credibility of fairy tales. “It is at any

30 rate essential to a genuine fairy-story [. . .] to be presented as ‘true’” (“On Fairy-Stories”

14). The “rare achievement of Art” (49) is to bring readers, through the use of fantasy, to

interact with and experience a world that is as consistent and rational as reality despite its

different rules. What results from interacting with fantasy is an environment where

readers can reexamine the foundation stones that construct a humane community and use

this reexamination to improve society in real life. This form of comparison, therefore,

enables readers to review their own perspective of the world in a manner that assists in

dealing with it. Tolkien sums up a few of these concepts when he writes in “On Fairy-

Stories:” “Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy [. . .] hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality or are flowing into it.” He then adds, “The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the undying reality or truth” (“On Fairy-Stories” 70).

Tolkien avoided dream stories like Alice in Wonderland (1865) in the formation

of his own stories in order to make them more appealing in their realistic elements.

Incidentally, his literary interests in childhood also steered towards these more

compelling narratives. Though the young Tolkien read Alice’s Adventures in

Wonderland, Treasure Island (1882), The Pied Piper, and Hans Anderson stories, he did not respond strongly to this material. Instead, he immensely enjoyed North American

‘Red Indian’ stories and wanted to run around with bows and arrows imitating those narratives. What he found most influential, however, was George MacDonald’s ‘Curdie’ books (1872-1883), which are tales set in castles far away and contain and other fantastical creatures. Even more than MacDonald, Tolkien adored Andrew Lang’s Fairy

31 Books, which were a collection of twenty-five books published between 1889 and 1913.

The most popular were a set of twelve books recognized by their color-coded covers, of which The Red Fairy Book (1890) had a sharp influence on Tolkien’s lifelong literary interests. A particular favorite was the tale of Sigurd, the man who seeks out and slays Fafnir. Carpenter quotes Tolkien’s reflection that he “desired with a profound desire” (22) after reading the story, which was a desire he, at the age of seven, dealt with by writing his own story about a green dragon (Carpenter 23). Tolkien’s infatuation with the Norse legend of Sigurd introduced him to a lifelong passion for

Norse mythology, a mythology that eventually fed his own invented worlds. In a 1951 letter, Tolkien acknowledged that the tales he wrote in The Silmarillion (1977) were original but possibly included several “ancient wide-spread motives or elements” (Letters

147). “Proving influences in a few sentences is nearly impossible,” Whittingham concluded in her assessment of Tolkien’s writing, “but one aspect of Middle-earth on which classical mythology may have had an impact is the Valar” (Whittingham 38).

Tolkien read the Norse myths and Prose Edda a few times and was interested in Old Finnish and The Kalevala. His consistent lifelong habit of inventing stories influenced by his readings in mythology eventually made its way to bedtime stories he wrote for his children, and these stories, in turn, developed into the publication of The

Hobbit (1937) and many posthumously published books we have today.


Tolkien’s Wartime Influences and Trench Fever

For both Lewis and Tolkien, memories of the Great War haunted them their whole lives and impacted their literary work in multiple ways. Lewis wrote in his diary entry of July 19, 1915, that he “Had ghastly dreams about the front and getting wounded last night” (qtd. in xxi). He confessed his dreams were beginning to incite a fear of Germans: “[In my recent dream] everyone had escaped and we were hurrying along in terror through the deserted streets with the German soldiers always just round the corner, going to catch us up and do something terrible” (Letters, I: 85). Yet, what were the experiences Lewis and Tolkien mournfully gained in their time in the trenches, and how were they influenced by the sweeping disenchantment in governmental empathy, revelation of language's incommunicability in the face of traumatizing horror, and a resultant belief in mythology and other forms of representing a harsh and surreal reality?

To address such questions, it is helpful to carefully examine the whole of the experiences that engulfed them in that time after leaving the safety of university life.

Tolkien shifted, rather quickly, from being a student to becoming a front-line officer.

Tolkien’s university studies began in 1911, which was when he went to Exeter College,

Oxford. His primary subject was Comparative Philology, but he also read English

Language and Literature. He earned a First when he graduated in 1915, and he married

33 his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt (1889-1971) in 19161. That same year, the 22-year-

old Tolkien stopped deferring his enlistment and joined the army to become a second

lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers—“the lowest rank of commissioned officer”

(“World War One” 712).

Witnessing War: Effects and Legacies

The arc of Tolkien’s combat experience began with his enlistment in July 1915 and ended with his hospitalization in October 1916 from trench fever. His encounter with

the real terrors of the war lasted less than five months, yet I argue that his short

experience left him with a lifetime of war frustrations that he had to articulate and

address in his writing. We find evidence for that argument in biographical accounts of his

time in the trenches, and in letters he has written to family, friends, and acquaintances, all

of which I will address. These war insights, in turn, allowed Tolkien to use his fantasy

literature to make claims about post-war Britain and its social and political structures.

When it comes to preparing for the trenches, Tolkien was trained as an officer and

subsequently moved to the 13th Battalion. He participated in the 11th Lancashire

offensive, and later joined in the Battle of the Somme from July to October of the year

1916. The “biggest battle the world had yet seen” (Tolkien and the Great War 147)

1 Tolkien and Edith had four children: John (1917-2003), Michael (1920-1984), Christopher (1924-), and Priscilla (1929-). Tolkien confirmed that his close friendship with Christopher Wiseman was the reason behind naming his son Christopher, which shows the significance of their friendship for him: “[I] made the acquaintance of the Wiseman family through my friendship with Christopher Luke Wiseman (after whom my Christopher is named)” (Letters 426).

34 wounded thirty-seven thousand soldiers and killed twenty thousand men. Tolkien participated in the battle and later learned that it had taken one of his closest friends, Rob

Gilson, on the very first day (Fellowship 69). This blow was the first of many that dramatically changed the imagination of this young soldier.

Tolkien’s training in the army began in Oxford. He recalled in a letter the days

“marching in the rain on a Saturday and spending ‘ages’ cleaning his rifle afterward”

(Letters 7). He even, at some point, called drill a “godsend,” despite it taking much of his academic responsibilities, and said it kept him from falling into the sleepy atmosphere of

Oxford, or as he called it, the “Oxford sleepies” (Tolkien: A Biography 73). There are some very detailed accounts of the training of young officers in 1915. Captain E. J.

Solano, for example, quotes a soldier’s observation that “After the new officers are qualified to take command they are moved to other small camps and watched and guided while they drill the recruits. Then the unit is moved to France where the last intensive touches are given” (Camps, Billets, Cooking 3). This appears in a book written by an officer of the Regular Army and edited by Captain E. J. Solano. It was based on official manuals, and it covers every item of military routine connected with camp and training in

World War I. Tolkien’s training went much like the descriptions offered by Solano’s edited collection.

The European powers were producing and manufacturing more means of displaying their power, ranging from battleships to weaponry and armies. Headlines disclosed clippings of Italy taking over Tripoli in its battle with Turkey, along with ambiguous reports on a Serbian nationalist’s successful assassination of Archduke Franz

Ferdinand, who was the nephew of the Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-

35 Hungarian Empire. As is known in history, the event resulted in Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, and their allies, , declaring war on Russia and France, bringing in Belgium as collateral damage and causing Britain to retaliate against

Germany in order to defend Belgium. While all these international turbulences were erupting, students in Oxford were distracted by, “huge reading lists, weekly essays and regular lectures” (Tolkien at Exeter College 11), which explains why Tolkien described the lifestyle there as “Oxford sleepies.” ’s account of Tolkien’s life in his booklet Tolkien at Exeter College shows how the Oxonians’ quiet lifestyle was invaded by training camps bursting into the quiet town, in addition to the internal and immediate effects of a country preoccupied with war.

Tolkien began officer training in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and learned to drill trenches in the University Parks with the Officer’s Training Corps (Tolkien: A Biography

77-78). He also learned cryptography (Garth 114) before the army appointed him as battalion signal officer (Garth 171). Most soldiers in World War One received at least three months of training before being sent into action. Oxford had already emptied by the time Tolkien started his training in 1915, and undergraduates still in residence spent at least half their time in exercises and drills (Webb xi). Tolkien was assigned to work with army communication, and when his training continued at the base camp in Etaples it contained “Morse code, flag and disc signaling, the transmission of messages by heliograph and lamp, the use of signal-rockets and field-telephones, and even how to handle carrier-pigeons” (Tolkien: A Biography 78). These many tasks are discussed in the signaling manuals written in 1914. These manuals offered instructions for how to keep records of messages that were received and sent. Other instructions included how to work

36 with other signaling officers on the field, and how to accomplish tasks on the field in

secrecy and make and read maps. The last of these trained skills, map-making and map-

reading, as Janet Croft speculates in War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien, is seen in

Tolkien’s own drawings of Middle-earth. As she phrases it, “Although Carpenter does

not mention it, it is almost certain that Tolkien learned military map-making during his

officer-training, if he was assigned to create such a map” (108). The map she refers to is a

reproduction published in The Album, which shows his pencil-drawn map

of the trenches with the notes “Embodying information obtained from prisoners” and

“Trenches corrected from air photos taken 17-10-16” (40). The corrections included what his daughter Priscilla Tolkien notes in The Tolkien Family Album as “orders to carry bombs to the ‘fighting line’” (40), and such forms of unit communication were one of his many tasks as a signal officer, which also included taking charge of runners, wirers, and telephone operators in their ever-moving signal stations (Tolkien and the Great War 172).

Incidentally, Siegfried Sassoon had his bayonet training at Flixecourt in 1916, and was instructed by a “a massive sandy-haired Highland Major” (Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

7) just a few months before Tolkien started his training. Janet Croft notes that “by the time Tolkien was being drilled in bayonet in France, it was well established as an essential skill for trench warfare” (War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien 107).

Additionally, soldiers at the time, as the writer Horace Wyndham points out, were given an allowance of fifty Pounds to cover the cost of filling their thirty-five pounds of luggage. “The list of suggested items for the field kit spans two and a half pages, and includes the advice that ‘one can scarcely have too many socks and handkerchiefs’” (qtd. in War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien 107). According to his daughter Priscilla,

37 Tolkien also learned horseback riding during his basic training as an officer (Armstrong

29-31). All of these training records show that Tolkien was immensely fortunate to

receive proper training to become a soldier. Unfortunately, the government at the time

did little to prepare other soldiers the same way, and did nothing to fully prepare them for

the physical and mental fatigue they were going to encounter.

The condition of British soldiers by the time Tolkien headed to the trenches were

dire at best. John Garth provides a memorable visual in Tolkien and the Great

War: If you were an officer, it was clear the odds were stacked against you. One

subaltern was dead, one had been left to succumb to his wounds in a German

dugout, and one (who had simply been carrying supplies) had been shot in the

knee. Frederick Dunn, the 23-year-old captain of ‘A’ Company, had been shot

through the head. Such were the facts before Tolkien as he headed for the first

time into the trenches of the Western Front. (161)

After the dreamy years in the sheltered city of Oxford, Tolkien found himself surrounded by the smell of death and immersed in the grim reality of trench life. ‘These grey days wasted in wearily going over, over and over again, the dreary topics, the dull backwaters of the art of killing, are not enjoyable,’ he wrote (Carpenter 78). “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute” Tolkien later reflected in an interview. “Parting from my wife then,” he added in the same interview, “it was like a death” (J. R. R. Tolkien:

The Making of a Legend 93). Similarly bleak, Sassoon’s haunting poem “Prelude: The

Troops” suggests that troops were marching from safety “to the land where all / Is ruin, and nothing blossoms but the sky” (Counter Attack and Other Poems 9). The massacre of

young soldiers was so devastating that by the end of the First World War twelve percent

38 of British soldiers were killed. In Oxford, the percentage was higher, ranging between eighteen and twenty percent depending on which Oxford college one examines (Webb ix). Henry Williamson, who wrote Tarka the Otter (1927), was there:

I see men arising and walking forward: and I go forward with them, in a glassy

delirium wherein some seem to pause, with bowed heads, and sink carefully to

their knees, and roll slowly over, and lie still. Others roll and roll, and scream and

grip my legs in uttermost fear, and I have to struggle to break away . . . And I go

on with aching feet, up and down across ground like a huge ruined honeycomb

and my wave melts away, and the second wave comes up, and also melts away,

and then the third wave merges into the ruins of the first and second. (The Wet

Flanders Plain 3)

Tolkien was injured in The Battle of the Somme, which was a plan the allied offensive devised to repel German troops from the Somme River and hasten their victory.

Like many military plans, this one did not go as anticipated. Paul Fussell calls the Somme battle “one of the most interesting in the whole long history of human disillusion” (The

Great War 33) in the manner in which it revealed how the Great War “reversed the idea of progress” (The Great War 7). Technological developments and progresses made to make human life easier and better were becoming appalling tools of mass destruction.

Tolkien used his imagination to write about the horrors he witnessed. He began the legendarium during his time in the trenches, and after the war he remembered his friends who perished in the conflict. As he stated: “One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression […] By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead” (34). Who were these friends and why were they of any importance to

39 Tolkien? The young writer’s most important adolescent friends from King Edward’s

School were Robert Gilson, Geoffrey Smith, and Christopher Wiseman. Tolkien and

Wiseman had such a strong bond that their private name for themselves was The Great

Brethren (Garth 5). The boys were members of a school club that initially called itself the

Tea Club (T.C.), and later Barrovian Society (B.S.) after their favorite meeting place,

Barrow’s Stores. The group then combined these initials into T.C.B.S. (Tea Club and

Barrovian Society), and the similarly combined efforts they provided to comment on one

another’s work helped Tolkien with his first poems. Colin Duriez adds in The Oxford

Inklings: Lewis, Tolkien and Their Circle: “Around the time the club was formed Tolkien

began inventing what he called ‘private’ languages and was already able in Latin and

Greek. Tolkien’s friends enjoyed his interest in Norse sagas and medieval English” (12).

Their support and interest in Tolkien’s literary fascinations provided him with a budding

environment for his creative work, and their camaraderie was a reliable safety net he

could rely on. These friends found themselves entangled in the webs of war once it began. Nevertheless, they all remained in touch regardless of where they were enlisted, or, as the Zaleskis aptly word it: “[they were] reminding one another of their shared aspirations to greatness, of their shared love, of their very existence” (The Fellowship


Tolkien received news about Gilson’s death (in a letter Wiseman sent him while

he was in the trenches) and this was very soon followed by news of Smith’s death. His

sense of loss at this time was considerable. Smith had pushed Tolkien to publish his work and had told him he was a “wild and whole-hearted admirer,” adding:

40 My chief consolation is, that if I am scuppered to-night — I am off on duty in a

few minutes —there will still be left a member of the great TCBS to voice what I

dreamed and what we all agreed upon . . . may you say the things I have tried to

say long after I am not there to say them, if such be my lot. (Tolkien: A Biography


In another letter, Smith, who was prone, like other soldiers, to keep his war frustrations out of his letters, expressed his fears in a letter he wrote shortly before his death: “Please do stick to me, you and Christopher [Wiseman]. I am very tired and most frightfully depressed at this worst of news [death of Rob Gilson]. Now one realizes in despair what the TCBS really was. O my dear John Ronald what ever [sic] are we going to do?”

(Tolkien: A Biography 86). These letters display not only the immense amount of encouragement the TCBS provided for Tolkien, but also their admiration and expectation for a man who could represent what they found difficult to portray in writing. The letters also show how much these young men relied on one another’s support in facing the horrors of World War I, and how losing one another added to the unpredictability of their own fates as they were surrounded by constant death.

We can recognize a significant moment in Tolkien’s war experience in his wording of the letter of 1916. Tolkien recorded his response to his good friend Geoffrey

Smith. It is here that he says: “Something has gone crack” (Letters 14). In the same letter he says that he has been reduced by this loss. He is no longer a member of a meaningful group. Instead he has the feeling that he is “a mere individual at present.” Smith was wounded in the Somme, and he died four months later after suffering from gangrene poisoning caused by a shrapnel wound (The Fellowship 69). Tolkien and Wiseman were

41 the only two members of their childhood T.C.B.S. group to survive the First World War.

One can speculate that the painful losses of their friends became an impetus behind

Tolkien’s literary drive, an impetus to remember and give value to lost friends.

Something had also gone crack in Tolkien’s personal life as he witnessed the destruction and devastation of war in France (Letters 53). The feeling that he was “a mere individual” grew as the deaths of Gilson and Smith were added to the number of casualties in World War I. The childhood friends were his connection to a small community of like-minded people to whom he belonged. As he was in the process of being shipped back to England to get treated for trench fever, he felt more isolated than ever before due to losing most of his childhood friends. As a result, his disconnection from belonging to a group of friends led to a feeling of not belonging to the culture he returned to in his injured state. All of these drastic changes to his social life and cultural belonging motivated him to rebuild a sense of friendship, community, and belonging in his stories of Middle-earth.

Tolkien survived the war, but most of his friends did not and he felt guilty for escaping death. Judith Hermann notes in Trauma and Recovery that “[t]o be spared oneself, in the knowledge that others have met a worse fate, creates a severe burden of conscience. Survivors of disaster and war are haunted by images of the dying whom they could not rescue” (54). As John Garth indicates in Tolkien and the Great War, “personal loss was piled on top of the horror and exhaustion of battle. There was no counseling for bereavement or post-traumatic stress in this army; it was business as usual” (170). Winter even refers to what Jay Lifton calls the ‘death imprint:’ “the psychological sense that death was not only everywhere, but was bizarre, unnatural, indecent, absurd” (301).

42 These scholars point out that the grotesque inescapability of witnessing widespread deaths in combat led to survivor’s guilt, a feature or condition that Tolkien couldn’t escape. However, Tolkien dealt with the guilt of his survival by keeping his memory of his killed friends as motivation to produce more in his life. Tolkien’s response to Smith’s letter concerning the death of Gilson, sent in the August of 1916, contains grief, sadness, and frustration, as exemplified a couple of paragraphs above. His reply, however, also carries within it a spark which seems to have illuminated his existence in the dark trenches of war. “His greatness is in other words now a personal matter with us,” he wrote, “of a kind to make us keep July 1st as a special day for all the years God may grant to any of us” (Letters 5). Tolkien always suffered from the loss of his friends, and his agenda for writing The Lord of the Rings, among many reasons, included keeping the horrors of war fresh in people’s minds so as to discourage the repetitive cycle of murderous violence. In investing his writings on wars and the horrors of wars, he must have had to revisit his memory of his own horrors and sorrows. Incidentally, the poet and memoirist Siegfried Sassoon also shared the concept of providing a cautionary tale to avoid later generations going through the same horrors. “I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize” (Memoirs of an Infantry Officer xiv). Though these writers focused on different genres and had different writing styles, they, like other writers of their generation, shared a commonality they strived to achieve.

Like many who directly experienced the horrors of combat, Tolkien wanted to communicate his experience so others could know and remember the terrible nature of

43 war. Tolkien writes his son Christopher that “so short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only about 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes really to the heart. The burnt hand teaches most about fire” (Letters 75-76). For Tolkien, fantasy literature was the cautionary medium by which people could detach themselves from reality long enough experience the consequences of war without being there themselves, where literature could cause

“burnt hands.” The importance of remembering the consequences of previous wars was paramount for Tolkien, because if people could keep an indirect link to their past in the form of remembrance, they could then avoid the consequential disastrous wars he witnessed in the twentieth century. The Lord of the Rings becomes an indirect link, in the form of fantasy fiction, to this experience. This link can help readers understand and more fully feel the horrible repercussions of war. Recalling the happenings of World War

I is as important as remembering the events of World War II. One might argue that

Germany’s forgetfulness of the horror of World War I led to World War II. Tolkien was almost done with his book by the time the Second World War started. Moreover, Tolkien wrote in a letter: “I did not foresee that before the tale was published we should enter a dark age in which the technique of torture and disruption of personality would rival that of and the Ring” (Letters 253).

The death of Tolkien’s friends made him fully realize the potential for his own death in the war. The international conflict regarding the war, and cultural upheavals which accompanied it, showed Tolkien a world full of fear and disruption: young men drowning in large-scale battle plans; machinery pulverizing villages and forests; individuals felt dwarfed by the rapid and varied advances in science and their scope on

44 human power (Ensor 553); broken combative groups and man turning against man. Of

course, the historian Robert Ensor convincingly explains that when it comes to England,

most of these post-war tendencies were already brewing prior to the war (556-557). As C.

S. Lewis noted in a review, the events in The Lord of the Rings “were not devised to

reflect any particular situation in the real world. It was the other way round; real events

began, horribly, to conform to the pattern he had freely invented” (Carpenter 189-190).

Tolkien was very aware of the war’s vast influence on his writing in the fantasy genre. He wrote in 1939 that “A real taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood, and quickened to full life by war” (Monsters 135). Tolkien’s own life experience with the war and how he addresses these war experiences in his writing is impossible to ignore when looking at his stories in Middle-earth in combination with the works of contemporaneous war writers. As John Garth summarizes,

The pattern of Tolkien’s ‘fairy-stories,’ in which ordinary people become heroes

and experience ‘eucatastrophic’2 resurgences of inspiration against a backdrop of

deepening despair, provides a striking contrast to the ironic, disenchanted work of

soldiers such as Wilfred Owen whose work is now seen as the epitome of First

World War writing.

(“Creative Output” 714)

It is now almost second nature for us to think of writing after World War One as having the style we see in Owen, a silt of ironic, disenchanted representation of action. Tolkien’s

2 “Eucatastrophe” is a favorable and sudden change of events that ensures the protagonist escapes potential and fearsome doom. Tolkien coined the term, and it is an important part of his discussion in “On Fairy-Stories” and in his conception of mythopoeia (“On Fairy- Stories” 68).

45 style is clearly different. Humphrey Carpenter, for example, claimed that “Though

Tolkien lives in the twentieth century he could scarcely be called a modern writer”

(Tolkien 157). Carpenter’s reasoning is understandable, as he was observing Tolkien’s

penchant for early Germanic literature. Such analysis, however, should not blind us to the

contributions Tolkien makes to contemporary culture. Tolkien addresses the Great War in

his forward to The Lord of the Rings, and that was a modern war that both he and modern

writers of his time were addressing in their works. As he writes, “One has indeed

personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years

go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less

hideous experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years” (15-16).

Tolkien said that his taste for fairy-stories was “quickened to full life by war” and

that his investment in the idea of perpetual conflict between good and evil was a

“conscious reaction” he had to the popular delusion that the Great War would end all

wars (Monsters 135) . He also wrote that the approaches to Mordor had been colored by

the Somme battlefield landscape. It is, therefore, not surprising to see that many of

Tolkien’s personal experiences seeped into his creative activities. In the now popular

forward to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, found in many publications today,

Tolkien explains that “The ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex, and attempts to define the process are at best guesses from evidence that is inadequate and ambiguous” (43). He does, however, contradict his statement throughout the whole preface, particularly when he argues that “an author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience” (43) and added a note about the importance of World War I in pin-pointing his own influences. Tolkien also provided

46 other personal details in his letters to his publishers, family, and fans: he compared

himself to the hobbit creatures in his stories, the lack of technology in his childhood, the

influence of suburban life on his adoration for nature, and World War I’s clear traces in

his settings and characters, to name but a few examples. When it comes to World War I,

for instance, he shared in a letter to a reader that the in The Lord of the

Rings were meant to resemble the hordes of dead soldiers he saw fanning the ground in

France after The Battle of the Somme (Letters 321). He also wrote that Sam Gamgee was

a “reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war,

and recognized as far superior to myself” (The J. R. R. Companion and Guide: I.

Chronology 489-490). Due to his generally reserved nature, and contemporaneous investment in only forming WWII analogies, investigation in his scattered hints and comments on the impact of WWI on his work were ignored until the scholar Hugh

Brogan focused on the topic in 1989.

The Trench Experience and Reinventing Mythology

Many young writers in the early twentieth century were also afflicted by horrendous sights unfolding in front of them: Wilfred Owen immortalized the nightmarish sights of “guttering, choking, drowning” soldiers (“Dulce Et Decorum Est”

55); Sassoon reminded readers of “corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench” and

“the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then / As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men” (“Aftermath” 17-18); while A. E. Housman spoke on behalf of muffled men who lay dead “because we did not choose / To live and

47 shame the land / From which we sprung” (“Here Dead We Lie” 197). What all these

writers were responding to was a disconnect between their feelings and any words that

might represent those feelings. In addition to that, they realized that any attempt to

represent their experience in language would feel entirely alien to the civilians they found

themselves among after the war. Writers were faced with the task of redefining the

concepts of nation and nationalism that led many patriotic soldiers to their death. They

were compelled to write, but they did so using a language that felt inadequate. Winter

notes, however, that many soldier-writers found the sheer incomprehensibility of war

fascinating (291). Many soldiers found it difficult to form words to reflect their

experiences, especially experiences that civilians weren’t interested in due to how

horrifying and improbable they seemed (Winter 291). As Paul Fussell states the issue:

“The problem for the writer trying to describe elements of the Great War was its utter

incredibility, and thus its incommunicability in its own terms” (172). For World War I

and World War II soldiers, who, to borrow a phrase from Fussell, lived in neighboring

foxholes when it came to their wartime experiences (426), literature was a medium by

which they could confront a grief that religion and government were failing to fulfill

anymore. As Fussell quotes Robert Bridges: “We are confronted with ‘a grief that is

intolerable constantly to face, nay impossible to face without that trust in God which makes all things possible’” (Fussell 12).

Winter and Gilbert, like Fussell, discuss how religious and governmental

disenchantment led soldiers to a phenomenon of believing in another source of

redemption: mythology. Men in trenches seemed to revert back to Renaissance and

medieval beliefs in superstitions, myths, and (Fussell 140). Soldiers even tended

48 to use talismans to bring them luck in the battlefield and keep them alive. Some carried amulets, charms, dried flowers, or in Robert Graves’s case, he kept his virginity in the belief that it would cause his survival (Fussell 153). These un-modern shifts become highly ironic because they occurred in a society that was in the midst of thriving industrialism. Among these reversions was the opinion that printed material was an unreliable source of truth, and what resulted was a “renewal of oral tradition, the ancient mother of myths and legends” (Fussell 141). It only took two weeks into the beginning of the war for the first legend to emerge: an angel holding a flaming sword rode a white horse to the front of the line and forbade advancing Germans from progressing (Gilbert

58). The legend was later followed by the infamous of Mons legend, with their supposed supernatural intervention and protection of British soldiers in the Battle of

Mons, one of the first battles of World War I. Another narrative was the legend of a ghostlike German soldier who tended to appear in British trenches right before an attack

(Fussell 149). These legends and myths developed into long narratives as they were orally transmitted from one trench to another, and they kept growing as soldiers became more anxious and upset over the mysterious “failure of British attacks” (Fussell 149).

One must also consider fatigue and trauma as stimuli to renewed belief in angels, ghosts, spirits, and other folkloric figures. Men on the march were constantly on the move and had hardly any time to sleep or rest. C. S. Lewis wrote to his father about his four hours of sleep in four days of marching in the front line, only to head back to their place of rest to spend a whole night digging (Letters, I: 889). A normal day in the trenches was also both physically and mentally disheartening for Tolkien:

49 The usual kind of morning standing about and freezing and then trotting to get

warmer so as to freeze again. We ended up by an hour's bomb-throwing with

dummies. Lunch and a freezing afternoon. All the hot days of summer we

doubled about at full speed and perspiration, and now we stand in icy groups in

the open being talked at! Tea and another scramble – I fought for a place at the

stove and made a piece of toast on the end of a knife: what days! (Letters 12)

Private Frank Richards recalled how his fellow soldiers, who were on the move at the

beginning of the war, would “march, march, for hour after hour, without a halt” for five

days in a row and how one of his soldiers eventually exclaimed: “There’s a fine castle

there, see?” as he pointed to an empty road (Gilbert 58). The Private added, “Very nearly

everyone was seeing things, we were all so dead beat” (Gilbert 58). Living arrangements

were far from tolerable, as British trenches were usually flooded, filled with rats, and

men were carrying lice everywhere they went (Keegan 312). Major Frank Isherwood

wrote to his wife in December of 1914: ‘The trenches are a labyrinth, I have already lost

myself repeatedly . . . you can’t get out of them and walk about the country or see

anything at all but two muddy walls on each side of you” (Kathleen and Frank 426).

Many soldiers were shipped back to England during the first year of the war due

to being, as one official British medical record words it, “broken” by what they

experienced in the trenches (Gilbert 61). Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon Holmes, whose expertise focused on nervous disorders and examined many such soldiers, concluded that he “saw frequent examples of gross hysterical conditions which were associated with trivial bullet and shell wounds, or even with only slight contusions of the back, arms and legs” (qtd. in Lock, Last, and Dunea 92). An estimate of 7-10% officers and 3-4% other

50 ranks in British Expeditionary Force were “nervous and mental shock” victims by

December 1914 (Shephard 21). Eventually, forty percent of casualties of the Battle of the

Somme were shell-shocked (Brown 197-200), and 80,000 men couldn’t remain in the

trenches by the end of the war (Gilbert 61). Tolkien, for example, suffered from trench

fever, “a chronically debilitating, potentially fatal condition transmitted by lice in the

unhygienic trenches” (“World War One” 713), and was eventually sent to recuperate in

England. The symptoms of trench fever often included headaches, rashes, pains in legs

and back, and debilitating loss of balance and strength. Though he found the signals

system in a mess and trenches full of corpses, his battalion was still somewhat successful

and managed the surrender of hundreds of Germans (“World War One” 713). Six months

after his hospital recovery, Tolkien was assigned to train new recruits and to guard the

Yorkshire coast. He was eventually discharged from military service after a bout of

gastritis left him unfit for military participation of any kind for a few months, and by the

time he recovered his service battalion ceased to exist and orders for him to rejoin the

battles were effectively canceled.

Other officers were similarly sent to hospitals to treat their nervous and physical

breakdowns, which doctors started referring to as “shell-shock.” The War Office assigned

Dr. Aldren Turner to investigate these symptoms, which he defined in 1915 as “a sudden or alarming physical cause such as witnessing a ghastly sight or a harassing experience” in which “the patient becomes ‘nervy,’ unduly emotional and shaky, and most typical of all his sleep is disturbed by bad dreams [. . .] of experiences through which he has passed” (Turner 833-835). Turner’s description of what our current DSM-5 manual terms

“acute stress disorder” brilliantly describes the epidemic that took down so many young

51 British soldiers after the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Unfortunately, Turner’s

method of managing shell shock, which was to send the patient home to rest (Turner 833-

835), did nothing to help any of its victims. Many were sent home without proper treatment and couldn’t settle back in what used to be a comforting, stable environment.

British soldiers needed to find some meaning in their suffering, but no authority could sustain their trust. Accordingly, many soldiers turned to fiction, myth, and sometimes belief in the supernatural. Soldiers were driven by a need for meaning, but they were also driven by boredom. Soldiers with high levels of literacy often had nothing to do, and they spent time reading while waiting for their fates3. Many soldiers’ letters to

family included comparisons to literary equivalences, such as a soldier who used

Milton’s , “Thick as Autumnal Leaves that straw the Brooks / In

Vallombrosa,” to describe the consequences of an aborted attack (Fussell 207). The

literary allusions of the previous example were a form of consolation for these soldiers

and reflect how well-versed and educated soldiers were when education and self-

improvement were accessible to young English men and were the norm (Fussell 157-

158). Moreover, literature provided inspiration for some of the legends soldiers believed

in: the white-knight angel myth mentioned above originated in Arthur Machen’s story

“The Bowmen.” Turning myth to fact resulted when soldiers were mostly literate young

men left uninformed regarding governmental affairs and their own fates (Garth 85). What

resulted was an eruption of rumors, legends, and stories about angels, crucified soldiers,

and supposed wild men who were deserters living in no man’s land. Additionally,

3 Zaleski and Zaleski suggest in The Fellowship that boredom may have been Tolkien’s incentive to begin writing his mythopoeia in the trenches (70).

52 literature became a solid ground for exploring the disappointment and disillusionment

soldiers felt when the myth of their era’s progress was revealed to be a regression they

expected to have overcome years ago.

Tolkien’s work in fantasy fiction deserves to be discussed with other wartime writers, particularly the ones Fussell groups together in his work The Great War and

Modern Memory. Tolkien reinvented a mythology for England that was also rife with war

themes. Tolkien’s work emphasizes the significance of how he used fantasy fiction to

discuss the repercussions of the war he witnessed, and this creative use of the fantasy

genre, in turn, makes him similar to other war writers. emphasized

Tolkien’s importance among fellow writers who resorted to other forms of conveying

traditional realism in literature, a move which echoed Wilfred Owen’s disenchanted

poetry along with other war writers. Shippey’s valid argument can be proven in a

plethora of ways, my focus here will be on reinvigorating mythology. Fussell quite often

uses Northrop Frye in his book, and he quotes how the ironic mode during the war

“moves steadily towards myth, and the dim outlines of sacrificial rituals and dying gods

begin to reappear in it" (Frye 42). Fussell uses David Jones’s epic poem In Parenthesis to

exemplify his support of Frye’s assertion that war experience generated mythology in war

literature. He concludes that such writing steered “towards myth, towards a revival of the

cultic, the mystical, the sacrificial, the prophetic, the sacramental, and universally

significant” (The Great War and Modern Memory 131).

Fussell argues that Jones's work showed a "desire to rescue and reinvigorate

traditional pre-industrial religious and ethical connotations" (The Great War 145) and to

"[re-attach] traditional meaning to the unprecedented actualities of war" (146). The first

53 goal is similar to Tolkien's hope of reviving his ideal of a Northern mythology and morality; intentionally or not, Tolkien achieved the second goal as well. His chosen subject matter and use of the quest-pattern logically led to high-romance mode and vocabulary, and that, in turn, led to a more heroic interpretation of war. The creation of a world in which heroic deeds could still be done might also be, as Hugh Brogan put it,

"therapy for a mind wounded in war" (358). Tolkien’s attempts at writing down these experiences in the form of fiction also worked as a healthy way of coping with his harsh memories and overcoming them. Tolkien was somewhat similar to his contemporaneous soldiers, whose heavily mythological reading materials provided them with a sense of recovered wonder, escape from debilitating ills, and emotional consolation when a nation with a sharpened sense of nationalism and sacrifice failed them and became fatal to them.

Although Tolkien began writing the kind of myth and narrative that later evolved into his popular works, he did not write The Lord of the Rings until many years after his experiences in the Great War. The time between his early experiences and his later writing allowed him to process a great deal of strong influences, and to reflect on their meanings as he transformed what he witnessed into myth. While his son Christopher was stationed in South Africa during World War II, Tolkien sent him a letter describing his own attempts to write when he was in the trenches in the midst World War I. Tolkien described how he settled on fairy story as a place to mythologize the war: “So I took to

‘escapism’: or really transforming experience into another form and symbol with

Morgoth and and the Eldalie (representing beauty and grace of life and artefact) and so on; and it has stood me in good stead in many hard years since and I still draw on the conceptions then hammered out” (Letters 85). This sentence strongly suggests that

54 something in the nature of his earliest imagination, as it formed in the crucible of war,

sustained him, and, as he says, held him “in good stead many hard years since.”

Tolkien’s comments lend understanding to the historian Ensor’s explanations for early twentieth century’s forms of escapism. As he explains it, one form of escapism was physical, a “revolt against urbanism” and science, and was evidenced in weekend getaways to simpler cottages outside the city (553). Another form of escapism was literary escapism provided by the likes of Kenneth Grahame’s The Golden Age (1895) and The Wind in the Willows (1908), and J.M. Barrie’s famous Peter Pan series, which started as a play in 1904 and was later published in 1911 and surrounded by other stories related to Peter Pan and his many adventures. Ensor comments that the Peter Pan stories exemplify “yet another escape—that to the wild, to the life of the scout and the frontiersman, and the primitive sensations that civilization, in proportion as it holds sway, eliminates” (554). Tolkien’s form of escapism, it is important to note as his letter above underlines, is not a form of escaping into a different world like Peter Pan’s Neverland and leaving reality behind. The fantasy world Tolkien created is a result of transforming his war experiences into a fictional realm where he could further deal with his frustrations and process them while writing and forming his mythology. Unlike the Neverland that

Peter Pan and crew escape to in order to leave the adult life behind, Tolkien placed

Middle-earth in our world’s past, and the fantasy world he creates is a reflection of his

World World I experience.

55 Recovery and Creative Output

While it is true that Tolkien started writing while in the trenches, it is also true

that his writing at the time was never sustained or substantial enough to be called

“writing.” Responding to claims that he wrote in the trenches, Tolkien once responded in

an interview with BBC: “That’s all spoof” (“J. R. R. Tolkien”). “You might scribble something on the back of an envelope and shove it in your back pocket but that’s all. You couldn’t write. This [gestures to his garage, which was converted into a writing room]

would be an enormous dugout. You’d be crouching down among flies and filth.” Just like

Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, David Jones, C. S. Lewis, and other

writers, Tolkien had more ample opportunity to write once he was shipped back to a

hospital bed in England. He suffered from trench fever, which he contracted in his trench

warfare routine in 1916-1917, and didn’t go back to the trenches after that. Once he

recovered, Tolkien asked to be stationed in Oxford after Armistice Day in November

1918, and he found a job as a lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary (Tolkien at

Exeter College 44). Oxford after the war felt different, as 141 of 771 students who served

in the war didn’t survive (Tolkien at Exeter College 47), and many newcomers were

“acutely aware of stepping into the shoes of dead men” (Winter 18). Philip Larkin

succinctly remarked on the state of disenchantment drafted soldiers felt in World War I

when he ended his poem MCMXIV with “Never such innocence again” (128).

As Tolkien recovered from his trench injuries, he also started to recover from

what he witnessed by weaving his war frustrations into the fantasy stories he was starting

to form. While in bed, Tolkien began writing the myths and legends that are now part of

56 the posthumous publication The Silmarillion, a collection of narratives that form the

universe in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place. The massive

outpouring of literary writing was directly linked to his war experiences. As he wrote, “A

real taste for fairy-stories was wakened by philology on the threshold of manhood, and

quickened to full life by war” (Monsters 135). For example, Tolkien started forming the story of ‘The Fall of Gondolin” while in a Birmingham hospital in 1914 (“Creative

Output” 714), a story set in Middle-earth and later became part of a cluster of formative legends in (1983-1984). He also began forming a language for the

“Gnomes”4 creatures he was writing about at the time, a language inspired by Welsh and

an early prototype of his famous Elvish language Sindarin. Another tale, the story of the

star-crossed lovers Beren and Tinuviel, was inspired by a walk he took with his wife

Edith in 1917 (Letters 234). Tolkien also began the “Tale of Turambar,” drawing on a

literary favorite of his, the Finnish mythology of . Simultaneously, he and his

friend Wiseman edited a collection of poetry their deceased friend Smith left behind and

his mother wanted published, which they managed to do in 1918 with the title of Spring

Harvest (“World War One” 714).

The years 1918 to 1920 were a busy time for writing for Tolkien as he worked on

the Oxford English Dictionary. He also created the tale of Túrin Turambar, a story highly

influenced by the Finnish story of Kullervo from the Kalevala. Then, while working on

the Oxford English Dictionary, he wrote the story of the formation of his world, called

“The Music of the ,” which became a formative section in the narrative

4 The term “Gnomes” was briefly used in his earlier works to describe what he later transformed into the clan of Elves.

57 development of The Silmarillion. Despite his bouts of creative additions to his

legendarium, he was still haunted by his recent experiences. Christopher, Tolkien's youngest son, became Tolkien’s literary inheritor and has been in charge of all of his father’s posthumous work, including The Silmarillion (1977), which is an incomplete historical account of the mythological world of Arda and was the immediate result of his creative work after he was sent back from the trenches of World War I. In 1920, he went to the as Reader in English Language, and in 1925, at the age of thirty-three, he became the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon. He was

to remain in Oxford for almost the rest of his life. Through these years, Tolkien turned his

literary focus on The Silmarillion stories to include The Hobbit, a story which originated

to amuse his children. The publication of The Hobbit in 1937 was a huge success. It was

so popular, in fact, that the publishers prompted Tolkien to write the sequel that later

became known as The Lord of the Rings.5

Later in life, Tolkien found himself participating in the Second World War. His role the second time around was sedentary, which suited his aging form. The 50-year-

old’s duties were those of an air raid warden, which were tiresome for the older Tolkien

who had to train his neighborhood for hypothetical attack defenses and often included

blackout schedules and pulling all-nighters at encampments instead of being home

(Fellowship 270). He shared his frustration with his aging difficulties during a wartime

that necessitated the fittest patriotic bodies: “I feel like a lame canary in a cage” (Letters

5 The Lord of the Rings was conceived as a but published as a trilogy due to paper shortage caused by the Second World War (Letters 202, 227, 233. The first, The Fellowship of the Ring, came out in 1954, and The Two Towers and The Return of the King in 1955.

58 64). Tolkien was highly patriotic and fundamentally supportive of World War II, though he wasn’t confident of a positive outcome and had his doubts and disapprovals of people’s selfish and destructive intentions in wars. He shared in a letter with his son

Christopher: “I love England [. . .] and if I was of military age I should, I fancy, be grousing away in a fighting service, and willing to go on to the bitter end — always hoping that things may turn out better for England than they look like doing” (Letters 75).

Support for the war, however, was also tinged with frustration. War might be necessary, but it was nonetheless terrible. It was during that time that Tolkien’s letters expressed his discontent: “How stupid everything is!” (Letters 83) in “the first War of the

Machines” where technology was “leaving, alas, everyone the poorer, many bereaved or maimed and millions dead, and only one thing triumphant: the Machines” (Letters 126).

His statement on machines extends to the evil usages humans had for automations and inventions, and the repercussions abusing technology had on the environment and society. Tolkien also disapproved of the Royal Air Force and his son Christopher’s work with airplanes: “My sentiments are more or less those that Frodo would have had if he discovered some Hobbits learning to ride Nazgul-birds, ‘for the liberation of the Shire’”

(Letters 131). It is as if Tolkien felt support for some of the heroic actions of war, but felt great antipathy to war’s relentless mechanical destruction.

In 1945, Tolkien resigned his twenty-year title as Rawlinson and Bosworth

Professor of Anglo-Saxon and became Merton Professor of English Language and

Literature until his final retirement in 1959. His wife Edith was suffering from severe arthritis, and spending more time with her progressively added to his seclusion from his active university life. He spent his last years fumbling and struggling with the ever-

59 growing and ever-changing myths and tales he created for The Silmarillion. The writer

Clyde S. Kilby, who spent the summer of 1966 trying to help Tolkien organize the stories

of The Silmarillion to prepare them for publication, later commented on the vastness of

the collection of stories. Kilby estimated in a lecture he gave in 1976 that Tolkien would

have had twelve volumes of The Silmarillion if he had published all of his stories

(Tolkien and the Silmarillion 76). He kept working on the stories his son eventually polished and published in The Silmarillion and The History of Middle-earth, both of which add to fourteen volumes, making Kilby’s prediction oddly accurate. The History of

Middle-earth (1983-1996), as Verlyn Flieger notes in Interrupted Music, “In their thoroughness and textual complexity, these volumes supply more information than can be readily or quickly assimilated and evaluated” (63). As such, The Silmarillion remains the most accessible of Tolkien’s myths and legends for his legendarium, while The History of

Middle-earth remains the untamed beast that any reader finds difficult to tackle despite

Christopher’s attempts at noting and annotating his father’s sporadic and unfinished work. Christopher’s other posthumous publications eventually included the more accessible stories of The Adventures of and Other Verses from the Red

Book (1962), (1963), and Smith and Wootton Major (1967), among many others.

60 Conclusion

As Tom Shippey claims about Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is

his work as a fantasy writer has an irresistible quality, one that similarly compels my

project to draw comparisons to the evident issues he was responding to in his time:

“Tolkien was during the 1930s and 1940s reacting quite evidently to the issues of his

time” (140). So, this examination that Shippey conducts lends me with the motivation to

investigate how Tolkien experienced the war and reacted to it. The textual details I

provide in this chapter about his life and background support my claim that it is important to look at his fantasy work more closely in dialogue with the cultural history of WWI. I argue that Tolkien used fantasy fiction as a genre where he could articulate his traumatic

war experiences. While these fantasy stories do not represent trauma in a clinical sense,

they do respond to Tolkien’s wartime experiences by seeking to create new meanings

after destructive wars. As there are various ways Tolkien addressed his war frustrations,

all of which would be too long for a single dissertation, I select and focus on two

concepts in addressing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the next chapter. By

addressing war related themes, Tolkien embraced the threats of war without fear, and instead he found these war themes essential elements in necessary and epic battles between good and evil.

As such, the following chapter analyzes how The Hobbit and The Lord of the

Rings become cautionary tales of the repercussions of using technology for obtaining power over others, and the potential representations of nationalist formations of memory and history in a post-WWI society. I argue that Tolkien used his legendarium portrays a

61 post-war disillusionment with the concepts of nationalism and historical remembrances of war. Doing so requires looking at the different ways he shows how his characters react to memories of their nations, like, for example, how the displaced dwarves are able to defeat the colonizing dragon and retrieve their long-lost kingdom due to reciting and remembering their old nation as they recite songs their ancestors wrote. The other part of the chapter focuses on another issue relating to post-war reactions, which is that of the harmful consequences of the destructive quest for ultimate power in using technology.

The following chapter pulls together two post-war themes to demonstrate that the vast amount of writing Tolkien wrote in his life and published while alive and afterwards is peppered with elements of war, experiences of war, and brutal consequences of war that he experienced. He reinvented a mythology for England and invested his frustrations of loss and recovery into writing and creating his stories. Just like the wartime writers of his time, Tolkien used his childhood experiences and transformed them to interpret and explain the horrors he experienced in the trenches, and this, in turn, earns him a worthy spot with the memoirists, poets, and fiction writers who dissected the consequences of the war they were thrown in.

62 Chapter 2

The Lord of the Wars: Post-war Memory and

Military Technology in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Works

Tolkien was dismayed at a nation’s tendency to forget about a war as soon as it is

over, and his fantasy work acts as a constant reminder of the consequences of war.

Tolkien, unlike most of his friends, survived World War One, and he was saddened to see

that England, rather than remembering its suffering, moved ahead into the future. After the terrible events of World War I, England needed new sources for creating a sense of identity and an ongoing purpose. Concepts of national memory and approaches to military technology were subjected to debilitating trauma from the war experience and needed to be renewed by artistic effort. As such, I contend that Tolkien used fantasy literature to reinvent a mythology that symbolizes the horrors of war, and by doing so, advances his criticism of manipulation of memory and military technology for the purposes of domination and destruction. That, in turn, enabled Tolkien to use fantasy literature as a tool by which to memorialize British history in World War I, a response to his trauma. Though his fantasy fiction does not represent trauma, it does respond to traumatic suffering and sought to create new formations for meaning and social engagement in a post-war world.

With this in mind, I focus on two post-war themes to provide ample space for future studies on these particular themes and many potential war themes not discussed here. Academics have long argued that Tolkien’s fantasy works are as important in

63 exploring twentieth-century post-war trauma sentiments as their memoirist and poetic

contemporaries. For instance, John Garth, Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, Matthew T.

Dickerson, and Janet Croft all argued for the merits of understanding the war’s influence

on Tolkien’s life. Tom Shippey, for example, wrote J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the

Century in 2000 particularly to argue that “Tolkien left a legacy as rich as any of his

predecessors” (xxxv). Some academics have since moved to studying how Tolkien’s war

trauma went into his fantasy works. However, many of their publications challenged academia’s aversion to studying fantasy literature. John Garth, for example, indicates the

literature gap in his 2003 publication, Tolkien and the Great War. Garth shares that since his book focuses on Tolkien’s wartime experiences in the Great War, those who know his fantasy works “will be able to draw their own more detailed conclusions, if they wish, about how these stories were shaped by war” (xv). These scholars’ findings laid out the groundwork that has since seen a steady growth in Tolkien scholarship, but there is much

more to address when it comes to the numerous war themes Tolkien used in his works as

he processed his traumatic experiences. Although Tolkien’s Middle-earth may seem of concern to only a small group of academics, it should in fact concern anyone who cares

about the effects war trauma had on twentieth-century literature.

To this end, I focus on filling an academic gap by arguing that The Hobbit and

The Lord of the Rings are fantasy literary works that exhibit post-war critiques that are as important to study as his contemporary memoirists and poets. I answer the question of how Tolkien implemented reinvented mythology to represent concerns that his fellow post-war contemporaries did not address in their writing. To answer this query, I study two themes that relate as a result of Tolkien’s post-war reactions of trauma and loss.

64 Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are concerned with the themes of destructive memory and military technology in a post-war England. I argue that memory and history remain key preoccupations in Tolkien’s fictional works, ones which reflect his personal interest in these matters in his personal letters. I then move to view his post- war absorption with military technology’s harmful effects in gaining power. Tolkien drew the line between technology and humanity by displaying that destruction, manipulation, and domination all lie in man’s greed for power and control. I contend that

Tolkien emphasized how England had to memorialize the disastrous influence of military technology else it would witness the loss of even more men. The complex nature of

Tolkien’s fiction, as a result, is a valid source for answering these questions and understanding the various ways he addresses memory and technology in a post-WWI society. Complicating post-war themes in his works, as a result, became useful for a nation moving toward World War II and its similar moral dynamics.

Memory and History: Post-war Sense of Nation in The Hobbit and The Lord of the


J. R. R. Tolkien formed a complex legendarium by drawing from his experiences

in war, his love of languages, and what he formed from history and myth. His

6 An earlier version of this section of the chapter was published in Baptism of Fire: The

Birth of the Modern British in World War I, edited by Janet Croft.

65 achievements have been so great that even the word “legendarium7,” which was not recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary in his time, is now exclusively used in discussing the tales in his world of Arda. As the previous chapter observes, much attention has been paid to the nationalist themes in the legendarium by observing the details behind Tolkien’s formation of a mythology for England8. However, not enough has been addressed regarding the complex structure of the novels The Hobbit and The

Lord of the Rings. I argue that Tolkien used fantasy literature as a genre where he could

represent his war frustrations with distortions of memory in a post-war world obsessed

with domination. Tolkien addressed the many ways memory is important in forming an

idea of a nation and rebuilding a nation after war, and he did so by providing various

fantasy races to represent different aspects of responding to memory. By applying

Maurice Halbwach’s and Pierre Nora’s theoretical work on memory, history, and

historiography to Tolkien’s letters and works, I demonstrate that Tolkien used fantasy

literature to address how memory forms an understanding of national unity in a post-war


Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, amongst other tales, are represented

to readers as contents of a leather-bound book named the Red Book of Westmarch. Due

to the interconnected nature of these books, where The Hobbit acts as a prequel to The

7 “Legendary itself would not quite do, as it usually denoted a physical object; nor would

mythology, as many of his writings were too ‘historical’ to be described as myths”

(Gilliver, Marshall, Weiner 153-154).

8 See letters 190 and 211 in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.

66 Lord of the Rings, I use these works interchangeably while discussing how Tolkien addressed memory and military technology after experiencing the Great War. The Hobbit

is important to the plot of The Lord of the Rings, as it introduces readers to key characters

they learn about as they read, particularly and the wizard Gandalf. In The

Hobbit, Gandalf tricks the hobbit Bilbo Baggins into hosting thirteen dwarves. The

unadventurous hobbit is then persuaded to join the dwarves and Gandalf on their quest to

reclaim their dwarvish kingdom under the , which the dragon Smaug

colonized years ago and where he sleeps on a hoard of jewelry and priceless dwarvish

craftsmanship. The adventures Bilbo experiences unfold in the form of episodic

where he eventually helps the dwarves defeat Smaug and reclaim their country. While on

these quests, Bilbo answers a few riddles and wins a ring from a curious creature called

Gollum and takes it home. Gandalf finds the ring curious but does not look further into it.

As readers move to the next book, The Lord of the Rings reveals that the ring has

a megalomaniac owner, Sauron, who demands it back. It becomes the responsibility of

Bilbo’s cousin, Frodo Baggins, to destroy the ring in order to overthrow Sauron to stop

him from controlling the creatures of Middle-earth and destroying their world. Frodo

gains the support of a fellowship that comprises of a , an , two men, three

hobbits, and the wizard Gandalf to fulfill his duties and eventually succeeds in destroying

the ring. As I explained, Tolkien represented these stories as contents of a historical book

he called The Red Book of Westmarch. He informed us that the original writers of the

Red Book are none other than the quiet, and mostly inconspicuous, race of hobbits.

Ultimately, Tolkien used the Red Book as an authentic frame narrative to unify

the children’s story The Hobbit with the sophisticated events in The Lord of the Rings.

67 More importantly, Tolkien used the Red Book as a historiographic text that traces and

explores the workings of memory in relation to national history. Amongst the many

questions the structure of the Red Book complicates are: What is memory’s role in

forming a unified nation? What happens to a nation once its history, whether violent or

peaceful, turns into legend or myth throughout the years? In this section of the chapter, I

argue that Tolkien represented memory as an important concept for building and

maintaining a post-war nation. In in the next section, I provide three different scenes from

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that emphasize how the characters use memory to

rebuild their nation so that a nation can survive the turmoils of war.

Naturally, in order to look further into the theme of memory and its roll in

forming a history of a nation, it is important to first observe what recent scholarship on

Tolkien has addressed. John Garth notes that “(like no one else on earth) [Tolkien] could capture the deeper patterns of the war in ways that were primarily unrealistic, through symbolism, nightmare, fantasy, myth” (235). Garth’s analysis pays tribute to the realistic features of the novel prior to this argument when he asserts that the depth of the material pays tribute to the stories’ lasting impression on their readers. In Garth’s debates, however, he focuses more on how Tolkien’s ability to capture his experiences and transfer them to paper was not primarily unrealistic in its methods. Though he digs deeply into Tolkien’s biographical background, Garth does not address how Tolkien realistically captures the deeper patterns of war. Consequently, I use this section to focus on a war theme Tolkien discussed in his letters, which is that of the contrast he felt between his vivid memories of his time in the trenches as opposed to surrounding people’s tendency to suppress or forget the horrors of war. I provide a few of his letters to

68 illustrate that many more important war themes that occupied Tolkien’s writings can be

generated by looking closely at his correspondences. I use the letters to prove that

memory in the formation of national history is one of the post-war themes Tolkien was directly invested in while writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The first fantasy race I want to focus on are the dwarves in The Hobbit, who resort to reciting inherited folk songs to capture the war that ruined their kingdom. I argue that the dwarves manage to obtain strength from their collective memory of their land, and the songs provide them with the motivation to regain their kingdom. In other words, the dwarves maintain a distant memory from their ancestors’ time in order to reconstruct a sense of national unity and retrieve their land. A nation can also silence its violent past to maintain national unity, much like the men of do in The Lord of the Rings, my second scene. Gondor has forgotten their past, and Gandalf emphasizes that their repression of their memory could have enabled the tyrannical Sauron to possess all of

Middle-earth. These men forget the historical violence of a significant war in their past, which I argue is where Tolkien shows the potentially horrifying destruction of repressing history. Third are hobbits who write down these events so others can learn from such historical accounts of constant warfare and avoid them. To address the second and third scenes, I find it helpful to briefly refer to Homi Bhabha’s influential essay

“DessemiNation,” in which he critiques a nation’s intentional forgetfulness of its national memory. His essay helps me elaborate on why the people of Gondor have forgotten the darkness in their past. His critiques also assist in exploring the significance of having hobbits as the writers of historiographical accounts, which include the violence of a nation’s past in a written form that guarantees remembrance.

69 Scholarship and Tolkien’s Post-war Memory and History

Tolkien used his fantasy works to represent many of the traumatic experiences he

witnessed in the war, and his works are rife with post-war themes, particularly a frustration with memory and forgetfulness of history. Tom Shippey categorizes twentieth-century authors like J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, T.H. White, George Orwell, and William Golding as “traumatized authors” whose works dealt with “fantasy and fable” (J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century xxx) to describe the horrors of the wars they fought. He explains that the authors who spoke most powerfully about the events of the twentieth century “have for some reason found it necessary to use the metaphoric

mode of fantasy, to write about words and creatures we know do not exist” (8). Shippey

contends that these authors viewed the horrors and destructiveness of wars as too

gruesome for conventionally realistic descriptions. Adding to the validity of Shippey’s

categorization, Tolkien’s personal letters prove that he was frustrated with with the

nationalist tendency to forget the horrors of past wars, and he wanted to challenge people

to remember these events so that they would not reoccur9.

9 See letters numbered by Carpenter as 5, 43, 45, 61, 81, 92 for more of Tolkien’s views

on war. He forms a mathematical equation to express his views in a letter:

How stupid everything is!, and war multiplies the stupidity by 3 and its power by

itself: so one's precious days are ruled by (3x)2 when x=normal human crassitude

(and that's bad enough). However, I hope that in after days the experience of men

and things, if painful, will prove useful. It did to me. (Letters 83)

70 Furthermore, Tolkien was interested in history and historical accounts, as reflected in his works and in his letters. He shared in a letter to his son in 1944 that “[S]o short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only about 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes really to the heart” (Letters 87). As a man who had direct experience in the First World War, as he was a soldier in the Battle of the Somme, Tolkien was one of the few survivors amongst the friends who were pulled into the same war. He extended his anxiety over forgetfulness in the foreword that was added to the second edition of the Ballantine publication of The Lord of the Rings. He stated that

One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its

oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught

in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939

and the following years. By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead. (15-


Tolkien and some of his scholars10 have used this explanation regarding his rebuttal of critics’ claims that The Lord of the Rings was specifically about the Second World War.

What should be noted the most, however, is Tolkien’s reference to his “close friends” and how the First World War robbed him of most of his friends. The friends in question were members of the T.C.B.S. (Tea Cup and Barrovian Society), a group that formed when

Tolkien was at King Edward’s School in Birmingham. It was a loss that Tolkien found difficult to overcome, and even though he found friends in his fellow Inklings later in

10 John Garth, Verlyn Flieger, and Tom Shippey, to name but a few.

71 life, his abhorrence for war seems to have a tinge of bitterness due to the irredeemable

loss of his friends11.

Tolkien’s statement, in which he described the uncontrollable evilness of war by

describing himself and his fellow soldiers as coming “under the shadow of war,” reflects

the young group’s inability to steer away from the war that caused the death of a young

generation. Additionally, “to be caught in youth” adds to the sense of entrapment his generation felt: the young were drafted, were expected to fight and had no say in it unless they wanted to face discrimination from their peers, after which they would be sent to the front anyway. As Tolkien reiterated his society’s opinion of army enrollment to his son

Michael in 1941: “In those days chaps joined up, or were scorned publicly” (Letters 62). I assert that the words “caught in youth” were deliberately picked to portray that his friends’ death made them permanently stuck in their young age. Tolkien wasn’t stuck in his youth like they were because he managed to escape death’s grasp, and his combat against history’s forgetfulness of violence and war pushed him to portray the anguishing results of war in his work.

Tolkien struggled with expressing his losses in his letters12. Nevertheless, his

Middle-earth provided a realm where he could articulate his war experiences. Paul

Fussell’s study on the First World War notes that writers of that time found it difficult to

11 Letters 64 and 102, for example. 12 Other writers who experienced the Great War also found it difficult to describe the

horrific event. The poet Siegfried Sassoon remarks in Memoirs of an Infantryman that it

is “a weary business . . . to be remembering and writing it down . . . how difficult it is to

recover the details of experience” (68).

72 represent the happenings in war. “Whatever the cause,” Fussell observes, “the presumed inadequacy of language itself to convey the facts about trench warfare is one of the motifs of all who wrote about the war” (212). Ultimately, Tolkien’s investment in his experiences and loss in war metamorphosed into cautionary tales that go “really to the heart” in the form of a fantasy novel. C. S. Lewis, who served on the Western Front in

WWI, noted Tolkien’s realistic themes in what Shippey describes as a world of “fantasy and fable:”

This war has the very quality of the war my generation knew. It is all here: the

endless, unintelligible 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. (“The Dethronement of Power”


C. S. Lewis’s description of The Lord of the Rings emphasizes the emotional depth that is in Tolkien’s literature, one which his contemporaries and their succeeding generations have felt. Tom Shippey recently stressed that emotional depth is one of the reasons behind The Hobbit’s ongoing success: just as J.K. Rowling “brought back length [in children’s stories], so Tolkien boldly, or maybe unthinkingly, brought back emotional depth.” To add to Shippey’s claim, the strength of readers’ emotive response to Tolkien’s work is also due to the universal symbolism of war that transcends his stories and influences readers.


The Dwarves and Post-war Memory and History in The Hobbit

In The Hobbit, Tolkien introduced us to dwarves who have been separated from

their disintegrated country yet keep a sense of who they are as a nation. They keep

memories of their history in the form of oral poems and tales that they recite and trade.

More importantly, the plot of the story is caused by the dwarves’ resolution to retrieve

their stolen country, a resolution that remains on their mind as they recite a song that tells

the story of their stolen kingdom. By looking at these scenes, I argue that Tolkien

provided an example of how a nation can keep a sense of belonging and remembrance of itself as a nation. Tolkien showed how the Dwarves maintain a memory of the horrors their country went through as it was torn apart, and their memory of these horrors drives them to go back to the broken country and attempt to retrieve it. The concerns the

Dwarves have about their lost country is a consequence many under the shadow of war were exposed to, as the fate of England was unclear during WWI and WWII. Here,

Tolkien provided the importance of remembrance, because if a country develops ways of remembering itself it might help citizens rebuild it after it is gone or rebuild it after it receives many hits during battle. As the story goes in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit

who lives in a hole13 and minds his own unadventurous business, is persuaded by the

wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves to join their quest. The group aims to kill the dragon

Smaug who seized the treasures they prize and drove the dwarves from their rightful

13 As the first line of the story introduces him: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit (29).

74 home in the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves first share their sad history in the form of a song. All thirteen of them chime in as they sing “Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold,” a song that summarizes how the “dragon’s ire more fierce than fire / Laid low their towers and houses frail” (45). The song ends as follows:

Far over the misty mountains grim

To dungeons deep and caverns dim

We must away, ere break of day,

To win our harps and gold from him! (45)

There are many bleak paths that they must pass, the song goes, and it is necessary to risk whatever it takes to retrieve stolen treasures and glory for their race. The song’s delivery of these sentiments reflects the strength of the dwarves’ will to go on their dark task. The unbroken and harmonious deliverance of the poem is reflected in the text itself, as the chaos in the crowded room is described before and after the verses but never between the lines themselves. As such, the recital of the song is uninterrupted by stumbling singers, which indicates that the song is one that the dwarves are familiar with and have recited before.

Naturally, the function of collective memory in this scene is crucial for an understanding of how these dwarves formed a sense of national unity when they were driven out of their home. The sociologist Maurice Halbwach argues that memory is a structured activity that is characteristically a social interaction. Although Halbwachs’s general argument clarifies the beneficial impact of the social setting as a place for recollecting memory, he further maintains that any who come after the community that experienced the event will have a historical recollection that is devoid of the previous

75 generation’s memory. One of his most famous observations is that the act of reconstructing a past depends on an individual’s reliance on other members of his or her group:

One may say that the individual remembers by placing himself in the perspective

of the group, but one may also affirm that the memory of the group realizes and

manifests itself in individual memories. (40)

By viewing the scene using Halbwach’s theory, it is clear that the dwarves as a group are able to draw from their social interaction—the act of singing a song they have memorized—some verification of the accuracy of their individual remembrance of their history. Additionally, the song they sing also represents an oral tradition that assists them in preserving their collective memory of their history. Not only can they remember their history, but they even manage to relive it through reciting “Far Over the Misty Mountains

Cold” and experience it as if it were their own memory. In this case, the dwarves’ usage of the oral song is contrary to Halbwachs’s theory that a memory turns to history when its owners die.

The song is, as the critic Verlyn Flieger notes in Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien’s Mythology, a song that does not have an author, making it a piece that is comparable to a bardic tradition “of preserved communal history and prophecy” (64).

The prophetic state of the song is triggered by the final regrouping of these dwarves in one contained space, as it is only by meeting at Bilbo’s place that they can begin their journey. Also, the anonymity of the author does not impact the strength of the song’s themes of nostalgia and revivification of a community. Rather, the hegemonic power of the song even influences Bilbo, the individual from another race who suddenly feels the

76 dwarves’ love of metals and stones. He feels “the fierce and jealous love” (45) that dwarves have over what their smiths craft and design with the substances they find in the mines they excavate. The spark of communal relation immediately brings out the Took side of his heritage, the side that loves to go on adventures, and it is the Took side that slowly and hesitantly, but surely, takes possession of Bilbo. The dwarves’ collective recital of the song, therefore, reiterates their historical past in a way that aids their remembrance of it. Similarly, the dwarves’ shared collective memory of their past, as represented in the song, influences individuals from other communities to remember their culture and help in retrieving it.

By adding the song as an object that retrieves a national memory, Tolkien’s choice of pairing dwarves with a song of oral tradition makes it the perfect medium to mirror the dwarves’ unyielding obsession with the retrieval of a unified nationalism through the obtainment of their stolen lands. As a result, the song’s location in the first chapter, and its recurrence in the end of the same chapter when Thorin hums the song to himself (59), becomes a motivator that drives the plot of the novel until the dwarves successfully reclaim their lands. What happens in these moments early in the novel is a retrieval of a memory, not a mere history that is stuck in the past. Tolkien here provided a way for people to retrieve a sense of their nation once it is gone, and a way to hopefully retrieve it, by having a national identity that remembers its history in the form of inherited poetic tales and prose.

Ultimately, Tolkien busied himself with reinventing a mythology that represents his post-war England and restore a sense of meanings after wars by providing the mode of oral poems and prose as a form of remembering that can help a nation develop and

77 grow despite hardships and losses. To understand the importance of memory’s role in such a scene as the one described above, Pierre Nora best describes memory as “a perpetually actual phenomenon, a bond tying us to the eternal present” (8). The act of reciting the song, therefore, acts as a constant reminder that makes the dwarves relive the violent events of their ancestors’ time and reignites their determination to retrieve the unified kingdom they once had. As such, the song takes memories from the dwarves’ past and links them to their present condition, and the song also ties the dwarves together due to their shared past. In this example, I argue that Tolkien used the dwarves’ implementation of memory as a blueprint for England so it can maintain a sense of its identity even after it has been ravaged by the losses of World War I and World War II.

Although it is true that the dwarves assert their own memory of their history,

Gandalf can communicate with the community of dwarves and add to their memories even though he is not part of their culture. To clarify, his special innate agency as an

Istari, an immortal being who resembles the race of Men but has superior mental and physical prowess14, makes him an outsider who can enter the dwarves’ culture and is beneficial to the dwarves’ memory. He becomes one of the social communicators within the group and regulates their social arrangement and their identity by revealing methods to aid them in their mission. Gandalf shares a map that was drawn by Thrór, the

14 Tolkien defines his unconventional usage of “wizard” in the section named “The Istari” from his : “Wizard is . . . one of the members of an "order" (as they call it), claiming to possess, and exhibiting, eminent knowledge of the history and nature of the World” (393).

78 grandfather of the dwarf leader Thorin, and reveals a hidden entrance that the dwarves are unfamiliar with and proves to be the only passage that the dragon Smaug has no knowledge of. Thus, Gandalf enacts Halbwach’s theory that “[i]t is in society that people normally acquire their memories. It is also in society that they recall, recognize, and localize their memories” (38). In the society of dwarves, and in the cozy home of a perplexed hobbit, Gandalf is finally able to provide Thorin with material objects that have a significant link to the memories that stir them in their present state. Though Gandalf’s position has no easily identifiable counterpart in real life, his ability to enter different societies saves the creatures of Middle-earth from destruction as he takes the role of a historiographic object due to his containment of a vast and inclusive omniscience.

Moreover, Nora adds to Halbwachs’s claim on the social act of constructing a group’s history by validating the role objects play in reviving a national memory. In addition to Gandalf’s assistance to the group, the map in this scene also has a revelatory function as opposed to a mere memory trigger. As a result, the illustrated document, and all, is significant in recovering their lands but not in maintaining their memory of their past. Such objects produce, as Nora describes, “moments of history torn away from the movement of history, then returned; no longer quite life, nor yet death, like shells on the shore when the sea of living memory has receded” (12). What Nora claims is comparable to the state of the map and key as objects that are provided by someone who is no longer alive. Additionally, Gandalf knew Thror and kept his map and key until his grandson was ready to retrieve their kingdom. Therefore, his presence guarantees that the “moments of history” will be “returned” when the community is prepared to reclaim

79 its nation.

Post-war Memories of Gandalf and the Men of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings

What is dissimilar to the dwarves’ innate memory of their race and their

recoverable past is Gondor’s disremembrance of its monarchy’s unflattering history. I

argue that in this nation’s instance, Tolkien portrayed the downfalls to suppressing a

nation’s memory. Furthermore, I argue that Tolkien expanded on the consequential downfall a nation like his England might experience if it were to suppress the voices of wartime poets and writers invested in addressing the horrors of war. The Lord of the

Rings, or his “stupendously long narrative” (“J. R. R. Tolkien) as Tolkien refers to it in a

BBC 2 interview, is set sixty years after Bilbo finds a magical ring when joining the dwarves and Gandalf on their journey to the Lonely Mountain. As the events are described in the Red Book, the Ring proves to be a treacherous magical item that the Sauron devised to enable him to control the creatures of Middle-earth. The story

follows the hobbit Frodo and his companions as they attempt to destroy the Ring in the

only possible way: by throwing it in the flaming , the volcano where the

Ring was forged. The chapter that unveils the story of the Ring and its relation to the land

of Gondor, the greatest kingdom of Men, is “The Council of .” The elf Elrond’s

memory is unwavering as he teaches the council about events that surpass thousands of

years. “My memory reaches back even to the Elder Days” he informs the astonished

Frodo who cannot comprehend an elf’s capacious recollection.

80 The semi-omniscient storyteller Elrond shares that Gondor’s history darkened

when King ignored his and another elf’s advice to destroy the Ring. Isildur

decides to claim it as an heirloom for his house, and his ownership of the cursed ring

eventually results in his murder and is lost and forgotten. When Elrond reaches this part

of the story, he is interrupted by , the emissary from Gondor:

“So that is what became of the Ring!” he cried. “If ever such a tale was told in the

South, it has long been forgotten. I have heard of the Great Ring of him that we

do not name; but we believed that it perished from the world in the ruin of his first

realm. Isildur took it! That is tidings indeed.” (The Fellowship of the Ring 319)

Boromir’s note that the story “has long been forgotten” in indicative of the state of the memory of the people from Gondor, the greatest kingdom of the race of Men. The citizens of Gondor have forgotten such a tale if they were ever told it, or so Boromir claims. Additionally, he speaks on behalf of Gondor when he uses the plural “we believed” to verify that the whole nation has one unified notion of the history that unifies it. Boromir’s statements are problematic because Gondor is the source of the history

Gandalf unearths from the “hoarded scrolls and books” (330) archived in its capital.

Gondor is also the source of history because Isildur’s scrolls are amongst the archives,

Gandalf shares: “there lies in Minas Tirith still, unread, I guess, by any save Saruman and myself since the kings failed, a scroll that Isildur made himself” (331). The long- neglected archives rest in their similarly forgotten history and are only sought by powerful figures like Saruman and Gandalf. Gandalf adds to his previous revelation:

And that is not remembered in Gondor, it would seem [own emphasis]. For this

scroll concerns the Ring, and thus wrote Isildur therein: The Great Ring shall go

81 now to be an heirloom of the North Kingdom; but records of it shall be left in

Gondor, where also dwell the heirs of , lest a time come when the memory

of these great matters shall grow dim. (331)

Isildur never successfully keeps the Ring as the heirloom he wanted it to be, as it soon betrays him and leads to his death. The records he writes for his heirs, however, remain in their possession yet are forgotten. Isildur feared the time when “the memory of these great matters shall grow dim,” yet it is the dissipation of his nation, caused by his selfish ownership of the Ring, that would have resulted in mass destruction had Gandalf not interfered. It is due to Isildur’s death that Gondor, the closest to the source of history, forgets a significant memory of the history of its king. Gondor is a kingdom that is politically shaky because it has no king. is the Steward of Gondor15, and cannot rule a kingdom. He cannot even sit on the king’s throne while the nation hopelessly awaits its legendary king to arrive. Instead, Denethor’s seat is located “[a]t the foot of the dais, upon the lowest step which was broad and deep” and is “a stone chair, black and unadorned” (The Return of the King 15). The low position of his chair and its bareness reflects his own political power as a Steward. For this reason, the state of instability in

Gondor causes the formation of a forgetfulness of its king’s act of seizing the Ring.

Gandalf remains the character who conveys knowledge to the distressed members of the council, and the one who forces Gondor to address its repressed memory. Another important statement to note in Gandalf’s speech is that the scroll “is not remembered in

Gondor, it would seem [own emphasis].” The last three words open the possibility of

Gondor’s conscious effort to repress the memory it has of Isildur’s dark deed. The

15 A title given to the chief counsellor of the King of Gondor.

82 political function of such an act is to maintain the harmonious state the kingdom is in

when the rightful king is inconclusively absent. Gondor’s state is best explained in Homi

Bhabha’s “DissemiNation,” in which he argues that “[b]eing obliged to forget becomes

the basis for remembering the nation, peopling it anew, imagining the possibility of other

contending and liberating forms of cultural identification” (311). Due to their obligation, citizens forget “the negative aspects of their history in order to sustain an image of a

nation with which they will want to identify, and so the act of forgetting becomes a

crucial part of their national memory” (311). Gondor’s negligence and inability to read

the significant scroll, as a result, is indicative of a society that has forgotten its own

memory and has relied on the constructed historical accounts it has made. Gondor’s

negligence of its past, however, becomes dangerous to them and other kingdoms when

Saruman learns about their history and becomes more powerful as a result. Consequently,

the scroll becomes a symbol of what the critic Pierre Nora, in his differentiation between

memory and history in Representations, describes as lieux de mémoire. He best explains

the term as a “memorial consciousness that has barely survived in a historical age that

calls out for memory because it has abandoned it” (12). What the discussion at the

council reveals is that the scroll barely survived. It would have been lost had Gandalf not

deciphered its forgotten language. The scroll’s significance as a symbol of memory is

undermined and pushed aside by the society of Gondor because it learns to associate the

scroll with the past when it is struggling to live in its kingless present.

The third example I examine is the historical text called the Red Book, which I

argue is an important scroll that retrieves a forgotten memory that is necessary to

maintain post-war national remembrance. Nora claims that “it is memory that dictates

83 while history writes; this is why both history books and historical events merit special

attention” (21). Since the “special attention” Gandalf pays to the scroll reveals

information regarding the Ring and its eventual destruction, special attention should also

be paid to the Red Book and what it reveals. Tolkien refers to the Red Book in more than

one of his works, and such references establish the validity of the book as a reliable

source of information. In his story about Tom Bombadil, which was published

individually, Tolkien notes that “the Red Book contains a large number of verses . . . a

few are included in the narrative of The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings or in the

attached stories and chronicles” (Bombadil 7). His representation of the Red Book

reaches its most complex form in The Lord of the Rings, when he claims that he is merely

a compiler of the texts that are provided to the readers. Flieger aptly points to the

importance of the prologue section in The Lord of the Rings, his most encompassing

work. She declares that Tolkien’s role as a compiler of the texts “maintains that a

manuscript tradition of some antiquity underlay the texts of both The Hobbit and The

Lord of the Rings” (68). As such, Tolkien implements a manuscript tradition from the beginning of his story, particularly in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien explains that the reason readers have the story from hobbits is due to the hobbits’ awakened “interest in their own history and many of their traditions, up to that time still mainly oral, were collected and written down” (The Fellowship of the Ring 19). He also relates that the provided “account of the end of the Third Age is drawn mainly from the

Red Book of Westmarch,” (The Fellowship of the Ring 19) which originated in Bilbo’s diary and was later filled by Frodo and Samwise (The Return of the King 376). The

84 accumulation of these accounts, since Bilbo wrote The Hobbit and he and his fellow

hobbits wrote The Lord of the Rings, is what reaches the readers of the text.

The three hobbits create a national memory through their written documentation

of the events that happened to them as they participated in the preservation of Middle-

earth’s freedom. They empower their race because the memories they historicize in the act of writing put them in charge of the history of the other races they portray in the story.

Additionally, the last hobbit who controls the contents of the Red Book is none other than

Samwise Gamgee, the hobbit with the least income and social status of the three. He

represents the inversion of the master-servant role when he becomes the owner of the book, as he also becomes the most important character because his role as the bookkeeper includes teaching people the events in the text. The memory of the hobbits, which Sam controls because he is its last owner, then becomes both the memory of their generation and the memory that the readers will form. In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson

compares the act of keeping a national record to the individual’s documentation of his or

her own life through the act of piecing lost memories together to form a solid identity

(204-205). Like Anderson’s claim, the hobbits aim for solid unity through their

documentation of their experiences. However, the reason they collect evidence is not due

to the simple inability to remember their personal details. The hobbits’ aim behind

writing the Red Book, as Frodo Baggins explains, is similar to Tolkien’s goal: to provide

a “direct experience which alone goes really to the heart” (Letters 87). As Frodo tells

Sam, “You will read things out of the Red Book, and keep alive the memory of the age

that is gone, so that people will remember the Great Danger and so love their beloved

land all the more” (The Return of the King 376). Although Frodo’s rationale has a

85 stronger sense of nationalism and national unity in it, it also encompasses Tolkien’s call

for a solution to national forgetfulness of the horrors of the wars it has experienced and seen. As such, The Red Book becomes for the inhabitants of Middle-earth what Tolkien’s stories have become for its readers: the direct experience that influences others.

The horrifying experiences Tolkien witnessed in the Great War marked him and enabled him to teach readers most about war. Tolkien provided a mythology to represent post-war England, and using this place to address the importance of maintaining and building memory in the quest to strengthen and rebuild a nation such as England as it picks up pieces of loss and grief off the battlefields of World War I and World War II.

The Red Book and the stories it contains, particularly the scenes this paper has explored, make visible the complex structure of Tolkien’s work in the manner it represents national unity through remembrance and disremembrance. His legendarium provides the realistic issues of memory, history, and nationality, and it challenges readers to understand the problems these issues present. The Red Book’s representation of a historiographical text constitutes a frame narrative that pressures readers to consider the various methods that nations use in manipulating memory for the formation of a unified nation or a national history. These texts function as cautionary tales that aim to remind readers of the experiences of wars that should be avoided altogether. The complexity of Tolkien’s work necessitates more critical observations that will, in rummaging in the stories that he wrote, necessitate revisiting his legendarium and remembering the dark histories that our nations are in the process of forgetting.

86 Tolkien and Contemporaneous Post-war Reactions to Destructive Military


Military technological advancements in World War I magnified the horrors of war trauma, and consequential remembrances of the dangers of technology are imperative for the survival of a country. Military technology changed the nature of combat in World

War I and eventually lead to an unprecedented loss of human life (“Military Technology in World War I”). It was during World War I that the British army had an effective tank lobby that eventually made the country the lead in tanks by the 1920s (Edgerton 45;

Fussell 14). World War I was also when machine guns, barbed wires, and mines became

so popular that soldiers found it dangerous to move across open land (“Military

Technology in World War I”). To add one more example, chemical warfare became such

a horrifying reality that it was eventually banned, though that only happened in 1925

(Haber 296). As a result, England had to memorialize the disastrous influence of military technology else it would witness the loss of even more men, which Tolkien sought to articulate in his fantasy literature. The trauma of World War I was particularly bad

because of the military technological advancements introduced in the battlefield, and this,

in turn, Tolkien articulates and addresses as he expresses his frustrations in the genre of fantasy fiction. In other words, tanks, trenches, mines, and barbed wires were horrifying to experience, and they magnify the importance of memorializing war in order to avoid losing more men to these military technological advances.

Tolkien’s frustration with war had to do with people’s tendency to wage a new

war as soon as one is over, as if the memory of the previous war was entirely erased from

87 their minds. To him, remembering the events of World War I is as important if not more

valuable than the events in World War II. In a letter he wrote to his son Christopher, he

shared that “so short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only

about 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone

goes really to the heart. The burnt hand teaches most about fire” (Letters 75-76). The

importance of remembering the consequences of previous wars is of utter importance to

Tolkien, because it is only by remembering the past that people can avoid getting themselves into disastrous wars in the first place. I argue that The Lord of the Rings is an attempt at trying to remind readers of the consequences of these catastrophic battles.

Tolkien and authors of his time, like C. S. Lewis and George Bernard Shaw, realized how dangerous military technology is in the hands of men who are thirsty for power and control. Men with a thirst for power posed threats to civilization itself. As a result, power was a significant concern for authors, and they needed the resources of fantasy to fully portray what they wanted to describe. In J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the

Century, Tom Shippey describes twentieth century authors, like Tolkien and Lewis, as

“traumatized authors” whose works dealt with “fantasy and fable” (xxx) to describe the horror of the evil they faced in the wars they fought.

In Tolkien’s war, new technologies such as the machine gun and long-range cannons destroyed human life on an unbelievable scale. However, Tolkien realized that

the technology he encountered in WWI was vastly overshadowed by even more new

weapons of war in WWII. Towards the end of his life, Tolkien saw new technological

advances in WWII that offered unimaginable possibilities for human destruction. Tolkien

wrote the following, in a letter addressed to his son, concerning the atomic bomb:

88 The news today about “Atomic bombs” is so horrifying one is stunned. The utter

folly of these lunatic physicists to consent to do such work for war-purposes:

calmly plotting the destruction of the world! Such explosives in men’s hands,

while their moral and intellectual status is declining, is about as useful as giving

out firearms to all inmates of a gaol and then saying that you hope “this will

ensure peace.” (Letters 102)

Tolkien’s resentment of humanity’s misuse of technology preceded the events of the

Second World War, but his frustration over “lunatic” people is something that other authors of his time also shared. C. S. Lewis also worried about the misuse of technology for the sake of power, and he considered it proof of man’s folly:

I agree Technology is per se neutral: but a race devoted to the increase of its own

power by technology with complete indifference to ethics does seem to me a

cancer in the universe. Certainly if he goes on his present course much further

man can not be trusted with knowledge. (Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis 593-


In a letter to The Times, George Bernard Shaw rationalized how men’s unwise usage of the atomic bomb is just like “the sorcerer’s apprentice” in the sense that “we may practice our magic without knowing how to stop it” (5). Shaw’s argument emphasizes that men

should not deal with technology when they cannot fully comprehend how to use it

accurately. Shaw’s reasoning also demonstrates how human imagination quickly turns to fantasy to describe new unimaginable changes let loose on the world.

Tolkien used fantasy to great effect to represent the mishandling of military technology. He saw technology as a significant threat, and he was conscious of what he

89 was doing in making magic a symbol for technology in his story. An instance of this can

be found in the magical Ring readers learn about in The Fellowship of the Rings. Tolkien

wrote in a personal letter,

By [Magic] I intend all use of external plans and devices (apparatus) instead of

development of the inherent inner powers or talents—or even the use of these

talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or

coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more

closely related to Magic than is usually recognized. (Letters 146)

Tolkien’s letter explicitly states that the danger behind magic lies in that it can be used to ruin nature (“bulldozing the real world”) or to enslave others and have them under one’s control (“coercing other wills”). His selection of magic to represent technology is not arbitrary, as his letter clearly states his intention to use magic in such a manner. In addition to that, it is important to note that he does not call all magic or technology evil.

Rather, what he wrote about was the person with “the corrupted motive of domination” and how he was concerned with the results of what this corrupted person’s actions can be.

Tolkien returned to the idea of magic being “a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination” (Letters 152) according to its user, which is the way technology should be viewed. Elrond’s explanation about the Ring’s danger, for example, is applicable to technology since “the very desire of it corrupts the heart” (The Fellowship of the Ring



Technology in Obtaining Power in The Lord of the Rings

Matthew Dickerson’s article “Wendell Berry, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and

the Dangers of a Technological Mindset” addresses the link between magic and

technology in Tolkien’s letters, but Dickerson erringly asserts that this specific Tolkien letter “does not mention machines.” Actually, the letter mentions machines at least once,

which is when Tolkien observes that

the Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer

Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this

frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to

benefit the world and others - speedily and according to the benefactor’s own

plans—is a recurrent motive. (146)

Tolkien placed both magic and machines together as objects that a corrupted wielder can pervert according to his own wishes. It is crucial that Tolkien mentioned machines in his letter, because it is apparent in The Lord of the Rings that the Ring of Power is a machine.

A definition of “machine” is “a material structure designed for a specific purpose, and related uses,” (“Machine” II). As such, the Ring is designed for only one purpose, which is to rule all the other rings and gain control over the ring wearers, which would result in gaining control over all of the creatures of Middle-earth. It is by focusing on Tolkien’s usage of “magic and machines” that Dickerson’s assumption that “it is not a great stretch to surmise that an exploration of magic, modern technology, and dominating power is central to Tolkien’s most famous works” becomes more powerful.

91 To add to Dickerson’s conclusion, it is vital that Tolkien also examined how

military technology or magic is corrupted due to its evil owner. Yet, his previous letter

also shows that nothing is entirely evil in this world, and that even could have

once had honest, “good roots” that were contaminated due to the lust for power. As

Elrond warns the participants in his council, “another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise. For nothing is evil in the beginning. Even Sauron was not so” (The Fellowship of the Ring 351). In other words, magic, technology and even humans can be initially good, but the need to dominate others by using power is the central problem behind wars. That is why Tolkien did not think of war as the main problem behind evil, because the source of evil is man’s greed for power. Using power to overthrow evil will only lead to the emergence of a new evil. As Elrond states it, “If any of the Wise should with this Ring overthrow the Lord of

Mordor, using his own arts, he would then set himself on Sauron's throne, and yet another

Dark Lord would appear” (The Fellowship of the Ring 351). It is because of Elrond’s

wisdom that the Fellowship of the Ring embarks on a quest to destroy the Ring and end

the cycle of evil.

The Lord of the Rings uses a magical ring, which deals with the nature of evil and

the corruptness of technology when it is handled to empower one’s strength and exert

control on others. The fiery letters that Frodo and Gandalf can read on the Ring, once it is

placed in fire, explain the deviousness behind the making of the Ring. The verse on the

Ring reads, “ to rule them all, one Ring to find them, / One Ring to bring them

all and in the darkness bind them” (The Fellowship of the Ring 66). Sauron made the

Ring solely to enable him to rule the creatures of Middle-earth by controlling the rings he

92 gave out as gifts to the three main races: Elves, Men, and Dwarves. Of the three races, he managed to turn the nine men who owned his gifts into slaves of his own. These nine men even lost their names and identities as a result of their enslavement and are generally referred to as the collective “Ringwraiths.” The case of the Ringwraiths shows that enslavement is the main goal behind the making of the Ring, and Gandalf does not fail to emphasize how villainous these immoral intentions can be: if Sauron were to find Frodo,

Gandalf explains, he would make sure to enslave all hobbits. When Frodo asks him why it is that Sauron would want to enslave them in the first place, Gandalf explains that it is not because Sauron needs the hobbits as useful servants. Gandalf shares that “Hobbits as miserable slaves would please him far more than hobbits happy and free. There is such a thing as malice and revenge” (The Fellowship of the Ring 64-65). Certainly, the way

Sauron’s foul intentions are described emphasize the Ring’s importance in controlling others, and this would remind readers of the way technology can be abused and used in the same method.

Descriptions surrounding the Ring stress its devious nature, and the most striking

word that the characters use to describe the Ring is “precious.” In the prologue, it is

revealed that , the inhabitant of dark caves and longtime owner of the Ring, is the first character to call the Ring using this word. “It was the one thing he loved, his

‘precious’, and he talked to it, even when it was not with him” (The Fellowship of the

Ring 15). A few pages later, Gandalf notices that Bilbo Baggins calls it the same way: “It is mine, I tell you. My own. My precious. Yes, my precious” and soon repeats, “I won’t give my precious away, I tell you” (The Fellowship of the Ring 44). Even Frodo Baggins, as soon as he hears about the Ring’s dangerous history, asks Gandalf why the Enemy lost

93 the Ring if it was “so precious to him” (The Fellowship of the Ring 68), describes the

Ring as Gollum’s “precious” (The Fellowship of the Ring 73), and then starts to think of the Ring as precious to himself (The Fellowship of the Ring 80). When Gandalf finds and reads King Isildur’s diaries, he finds a letter where the king writes about the Ring he took from Sauron’s severed hand. The king writes, “It is precious to me though I buy it with great pain” (The Fellowship of the Ring 331). Finally, Boromir, the son of the Steward of

Gondor, describes the Ring by using the same word the previous characters used (The

Fellowship of the Ring 340-341).

The word’s significance can be observed from the different characters’ usage of it. For one thing, it indicates the importance of the Ring to the creatures who are interested in it or are its owners. As a result, it is the Ring’s power that the characters find so compelling, and if the Ring’s power does not interest them then there is always the fact that the Ring has a powerful control over its owners, which is a power that no owner is strong enough to defy and is a destructive force against the owner’s life. For example,

Boromir finds the Ring precious because he believes Gondor can use it against the

Enemy, “It is a gift, I say; a gift to the foes of Mordor. It is mad not to use it, to use the power of the Enemy against him” (The Fellowship of the Ring 523). The many examples

of the usage of the word “precious” also indicate that none of the creatures, whether Men

or Hobbits, are different when it comes to the Ring’s influence. Of course, Hobbits are

not as influenced by the Ring’s power, but they are still affected by it, which will be

discussed later (The Fellowship of the Ring 64). Moreover, Gandalf explains to Frodo

that a mortal who keeps possession of the Ring “does not die, but he does not grow or

obtain more life, he merely continues until at last every minute is a weariness” and

94 eventually the constant usage of the Ring makes its owner fade away like the spiritual

Ringwraiths (The Fellowship of the Ring 62). What Gandalf implies is that the consequence of holding on to such a dangerous weapon is eventually, but surely, disastrous to its owner.

The danger of the allure of the Ring is that the power and control it promises its owner is ultimately subject to Sauron, its maker. Similarly, technology can be as deceitful as the Ring because people cannot be sure that the power it promises can be trusted or used according to the user’s will. The Ring seems to have a mind of its own, and its deceitful will has to do with the fact that “Sauron let a great part of his own former power pass into it” (The Fellowship of the Ring 68). The Ring’s deceitfulness can be observed in the way it seems to leave its owners to its own accord, like the way it lets Bilbo Baggins discover it when it still belonged to Gollum (The Fellowship of the Ring 73), or the way it slips on to or out of the unaware owner’s finger (The Fellowship of the Ring 16, 62, 69,

73). Provided with the information Gandalf gives him about the Ring and its treacherous

nature, Frodo also feels its disloyalty, “For a moment he wondered if the Ring itself had not played him a trick; perhaps it had tried to reveal itself in response to some wish or command that was felt in the room” (The Fellowship of the Ring 212). In addition to that, the Ring makes Frodo’s need to wear it grow stronger (The Fellowship of the Ring 99,

104) so that the more often he wears it the easier Sauron and his Ringwraiths can track them down. The Ring is never loyal to anyone but its maker, and this disloyalty adds to its danger, for it can do more harm than good to those who cannot handle it, just as technology can do more harm than good to the “lunatic physicists [who] consent to do

95 such work for war-purposes” (Letters 102) that Tolkien mentioned earlier in one of his

letters concerning atomic bombs.

Part of the Ring’s treacherous nature also lies in the way it negatively affects and

corrupts its wearers. Ironically, the worst influence the Ring has on its wearer is that it

extends the wearer’s life. Although at first this might sound like a beneficial aspect, it is

not so because it leaves the user “unchanged” (The Fellowship of the Ring 27) and tired.

As Bilbo describes the feeling to Gandalf, “Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you

know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (The

Fellowship of the Ring 27). One who keeps the Ring gains immortality but “he does not

grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness,” as Gandalf explains it later (The Fellowship of the Ring 62). Eventually, the “dark power

will devour” (The Fellowship of the Ring 62) the keeper and he will become like one of the Ringwraiths who have no will of their own and only follow the command of Sauron.

An example of this would be Gollum, who used the Ring for his own mischievous aims and used it so often that it eventually “devoured” (The Fellowship of the Ring 73) him

even if it hadn’t affected him enough to make him “disappear” (The Fellowship of the

Ring 72) quite yet. In addition to these negative impacts is the Ring’s corruption of

goodness, which can be found in the spasms of anger that possess Bilbo when Gandalf

tries to persuade him to let go of the Ring (The Fellowship of the Ring 43-45). Tolkien

describes it as “A spasm of anger passed swiftly over the hobbit’s face again. Suddenly it

gave way to a look of relief and a laugh” (The Fellowship of the Ring 46). Once Bilbo

lets go of the Ring on his own accord, and because he lets go of it that way, Bilbo is able

to go back to his kind nature. It is only when a wearer leaves the Ring that he can go back

96 to his good roots. The Ring, in the end, is made to exert control on others, and any

technological machine made with the same intention can only be disadvantageous.

Additional Post-war Attitudes Towards Technology in The Lord of the Rings

The creatures of Middle-earth react differently to the Ring, and it is through their

reactions that we can discern what Tolkien has to say about people’s attitude towards

military technology. In War and the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien, Janet Croft categorizes the

characters according to their nature and the Ring’s effect on them: “[E]even the strongest

and most moral person who tried to use the Ring would find that he or she was not strong

enough to refrain from the temptation to unjustly enslave the rest of the world” (145). She

points out that is the character least tempted by the Ring’s power because of his

ideology of just war. In other words, he realizes that there is no right way to use the Ring

in a war against its maker, and so the Ring does not attract him. Croft also argues that

Boromir, a man with a militaristic mind, and Saruman, who looks down on men who feel

the need to fight in a just manner, are those who are most susceptible to the lure of the

Ring’s power because of their ways of thinking. She adds that Gandalf is one of the least

affected characters because of his “desire [for] peace above all” and his ability to “see the trap of power for what it is (145). Gandalf knows that an attempt to submit the Ring to one’s own power is something that cannot be achieved by anyone, especially not him. As he tells Frodo, “The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength” (The Fellowship

of the Ring 81). Lady could be added to the category Croft places Gandalf, for when Frodo offers her the Ring she declines his offer after contemplating what might

97 happen if she actually accepted the Ring (The Fellowship of the Ring 479-481). She knows how empowering the Ring might be, especially to an elf who is powerful to begin with, but she also keeps in mind that by using the ring she will only replace Sauron’s throne with her own, meaning that her utter power would turn her evil in spite of her intentions to use the power for good. The only way to resist the destructive influence of technology is by disabling its promises of power from controlling a person’s will.

Although the previous characters have various reactions towards the allurement of the Ring, Tom Bombadil is the only character never affected by it. By observing Tom’s inefficiency in saving Middle-earth and the wise character’s acknowledgement of his inefficiency, it seems that Tolkien uses Tom Bombadil to illustrate that it is disadvantageous to consider complete isolation and immersion in nature as a solution to the destructiveness of a machine crafted for power and control. The Ring has no effect on him at all, for when he tries on the Ring he does not disappear. He seems to be more powerful than the Ring, because he also can make the Ring vanish into thin air (The

Fellowship of the Ring 175). However, the Ring’s lack of influence on Tom Bombadil

does not mean that he will be a helpful ally when it comes to destroying it, keeping it

safe, or even involving himself in defying the Enemy. Even if the Council of Elrond

decided to convince Tom to keep the Ring, he still cannot “break its power over others”

and it is likely that he would forget the Ring somewhere, which would be most disastrous

(The Fellowship of the Ring 348). The reason behind the Ring’s inability to influence him

lies in his isolation from the real world, since he lives in a deep forest that the creatures of

Middle-earth don’t inhabit. His habitat or environment portrays his total immersion in

nature. As Gandalf words it, Tom Bombadil is “withdrawn into a little land, within

98 bounds that he has set . . . and he will not step beyond them” (The Fellowship of the Ring


Since men seem to be the most susceptible to the Ring and Tom is entirely unaffected by it, it is important to observe why it is that the creatures most immune to the power of the Ring are hobbits. Hobbits are Tolkien’s ideal representatives for how humans should use technology. Like hobbits’ usage of the Ring, human beings’ usage of technology should allow them to remain attached to nature yet be able to handle dangerous technology when necessary. Hobbits’ immersion in nature does not cause them to detach themselves from the events that threaten the safety of the inhabitants of Middle- earth, which is why Tom Bombadil cannot be an ideal representative. In Matthew

Dickerson and Jonathan Evans’s Ents, Elves, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of

J. R. R. Tolkien, it is explained that

Hobbits, and especially our hobbits, are able to take delight in these simple things

[i.e., nature] for their own sake, and not merely as means to an end or as excuses

for achieving power. This is one reason—perhaps the most important reason—

that they are able to resist the seductive influence of the Ring for so long: they are

not fundamentally concerned with the manipulations of power, so they are able to

take things for what they are. (13)

The hobbits’ delight in nature has deeper roots than just their enjoyment of the landscape.

Hobbits live in the ground, or to state the way the famous opening line Tolkien’s The

Hobbit goes: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” (15). The way their homes are usually constructed in the ground symbolizes their closeness to the earth, and consequently, their closeness to nature. When it comes to technology, hobbits are not

99 interested in any new machines. One of the first things readers learn when they read the

first page of the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring is that hobbits “do not and did

not understand or like machines more complicated than a forge-bellows, a water-mill, or

a hand-loom, though they were skillful with tools” (1). Additionally, Bilbo is an example

of a hobbit who is not, to use the adverb Dickerson and Evans use, “fundamentally”

interested in the power of the Ring. For example, we learn that the only reason he uses

the Ring was to help his friends during their quest to retrieve the dwarves’ rightful gold

from the dragon Smaug (The Fellowship of the Ring 17). Another time he uses it to

enable him to shock his guests by vanishing in front of them (The Fellowship of the Ring

40), and this act basically demeans the Ring’s power for the sake of entertainment.

Even though the hobbits’ immersion in nature makes them disinterested in power

and, therefore, unconcerned with the Ring, they are still not entirely immune from its

control. Bilbo, as was discussed earlier, was momentarily influenced by the Ring, which

made him greedy for its possession. Greed, and the need to keep things to one’s self, is

somewhat alien to hobbits, whose biggest event at their birthdays is to hand out gifts

instead of expecting gifts from their family and friends (The Fellowship of the Ring 7).

However, hobbits are more powerful than the other races because, as Gandalf says, “I think it likely that some [hobbits] would resist the Ring far longer than most of the Wise would believe” (The Fellowship of the Ring 64). Because of the hobbits’ disinterest in power, Bilbo is also able to give up the Ring “on his own accord” (The Fellowship of the

Ring 64), which is something that none of the other creatures can do. It is important that

Bilbo hands in the Ring on his own, since no one could be forced to give up their possession of it without the risk of breaking their mind (The Fellowship of the Ring 21).

100 Therefore, Tolkien used hobbits as a model for mankind’s ideal attitude towards technology.

Tolkien not only represented one man’s struggle against the plausible corruptness of technology in war, but also represented the anti-war sentiments of many authors of the twentieth century when he addressed the way technology can be harmful when it is placed in wrong hands. He provided us with various characters’ individual reactions to prove how there are different angles when it comes to observing something technologically powerful. He supplied us with hobbits as the ideal representatives of the

best way to use technology when necessary. As a result, the magical Ring which stands as a substitute for technology illustrates how hazardous technology can be. It can be deceitful towards its user and will eventually harm the user through constant use. In the end, Tolkien drew the line between technology and humanity by showing that the problem does not lie behind technology and war but behind man’s greed for power and control. He then provided his readers with a solution for our brutal history to stop repeating itself, which is for the good in humanity to eventually triumph over evil. In spite of humanity’s tendency to steer towards evil when it is thirsty for power, Tolkien’s

story still provides its readers with hope. As Tolkien described the hope: “evil labours with vast power and perpetual success—in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in” (Letters 75-76). The same amount of hope is unearthed by

Gandalf: “I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought” (The Fellowship of the Ring 74). The reason behind the importance

of what Gandalf tells Frodo lies in the fact that he finds hope in a situation that seems

101 bleak and futile. The solution Tolkien provided is in hoping and trusting that more people will be alerted regarding their dark nature, which seeps out when there is a likelihood of domination, and that they will be able to steer away from their dark inclinations. It is by becoming hobbits ourselves that we might wage fewer wars against others and hopefully slip into one of the cyclical periods of history where there will be more peace than war.


I contend that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are two fantasy works where

Tolkien used the fantasy genre as an avenue to represent his frustrations with war. The fantasy genre enables Tolkien to address two reactionary post-war themes: memory and history’s significance in rebuilding a nation after war, and the horrifying consequences of manipulating technology for ultimate power. I insist that memory and technology remain key preoccupations in Tolkien’s works, and are nuanced post-war themes he addresses as he identifies his traumatic experiences as a soldier in WWI. To return to what was said at the beginning of this chapter, for all their charm as pieces of fantasy fiction, no one could mistake The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for pieces of escapism that have no relation to real issues and events, or issues related to the consequences of war or ones related to other times. By tracking how Tolkien included some of his frustrations with war into a mythology he reinvented after his wartime experiences, scholars can trace his involvement as a wartime writer who used the fantasy genre to expand the scope of readership influence to more influential scopes than those of his fellow war poets and memoirists. His works show above all the difficulties the twentieth-century wars

102 produced for traditional views of national illusionment, such as how this chapter focuses

on the formations of memory and history, and the manipulation of technology to obtain


On the whole, Tolkien’s concerns with the repercussions of war were ones shared

with his friend C. S. Lewis. Both authors responded to traumatic war experiences and

sought to create new meanings in the midst of the chaos World War I left them with. As

such, they embraced the threats of war without fear, and instead found them to be an

essential element of the necessary and epic battles of good versus evil. The next chapter,

as a result, looks at Lewis’s similar experiences and frustrations with war, his budding

relationship upon meeting Tolkien in Oxford, and the literary influences they had on one

another’s work in the form of reader feedback. The chapter then examines how their mutual literary critiques helped them generate stronger phrases in their editing process, form new story ideas, and provide support in publication pitches and sales. As the two became prolific writers, they also encouraged one another to write more fantasy fiction, and such writings helped them process their war memories and frustrations by addressing them as they produced their works. Through their writings, Tolkien and Lewis eventually

inspired readers to also face the same war frustrations and address them in their lives

after visiting the lands of Middle-earth and Narnia.

103 Chapter 3

“Friendship with Lewis compensates for much”:

Lewis’s Wartime Influences and His Friendship with Tolkien

Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant

pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at

once honest, brave, intellectual–a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher–and a lover,

at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord. (J. R. R. Tolkien, cited in

Carpenter’s J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography 152)

C. S. Lewis received an unwelcome memento from a shell that exploded by him and his friend in the Great War. He carried a shrapnel piece wedged near his heart for the rest of his life because doctors concluded it was too dangerous to extract. He was constantly reminded of his war related losses. Lewis’s letters, autobiography, fiction, and non-fiction writings are overtly laced with a consciousness that mourns the loss of friends to war, and the recovery through his heartening and influential friendship with J. R. R.

Tolkien and their resulting plethora of fantasy writings that often address the consequences of war. Observing soldiers similar to Lewis has been the center of research on war, thanks in part to Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory, which locates the collective experiences of soldiers and war writers within the futile combat environments governments placed them in. What results from these experiences is and an escapism into reading mythology and fiction. Fussell dedicates a whole chapter, “Myth,

104 Ritual, and Romance,” to describe the intriguing interest in reinventing myths: “That such

a myth-ridden world could take shape in the midst of a war representing a triumph of

modern industrialism, materialism, and mechanism is an anomaly worth considering”

(124). And considering he does, yet he shows no interest in fantasy writers such as Lewis

and Tolkien unless it is to briefly mention one of Lewis’s literary influences. While

Fussell aptly dissects the different resulting effects of the Great War, it is necessary to

add to war studies an account of Lewis and Tolkien’s war experiences to situate them within other war writers of their time.

To that end, I argue that Lewis was affected by the war and suffered traumatic

experiences that he responded to in his fantasy fiction in an effort to make new meaning

after the chaotic World War I. Additionally, I argue that his friendship with Tolkien

caused him to turn to fantasy literature, a genre that provided him with a unique

refraction of his trench experiences. The Great War shaped these fantasy writers and

inhabited their fiction, and observing these fantasy writers bridges the often neglected relationship between fantasy and other more studied twentieth-century post-war genres. I explore letters, interviews, and excerpts from various fantasy works they produced to provide readers with an account of the horrors of war. I then observe the recovery these men found while representing their war frustrations in writing, where they embraced the threats of war without fear. As such, I argue that these authors found these war threats to be an essential element in the necessary and epic battles of good versus evil.

105 Before the War: The Chronicles of the Young Lewis’s Influences

Lewis’s war experiences caused him melancholy and nightmares, and he dealt with these feelings and his loss of his friends by revisiting his childhood literary preferences in his fiction. This section of the chapter first considers his early childhood years, the painful loss of his mother, and his restorative interaction with literature as he dealt with his loss.

Lewis was “born in the winter of 1898 at , the son of a solicitor and of a clergyman’s daughter” (Surprised by Joy 3). Lewis was christened Clive, but he preferred to be called Jack and. His brother Warnie, who went by Warrie, was three years his senior and his companion when it came to forming stories. Lewis’s childhood literary interests steered toward fantasy fiction, an influence that heavily affected his writings later in life. Many of Lewis’s literary influences from his childhood onwards sprang from the animal stories of , Irish folk tales, and legends he and his brother learned from their nurse Lizzi Endicott, all of which were stories their parents disapproved of. Lewis’s parents, as he elaborates in Surprised by Joy, never “listened for the horns of elf land” (5). He adds that their home carried no copies of Keats or Shelley, and the only Romantic they had, Coleridge, “was never (to my knowledge) opened (5).

He admits that his father liked Tennyson, but that any of his works vaguely close to “elf land,” like Lotus Eaters and Morte d’Arthur, never entered their household. Additionally, his mother wasn’t interested in poetry (5). As a result, Lewis never credited his parents for his literary interests. He found his own taste along with his brother, and the two plunged into the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, H. Rider Haggard, John Buchan, Sir

106 Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson and among

many others ( 8). Additionally, George MacDonald’s fantastical stories left such a

big impression on him that he eventually wrote the foreword to some of his works as an

adult, in which he discusses the merits of reading fantasy fiction. He even admitted in

Surprised by Joy that his first encounter with McDonald’s and his other works had “baptized [his] imagination” (175), giving McDonald recognition as one of his strongest literary influences.

In 1906, the two boys started to write their own stories to fill the gaps they

couldn’t find in the stories accessible to them in their household. As Humphrey Carpenter

elaborates, “Warnie liked to write about steamships and trains and India, while Jack liked

to write about animals who did heroic deeds. But they usually managed to fit all of this into the same story” ( 3). In Surprised by Joy, Lewis alluded to these

“dressed animals” (6), the anthropomorphized animals that play main characters in his early fiction and later children’s stories. The stories he created as a child were posthumously published in 1985 with the title of Boxen: “Animal-Land was mine” (6), he affectionately declared in one section. In a footnote a few pages later, Lewis made a distinction between the Animal-Land of his childhood and the Narnia of his adult writing:

“For readers of my children’s books, the best way of putting this would be to say that

Animal-Land had nothing whatever in common with Narnia except the anthropomorphic beasts. Animal-Land, by its whole quality, excluded the least hint of wonder” (15).

Although I agree with Lewis up to a point, I cannot accept his overriding tone that his

childhood preference for anthropomorphized characters was an insignificant literary

influence on his work. It is no wonder that his penchant for anthropomorphic beasts leads

107 us to the famous figure of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, and that is enough of a

childhood influence to make the mention of Boxen worth including here.

Just like Tolkien, Lewis lost his mother Florence at an early age after her struggle

with abdominal cancer in 1908. Lewis found out about his mother’s cancer not long after

reaching his ninth birthday, and he soon learned his prayers for her recovery went unanswered (Carpenter, The Inklings 4). According to Lewis, life without his mother was

“sea and islands now. The great continent had sunk like Atlantis” (Surprised by Joy 19).

What lent “settled happiness” to his life was gone, and “all that was tranquil and reliable disappeared from my life” (Surprised by Joy 19). Florence wasn’t a conventional

nineteenth-century woman, as she pursued her studies in college and earned a Bachelor of

Arts in 1886. She consequently faced criticism for making such a decision when few

women worked for or earned a degree (McGrath, C. S. Lewis 7-8). She earned top honors at Queen’s University, formerly known as the Royal University of Ireland, and earned first class honors in Geometry, Algebra, and Logic, with second-class honors in

Mathematics. Before her fatal illness, Florence taught her sons Latin, French, and


His mother’s lessons weren’t he only source of education, and as Lewis

progressed academically, it became clear to those around him that an academic career was the best choice for him. “While admirably adapted for excellence,” his tutor and mentor Kirkpatrick wrote to Lewis’s father, “and probably for distinction in literary matters” (The Inklings 8). As for his creative work, Lewis published his first poem before

World War I, at the age of fourteen. The poem, “Quam Bene Saturno,” was published in the Cherbourg School Magazine in 1913. The poem is deeply influenced by the

108 mythology and literary themes of ancient (Latta 93). I contend the poem was one

of the ways Lewis started his writings by imitating his beloved classical authors.

Moreover, this imitation developed into borrowing from other mythologies, in addition to

merging his childhood infatuation with anthropomorphic creatures, to form fantasy

fiction that addressed more of his wartime trauma.

Lewis’s Wartime Influences, Shrapnel Injuries, and Melancholy

WWI haunted Lewis and his creative work, and the war experiences led to him

becoming an influential Christian apologist of the twentieth century. In 1917, Lewis’s call-up papers interrupted his first semester as an undergraduate at Oxford University. As

Stapeldon Magazine described the perspective of the city riddled with military camps:

“We are becoming accustomed to the tramp of troops on the Turl, to the sound of early- morning bugles, to the sight of convalescent soldiers and Belgian refugees in the streets of Oxford” (ctd in Garth 35). Lewis could have avoided enlisting in the army because of his Irish birth and nationality, but he felt it was his duty to serve his adopted homeland.

Lewis’s battalion was in Keble College, a short walk from where he was studying at

University College. After training, he was appointment as second lieutenant in the Third

Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry (Sayer 127).

Lewis received military training, found himself wading through trenches in

Monchy-le-Preux in November, survived the first few weeks of his experience in the

trenches, suffered from trench fever soon after, then was sent back to the front lines after

needing three weeks to recover in a hospital. He was nineteen when he witnessed the

109 German Spring Offensive and the Battle of Arras, where he was somewhere near the

front of the line (by this time, Tolkien was recovering from trench fever in England). For

six months, Lewis spent his time split between recovering from his illness and service on the front lines. Lewis’s biographer McGrath unearthed contemporaneous battalion orders

he found in Keble College, and the records indicate that some of the training included courses in using a gun known as the Lewis Automatic Machine Gun, how to survive gas attacks, and compulsory physical training and weekly parades on Sundays (59-60). After returning to the front, Lewis was wounded by shrapnel in April 1918, which ended his military contribution. Not far from where Lewis served, in a cemetery in Etaples, eleven- thousand British soldiers faced a less fortunate end.

Superficially, it appears that Lewis wasn't as affected as Tolkien was by the war; or, if it had any influence at all, he made sure to dismiss it in his writing and amongst friends. Carpenter, who lived in Oxford and was close friends with the Inklings, wrote that Lewis’s time in the trenches was short enough that the horrifying experience didn’t

impact him. He added that Lewis supposedly “lived with the knowledge of the war for

more than three years before going out to the front” (Inklings 9), which helped him set his

expectations before joining the trenches. Carpenter included that “It was something he knew he would have to endure [. . .] When he finally reached the front line he found that

it was as bad as he had anticipated, but no worse” (Inklings 9). The experience, Lewis later claimed, “shows rarely and faintly in memory. It is too cut off from the rest of my

experience and often seen to have happened to someone else” (Surprised by Joy 240), a declaration seemingly contradictory to fellow soldiers’ post-war trauma. There are many possibilities as to why he provided a detached comment in Surprised by Joy. It could be

110 that he felt it did not fit the book’s theme of a “journey from pessimism towards faith”

(80) as Zaleski and Zaleski assume in Fellowship. It could also be that Lewis was highly

aware, as other soldiers were, that people who weren’t in the war couldn’t identify with

soldiers’ feelings or the horrifying experiences they encountered. As Fussell notes “The

real reason [soldiers rarely share their experiences] is that soldiers have discovered that

no one is very interested in the bad news they have to report” (212). More importantly, it

seems Lewis’s disassociation had more to do with his inability, or, rather, refusal, to

relive the harrowing horrors of his combat memories. The Zaleski biographers rightfully

point the repercussions the war had on Lewis’s literature, particularly the poem sample

below, with the title of “French Nocturne.” Lewis wrote the poem immediately after his

time in the trenches, and the melancholy sentiments are similar to what Great War poets

wrote: “Long Leagues on either hand the trenches spread / And all is still; now even this

gross line / Drinks in the frosty silences divine” (Spirits in Bondage 10). The brief

excerpt shows that the war experiences taught Lewis about the eerie silences that occasionally occupy the trenches, which are silences that punctuate many moments of grief, loss, and death.

Nevertheless, I claim that the Great War changed Lewis even before he joined the army. When his brother Warnie, already a second lieutenant with the British

Expeditionary Force, visited while on leave in July 1915, he shared the story of “a boy lay asleep on a bank and the mess by his head was his brains.” The visual image influenced the sensitive Lewis, who started having “ghastly dreams about the front and getting wounded” (Spirits in Bondage xxi). Warnie’s encounters, however, didn’t add to

Lewis’s hesitancy to join the army. On June of 1915, he hopefully wrote his father: “I

111 think we may reasonably hope that the war will be over before it begins to concern me

personally . . . There is the possibility that Europe will be at peace before I am eighteen”

(Letters, I: 274). He added a few days later: “I sincerely hope that one of two things may

happen. Either that the war may be over before I am eighteen, or that conscription may

not come into force before I have volunteered. I shouldn’t fancy going out to meet the

others—as a conscript” (Letters, I: 322-323). Unfortunately, Lewis’s hopes were useless,

and he was sad to reach the military age of 18 and to be sent off to the “‘vast fields’ of

France, which I have no ambition to face” (Letters, I: 421). He enlisted and started training for trench warfare in Oxford, then he deployed to France.

The small amount of the training he received in Keble College roughly prepared him for what he eventually encountered in combat: “All you do is lead your party onto parade, hand them over to their instructor, and then walk about doing nothing at all,” he wrote. “It is a little tiring to the legs and I think will finally result in atrophy of the brain,” he added (Letters, I: 832). Lewis was deployed as a second lieutenant in the Somerset

Light Infantry, a combat regiment. He sailed from to Le Havre in

Normandy, expecting more training but sent straight to the trenches twelve days later, on his nineteenth birthday. Once in the trenches, Lewis started to filter out some of the horrors he saw when writing his father. His intention was likely to shield his father from the reality of what was happening to him and the danger he was in. He wrote: “I suppose we have no reason to grumble: this was bound to come sooner or later. There is no need to worry for a good time yet, and I’ll try and let you hear every day when there is”

(Letters, I: 850). Months later, he added: “You will be anxious to hear my first impressions of trench life,” he began, “this is a very quiet part of the line and the dugouts

112 are very much more comfortable than one imagines at home” (Letters, I: 862). Joseph

Loconte’s historical account of Lewis’s experiences prove that Lewis’s experiences weren’t quiet and comfortable at all, as Loconte verifies that “Lewis’s company spent much of the bitter winter months in the trenches near Monchy-Le-Preux, a scene of intense fighting and destruction” (A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War 92).

Despite the physical training, nothing would prepare Lewis for the emotional strain the war experiences would have on him, and the closest way of understanding real life was by looking into literature. After taking sixty surrendering German prisoners,

Lewis was wounded by “friendly fire,” which was a mortar that exploded where he was on Mont-Bernanchon during the Battle of Arras and instantly killed the sergeant fighting next to him (Gilchrist 99; Surprised by Joy 197). Lewis survived the shell explosion, though some pieces of shrapnel remained in his left wrist, left leg, and upper left ribs.

“The bit of metal which went in there is now in my chest,” he wrote to his father (Letters,

I: 757). “Just after I was hit, I found (or thought I found) that I was not breathing and concluded that this was death,” Lewis later wrote in Surprised by Joy (191). “I felt no fear and certainly no courage. It did not seem to be an occasion for either,” he added

(191). The closest he could find to his experiences was a literary reference to Homer: “At

that moment there was something not exactly like fear, much less like indifference: a

little quavering signal that said, “This is war. This is what Homer wrote about”

(Surprised by Joy 190). The literary reference Lewis used to identify his new combat

experiences was probably the easiest form of reference he could make in the moment. As

Fussell states, “The problem for the writer trying to describe elements of the Great War was its utter incredibility, and thus its incommunicability in its own terms” (172). To try

113 to make the incommunicable make more sense to him in a moment of sudden confusion

and grave danger, Lewis turned to the comfort of his to relieve himself from the

stress of being unable to identify and understand what was happening to him. In the end,

most of the shrapnel pieces stayed in him for the rest of his life, except for a piece of shrapnel that was dangerously working its way to his heart and was removed in 1944

(The Fellowship 80). In addition to the shrapnel wounds, Lewis also suffered from what

doctors diagnosed as pyrexia, or, what was more commonly referred to as trench fever: “a

mild but unpleasant disease transmitted by body lice” (Sayer 131).

The inclusion of these experiences in his letters and autobiography, despite their brief mentions, shows that he considered that the Great War changed his life. Lewis had a tendency to skip over gruesome events in these warfare accounts. What is of particular interest is he mentions his fellow soldier’s instant death from the shell explosion and ends the paragraph to start a new chapter with a dismissive: “The rest of my war experiences have little to do with this story” (197). In fact, the rest of his war experiences must have had a bigger impact on him than he cared to admit in Surprised by Joy, seeing as it was during his recovery in the hospital when “he suffered from the loneliness and depression to which he was liable all his life” (Sayer 132).

Likewise, Lewis wrote to his father during his time on the battlefield, and his letters reveal more of his dire situation in the trenches than he cares to share in Surprised by Joy. For example, he wrote the following brief report to his father: “We have just

come back from a four days’ tour in the front line during which I had about as many

hours’ sleep: then when we got back [ . . . ] we spent the whole night digging. Under

these conditions I know you will excuse me from much letter writing” (Letters, I: 889).

114 “We have just come back from a four days tour in the front line during which I had about

as many hours sleep,” he commented in another letter to his father. “Then,” he added,

“we spent the whole night digging” (Letters, I: 889). In his autobiography, he shared how he and other soldiers were stretched to the furthest physical strain they could handle and even more: “I have gone to sleep marching and woken again and found myself marching

still.” (Surprised by Joy 189). The previous details Lewis provided his father and the

excerpt from his autobiography all demonstrate that Lewis’s recollections in Surprised by

Joy of his time as a soldier were heavily edited and cut short in favor of moving to the next non-war related memories.

It is evident so far that the war influenced Lewis more than he wanted to admit.

There were moments where Lewis was self-reflective while recovering in the hospital, and where he had time to notice that others, too, were reacting similarly to their experiences in the trenches. Lewis noted that many patients shared the melancholy he suffered during his two-month hospital stay, and he assumed that rest would eventually help ease the symptoms. Warnie later censored the letter where Lewis writes about his observations, so when Lewis talked about the two main repercussions the war had on his and his fellow patients’ nerves we only learn of one: “On the nerves there are two effects which will probably go with quiet and rest [ . . . ] The other is nightmares—or rather the

same nightmare over and over again. Nearly everyone has it, and though very unpleasant,

it is passing and will do us no harm” (Letters, I: 859). Lewis concluded many similarly

injured soldiers suffered from recurring traumatic nightmares caused by trench injuries.

However, his assumptions that rest would cure his melancholy and nightmares was

wrong. Nightmares persistently visited Lewis in his sleep long after he came back from

115 the war (The Fellowship 81). He even recollected his fear of German soldiers seeping into his dreams: “Everyone had escaped and we were hurrying along in terror through the

deserted streets with the German soldiers always just round the corner, going to catch us

up and do something terrible” (They Stand Together 85). Nonetheless, rest gave him time

to reconnect with his family and his close friend Arthur Greeves. He wrote Greeves as he

was recovering from the trench fever that sent him back to England: “Here I am safely

ensconced in a bed in hospital, miles away from the line, thank the gods, and therefore at

last in a position to write you a more or less respectable letter” (Letters, I: 864). Lewis

later called his recovery time in the hospital, away from the trenches, “an unmixed

blessing” (Letters, I: 874). The blessing was short-lived, as he was sent back to the front as soon as he recovered from trench fever. Years later, he wrote his father about his time recovering in hospital: “Never a day passes but I thankfully realize my great good fortune in getting wounded when I did and thus being spared the very deadly months that

followed” (Letters, I: 825).

Though Lewis was introspective in his hospital stay and saw that many soldiers

also had nightmares, his reflections indicate that being amongst fellow sufferers did

nothing to help him cope with his . Lewi’s stay in the hospital was still met with

restlessness, as Sayer shares that Lewis was surprised by the extent of the confinement

they found themselves in, in addition to how patients felt like “close prisoners” at the

hospital (Letters, I: 943; Jack: A Life 134). In a letter to his father, Lewis noted his misery

among the clacking of billiard balls and whistling of playing patience until he

“discovered a little, almost disused writing room at the end of the house” (Letters, I: 944).

He made a habit of taking refuge in the empty room and reading in silence, yet his

116 sadness wasn’t just over the confining hospital, lifeless patients, and the struggle to find a

quiet room to read. Lewis also took comfort in the company of stags he encountered in

the hospital's park (Sayer 134). Lewis reflected in a letter than he had “come upon

the solemn face and branching antlers of a stag, within a few feet of me. He examines me for a few moments, snorts, then kicks up his heels and is gone” (Letters, I: 799).

In addition to Lewis’s nightmares and melancholy as consequences of war experience, he also dealt with survivor’s guilt. He confided in a letter he wrote his father that his situation would have been worse if he hadn’t been wounded. A confessional letter also portrays a concerning sense of survivor’s guilt that Lewis dealt with: “I should have gone through a terrible time” (Letters, I: 944-945). It is as if escaping the trenches was a twist of fate he didn’t deserve, and that he saw his fate “should have” ended like his friends’ fates. The sense of survivor’s guilt is even stronger later in the same letter, where

Lewis lamented the loss of friends who faced horrible deaths he escaped: “Nearly all my friends in the Battalion are gone. Did I ever mention Johnson who was a scholar of

Queens? . . . he is dead” (Letters, I: 944-945). Shortly after that, he mentioned war again in another letter: “It is almost incredible that the war is over, isn't it—not to have that

‘going-back' hanging over my head all the time. This time last year I was in the trenches,

& now—but, come!, the tendency to moralize is getting the best of me” (Letters, III:


Just like Tolkien, Lewis had plenty of time to feel the loss of his friends to the war

and the accompanying guilt that followed him as a survivor. He mentioned enjoying his

fallen friend Johnson’s company early in their relationship, where he told Arthur Greeves

that he had “many interesting talks with my good friend Johnson, whom I hope to meet

117 after the war as a scholar of Queens at Oxford” (Letters, I: 653). It took Lewis years to overcome the sense of loss he felt when Johnson died of wounds in April 1918, as one of his initial letters after his death reflect his sense of grief and disbelief: “I had had him so often in my thoughts, had so often hit on some new point in one of our arguments, and made a note of things in my reading to tell him when we met again, that I can hardly believe he is dead” (Letters, I: 740). Lewis reflected again on the friends he lost to the war:“ I remember five of us at Keble, and I am the only survivor,” (Letters, I: 317-319).

Those friends include Paddy Moore, whose mother and sister Lewis took care of after his death. Years later, Lewis wrote affectionately of Johnson in Surprised by Joy: “In my

own battalion I was assailed. Here I met one Johnson (on whom be peace) who would have become a life-long friend if he had not been killed…” (185). Lewis’s sense of loss echoed Tolkien’s when he noted in his foreword to The Lord of the Rings that “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead” (The Lord of the Rings 44).

Although the war caused Lewis to suffer bouts of melancholy and sadness, it is

evident the war repercussions didn't interfere with his reading and writing habits. Lewis

continued to write his letters to Arthur Greeves and proceeded to add to a collection of poems he started to write before enlisting in 1917 (Sayer 136). The poems were later published under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton with the title Spirits in Bondage: A Cycle of Lyrics (1919). “My only reason for choosing a pseudonym,” he wrote in a letter to his

father in 1918, “was a natural feeling that I should not care to have this bit of my life

known in the regiment. One doesn’t want either officers or men to talk about ‘our b[loody] lyrical poet again ’whenever I make a mistake” (Letters, I: 976). Though some of the poems were written before Lewis was shipped off to France, fourteen of the poems

118 written after enlistment deal with war experiences. Lewis reluctantly admitted the war’s

influence on some of the poems in the book: “Of course there is none of the fighting element in my book, but I suppose it has some bearing on the war” (Letters, I: 234).

Some of the poems in the collection reflect the cynicism Lewis felt during the years he witnessed the horrors of war.

Though the collection is often classified as representing war poetry, it contains a

form of emotional restraint and intellectualization that readers cannot find in the

unnerving and raw emotions of Sassoon and Graves. The poems may have been the safe

place where Lewis could control his memories and emotions in the war by providing words to represent them. The theory seems more plausible when considering what he confided in Greeves: “Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago” (Letters, I: 187). Lewis’s sentiments

of using writing as an emotional outlet echo Tolkien’s, who wrote to Christopher when

the son was an RAF in World War II: “I sense amongst all your pains (some merely

physical) the desire to express your feeling about good, evil, fair, foul in some way: to

rationalize it, and prevent it festering [ . . . ] In my case it generated Morgoth and the

History of the Gnomes” (Letters 90).

It is important to note, after displaying Lewis’s experiences in the Great War, that

Lewis was not a pacifist. He argued that fighting, when supported by a righteous cause, might be a Christian’s responsibility. “I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can,” he claimed in a lecture he delivered at the Oxford

Pacifist Society and published later as “Why I Am Not a Pacifist.” The following passage best summarizes his views in the lecture:

119 To avert or postpone one particular war by wise policy, or to render one particular

campaign shorter by strength and skill or less terribly by mercy to the conquered

and the civilians is more useful than all the proposals for universal peace that have

ever been made. (Weight 80)

In other words, Lewis saw that those tackling immediate evils do more good than those who set up hypothetical humanistic views as to how universal peace can be achieved.

Lewis exemplified with the image of how a dentist “who can stop one toothache has

deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race” (Weight 80). Ultimately, Lewis asserted that war and peace weren’t on opposite sides the way society distinguished them. Additionally, he called to others to pay more attention to the inner conflict between good and evil in our own souls and to manage the conflict within as often as we try to manage national conflicts. He shared his opinion on the war once more when he delivered a talk at the

Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. The topic of his talk was in response to academics who wondered if institutions of higher education should close during the war.

The talk, “Learning in Wartime,” displayed his admiration for the perseverance of scholars pursuing their education under dire situations such as the outbreak of a war. His general reasoning behind his talk was that “If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would have never begun”

(Weight 49). To Lewis, war wasn’t a battle consisting of clashing weapons and powerful armies as much as it was a battle comprising of fighting the flawed philosophies and ideologies that led to such wars in the first place. The scholar, as a result, has the responsibility to see through the current society’s obsession with the morale of war and to

120 use knowledge of previous histories to identify the right from the wrong. As he worded it,

“The scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age”

(59). He concluded his talk the same way he did “Why I Am Not a Pacifist,” which was by relating a thriving mind to having a lively that assists in winning the internal conflict between good and bad.

Not surprisingly, most of Lewis’s views on the topic of war came during World

War II, influenced by unearthed memories of his own military experiences in World War

I. As Sayer explains, Lewis was “horrified by England’s declaration of war on Germany, but he had no doubt of its rightness” (265). He paired his views with physical action to aid the country, even though he confessed to a friend that he was hesitant to wear his uniform again:

My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service,

to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil [ . . . ] I'm not a pacifist.

If it's got to be it’s got to be. But the flesh is weak and selfish, and I think

death would be much better than to live through another war. (Letters: II:


Despite Lewis’s shared dread of rejoining the military and reliving his previous

experiences, his contribution in World War II didn’t go beyond the borders of

Oxford. Sayer argues that Lewis turned down the recruiting office’s suggestion to

join the Ministry of Information due to its nature of generating lies and propaganda

(267). So, at the age of 41, Lewis joined the Home Guard in Oxford, a military

auxiliary that usually consisted of veterans who fought in the First War and was

121 nicknamed “Dad’s Army” due to the age of its members. He and two other members wore uniforms and carried rifles the government sent them, and they performed their nightwatch duties as they patrolled the streets of Oxford and its surroundings for a few hours every Saturday morning. He appreciated the quietness of the early morning and enjoyed witnessing the “silent, dewy, cobwebby hours of the morning” (Letters to an American Lady 78).

As for his career after his participation in World War I, Lewis returned to his education at University College, Oxford, months after his military discharge and recovery from shrapnel injuries. He then pursued his studies, finished with a third first-class degree, prospered academically, and became an accomplished academic and professor at Magdalen College. Lewis’s teaching career began when he served as a teaching fellow in Magdalen College, Oxford, between the years of 1925 and 1954.

In 1954, Lewis joined the faculty of Cambridge University as the first Professor of

Medieval and Renaissance English. He had proved himself worthy of such a position through his academic reputation, Oxford lectures to undergraduates, his publications, such as The of Love, and a long 700-page study of sixteenth-century poetry

and prose, which he did for the Oxford History of series (The

Inklings 230). Lewis was at first reluctant to accept the position in Cambridge, which was a long and tiresome commute from his home, The Kilns, located in the outskirts

of Oxford. However, his Oxford friends, especially Tolkien, encouraged him to accept the advantageous position. During his time there, he was commissioned to

write prefaces to important publications of literature, including Milton's Paradise

Lost. The final academic work of his career was published in 1964, with the title of

122 , an Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. The

Inklings’ weekly gatherings at The and Child continued, though they had to

move their meeting day to Monday so Lewis could make it in time. Throughout the

1950s, Tolkien joined fewer of Lewis’s walks and Eagle and Child meetings. Lewis

noticed Tolkien’s unfriendly behavior, and even asked , after an

Inklings meeting, why Tolkien changed, to which he never received an answer (The

Inklings 232). Lewis resigned from his Cambridge position after suffering from heart

problems in 1963. He died on November 22, 1963, in , Oxford.

“Tolkien and I were Talking of Dragons:” Budding Fellowship and War Recovery

in Writing

Both Tolkien and Lewis were dramatically impacted by war, and like many

soldiers of their time, they fell back on myth to explain their experience. That myth happened to be best expressed through fantasy literature, and, as this section notes, they encouraged each other constantly. Both talked with each other about ideas including religion and allegory, which reinforced how each thought about fantasy as a tool and impacted the themes they represented. This, in turn, supports my argument that the two writers pushed one another to explore the many avenues fantasy literature provided for them, and how it was a genre they could use to represent their political and social critiques of post-war England. For example, the two writers were often asked about the amount of influence they had on one another. “And as for anyone influencing Tolkien, you might as well (to adapt the White King) try to influence a bandersnatch” (Letters, III:

123 824). Lewis reiterated the same opinion a couple of months before his death in a letter to

an American correspondent asking about the same topic of influence:

I don’t think Tolkien influenced me, and I am certain I didn’t influence him. That

is, didn’t influence what he wrote. My continual encouragement, carried to the

point of nagging, influenced him v. much to write at all with that gravity and at

that length. In other words I acted as a midwife not as a father. The similarities

between his work and mine are due, I think, (a) To nature—temperament. (b) To

common sources. We are both soaked in Norse mythology, Geo. MacDonald’s

fairy-tales, Homer, , and medieval romance. (Letters, III: 1458)

The scholars Carpenter (Inklings 160) and Knight (5) use the letter above to insist that

Tolkien would have still produced the material we know of today even if he didn’t have support from his friends. Yet, by looking at Tolkien’s interest in developing Elvish languages, it is highly likely that his writings would have focused more on languages, genealogies, and maps much more than on plot lines.

Moreover, Tolkien's literary theory of ‘sub-creation’ and ‘eucatastrophe,’ which he discussed in his 1939 essay “On Fairy-Stories,” was also adapted by Lewis. Tolkien used the term ‘sub-creation’ to refer to an author's created imaginary world being an emulation that exists within God's world. When an author draws inspiration from the

Primary World in forming a Secondary World, the author becomes a ‘sub-creator’ whose work is modeled on reality. As Tolkien similarly explained elsewhere in a letter he wrote in 1956, “Fairy story has its own mode of reflecting ‘truth,’ different from allegory, or

(sustained) satire, or ‘realism,’ and in some ways more powerful” (Letters 181). Using imagination in this manner has “the power of giving to ideal creations the inner

124 consistency of reality” (“On Fairy-Stories” 46-47), and he claimed that it is the special ability of “reflecting truth” that makes fairy stories more important than other forms of storytelling. Of course, he added, truth-reflecting has to be in regard to issues people can identify with and respond to, especially adult readers, which is when the author’s own

experiences become of importance. As he worded it: “there must be some relevance to the ‘human situation’ (of all periods). So something of the teller’s own reflections and

‘values’ will inevitably get worked in” (Letters 181). The Secondary World becomes a guide for readers handling the Primary World, as it provides them with enough distance to address issues from a different or new angle. Another effect is that it provides a sense of 'eucatastrophe,' a pleasurable conclusive resolution that denies "universal final defeat"

(“On Fairy-Stories” 69) by uplifting readers and enabling them to face difficult hurdles in life. The eucatastrophe feature that sets fairy-tales apart from other tales, and which readers accept without the necessity of an explanation is when the stories are timeless and

“open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe” (32). An addition advantage to fairy- tales is “The peculiar quality of the ‘joy’ in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth” (“On Fairy-Stories” 71). Similarly,

Lewis referred to Tolkien’s “eucatastrophe (as Professor Tolkien would call it)” (145) in

Surprised by Joy, and he did so to explain how his appreciation for The Odyssey matured

over the years. The quick reference Lewis made is significant, as it portrays that Lewis’s

understanding of literature was marked by Tolkien’s literary theories. Without the

familiar term “eucatastrophe,” Lewis would have had to make do with explaining a

complicated literary feeling he had no word for just yet, or a feeling he may have not

125 been as conscious of had it not been for Tolkien’s influence. Additionally, his

overlapping views regarding myth in fantasy literature show in his writing, such as when he wrote that “The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity’” (“The

Dethronement of Power” 14).

There are various ways the friendship between Tolkien and Lewis left an ever- lasting impression on both their personal and professional lives. It is curious that the friendship C. S. Lewis shared with J. R. R. Tolkien, a relationship that furthered their personal and professional careers, did not seem promising at first because they couldn’t find any common ground. In 1925, Lewis was elected Tutorial Fellow in English at

Magdalen College, Oxford. He had a few responsibilities to tend to aside from tutorials,

and one of these responsibilities was to attend faculty meetings to discuss both teaching

and administrative issues. These meetings, referred to as “English Tea” because they took

place at four o’clock, took place in Merton College and were substantially influential in

the budding institution of the Oxford English School. Tolkien joined in the same year as

Lewis as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, making him one of the

English School’s only three Chairs, which also meant that his attendance at the “English

Tea” meetings was mandatory. Lewis and Tolkien met in May 1926 during one of the

“English Tea” meetings, and they had differing opinions regarding how they wanted the

Oxford English curriculum to develop. Upon meeting Tolkien, Lewis noted that Tolkien

was a “smooth, pale, fluent little chap” who had “no harm in him: only needs a smack or so” (All My Road Before Me 393). Another difference the men had was in their forms of expertise: Tolkien’s academic focus was a philological approach to Anglo-Saxon, Early

126 Middle English, and their related Germanic languages and literatures, while Lewis

focused on later literature despite his general interest in the literary backgrounds of

Tolkien’s interests (The Inklings 156).

What really brought these writers together was their common interest in Icelandic literature. A year after they met, Lewis became a member of Tolkien’s study group, named Kolbítar, founded for the purposes of studying Icelandic sagas in the original Old

Icelandic and Old Norse. Lewis explained that the playful Icelandic word Tolkien chose for the group refers to “old cronies who sit round the fire so close that they look as if they were biting the coals” (Letters, I: 701). The biographer Alister McGrath explains in C. S.

Lewis — A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet that the group “aimed at fostering an appreciation of Old Norse and its associated literature” (128) at these meetings. It seems that Tolkien chose a fitting name for the group, as the members represented these

“old cronies” who had a community of their own to appreciate their favored literature.

Both the “English Tea” and Kolbitar meetings allowed Tolkien and Lewis to find their common interest in Norse myths, from which Tolkien would draw for The Lord of the Rings while Lewis relished the reading material he covered for their gatherings. He wrote in his diary entry for February 1927, in which he commented on the Younger Edda:

“It seemed impossible then that I should ever come to read these things in the original.

The old authentic thrill came back to me once or twice this morning: the mere names of god and catching my eye as I turned the pages of Zoega’s dictionary were enough”

(All My Road Before Me 448). They met once every couple of weeks, but as Carpenter notes in The Inklings, it took Lewis three years to learn that Tolkien shared the same thrill he felt from reading Norse mythology (28). Both writers adored Old Norse mythology,

127 though Lewis struggled as he pored over Icelandic dictionaries when Tolkien led the

group meetings with his fluent translations of passages they covered. They soon started

meeting alone to discuss Norse mythology. In 1929, Lewis wrote to Arthur Greeves and

made the longest mention of Tolkien since he was introduced to him. He shared:

One week I was up till 2.30 on Monday (talking to the Anglo Saxon professor

Tolkien who came back with me to College from a society and sat discoursing of

the gods & giants & Asgard for three hours, then departing in the wind & rain –

who cd. turn him out, for the fire was bright and the talk good?). (Letters, I: 838)

The way Lewis described his long hours with Tolkien reflects the appreciation he had for

the healthy friendships that left their mark on his life. The letter also reveals that once

Lewis and Tolkien started discussing “god & giants & Asgard,” they found a common

ground that consisted of their shared literary tastes and its resulting friendship.

After that event, the two writers started to meet regularly, usually on Thursday

evenings in Lewis’s rooms at Magdalen College. “To be sure, we had a common point of

view, but we had it before we met. It was the cause rather than the result of our friendship” (Letters, III: 1049) Lewis recollected. Later on, the meetings expanded in attendees until it became a regular and informal gathering of friends that became known as The Inklings. These gatherings also expanded to other locations on Tuesday mornings, notably , and quite often a on Giles’ that still goes by its official name, . Some Inkling regulars became famous in their fields, though the nature of these gatherings was in no way exclusive or elitist. One common feature three of its main members shared was that Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams all wrote stories in which myth was implemented. The meetings may have inspired Lewis’s poem where he wrote:

128 “We were talking of dragons, Tolkien and I / In a Berkshire bar” (C. S. Lewis, Selected

Literary Essays 18). Additionally, they shared their attitude towards the function of myth,

where, as Carpenter concisely phrases it: “myth can sometimes convey truth in a way that

no abstract argument can achieve: a very important notion behind both men’s work [ . . . ] shared in some degree by Williams” (The Inklings 157). A commonality, then, is they wrote stories in which myth plays an important part, with the shared belief that “myth can

sometimes convert truth in a way that no abstract argument can achieve” (156-157). The main point behind their constant companionship was for general conversation, sharing and reading their own works, and constructive criticism from any who wanted to volunteer.

The Labor of Writing: The Literary Influence of Tolkien and Lewis’s Friendship

The two writers trusted one another’s critiques, and the trust grew into a plethora

of experiences where they both shared and critiqued more drafts in fantasy fiction. Long

before sharing his work during regular Inkling meetings, Tolkien was reluctant to share

his imaginative writings with Lewis, a repercussion from a respected schoolmaster’s

negative critiques of his poetry in his youth (The Inklings 29). It took Tolkien a long time

to trust anyone else with his stories, which he eventually did with Lewis a few days after

they spent all night discussing Norse gods and giants (which Lewis alluded to in an

earlier letter). The story was “The Gest of Beren and Lúthien,” a poem in rhyming

couplets and what became one of the foundational histories of his world of Middle-earth.

The story of Beren and Lúthien tells of Lúthien’s renunciation of her immortal elven

129 destiny to be with Beren. He, in turn, must win her father’s approval by accomplishing the task given to him: to cut a magical jewel, a silmaril, from the crown of the evil

Morgoth. After Tolkien and Lewis first discussed his work, Lewis took the draft home to read it in its entirety. The next day, he wrote an enthusiastic note to Tolkien: “I can quite honestly say that it is ages since I have had an evening of such delight: and the personal interest of reading a friend’s work had very little to do with it” (Inklings 145). He made sure to highlight the importance of the work’s merit by encouraging Tolkien to publish his work to share with a wider audience, and he included that he would have appreciated the piece even if he had happened to stumble upon it as an anonymous piece at a bookshop (Inklings 145). Lewis included in the same letter that one of the merits of the story was the “sense of reality in the background,” and he added he would soon follow the letter with some “criticisms” and “grumbles at individual lines” (Inklings 30).

The grumbles turned out to be fourteen pages of detailed critiques delivered in the fictional form of a group of bickering scholars going over a so-called ancient text. The experts go by the names of Peabody, Pumpernickel, Schuffer, and Schick, and their academic jargon is equally ostentatious and humorous. Peabody, for example, has the following to say about one of the passages: “Our scribe is right in his erasure of the second distych, but wrong in his erasure of the first” (The Lays of 379). In another section, one of Lewis’s academics comment that “Many scholars have rejected lines 1-8 altogether as unworthy of the poet” (315). Lewis’s playful critical approach worked to nudge Tolkien to revise in a way that wouldn’t discourage him, such as when the academics agree in a different comment that weaker passages are such due to corruptions in the original manuscript as opposed to a weakness in the writer himself

130 (Inklings 145). Christopher Tolkien affirms that Lewis’s playful critique “entertainingly

took the sting from some sharply expressed judgements” ( 185).

The encouragement meant a great deal to Tolkien, and Lewis’s support echoed that of his

childhood friends, and was likely a form of support Tolkien must have missed since

losing most of them to World War I.

Generally, long-standing scholars like Carpenter often falsely conclude that Lewis

and the Inklings never influenced Tolkien, and as evidence refer to Lewis’s letter:

“[Tolkien had] only two reactions to criticism: either he begins the whole work over

again from the beginning or else takes no notice at all” (Letters, III: 1049; Inklings 30-

31). image of Tolkien either rewriting his drafts on his own or fully

dismissing any critiques he receives goes against the many draft notes Christopher

provided in the posthumous publications. Given the different drafts Christopher provides from his father’s notes, there is an abundance of proof showing how Tolkien either revised his sentences according to Lewis’s critiques or fully adapted the exact corrections and words Lewis suggested. For example, Lewis suggested “wildered, enchanted and forlorn,” instead of Tolkien’s “bewildered, enchanted and forlorn” (The Lays of

Beleriand 323). The revised line finally became “enchanted, wildered and forlorn” (The

Lays of Beleriand 177), just like Lewis’s suggestion. In another passage, Tolkien fully changed “he saw afar the elven-sheen” to Lewis’s exact suggestion of “he saw far off the elven-sheen” (The Lays of Beleriand 179). The samples mentioned here show that

Tolkien marked most of the passages Lewis commented on and went back to them for revision, sometimes adopting Lewis’s exact emendations and other times rewriting the piece till it became the version his son later published in The Silmarillion.

131 As the relationship between the Inklings evolved, and as Tolkien and Lewis became closer friends over time, the lasting impression they left on one another’s lives left its traces on their publications. As Zaleski and Zaleski aptly surmise: “Out of the

Silent Planet might have been stillborn without Tolkien’s intervention; so, too, The Lord of the Rings, but for the persistent support and timely critiques of Lewis and others”

(Fellowship 509). Additionally, when it came to their Inkling gatherings, Tolkien’s positive experiences in sharing his writings with Lewis made him feel comfortable to share with others. He used the group as a sounding board and read them most of The Lord of the Rings in draft form. Over the years, Lewis also brought his fictional and theological writings to the gatherings. In 1950, for example, and other members of The Inklings received proofs of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when they were meeting at The Eagle and Child (C. S. Lewis and His Circle 210). By the time the group disintegrated within seventeen years, Tolkien and Lewis had produced some of their most celebrated publications. Some of the writings express the particular

gratitude Tolkien and Lewis had for the Inklings and one another: C. S. Lewis dedicated

The Screwtape Letters (1942) to Tolkien and (1940) to the Inklings,

while Tolkien dedicated the first edition of The Lord of the Rings to the Inklings.

Lewis’s support for Tolkien’s work became a lifelong motivator in Tolkien’s life,

and Tolkien often reciprocated when the writing in question suited his ideals. Of course,

Lewis’s own critiques on “The Gest of Beren and Luthien” were appreciated, though

some of his comments were discarded due to their differing writing styles. After the successful writing feedback, Tolkien then began to read more of his work to Lewis. It became a regular habit to meet on Mondays when Lewis was free from his students, and

132 to meet at Tolkien’s home on Northmoor Road, or visit their usual haunts in Oxford

(Duriez 115). Tolkien read his writings to Lewis, having learned that Lewis had a fondness for being read to (Inklings 31), and he even shared more of the maps he drew to illustrate and visually define the geographical aspects of his imaginary world. Lewis often enjoyed the special access to the world of Middle-earth. He wrote to Greeves:

“Tolkien is the man I spoke of when we were last together—the author of voluminous unpublished metrical romances and of the maps, companions to them, showing the mountains of Dread and Nargothrond the city of the Orcs. In fact, he is, in one part of him, what we were” (Letters, I: 880). Additionally, in 1933, Lewis wrote eagerly to

Arthur Greeves:

Since term began I have had a delightful time reading a children’s story which

Tolkien has just written [The Hobbit]. I have told of him before: the one man

absolutely fitted, if fate had allowed, to be a third in our friendship in the old days, for

he also grew up on W. Morris and George MacDonald. (Letters, II: 96)

Similarly, Tolkien’s epistolary collection reflects his trust in sharing his work with his

friend and his son: “Mr Lewis and my youngest boy are reading it in bits as a serial,”

Tolkien responded to his publishers ’request for a progress update on his work on The

Lord of the Rings. He added that Lewis and his youngest boy, Christopher, “think it is

better than The Hobbit” (Letters 42). Adding to the letter what they think of his current

draft shows how much he appreciated their approval and judgment.

The letters above are important in the way they contradict Carpenter’s argument

that Tolkien owed nothing to the Inklings group—Lewis and Christopher included—

when it came to influence on his writing, and his claim that a better word to use to

133 describe the group’s effect on him is ‘encouragement’ (Inklings 30-31). It is true that

Tolkien started working on his Middle-earth stories long before the Inklings had their meetings, but he had Lewis and Christopher’s support and feedback before the Inklings started having their meetings. Years later, Tolkien kept relying on his son Christopher’s commentaries, criticisms, and reactions to the pieces of typescript he sent while

Christopher was an RAF pilot in World War II. A few years ago, in 2012, Christopher remarked in an interview for the French paper Le Monde: “J’étais pilote de chasse. Quand j’atterrissais, je lisais un chapitre” (I was a fighter pilot. Whenever I made a landing, I would read a chapter) (Rérolle). As for Lewis, Tolkien admits in a letter: “Only by his

support and friendship did I ever struggle to the end of the labour [of writing]” (Letters


Not only did Tolkien share his work with Lewis and Christopher, but he also consistently shared his developing chapters during Inkling meetings and edited and rewrote his work according to feedback. In fact, Christopher Tolkien annotates several particular passages from The Lord of the Rings in War of the Ring, and he indicates various letters his father wrote that prove his reliance on his Inklings’ opinions (War of the Ring 104, 107, 137, 144, 171-172, 183-184). One brief letter indicates him waiting for

C. S. Lewis and Charles Williams to read the chapter focused on the Dead Marshes, followed by another letter confirming he obtained their support, “It was approved,” which was all he needed to proceed—the letter immediately switches to plans for the next passage he had to work on (Letters 104). Lewis, on the other hand, hadn’t written many of his works before the Inklings, and his work had many references that alluded to his

Inkling friends and identifiable elements that suited Tolkien and Williams’s works (The

134 Inklings 160). Although Tolkien remarked that Lewis was “a very impressionable, too

impressionable, man” (Letters 368), the brief examples shared so far show that Tolkien was also an impressionable man who benefited from his friend’s enthusiastic support.

Lewis’s commentary on Tolkien’s fantasy works proves my claim that they both

supported each other in their interest in and writing of fantasy literature. For example,

Lewis’s support also led to Tolkien’s bookstore sale success after publishing The Hobbit.

In a letter Lewis wrote Greeves, he shared that he liked The Hobbit but was unsure of its

potential success: “Whether it is really good is of course another question: still more,

whether it will succeed with modern children” (Letters v.2 259). Lewis fully supported

his friend’s story, and he actively helped by writing two delightful reviews in The Times

and The Times Literary Supplement. In the former, he wrote: “All who love that kind of

children’s book which can be read and re-read by adults should take note that a new star

has appeared in this constellation. To the trained eye some characters will seem almost

mythopoeic” (Image and Imagination 97). Lewis’s reference to “mythopoeic” is a direct

influence of Tolkien’s, as Tolkien was the scholar who coined the term to mean

integrating traditional mythological themes, figures, and archetypes into fantasy fiction

(“Mythopoeia” 85-90). Lewis also used the same review to defend Tolkien’s usage of fantasy: “[Tolkien] has the air of inventing nothing. He has studied trolls and dragons at

first hand and describes them with that fidelity which is worth oceans of glib

‘originality’” (Image and Imagination 98). Lewis’s commentary supports my argument

that both writers turned to fantasy literature to make their criticisms of war.

Additionally, Lewis used his second review to compare Tolkien’s story to his

favorite George MacDonald, and by doing so he gave authoritative dominance in the

135 fantasy genre that made Tolkien equal, in his view, to MacDonald’s canonical fantasy tales. He added: “No common recipe for children’s stories will give you creatures so rooted in their own soil and history as those of Professor Tolkien — who obviously knows much more about them than he needs for this tale” (Inklings 65). Later, with the publication of The Fellowship of the Rings, Lewis wrote to the publisher Stanley Unwin on December 1953: “I would willingly do all my power to secure for Tolkien’s great book the recognition it deserves” (Letters v.3 383). As such, Lewis contributed to a positive initial critical reception of The Lord of the Rings and resulted in the popularization of the book.

Tolkien’s criticisms were also influential and changed the direction of Lewis’s

plot development. It may seem that Tolkien wasn’t as supportive of Lewis’s work The

Chronicles of Narnia. Tolkien ran into Roger Lancelyn Green shortly after a meeting

with Lewis, and informed Green that he disliked Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe which he had just read to him. Tolkien asked Roger: “I hear you’ve been

reading Jack’s children’s story.” He then added that “It really won’t do, you know! I

mean to say: ‘ and their Ways, The Love-Life of a . ’Doesn’t he know what

he’s talking about?” (Carpenter 201). As Carpenter elaborates, Tolkien felt Lewis’s

hodgepodge borrowings from several mythologies was so generous and inconsistent that

they distracted the reader from suspension of disbelief, making the feeling of entering a

secondary world feel like an impossible task (224; a view also shared by Sayer 313).

Walter Hooper remarks that academics should not take Tolkien’s rejection as a form of

discouraging Lewis from his work, but that the way people should read it is that his

statement further affirms that Lewis was the Inkling member with the vastest literary

136 tastes. Tolkien’s literary taste was very particular, and what he disliked about Lewis’s

Narnia series, as he himself told Hooper, was that “the Christian elements were ‘too obvious’” (C. S. Lewis and His Circle 211). After all, though their friendship was influential, the two writers had their own approaches to creating and developing their literary worlds and works. Tolkien, for example, constructed his stories by merging the formation of languages with an for our current earth. Lewis’s stories, however, were strongly Christian in their references and included a mixture of Norse,

Greek, and medieval myths blended with more contemporary myths such as that of adding Santa Claus to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As a result, it is only natural for the two writers to have moments where they stylistically disagree with some elements of the other’s work.

Despite personally not liking Narnia from a myth-forming aspect, Tolkien’s wife still sent copies of the stories to their grandson (Hooper 154). As Joe R. Christopher suggests in his article “J. R. R. Tolkien: Narnian Exile,” Lewis responded at the end of

Prince Caspian to Tolkien’s criticisms on his selection of a hodgepodge of mythology figures in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Susan confesses by the end of Prince

Caspian: “I wouldn’t have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan” (154). Lewis seemed to use the passage to signify that when taken within the context of Aslan the , his random mythological selections are excused due to their natural behavior and randomness. As Christopher explains it, “Under

Christ certain impulses can be controlled . . . under Christ, such things can be kept in bounds” (42). He notes that the way the passage addresses the existence of these mythical characters makes it “difficult not to believe that this is a deliberate answer by Lewis to

137 Tolkien” (41). Additionally, readers must remember that Lewis critiqued Tolkien’s work just as often, such as conjuring academics to constructively criticize “The Gest of Beren and Luthien,” the first work Tolkien ever shared with him.

A more prominent sample of Lewis editing his work according to Tolkien’s commentary can be seen in . Tolkien concisely detailed in his letter to Stanley Unwin, dated 4 March 1938, his view of Lewis’s writing, and he does so in a manner that is much less direct than Lewis’s fourteen-pages of commentary on The

Lay of Leithian. In the letter, Tolkien encouragingly commended the readability of the work and its merit as an enthralling piece. He judged the language associated with the world of Malacandra () as “well done” and “extremely interesting” (Letters 41).

More importantly, he concluded that “the linguistic inventions and the philology on the whole are more than good enough,” which, coming from him, is as much of a glowing review as anyone could give. He also added that he would have bought the story for whatever the asked price would be had he found it at a bookstore, and that he would have then recommended it to others as a thriller (Letters 42). More importantly, Tolkien admitted that his taste in books was not the norm and that he often struggled in finding works that suited him. He also implied that Lewis’s work filled a certain niche that may not work for the majority of readers but is a unique addition to library shelves. The imagery used in Tolkien’s sentiments echo Lewis’s, as this chapter mentions a few pages above that Lewis wrote to Tolkien that he would have appreciated Tolkien’s work even if he had spotted it as an anonymous publication on a bookstore shelf ((Inklings 145).

Tolkien’s appreciation for Lewis’s work was mutual. C. S. Lewis finished Out of the Silent Planet by mid-1937 and submitted it to a publisher who turned it down.

138 Tolkien helped out Lewis by recommending the manuscript to his own publisher, Stanley

Unwin, the chairman of Allen & Unwin:

Mr C. S. Lewis tells me that you have allowed him to submit to you 'Out of the

Silent Planet'. I read it, of course; and I have since heard it pass a rather different

test: that of being read aloud to our local club [The Inklings] (which goes in for

reading things short and long aloud). It proved an exciting serial, and was highly

approved. But of course we are all rather like-minded. (Letters 38)

The letter exemplifies the important role the Inklings had in Tolkien and Lewis’s literary

progress, as both used the group as a litmus test for the quality of their work and the

potential popularity of the readability of the fantasy works they were developing.

Tolkien’s letter also addresses the weaknesses and flaws he found in Out of the Silent

Planet, and notes that he did not hide his critiques from his friend. He considered the

book “rather short for a narrative of this type” and “the central episode of the visit of

Eldilorn [sic] is reached too soon” (Letters 41). He also categorized his critiques as to those of narrative style (“creaking stiff-jointed passages”), plot inconsistencies, and

philology, adding that Lewis had since “corrected [the piece] to my satisfaction” (Letters

41). Tolkien addressed various aspects of Lewis’s writing, and by saying that Lewis

edited and revised his work to follow Tolkien’s notes and advice indicates that he had to

undergo major changes from his original drafts and the importance of Tolkien’s opinion for him.

In Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep, the writer aptly brings to attention the similarities between Tolkien’s criticisms above and Lewis’s inclusion of a postscript to Out of the Silent Planet (125). The protagonist Ransom uses the postscript as

139 an opportunity to critique the story, and the character who was based on Tolkien, which

shall be addressed later, has a Tolkien sounding aura in this section. The postscript’s

purpose is to reveal that the story is real and is a result of Lewis writing down Ransom’s

adventures after meeting with him a few times to narrate his experiences. In the

postscript, Ransom supposedly reads Lewis’s story and writes to him to share his

displeasure with the work: he condemns Lewis for editing out his philological

commentary, much like Tolkien does in the letter above (Out of the Silent Planet 153-

154). Ransom then adds details about life in Malacandra, and comments on temperature

ranges, geographical features, and ways food and drink are consumed, all of which were

added to appease Tolkien’s critique of their lack in the major piece (Out of the Silent

Planet 156-158). Ransom then apologetically provides details regarding the frog-like

Pfifltriggi creatures: “I am rather sorry that the exigencies of the story have been allowed

to simplify the biology so much” (Out of the Silent Planet 154). Lewis then added what

must be a tongue-in-cheek reference to Tolkien himself, as Tolkien ended the letter above

lamenting the story lacking more information about Pfifltriggi (Letters 42) by having

Ransom ask the following: “Anyway, why should our ‘readers’ (you seem to know the

devil of a lot about them!) . . . be so anxious to know more of the Pfifltriggi?” (Out of the

Silent Planet 155).

The influence these two writers had on one another even left its trace in their personal lives in addition to their creative work. The devout Catholic Tolkien, for example, legendarily convinced an atheistic Lewis to return to , a move which accelerated Lewis’s creative work and influenced its themes. In 1931, there was a particularly long talk and walk in the company of Hugo Dyson and Tolkien that shifted

140 Lewis’s life decision once more as he reconverted to Christianity. The topic was religion, and Tolkien and Dyson challenged Lewis’s atheistic arguments by rationalizing the truth behind Christ as a figure who resolves the world’s catastrophe of human sin, mortality, and the consequences of the power of evil. “It was the long talk with Tolkien and Dyson that had much to do with it,” (Letters, I: 2371) Lewis would later write to his friend Greeves: “Dyson and Tolkien were the immediate human causes of my own conversion. Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” (Letters v.2 1102). He also reflected that he converted to Christianity “kicking” and

“screaming” and being better off for finding Christianity through conviction (Surprised by Joy 229). Moreover, he later addressed many of his previous skeptical positions in The

Problem of Pain (1940), wrote many other non-fiction Christian apologetics like Mere

Christianity (1952), and wove his reawakened Christianity into his fictional writing.

The myths Lewis and Tolkien developed were often the result of keeping one another company. Towards the end of 1937, according to Tolkien, Lewis approached him with a proposal for a writing project. “Tollers,” Lewis said, “there is too little of what we really like in stories. I am afraid we shall have to try to write some ourselves” (Letters

378). The two decided that Lewis was to write a space travel story, while Tolkien was to

tackle a story that dealt with time travel. Lewis wrote a space travel story about a

professor named Ransom who gets kidnapped and shipped off to Mars. The story grew

into a novel called Out of the Silent Planet (1938), the first piece in .

Lewis based his main character, Ransom, on none other than Tolkien. In a response

Tolkien wrote to his daughter Priscilla, after she told him she thought Lewis’s Ransom was based on him, he shared that “as a philologist, I may have some part in him, and

141 recognize some of my opinions and ideas Lewisified in him” (Letters 101). Carpenter

added that Lewis liked to add vague allusions to his friends in his works (The Inklings

183), so his inclusion of a Tolkien persona was his way of adding some personal humor

to his work. On Tolkien’s side of the project, he wrote “The Lost Road,” a tale set in his

world of Middle-earth and connects Tolkien’s tales to the twentieth century by making

his characters time travel to the ancient land of Numenor. Though Tolkien never finished writing the story, his son Christopher posthumously published the unfinished work in The

History of Middle-earth, along with an introduction explaining the correspondence

between Tolkien and Lewis and how he was led to create the story. The unfinished work also inspired one of Tolkien’s other stories, “The Fall of Númenor,” which Christopher also published in The History of Middle-earth. The stories were ‘mythopoeic’ in nature, a term both writers implemented to describe stories containing the quality of myth and launched their interest in writing more fiction of similar nature.

Throughout their entire friendship, Lewis was a constant supporter of Tolkien’s fiction. Lewis encouraged Tolkien when he was struggling to write his sequel for The

Hobbit, which was to become The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien often mentioned how thankful he felt for Lewis’s encouragement when writing The Lord of the Rings. He wrote to a member of of America in 1965:

But Lewis was a very impressionable man, and this was abetted by his great

generosity and capacity for friendship. The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not

'influence' as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long

my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be

more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I

142 should never have brought The L. of the R. [The Lord of the Rings] to a conclusion.

(Letters, I: 387)

Despite his own claims that Lewis was more of an encouragement than influence,

Lewis’s commentary on The Lord of the Rings impacted much of Tolkien’s writing revisions. He even plainly states so in a letter, where he admits that Lewis’s “detailed criticisms” (Letters 407) were appreciated and acted upon. Onesection, for example, is in

The Two Towers, and Tolkien describes it as “the confrontation between Gandalf and his rival wizard, Saruman, in the ravaged city of ” (Letters 407). In The War of the

Ring, Christopher dedicates pages to showcase the different revisions his father made to this particular chapter: a section is marked to be moved to the foreword (38), King

Theoden’s gravity is restored when his loud laughter is removed, Gandalf’s snarky remark to Theoden is completely crossed off, Gandalf breaks Saruman’s staff using magic instead of initially doing so by hand, and the powerful all-seeing Palantir stone doesn’t break in revisions. Christopher doesn’t directly link these changes to Lewis’s

critiques, but as Diana Pavlac Glyer notes, the few examples of the changes noted above are consistent with the sort of suggestions Lewis has made in other responses to Tolkien’s

writings (The Company They Keep 118). “A phrase is emphatically struck out, a small

slip of paper is attached, a question is scribbled in the margin,” all signs of an editorial

reaction prompted by someone else’s commentary and critiques (118). Tolkien himself

begrudgingly admited the influence in the same letter observed earlier: “It is in fact one

of the very few places where in the event I found L’s detailed criticisms useful and just”

(Letters 407). This comment is of particular importance because it reveals that Lewis did indeed offer consistent and detailed comments and critiques on Tolkien’s works, and that

143 Tolkien reworked his passages accordingly and thought his work “much better than the first draft” (Letters 407) as a result.

Conclusion: The Breaking of the Fellowship

The two friends lost touch over the years, but even so their influence on one

another had heavily left a mark on their fantasy publications. A few months before his

death, Lewis wrote Tolkien a Christmas letter that contained the following:“ All my

philosophy of history hangs upon a sentence of your own, ‘Deeds were done which were not wholly in vain’” (Letters v.3 1396). Lewis was quoting from Tolkien’s The

Fellowship of the Ring: “There was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly vain” (The Lord of the Rings 166). The pair had lost touch over the years, and many possibilities might have contributed, such as Charles

Williams’s arrival in Lewis’s life. Williams was a sore topic for Tolkien, who wasn’t fond of him: “We saw less and less of one another after he came under the dominant influence of Charles Williams” (Letters 366) Tolkien wrote of Lewis in a letter in 1964.

Both Williams and Lewis were Anglican, and Lewis lacked sympathy towards Tolkien’s

Catholicism. Carpenter notes that the religious disapproval was mutual, as Tolkien “had

hoped that Lewis too might become a Catholic, and he was disappointed that he had

returned to membership of the Church of England” (Inklings 51). After a while, Lewis noticed Tolkien’s cooling feelings, and he cornered Christopher Tolkien after an Inklings gathering to ask why his father’s attitude towards him changed. He couldn’t get a proper answer from Christopher (The Inklings 232). If there is a need to look for further reasons

144 behind the breaking of this fellowship, few events in their later lives hurt Tolkien as

much as learning from about others about Lewis’s concealment of his marriage to Joy

Gresham in 1957 (The Inklings 242).

C. S. Lewis died in his beloved home, the Kilns, while his brother was brewing

him a cup of tea on November 23, 1963. The grave he and his brother share has an

engraving from a calendar they had in their house in Belfast when their mother died:

“Men must endure their going hence.” J. R. R. Tolkien was amongst the few at his gravesite in the churchyard of Headington Trinity Parish. Though they lost touch in the later years of their lives, Tolkien was still struck by the loss of his friend. He wrote a letter to his daughter Priscilla where he compared his aging self to a tree losing its leaves

one by one, and Lewis’s death as “an axe-blow near the roots. Very sad that we should have been so separated in the last years; but our time of close communion endured in memory for both of us” (Letters 358). In his letter to his son Michael, he added: “We

owed a great debt to the other, and that tied with the deep affection that it begot, remains.

He was a great man of whom the cold-blooded official obituaries only scraped the surface” (Letters 359).

Upon Edith’s death in 1971, Tolkien was invited to become a resident honorary

Fellow at Oxford University. He addressed his loss in a letter to his son Christopher by

making a literary analogy to his own work, where he could make more sense of his

bereavement: “But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before

the inexorable Mandos” (Beren and Luthien 17, and Letters 340; emphasis in original). A

year later, the Queen presented him with a CBE, and he received many honorary degrees including a Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University. He died on September 2, 1973,

145 while visiting friends in the coastal resort town of . He and his wife were

buried in the same grave in Wolvercote, a village in Oxford, with “Luthien” under

Edith’s name and “Beren” under Tolkien’s, a reminder that their first youthful encounters

inspired Tolkien’s Middle-earth story of star-crossed lovers who defied the odds to be together. Meanwhile, those aware of the influence Tolkien and Lewis had on one another’s life are reminded that the story of Beren and Luthien would have been much different had it not been for C. S. Lewis’s enthusiasm over this first piece that Tolkien shared with him, which Tolkien fidgeted with after receiving Lewis’s fictional critiques presented in the form of several scholars. In the end, Tolkien and Lewis’s works may well outlast those of the canonical war poets of the twentieth century, as their work speaks to a wider audience that isn’t familiar with their wartime experiences and their recovery through friendship and writing. Tolkien and Lewis, responding to the traumatic experiences they had in the trenches of World War I, generated reparative fantasies to form new meaning after the chaos of war. These resulting fantasy stories contain various

threating war themes these authors found to be essential in the epic battles of good versus evil. As a result, readers who learn about these connections will have a greater understanding of how the fantasy genre transforms unspeakable war horrors and experiences into a reinvented mythology that helps us understand how we can overcome our own troubles just like its writers.

146 Chapter 4

The Lion, the Witch, and the (War)drobe:

War Repercussions of Familial Loss and Governmental Ascendancy in Lewis’s


C. S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia on the heels of two of the most destructive wars in the twentieth century. He started The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe in 1939 and put it aside, then he picked it up again in 1948 by using the back of an abandoned manuscript for his narrative ideas throughout World War II (Hooper

150-151). These wars shaped both Lewis and Tolkien, and their resulting literary contributions to the fantasy genre of reinvented mythologies were wrought with themes on the repercussions of war. The Great War ruined soldiers’ sense of understanding the world, since all they saw in the trenches was destruction and chaos, and this, in turn, ruined their trust in their government. For Lewis, just like Tolkien, borrowing and developing new mythology in his works was his way of formulating a different sense of meaning for life after the Great War along with a different sense of viewing governmental power. I argue that while these fantasies do not represent trauma, they do embrace the threats of war without fear, and instead find them to be an essential element of the necessary and epic battles of good versus evil. Lewis, during these years of writing

The Chronicles of Narnia, articulated and confronted the issues of betrayal and loss he

witnessed as a result of surviving World War I. He took what he learned from his experiences of loss and trauma in wartime, and he applied these frustrations to a new

147 setting in his fantasy fiction. In doing so, he focused on themes of familial loss equivalent to his loss of his friends as a result of the war, and he applied his war frustrations to a new context as he tried to apply what he learned from World War I to what he experienced later in World War II. He eventually provided a story where children respond to a threat of loss similar to the loss he must have felt in World War I. He, as a result, provided a timeless fictional space where readers can safely face and resolve internal struggles in their own world, particularly if the issues are of war survival themes like the destructive governmental ascendency and familial loss he experienced. Lewis moved readers toward an outcome where they can better handle outside circumstances.

Lewis, in the end, used fantasy literature to communicate his universal war experiences, and he used Narnia to represent that wars are sometimes necessary and involve battles that are roughly equivalent of good versus evil.

In addition to his many war memories, Lewis also had a permanent physical reminder of war that he had to carry with him. The metal shard that lodged itself near his heart, a piece he had to live with the rest of his life, served as a constant reminder of the shell that exploded and injured him as it killed his fellow soldier friend right in front of him. Lewis drew from his wartime experiences so that readers struggling with World War

II could read about the fantasy land of Narnia and find meaning in their related issues of loss and helplessness. To make his experiences identifiable, he drew from several mythological references to articulate and communicate his wartime experiences of power and loss. He used various backgrounds to do so, varying from Greek to Norse and

Christian, to fully express himself. David Downing states in his book Into the Wardrobe that “for Lewis, a well-constructed story draws upon [. . .] universal images and

148 meanings. Much of the thematic richness of the chronicles derives from Lewis’s skill in

drawing on mythic patterns” (34). Not only is it that Lewis believed a well-constructed story borrows from various mythologies to add richness to one’s writing, but he also used these figures from different mythologies to make sense of the war experiences that left an impression on him, just like the shrapnel piece near his heart. Lewis’s usage of fantasy writing fits into Paul Fussell’s chapter on “Myth, Ritual, and Romance,” where Fussell discusses how soldiers were immersing themselves in a “myth-ridden world” while being bombarded in their trenches (The Great War 124). Lewis, just like these soldiers, immersed himself in rehashing myths to make sense of a world he couldn’t understand or recognize anymore from his trench and the dead bodies surrounding him. Later, Lewis identified the importance of mythology by asserting in his sermon “Myth Became Fact” that: “Myth is the isthmus which connects the peninsular world of thought with that vast continent we really belong to” (141). Similarly, Lewis used myth to connect meaning to his world, but in order to make more sense of the confusing war experience he had to use

bits and pieces from several mythology sources. For Lewis, his war experiences were

detrimental to his myth making.

War is just as constant and unavoidable in the land of Narnia as it was in Lewis’s

world, and it varies from being in the backdrop to sneaking its way straight into combat

with the protagonists over the series of books. Are the varying wartime experiences in the

books directly from Lewis’s own? Though exact references are difficult if not impossible

to determine confidently, there are a few moments, such as a direct reference to WWII at

the very beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where historical parallels

are so similar that Lewis’s experiences must have played a major role. Additionally, there

149 are several ways in which the themes in The Chronicles of Narnia collectively echo the

same sentiments as other post-war writers of Lewis’s time. As Jacobs notes: “Some of

[the battles in Narnia are] far more sobering than one would expect in books for children”

(The Narnian 72). Yet, the sobering events that happen in The Chronicles of Narnia

perform their duty of taking readers out of themselves long enough to address reality

from different angles, and to go back to war-ridden reality with different ways to

approach issues and struggles. As Hooper aptly summarizes, fantasy fiction “takes us

right out of ourselves—to Middle-earth, to Malacandra, to Narnia. It is an addition to life,

and affords a view of reality from many angles” (C. S. Lewis and His Circle 156). As

such, this chapter looks at different angles where the idea of commemorating war is

looked at in Narnia, varying from familial loss, anti-pacifist viewpoints on war and

governmental ascendancy, to Narnia’s attitude towards teaching about war, how war is

portrayed, and commemorated in a series that’s mostly focused on children’s literature.

The goal for this argument, just like the purpose behind analyzing Tolkien’s Middle-

earth, is to prove that Lewis used fantasy to communicate his war experiences.

Dislocation, Suffering, and Recovery: Parental Loss, the Pevensies, and Edmund

Although the stories in The Chronicles of Narnia are in the form of imaginary fantasy fiction, Lewis articulated his sense of post-war loss to make the stories relatable to others who experienced loss. Narnia comes into being for the Pevensie children because they are sent away from the danger of London bombings during World War II, mirroring audience’s tackling of the consequences of the war. Lewis wrote a letter to

150 Arthur Greeves on 25th of May 1941, discussing blitzing Belfast: “It’s like the end of the world to think of bombs near Schomberg [ . . . ] You said in your last letter that this war

was in no way so different from the last [ . . . ] but in other ways brought the old time

back. I feel both points very strongly.” (Letters, II: 1074-1075). The letter shows Lewis’s

awareness of the redundancy of war, how similar World War II seemed in comparison to

his experiences in World War I, and how many memories rushed back to him as a result.

People at the time experienced the same sense of disorientation while the government

hurriedly separated families to keep children safe. By doing so, Lewis marshaled his

experiences to steel the people of England against what is to come in their war

experiences. As such, Narnia provides the Pevensie children and readers with a different

world and ample time to process their understanding of dislocation, loss, morality, war,

and independence before going back to their own world in England and applying their

new understandings while only losing a few minutes to the years they spend in Narnia.

Professor Digory comments on the passing of time in Narnia: “I should not be at all

surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long

you stayed there it would never take up any of our time” (The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe 24, 49). As such, Narnia occupies the space for these children’s accumulation of experiences and memories, and it equips them to survive the real world. What results is the children respond to a sense of threat and loss in the fantasy narrative that is similar to the representation of loss Lewis must have felt after losing his friends to World War I.

Lewis, similarly, used the stories as an imaginary realm where in addition to

readers he could also retrospectively work through his feelings of loss, whether the loss

of his mother as a child or the loss of his soldier friends to the war. The narrative in the

151 land of Narnia provides a geographic location where the conflicts and consequences of war can be examined from a safe distance away from the readers’ world. The biggest loss readers are greeted with is the loss of the children’s parents due to the war. The book

opens with the following lines: “Once there were four children whose names were Peter,

Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids” (3). The

beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe immediately establishes World War

II as the distinct time where the story takes place. The narrator reveals that the children’s fantasy adventures take place soon after “they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids” (3). By referring to the air-raids as the action that delivers the children to Professor Digory Kirke’s house, Lewis demonstrates a conscious decision to revisit a troublesome and difficult time of war within British history. For the audience

Lewis was writing for, the air-raids were still fresh in their memories. Starns and Parson explain that “conventional accounts of evacuation history have portrayed the British government as one which initiated evacuation schemes merely in order to protect children

from the horrors of war” (266-267). These reports only admitted the traumatic effect of

dislocating children from their homes and families as the evacuations themselves were

already ongoing (Welshman 326-327), which is a repercussion Lewis displayed with the

Pevensie children in The Chronicles of Narnia. Further, by beginning the story with a

direct reference to the air-raids and the children’s resulting dislocation from their parents,

Lewis made the war the main focus of the circumstances readers become aware of.

Just like the children of Great Britain, the Pevensie children are torn from their

parents and face the separation and resulting fear from entering a world of uncertainty,

152 and in their case that also includes the mysterious world of Narnia. The scholar Nanette

Norris argues, “Some very bad things were happening in Great Britain that are echoes in

the land of Narnia” (84), but for the children, the “bad things” happen at the very

beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and before they enter Narnia, as

readers are informed the children have been evacuated to the Professor’s home in the

countryside as a safety precaution. Norris likens the betrayal the Pevensie children feel

over their parents to that of young evacuees forced to abandon their homes in World War

II. She summarizes their circumstances as “the betrayal of the [ . . . ] parents who allowed

the government to transport their children into the unknown and dangerous” (82), and

adds the examples of Edmund’s initial plan to betray his siblings to the White Queen (80)

as a direct result of processing the sense of betrayal he felt. Edmund’s sense of separation

and loss manifests itself in his bratty and mischievous acts of betrayal, particularly when he embarrasses his youngest sibling Lucy by denying the existence of Narnia and making her seem a lying fool in front of their other siblings. He denies her claim that the

wardrobe leads to the fantastical world of Narnia when he had just been there, and his lack of support for her claims discourages and saddens her while it makes him feel

superior: “And Edmund gave a very superior look as if he were far older than Lucy (there was really only a year’s difference) then a little snigger and said, ‘Oh, yes, Lucy and I have been playing – pretending that all her story about a country in the wardrobe is true’”

(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 45). Lucy feels the sting of betrayal coming from her sibling right as she had recently separated from her parents and the breaking up of their family unit and its sense of security, making his act all the more painful.

153 Lewis used Edmund to represent the consequences of war-separating anxiety

while he’s in the land of Narnia, and he follows Edmund as he readjusts to his losses as

he readjusts his familial relationships and forms a sense of security. When it comes to

Edmund’s betrayals, the potential for sibling treachery becomes more appealing when his personal gains become more profitable than just the promise of feeling superior to Lucy.

The White Witch successfully bribes Edmund with promises of more Turkish Delights and the title of a Prince if he could lure his siblings to her for her own malicious plans.

She is self-involved and uses those around her for her own profit and potential for developing her power over others, so for her Edmund is merely a pawn to use and abuse for her megalomaniac purposes. The relationship between the White Witch and Edmund is lopsided, and though Edmund thinks he will profit from the deal he makes with her, he foolishly and failingly attempts to have her deliver on her side of the bargain when he is unable to bring the children to her. Despite his many familial betrayals, it must be noted

that Edmund’s actions are motivated by self-gain and not pure maliciousness like the

White Witch’s actions:

You mustn’t think that even now Edmund was quite so bad that he actually

wanted his brothers and sisters to be turned into stone. He did want Turkish

Delight and to be a Prince (and later a King) and to pay Peter back for calling

him a beast. As for what the Witch would do with the others, he didn’t want her

to be particularly nice to them – certainly not to put them on the same level as

himself; but he managed to believe, or to pretend he believed, that she wouldn’t

do anything very bad to them. (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 89)

154 Edmund, as the passage assures readers, is not inherently evil, as his motives and actions

are motivated by his self-serving greed for treats and fancy titles. He trusts that the Witch

will not harm his siblings and is naive enough to anticipate from her what he expects,

which is that she would not harm others but also treat him better than anyone else. He

“managed to believe, or to pretend to believe” what he wants in his relationship and

exchanges with the White Witch, and obviously and ultimately faces the consequences of

his disillusionment when she mistreats him and discards him when he fails to bring her

the other Pevensie children. He excuses his actions by falsely attributing positive

characteristics to her, but even when he does so he seems reluctant and generally unsure

of himself, and that is because he knows he is falsely misplacing his trust in the White

Witch. He thinks to himself:

“She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the

rightful Queen really. Anyway, she'll be better than that awful Aslan!” At least,

that was the excuse he made in his own mind for what he was doing. It wasn't a

very good excuse, however, for deep down inside him he really knew that the

White Witch was bad and cruel. (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 89)

The narration itself exposes to readers that Edmund is merely fooling himself in that part

of the story, and that his sense of right and wrong was innately accurate despite what he tries to tell himself by claiming that “She was jolly nice to me, anyway, much nicer than they are. I expect she is the rightful Queen really. Anyway, she'll be better than that awful

Aslan!” He pays for his initial alliance with her when she ties up Edmund’s hands and forces him to trudge through snow and take her to where his siblings are with the Beavers

(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 119-122). As the chapters progress, Edmund

155 starts to place his trust in Aslan, the rightful ruler, instead of the White Witch and her bribery.

Though Edmund and the children reconcile later on in the same book, and though he later becomes known as King Edmund the Just, the acts of betrayals he initiates are an example of the childish manifestation of—and processing of—separation anxiety and loss when taken away from family. His reconciliation with his siblings happens as he processes his loss of parents and re-establishes his sense of familial belonging by strengthening his relationship with his siblings and focusing on them instead of his parents. He readjusts his judgment of others, like the White Witch, as he becomes less interested in his own well-being, and his exercises at trusting his opinion of others eventually enable him to form a moral compass that becomes reliable and makes him famous later in the series as King Edmund the Just. Narnia, then, becomes the land where

Edmund and readers facing similar parental loss and separation caused by war can process their anger and frustration, perform acts of acting out through betrayals and potential treachery, and then reconcile with a newfound sense of familial belonging and sense of security to help settle after times of confusion and chaos.

Eventually, Edmund’s redemption and reconciliation with his renewed sense of

familial security towards his siblings makes further progress as he performs an act of selflessness that becomes the penultimate factor behind defeating the White Witch. Peter explains to Aslan what happened in their battle against the White Witch, and he explains that Edmund “fought his way through three ” (The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe 178) to reach the White Witch. Not only that, but he also had the clever idea of breaking her magic —knowing her tendency to use it to magically turn creatures to

156 stone—in his single chance to attack, which is an act that ultimately wounds him deeply

but makes it possible for his troops to succeed. Edmund at this point has dealt with the

outcome of his response to loss and parental separation with his childish and selfish-

centered betrayals and potential treachery. He lets his newfound familial connection with

his siblings empower him to perform an act of selfless redemption by attacking Jadis.

Without thinking of his own safety, Edmund performs a courageous act so powerful it

saves the lives of his siblings and Narnia citizens, and eventually earns him the title of a

knight and indicates his path towards maturity.

To summarize, Edmund begins as a child separated from his parents due to

governmental war evacuation and eager to betray his siblings for the promise of more

Turkish Delights and the title of a Prince. He processes his sense of loss and separation to

find a new sense of security within his siblings, which, in turn makes him perform a selfless act and earn the valor of becoming a knight, and eventually, a king famous for being just. The Chronicles of Narnia, therefore, provides readers going through war- separating anxiety with the character of Edmund in the mythic space of Narnia. As he adjusts his newfound familial relationships, he matures and takes care of his own destiny and becomes able to recover from losing his parents. The narrative, therefore, similarly enables readers to act out their own frustrations by showing Edmund’s struggles with loss and reconnection with community. By doing so, Lewis mustered his war experience to use the things he found solace in to help others, and he consequentially provided an environment where readers can also observe and work towards a similar outcome that is as successful as Edmund’s.

157 An additional form of loss worth examining is the children’s loss of Aslan, who self-sacrifices himself to save Edmund from the White Witch. The Pevensie children are introduced to him early in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and quickly start to see him as a parental figure. Aslan is a governing figure who is the opposite of the White

Witch and is an exemplary representative of a ruler who is in touch with his subjects and cares for their well-being. The resulting flourishing kingdom his subjects rule as their power overcomes the White Witch’s. The children find him a figure who represents many sources of comfort for them, as he becomes a figure who is a parent, a friend, and a government. He is, in fact, the subject of a prophecy that warms subjects to him before his arrival, as the many inhabitants of Narnia recite an old poem they learned: “Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 79).

As a result, his first appearance in the children’s lives is immediately met with a sense of relief, belonging and security, as he is the savior they and other citizens of Narnia have been waiting for. As Nanette Norris’s essay “War and the Liminal Space” acutely observes regarding Aslan’s analogous nature to the children’s parents, he, too, causes in them a sense of hopelessness, fear, and trauma when he lets the White Witch kill him to save Edmund’s life (Norris 83; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 156-159). Aslan forces the children to witness and overcome their sense of betrayal and loss over the intimate relationship they formed with him and lost by losing him. As the narrative asserts, “It was a terrible time, this waiting and wondering” (The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe 143). As such, his act of self-sacrifice forces them to face and overcome feelings of loss and trauma, like being displaced from their own parents when sent to the suburbs away from potential London bombings in their home. The children are, in a

158 sense, aware of the similarities in experiences, as Lucy states that “I’ve a most terrible

feeling—as if something were hanging over us” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

147). The hunch Lucy feels is a result of already going through the experience of losing

their parents due to the war separating them from one another. What the land of Narnia

and Aslan provide for the children, which real life hasn’t yet, is closure and time to

overcome their loss. Aslan raises again and they happily reunite with him, but only after

they accept their situation of loss and start to try to move on. As such, Lewis uses his

characters to enforce a powerful force of good which turns readers into assessing how

World War II is similarly a moral conflict of good versus evil. Lewis connects his

experiences in World War I and the experiences of readers in World War II by tying his

experiences of loss, helplessness, and recovery to a fantasy world that seeks to find

meaning in the midst of the threat of war.

Power, Ascendancy, and Weapons of Mass Destruction in The Magician’s Nephew

Lewis embraced the threats of trauma and war as necessities to creating meaning in the midst of chaos, and he particularly did so by focusing on epic battles of good versus evil. He provided essential descriptions of evil and provided bright counterparts

that balance the darkness and provide readers with hope. Lewis, for example, provided

the character of the White Witch to explore the potential consequences of when evil

obtains power over others, but we have to learn more about how she is first introduced in the books in order to learn more about what she represents. Before she was the White

Witch readers and the Pevensie children meet in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,

159 she was known as Jadis and had given herself the title of Queen of . In the previous book, The Magician’s Nephew, Digory—referred to as Professor Kirke in the other books

(The Magician’s Nephew 39)—and his friend Polly find themselves in a world of suspended animation after Uncle Andrew manipulates them into wearing magical world- travel rings. They walk in the noticeably and eerily quiet world, and eventually find that the only indicators of creatures ever inhabiting the world are statues of solemn looking people tucked into a great hall. They find themselves wandering towards the biggest and most beautiful but also most grave looking female figure. As they observe her, they notice a bell placed in the middle of the hall, with a carved pillar that contains an inscription with the following riddle:

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;

Strike the bell and bide the danger,

Or wonder, till it drives you mad,

What would have followed if you had. (MN 54)

This is the moment when Digory becomes responsible for the release of evil into their world of London, and, eventually, the world of Narnia. Digory’s failure is when he lets his curiosity place himself and his friend Polly in danger as they’re surrounded by the crumbling remains of Charn. As the narration informs readers, “Digory was the sort of person who wants to know everything” (39), and this urge to know everything is what releases evil to various worlds. What the children are not aware of is that the inscription above refers to the consequences of ringing the bell, with the ominous result, which

Digory triggers when he rings the bell in a moment of anger despite Polly’s protestations, of the beautiful inanimate statue starting to move. The quick scene marks how the

160 potential for evil can happen as quickly and as easily as when a person is in a moment of

anger and unbridled curiosity, which Digory is guilty of, and doesn’t necessarily have to be the result of long and deliberate action.

The beautiful creature is Jadis, the self-appointed Queen of Charn and the character who later becomes the White Witch in the next book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. She not only announces herself Queen of Charn, but even more than that:

“I, Jadis, the last Queen, but the Queen of the World” (MN 66). Once animated, her immediate focus is on Digory, as she assumes that he is the one with potential power and wants to use him to her advantage right away. She uses the closest form of control in her disposal, her strong stature, and deviously uses her physical advantage to grab both childrens’ arms so they cannot escape from her. Jadis pretentiously claims that the great hall they are in is going to collapse and that she is taking them away from the dangerous crisis before it happens. Polly, however, identifies the situation as one of control, as she feels pain from Jadis’s strong grip and knows she “could do nothing about it” (MN 48). It soon becomes clear that she is intrigued by their appearance because it might provide her with the means to escape the world they are in, and soon starts quizzing Digory about

how they got there, what their world is, and what his magician uncle is like and how powerful he might be. After Digory explains their story, she instantaneously assumes the powerful magician, Digory’s uncle, sent them as delegates to obey her and reinstate her position as queen of their world. To be on the safe side, she uses her magic to blow a pair of doors into pieces, then uses her display of power to instill fear in the children and warn them that anyone who stands in her way will face a similar fate (MN 67).

161 Throughout the novel, Lewis depicted Jadis as a dominating megalomaniac who might be a caricature of similar figures of governmental power. After she is done asserting her dominance, Jadis narcissistically asserts that her retellings are facts. She refuses to accommodate herself to the reality that she is not queen anymore. Polly’s commentary regarding Jadis’s story is: “Why, it’s bosh from beginning to end” (MN 71).

Readers, as a result, become aware from the very start, thanks to Polly’s reaction, that

Jadis is not to be trusted and that Lewis means for her to be an untrustworthy character.

Polly’s reaction also indicates that she is aware of and immune to Jadis’s selfish interpretations of events and the twisted and hypocritical ways Jadis tries to assert her will on them. Not only that, but Jadis immediately starts planning how to visit their own world of London and how to assert her will on it and fully control it. She is on a constant, megalomaniac conquest to rule and control others. The children eventually destroy her

chaotic plans of conquering London with the help of London inhabitants like a cabby called Frank and his horse, and all of them eventually accidentally travel to the world of

Narnia, which she also attempts to control and becomes in control of by the time we

reach the book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Lewis made the Queen of Charn’s manipulations clear enough for readers and the

children in the book to see, providing an example of how evil looks in order to make such

recognizable and detestable in the world outside the novel. Jadis concocts an elaborate

narrative as to how the children found her in the form of a statue. She also omits many

details and provides a story that displays her in what she thinks of as a positive light. The

details she omits, however, are distinctive enough that the children soon put the pieces together and come to the realization that Jadis is a dangerous, self-deceived

162 megalomaniac. How the character revelation occurs is when she shares that there was

once a war between her and her sister over the ruling of Charn, and that she had lost all of

her soldiers and was about to lose the war. Jadis waited till her sister and her “rebels”

(67) approached and announced victory over her. Just as her sister did so, Jadis spoke the

Deplorable Word (67), a secret magic word so powerful it had the ability to wipe out a

whole civilization. “A moment later I was the only living thing under the sun” (67), she explains to the children. A little earlier she emphasizes that “All in one moment one woman blotted it out forever” (MN 65). She gives herself the credit of obliterating a whole world, and places the blame of doing so to her sister standing against her and supposedly driving her to perform such a destructive act (MN 69). As such, Lewis provides a trait of a dictatorial ruler obtaining ascendancy over others, in this case that of a person who manipulates history to exert power over others.

There are numerous points to unpack when it comes to Jadis’s story above and the

way Lewis makes her a representation of a dictatorial ruler. First is the way she refers to

her sister’s army as “rebels,” indicating they were her own subjects and had disobeyed her by following her sister. However, the fact that they were willingly in her sister’s army proves otherwise, as it proves they willingly followed the sister and not Jadis—that is if they ever followed Jadis to begin with, since her self-entitled reaction at first seeing the children and assuming they were sent for her shows her narcissistic expectation that everyone and everything is both about and for her. Additionally, she tells the two children, “They were all my people. What else were they for but to do my will?” (67).

The emphasis she places on “all” the people being hers is self-delusional, as she fully believes all the citizens of Charn only belonged to her. Not only that, but she expected

163 and still expects that they should have given her full and utter control of their every action and their lives, a sort of reaction one would expect from a dictatorial leader, which she very much represents in the Narnia stories. Jadis’s self-serving megalomania makes her a representative of any regime which has the power to manipulate and lure its followers into following them for their own use. A loose analogy in Lewis’s time would be, as Norris observes in her own analysis of Jadis, any regime varying from Germany under Nazi ruling or Britain under its self-sacrificing patriotic attempt to fight German invasions (84). The scholar Kath Filmer aptly notes that when it comes to Jadis, “Lewis depicts evil or unredeemed characters as self-centered and selfish, and arms them with a variety of excuses by which they attempt to veil the truth about themselves” (37). These excuses, particularly the White Witch’s excuses for annihilating a whole civilization, do nothing more than diminish others’ high perceptions of her, which is the opposite of what she attempts to do by trying to take over whole countries. She has total disregard for the sanctity of human and animal life, and she uses language to distort and manipulate the actual events that happened.

Another facet of Lewis’s representation of Jadis is uncovered as she tells her story

about Charn, revealing that she associates using the destructive with

strength in character. The word, when spoken, gives her the ability to wipe out every

living inhabitant of Charn while keeping her the only living creature. She tells the

children that her sister knew she possessed the secret of the Deplorable Word and that the

sister, “always a weakling” (66), probably expected Jadis to not use it. Jadis thinks of her

sister’s well-meaning expectation of her, that even if she knew the Deplorable Word she

was not merciless enough to use it to cause total annihilation, as a character weakness.

164 Jadis also refers to previous rulers as being weak for not trying to unearth the secret

Deplorable Word before she did. She explains to the children:

It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word

which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things

except the one who spoke it. But the ancient kings were weak and soft-hearted

and bound themselves and all who should come after them with great oaths never

even to seek after the knowledge of that word. (66-67)

To Jadis, previous rulers wanting to keep their supporters alive is a negative aspect and

something to avoid at all costs. She sees them as being “soft-hearted” and “weak,” and

thinks herself otherwise and, as a result, a proper ruler. Though Digory’s response to this

particular passage is to question Jadis about the people, children, and animals (67) she

harmed, her response is that the people were hers and for her to decide the destiny of

according to her own well-being as a ruler (67). “The weight of the world is on our

shoulders,” she tells Digory, “We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely

destiny” (67). The response she utters to Digory’s concern over her complete disregard

for others emphasizes that she thinks herself exempt from rules and regulations as a result of her being a powerful ruler. She lets her selfish ambition for conquest and ascendancy, along with her selfish desire to ruin and destroy anyone who gets in her way, even if it means she ends up with no living creature to rule, factors that not only excuse her using the Deplorable Word but also make her more powerful than previous “weak” rulers.

Through his depiction of an all-encompassing evil figure, Lewis urges his readers, along

with the children in the books, to detect such figures and defy them.

165 Similarly, Lewis used the Deplorable Word as a symbol of the horrifying potential of mass-destruction and total annihilation that military technology can exert.

Another aspect of interest when it comes to the Deplorable Word is its general similarity

to a technological advancement that occupied the minds of many in the Second World

War: the nuclear bomb. Doris Myers argues in Bareface: a Guide to C. S. Lewis's Last

Novel that the Deplorable Word is “obviously a counterpart of the atom bomb” (170).

Jerry Root counteracts her argument by writing: “She may be right, but it is not obviously

so, for the witch, having destroyed the world, still remains alive and escapes the

destruction, something that would not have happened had her use of the ‘word’ been exactly like the bomb” (C. S. Lewis and a 234). However, whether the

Deplorable Word is fully analogous to the nuclear bomb’s characteristics has nothing to add to the validity of what C. S. Lewis was trying to do with introducing the word that can produce mass destruction. The negative effects of the nuclear bomb are worse than immediately dying from it, because just like exposure to radiation poisoning, Jadis turns

into stone and becomes stuck as an inanimate statue. Her situation symbolizes the

repercussions of exposure to weapons of mass destruction. Though the repercussion is

self-inflicted, it is still a result of being exposed to the Deplorable Word and killing

everyone around her. Jadis casts a strong spell to turn herself into a statue and

camouflage herself within statues of old ancestors until a time when a living creature passed by the hall and rang the bell to animate her. What the nuclear bomb made people

aware of was that technology can always provide humans with new methods of total

annihilation, and that is what is important with the general similarity the Deplorable

166 Word has to an explosive device that devastated many and destroyed many more in the twentieth century.

The incident with the White Witch’s usage of the Deplorable Word also becomes a warning for the similar fallibility of greedy humans. As Aslan shares with Polly near the end of The Magician’s Nephew:

It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as

evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon,

very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations of your

world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy

than the Empress Jadis. Let your world beware. That is the warning. (194)

Aslan warns Polly that there is a likelihood of there being “wicked” humans who might act like Jadis. He uses the article “a” instead of “the” when referring to “a secret,” which implies that Jadis’s method of destroying all living things before the arrival of Digory and

Polly in the world of Charn was just one of the many ways she or anyone else could have caused total and entire annihilation. Aslan’s warning includes that of “great nations” falling to the power of such tyrannical leaders, a warning that is far from the blind form of patriotism of Lewis’s time and one learned from his disenchantment as a result of his war experiences. His warning to Polly emphasizes that the attitudes of figures in power are a bigger concern than the harm weapons of mass destruction can cause.

In fact, Lewis already showsedreaders that there is a human who shares Jadis’s blindness for personal responsibility, and, in turn, could have easily caused mass annihilation like she did had he had the chance. Jadis tells Digory: “You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in

167 a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny” (MN 67). A few pages earlier, readers and Digory hear the exact sentiments from his selfish, manipulative magician uncle: “No,

Digory. Men like me who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny” (MN

25-26). The uncle, just like Jadis, narcissistically excuses himself from governing laws as if they are beneath him, and as if doing so is a necessity for the likes of him and Jadis, the supposedly superior beings.

Additionally, Aslan’s warning becomes an extension to readers’ reality, as the stories in The Chronicles of Narnia become a quasi-historical fictional account that is realistic enough to learn from. In a way, Lewis’s warning about the importance of knowledge of history extends to the knowledge one can extract from fantasy fiction. He argued that

Most of all, perhaps we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past

has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need

something to set against the present, to remind us that periods and that much

which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. (“Learning

in War-Time”)

Lewis’s sentiments in his sermon, and linking them to the warnings found in The

Chronicles of Narnia, end up echoing something his beloved friend Tolkien wrote to his

son Christopher about the importance of writing as a form of wartime recovery. In his letter, Tolkien told his son that he sent a personally written letter and not an airgraph so that seeing his father’s handwriting might cheer him up while he was in the war. He then

168 lamented the necessity of war to face evil and get rid of it, and added that the biggest misery as a repercussion of war is man’s tendency to forget all about it and not learn from it. “So short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only about

thirty years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes

really to the heart” (Letters 87). The solution for such loss of memory and consequential reimmersion in wars is that “the burnt hand teaches most about fire” (Letters 87), which, in the form of his and Lewis’s writing, comes to fruition where their works dwell on the repercussions of war so readers learn and avoid experiencing the misery of war as often.

The concern regarding the repercussions of using weapons of mass destruction

was a topic many were occupied with in the twentieth century, and C. S. Lewis even

wrote and delivered a paper advising how people should live in the midst of constant

concerns over sudden annihilation. C. S. Lewis wrote the essay “On Living in an Atomic

Age” in 1948, three years after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki

abruptly ended World War II. He used the piece to heighten the query of what the world

is to do when the abrupt end of mankind becomes a realistic possibility. In the essay, he

portrays his understanding that nuclear annihilation is a potential method of destroying all

mankind, but he also considers other forms of destruction. “You and all whom you love

were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented,” he rationalized

with his readers at some point in his essay (73). To Lewis, civilization will eventually end

with or without the invention of the nuclear bomb or other weapons of mass destruction,

and the only thing these weapons would do differently is merely bring humanity to a

quicker end. To react to one of many threats to humanity with fear and incapability of

pursuing daily routine is comparable to huddling “together like frightened sheep” (74).

169 He repeated the same sentiment again: “100 percent of us die and the percentage cannot be increased,” but this time he added that what it is that distinguishes wartime, and the nuclear bomb that is linked to war, is that war forces us to remember death (74).

Comparably, he added that the only reason people don’t worry about cancer, syphilis, paralysis, motor accidents, and railway accidents is that they are easy to forget (73).

Ultimately, Jadis’s implementation of the destructive effect of the Deplorable Word teaches readers what to expect when such a villainous character is in power later in The

Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Instead of worrying over when she might use the word again to ruin the Narnia world Aslan creates, readers are more invested in seeing how honorable characters develop their moral compasses as they strive to stop Jadis.

On the opposing side, Lewis provided Digory as an honorable figure who defies governmental ascendancy and is a contrast to the recurring evil traits in Jadis due to his capability to empathize and learn from his mistakes. He learns from the mistake of ringing the bell that animated Jadis, and he doesn’t fall into the same temptation of trying to satisfy his curiosity and thirst for knowledge, a skill the White Witch never bothers to develop. Aslan sends him on a mission: to walk to a garden in in the Western Wilds and bring back one of its silver-gold apples to plant in the newly formed land of Narnia. The gates to the garden contain the following warning:

Come in by the gold gates or not at all,

Take of my fruit for others or forbear.

For those who steal or those who climb my wall

Shall find their heart’s desire and find despair. (MN 171)

170 The apple tree in question is in the middle of the garden, and upon seeing it Digory feels a sharp sensation of hunger and thirst for a taste of the apple. He sees the White Witch eating an apple and with a red stain on her face, and she immediately beckons him to also eat an apple, telling him: “Eat it, Boy, eat it; and You and I will both live forever and be king and queen of this whole world” (MN 175). The temptation to eat an apple becomes even stronger when the White Witch suggests he takes an apple to his mother to save her from her illness before completing his task for Aslan. Jadis showers him with promises of a happier household as a result of taking an apple back home, and Digory sharply gasps as if hurt, realizing the “terrible choice” (MN 176) he now faces. What breaks the spell for Digory is when the White Witch tells him that Polly would stay in Narnia and by doing so no one would ever know of his trip to cure his mother. The new suggestion is so mean, since Polly would have to be left behind while he goes back to becoming a normal child with a healthy mother, and Digory realizes the falsehood of her claims and logic.

He realizes that the best form of action is to take the apple straight to Aslan, even if the magical apple has the promise of healing his dying mother. As such, Lewis provided

Digory as a potential counterpart to defy frustrating figures implementing governmental ascendancy, and by doing so he responds with a manageable way to handle unavoidable threats of war.

Lewis depicted the same message in a short subplot within the novel, and the repetitive theme of good versus evil is represented in Digory’s sense of honor and empathy as opposed to Jadis’s megalomania. The White Witch’s thirst for power leads her to eat the apple of knowledge, and the action consequently leads to her demise. The apple in question affects the eater according to how it has been acquired: the White Witch

171 plucks the apple for herself, which leads to her misery, while Aslan gifts it to Digory and it becomes the healer of his mother’s illness. As Aslan later explains to Digory after he delivers the apple, the consequences the White Witch faces as a result of her selfish action are that apples become a horror to her and her life becomes miserable: “The fruit is good, but they loathe it ever after” (MN 190). Additionally, Jadis fulfills her desire to obtain ultimate knowledge in attaining ultimate power, but by extending her life and knowledge she also receives eternal misery. The results of her actions remind readers of something Digory’s uncle prophesizes in The Magician’s Nephew, which is that “no great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice” (MN 26). Digory doesn’t succumb to the White

Witch’s alluring images of a normal life, nor does he let the apple craving get to him, and because he “hungered and thirsted and wept” (MN 180) for the task of obtaining the apple for Aslan, he is provided with the honor of planting the apple seeds in Narnia. The seeds grow in magnificent speed, and eventually become a tree that leads to more misery to the

White Witch as it guards Narnia from her evil between the events of The Magician’s

Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this short subplot, Lewis provided a sense of meaning in the midst of battle and chaos, which, in this case, is by maintaining empathy and honor when faced with the threat of governmental power.

Jadis’s hubris grows even bigger by the time readers revisit Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and she keeps using fear to gain power over her subjects and to maintain control over them. She styles herself “Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 58) to make others aware of the extent of her vast control and territory.

She fears the potential accuracy of a prophecy that says that her downfall will be caused

172 by two sons of Adam and two daughters of , and terrorizes all creatures of Narnia into fearing the consequences of keeping any humans away from her. For example, when the

fawn Mr. Tumnus meets Lucy he is hesitant to turn against the Queen and her orders to

capture humans. He fearfully warns Lucy that “the whole wood is full of her spies,” and

“some of the trees are on her side” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 21). He

eventually lets Lucy run back home, but he does so knowing he will soon become “a

statue of a Faun in her horrible house until the four thrones at Cair Paravel are filled”

(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 20). By the time The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe begins, Jadis already has a garden full of animals she turned to statues for one

reason or another. To make more inhabitants afraid of her, she has these creatures of

stone spread all over the entrance to her castle (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe


Actually, Lewis reminded readers that Jadis is in constant pursuit of conquest

with the goal of achieving power and ascendancy over everyone else, and, as always, she does so regardless of how much it might cost the people around her—in this case it is the citizens of Narnia. As the Pevensie children and readers reach Narnia, they are greeted with a snowy world with fearful inhabitants. Readers come to the realization that Jadis has successfully achieved her goal of twisting and perverting the land to her own desires, and to make it so that it is “always winter in Narnia but never Christmas” (The Lion, the

Witch, and the Wardrobe 19). She represents any regime that is able to successfully lure supporters. The White Witch focuses on her conquests, and any people who perish in her pursuit of ultimate power are just collateral damage unworthy of being thought of. She asserts herself over everyone else in Narnia because she thinks she is a queen, and, as she

173 tells Digory in The Magician’s Nephew, hers is a life “freed of all rules” (67).

Additionally, the White Witch’s treatment of Edmund, where she uses him to lure the

children then punishes him when she sees he is useless to her, just like all the creatures she turned to stone and spread outside her dwelling (The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe 20), shows the disconnect between her as a figure of authority and her subjects and followers.

Lewis used fantasy fiction to embrace threats of trauma and war as necessities to creating new meanings and social engagement after war. He puppeteered the megalomaniac White Witch to explore the potential consequences of leadership obtaining power over others, and he also uses her as a stark evil contrast to the good Pevensie children overcoming loss and trauma in war. The White Witch becomes a representative of any regime that manipulates and lures its followers for their own dark agendas.

Additionally, her act of perverting the destructive technological weaponry symbolized in the Deplorable Word represents Lewis’s frustrations with weapons of mass destruction.

He witnessed the negative effects of technological advancements in his experiences in

World War I, and these negative effects culminated in the nuclear bomb in World War II.

The Deplorable Word becomes analogous to many technological weapons that devastated many and destroyed many more in Lewis’s lifetime. Lewis, as such, used fantasy fiction to make meaning out of the frustrating war experiences he witnessed, and he embraced the threats of war and trauma as necessities in epic battles of good versus evil.

“Let There Be Battles and Dragons”: Fantasy Fiction Teaches Children about War


Lewis saw the influence of the First War on Tolkien’s work, as can be surmised from the letter he wrote Tolkien after learning that Allen & Unwin agreed to publish

Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: “So much of your whole life, so much of our joint life, so much of the war, so much that seemed to be slipping away . . . into the past, is now, in a sort, made permanent” (Letters v.3 250). Lewis, too, made his experiences of the war permanent in The Chronicles of Narnia. Even though he primarily wanted to write a story about the various images in his head, some of which were prompted by repetitive dreams of that he had since his childhood (Hooper 152), he also wanted to write a book to teach children how to cope with the evil consequences of war. Lewis wanted The

Chronicles of Narnia to enable his audience to see how good could triumph over evil, and, as such, it depicts the advantages of bravery, trust, and moral strength in the midst of chaotic evil. In one of his more famous passages in “On Three Ways of Writing for

Children,” he explained that:

Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard

of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not

brighter but darker [ . . . ] I side impenitently with the human race against the

modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and

dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the

book. (31)

Lewis's purpose behind writing for children, then, was for the story to act as a form of presenting war in a manner that is palatable to the younger mind but also serious in its undertaking and preparatory enough to face the cruel aftermath of war. For Lewis,

175 showing the admirable traits of courage, moral decisiveness, and trust helps provide children with guidelines to battle against the negativity of war, whether it causes dislocation, loss, trauma, or any other horrifying experiences. Additionally, Lewis gently exposed readers to the gory side of war, the most obvious scene being when Lucy finds her brother Edmund after winning the battle against the White Witch in The Lion, the

Witch, and the Wardrobe. She finds Edmund “in the charge of Mrs. Beaver a little way back from the fighting line. He was covered with blood, his mouth was open, and his face a nasty green color” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 179). In the previous sentence, Lewis provided a visual of the wounded in a way that is realistic, but he only provides enough to make readers aware of the potential pain and injury resulting from war. He didn’t provide more gruesome descriptions because the point behind writing stories like The Chronicles of Narnia is to expose readers to the evil they are dealing with without leaving them with “any haunting dread” (“On Three Ways of Writing for

Children” 31). Instead, he provided essential descriptions of evil and balanced them with the Pevensie children’s valiant deeds to make readers’ destiny feel brighter, not darker.

Lewis, as a result, embraced the threats of war and trauma, and he embraced these threats as a necessity in the fight between good and evil.

Lewis portrayed warfare in his popular collection of children’s stories, and The

Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe particularly climaxes with a war against the White

Witch and her army:

Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that

made no difference to what he had to do [ . . . ] Then came a horrible, confused

moment like something in a nightmare [ . . . ] everything was blood and heat and

176 hair. A moment later he found that the monster lay dead. (The Lion, the Witch,

and the Wardrobe 131)

The scene closely echoes Lewis’s own account of his experience in the war: “Just after I

was hit, I found (or thought I found) that I was not breathing and concluded that this was

death,” Lewis wrote in his autobiography (Surprised by Boy 197). He also added: “I felt

no fear and certainly no courage. It did not seem to be an occasion for either” (Surprised

by Joy 197). Lewis, just like Peter, found it difficult to assess and articulate his wartime

experiences when he abruptly ends his war chapter in his autobiography Surpised by Joy.

The act of cutting off his chapter to move to the next part in his life highlights a difficulty

in processing and assessing the horrific events he witnessed. He spent almost the whole

chapter discussing the friends he made on the front and how being in the war isn’t as bad

as he expected, and only a page addresses, in any detail, trench warfare in action. Even

the darkest passage there has a dismissive tone to it:

The frights, the cold, the smell of H.[eavy] E.[xplosives], the smashed men still

moving like half crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of

sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day and night until they

seemed to grow to your feet all this shows rarely and faintly in memory. It is too

cut off from the rest of my experience and often seems to have happened to

someone else. (196)

Alan Jacobs also takes a look at this passage in The Narnian and comments on the brief yet horrible interjection in Lewis’s statement above (74). focuses on the long, fast- paced sentence describing the gruesome destruction surrounding Lewis in the trenches.

This interjection switches to a brief, dismissive sentence where Lewis distanced himself

177 from the images he shared by saying the memory is “too cut off” and “seemed to have

happened to someone else.” Lewis followed the observation with “It is even in a way

unimportant” (196), then ended the chapter and discussion of war experiences a few

sentences later. Jacobs rightfully notes that the dismissive tone of Lewis’s account above

seems to either lack in full honesty or full self-awareness (75). I agree with Jacob’s

assessment that Lewis seems to wave away the horrors of his war experiences in this passage, but I contend that he does so as a form of disconnecting himself from his experiences due to trauma. Despite the nonchalant way Lewis reflected on his war experiences in his autobiography, his personal letters say otherwise: “On the nerves there are two effects which will probably go with quiet and rest” (Letters vol.1 859). The first

effect might never be known, as Lewis and his brother Warnie removed that part of the

letter before made public (Jacobs 75). The second effect, however, we have in the letter:

“Nightmares—or rather the same nightmare over and over again. Nearly everyone has it, and though very unpleasant, it is passing and will do no harm” (Letters vol.1 859). Letters later in his life reveal that his war memories did harm and never passed: “My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years” (Letters vol.2 597), he wrote in 1939. It is

clear that Lewis’s war experiences affected him much more than he wanted to admit, especially in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, and that he had the tendency to brush off such horrifying experiences.

In his commentary on his wartime experiences, Lewis reported the same

disconnect Peter has from his physical circumstances, where both seem to observe their

situations as nothing more than something to observe from afar. There is also confusion

in the passing of time, as Peter experiences a “confused moment” similar to a nightmare

178 and moments blur into one another. The instant of unreal warfare and fast pacing of time is portrayed in the scene where “all this happened too quickly for Peter to think at all”

(The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 132), and this compares favorably with Lewis’s first account witnessing enemy fire. As he later recollected:

The first bullet I heard—so far from me what it ‘whined’ like a journalist’s or a

peacetime poet’s bullet. At that moment there was something not exactly like

fear, much less like indifference: a little quavering signal that said, ‘This is War.

This is what Homer wrote about.’ (Surprised by Joy 196)

The similarities in the suspension of reality, confusingly fast passing of time, and constant fear make it likely that Lewis had that moment in the trenches—or a similar one he witnessed—in mind when working out Peter’s first experiences in battle. Alan Jacobs similarly comments on how the imagery in this passage is risky in its vivid, blunt, and brutal imagery, something writers for children rarely attempted to do. He even noted the interesting feature that lacks in the battle narrative, which is the lack of bravery: “What seems particularly noteworthy is Peter’s lack of conscious bravery [ . . . ] and the dense fog of confusion” (The Narnian 73). It is hard to know how much these passages were the direct result of Lewis’s experiences as a soldier in the Great War, but they definitely blend well with many of his accounts in the letters collected after his death and were examined in the previous chapter.

An additional war related lesson Lewis taught his readers in this battle is by representing how war isn’t glorious or patriotic, but gloomy. When Lucy arrives on the field with Aslan, she finds it odd “to see Peter looking as he looked now —his face was so pale and stern and he seemed so much older” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

179 175). The war ages Peter so that rather than becoming scarred and dysfunctional, Peter becomes “a tall and deep chested man and a great warrior, and he was called King Peter the Magnificent” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe181). As she reflects on what she witnessed, Lucy comes to the conclusion that the battle is an accumulation of

“horrible things” that kept “happening wherever she looked” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 176). With the costly loss of bodies, the background in which the Pevensie children grow as fast as Peter’s transforming solemn face, war loses the sense of glory anyone would associate with it. As Lewis shared with Gresham, war is not glorious or worth of admiration: “No matter what people or newspapers or politicians try to tell you, there is no glory in war” (Gresham 44-45). War in Narnia, such as in Lewis’s opinion, is a necessity, and any heroic accomplishments are stirred by the need to keep loved ones safe, such as when Peter fights the wolf to keep Susan safe from its attacks: “Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick” (The Lion, the Witch, and the

Wardrobe 131). Peter had to keep his siblings safe, and the need to do so makes him push away fear and act instinctively, which is something he also manages to do because he acts without considering the consequences of any errors in combat that might lead to his demise and anyone else’s.

The passage above about Peter’s war encounter also brings to mind that Lewis’s goal for writing for children was to include some of the horrors of war without glossing over them. As he wrote, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker” ( 45). Lewis’s argument here, I argue, reveals that he embraced the horrors of war and its repercussions. He displayed the

180 horrors of war, and he adressed them in his fantasy fiction in order to properly respond to these issues and find meaning in them. As such, Peter’s predicament of confusion in the midst of a nightmare closely echoes some of Lewis’s own comments on his experiences in the Great War. He even went as much as to say that his detachment from his old war experiences in his writing in Surprised by Joy might be seen by some as a “shameful”

(58) act. In a moving passage in Surprised by Joy, Lewis recounted some of what he experienced on the battlefront: “The horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass” (Surprised by Joy 196). The account portrays a horrifying life so cut off from the rest of what he described in his autobiography about going to school and Oxford, and the many books he fell in love with from his childhood to adulthood. The images seem so faint that he comments they rarely show in his memory (Surprised by Joy 196). Alan

Jacobs comments in The Narnian that Lewis’s account provides readers with a sense that

“in this rhetorical writing-away of the horrors of war” he was critiquing writers of his time who focused on the war, like the way Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred

Owen pinned their own war experiences in the literature we now refer to when trying to understand World War I (74-75). Yet, even if Lewis were critiquing war writers who vocalized and focused on war, he himself tried to understand the Great War in a similar manner but in the form of fantasy literature. Lewis excused his exclusions by saying that though war and country “may have my body, but not my mind. I will take part in battles, but not read about them” (Surprised by Joy 58). Despite his protestations, The Chronicles of Narnia exhibits images of war such as the one provided earlier, and we end up reading about the battle experiences Lewis had in posthumous publications including his letters.

181 Though he claimed in his autobiography that the war experiences “show rarely and faintly in memory” and war “often seems to have happened to someone else” (Surprised by Joy 196), Lewis’s personal letters show that he was actually haunted by his war memories. He noted to that even back home, many years later, he could still sometimes “hear the mutter and grumble of the far distant guns in France”

(Gresham 33).


The complex problems provided in the land of Narnia are, in the end, remarkably parallel to those in a real world torn apart by wars. Lewis, just like Tolkien, borrowed and developed mythologies into his fantasy fiction in order to formulate a fuller understanding of his war experiences. I argue that Lewis similarly used fantasy fiction to respond to traumatic suffering and to seek and create new understandings and meanings from the wreckage the war left them with. The Chronicles of Narnia, as a result, provides a mythic space where both Pevensie children and similarly experienced readers can re- order, process, and articulate issues resulting from witnessing the horror of war. Lewis displayed descriptions of evil and balanced them with the heroic achievements of the

Pevensie children, and he did so to make readers facing such dark experiences able to face them.

Lewis addressed post-war themes in his fantasy fiction in order to properly respond to these issues and find meaning in them. The Pevensie children are left for fend for themselves in the Professor’s house without having their parents with them, and they

182 develop their independence when they start to explore Narnia and eventually help defend it from the power and control of the tyrannical and dictatorial White Witch who turned the world to a long winter. The children, particularly Edmund in this chapter’s case, go through the motions of loss and recovery as they find a space that provides them with ample time to grow—time they don’t have as much of in their real life. The Chronicles of

Narnia offers different aspects as to how fantasy fiction can explore the repercussions of war, since in addition to loss and recovery it also examines the consequences of governmental ascendancy in the form of the White Witch. Jadis represents the horrors resulting from dictatorial leaders leading their subjects to repression and death in the form of ultimate fear and weapons of mass destruction. The Narnia series, therefore, shows how books written in the fantasy genre, and for children in this case, can provide the Pevensie children and readers with a place where they can eventually recover and overcome such war related traumatizing experiences.



The Breaking of the Fellowship of Tolkien and Lewis’s Life and Works

In the preceding chapters I have tried, here and there, to answer some of the various intriguing questions regarding the Great War’s influence on J. R. R. Tolkien and

C. S. Lewis’s life and work. Most of what has been said in this dissertation has emphasized Lewis and Tolkien’s personal experiences trudging in the Great War’s sludgy mixture of injury, loss, grief, and death. I also examined some war related themes reflected and portrayed in their fantasy fiction, and how their works act as cautionary twentieth-century representations of the repercussions of war for readers to learn from for generations to come. In the end, Tolkien and Lewis mythologized their war experiences in the staying-power of fantasy fiction, which is possible due to its ability to directly speak to a wide audience unfamiliar with their life and war experiences. These authors generated reparative fantasies that responded to their traumatic suffering as they sought to create meaning and social engagement after the war horrors they witnessed. As for readers who know of these authors’ experiences in the Great War, the material itself becomes even more significant as one finds more similarities to draw back to elements of the Great War, and, in extension, to our time. Fussell argues that “those who wonder where the war poets are may not have found them because they have not lowered their gaze sufficiently to rake in the popular tradition” (The Boy Scout Handbook 220). Yet,

184 here we have two representatives of the war who are still popular today, and may well outlast the canonical war poets and memoirists of the twentieth century.

As this study draws to a close, however, there are a myriad of unresolved questions that remain to be explored, and I use this coda to share potential ideas I have accumulated over years of traveling to England in pursuit of research material. The war themes I discuss in this dissertation, for example, are by no means an exhaustive collection, as there is much more to be done in examining the authors Tolkien and Lewis and how they wrote fantasy fiction as a reaction to their horrifying experiences in World

War I. Not only is there much that remains to be done with these writers’ works in particular, but also with other twentieth-century British fantasy and writers who reacted to the Great War. There is much to be done when it comes to analyzing the works of fantasy and science fiction writers, because up until the 1990s scholars were busy defending the importance of studying such writers.

Much has already been done to pave the way for upcoming studies and scholars.

Over the past few years, particularly the 1990s, academics finally fully established the importance of studying fantasy fiction, which Tom Shippey ultimately solidified in 2000 in his definitive publication J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Shippey addresses a plethora of criticisms against Tolkien as a fantasy writer and makes the case for the cultural significance of similarly timeless modes of reinvented mythology. He provides the example of what has become a Finnish national holiday, that of celebrating the publication of Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala. He identifies the work as another form of reinvented mythology that scholars at the time of his book publication were still suspicious of regarding its merits as a literary work. What Shippey fully asserts in his

185 book are the merits of studying Tolkien’s fantasy fiction, and this, in turn, has since helped budding academics to avoid investing time in defending similar fantasy writers and to focus on immediately analyzing and dissecting the works themselves.

The early 2000s witnessed a from defending fantasy writers of the twentieth century to launching a steady interest in Tolkien’s personal experiences in the Great War.

This dissertation is particularly influenced by John Garth’s biographical study Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, which was published in 2003. I have tried my best to add to his foundational biographical focus on the influence of World War

I and World War II on Tolkien’s personal life, but there is much more to be added as the future unveils more of Tolkien’s letters and posthumous works, some of which I mention below. What Shippey, Garth, and similar authors have provided for us is the emphasis on the importance of these writers’ war experiences and the value of their works. These writers leave the field open for budding scholars to reflect, research, and write about how these experiences and resulting war themes are reflected in the writers’ lives. Back in

2013, I stumbled upon Janet Croft’s online call-for-papers asking for essays about writers affected by the Great War. Two years later, Croft edited and published a collection of essays including mine, under the title of Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British

Fantastic in World War I. The book was nominated for British Science Fiction

Association award for Nonfiction. Without scholars the likes of Shippey and Garth, to name but a very few who paved the way, there would not have been ample space to solely and immediately focus on analyzing the works themselves without having to spend time reiterating the writers’ importance first.

186 Biographical Belongings and Thematic Thoughts

Biographical additions to what we know about Tolkien are ever-increasing, as the years keep revealing more of his works to both academics and enthusiasts. The biggest evidence of recent scholarly interest was likely when The Bodleian Libraries held their very first full exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, from June to October of 2018.

The exhibit was important for because the Bodleian Libraries hold one of the two largest collections of Tolkien’s manuscripts and works. Marquette University, which holds a collection of 11,000 manuscripts, drafts, books, periodicals, and more by and about Tolkien, loaned some pieces to the Bodleian for the exhibit. It was the first time Marquette manuscripts returned there since they were purchased from Tolkien in the

1950s. As a result, the Oxford exhibition included a myriad of private letters, fan mail and responses to fan mail, scribbled notes, photographs, calligraphy art drawn on newspapers, war letters, maps he drew for his stories, and some of his abstract and lush paintings illustrating his fantasy work.

Thanks to advances in our digital age, anyone who is interested in experiencing bits and pieces of the exhibit’s lectures, films, and miscellaneous notes can do so by visiting the Bodleian Libraries’ site at:

Additionally, the libraries published Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth around the time the exhibit opened in 2018, and the book is a fantastic reference point for over 300 images of his manuscripts, maps, illustrations, and background notes behind these works. Up until

2018, such works were only partially available in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina

Scull’s edited and posthumous J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, which was

187 published in 1995, and their 2015 publication under the title of The Art of the Lord of the

Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The Bodleian publication is the largest collection of original

Tolkien art material ever assembled, and the access to these works provides ample additions to biographical details about his life. A potential area of study is Tolkien’s cartography skills, which he developed drawing maps as a soldier in the Great War. His cartography skills later seeped into his works as a means of expressing his frustrations with war, another way he used his experiences to reinvent mythology in an artistic form complementary to his writings.

Oxonmoot, the annual Oxford conference hosted by the Tolkien Society, had the largest number of attendees thanks to the Bodleian exhibit. The conference took place in

September 2018 and had 300 attendees, a testament to the increasing number of scholars interested in Tolkien’s works, and that will hopefully result in more academic publications and advances in Tolkien scholarship. John Garth was the keynote speaker for the 2018 conference, with the relevant title of “Atlantis and Mars: New Light on

Tolkien, Lewis, and Their Science Fiction Pact.” Attending the speech offered many potential topics I or other scholars can focus on in the future, as Garth revealed much more about the writing pact Tolkien and Lewis made. As I share in Chapter 3, Lewis lamented the state of contemporary fiction and suggested he and Tolkien have a writing pact on two topics: Lewis would take a space-travel route, and Tolkien would take a time-travel route. Lewis’s pact later developed into The Space Trilogy (1938-1945), while Tolkien’s contribution only survives as a fragment published in the posthumous

The Lost Road and Other Writings, which Christopher Tolkien published in 1987. I use the pact and what we know of it as a contribution to my argument that the two writers

188 influenced one another’s writing much more than they liked to admit, and Garth’s keynote speech, which he will hopefully publish sometime in the near future, provides more evidence for Tolkien and Lewis scholars to use to add more to the topic of mutual literary influence. Without revealing too much, as it is his work to share, Garth’s study provides updates and new information regarding the chronology behind Lewis and

Tolkien’s writing processes, and responses to one another’s works, as they tried to deliver their part of the writing pact.

There are two miscellaneous biographical notes that I found and might be of use to others. The first is that our very own Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research

Center at the George Washington University contains a postcard written and addressed by

Tolkien. I first saw the postcard a few months into beginning my PhD studies, and had to check a few times just to confirm that it is not included in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, published in 1981. In the postcard, Tolkien apologizes for his late response and shares that his fortieth wedding anniversary was the day after he wrote his postcard. He refers to how the celebration must be up to “Shire standards” and that there might be a speech— here he refers to the famous opening chapter of The Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo

Baggins throws a party and gives a speech to celebrate his and Frodo’s shared birthdays.

Tolkien ends the postcard with a postscript joyfully exclaiming he received a letter from a real Sam Gamgee, a name he gives one of his main characters in The Lord of the Rings.

The second discovery worth noting is Ducker & Son, a family owned shoe store a few steps away from Exeter College, where Tolkien was a student, had Tolkien as a regular client. They were generous to remember me over the years I visited, and they let me look at some of their store ledgers where Tolkien’s purchases were detailed in writing. They

189 told me they would eventually gift the ledgers to the Bodleian Libraries, which they eventually did when they closed shop in 2016. The ledgers are now stored in the

Department of Special Collections, with online excerpts that do not include the Tolkien entries I saw, which means any interested scholar will have to obtain a full and unrestricted Bodleian reader’s card. There is much potential in these ledgers, as they not only contain that Tolkien ordered tennis shoes and patent dress shoes, but there are many customer entries covered with newspaper clippings announcing their deaths in World

War I and World War II. Look for the entry “Czepiel, Margaret” in my Works Cited section for the link to the current online catalogue for these ledgers. Access to these ledgers and a few hours flipping through them might provide additional biographical notes regarding Tolkien or men who survived or perished in the two biggest wars of the twentieth century.

My knowledge of C. S. Lewis’s work is mostly an extension of my interest in

Tolkien’s work, and, as such, I cannot authoritatively provide as much regarding prospective biographical updates and additions to his works. What is worth sharing is that his home, the Kilns, can be visited by appointment and usually houses scholars researching his works. There is much potential for biographical research there, as spending half a day there taught me much that helped me build my biographical chapter on Lewis, but a much closer helpful option would be Wheaton College’s Marion E. Wade

Center, which has a collection of Lewis’s possessions that are on display, and also has letters and manuscripts that require prior permission to access. What I have noticed in my

Lewis studies most of all, however, is a noticeable lack of scholarly works that focus or discuss Lewis’s war themes in his works. The field of Lewis studies is highly saturated in

190 theological essays, class discussions, and publications. Lewis’s public investment in

Christian writing, particularly his non-fiction and, for example, his Aslan figure being a reinvented representation of Christ, is something I intentionally avoid in my dissertation because there are many more qualified religion-focused academics who have already provided exemplary analogies and analyses in this matter. As a result, I leave the overflowing religious focus in the hands of publications such as John Beversluis’s C. S.

Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion (1985), Devin Brown’s A Life Observed: A

Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis (2013), and Clyde Kilby’s The Christian World of C.

S. Lewis (1964), to name but a few. We still need much more analyses and publications on the war elements in C. S. Lewis’s works, however, and I hope there will be more focus on that in the future.

Much more remains to be done with my writers’ works in particular and the war experiences of other British writers in general. To name but a very few British writers who witnessed the Great War and reacted with publications in the fantasy and science fiction genres, we have the likes of (an Inkling member), G. K.

Chesterton, Lord Dunsany, Sylvia Townsend, E. R. Eddison, and T. H. White. Janet

Croft’s edited collection of twelve academic essays in the 2015 publication of Baptism of

Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I includes part of my second chapter addressing Tolkien’s war themes in his works, but it also merges the authors mentioned above to provide a cohesive selection of British science fiction and fantasy writers whose literary works reacted to their war experiences. For further research, Croft’s introduction in Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British

Fantastic in World War I provides an impressive online database: Edward James’s

191 growing Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers in the Great War. James pulled most of his resources from various visits to the British Library, and he focuses on science fiction and fantasy British writers who experienced the Great War. The website won the British

Science Fiction Association award for Best Non-Fiction of 2014 and is an excellent resource for any further research that expands beyond the study of Tolkien and Lewis.

Some authors that might be of interest, though the database has many intriguing familiar and unfamiliar names: Wyndham Lewis, A. A. Milne, Maurice Baring, and Hugh

Kingsmill. For those interested in the underrepresented female science fiction and fantasy writers, James’s list provides curious entries on Stella Benson, Muriel Jaeger, Rose

Macaulay, , May Sinclair, and Barbara Euphan Todd. Even those interested in studying fantasy and science fiction of different European backgrounds can use James’s database for entries on Italian, French, German, and Russian writers such as

Mikhail Bulgakov, Maurice Renard, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti.


The World Wars were some of the most devastating turning points in the twentieth century, and writers who served in them struggled to communicate their experiences and frustrations. While some turned to realistic depictions described in the forms of poetry and memoirs, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis turned to communicating their memories by transforming and reinventing mythologies to help us understand their personal experiences and how the world had changed. The war themes I discuss in this dissertation are by no means an exhaustive collection, as there is much more to be done

192 in examining Tolkien and Lewis’s life and work, and I hope the ideas and resources I suggest in this coda may be of potential use. The war themes and issues I discuss in my dissertation function as a launch point for many other potential war themes, but they give a good portrayal of the horrors of the trenches, the infirmaries, and the recovery and potential healing in writing about such frustrations and experiences. My study encourages academics to link fantasy writers to post-war writers and consider them as such, yet

Tolkien and Lewis are even more influential than other post-war writers because people still recognize them today. The scenes in their works, ones directly or indirectly influenced by war, are fully accessible to readers who are unfamiliar with the likes of

Sassoon and Graves’s realistic war portrayals in the form of poetry and memoirs. Our attitudes to Tolkien and Lewis’s reinvented mythologies will always be defined by their own personal war struggles and frustrations. This, in turn, has us acknowledge that

Middle-earth and Narnia reveal enough of the repercussions of war to have already become works of fiction that provide direct experience to the hazards of war. The fantasy literature they wrote provides a sense of eucatastrophe and provide a sense meaning in the midst of chaos, and by doing so they prepare readers to face similar hurdles in their own experiences.

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