Subject: Tolkien and the Great War (was Re: [gurps] Role
Playing Plagues)

Michael Adams wrote:
JRR Tolkien served and you don't seem to hear much from him about. After all,
he served it seems as a medical officer or something during the War? Makes you
wonder how he was influenced by the war, in his later books?
There is no doubt that Tolkien was GREATLY influenced by his wartime experiences, which included service in the trenches and being exposed to German gas weapons. But keep in mind that in 1918 psychiatry as a discipline was in its infancy and there was very little understanding of the long-term effects of stress on the human mind. It was something that simply wasn't talked about, and if you had cracked under the strain people thought you were a weak-willed person unworthy of respect. So Tolkien didn't talk openly about the war very often.

Yet it's easy to see parallels between the experience of the Western Front and elements like the Siege of Helm's Deep in "The Two Towers". The defenders of Rohan felt something akin to the despair of the men whose lives were tossed away pointlessly in Verdun and Gallipoli. And King Theoden seems to be modeled on the Allied Generals of the Great War: brave and full of resolution, but hopelessly unprepared for what was in front of them. Many of Theoden's military decisions were catastrophically ill-informed, and like those generals on the Western Front he was mentally fighting "the last war" as this one spiraled out of control. It was only the intervention of a literally semi-divine being that prevented Theoden's blunders from causing Rohan's total destruction.

GurpsNet-L mailing list <GurpsNet-L-7GxECv46xW9BDgjK7y7TUQ@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>