How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front

IN the summer of 1916, a young Oxford academic embarked for France as a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force. The Great War, as World War I was known, was only half-done, but already its industrial carnage had no parallel in European history.

“Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute,” recalled J. R. R. Tolkien. “Parting from my wife,” he wrote, doubting that he would survive the trenches, “was like a death.”

The 24-year-old Tolkien arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, a campaign intended to break the stalemate between the Allies and Central Powers. It did not.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Of course the Times is utterly wrong on all of this. In fact the author simply picked Tolkien’s name at random. The article has been printed by the Time hundreds of times over the years to fit whatever narrative they need and/or to fill space.

    Tolkien was already a scholar of Nordic myth, language and history and drew the elements of his fiction from that particularly the Prose Edda, 13th century Icelandic epic.

  • xavier

    Now a British historian claims that one of the reasons that the Somme failed was because the Germans scored an intelligence coup with regards to the plans. In retrospect had the Brits done a sober post mortem that they’re well known for they would’ve realized that their old boys Kim style intelligence agencies were no match for professional spy sgencies.

    Perhaps, they could’ve prevented Philby and the Cambridge traitors from ever becoming spies or positions of influence.

    As for Tolkein, I read in a volume that he had been dabbling with Middle Earth long before the war. Undoutedly, the war crystallized certain images and plot lines.

    • What you said.

      The trenches would have been perfect representations of his writings.