WWI Novelist Refuted
But not everyone agrees that World War I influenced Tolkien. Dr. Grant C. Sterling writes the following:
To say that WW I heavily influenced LotR, you would have to argue that the fundamental themes or attitudes prevalent in LotR were not ones JRRT would likely have produced given his pre-WW I life, but became likely as a result of his WW I experiences. In other words, you would have to show that JRRT changed significantly as a person as a result of WW I, and that LotR reflects those changes.
My view is that you can already see most of the major influences on LotR in Tolkien's life before WW I, even though he had not written any great amount of work at that time. He had already acquired the love of languages and of mythology before that time. His love of the North predates WW I [and surely one is not going to argue that he came to love Germanic influences _more_ as a result of the war than otherwise!]. He was already writing 'tragic' stories inspired by the Kalevala by October of 1914, when the war had probably not had any significant impact on him whatsoever. The underlying metaphysics of Silm[arillion, The] and LotR is based on Catholic Medieval thought--and WW I did nothing to increase his knowledge of those theories or to make them more palatable to him than they already were--his Catholicism was already deeply ingrained.
So to say that WW I heavily influenced LotR, one would have to find themes in LotR that would not have been written by a man who loved [Germanic] languages and loved to invent words, who loved the Kalevala and Beowulf, who alternated between optimism and pessimism [see Humphrey Carpenter's biography where claims this was a result of the loss of his mother, FWIW ["For What It's Worth"]], who was deeply impressed with Medieval Catholic theology, and who wanted to write mythological stories. I can't find such themes. If LotR were a true anti-war novel [one that depicts war as pointless or absurd or utterly without heroism or glory], perhaps, this would be obvious--but it isn't. I just don't see it.(49)
firstname.lastname@example.org | 10 December 1998