Okay, so I’m re-reading the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, right? And more and more it’s getting hard to ignore the sort of disjunction between the driving plot of the story, which is basically that you, you personally, can actually play a huge part in overthrowing the unstoppable evil, and…
Iain Coleman addressed one of the major issues I have with this text, but I feel it’s important to talk about another major influence on Tolkien’s writing, which stuckinabucket completely ignores and which shows stuckinabucket did not explore other people’s writing on this topic before starting to write his.
Tolkien lived through one of the most turbulent periods in human history. He saw the rise of evil twice in his lifetime and destruction of life unprecedented by anything that has ever happened in anyone’s lifetime. He saw the rise of industry, and blamed to a large extent, technology for all evil, which is why he became so popular among hippies.
That is why the good guys cannot use the enemy’s power (the Ring), because he does not see salvation from gas chambers and atom bombs in technology: they can only be stopped and prevented by going back to the good old virtues that are fading from his (and our) world. Very conservative.
The fact that he lived in England, which was very much wishing to not get involved in European politics after WWI and lived their own secluded life just west of a continent where everything was dramatically changing, is a perfect example of where the Elven and Dwarven attitudes to other races came from. North England miners dug deeper in search of treasures that have previously been collected from the colonies, which were now becoming independent. English nobility closed their eyes to evil Hitler brought out in the whole world, pretending that it would go away on its own, and that it wasn’t taking hold within their own ranks. But he did not see the salvation in their hands anyway, because in his own view they got run over by the times and forgot the nobility of their blood and heritage.
It was the real men, men who created and more importantly, volunteered to go to war like JRR and his son did, on the side of everything righteous and good. Men (and to a lesser extent, women, due to the times when Tolkien was raised, see again re:conservative) who saw politics and ideologies as nothing more but a backdrop to what was essential (preserving human, animal and plant life) were going to create a better future and remember the nobleness they hold inside.
Because we might say that there were at least two periods of Tolkien’s writing of the LOTR, we can see the optimism that men’s strength will prevail only in the second half of the book. The chapters he sent to Christopher during the war were filled with what they both loved (songs, fairy tales), and also the doom of the rising, invisible evil that no one can yet pinpoint - remember, nobody outside of Germany, Poland and other occupied countries knew about the gas chambers and the horror of Holocaust until 1945. It wasn’t until the evil of Hitler was stopped in real world that Tolkien could actually finish the book, and while it has its numerous flaws, the feeling of doom it encompassed and that was shared by many in that period in history cannot be considered one of them. It is by far, one of the greatest strengths of his writing and characters’ deeds in his books have inspired so many people (myself included) to overcome their own feelings of doom, and create a better tomorrow.