While Tolkien did say that he disliked allegory, his dislike was of a specific type of allegory. Tolkien described Lord of the Rings as being “applicable”, and Silmarillion itself is based on mythological structure, which requires it to be allegorical. Yet this allegory is subtle, direct and historical, very different from rather obvious reference to current problems that the word “allegory” generally implies. So the Dwarves dugging too deep in mines of Moria has no connection to, say, humanity destroying itself by digging too deep into secrets of the world. Dwarves were destroyed by their greed, and that is no allegory, it is a fact – albeit one people can learn from. Tolkien did intend, in both Mines of Moria and the Scourging of Shire, to put forward a message, a message that the nature should be preserved. But Balrog has no connection to atomic weaponry, despite many suggestions otherwise. Neither was the War of the Ring based on World War I or World War II – it does not represent the real war in any way. Events described by Tolkien are for the most part original. However, consciously or subconsciously, Tolkien did base his world on concepts drawn from reality, and then constructed his story around those concepts. So Lord of the Rings, while they may not be an overt allegory, are definetly allegorical. And this is the reason for their quality. The story is relatable, because it is formed in part from humanity’s own historical experiences. A story without roots, solely the product of author’s imagination, could never be so powerful. All the powerful stories ever told have been based on the real life, real events of history, but without being their direct allegory. This formula can be seen in many if not all other great works of art: the Star Wars’ original trilogy is based around the US War for Independence, while Chronicles of Narnia are based – much like Lord of the Rings mythology itself – around Christian concepts, but without LotR’s historical backdrop. Myths too are nearly always based around the real events – the Illiad is based on the real events, albeit told in a mythical way. The Dorian invasion of Peloponnesus is told through the story of the Return of the Heracleidae. The Aeneid is a political propaganda story more than a myth, but still based around the real events. So if Lord of the Rings are based around real concepts and events, only thing remaining is identifying them.
“Each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life” (Tolkien 212) A discussion in Lord of the Rings also shows how Tolkien considered myth and reality to be convergent, a myth being merely a representation of reality: “Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in daylight?” “A man may do both,” said Aragorn. “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!” Through Lord of the Rings, Tolkien expressed experiences, both his own and those of the Western civilisation as a whole. Tolkien was aware that the history is the greatest myth ever written, a story told by God Himself, and all other myths are merely a reflection of it. But Tolkien was well aware of, and feared, that many readers would interpret the moral and spiritual elements og his mythology as pagan.
Lord of the Rings was intended as a shorter sequel to the Hobbit, but as Tolkien remarked, “the tale grew in telling”.
- Peoples and cultures
- Nations and regions
- Events and locations
- General politics
Humans are blessed by the freedom from the Music of the Ainur. This freedom is the same gift of the free will that humans had been given in the Bible. This gift makes them capable of extreme evil, but also of the great good, and allows them to create their own fate.
Peoples and cultures
Numenoreans are based on Celts. Physically, both have black hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Much like Celts, Numenoreans were noted as being unusually tall compared to the people around them (ancient Celts were about a head taller than ancient Romans). Celts were the first, and the best, iron workers in Europe. This gave them huge advantage over their enemies of the time, allowing them to conquer parts of Illyricum and even sack Rome. Similarly, Numenoreans were the best metal workers in the world during the height of their civilization. Link is further strenghtened by Numenorean relationship with elves, explained later. However, Numenoreans in the east of the island are noted to have blond hair. This seems the parallel of Great Britain, where blond hair is common in the eastern, Anglo-Saxon portion of the island, and black hair in the western, Celtic portion. This is explained by the fact that the First House of Edain, who were mostly dark-haired, settled in the west of Numenor. Majority of Numenoreans were from the Third House, and were thus mostly blond. However, since the Faithful were mostly from the west of the island, surviving Numenoreans in the north-western Middle Earth indeed resemble the “black haired, gray eyed” description.
Numenorean culture is based on Roman and Greek cultures, with influences of Egypt and Central American civilizations as well. All listed cultures had a love for grandiose structures. Ar-Pharazon’s temple in Numenor has some resemblance to Roman Pantheon. Argonath, two colossal statues of kings of Gondor carved into the landscape, reminds of the huge statues of Ramses II. Numenorean practice of offering human sacrifices on top of large pyramids, introduced as they turned to Shadow, is remiscent of similar Aztec practice. This ties into Numenor itself being based on Atlantis, which according to the myth either ruled or influenced all of these areas. Much like Roman Emperors, kings of Gondor often took the epiteths based on the names of conquered peoples (e.g. “Gothicus” to “Umbardacil”). Ar-Pharazon’s temple to Melkor on top of Meneltarma might be related to Roman Pantheon (“temple of all the gods”). Numenorean fascination with heavens, grimness, and eventual search for immortality – combined with tombs and embalming process – are distinctly Egyptian. However, Numenorean thalassocracy and love of sea and shipbuilding has strong Greek undertones, combined with British Empire. Some aspects of Numenorean culture are based on the medieval England. Numenoreans are noted as being excellent archers and sailors, and main advantages of Numenor against its enemies were large numbers of archers with powerful longbows and a powerful navy. This is basically the relation between Britain and France during the Hundred Years War.
Rohirrim are based on Anglo-Saxons. Physically, Anglo-Saxons and Rohirrim tend to have golden hair and blue eyes. Just as Anglo-Saxons have taken south-eastern Britain and replaced the Celtic people there, so have Rohirrim taken over northern parts of Gondor (Calenardhon) and established a new nation there. Much like the Anglo-Saxon forts, Rohirrim fortifications were simple, built with a combination of earthen ramparts and wooden palisades. Rohirrim did use surviving Gondorian forts such as the Hornburg and Dunharrow. Rohirrim ancestry is in the north of Middle Earth, much like Anglo-Saxon was.
Some aspects of the Rohirrim culture, such as mead-halls, are Norse in origin. However, their names are clearly Anglo-Saxon – both personal and of places. In fact, name “Meduseld” is Anglo-Saxon word meaning “mead-hall”. Mead-halls were a symbol of everything warm and familiar, and this shows in the description of Meduseld itself – particularly in Legolas’ line “the light of it shines far over the land”, which is a direct translation of line “lixte se leoma ofer landa fela” from Beowulf. Much like in Beowulf, the party is challenged twice when approaching the king (coatguard and doorwarden in Beowulf; Edoras gatewarden and Hama in The Two Towers). In both sagas, gift-giving occurs after the party meets the King. Character Eomer may have been directly lifted from Beowulf (a character of same name exists there). Grima and Unferth are similar in some ways as well, as are Eowyn and Wealtheow. Names of cities Edoras and Aldburg are from Old English. Rohirrim language is based on the specific Old Mercian dialect of the Old English, and all names are Anglo-Saxon in origin. Names of kings of Rohan – Theoden, Thengel, Fengel, Folcwine – are all Anglo-Saxon words or epithets for the “king”. Eastemnet in Rohan comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “emnet” which means “even meadow”, and is the closest name that English language has for a sea of grass. Rohan term “eored” comes from Anglo-Saxon “worod”, meaning “warband”, but with the prefix “eo-” denoting connection to horses (“Eomer” is one who has won renown with horses, and “Eowyn” is one who loves horses). Rohirrim called themselves “Eorlingas” after their first king, Eorl. Amongst Saxons, local leaders gave name to the groups they led (e.g. Haestingas). Eorl’s hymn is very similar to lines from Anglo-Saxon poem “The Wayfarer”. Much like Anglo-Saxon England, Rohan suffers a lot of invasions through time, and both cultures have very fatalistic attitude towards life – violent death is expected, lauded even. Like Anglo-Saxons, Rohirrim are relatively primitive people living in contact with a higher culture, and occupying lands that had been a part of its domain. Descroptions of shields, spears, swords and helmets are clearly Anglo-Saxon. Unlike Vikings but like Anglo-Saxon, Rohirrim are primarily land-based. Rohirrim however are primarily horse people, while Anglo-Saxons had a pathological aversion to fighting from the horseback. Northmen who were precursors of the Rohirrim used Gothic-style language, as names of the Kings of Rhovanion are Gothic in origin. They came to Rohan after answering a call for help from Gondor, much like Roman emperor Aurelian gave Dacia to the Goths. However, unlike the Rohirrim, Goths eventually turned on the Rome. Much like the Anglo-Saxons, Rohirrim practiced apartheid, slaughtering indigenous Woses and pushing Dunlendings out of Rohan. Gandalf entering the Golden Hall mirrors Beowulf’s entrance into the Great Hall.
Ancestors of the Rohirrim however have Gothic names. They are also involved in conflicts with a horse-riding culture, paralleling 4th century conflicts between Huns and the Goths. They eventually get pushed out of their homeland by the Easterlings, which is similar to the way migrations into Roman Empire started.
Hobbits are also based on Anglo-Saxons, hence Rohirrim ability to recognize their language, and vice-versa. They represent the best of pre-Normanic Anglo-Saxons, an idealized Anglo-Saxon culture contrasting the more realistic Rohirrim. Like the English (made up of Jutes, Angles, and Saxons), the hobbits (made up of Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides) migrated from the east. They inhabited the land that had originally belonged to a far greater power. First to come were the Jutes, under their leaders Hengest and Horsa. They were followed by more numerous Angles and Saxons. Of hobbits, the Harfoots came first, to be followed by the more numerous Stoors and Fallohides. The Angles came from “the Angle” in Schleschwig, just as the Stoors came from “the Angle” between the rivers Hoarwell and Loudwater.
Druedain might have been based on the Neanderthals. To humans, Druedain were ugly, but their knowledge of nature was almost as great as that of the Elves. They were unmatched trackers and guardians. Their appearance made them hated by many, but those who know them came to appreciate their skills. However, a reference in Lord of the Rings shows that Rohirrim hunted Druedain like animals. Similarly, Neanderthals were very intelligent – possibly as intelligent as modern humans – but they disappeared for various reasons, possibly including being hunted by modern humans.
Elves are based on the Tuatha De Danann, children of the goddess Danu. In the Celtic mythology, they were the last race of divine people to occupy the British isles before men came and took the land away from them. In Tolkien, this process is finalizied in the Fourth Age. However, it started in the First Age, when Edain – ancestors of Numenoreans – came into the elven kingdoms of Beleriand. Just as the Celts were the first humans to come to the land of Tuatha De Dannan, so were the Edain the first humans to come to Beleriand, further reinforcing the Celtic-Numenorean link. In both cases, in Celtic mythology as in Tolkien, the divine race departed and Men took the land. According to the legend, once Men came, Tuatha De Danann were only permitted to have hidden, underground kingdoms – reflection of which can be seen in elvish underground kingdoms of Menegroth and Nargothrond in the First Age as well as Halls of Mirkwood in the Third Age, and hidden kingdoms of Gondolin in the First and Imladris in the Third Age.
Dwarves are based on Jews. Both are stereotyped as being very greedy. However, both are also very resillient, reliable, dependable and honourable people – as long as cursed gold isn’t involved. Just as Jews are particularly hated by Muslims – Nazi antisemitism has its origins in Islam – so are dwarves hated by the orcs. Result are very long and bloody wars. In those wars, dwarves have the advantages in organization and military technology, but orcs have the advantage of numbers and collective ideological insanity. Through stories, Dwarves seem to have a propensity for losing their homelands and having to live as nomads, depending on the goodwill of other people – Moria was destroyed by a Balrog, and Erebor was taken by a dragon. As a result, they are found all over the Middle Earth, some of them even enslaved by the forcess of darkness – a situation very similar to that of the Jews after the sack of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. Dwarvish langage, Khuzdul, is based on the Jewish.
Orcs are described by Tolkien himself as being somewhat based on “Mongoloid types”. Orcs are also very numerous, agressive and good at conquest as long as driven by the central force. But once that force was removed, Orcs, much like Huns and Mongols, fell into infighting and ceased to be a serious threat. They also have a lot of connection with Turks, who are probably their primary influence. The first Ottoman Sultan that was able to conquer the European territory was called Orkhan / Orchan. Further, name Turk becomes Tork when pronounced in Persian. Ahmad ibn-Fadlan described Oguz-Turks of the 10th century as being “ugly”, “filthy”, “shameless” and “mean”. In medieval Christian propaganda, Muslims were described as demons, and orcs have many demonic characteristics. Some orcs however are described as having a black skin, which brings to mind Croatian tradition of “black Moors”, based on events of muslim pirates from North Africa raiding European mediterranean coasts. Others have dark-green scales.
Orcish culture is based on Islam. Much like Islam is a war ideology which demands constant warfare and expansion from its followers, so are Orcs in a state of conflict either among themselves, with other peoples, or both. Islam has destroyed the Mediterranean civilization of antiquity, and orcs have – in a previous age – destroyed the old civilizations of the Elves. Orcs themselves are not, so to speak, “biologically” evil, just like no race is. Their evil is being created by an ideology based on hatred, much like Islam. But that ideology has degraded them so much that they only know how to rape, pillage and burn, and design machines that allow them to do those things. Islam has produced nothing of value on its own, all of the islamic “achievements” were taken from other cultures – predominantly Greco-Roman and Hindu ones. Similarly, orcs only take achievments of others and then warp them in their own ways. They have especially long-standing hatred against dwarves, just as Islam has an inbuilt hatred against Jews, dating from the days of Mohammad. Orcs are also driven primarily by hatred against non-orcs, and when there are no such targets around they remember that they hate each other as much as they hate non-orcs. This is very similar to constant religious warfare of muslims against nonmuslims, and between different islamic factions, such as the Sunni and the Shiites. However, just like the other races, not all orcs are evil. During the Council, Elrond notes that “during the last battle, all living things were divided between whether they fought for Sauron or freedom except for the elves”, which would mean that there were some good orcs. This may be a paralel to islamic factions that fought alongside Christians. The Black Speech of orcs is based on the Hurrian language. Language was spoken by the Hurrians, an expasionist people that dominated many territories outside their own homeland, whose ethnonym was incidentally turuk. Turukkeans made a series of devastating attacks against Mesopotamian cities. Turukkum was also possibly Turkic urheimat (ancestral homeland), connecting Turukks to Turks and, thus, Ottomans. Tolkien himself mentions “Goblin war in 1453.”, the exact year that Constantinople fell. But orcs themselves are primarily tools, just how Muslims were tools that Muhammad and later rulers of islamic world used to achieve personal powers, and how western plutocrats are using them in his own schemes. They know nothing but hate, but their own movements are directed by others. Such a state is unimaginable to modern liberals, who refuse “-isms” and “-ologies” as an explanation of violence. They thus fail to understand Nigerian limb-chopping Bokko Haram, Somalian Al-Shabaab or Middle-Eastern genocidal ISIL, all of them deeply rooted in traditions of Islam – modern day orcs, it should be said. Hamas is only a shade better, finding it more useful to use civilians as human shields rather than murder them, but they are still fundamentally orcs.
Wainriders and Balchtoch were based on the steppe people, such as the Huns and Mongols. People that Mordor’s orcs enslaved, living around sea of Nurnen, can be linked to Armenians whose original homeland was around Lake Van.
Haradrim are based on the people of Africa. Description of Haradrim given in “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” strenghtens this link. Haradrim are, in the first book, described as brown people with black hair and in crimson clothes, carrying gold decorations. Haradrim are also described as living in jungles and deserts of a southern land, and riding elephants. They too were under thrall of Sauron, much like how the entire northern Africa is islamic, and has been ever since Arabs conquered Roman Africa. But at least some Haradrim traded with Numenoreans until Numenoreans themselves fell into darkness and started imperial conquest. After that, Haradrim had to defend themselves, and did not make difference between Numenor proper and Numenorean realms in exile. Through their need for defense, they were seduced by Sauron, and in the end they themselves became agressors. This is similar to relationship between Britain and Africa.
Nations and regions
Numenor is based primarily on Atlantis. Both were island nations with hugely advanced culture and science. This enabled them to form huge overseas empires. Treasure from the empire enabled easy life and endouraged moral decay and decadence. In the end, this led to destruction of the island itself, with only a few survivors escaping the doom and bringing advanced culture to the continent. Mythical Atlantis controlled large portions of Europe, which can be seen through Numenorean dominion over north-western Middle Earth. This is reinforced by the usage of “Atalante” – “Downfallen” – after Numenor sank. Another parallel – albeit likely not an actual basis – for Numenor is Britain. Both are island nations which formed large maritime empires thanks to naval power. Both got very rich thanks to their empires, which led to degradation and decadence. Both, as their power grew, started behaving more cruelly towards “lesser people”. It is thus possible that Tolkien saw what was happening in Britain of the time and connected it to the fate of Atlantis. It is known from his letters that, while he loved England, he despised the very concept of the British Empire – a stance that may have been, consciously or not, expressed through less-than-flattering descriptions of Numenorean imperialism (Tolkien once even commented that “I shall go back to speaking Old Mercian”.).
Arnor is based on the Western Roman Empire and Carolingian Empire. Like Western Roman Empire, it represents one half of a larger state which is nominally under rule of a single ruler, but in reality both halves operate independently. Arnor and Gondor were established when Elendil split the kingdom between himself and his sons, as did Isildur after him – except Isildur got murdered soon after, making de facto a split between his sons. Roman Empire was split into Western and Eastern by emperor Theodosius, who gave each half to each one of his sons. In both cases, division endured until the Western / Northern portion fell. In Arnor, Dunedain were far fewer than in Gondor, just as the Western Empire was less populous of the two Roman Empires. In Arnor as in the Western Empire, the symbol of authority was the rod. In the latter days of the Western Empire, the Emperor moved from Rome to Ravenna. In latter days of Arnor, its capital of Annuminas became depopulated and was abandoned in the favour of Fornost Erain. Fall of Arnor is similar to fall of Rome: when Alaric sacked Rome, Western emperor had been in Ravenna. Alaric withdrew at the approach of seaborne forces of the Eastern Empire, but Western Empire’s days were numbered. When the Witch King sacked Fornost, the King of Arnor had taken refuge at the shore of the sea. The Witch King withdrew at the seaborne approach of the forces of Gondor, but Arnor’s days were numbered. Much like the Frankish empire, Arnor got split into three quarreling states (Neustria, Austrasia and Lotharingia for the Frankish Empire, and Cardolan, Rhuadur and Arthedain for Arnor). Unlike with Carolingian Empire, theses states did not survive to develop into new states. They were, one by one, destroyed by Angmar. Charlemagne, the first ruler of the Carolingian Empire, purpoted to renew the Western Roman Empire, providing a continuum of sorts between the two. He also tried to dynastically unite the Carolingian Empire with the (Eastern) Roman Empire when empress Irene sat on the throne of Constantinople, crowning herself an emperor. At first, Charlemagne did not accept her, but when she proposed peace and alliance, he proposed marriage. As Irene was past the child-bearing stage, the empire would pass to Charlemagne. This is simlar to how Arvedui tried to secure the throne of Gondor for himself when he was a crown prince of Arthedain. In both cases, attempts were unsuccessful because nobility preferred the native candidate for the throne. Irene was deposed and Nicephorus became the emperor.
Gondor is based on the combination of Eastern Roman Empire and Holy Roman Empire. Much like the Eastern Roman Empire until 15th century, and Holy Roman Empire from 16th century onwards, Gondor acts as a barrier against the spread of forces of darkness. Like Eastern Roman Empire, it was one half of a larger state which is nominally under rule of a single ruler, but in reality both halves operated independently until the Western / Northern half fell. Both medieval Eastern Roman Empire (oftentimes incorrectly called “Byzantine Empire”) and Holy Roman Empire claimed descent from the Roman Empire of antiquity. Eastern Roman Empire was always the richer and more populous of the two halves of the ancient Roman Empire, just like Gondor was richer and more populous than Arnor. Much like with Roman Empire, center of power eventually moved from the West to the East, from Arnor to Gondor. In both Gondor and Eastern Roman Empire, the symbol of authority was the crown. One major factor in continued survival of both states in the face of barbarian hordes was the river: both Anduin and Danube acted as important obstacle to barbarians. Danube also acted as an obstacle for Ottoman Turks in their attacks on Hungary and, later, Austria (HRE). When eastern portions of the Roman Empire fell to the muslims, maybe 80.000 troops out of the active field army of 150.000 were safely evacuated to Anatolia. Unlike in the West, Roman Emperor in Constantinople always retained the authority to sack important officials. Soldiers were given a grant of land, but that land was given directly by the Emperor, who could recall it at will – a system that bore no resemblance to the Western feudal system. Similarly, Imrahil was not a lord of Belfalas – he was merely a Prince of Dol Amroth, strategos of the district itself, but not the landlord of Belfalas. Roman thematic troops were not often deployed on campaigns outside their themes; similarly, fiefs of Gondor only sent small portions of their strength to Minas Tirith. Much like the Roman Emperor was the highest popular and spiritual authority in the Roman Empire, so was the King of Gondor the highest popular and spiritual authority in the Kingdom, as seen from his religious duties, as well as the example of Kings of Numenor. Kings of Gondor like Emperors of Rome had God’s blessing in their rule. When Arvedui tried to unite the two kingdoms, Gondorians chose Earnil as their king. His son Earnur was killed and the rule continued by the stewards. In Roman Empire during the Macedonian dynasty, there were typically two rulers: an emperor who ruled in name, and the general not of Macedonian blood who ruled in reality. After death of Empress Zoe, the people of Constantinople actually stormed the convent where her sister Theodora was living as a nun, and forced her to become empress at the age of 75 – so deep was the Byzantine people’s attachment to the dynasty. Later, the Paleologous dynasty took the same place in people’s affection. In the 14th century, John V Palaeologus, a rather incompetent idiot, appointed the capable John VI Cantacuzenus as his co-emperor. When Cantacuzenus tried to take over sole control of the state, he precipitated a civil war that ruined the empire and turned it into a mere dependency of the Turks. This has obvious similarities to kin-strife in Gondor, which weakened the kingdom and caused the loss of Umbar to the Corsars. Several generations (about a century) after the kin-strife, the Constantinople fell to the Turks. Gondorian kin-strife of 1432. meanwhile precapicitated the fall of Minas Ithil to the Orcs in 2002. Both Roman Empire and Gondor were hit by a plague soon after the strife. But even afterwards, they continued to resist, with a large river (Anduin / Danube) and a city on it (Osgilliath / Budapest) playing an important role in enabling that resistance. Eventually, the city on river fell – one half at a time – and the river itself was crossed, setting up the stage for the final battle at Minas Tirith and Vienna, respectively. And while history of both Gondor and Eastern Roman Empire may be seen as one of a long, steady decline by people not familiar with their histories, reality is very different. Both countries have had periods of major resurgence – examples being reigns of Hyarmendacil I in Gondor and the Macedonian Dynasty until death of Basillius II for Rome (specifically, Basillius I).
Ithillien may be based on Croatia. Both are beautiful lands that became battlefields between good and evil, and were mostly destroyed, vandalized and abandoned in the process. By the time of final battle, Ithillien was mostly conquered by the Orcs, with only one significant military outpost remaining at Henneth Annun. By the time of the Battle of Vienna, and even earlier by the late 16th century, Croatia – then a part of the Holy Roman Empire – was almost entirely conquered. Its remains – Reliquiae reliquiarum olim et inclyti regni Croatiae – consisted of city of Zagreb, few minor cities and few fortresses. Unlike Ithillien, it was never fully liberated, and today’s Croatia only holds half of the original territory of Kingdom of Croatia.
Rohan is based on the Kingdom of Mercia, from central England. Rohirric symbol – the white horse on the green field – is found in Uffington, on the southwestern marches of Mercia. Name “Mercia” is latinization of the name “Mearc”. It translates into the “Mark”, while Rohirrim call their own land “The Mark”, or “The Riddermark”. Both “Mark” and “Mercia” mean the “borderlands”. Another influence is Poland, keeping in with Austrian influence of Gondor. Rohan was bound to Gondor by a promise of mutual aid in case of peril, just like Poland and Austria were. Much like Poland of the time, Rohan’s standing army was very small compared to that of the southern neighbour (Gondor / Austria), and full strength had to be attained through insurrectio. Polish army of the time was predominantly horse-oriented, while Austrian was predominantly infantry-oriented, which again mirrors relationship between Rohan and Gondor. In fact, around the time of the Battle of Vienna, contemporary Polish saying was that ”A Pole without a horse is like a man without a soul”. Poles were superb horsemen, and in addition to normal cavalry tactics many units could perform as mounted infantry. This again is similar to Rohan whose cavalry units often fought dismounted, as evidenced in the Second battle for the Fords and the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Polish winged hussars in particular had proven highly effective even against pike infantry, whose main purpose was countering cavalry. Because of the long lance, Polish hussars were the best shock cavalry of the era. Rohan military is a clear paralel to this: despite having a strong infantry contignent, Rohanic military is based around mounted units. Rohirrim have a devastating shock charge, and their cavalry units are also trained in infantry tactics, as seen with several examples where they form shield walls.
Mordor is based on the Ottoman Empire. “Mordor” comes from the Old English “morthor”, which means “mortal sin” or “murder”. It has similar position and shape to Anatolia. Name of Angmar, northern Sauron’s realm, is similar to Ankara, current capital of Turkey. Ottomans were supported by the Corsairs of North Africa, while Mordor was supported by Corsairs of Umbar. Orcs also utilized wargs, oversized grey wolves, while wolves in Turkey are the symbol of Ottoman expansion. Another parallel to Mordor, in a physical rather than political sense, is Hell. Northern parts of Mordor are a lifeless wasteland.
Shire is based on rural England. Specific location could be rural Warwickshire, Shropshire, Lancashire’s Lune valley and rural Worcestershire. Shire is based on a feudal system much like the Norman England. After the Wars of the Roses, the power of the Norman aristocracy was broken to be supplemented by titled nobility created by a royal fiat. Under this system, most of the land was held by local squires, among whom the titled nobility were the most revered and respectable but not necessarily the largest landowners. In Shire, “the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer”. Once Arnor fell, Hobbits managed themselves under a substitute for the king. When Rome withdrew from Britain, Britons governed themselves under a substitute for the Emperor. There is even a possible naming reference (Buckinghamshire – Dwelling of the people of Buck – Buckland).
Harad is Africa. In fact, word “Harad” means literally “south”, and the only continent directly south of Europe – which is represented by the northwestern Middle-earth – is Africa. Its description of having jungle and desert regions, as well as the presence of mumakil – animals analogous to elephants (their alternative name even is oliphaunt) – reinforces the connection. Fellowship of the Ring also reveals that apes lived in the jungles of the South.
Events and locations
Minas Tirith is based on Vienna as well as Rome. Where Rome is based on seven hills, Minas Tirith is based on a hill on a foot of the mountain, but has seven concentric walls. Much like Rome, Minas Tirith is slightly inland from a river (Tiber / Anduin). Minas Tirith is called “The White City”, because it is made from white stone and all except the outermost city wall are white. It also has the White Tower in the middle, and is represented by the White Tree. Name Vienna comes from Vindobona, latinization of the Celtic name “Windo-bona”, meaning “white base/bottom”, “white land”. Vienna was surrounded by a circular wall, which was divided into eight sections. Minas Tirith on the other hand was surrounded by seven city walls plus eight wall in the form of Rammas Echor. Denethor abandoned command in despair but remained in the city, only turning command over to Gandalf at the start of the siege after Faramir got a seemingly mortal wound. Emperor Leopold I. abandoned Vienna alltogether before the siege started. Battle of Pellenor fields itself is based on the Battle of Vienna. Just before the siege, city received major reinforcements from the outside. In Minas Tirith came the commanders and troops from other Gondorian areas, while Vienna was reinforced by troops led by Colonel Strahemberg. In both cases, civilians abandoned the city en masse before the siege began. Just before the siege, troops in Vienna numbered 12.000 regulars and 8.000 citizen militia. The city was besieged by enemy second-in-command, the Witch King in the book and Kara Mustafa in reality. Kara Mustafa used the Flag of the Prophet, white letters on a black field (similar to flag of ISIL). This is paralleled by the Mordor flag, which is red eye of Sauron on the black background. Besieging forces were significantly more powerful than the defending force, with Kara Mustafa having around 70.000 troops – similar to estimates of the besieging Mordor army in the books (writer of this article estimated besieging Mordor force at 68.000 in private notes, and before having any clue about link between Islam and LotR). Only hard number from the Mordor army is the 18.000 Haradrim, which corresponds to 18.000 Tartars in the Ottoman army. They were also very multicultural and heterogenous as strength necessitated drawing troops from across the respective empires. Before and during the battle, Ottoman forces would behead any captured or killed Christians, a practice also carried out by the Orcs as a way of demoralizing defenders. Minas Tirith had maybe 3.000-9.000 troops before the siege, and was reinforced by 3.000 troops. During the siege, there was a question of wether the city will be relieved. While Vienna was saved by the 18.000-strong Polish cavalry charge, Minas Tirith was saved by the 6.000-strong Rohirric cavalry charge. Both cavalry charges were the largest in history at that point. Just before the arrival of reinforcements, Strahemberg’s messangers managed to slip through the Ottoman lines, much like Denethor’s messangers that met Theoden. These appraised Sobieski / Theoden of the desperate plight of the besieged city – Vienna was on the verge of falling, as was Minas Tirith in the book. Both armies were marching light in order to get to the besieged city on time. Polish army had to cross the Weinerwald woods before arriving to Vienna, while Rohirrim had to cross the Druadan forrest. Polish king Sobieski decided to send his troops through the treacherous mountain passes of Kahlenberg, and charge the Muslim forces from there. This is paralleled by Theoden using a mountain pass through the Druadan forrest instead of the well-known and wide road in order to surprise the Orcs. Both Poles and Rohirrim solved the problem by hiring the local guides. Even after the advance portions arrived, it took hours for the army to assemble for the attack, and they had to pass the terrain decidedly unfriendly for the cavalry before making it to open field. Once the allied reinforcements exited the forrest, they saw the White City under siege by a massive enemy army. Just like Kara Mustafa, the Witch King failed to consider any possibility of a relief force showing up until it actually showed up. The Poles announced their presence to the defending garrison with a barrage of rockets, while the Rohirrim were first noticed when they blew into their horns. Arrival of reinforcements came just as the enemy forces were preparing to enter the besieged city – the walls of Vienna having been breached, and the gates of Minas Tirith having been destroyed. Most of the relief force at Pelennor actually came from Gondor, while most of the relief force at Vienna was Imperial. Difference here is that Gondorian renforcements came much later than the Rohirrim, while Imperial and Polish forces came to Vienna at the same time, and Sobieski’s cavalry charge was done in support of the already-engaged Imperial reinforcements. Kara Mustafa launched a futile cavalry counterattack, while Rohirrim defeated a Haradrim cavalry counterattack much earlier on the Pelennor. Afterwards, the entire Ottoman / Orcish army disintegrated. During the battle, individual Polish cavalry units got isolated and annihilated due to overeagerness in the attack, a fate that Eomer’s Rohirrim almost suffered before being saved by the Gondorian reinforcements and that Theoden’s own eored already suffered earlier. In both cases, besieged forces also sallied out once the siege began to break, cleaning out the remaining besiegers under the walls. After the siege was broken, Gondorian and Rohirrim forces destroyed retreating enemy troops, much like Austrian and Polish troops did. But in the end, the triumph was that of a Holy Virgin Mary, which is paralleled by Eowyn killing the Witch King in the books.
Osgilliath is based on Budapest. Both are cities situated on rivers which cut them into half, and said rivers happen to be largest in their part of the world. Osgilliath was abandoned toward the end of the Third Age, and was used merely as a fortress by both Gondor and Mordor, both holding one half of the city each. Same happened to Budapest after the Ottomans conquered its eastern half. Both cities also happened to be seats of countries (Gondor and Hungary) until said seats moved to the West due to war danger (Minas Tirith / Vienna).
Minas Morgul is based on Istanbul. Both cities were once strong defences against a threat from the East (orcs / Seljuk Turks). However, both of them got captured after a long siege by forces of darkness and renamed. Minas Ithil was renamed to Minas Morgul, while Constantinople was renamed to Istanbul. Minas Ithil is literally “Tower of the Moon”, while the symbol of Constantinople was moon. After the capture, both became primary outposts for further spread of evil. Minas Morgul became the seat of the Witch King of Angmar, while Constantinople became the seat of the Ottoman Sultan.
Minas Tirith was saved in part by an army of ghosts. When Crusaders got trapped in Antioch, they were supported by ghosts of fallen comrades when they attacked the besieging islamic army.
Dead Marshes are based on Tolkien’s experiences at the Western Front. He talked of his experiences on the battlefield, how one would see dead men and boys staring into the sky with the eyes that were never to see again. Two of his three best friends from school were killed in the war. It is this that is portrayed in Frodo’s travel through the Dead Marshes, with dead bodies and dead faces in the water, reminder of a massive battle fought long time ago. But other battles of the War of the Ring, described in previous sections, show also Tolkien’s experience how courage and hope can lead people to victory.
Eru Iluvatar is the Judeo-Christian God. Much like humans in the Bible, elves and humans are His children. From Him all things proceed, and to Him all things return. Before he created everything – Ainur included – there was only Him and the void. Like Christian God, Illuvatar does not rule the world but allows His creations freedom of thought and will. This, by its very nature, allows evil to enter the world so as to prevent greater evil of enslavement. He is the Beginning and the End, and the cause of Morgoth’s fall was desire to act independently from Eru, his wish to be just like Eru. He is the only one able to create life from nothing, everything being His creation or else a corruption thereof. In an unpublished – and thus likely noncanonical – conversation between Finrod Felagund and a wise woman call Andreth, they realize that the only way to cure the evils of the world would be if Eru Himself entered into Arda. This is a clear parallel of Christ’s coming to Earth, but would have not happened in the Legendarium since Tolkien’s stories take place thousands of years before the Christian era. Eru is the only being powerful enough to defeat Melkor, just as God is the only being that can defeat Satan.
Valar are the Archangels. They are creations of Illuvatar and are not allowed to act outside Eru’s will, so they are not “lesser deities”, unlike liberal “interpretation” of them. In fact, they are less “godly” than humans are, as humans have freedom of will. They are “powers”, “angelic created beings appointed to government of the world”. They were created by Eru before anything else, just as Christian God had created angels before anything else was made. However, some Valar do have characteristics roughly corresponding to gods of pagan religions, which may have been a way of tying fundamentally Christian conception of the Legendarium into pagan Anglo-Saxon legends. Tolkien himself commented that the Valar were angelic beings whose authority is delegated by The One, making them “beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the ‘gods’ of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted . . . by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity.”. They also can appear embodied in human-like bodies, and Silmarillion specifically says that the Valar typically choose such an appearance ever since they saw the image of Children of Iluvatar who were yet to be born. This results in them taking on characteristics of both Angels and pagan gods.
Maiar are the lesser Angels. They are the same type of beings as the Valar, but of a lesser rank. Much like Valar, they are spiritual beings but can appear embodied as humans. Five Maiar were sent to the Middle Earth to guide races against the evil. These appear as old and frail humans, yet are anything but. In power, each of them is equal to Sauron and to the Balrog in Moria. Balrogs themselves are Maiar, who fell into disgrace by following Melkor, and are thus banished, much like the lesser angels.
Christ too is present, not physically but as a concept – of sacrifice and resurrection. This clearly points to Gandalf, who had sacrificed himself in the mines of Moria, only to be resurrected later. He also battled Balrog in the darkness and cast him down, much like Christ overthrowing Satan. Like Jesus, resurrected Gandalf appeared to three astounded persons. But Frodo may also, to an extent, fit the bill – he carried the One Ring, taking on “sins of the world” in a manner. He was also tempted by the Ring through the journey, as Jesus was tempted by the Satan. But being human, and enduring it for much longer time, Frodo’s will eventually failed. Frodo also is a priest, offering a sacrifice to save the world – but also being sacrifice, just as Jesus is a sacrifice in an eucharisty. The One Ring he carries has physical weight and becomes heavier the closer Frodo gets to Mt. Doom – much like Christ had to carry the cross up the Golgoth. Gandalf for his part is gathering people to oppose the evil, never using his supranatural powers or resorting to force to do so, even though he would be clearly capable of it. He even suffers people such as Denethor. Yet he is often unwelcome, by those who want physical help – swords and spears – instead of advice and encouragment. This clearly fits Christ, who was welcomed as a prophet, yet many expected him to lead an armed uprising against the Romans, and were bitterly disappointed when he did not. Aragorn too reflects some aspects of Christ himself, such as being able to command ghosts of men, being “ancient of days” and having healing hands. He thus reflects Christ’s divinity, much like medieval rulers were supposed to do, being blessed by God. He, like Gandalf, undertakes the journey through darkness and comes back to the light of the day – but unlike Gandalf or Christ, his journey is literal and there is no death involved.
Ar-Pharazon’s troops are said to be trapped until the last battle. This seems to be an equivalent of Ragnarok. Rings also have symbolism is Norse and Egyptian mythologies, and Ringwraiths have a lot in common with Valkyries.
Tolkien’s Barrow-wights are basically Norse Draugar. Draugar are said to be evil spirits residing in the bodies of dead heroes and kings and usually (but not universally) unharmed by conventional weapons. Wights in LotR had been raised by the Witch-king, and are thus clearly possessed by evil. Similar creatures were Mahr or Alp from Germanic and Slavic folklore. Unlike Draugar, those were vampiric creatures who drank blood of the living during the night. Primary way to defeat them was to open their Barrow to the rays of the Sun, which was indeed done in Lord of the Rings.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
Perhaps the most obvious symbolism in Tolkien is numerology, particularly of the Rings of Power. There are Nine, Seven, Three and One ring of power. Minas Tirith has seven concentric walls, and is one of three major cities of the original Kingdom of Gondor. Reason for this is real-world numerology, which stems from the observation of nature: there are seven moon phases and seven colours of the rainbow. This later made its way into myth and religion: twelve major dieties of Greek pantheon, three persons in the Holy Trinity and three times fourteen generations in the family tree from Abraham to Jesus.
Number one stands for unity and wholeness, as well as originality, invention and creativity. So it is not surprising that it is highly important in Tolkien’s mythology. There is one God (Eru), who even in the text is described as “The One”, the creator of everything that was, is and will be. Number One stands for undivided unity, as well as being an image of the highest being who created the universe. Sunday, the day connected to honouring God, is the first day of the week. One Ring is the opposite of that, a symbol of doom – but for Sauron himself, it is a symbol of hope. In the Egyptian mythology, rings were symbols of eternity as well as tools of power and strength. Sauron himself is somewhat of a mirror to Illuvatar, as he – much more than Morgoth was – is a creator and inventor. He created the One Ring as well as the Black Speech of Mordor. But whereas Illuvatar allowed His creations full freedom of will, Sauron gives no such freedom to his own. In fact, Sauron’s creatures are so dependant on Sauron’s own will that they melt away and hide as soon as Sauron himself is defeated. Fact that there are two opposed supreme beings casues discord and conflict.
Number three stands for the trinity, unity of three different qualities. In Christianity, there is One God, but there are Three Persons of God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. It is thus the number of completeness and also of the three Christian moral qualities – love, hope and faith. It is also a number that limits everything, for everything has a beginning, a middle and the end, with sole exception of God Himself – who is thus represented by number one. Trinity also appears in other religions, such as Hinduism with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In Lord of the Rings there are three elven Rings, Vilya, Nenya and Narya, the Quenyan words for water, air and fire. All three were given to great elf lords – Gil-Galad, Galadriel and Cirdan (though Narya was given to Gil-galad and passed on to Cirdan). However, Gil-galad passed Vilya on to half-elf Elrond, and Cirdan passed Narya onto Gandalf. These Rings have the power to preserve and to protect, and are thus by their nature opposed to the One Ring, whose main power is destruction, and were given to most powerful leaders of resistance against Sauron. Vilya and Nenya, with blue sapphire and transparent diamond, represent the sky and the water, two elements that are generally calm but can cause terrible destruction – much like their bearers, who are mostly passive in their opposition to Sauron. Narya has a red gemstone, which fits both Gandalf’s fiery personality and the fact that he is by far the most active of the bearers in opposing Sauron. This also represents the old triad of Air, Water and Fire, with everything in the world being made of these three elements, and nothing existing if one of elements ceased to exist. Thus, if one of Three Rings got lost, broken or captured, Middle-earth would perish (thus the significance of Frodo recognizing Nenya on Galadriel’s hand). Three bearers also represent three different times, combining all three in each one but placing emphasis on different times. Elrond represents the past, being a wise loremaster who does not easily forget or forgive, and who is very passive in his approach. His knowledge of the past also allows him to foretell the future to a certain extent. Gandalf represents the present, being the only one to actively fight against Sauron. Galadriel represents the future, worrying what will happen to her realm of Lothlorien if the One Ring is destroyed, but is ready to make the sacrifice if it means safety for the world.
Number seven stands for plenty and continuity, spirituality and wisdom. It is also the principal number in the Bible, standing aloof and unearthly. There are seven Lords of Valar, and also seven Queens of Valar. All of them have different characteristics attributed to them, as well as associations. Manwe is the one closest to Illuvatar, Eru, and one that understands His designs the best. He is also associated with air, and uses eagles to monitor what is happening in the world. These associations, as well as being leading Valar, make him a parallel of Zeus. Ulmo is associated with water, being Lord of Sea, and is most active in opposing Morgoth during his rule on Arda. This makes him the parallel of Poseidon. Aule was responsible for crafting the substance of Arda, and is the Valar most respected by Dwarves who are master craftsmen. He is thus the parallel of Hephaestus. Orome is Valar responsible for hunt, thus paralleling Artemis and Odin. Mandos is responsible for judgment over the souls of the elven dead. His actual name is Namo, but he got named after the Halls of Mandos in which he resides. This is a reverse of Greek god Hades; Hades too judges over the dead, and resides in underworld of Tartaros. However, Tartaros often is called Hades after the god who resides there. Irmo is a master of dreams and desires, as well as visions, and is often known as Lorien after his residing place. He thus parallels Greek god Morpheus, a god of dreams, who often delivered messages through dreams – as Irmo too did. Tulkas is Vala who is responsible for participating in war, and last Vala to come to Arda. He enjoys fighting and contests of strength. He thus parallels Ares, Greek god of war who represents violent and physical side of war, albeit without Ares’ bloodthirsty nature. Tulkas would thus be closer to Heracles. Varda is Manwe’s wife and the Queen of Valar, making her an equivalent of Hera. Her province is light, as “in light is her power and her joy”. Yavanna is responsible for the growth of all growing things in Arda, and nurtured the first growing things in the world. She may have sent Radagast to Middle-earth specifically to care about the living beings. Thus she parallels Persephone, goddess of spring growth. Nessa was lithe, swift of foot and loved fast creatures such as deer. This association with deer would bring her into relation with goddess Diana, to whom deer were sacred. Nienna is Vala of mercy and grief, thus paralleling Greek goddess Eleos, personification of pity, mercy, clemency and compassion. Este is Vala responsible for healing the hurt and the weary, possibly paralleling Greek goddess Aceso, godess of the healing process, or god Asclepius. Vaire is responsible for weaving the story of Arda, corresponding Greek godesses Moirai, or the Fates. Vana was responsible for preserving the youth of things of Arda, corresponding to Greek goddess Hebe and her power to give eternal youth.
Seven is also number of rest and safety, which is precisely what Valar try to achieve – in Arda, and particularly in Valinor. Seven is also a connection of numbers 3 (divine number) and 4 (number of world and the people), thus representing the union between God and people, which Valar embody. In Bible, seven also corresponds to number of Holy Spirit’s gifts, the pleas of the Lord’s prayer, sacraments, seven virtues and seven deadly sins. God created the world in seven days, Rome was built on seven hills, and there were seven wise men in ancient Greece. Number fourteen, number of all Valar together, combines reason and compassion, two characteristics that Valar display often.
By building on Islamic association, Sauron could be compared to Allah and Saruman to Mohammed. As Jesus said, “By their deeds will you know them”. Analysis of teachings and consequences of Islam reveal it as an ideology of evil. Since God is not evil, assuming that Qur’an really is supernatural in origin leaves only one possibility – that Allah was actually Satan impersonating God, and Muhammad fell for it. This is the same situation as with Sauron. Sauron controlled people of east and south by posing as a god, and these people did their god’s deeds. Saruman was ensnared by Sauron, but it took a long time for Saruman’s mask of peace to fall off. Had Sauron won, people would have been forced to worship him as a God – just as it happened in all the countries that islam had conquered. Sauron wished to impose order on all peoples, just like islam decrees. In fact, Allah’s obsession with order and power combined with lack of love is the main characteristic which differentiates him from Judeo-Christian loving God. Another possibility for Mohammed is The Mouth of Sauron, a description that would fit him well. In the greater scope of Tolkien’s work, Allah / Satan would more closely be compared to Morgoth, the ultimate evil in Tolkien’s world.
Melkor and Balrog, their names at least, come from Phoenician gods of Melkart and Baal. However, Melkor himself is a falled Valar, a fallen Archangel, making him Satan. Melkor was originally to be equal to Manwe, the highest of the Valar, rebelled against Eru, and was cast down. Much like Satan, Melkor fell because of his pride, wanting to be equal to God. He was cast out of the heaven. Melkor/Morgoth even has two names as well, one (Melkor) being used before he got cast down, much like Satan (Lucifer). Morgoth wanted to replace God as the ruler of the universe, then decides to just enslave everyone and finally decides to destroy everything. This behaviour is outright Satanic, and Morgoth is the ultimate evil in Tolkien’s world. Morgoth does not appear in Lord of the Rings, and has no active role there, yet he is the driving force behind the conflict, for he started it. The whole cause of marring of Arda and all the evil that happened was that Melkor wanted to be like God. Tolkien himself went as far as to say that the conflict in the Lord of the Rings is “about God, and His sole right to divine honour”. Satan acts as the leader of fallen angels, and Morgoth gathered many Maiar – beings comparable to angels – to his side. This could mean also that Muhammad was fooled not by the Satan himself, but by a demon in Satan’s employ, pretending to be God – much like Sauron was Melkor’s servant who pretended to be God. Much like Satan marred the Earth and introduced sin into the world, so did Morgoth mar Arda by interfering with the Valar, and finally spreading himself through the creation in order to influence it (Arda is Morgoth’s Ring).
It should be noted that it is through Manwe, the noblest of Valar, that Tolkien shows how being too good, too pure, and thus failing to understand evil, can allow or even cause evil to spread.
Theoden is similar to Theoderid, a Germanic king who in 451. died while fighting against the Huns. The Huns were defeated in the battle. Similarly, Theoden died while fighting the orcs in an ultimately victorious battle.
Galadriel, as Tolkien himself commented, is in some ways similar to the Virgin Mary. Much like Virgin Mary, she plays a passive yet crucial role in salvation of the world. Like Virgin Mary, Galadriel too is a queen, mother, and ethereal. She is as revered by good inhabitants of the Middle-earth as Mary is revered by Catholics. She is always there to provide aid to those who request it. The Phial of Galadriel which she gave to Frodo overpowered the darkness both literal and symbolic: removing the darkness of the Shelob’s lair as it removed the despair from hobbits’ hearts. The gift of the cloaks, which would “aide in keeping out the sight of unfriendly eyes” and were “made by the Lady”, is similar to a gift Mary made to Saint Simon of Stock – a scapular, cloth worn around the neck which would protect anyone who led the holy life from devil’s sight. Like Mary, Galadriel too inspires hope in the faithful, and keeps their hearts at peace.
Eowyn also corresponds to Virgin Mary, being gentle and young yet destined to greatness. She killed the Witch-king, whom “no living man could kill”. This freed Frodo from Witch-king’s pursuit, and victory at Pelennor fields drew Sauron’s attention to Gondor and enabled the expedition to Morannon. Without it, Frodo would have never managed to destroy the Ring. This parallels the Holy Scripture, which in Genesis points to pivotal role of women. It is through Mary that Jesus was born and humanity redeemed, a work of both woman and man. Likewise, the Witch king was defeated by Eowyn and Merry working together.
Third figure which corresponds to Virgin Mary is Varda, Elbereth. While representing Hera in the Valar pantheon, she is not an actual diety but an archangel. It was Sam’s invocation of Elbereth that allowed him and Frodo to pass the Watchers of Cirith Ungol.
Fourth character corresponding to Virgin Mary is Gilraen, Aragorn’s mother. Aragorn himself has some messianic characteristics, and as Gilraen comments “I gave hope to the Dunedain, I have kept no hope for myself”.
Tom Bombadil, again revealed by Tolkien himself, embodies “pure (real) natural science”. Thus Bombadil is the spirit of the nature, and if the nature was destroyed then he himself would fall. From this stems the comment on the Council of Elrond, that Bombadil would be unable to resist Sauron for the latter has the ability to destroy the nature itself.
Gandalf was influenced by Odin, a one-eyed wandering old man with a staff, a long white beard and a wide brimmed hat. Tolkien himself wrote in a letter that he thought of Gandalf as an “Odinic wanderer”, and like Odin, Gandalf promotes justice, knowledge, truth and insight. He is also similar to wizard from Kalevala, Vainamoinen, due to their shared immortal origins, wise nature, and deporting on a ship to lands beyond the mortal world.
Balrog and the collapse of the Bridge of Khazad-dum in Moria are a parallel of the fire giant Surt and the destruction of Asgard’s bridge in Norse myth.
Aragorn has some parallels to Beowulf. Both Aragorn and Beowulf have questionable family lines and take kingship only for the good of the people.
Tolkien was aware that what seems nice (to modern people) on paper – multiculturalism, uncritical tolerance, cultural relativism – was not necessarily good, and that the best of intentions can have the worst of consequences. This is reflected in how people of Gondor intermixed with lesser peoples, who were not as culturally advanced nor biologically blessed like Numenoreans were, which led to Dunedain there gradually losing their gifts. Loss of gifts was both cultural – loss of knowledge and wisdom – and biological, as reflected in lessening lifespan. Ultimately, this multiculturalism resulted in the civil war which nearly destroyed Gondor. In real world, cultural superiority is not a result of biological superiority, but mixing is still devastating, as shown in Western countries with major Muslim populations. Lord of the Rings also reflects the fact that during the Middle Ages, most cultures that Europe came into contact with were objectively inferior to old Roman culture (represented by Numenorean culture); the only cultures that were comparable if not superior to it – Chinese and Indian cultures in the East – were cut off by a sea of Islam (indeed, all the advancements and achievements that liberal “historical science” ascribes to Islamic culture were actually stolen from either Roman Empire, Persia, or civilizations of India – incorrectly labelled “Arabic numerals” are just one example of that appropriation, stolen from India and then brought to Europe. Other examples are the very concept of zero, algebra, and many others). During the Middle Ages in general, Europe was constantly being invaded from Asia and Africa; reflection of this can be seen in Lord of the Rings where “evil” races are often given description reflecting Asiatic or African physical characteristics. In fact, islamic entities from Northern Africa and Arabia had engaged in enslaving both (white) Europeans and (black) Africans long before post-Roman European entities first set foot into Africa.
This does not, unlike the common opinion among liberals today (example), imply feelings of supremacy (supremacism). It is not a zero-sum game, and to be against multiculturalism, it is enough to acknowledge that cultures and peoples are different, and wish to preserve that diversity. This can be seen in how Tolkien is against even Elvish-Edain/Numenorean marriage. Both Elves and Edain had been shown to have many faults, and are very similar due to long-lasting and very close contact. Both are “good” races, and are culturally developed. Still, such mixing does not bring good outcome, for diversity, biological and cultural alike, is created through isolation. And diversity is worth preserving.
In recent times, onslaught of liberal Hollywood / McDonalds “culture” has caused massive damage, and muslim expansion into Europe threatens to overshadow even that. One is Western and other Eastern in origin, but for Europe, both are deadly. Influx of Muslims into Europe is as wrong as was the influx of Europeans into America, but one evil cannot be fixed by another. But as Tolkien recognized European cultures to be worth preserving, so he recognized non-European cultures and races to be worth preserving, even those who had fallen under the sway of darkness (islam): two of the Istari were sent to the East and the South, way outside the North-western Middle Earth where the books are set. And much like modern multicultural liberals talk good talk and spread fairy tales of multicultural heaven of tolerance and progress – an idea that is in reality impossible, as Western Europe and South Africa show – so did Sauron come to the elvish masters pretending to be helping them.
Silmarils and the Rings of Power, One Ring in particular, represent earthly riches. Feanor and his sons obsessed over Silmarils, abandoned Valinor against the will of Manwe and Eru, and commited horrific atrocities to reach them. Silmarils also cause many individuals to desire them, but once they are acquired, they become a weight and peril for the one holding them. In similar vein, One Ring is a highly valuable object which causes people to obsess over it. It caused Isildur’s death when he claimed it, corrupted and destroyed Smeagol, and nearly did the same to Frodo. Smeagol even calls it “my Preciousss”. Yet the Ring has no master except Sauron (Satan). Its effects are far greater on people who acquired it in violent or otherwise evil ways, but it affects everyone. It can abandon the person with no warning even though it seemed secure just moments before. These characteristics are all same as those possessed by a great material treasure or fortune. These concepts are represented by the Sampo of Kalevala, which might be an inspiration for the One Ring. Like the One Ring, the Sampo is fought over by forces of good and evil, and is destroyed towards the end of the story.
Tolkien has little actual magic in the world. While there are some magical aspects, all of them revolve around Art, sub-creation and rejuvenation of nature rather than forcible rearrangement in obviously unnatural ways. Even more traditional appearances of magic, such as Saruman’s voice and Rings of Power (One Ring in particular) revolve around illusions and manipulations of will, or else manipulations of spiritual realm, rather than direct manipulation of material. Elvish lembas seems to parallel the Christian eucharisty, and is again a product derived from greater understanding of the world, rather than an unnatural manipulation thereof. Lembas has the power to reinforce not only the body, but the spirit as well, healing the faith and restoring determination.
Lord of the Rings mythology is inspired by various real-world factors, such as history, mythology, religion and Tolkien’s personal experiences. It is not, for the most part, an allegory for current events of the time when Tolkien was writing the books. Rather, it is history of the world, reimagined and retold. Its relevance today draws from this, as history is teacher of the future (or it should be, but is too often ignored).
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