Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Battles in Middle Earth

Now, it's entirely possible that I'm jumping the gun (I keep forgetting where we're supposed to stop reading and then suddenly I've finished the book again @.@), but I wanted to talk about some of the battles that Tolkien writes about, namely the Battle of Helm's Deep and Pellenor Fields. Mostly because I like them. :) But since he was actually in a war, I was wondering what you thought about how he writes them. Battles are notoriously difficult to write well, and I know some have criticized Lewis for being too brief with his battles, particularly in the one in Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. If I'm not getting too far ahead of myself, I was wondering if you thought Tolkien's experience with war is reflected on how he writes war. For my part, I think he writes the resolutions and after effects better than the actual physical battles, and in a way, that makes sense.


Elwing said...

I think being an infantryman influenced the perspective he chose to write the battles from. He mainly talks about certain individuals' perceptions and acts in battles rather then from an objective, overall veiw. I think this is a realistic way of writing battle scenes because the people actually in the battle only know what is going on in their vicinity, not the movements of entire armies.

Thengel said...

Tolkien's portrayals of war lack the bravado and idealization that I've found in many other fantasy novels. First off, he lets the battles run their logical course instead of summarizing or using battle as a mere plot device. Secondly, as Elwing pointed out, he looks at war from the individual standpoint, which is important because an individual soldier has a limited perspective.

Lastly, I think that Tolkien really pinpoints the moments that make the battle scenes believable. He finds the moments in which chaos is intense, the moments when the senses take hold and death and gore overwhelm the individual, and also the moments of quiet, weariness, and relief. The war experience played a huge part in Tolkien's life, and I don't think he would want to leave his characters unscathed by the brutality of war.