On Tolkien and Orwell

The 365 days 1937 was a seminal one for both males and priceless for highlighting their quite a lot of lifestyles, politics and literary experiences.

Tolkien, the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the College of Oxford published The Hobbit – a quaint novel for youths with dwarfish miners, dragons and wizards – in a modest print sprint of 1500 copies. Orwell was serving with a Marxist militia in the fight in opposition to fascism, in Spain, when The Avenue to Wigan Pier was published that identical 365 days. Commissioned for The Left E book Membership, it examined the appalling living and dealing prerequisites of miners in the North of England.

Vagabondish and restless, Orwell was iconoclastic, eschewed academia and rejected religion. Tolkien was a religious Roman Catholic. Orwell would possibly perchance perchance no longer own despised this observe more vehemently, continually mocking adherents with jibes equivalent to:

‘In theory it’s tranquil likely to be an orthodox religious believer without being intellectually crippled in the heart of; however it undoubtedly is great from straightforward, and in observe books by orthodox believers customarily uncover the identical cramped, blinkered outlook as books by orthodox Stalinists or others who are mentally unfree.’

Orwell especially doubted the usefulness of this faith to novelists:

“The ambiance of orthodoxy is always negative to prose, and above all it’s exclusively ruinous to the radical, the most anarchical of all forms of literature. How many Roman Catholics had been correct novelists? Even the handful one would possibly perchance perchance title own customarily been depraved Catholics. The unconventional is practically a Protestant create of art work; it’s a made of the free thoughts, of the self sustaining particular particular person. No decade in the previous hundred and fifty years has been so barren of imaginative prose as the 19-thirties.”

Tolkien, being a correct novelist and a correct Catholic, disproved Orwell’s playful rule.

JRR Tolkien signature - from Commons.svg
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On closer examination, it’s evident the two writers shared many beliefs and values. Both males had been eccentric and held idiosyncratic factors of explore on a huge collection of issues. Orwell’s impress of democratic Socialism (he always capitalised the “s”) was basically based on a belief in the everyday decency and commonsense of the English working class. Tolkien’s experiences in WWI led him to love the non-public troopers he met in the trenches.

Tolkien in 1916 (Artistic Commons)

Both males had been nostalgic about their Edwardian childhoods in the duration sooner than WWI. They had been both pretty miserable scholarship boys who read incredibly widely and published in their faculty magazines. They developed a profound care for of nature as boys which lasted their entire lives. Both males had abhorrence of industrialisation and machines and a care for of handmade issues. Tobacco grew to change into a lifelong addiction.

Orwell claimed in 1940 that:

“Outdoor my work the article I care most about is gardening, especially vegetable gardening. I fancy English cookery and English beer, French crimson wines, Spanish white wines, Indian tea, strong tobacco, coal fires, candle gentle and chuffed chairs. I despise substantial towns, noise, motor autos, the radio, tinned meals, central heating and “smartly-liked” furniture.”

Tolkien instructed a correspondent in direction of the stop of his lifestyles:

“I am in fact a Hobbit in all however dimension. I fancy gardens, trees, and unmechanised farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and fancy correct undeniable meals (unrefrigerated), however hate French cooking; I fancy, and even dare to wear in these lifeless days, decorative waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a self-discipline); own a beautiful straightforward sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics receive lifeless); I creep to mattress slack and salvage up slack (when likely).”

It is miles now and again ravishing that writers would own lengthy hobby in literature and language. Tolkien labored on organising man made languages (and fictional worlds to home them) his entire lifestyles. Orwell’s devised Newspeak for his final novel. Both had a patriotic care for of Englishness which led to a brave want for Anglo-Saxon pretty than the French vocabulary which had colonised the language after 1066. One in every of his biographers emphasises how great Tolkien bemoaned “the medieval resolve-over of the English language by Norman French”. Orwell railed in opposition to this too:

“One thriller relating to the English language is why, with the most effective vocabulary in existence, it has to be continually borrowing foreign phrases and phrases. The put is the sense, let’s boom, of asserting cul de sac in case you indicate blind alley? Diversified exclusively unnecessary French phrases are joie de vivre, amour propre, reculer pour mieux sauter, raison d’être, vis-à-vis, tête-à-tête, au pied de la lettre, esprit de corps.”

Tolkien had specifically fond childhood memories of the agricultural idyll that was his lifestyles sooner than being orphaned by the untimely death of his mother. In Orwell’s 1939 novel, Coming Up For Air, the protagonist shows:

“I am sentimental about my childhood—no longer my maintain command childhood, however the civilisation which I grew up in and which is now, I divulge, friendly about at its closing kick. And fishing is by some ability traditional of that civilisation. As soon as you observed of fishing you observed of issues that don’t belong to the smartly-liked world. The very idea of sitting all day below a willow tree beside a quiet pool—and being ready to hunt down a quiet pool to sit beside—belongs to the time sooner than the battle, sooner than the radio, sooner than aeroplanes, sooner than Hitler.”

There are many similarities:

  • hatred of authoritarianism
  • deep roar over the corruption of language and politics by lies, propaganda and miserable writing
  • propensity to worth clarity of language and honesty of intentions
  • vehement rejection of totalitarianism of any hue, left or correct
  • pleasant belief in equality and democracy
  • care for of personal lifestyles and all its pleasures and joys
  • distaste for supervision and intrusion

manifestly evident in their most smartly-most smartly-liked novels.

“The Darkish Lord was conscious of him, and his Watch piercing all shadows regarded across the undeniable to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his maintain folly was published to him in a blinding flash, and your entire devices of his enemies had been in a roundabout procedure laid naked.”

“On each and every touchdown, reverse the prefer-shaft, the poster with the massive face gazed from the wall. It was one amongst those pictures that are so contrived that the eyes observe you about in case you pass. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.“

The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) thematically own great in standard and the authors make spend of identical symbols, pictures and motifs to indicate their suggestions relating to the particular particular person and society. This is now and again ravishing serious relating to the troubled duration whereby Orwell and Tolkien lived and the humanist values they shared.

Both novels are deeply appealing about integrity, propaganda and the perversion of language by other folks looking out for unbridled vitality. Neither the honeyed phrases of Saruman or the sloganeering of Sizable Brother prove efficient in opposition to the respective protagonists in the novels. Winston Smith and Frodo Baggins, fancy their creators, rate individualism and freedom and reject authoritarianism and totalitarianism.

The most pervasive intrusion into the lives of the characters in both novels is the sense of being watched throughout the equipment a despot has at his disposal and the obvious inevitability of being captured and tortured by his servants.

Avoiding the horrifying Gloomy Riders, and the Nazgûl overhead is difficult sufficient however closing unseen by the omniscient, lidless peep of Sauron is the most effective manner Frodo’s quest is also fulfilled as he struggles through Mordor to ruin the ring in the fiery Cracks of Doom.

Winston is conscious of:

“There was understand that no manner of vivid whether you had been being watched at any given 2nd. How continually, or on what scheme, the Idea Police plugged in on any particular particular person wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody your entire time. However at any fee they would possibly perchance perchance trudge in your wire at any time when they wished to. You had to are living – did are living, from behavior that grew to change into instinct – in the assumption that each and every sound you made was overheard, and, other than in darkness, each and every high-tail scrutinised.“

He doesn’t own wraiths to contend with however helicopters and two-manner telescreens. The shocking Idea Police are omnipresent:

“In the a ways distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for a trusty away fancy a bluebottle, and darted away all over again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into other folks’s home windows. The patrols didn’t subject, on the opposite hand. Simplest the Idea Police mattered.”

The covers of both books continually feature eyes.

In both novels, locations of natural class heal the protagonists. Winston makes illicit visits to the nation-command with Julia, his lover. Frodo and his companions salvage pleasure from sanctuary with the elves of Rivendell and Lothlórien.

After all the terrors Frodo and his companions face in their fable accelerate to ruin Sauron’s ring, it’s on their return to the natural class of the Shire that they face the staunch existential terror first hinted at when Frodo and his accomplice, Samwise Gamgee, peered into Galadriel’s replicate.

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“The travellers trotted on, and since the sun began to sink in direction of the White Downs a ways away on the western horizon they came to Bywater by its huge pool; and there they had their first in point of fact painful shock. This was Frodo and Sam’s maintain nation, and additionally they figured out out now that they cared about it more than every other plight in the sector. Pretty a few the properties they had known had been missing. Some perceived to had been burned down. The beautiful row of musty hobbit-holes in the financial institution on the north aspect of the Pool had been deserted, and their itsy-bitsy gardens that former to sprint down vivid to the water’s edge had been scandalous with weeds. Worse, there was a entire line of the monstrous recent properties all along Pool Aspect, the put the Hobbiton Avenue ran shut to the financial institution. An avenue of trees had stood there. They had been all long previous. And attempting out with terror up the avenue in direction of Earn Discontinue they noticed a high quality chimney of brick in the distance. It was pouring out shaded smoke into the evening air.
Sam was beside himself. ‘I’m going correct on, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I’m going to stare what’s up. I own to receive my gaffer.’”

This despair at the destruction of the nation-command is evident in both Orwell’s and Tolkien’s work. In Coming Up For Air, Orwell conveys the protagonist’s shock at discovering a irregular locations from his childhood has been desecrated:

“By some means I stopped and mentioned: ‘There former to be one other pool, along with the substantial one. It is going to’t be a ways from right here.’
‘One other pool? Oh, undoubtedly no longer. I don’t comprise there was ever one other pool.’
‘They’d even simply own drained it off,’ I mentioned. ‘It was a reasonably deep pool. It would possibly perchance perchance in point of fact creep away a substantial pit at the support of.’
For the principle time he regarded a itsy-bitsy bit uneasy. He rubbed his nose. ‘Oh—ah. Of course, it’s essential to label our lifestyles up right here is in a lot of how frail. The straightforward lifestyles, you know. We resolve it so. However being to this level from the metropolis has its inconveniences, understand that. About a of our sanitary arrangements are no longer altogether succesful. The dust-cart handiest calls as soon as a month, I mediate.’
‘You indicate they’ve grew to change into the pool into a rubbish-dump?’
‘Successfully, there would possibly perchance be something in the nature of a——’ he shied at the note rubbish-dump. ‘We must do away with tins and a lot of others, understand that. Over there, at the support of that clump of trees.’ We went across there. They’d left a few trees to veil it. However yes, there it was. It was my pool, all correct. They’d drained the water off. It made a limiteless spherical hole, fancy an infinite smartly, twenty or thirty feet deep. Already it was half of corpulent of tin cans.”

At some level of 1937, Orwell survived a sniper’s bullet. If that bullet, which incised through his neck was a pair of millimetres in either path, he would own died. Tolkien also survived his battle experiences in opposition to the percentages, as a junior officer on the Somme from July to October 1916, one amongst the deadliest sessions of WWI. Contracting trench fever positively saved his lifestyles as he was hospitalised support in England, on and off, for the remainder of the battle. He later reflected that each and every one however one amongst his friends was tedious by 1918.

It is no longer likely Tolkien can own ever written the Dreary Marshes chapter unless he had witnessed no longer friendly the terror of trench battle however the terrain whereby males had been slaughtered:

“Hurrying forward all over again, Sam tripped, catching his foot in some musty root or tussock. He fell and came heavily on his hands, which sank deep into sticky ooze, so that his face was brought shut to the ground of the darkish mere. There was a faint state, a noisome odor went up, the lights flickered and danced and swirled. For a 2nd the water below him regarded fancy some window, glazed with grimy glass, through which he was peering. Wrenching his hands out of the bog, he sprang support with a cry. ‘There are tedious issues, tedious faces in the water,’ he mentioned with terror.
‘Dreary faces!’ Gollum laughed. ‘The Dreary Marshes, yes, yes: that’s their title,’ he cackled.”

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Generations of readers would possibly perchance perchance also simply own by no procedure had the pleasure of Animal Farm or Nineteen Eighty-Four nor The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings without both males having more than a mere modicum of friendly fortune in surviving their battle experiences.

This blog put up is a short opening foray into writing more about Orwell and Tolkien’s work with the plot to examine and incompatibility how their worldviews are represented in their fiction.

I marvel, in case you are no longer conversant in the quote that follows would you be ready to voice who wrote it, Orwell or Tolkien?

“I am no longer ready, and attain no longer desire, exclusively to desert the sector explore that I received in childhood. As lengthy as I live alive and smartly I shall proceed to feel strongly about prose vogue, to care for the ground of the earth, and to resolve a pleasure in stable objects and scraps of ineffective files. It is no longer any spend looking out to suppress that aspect of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the in point of fact public, non-particular particular person activities that this age forces on all of us.”

Eric Blair (
Artistic Commons

Wood employee, Humphrey (1977) J.R.R.Tolkien: A Biography, London: HarperCollins
Wood employee, Humphrey (1981) Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, London: George Allen and Unwin
Garth, John (2011) Tolkien and the Wide Battle: The Threshold of Center-earth, London: HarperCollins
Garth, John, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Locations That Impressed Center-earth, London: Francis Lincoln, 2020
Orwell, George (1998) The Total Works of George Orwell (20 volumes), edited by Peter Davison, assisted by Ian Angus and Sheila Davison, London: Secker & Warburg
Shippey, Tom (2010) J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, HarperCollins Publishers
Tolkien, J.R.R.R. (2001) The Hobbit, London: HarperCollins
Tolkien, J.R.R.R. (2004) The Lord of the Rings, London: HarperCollins
Tolkien, J.R.R.R. (1977) The Silmarillion, London: HarperCollins
Tolkien, J.R.R.R. (2016) A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, London: HarperCollins

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“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching