Tolkien Visits Hell

Locations abroad often inspire great reams of literature from those writers who visit.  Sometimes when that location is the site of a horrific battle, the inspiration is even more feverish–especially if the writer took part in the battle.

A fascinating article on the BBC traces the army-booted footsteps of a young JRR Tolkien, who, fresh out of Oxford, finds himself thrust deep into the Battle of the Somme.  Journalist Lisa Jardine argues that it was this experience of “futile and indiscriminate slaughter” in one of the more horrific battles of World War I that served as the foundation for so many of Tolkien’s battle scenes in The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien’s journey to northern France in 1916 wasn’t a journey to Middle Earth, but one to Hell.  Sadly, the world of literature is better off for it.