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Thread: Trenches?

  1. #1

    Trenches?

    I'm no military strategist, nor historian, but the use of trench warfare in WOTP seems a bit weird when we are basically talking about dark ages / medieval style combat. I thought this kind of warfare came in with mechanized units, machine guns and artillery. Did the orcs dig the trenches to stop the charge of the pig brigade?
    You wait.
    Time passes.
    Thorin sits down and starts singing about gold.

  2. #2
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    Hobbit stop and eat, elves preen, beornings fidget, men drink and dwarves dig?

  3. #3
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    Well, the Orcs dig trenches on the Pelennor and fill them with fire in the book if I remember correctly.

    They were used, I think, as a method for approaching, and undermining medieval castles. So in a siege, maybe.

    Open field encounter, possibly not so much but I think the Scots dug pits (filled with pointy sticks, I think) to stop/trap the English knights and foot soldiers at Bannockburn. And the Romans were quite keen on them also, I think. Though I think theirs were V-shaped and filled with yet more pointed sticks.

    Very dangerous yer pointy stick.

  4. #4
    It's important to remember that, while the Dev's are largely inventing this new content, it's still loosely based on stuff in the lore; there are "World War 1 esque" descriptions of the fighting in Pelennor and trench-warfare methods; the Dead Marshes and Slag mounds approaching Mordor are reminiscent of WW1 landscapes Tolkien himself witnessed. These are incontrovertible facts; Tolkien can retort about how his work isn't an "intended allegory" all he likes, but at the end of the day, the "Great War" still influenced, to some meaningful degree, how he described blasted, "Wasteland-esque" landscapes ruined by war and how Orcs conduct a siege in certain contexts. They are what they are; he didn't change those descriptions.


    There's a lot of Nazgul wailing that paralyzes the Gondorians in the same way that the various weapons on the WW1 battlefield gave soldiers "shell shock"; there's a lot in there that, frankly, Tolkien could not and would not have written were it not for his WW1 experiences. It's a fusion of Medieval and real life influences in the way Tolkien wrote his story, and while he certainly did his best to avoid creating direct allegories and moving against the idea that LOTR is somehow WW1 in disguise (*it isn't), the influences are still there to stay in how he wrote it, and he never altered his text to remove those influences.

    So, what SSG has done here, is that they have made the parallels a bit more overt: do Orcs use poison in the lore? Yes, though I'm not sure we have any examples of them using "poisonous gas," per se. We just know they can dip their weapons in it. That's clearly their tongue-in-cheek parallel to mustard gas. The trenches the Dwarves have delved... we don't really see Dwarves doing that the lore, so it's kind of odd, to me, that they are using the same method that Orcs had used in the lore; on the other hand, I think it sort of, kind of makes sense for what they are depicting as we've never really had an example of a Dwarven-led siege of an enemy fortress, and we do know that Dwarves sure like to delve and are crafty about that sort of thing.

    They definitely used a ton of WW1 visuals in the High Elf intro where they've basically got a combination of what the Rohirrim did at Helm's Dike combined with trenches filled with fire and that sort of thing.

    In short: Are there.... perhaps unintended WW1 influences in the lore? Yes. Are they direct "this = that"? No, not really. Is what SSG did here far more overt than the way Tolkien allowed for those kinds of influences? Yes, in some cases. Do I think it works? I can buy it since, as I said above, this is really our first time seeing the Dwarves doing this sort of thing, given the way they've depicted Gundabad as like an "enemy-held Minas Tirith" kind of thing rather than, say, a Moria-style spot that's just confined to the halls inside the mountains.

    The OP is indeed right though. Trenches were kind of forced, dug-deep versions of what had been the battle-lines of Eighteenth Century / Nineteenth Century warfare (think Revolutionary War or the Civil War in the U.S.). It had to do with a particular kind of long-range artillery and machine guns since the enhanced muskets of the Civil War Era, while brutal, still required standing armies to load them. Cannons were much slower in how they were loaded and fired, though they still took-out tons of soldiers. The use of the picket / war fences was certainly a precursor to the trenches; you can see how a battlefield like Gettysburg, PA., could have been a WW1 type of battle if it had been waged sixty years later with the new ways of conducting warfare in the early Twentieth Century. It was when it became unbearably impossible to just pull a charge at any given moment out of the woods and across a field that, suddenly, it made more sense to dig trenches and try to hunker-down across France and Belgium. The problem was that many of the elder generals and officers were trained in those Nineteenth Century, "Civil War Era," times, and so, the only strategies they really knew were, "charging out of the woods and across a field," or marching across in standing lines, pretty much. So WW1 had the huge death toll it did because of the whole ordering of soldiers to go up "over the top," resulting in massacres in the blasted landscapes that became collectively known as "No Man's Land" between the trenches.

    So it's true that it's kind of strange that Orcs dug trenches in the Pelennor to begin-with. Other than an intimidating light show, it really didn't have much an effect on the Gondorians stationed on the much taller walls. I'm also not quite sure how the Rohirrim were able to do all this charging with all these flame-filled trenches around. Maybe Tolkien needed to think it through more. Even great writers like Tolkien can have some particular flaws in their writing, and the war strategy aspect may well be among them. I would have thought Theoden's charge would have run afoul of some of those fire trenches than cleanly driving Orcs into their own pits; it all sounded way too clean and glossed-over for a war in that paragraph. I needed to have seen some Rohirrim accidentally getting caught and driven into the trenches with their horses falling on them to believe it more, and if the trenches had been dug in the event of Rohan's arrival, they would've made more sense against a charge of heavy cavalry.

    Anyways, my point is that, even in the lore, the stuff that got influenced by WW1 didn't always mesh well with the surrounding Medieval elements of warfare for the reason that those came from different contexts for different historical reasons, and so, even in something rooted in the Fantasy genre, it's easy to see where those aspects don't mesh too well. Trapping the Rohirrim between the fire trenches and the Oliphaunts was one of the parts that did make some more sense, and at least when the Witch-King got involved, there was a much higher cost to everything in the way it happened. The Battle of Five Armies, for comparison from "The Hobbit," had the WW1 influences in the costs of war though not so much in the fighting methods. There's certainly a kind of terror the Men of Lake-town feel when Smaug slowly takes flight down from Erebor that's reminiscent of the first examples of airplanes used in modern warfare; none of these are intended allegories, of course, and are more to do with the fact that a writer will always write with what the writer knows and has to work with from knowledge and experience.

    What I do like about the War of the Three Peaks is how it basically takes aspects of the Smaug burning Lake-Town sequence and the Battle of Five Armies and Pelennor and combines them together in ways I still get a bit of awe looking at. It's good eye candy
    Last edited by Phantion; Oct 25 2020 at 04:38 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Altair6 View Post
    Well, the Orcs dig trenches on the Pelennor and fill them with fire in the book if I remember correctly.

    They were used, I think, as a method for approaching, and undermining medieval castles. So in a siege, maybe.
    Yup, they were used for cover by sappers in siegecraft and otherwise they were intended as obstacles, which is how we see them used in the book. Trench warfare wasn't really a thing until the American Civil War.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phantion
    It's important to remember that, while the Dev's are largely inventing this new content, it's still loosely based on stuff in the lore; there are "World War 1 esque" descriptions of the fighting in Pelennor and trench-warfare methods; the Dead Marshes and Slag mounds approaching Mordor are reminiscent of WW1 landscapes Tolkien himself witnessed. These are incontrovertible facts; Tolkien can retort about how his work isn't an "intended allegory" all he likes, but at the end of the day, the "Great War" still influenced, to some meaningful degree, how he described blasted, "Wasteland-esque" landscapes ruined by war and how Orcs conduct a siege in certain contexts. They are what they are; he didn't change those descriptions.
    There's nothing WW1-esque about the Pelennor Fields; the Orcs had simply dug trenches so that the defenders would have had a hard time if they'd tried to sally to have a go at the siege engines, a bit of classic siegecraft. And yes, the Dead Marshes were meant as a chilling echo of WW1 battlefields like the Somme but that's as far as it goes. It's poetical allusion, not a direct likeness (it wasn't the battle itself that had led to that dreadful landscape, the marshes had spread after the war and swallowed up the graves). Tolkien didn't bring any details of modern warfare into it; the Enemy's use of explosives for breaching is as 'modern' as it gets. And yes, the Orcs were infamous for using poisoned weapons but chemical warfare is way too on the nose.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Yup, they were used for cover by sappers in siegecraft and otherwise they were intended as obstacles, which is how we see them used in the book. Trench warfare wasn't really a thing until the American Civil War.


    There's nothing WW1-esque about the Pelennor Fields; the Orcs had simply dug trenches so that the defenders would have had a hard time if they'd tried to sally to have a go at the siege engines, a bit of classic siegecraft. And yes, the Dead Marshes were meant as a chilling echo of WW1 battlefields like the Somme but that's as far as it goes. It's poetical allusion, not a direct likeness (it wasn't the battle itself that had led to that dreadful landscape, the marshes had spread after the war and swallowed up the graves). Tolkien didn't bring any details of modern warfare into it; the Enemy's use of explosives for breaching is as 'modern' as it gets. And yes, the Orcs were infamous for using poisoned weapons but chemical warfare is way too on the nose.
    I beg to differ on several points:

    First, Trench warfare was in development but not used very widely during the Civil War to my current knowledge, which was why "Bloody Lane" at Antietam was a literal road that both sides fought-over at great cost (versus digging two large trenches and turning the corn fields into a "No Man's Land"), and why, for example, armies were far more maneuverable. There were some instances of trench warfare, but obviously the full-on version of it didn't appear until World War I after the invention of the Maxim gun and other new tech for the time. There's a reason why generals were sending horse charges against tanks; they didn't understand the new forms of war-tech they were dealing with.

    Second, with Pelennor Fields, while I concede your point on the classic siege-craft, the levels of devastation on that battlefield were a kind of "total war" method, which had not reached the "obliterate everyone on the opposing side" peak until that late Nineteenth Century - early Twentieth Century time-frame.

    Let's take a few medieval examples for contrast, such as Henry V's siege of Harfleur- Henry, in Shakespeare's play, threatens something quite like total war if Harfleur refuses to surrender. But the object is for Harfleur to surrender; it isn't to burn Harfleur to the ground and take no prisoners. Most of the casualties were among the soldiers, not the civilian population.

    The Battle of Agincourt is another example of a case where two enemy armies agree to meet for battle at a remote location, fight it out, and the victors get the spoils. It's not the same thing as a "total war" scenario.

    But let us not underestimate the influence of late Nineteenth Century / Twentieth Century terms of warfare on the Battle of Pelennor Fields and, for that matter, the Siege of Helm's Deep. Aragorn's "parley" scene is ironic; he is merely to distract Saruman's forces in time for his hope that's made manifest in Gandalf and Erkenbrand's arrival. The Uruk-hai have no intention of allowing the Rohirrim to "surrender" in any medieval sense. Orcs are Orcs, and the "total war" style of World War I is in their nature, hence Tolkien's "We were all Orcs in the Great War" or something along those lines. They are here to destroy "rick, cot, and tree," not take prisoners, and that's a very modern war thing, not medieval. Similarly, there will be no "parley" between Sauron and Denethor, and Denethor knows it (hence his sarcasm to Pippin's fears of Sauron coming forth). Denethor pretty much wants to burn himself alive rather than face what he - knows - Sauron is going to do to him and to Gondor if he, Sauron, victors.

    So the stakes of Pelennor Fields are little different than the bombing of Dresden in WWII or the consequences of the trenches failing in WWI. The Enemy's nature is "total war." There are no prisoners, save for perhaps keeping slaves. There is no medieval-style siege-outcome scenario where Minas Tirith has some kind of a "peaceful" surrender to Sauron; there is no such thing. Tolkien's depiction of the Siege of Gondor and the Battle of Pelennor Fields are believable precisely because his then-audience of Twentieth Century readers implicitly know and feel the threat and the danger that the Gondorians and Rohirrim are facing precisely because they, themselves, had just lived through those same stakes in IRL between both World Wars. There's a reason why LOTR is the kind of book that could only have been written during its time and place and not any other, and not only because Tolkien lived in the Twentieth Century; it's because those Twentieth Century influences prevent LOTR from serving as a mere re-capitulation of medieval themes and norms. Compare LOTR with any Shakespeare play, any work of Arthurian legend such as Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur," any medieval text, heck- even "Le Chanson du Roland," and one will see the obvious differences in style, tone, format, and yes, even these elements of the content. LOTR relies on many medieval themes, norms, and concepts, but ultimately, it fuses those with the form of the Modern Novel and these other elements that we should not underestimate or discount.

    It's fairly clear that the Enemy took the once-fertile, inhabited Pelennor Fields and did the same sort of thing the Enemy had done to the Brown-lands or to the "Noman-lands" in ages past in a relatively brief amount of time. That's a World War 1 phenomena, not medieval. I guarantee you that King Henry V didn't start burning tons of crops and devastating the land out of Harfleur in the same way the Prussians, in the Nineteenth Century far later, burned their own fields so Napoleon's troops could not live off the land, and the Russians thereafter all the way to Moscow, which of course worked and stopped Napoleon cold in the dead of the Russian winter without provisions. So even in the early Nineteenth Century, that sort of thing got going, but that was waaaaay after medieval siege-craft.

    Now, an enemy army starving-out a defending force in a siege- that's a medieval thing. I also am NOT saying that Pelennor is ALL World War 1 influenced or anything of the sort; I am saying that its - NOT ONlY, or exclusively "Medieval" in what happens out there. Nevermind that Tolkien also threw-in Hannibal's army of elephants that had invaded the Roman Republic in BCE times by crossing the Alps after heading up through Iberia / Spain.

    I would suggest that we - not - underestimate the influence of Tolkien's real life experiences on his subconscious as he writes and revises his work. I do not wish for us to "overestimate" but avoid "underestimating" at the same time.

    It seems like, whenever someone brings up a Modern war example with Tolkien, someone else really jumps it quick to thinking its an "overestimation" like the nonsense of arguing that Mordor is the Soviet Union or that the Ring is the Atomic Bomb or other such rubbish. I am not doing that sort of thing. I am saying that Tolkien is synthesizing all these different elements, some modern and some not, rather than giving a full degree of attention to 1 over the other and so on. It's a fusion of different elements, not a composition comprised of one sole element, and that's my poiint.

    At the same time, it's well worth noting that writers make many implicit decisions that they themselves aren't conscious of; nor can they "edit" those out simply because to "edit" those things out is to somehow remove themselves from themselves, which no one can fully do. For example, I write about many ancient themes and such in my own work, but I do not pretend that my work will be anything other than a product of the Twenty-First century and influenced by it to some degree, no matter what I may do on the page. It's just the nature of the thing. For me to think otherwise would be denial, which I don't find very useful. Hypothetically, if one were to pretend that Tolkien's work magically only used medieval stuff and, other than a few exceptions, ignored his time and place as he wrote his work, that would also strike me as a form of denial. Tolkien did what he did in his time and place, not apart from it, and not even Tolkien could undo that, no matter how much editing he had done or avoiding allegory, etc. It's simply impossible.
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  7. #7
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    Don't forget what orcs have support from Angmar, and Dwarven army have support from Beornings. It's not like JUST orcs vs dwarves, it's more like Orcs wil ally vs Dwarves with ally vs Frost Horde Dragons

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    There's nothing WW1-esque about the Pelennor Fields; the Orcs had simply dug trenches so that the defenders would have had a hard time if they'd tried to sally to have a go at the siege engines, a bit of classic siegecraft. And yes, the Dead Marshes were meant as a chilling echo of WW1 battlefields like the Somme but that's as far as it goes. It's poetical allusion, not a direct likeness (it wasn't the battle itself that had led to that dreadful landscape, the marshes had spread after the war and swallowed up the graves). Tolkien didn't bring any details of modern warfare into it; the Enemy's use of explosives for breaching is as 'modern' as it gets. And yes, the Orcs were infamous for using poisoned weapons but chemical warfare is way too on the nose.

    Well said, and absolutely accurate. Anything beyond this is simply projection by modern readers and "scholars" ( who have a tendency to over-analyze things anyway )

    Take care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantion View Post
    First, Trench warfare was in development but not used very widely during the Civil War to my current knowledge
    I didn't say it was used widely, just that the Civil War was the first time it emerged, driven by improvements in small arms. A taste of things to come.

    Second, with Pelennor Fields, while I concede your point on the classic siege-craft, the levels of devastation on that battlefield were a kind of "total war" method, which had not reached the "obliterate everyone on the opposing side" peak until that late Nineteenth Century - early Twentieth Century time-frame.
    'Total war" is where the civilian population, industry and infrastructure are all regarded as legitimate targets so that's not the same thing (the aim isn't obliteration, it's to deprive the enemy of the resources needed to fight). And it wasn't unheard-of for ancient battles to result in the near-complete annihilation of the losing side. We have conventions for surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war because it's sufficient to destroy your enemy's ability or will to fight and have them surrender rather than to slaughter them, enslave them, or maim them so they can't take up arms again. There are plenty of stories from history of extremely brutal treatment of prisoners.

    But do not underestimate the influence of late Nineteenth Century / Twentieth Century terms of warfare on the Battle of Pelennor Fields and, for that matter, the Siege of Helm's Deep. Aragorn's "parley" scene is ironic; he is merely to distract Saruman's forces in time for his hope that's made manifest in Gandalf and Erkenbrand's arrival. The Uruk-hai have no intention of allowing the Rohirrim to "surrender" in any medieval sense. Orcs are Orcs, and the "total war" style of World War I is in their nature, hence Tolkien's "We were all Orcs in the Great War" or something along those lines. Similarly, there will be no "parley" between Sauron and Denethor, and Denethor knows it (hence his sarcasm to Pippin's fears of Sauron coming forth). Denethor pretty much wants to burn himself alive rather than face what he - knows - Sauron is going to do to him and to Gondor if he, Sauron, victors.
    There's no such influence visible there; anyone might parley as a ruse to stall for time. As for total war, while that concept was coined in the nineteenth century the idea of indiscriminate warfare was ancient, and unsurprisingly in ancient times it could be brutal. There's no particular reason to refer to the Twentieth Century so exclusively.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Narthalion View Post
    Well said, and absolutely accurate. Anything beyond this is simply projection by modern readers and "scholars" ( who have a tendency to over-analyze things anyway )

    Take care.

    Say what you will about us "scholars" It's not "projection" when you are able to see the differences between medieval and modern themes and descriptions. I concede that Radh is right about the warfare tactics. The entire thrust or "whole" of the battle, the underlying stakes involved, is another matter entirely, and no, I would not quite call it over-analyzing

    Take care


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    I didn't say it was used widely, just that the Civil War was the first time it emerged, driven by improvements in small arms. A taste of things to come.
    That's fair.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    'Total war" is where the civilian population, industry and infrastructure are all regarded as legitimate targets so that's not the same thing (the aim isn't obliteration, it's to deprive the enemy of the resources needed to fight). And it wasn't unheard-of for ancient battles to result in the near-complete annihilation of the losing side. We have conventions for surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war because it's sufficient to destroy your enemy's ability or will to fight and have them surrender rather than to slaughter them, enslave them, or maim them so they can't take up arms again. There are plenty of stories from history of extremely brutal treatment of prisoners.
    Well, it depends on the situation. Melos was sacked by the Athenians for their refusal to surrender ("The strong do what they can while the weak must suffer what they must"); yet Athens was still standing beyond Sparta's victory in the Peloponnesian War. The Persians had burned the Temple and Acropolis but the Athenians rebuilt it later.

    We can go on and on with ancient battles resulting in complete losses; but my emphasis was placed on that its Orcs, not humans. Orcs are more machine-like; they are mass-produced or spawned somehow, they are viciousness incarnate, and of course, as you yourself have well argued in the past, their lives are very expendable in the narrative. But their aim IS the obliteration of the other side and not for any particular war-strategy reasons. They do it just because that's what they do; there is no ulterior purpose or meaning behind it. They do not even do it to flex their own strength- as Athens did at Melos, because those irl folks were, well, human. Orcs are decidedly not.

    The supernatural villain with occult-like powers that commands vast armies of impersonal monsters that are hell-bent on destroying "the good guys" without any qualm whatsoever. Where have we seen something like that before? Oh, forgot 1 important detail: with no reason behind it whatsoever.

    Agree or disagree as you will, up until World War I, there was a "reason" behind most other conflicts. Maybe the gods commanded it or it was fated. Maybe it was for the King's divine right to rule, or for the glory of Rome, or what have you. But Orcs fight for no reason at all and hate and loathe even the master that they claim to serve.

    I would argue that World War 1 is in fact the closest --- analogy --- not allegory, that we can draw with what Tolkien describes, if not in the form of tactics, which I concede, then in a more qualified form: in its nature.

    World War 1 had no one particular or particularly "good" reason behind it. As you probably already know, and I remind us, the old European powers were all colonizing the world, conquering and grabbing resources, with nationalistic fervor, arms races, and making preemptive alliances "just in case," and all of that was beyond any single leader's particular control. It was a reactive powder-keg waiting to explode, which it did when Archduke Francis Ferdinand got assassinated, and the dominoes all fell rung by rung, and soon, the world was "at war."

    Again, there was no one reason and no good reason; it was a completely meaningless conflict that had a darn good chance of spurring something on in the young Lieutenant Tolkien- a direct, personal knowledge of a kind of malevolence that no single person can pinpoint or describe, a kind of darkness that there is no real accounting for, not even through language- a kind of void or absence that has no 1 particular cause. The name of that malevolence in LOTR is not even Sauron- but that which made Sauron become who he became. "No one is evil in the beginning, even Sauron was not so," says Gandalf in FOTR at the Council. Its this malevolence that is not described but rather demonstrated when Denethor lights his pyre or when Frodo claims, "The ring is mine!," or when Saruman in the Shire says of Frodo's mercy, "I hate it and you." It's an absence of something that has no "cause" in the sense of having an essence or a motivation or a purpose to it or behind it.

    This was something, I contend again and again and again, that Tolkien learned firsthand on the battlefields of WW1, especially when he lost Gilson and Smith to the war. It had an indelible impact on his future writing- especially when, I think it was Gilson, wrote in his last letter, "Write the words I could not live to write," or something along those lines. Nothing can ultimately divorce what Tolkien wrote from the life he lived and the world he had experienced, and that's not projection; its a fact of writing a book. "No man is an island, entire of itself," said John Donne, and even Tolkien would have known that.

    I bet that's why so many, myself included this morning, miss the bit about how the trenches were part of siege warfare in the Medieval Period and immediately think of WW1. It's not so much the trenches by themselves- but the juxtaposition of those trenches with this very dark emotion behind them, which the Witch-King exemplifies and Sauron most especially, that has a very particular kind of interpretation that goes with it. It's a very specific understanding of "the problem of evil" that took-on a particularly poignant demonstration in the modern era.

    Is it possible to misread or to take things too far? Yes, and I do not intend to do that, and I gladly stand corrected on some of the war strategy matters. But the amount and the breadth of the kind of evil that Tolkien himself encountered firsthand in the Twentieth Century is something that he very cleverly connected to something indeed ancient- a kind of fatalism, for lack of a better term, that exists in his Anglo-Saxon sources- the world of the "Weard" or fated / meted-out portion without any sense or rationale behind it.

    So while it is not "the Twentieth Century so exclusively," it is a combination of the ancient, the medieval, and the modern that makes LOTR work the way it does. My point is: don't discount the modern or pretend that aspect doesn't exist. Recognize the synthesis as far as the content is concerned.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    There's no such influence visible there; anyone might parley as a ruse to stall for time. As for total war, while that concept was coined in the nineteenth century the idea of indiscriminate warfare was ancient, and unsurprisingly in ancient times it could be brutal. There's no particular reason to refer to the Twentieth Century so exclusively.
    Fair enough once again on the war tactics. But the slag-mounds, "Noman-lands," and the blasted wasteland of Mordor could not have come from the likes of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Spencer, or Milton. They came from Tolkien for the reasons I've outlined above. Tolkien's work is comparatively modern when you close-read actual ancient Epics and medieval works and detect the differences in diction, tone, style, and ultimately, content. That is why there will never be a Modern writer who can write a Medieval book. Even GRR Martin had the decency to admit his GoT / ASOIAf was as inspired by his childhood in Bayonne, NJ, witnessing the shipping of international trade and wondering what all the countries were as any medieval instance or moment. You can take and pull things from History, but the way you write it on the page is ultimately bound by your own time and place.

    Hence, Tolkien's LOTR begins with, "When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton" (FOTR). It's the tone of a Modern Novel.

    Which is decidedly NOT:

    "Rage, Valar, of the cruel Sauron, servant of Morgoth, / Whose wrath and rage thwarted the power of the Gondorians, / Rendered of them food fit for the carrion birds, / Who had dragged many souls down into the Pits of Udun, / And the will of Manwe was drawing near its end when....." (patterned here off of the beginning of Homer's "Iliad").

    You get the idea

    It's also no freak accident, in my humble opinion, that T.S. Eliot's metaphoric poem, "The Wasteland," and Tolkien's literal Wasteland imagery in Isengard, Mordor, and yes, to an extent, the Scouring Shire- all popped out in the same Twentieth Century with the same immediate real world history rather than in some other time and place by some other writer. Tolkien was a writer of his moment- of his time and place.

    All and all though, I do not expect to persuade anyone. Its a very fraught subject when dealing with a work that invites an avalanche of interpretations. As Gulliver would say, I propose that we open our eggs from "the middle" rather than from "the bigger end" or "the little end"- and the trenches of Pelennor Fields can refer to BOTH a medieval siege warfare strategy AND rely on some measure of detail from Tolkien's own personal experiences of trench warfare. None of this needs to be an "either / or" equation.
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  11. #11
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    I'm not going to get into a massive debate on this, but for me, the trenches just don't feel like LOTRO. I can live with them, but I'd prefer they weren't there. The gas is neither here nor there. It doesn't do enough damage to worry about, and it's easily removed when leaving the war zone. It doesn't seem to fit either though.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Arnenna View Post
    I'm not going to get into a massive debate on this, but for me, the trenches just don't feel like LOTRO. I can live with them, but I'd prefer they weren't there. The gas is neither here nor there. It doesn't do enough damage to worry about, and it's easily removed when leaving the war zone. It doesn't seem to fit either though.
    I'm 100% convinced the gas is there solely to bother burglars. It was kind of a pain to move around the gas or get to enter combat without stealth...

  13. #13
    I think the addition of trenches is an excellent design choice. It feels like an actual battlefield, and the addition of those noxious clouds did make me curious to re-read a book on WW1. I was looking forward to blow up an enemy position with sapper bombs using the tunnels (like British on June 7, 1917).

    However, the fighting in between trenches seems a bit weird? A forward placed trench has fighting occurring behind it. I think an annuminas-style system of control over key points would be more useful, like used in MM city). Now theres essentially 3 mini battles that altogether leave a weird impression.
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  14. #14
    The book has nothing to do with the World Wars. The Battle of the Pellenor Fields is an allsusion to the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, also knows as the Battle of Nations. Tolkien himself said it, as well as he denied any connection between his war experience and his works. Lord of the Rings is a highly cristian book, though, unlike C.S. Lewis, the Professor did not expres his ideas so straightforward.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantion View Post
    The entire thrust or "whole" of the battle, the underlying stakes involved, is another matter entirely
    It's more religious symbolism, with Minas Tirith as the 'shining city on a hill' (if you'll pardon me borrowing the phrase), a beacon of hope that cannot be permitted to fall. The most recent conflict I'm aware of that we know Tolkien took inspiration from was the siege of Vienna in 1683, where the relief of the siege featured the largest cavalry charge in history. Tolkien doesn't go with modern numbers as it's not styled as a modern mass conflict, and he didn't borrow the numbers from Vienna either; there were about six thousand Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields, compared to the eighteen thousand (!) cavalrymen in the real thing.

    Well, it depends on the situation. Melos was sacked by the Athenians for their refusal to surrender ("The strong do what they can while the weak must suffer what they must"); yet Athens was still standing beyond Sparta's victory in the Peloponnesian War. The Persians had burned the Temple and Acropolis but the Athenians rebuilt it later.
    When I said ancient I was thinking of something older than that, e.g we know the Assyrians were spectacularly cruel to prisoners of war, something that gave them a terrifying reputation which they cultivated so that people would think twice about taking up arms against them. But there are much later examples, in particular the Mongols who enacted dreadful vengeance on those who defied them, likewise as a deliberate policy to give themselves a reputation so terrifying that most would simply surrender. It's reckoned that this led to the death of millions so you don't have to look to the Twentieth Century for that.

    But their aim IS the obliteration of the other side and not for any particular war-strategy reasons.
    Sauron was the one with the strategy, the Orcs were simply a tool for him to use. But obviously as a key centre of resistance to his dominion (and as revenge for his defeat in the War of the Last Alliance), Minas Tirith had to go. Likewise he had a score to settle with the Elves. As for elsewhere, he'd likely have settled for his brand of cruel despotism rather than just having the Orcs wipe everyone out, because seeing his enemies brought low would have been evilly satisfying. No fun being an evil overlord if there's nobody left to lord over.

    WW1 is not a good analogy and it's not one that Tolkien makes other than symbolically, by alluding to the horrors of that conflict; that scene in the Dead Marshes stands for all that. He'd been at the Somme and I'd imagine it haunted him like it did so many others. The Orcs represent how men are dehumanised by war and reduced to callous brutes, particularly in the sort of mass conflict fought on an industrial scale that he'd lived through but certainly not limited to that. If anything the War of the Ring is a reaction against industrialised mass warfare, it's all about courage and cold steel as opposed to machinery, heroism against brute force. It's all coded, there's no direct semblance. Yes, I'd agree that Mordor being a blighted industrial wasteland is an unmistakably modern bit of symbolism but it goes with the theme of the evils of industry (as also seen in Saruman's industrialisation of Isengard and what he'd begun to do to the Shire) and seeing industrialised landscapes as hellish was a thing long before Tolkien came along.

    Hence, Tolkien's LOTR begins with, "When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventyifirst birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton" (FOTR). It's the tone of a Modern Novel.
    A tone that's only used as regards the Shire. That place serves a specific role as a halfway house between the modern (with the hobbits being recognisably 'English' in manner and lifestyle and hence comfortably familiar) and the ancient, a good place to start and end the tale rather than dropping the reader straight into a realm of legend. Fantasy wasn't mainstream when Tolkien was writing and so he needed to warm his readers up to the idea by degrees so as not to lose them.

    As for your mention of the Iliad, you do know Tolkien wrote epic poetry as well, don't you?

    All and all though, I do not expect to persuade anyone. Its a very fraught subject when dealing with a work that invites an avalanche of interpretations. As Gulliver would say, I propose that we open our eggs from "the middle" rather than from "the bigger end" or "the little end"- and the trenches of Pelennor Fields can refer to BOTH a medieval siege warfare strategy AND rely on some measure of detail from Tolkien's own personal experiences of trench warfare. None of this needs to be an "either / or" equation.
    Sorry but you're reading too much into it, as if the mere mention of trenches implies WW1. It doesn't, by all appearances it's just medieval siegeworks given a fantasy twist with the addition of fire (just as with the catapults); the trenches are obstacles, not fighting positions so there's no reference to trench warfare in that.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Tancanspanc View Post
    I'm no military strategist, nor historian, but the use of trench warfare in WOTP seems a bit weird when we are basically talking about dark ages / medieval style combat. I thought this kind of warfare came in with mechanized units, machine guns and artillery. Did the orcs dig the trenches to stop the charge of the pig brigade?
    Yes and no. A common wiki search of the Roman tactics will tell you that every Roman soldier was issued a shovel and a basket for hauling dirt. This is because Roman soldiers, just like today, often had to dig trenches around camps for defense of the military camp. So trenches would be used. However, they would not be used the way they are shown on the map in this game. There would not be row after row of trenches. This only divides your defensive force. In ww1 there was a need for rows of trenches because of artillery. But in this battle in game, building a trench 1000 yards from your fort is only giving a for to the enemy. They would not build trenches one after the other getting closer to the enemy as they did in ww1. Instead, they would use trenches only around the camp and around ballista and cats, for defense and maintain maneuverability and flexibility in the use of archers and footmen on an open field of battle. It would be more like the American revolution in this regard, where trenches were made around key advantageous positions, but open combat used to assault them.

    The game however has trenches in rows for no purpose other than just to have rows of trenches far too forward of the forts to be defendable. As well, they are made in such a manner as to be worthless in stopping the enemy. But they tried. In essence, if they did it right, the player would not be able to get into the enemy defended positions without a raid. So they had to do it the way they did if you want your char to be able to fight solo on the battlefield and complete quests and deeds without getting smashed everywhere. I give them an A for trying while having tons of game issues to deal with for solo players and questing.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by HappyCappy View Post

    The game however has trenches in rows for no purpose other than just to have rows of trenches far too forward of the forts to be defendable. As well, they are made in such a manner as to be worthless in stopping the enemy. But they tried. In essence, if they did it right, the player would not be able to get into the enemy defended positions without a raid. So they had to do it the way they did if you want your char to be able to fight solo on the battlefield and complete quests and deeds without getting smashed everywhere. I give them an A for trying while having tons of game issues to deal with for solo players and questing.
    It's not only trenches, they have tunnels too. Also, Elderslade part of Rhovanion, maybe they learn how use trenches against Rohan cavalry?

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    It's more religious symbolism, with Minas Tirith as the 'shining city on a hill' (if you'll pardon me borrowing the phrase), a beacon of hope that cannot be permitted to fall. The most recent conflict I'm aware of that we know Tolkien took inspiration from was the siege of Vienna in 1683, where the relief of the siege featured the largest cavalry charge in history. Tolkien doesn't go with modern numbers as it's not styled as a modern mass conflict, and he didn't borrow the numbers from Vienna either; there were about six thousand Rohirrim at the Pelennor Fields, compared to the eighteen thousand (!) cavalrymen in the real thing.
    Oh, you're pardoned for using that one :P In Tolkien's time, Paris was also symbolically viewed as a bastion of Western Civilization that also could "not be permitted to fail." Much of the war propaganda in Tolkien's time was centered on that idea of "defending Western civilization." So, again, it's not an either/or here; it's -------------- both -------------; its a fusion of the Siege of Vienna and that idea of Minas Tirith as "the city of the Men of Numenor," a position regarded by Faramir, and the whole legacy of the Valar and the Faithful's loyalty and so on, which is all pretty much possessing even - greater narrative stakes - than the relatively loose war propaganda of the British government.

    In that way, it could well be viewed as Tolkien's response to said propaganda; there are no "equals" signs here. So, Minas Tirith in LOTR, by comparison, embodies a ton more than Paris in IRL in that Minas Tirith has some literal connections to the Valar and to Iluvatar who are literally themselves in the story (as opposed, to say, mere religious belief; it is known by the Faithful and the Eldar that this is how the universe works). Now, aligned with that, we could say, are Tolkien and the TCBS and their ideals of Art and, well, who is to say that Tolkien did not hold the city of Notre Dame in particular reverence as a Catholic? Notre Dame, as it were, is the Parisian version of "The White Tree"- the sacred heart of the city. So, I do not think that Tolkien would have been unaware of these things; however, all of that being said, I think that I need to be clear on what I am --- not --- saying or suggesting; I am --- not --- saying or suggesting that Tolkien was shoehorning-in war propaganda or something; I am saying that Tolkien likely believed, at the time he fought, that he was defending Western civilization, and that in his story, the "good guys" are - literally - doing that quite factually in defending Minas Tirith and what it actually represents in the story itself.

    So there's some symbolic relevance; no direct equals signs or allegories.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    When I said ancient I was thinking of something older than that, e.g we know the Assyrians were spectacularly cruel to prisoners of war, something that gave them a terrifying reputation which they cultivated so that people would think twice about taking up arms against them. But there are much later examples, in particular the Mongols who enacted dreadful vengeance on those who defied them, likewise as a deliberate policy to give themselves a reputation so terrifying that most would simply surrender. It's reckoned that this led to the death of millions so you don't have to look to the Twentieth Century for that.
    That's quite true; I am saying you don't need to look that far back to the ancient Assyrians either. It cuts both ways; it's not an "either/or" situation. Tolkien would've known full well what the majority of his audience would have been more familiar with (their more recent horrors rather than ancient Assyrian stuff). Tolkien, as a writer, would have full well known both (either him or Lewis said something along the lines of, "Evil does not change from yesteryear").


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Sauron was the one with the strategy, the Orcs were simply a tool for him to use. But obviously as a key centre of resistance to his dominion (and as revenge for his defeat in the War of the Last Alliance), Minas Tirith had to go. Likewise he had a score to settle with the Elves. As for elsewhere, he'd likely have settled for his brand of cruel despotism rather than just having the Orcs wipe everyone out, because seeing his enemies brought low would have been evilly satisfying. No fun being an evil overlord if there's nobody left to lord over.
    Well we can see what he did in the East and the South as a kind of model for what he wanted, which is to say: he wanted the Men to worship him as a god and to harry the West; it's the same old project he had started far earlier in Numenor and so on. Anyone who would not do so probably got killed (or "sacrificed to Morgoth" or something). He's also, as you full well know, not some mustache-twirling "evil warlord" in a generic sense. He's far more of a "symbol" in the story than an actual person. Gollum cannot even bear to describe him or his "four fingered hand." His Eye tends to represent that kind of void or absence of any thing; Tolkien's getting at the whole "problem of evil" as I mentioned. Morgoth had pretty much wiped everything out and locked-out the survivors at Balar when he had had a go at it in the First Age- so there's that too. It's evil for the sake of nothing because evil is nothing in the end.

    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    WW1 is not a good analogy
    Not as a direct analogy or allegory, which is not what I was attempting to do there.


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    and it's not one that Tolkien makes other than symbolically, by alluding to the horrors of that conflict; that scene in the Dead Marshes stands for all that. He'd been at the Somme and I'd imagine it haunted him like it did so many others. The Orcs represent how men are dehumanised by war and reduced to callous brutes, particularly in the sort of mass conflict fought on an industrial scale that he'd lived through but certainly not limited to that. If anything the War of the Ring is a reaction against industrialised mass warfare, it's all about courage and cold steel as opposed to machinery, heroism against brute force. It's all coded, there's no direct semblance. Yes, I'd agree that Mordor being a blighted industrial wasteland is an unmistakably modern bit of symbolism but it goes with the theme of the evils of industry (as also seen in Saruman's industrialisation of Isengard and what he'd begun to do to the Shire) and seeing industrialised landscapes as hellish was a thing long before Tolkien came along.
    This is much more on-target for what I mean to say. It's the symbolic allusions that I am referring to, and you have put the narrative stakes of said allusions quite well here.

    Now, it's very true that "seeing industrialised landscapes as hellish was a thing long before Tolkien came along," but still I would say that the particular form that Tolkien uses for it is in fact the same kind of portrayal that we see in not only Eliot's "The Wasteland," but in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," where the "valley of ashes" that has a literal symbol of the "Eyes of God" staring down at the actual wasteland carries both the symbolic, allusive weight and the literal narrative weight of the situation. So, in Fitzgerald's case, it's literally an impoverished dump between affluent Long Island and Manhattan; but its symbolically all of these other things, including the mystery of evil, particularly given what ultimately happens there in that story. Hemingway's descriptions of burned-out Seney, Michigan in "Big Two-Hearted River" are another example. It's a very common, reactive position on part of Eliot, Tolkien, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway, an yes, it's very appropriate to make those connections between them. The only real, substantive differences are in the genre and the style: where Tolkien is far more interested in fusing Modern and Ancient modes of writing, including the Epic Form, combined with the Fantasy of the time that he knew as well as his own philological knowledge, whereas the other modern writers tend to focus more on "realist" approaches, drawing on, say, Henry James as Tolkien draws on William Morris in places (*James and Morris also knew well of and corresponded with each other).


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    A tone that's only used as regards the Shire. That place serves a specific role as a halfway house between the modern (with the hobbits being recognisably 'English' in manner and lifestyle and hence comfortably familiar) and the ancient, a good place to start and end the tale rather than dropping the reader straight into a realm of legend. Fantasy wasn't mainstream when Tolkien was writing and so he needed to warm his readers up to the idea by degrees so as not to lose them.

    As for your mention of the Iliad, you do know Tolkien wrote epic poetry as well, don't you?
    Yes, I well do know that- my point is that the epic poetry is framed and fragmented in many different places, surrounded by the form of a Modern Novel and it's narrative techniques. So, its a fusion of the two- not exclusively 1 or the other- and that's a fairly Modern phenomenon in writing: a combination of different forms and styles that are used in different ways in the same work. That's the kind of thing you will see when Hemingway intersperses vignettes throughout "In Our Time" or where R.P. Warren will use "folk-songs" to illustrate a narrative point (or tell a whole narrative through a poem, like "Brother to Dragons, etc.), or where Joyce will flood "Ulysses" with a plethora of styles depending on his aims in each chapter (*there's that 1 where he shifts styles from Old through Middle and Early Modern English and then up to his present usage).


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Sorry but you're reading too much into it, as if the mere mention of trenches implies WW1. It doesn't, by all appearances it's just medieval siegeworks given a fantasy twist with the addition of fire (just as with the catapults); the trenches are obstacles, not fighting positions so there's no reference to trench warfare in that.
    Let me clarify then. It's not that "the mere mention of trenches implies WW1"; it's that the overall thrust of the way the Enemy devastates this particular landscape of the Pelennor is waste for the sake of waste. If this was a normal opposing force in a normal medieval battle, the force would have occupied the surrounding farmlands, use up all the goods to keep its army fed and well provisioned, and still set-up the obstacles and such around the actual walls of the enemy city, and et cetera as you described it.

    But this adversary destroys all the crops, kills anyone in their way, burns up the fields, and pretty much puts a full-on display of devastation for devastation's sake- a kind of depth-psychological warfare that, combined with the effects the Nazguls' wailing has on the actual soldiers on the walls, strike me as both medieval and modern. The dynamics amount to a synthesis of these different elements- not exclusively one or the other.

    -------------------


    All of this is to say that I actually agree with you, though I just tend to avoid "either / or" - based logic as much as can be helped - especially when not 1 particular reading can pinpoint everything, and the OP is right to question the way SSG has taken much of this very symbolic, subliminal stuff and just made it extremely literal in the War of the Three Peaks.

    Cheers!
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    .

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantion View Post
    who is to say that Tolkien did not hold the city of Notre Dame in particular reverence as a Catholic?
    He had a well-known distaste for all things French so I'd doubt it. Also, in my experience via family and assorted relatives I don't recall English Catholics having any special reverence for Notre Dame. (Going on about Lourdes, now, that's a different matter).

    Tolkien would've known full well what the majority of his audience would have been more familiar with
    Err... the Assyrians are in the Bible, you know

    He's also, as you full well know, not some mustache-twirling "evil warlord" in a generic sense. He's far more of a "symbol" in the story than an actual person.
    That's because he works best in the abstract rather than appearing in person (he's more scary that way because he's unknowable).

    Yes, I well do know that- my point is that the epic poetry is framed and fragmented in many different places, surrounded by the form of a Modern Novel and it's narrative techniques.
    Only as it appears in LOTR. That's hardly all the epic poetry he wrote.

    It's not that "the mere mention of trenches implies WW1"; it's that the overall thrust of the way the Enemy devastates this particular landscape of the Pelennor is waste for the sake of waste.
    Not given the time of year at which the siege happens (mid-March).

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Tancanspanc View Post
    I'm no military strategist, nor historian, but the use of trench warfare in WOTP seems a bit weird when we are basically talking about dark ages / medieval style combat. I thought this kind of warfare came in with mechanized units, machine guns and artillery. Did the orcs dig the trenches to stop the charge of the pig brigade?
    "Trench Warfare" has been in use at least as long as cavalry and chariots or even elephants. The roman legions and smaller units often built Castrum when they settled for night or into a temporary camp. Ditches (aka trenches) were built whenever there was a fear of mounted attack or aerial attack (arrows, etc.) on frontline sentry units.

    The only thing special about WWI is the length of the trenches combined with the depth and lack of sturdiness. If the romans made such a large set of "Works" that was to be used for such a permanent period of time they would have made it of large stones or something.

    *sigh* Roman/Greek warfare techniques was the only thing fun I remember from school in Latin and Greek - yes I went to school in England when Latin and Greek were still mandatory - yep... I'm old LOL
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  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    He had a well-known distaste for all things French so I'd doubt it. Also, in my experience via family and assorted relatives I don't recall English Catholics having any special reverence for Notre Dame. (Going on about Lourdes, now, that's a different matter).
    Fair point, and that "well-known distaste" was likely accentuated by the war, the loss of his friends, various traumas on the field, trench fever, and although he gave Paris a chance after the war was over, his venture as a "tour guide," as you know, ended fairly badly when one of the people he was escorting died in a car crash. But I would say that distaste has far more psychological than religious reasons behind it. Interesting point about your family- thank you for that, I've learned something


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Err... the Assyrians are in the Bible, you know
    Oh certainly! Let me put it this way then. I sincerely doubt the young people shouting "Frodo lives!" while protesting the Soviet Union were thinking of Assyrians; I'd say the same about families directly impacted by both World Wars. I am not saying that there weren't plenty of Tolkien's readers who knew of the various troubles of the Old Testament. It has to do with more of "what's on the radar of public consciousness," and you know, I think:

    I think the difference between our perspectives is that we're coming at it from different sides of the Pond :P Its interesting! I think your English / British perspective is a very important one, as many of the details you have referred to are often ignored or misunderstood by, well, at least this American here, *smiles* I think that might be because there's some different things going-on in our parallel traditions- including literary ones.

    I remember listening to one of the TA Shippey interviews- I think at not this most recent Mythmoot but the previous one- and him talking about the differences between what Americans and British people tend to emphasize, as far as cultural stuff goes.

    In American Literature, we have a strong tradition of realism combined usually with some form of pragmatism, symbolism, and/or naturalism. The symbolism goes back to the old Puritans in New England (i.e. John Winthrop, Cotton Mather, William Bradford, Jonathan Edwards, etc.- a tradition that got "revamped" by Nathaniel Hawthorne in "The Scarlet Letter" among other such works)- to the impulse to take something ordinary, like a spider eating a moth, and find some personal significance in it. Hence, Melville's "Moby Dick" has all this symbolism embodied by the whale, the ship, Captain Ahab himself, and etc. Even Robert Frost has strains of this impulse ("Fire and Ice", anyone?).

    That might be why many American readers, myself included, feel that natural impulse to view the Ring, or the Eagles, or Mount Doom as various kinds of symbols (*even though Tolkien himself rebuked this sort of thing). That might also be where the attempts to allegorize or analogize come from. It's baked into the pie, as it were, though I won't sing the song Of course, as you say, its all quite incorrect. The American Literary Tradition certainly has proven an obstacle to our understanding of Tolkien (heck, we can't even pronounce his name right- we keep saying, "Tolk-i-en," when it's really, "Tolk-EEN" LOL!

    There is a certain irony in some strains of American fiction- like Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" and his skepticism to a vagrant claiming to be the long lost "Dauphin" (Twain really would've laughed at Tolkien and Aragorn). At the same time, there's a kind of longing or a yearning for the Old World (like Henry James' many, often wealthy, Americans in Europe), and a kind of infatuation with myth that likely stems from the symbolism (hence, something like "The Wasteland" and LOTR were both extremely popular in the U.S. for remarkably similar reasons; they spoke to people in their mythic undertones, and many American readers may well have taken it as symbolism).

    I am speaking historically of cultural trends in reading books; obviously, plenty of Americans on here will disagree with me and my readings of it all. My mind, right now, is in the early - mid Twentieth Century when I say this stuff- so, Americans in the audience, please keep that in mind We live in a very different world today than the world of T.S. Eliot and Scott Fitzgerald. But- all the same, even in Gatsby, there's that fatalistic longing for a kind of abstract, symbolic hope, the mystery of the extremely wealthy figure who no one sees (and who, as it turns out, was actually a con man), and there's this sense of very much desiring something that can't be attained very easily, if at all. The hopefulness is forever out of reach in some way in that style of fiction. Irony. Contradiction. Ambiguity. Abstraction. Symbolism. It's all baked in the same pie.

    Now, for England, I cannot presume to speak, as I have yet to learn so much about the world of the English Literary tradition that Tolkien was much more familiar with at his time (I follow from "Caedmon's Hymn" up, more or less, through John Milton, and then my knowledge fails me up till the Inklings and the War Poets, and of course, Robert Graves- a pretty big gap of centuries for me to fill). I have a lot of work to do in that department I have a general understanding, for example from Shippey's talk, about how Nature has a far more rooted value over there. Americans like Hemingway overemphasize scars and wounds, but chop down a tree in England for no good reason, and Eru help you. There seems to be, and perhaps you can help correct me or fill me in, far more of a sense of rootedness, a kind of long memory that's kept and watered and preserved like an old tree; whether that's etymologically and at the root of Tolkien's impulses to look for the root meanings of a word, a far wider and deeper sense of history, etc., I'm not sure- these are just guesses.

    I'm also not sure if the English tradition of the time emphasized symbolism to the same degree that American fiction did- save for perhaps Milton and Spencer. I'm still half-convinced that the impulse to look for symbols in Shakespeare in American high school English classes is a very American project ("What does the skull in "Hamlet" represent?" That sort of thing).

    In short: I have a feeling that, as an American operating in the American literary tradition, I am at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the various subconscious, doubtlessly English things that Tolkien brings to bear as he writes his works.

    At the same time, I - know - I am seeing - something -, a kind of connection, if not a direct one than a more allusive one, between these writers and poets of different ilks in that time period (Tolkien, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, etc.). I just need to learn a lot more about the English perspective on Tolkien so that I can understand and then articulate my points far better, avoiding the language of direct symbolism or equals signs or intended allegories or analogies


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    That's because he works best in the abstract rather than appearing in person (he's more scary that way because he's unknowable).
    Yep- and it all comes tumbling down around him too!


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Only as it appears in LOTR. That's hardly all the epic poetry he wrote.
    I know that- at present, I am discussing LOTR. Obviously, he experimented with a great variety of forms, from the whimsical (Tevildo the evil cat anyone?) to the sublime ("The Sea-Bell"). I am quite aware and have read a great swath of it. I just feel that, often, those experts of philology and medieval literature tend to gloss over the Modern elements, which is why I've got this chip on my shoulder. As I said above, I still have much to learn; missing some key knowledge does not help me make my case(s).

    I do know that, somewhere, Tolkien offhandedly referred to Modern stuff as some form of misuse of the English language, he had a distaste for it, and he was rather reactionary against those trends coming out of Paris in the Roaring Twenties. But at the same time, I'd think it absurd to suggest that Tolkien was not influenced in some way through that reactionary impulse. Often, a person can react against something because one detects its influence upon one and does not quite like it :P But the influence stays all the same. It would be as if I thought Shakespeare was dreck (I don't, thank the Valar!) and started writing in blank verse, iambic pentameter :P

    There's a reason why the whole of LOTR isn't straight-up written like "The Silmarillion" or "The Iliad" (*and, alas, there's probably a pretty good reason as to why "The Silmarillion" was not published during Tolkien's lifetime; it's archaic, and the publisher wasn't interested in taking that kind of risk, to my limited understanding of the recurrent matter, lol!).


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Not given the time of year at which the siege happens (mid-March).
    Ah yes, that's a very good point. Even so, Tolkien described the Pelennor as very fertile and settled, and the Orcs just destroy it all "just because," and I maintain that even if it was Harvest, the Orcs would have behaved in the same precise way, whereas Men might be a bit less....... evil than that, if they wanted to live off the land? These are all hypothetical, of course.

    Yes, there are no crops in March, but the Orcs still wiped everything out, and I think they still would have regardless of the time of year; it's what they are :P

    Yes, I still agree with you: trenches and gas in front of Gundabad is as "on the nose" as that troublesome Tolkien bio-pic that had him imagining Balrogs above the trenches, although that was pretty amusing to watch.
    Last edited by Phantion; Oct 27 2020 at 01:32 AM.
    Phantion no longer has a character named Phantion in-game. He transferred to Landroval.

    .

  22. #22
    As others have written above, defensive ditches and trenches are as old as warfare. Most major fortifications built in ancient times utilized some form of ditch system as an integral component of a layered defense.

    For example, Hadrians's Wall, spanning England from East to West, incorporated two ditches, one directly before the wall and one behind it. The ten foot deep trench before the wall, combined with the 15 foot high wall itself, forced would-be attackers to climb 25 feet before reaching the rampart. The ditch south of the wall, called the Vallum, was even wider and flanked by berms, all designed to slow down attackers attempting to breach the wall.

    Constantinople, the inspiration for Minas Tirith, included three gigantic walls and three equally gigantic trenches, alternating like the layers of an onion. This massive defensive work kept the city safe for over 1,000 years and it took one of the very first siege cannons to finally breach it.

    A really wonderful example of trench use in Medieval warfare came in AD 627, The Battle of the Trench. In this battle, a quickly built defensive trench system used to confound enemy cavalry changed the course of human history.

    At the Battle of Hastings, some of the very last fighting occurred at Malfosse within a defensive position protected by trenches.

    Every single episode of Time Team gets going when they discover a ditch.

    Anyway, I have no idea what role defensive ditches play in the upcoming story, but inclusion of such things is not only plausible, a well prepared battlefield or well designed fortification demands them.
    Sophie the Enchantress - Creator, Dreamer, Explorer - Happy yet Sad - Seeker of Beauty and Wonder
    I wish all of you many successful and happy adventures. My own travels now take me to other lands. Fare well, brave Ladies and Lords of Middle Earth!

  23. #23
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    I've found the war part viually spectacular and sparked a kin chat on WW1, lost relatives and the like. As an appearance it works. Trenches are at least as old as Ceasar's Gallic Wars as battlefield obstacles or cover and can be made whenever you have spare soldiers with digging implements, which is a siege is often the case... Someone mentioned total war, where the whole population is mobilised and thus seen by the other side as a target, either by intent or as a side effect. That is also a concept as old as history, ranging from ancient days through the 30 Years War (so awful a hymn was wrtten to celbrate its end) via the chevauchees of the 100 Years War. The destruction of the Brown Lands would reasonably be seen as same.

    But, and this may occur later in the story, Durin and the other leaders may be fair tacticians, but their strategic vision seems lacking. So far I have seen nothing to imply that they are beseiging a mountain and undertsand that this means you need to surround it in some manner. All those Angmarim (from the other side of the mountains) should be a clue that supply from Angmar is possible and with luck, may then get us another route through to Eriador, eithere the Ironspan or perhaps that slope leading east and up past the Rift.
    Mithithil Ithryndi

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phantion View Post
    But I would say that distaste has far more psychological than religious reasons behind it.
    Oh, definitely. He was one of those fuddy-duddy Englishmen who have a thing against the French, complain about French cuisine (especially garlic, preferring 'good plain food'), and in his case especially because the Normans had had the temerity to conquer England and pollute his beloved English language with their nasty Norman French (something he regarded as a historical accident).

    Oh certainly! Let me put it this way then. I sincerely doubt the young people shouting "Frodo lives!" while protesting the Soviet Union were thinking of Assyrians
    Tolkien said he didn't quite understand that youthful enthusiasm for his work, saying they were into it in a way he wasn't and commenting that 'Art moves them and they don't know what they've been moved by and they get quite drunk on it.'

    I think the difference between our perspectives is that we're coming at it from different sides of the Pond
    I get that a lot, I've learned there's more of a cultural barrier than one might think. That said, things like the Ring and the Eagles are symbolic - e.g. the Eagles do appear to be a reference to Christian symbolism, the important thing being that Tolkien didn't want to be so forceful about it as to impose on his readers; it doesn't insist on being read that way, as the idea of birds as divine messengers is an ancient one so it works whether you get the reference or not.

    At the same time, there's a kind of longing or a yearning for the Old World (like Henry James' many, often wealthy, Americans in Europe), and a kind of infatuation with myth that likely stems from the symbolism
    But we have that too (any civilisation more ancient than your own is intriguing) and myths have a fascination to them, regardless of culture. And our culture is positively awash with symbolism, albeit far more in medieval and Renaissance times. As for deep cultural memory, ours has a discontinuity caused by the Anglo-Saxons having converted to Christianity before anyone had written down the old myths and legends, so we lost them; something Tolkien especially regretted and wished he could somehow address.

    In short: I have a feeling that, as an American operating in the American literary tradition, I am at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding the various subconscious, doubtlessly English things that Tolkien brings to bear as he writes his works.
    Yeah, there's definitely something of a cultural divide. That winds me up when the devs casually Americanize things. For example hobbits tend to get 'translated' into what people think of as folksy in their own terms, leaving me mildly unhappy with the results because to me, hobbits are so unmistakably 'English' (having been written to be) that anything else sticks out like a sore thumb. (The LOTR movies didn't do that, by the way, they got it pretty much spot on).

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post


    I get that a lot, I've learned there's more of a cultural barrier than one might think. That said, things like the Ring and the Eagles are symbolic - e.g. the Eagles do appear to be a reference to Christian symbolism, the important thing being that Tolkien didn't want to be so forceful about it as to impose on his readers; it doesn't insist on being read that way, as the idea of birds as divine messengers is an ancient one so it works whether you get the reference or not.


    But we have that too (any civilisation more ancient than your own is intriguing) and myths have a fascination to them, regardless of culture. And our culture is positively awash with symbolism, albeit far more in medieval and Renaissance times. As for deep cultural memory, ours has a discontinuity caused by the Anglo-Saxons having converted to Christianity before anyone had written down the old myths and legends, so we lost them; something Tolkien especially regretted and wished he could somehow address.


    Yeah, there's definitely something of a cultural divide. That winds me up when the devs casually Americanize things. For example hobbits tend to get 'translated' into what people think of as folksy in their own terms, leaving me mildly unhappy with the results because to me, hobbits are so unmistakably 'English' (having been written to be) that anything else sticks out like a sore thumb. (The LOTR movies didn't do that, by the way, they got it pretty much spot on).
    Yep- mark this day on our calendars, we have complete agreement Thank you for your thoughtful responses

    On the Symbolism, certainly- I agree. I think what I had in mind, as far as the tendency to allegorize goes, is something like what we might find in Edward Taylor's "Upon a Spider Catching a Fly"-

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...catching-a-fly

    The Symbolist impulse in American Literature comes from the specific Puritan tendency of that late 17th / early 18th century wherein: Taylor, believing in predestination, is looking at the spider catching a fly as a kind of sign or symbol for what he believes his immortal soul is predestined toward. That sets the stage for someone like Melville to have the hunt for the whale symbolize the increased tensions of the nation (*resulting in the U.S. Civil War), etc., where you take the natural thing and have it embody or represent something else entirely.

    Robert Frost, of course, replies in this poem, wherein he rebukes the concept of a spider eating a moth as a kind of symbol in that way-

    https://poets.org/poem/design

    So, if we take a typical misreading of the Eagles in Tolkien as an example: let's take the "straw-man" idea of the Eagles as "symbolizing" or directly allegorizing the arrival of the Americans in World War II versus Sauron's Axis Powers (a view that Tolkien himself, I think, rebuked in one of his correspondences). OK. If this was Melville, the answer would have been yes, because Melville operates in that kind of tradition going back to the likes of Edward Taylor and beforehand (he literally refers to the Pequod ship as "the ship of state"). But for Tolkien, that kind or style of reading, I'm sure we'd agree, is -------------- wholly inappropriate ---------------- for reasons we've both described in our posts.

    Tolkien uses a more, as you say, allusive symbolism, where the Eagles can be read as a kind of Christian symbol, but its far more suggestive and indirect and one of several possibilities, whereas these sorts of things are often read in more literal ways.

    What's fascinating to me is how deep this stuff really is in the American subconscious especially; what I mentioned about the whole "World War Two allegorical reading" is far more of a fan theory than anything else, and I very much doubt that those who came-up with that reading were particularly thinking about Edward Taylor or Herman Melville. Yet- that's precisely the kind of reading that this is, and so often, I find that we vastly underestimate the influence that Literature has on our culture, society, and ultimately ourselves through those vehicles. Its all there to be found: even when we are not particularly conscious of it or realize it.

    I also agree with you in that Symbolism itself is far older; after all, where did John Winthrop and Cotton Mather, and William Bradford, and Jonathan Edwards, and Edward Taylor, ultimately hail from or share common cultural characteristics with? England- the same environment that, a few decades prior, John Milton lived in, and, of course, incidentally, and this is a nice historical little tidbit I am adding just for fun, the last battle of the English Civil War was actually waged by Lord Baltimore near what is now present-day Annapolis, Maryland, in the now- U.S. It all connects to the same roots; I'm sure Tolkien would appreciate that! *laughs*

    ---------------------------------------------------

    Which brings me back to the OP and the question of these trenches from a new perspective:

    While I agree that these "trenches" are also a kind of technique of medieval siege-craft, I don't think it's an accident that so many did view what the Devs' designed as a World War 1 thing. Why? Because of the juxtaposition: the way the gases are arranged with the trenches and the fire. I think that if they had avoided the gases and given these Dwarven trenches a more unique, LOTR-ish feel to them that made them feel more part of the natural setting of this War of the Three Peaks that they are depicting, it would have been far better. It's not a far stretch to see trenches and poisonous gas and think of WW1 rather than LOTR- and so, if they were to do some "editing" in a patch or so, I certainly think it would be warranted as while, I'm happy for those who have had great WW1 conversations in-game, I also have to agree with those who find it.... its kind of jarring for the setting in the way they've done it.

    I - want - to feel like these "trenches" in the new zone are more medieval and part of a more ancient method of warfare. Even just removing the poisonous gas would help a lot there- Orcs generally don't use that kind of thing in the lore. Replacing the poison gases with fire even could be enough to make it feel more consistent with, say, what was used at Pelennor Fields in the lore
    Last edited by Phantion; Oct 27 2020 at 05:21 PM.
    Phantion no longer has a character named Phantion in-game. He transferred to Landroval.

    .

 

 
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