It has long been suggested by many readers and critics of The Lord of the Rings saga
, by J.R.R Tolkien
, that it is in fact a reflection of Tolkien
's own life experiences.
They attribute the War of The Ring, around which the entire saga revolves, to Tolkien's experience of the second World War.
Sauron, they claim, represents Hitler; his ally Saruman, could be interpreted as Stalin; the men of Gondor and the Rohirrim are the Allies; the all-powerful Ring is the nuclear power, waiting to be harnessed.
Further more, these so called readers and critics, find the scouring of The Shire, and the industrial revolution it undergoes, to be a silent criticism of the industrialization and scouring of the English countryside, where Tolkien grew up.
Personally, I find this to be a shallow and degrading analysis of a masterpiece, which has far more clear roots in ancient European mythology, rather than in 20th century European history.
This could have made a great writeup about whether or not Art imitates Life, but since I know little of either (art or life), I'll stick with the title and Tolkien's own words ( * ).
In a preface to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, written in 1965, about ten years after the first publication, Tolkien widely refers to the on growing claims about the link between his work and the war during which it was mostly written:
As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.
The crucial chapter, 'The Shadow of the Past' ... was written long before the foreshadow of 1939 had yet become a threat of inevitable disaster, and from that point the story would have developed along essentially the same lines, if that disaster had been averted, Its sources are things long before in mind, or in some cases already written, and title or nothing in it was modified by the war that began in 1939 or its sequels.
He brilliantly proves any World War II allegory to be an empty shell with no legs to stand upon in reality:
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.
If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dur would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get posession of the ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-Earth.
As for the scouring of The Shire:
... it has been supposed by some that 'The Scouring of The Shire' reflects the situation in England at the time when I was finishing my tale. It does not. It is an essential part of the plot, foreseen from the outset ... without, need I say, any allegorical significance or contemporary political reference whatsoever.
His opinion about allegory
in general is fascinating:
... I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presences. I much prefer history, true or feigned.
... I think many confuse 'applicability' with 'allegory'; but the one resides to the freedom of the reader, and the other in the proposed domination of the author.
( * ) I chose to quote Tolkien to the letter because of the significance of his personal opinion and formula to the controversy.
Tolkien originally wrote the above quoted foreword, for the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, published by Ballantine books, on October 1965.
I found it in the Harper Collins 1995 paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings, ISBN 0-261-10325-3