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Lewis failed to mention the equally surprising pertinence of superficially unrealistic elements in the Lord of the Rings. Here are a few that suggest the influence of 1914—1918: the sweeping surveillance of the Eye of Sauron, the moments when reality shifts into dream during those long marches, or into nightmare in the midst of battle, the battlefield dominated by lumbering elephantine behemoths and previously unseen airborne killers, the Black Breath of despair that brings down even the bravest; the revenge of the trees for their wanton destruction.

The last word may go to Siegfried Sassoon, a quintessential Great War writer:

“I had seen something that night which overawed me. It was all in the day’s work—an exhausted Division returning from the Somme offensive—but for me it was as though I had watched an army of ghosts. It was as though I had seen the War as it might be envisioned by the mind of some epic poet a hundred years hence.”

The irony is that the man who did envision it this way was fighting in the trenches at the same battle.

From Tolkien and the Great War. It’s a tribute to the new movie of Return of the King that these elements are captured so profoundly on film….

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