Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nature as a Politics in Tolkien’s Early Life

I have decided to focus on the influence of Nature on Tolkien’s life, and how it corresponds to his political views. Nature has long been seen as an influence in Tolkien’s life, and has often been used to paint a picture of his views on industrialism, war, and politics. While Tolkien himself may not have actually been predisposed to call himself an environmentalist, his disposition towards the development of the country and the beauty of the natural world is evident in his arts.

In essence, what I believe is that this focus on Nature and the natural order informed Tolkien’s political beliefs.

 My research began with the letter from Tolkien to his son, Christopher dated 29 November, 1943. (Tolkien 74). Here in, he states that his “political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy...after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural world – is that [government] works and has worked only when all the world is messing along I the same good old inefficient human way.” (Tolkien 74).

The problem, I have found with researching the politics of Tolkien is that the majority of the work is conjecture, derived from statements that were rarely speaking directly of politics, and this letter appears to be the few scant times he directly discusses the topic. But, I was able to latch onto his idea of a natural law; a natural order that the world was supposed to be in, and decided to focus in on that.

In the Tolkien Family Album, there is a description of Tolkien’s early life in Mosley, where he began his fascination with the natural world, and later lamented at the destruction of that beauty (Tolkien 20). Further, the book explains how a trip to Switzerland influenced his works in regard to the mountains and natural worlds of his stories (Tolkien 31). This led me to the idea then that, if we can extrapolate his influences in his works from nature, could nature have also led to other ideas and beliefs that would change his writings?

 I began to look through some of his works of art, and Tolkien focused almost entirely on the natural world in his drawings, especially his early ones, only rarely drawing or depicting figures of any kind (Hammond 10,11,27,28). Tolkien was obviously influenced by nature, but to what extent?

Hammond, Wayne G., and Christina Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator. Houghton
Mifflin Company, 2000.
Tolkien, John and Priscilla Tolkien. The Tolkien Family Album. Houghton Mifflin      
Company. 1992
Tolkien, J. R. R., and Humphrey Carpenter. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Harper
Collins, 2006.


  1. I agree with you that Nature definitely had an influence on shaping Tolkien's political views and that his portrayals of Nature in his work reflect his "environmentalism." I would be interested to learn more about Tolkien's political views and how they were shaped, not only by nature but by other events or influences in his life.

  2. It’s a little weird that you decided to use this as your topic- I was going to (before I changed my mind) do something very similar in that I was going to evaluate the role of machinery in Tolkien’s works. I personally was inspired by The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov (if you google it you can download it easily for free). It is a story about how the progress of Middle-earth is held back by the old thinking of people like Gandalf. Sauron and the Orcs are painted as learned people that are suppressed and discriminated upon by the elves when all they seek is a better future for all in Middle-earth (Would recommend).
    This topic is very interesting and I hope to see where you go with it! :)

  3. Dakota,
    First off, your website looks so good, and has so many details! I am interested in your focus on the nature aspect of Tolkien’s life and his works. I was thinking of going down this path for my research project, or the project that we create something (I think that is what the assignment is). As far as to what extent he was influenced by nature, I would almost say he was obsessed with the nature of England. He enjoyed drawing scenery rather than figures, which is natural for artists to have a preference, however, he seemed to almost have a need for a specific natural setting--England. He included this concept in almost all of his works. I find this fascinating, but would be interested to see what his works would be like without this influence of nature in them. I don’t think they would be as good or as detailed.