by Lynn Forest-Hill and Mark Horton, BBC History Today, London, 1/3/15.
Did the story of a stolen Roman ring provide the basis for one of the 20th century’s most popular works of fiction? Mark Horton and Lynn Forest-Hill tell the story of the archaeological dig which fuelled the fantasies of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Fit for a Lord: the gold ring now at The VyneSometime in the late fourth century a Roman by the name of Silvianus visited the Celtic temple dedicated to a healing god, Nodens, located on a hill above the River Severn at Lydney in Gloucestershire. During his visit (and possibly while Silvianus was bathing in the temple’s elaborate baths), his gold ring was stolen. We know this because two lead curses were excavated in the ruins of the temple in the early 19th century. According to these curses Silvianus believed that the thief was called Senicianus and he offered half the value of the ring to Nodens, who was asked in return to withdraw good health from the culprit.
The lead curses and numerous other artefacts found over the years at the temple languished in a private museum on the estate until 1928, when the young but ambitious archaeologists Mortimer Wheeler and his wife Tessa were invited by the owner, Lord Bledisloe, to clarify the history of the site. Over two summers the Wheelers worked at Lydney and asked various experts to assist in the research. Two of these were fellows of the same Oxford college, Pembroke: R.G. Collingwood, the archaeologist and philosopher, who worked on the epigraphy; and J.R.R. Tolkien, the professor of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic literature, who sought to explain the identity of the deities, including Nodens, which he equated with the Celtic god Nuadha.
So much is well known. But these years were also significant because 1928-29 was the period during which The Hobbit was taking its final shape. How much was Tolkien influenced in writing his fantasy by his exposure to the archaeological excavations, to the Wheelers and to Collingwood? Was it Collingwood who introduced Tolkien to the Lydney project and the story of the stolen ring?
Read more at: http://historytoday.com/lynn-forest-hill/inspiration-tolkiens-ring#sthash.iRsfp16J.dpuf
Of Hobbits, Narnia and Postwar Belief
by Loconte, Joseph, Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition [New York, N.Y] 08 Aug 2014: A.11.
Many of the 400 postwar memoirs and novels from the 1920s and 1930s are profoundly pessimistic, focusing on the cruelty and senselessness of World War I. Erich Remarque, in his novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” spoke for many: “Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless and without hope.” Every combatant nation in World War I abandoned moral qualms and used any weapon at hand to obliterate the enemy
This month marks the 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I, the conflict that introduced industrial-scale slaughter to the world. Never before had science and technology — the mortars, machine guns, tanks, barbed wire and poison gas — conspired so effectively to destroy man and nature. The Great War savaged popular beliefs about progress, morality and religion.
Yet for two extraordinary authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the war deepened their moral and spiritual convictions. Both fought in the trenches on the Western Front and used their experiences to shape their Christian imagination.
The pair met in 1926 as young scholars at Oxford University and went on to produce epic stories of heroism. Tolkien wrote “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Lewis earned fame for “The Chronicles of Narnia,” a series of children’s books now considered classics. Their tales are fundamentally about a cosmic struggle between good and evil — a theme radically out of step with the spirit of their age.
Many of the 400 postwar memoirs and novels from the 1920s and 1930s are profoundly pessimistic, focusing on the cruelty and senselessness of World War I. Erich Remarque, in his novel “All Quiet on the Western Front,” spoke for many: “Now if we go back we will be weary, broken, burnt out, rootless and without hope.”
Tolkien and Lewis, however, believed war could be fought for noble purposes. In “The Lord of the Rings,” a band of hobbits, a king born as Aragorn and the Wizard Gandalf embark on a quest to destroy the evil Ring of Power. In “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the Pevensie children are magically transported from London to Narnia and given a great task by Aslan the Lion: to rescue Narnia from despotism and restore the throne to its rightful line of kings….
Read more at … http://online.wsj.com/articles/joseph-loconte-of-hobbits-narnia-and-postwar-belief-1407453639 or http://0-search.proquest.com.oak.indwes.edu/docview/1551801582/BBFD792512004126PQ/1?accountid=6363