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JRR Tolkien’s WWI revolver goes on display in IWM North

The military past of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit author examined

Published on December 12th 2013.

JRR Tolkien’s WWI revolver goes on display in IWM North

JOHN RONALD Reuel Tolkien is most famous for his exploits with a pen and his depiction of warring Middle Earth in the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings Trilogy, but the author himself was a soldier in another war, World War One.

Despite a relatively short posting, Tolkien saw enough of the horrors of war to influence his work forever; the heroics of Bilbo in The Hobbit a reflection of the bravery shown by the young men of England going to War, the trenches Middle Earth’s battlefield and Sauron an analogy of Hitler, minus the moustache.

Enduring life in the trenches during the Somme in 1916, a battle with over a million casualties, Tolkien probably found the revolver to be mightier than his pen, Bilbo Baggin’s sword or even Gandalf’s staff at stopping the German war machine during his five month posting.

The Imperial War Museum North will be displaying the trusty Webley Mk V Revolver that Tolkien used during his posting as a Second Lieutenant in the 11th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers.

After five months in the front lines trenches at Beaumont-Hamel, Serre and the Leipzig Salient, Tolkien was discharged from duty after coming down with trench fever, leaving him unfit for action for the remainder of the conflict.

Despite a relatively short posting Tolkien saw enough of the horrors of war to influence his work for example the heroics of Bilbo in The Hobbit a reflection of the bravery shown by the young everymen of England going to War, the blasted landscapes of Mordor and the Lonely Mountain, the battlefields he'd seen in Flanders.

Tolkien in 1916Tolkien in 1916

Graham Boxer, Director of IWM North, said: “This December just as the latest Hobbit (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) film launches in cinemas, visitors to IWM North will be able to see this weapon and connect further with Tolkien’s magical stories which were born from harrowing wartime experiences. Exhibiting this object is for us the start of what will be an extremely busy time as we prepare to launch our major First World War Centenary exhibition, From Street to Trench: A War that Shaped a Region, in April.”

Tolkien’s revolver is now on display in the Imperial War Museum North, The Quays, Trafford Park, Trafford Wharf Rd, Manchester M17 1TZ. 0161 836 4000.

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