Mittwoch, 24. August 2016

Has Frodo's vision been inspired by George Griffith?

Frodo's vision on Amon Hen, by Cor Blok
George Griffith's 1893 novel The Angel of the Revolution is a typical example of the "invasion literature" genre. Despite its lack of plausible characters or even plausible plots, it had been very popular in Great Britain between 1890 and 1914, usually featuring fictional invasions of England by either France or Germany. Griffith's scope is wider than that, as he created an admonition of WWI, anticipated to break out in 1904, ten years too soon. But a peculiar oddity in his narrative is a scene in which the leader of the 'Terrorists' somehow creates a psychic vision of the coming World War. This scene is rermarkable in several ways: First, it fits very badly into the overall context of the book, second, never does the leader do something like that again, But third: the vision beheld bears an uncanny resemblance to Frodo's vision on Amon Hen!

Let us compare. First, Griffith begins with a general overview:

"Then suddenly it seemed as though [his eyes] opened again of their own accord, and were endowed with an infinite power of vision. The trees and lawns of the home park of Alanmere and the dark rolling hills of heather beyond were gone, and in their place lay stretched out a continent which he saw as though from some enormous height, with its plains and lowlands and rivers, vast steppes and snowclad hills, forests and tablelands, huge mountain masses rearing lonely peaks of everlasting ice to a sunlight that had no heat; and then beyond these again more plains and forests, that stretched away southward until they merged in the all-surrounding sea."

Here follows the beginning of Frodo's vision in The Fellowship of the Rings:

"Then here and there the mist gave way and he saw many visions: small and clear as if they were under his eyes upon a table, and yet remote. ... The world seemed to have shrunk and fallen silent. ... Eastward he looked into wide uncharted lands, nameless plains, and forests unexplored. Northward he looked, and the Great River lay like a ribbon beneath him, and the Misty Mountains stood small and hard as broken teeth. Westward he looked and saw the broad pastures of Rohan; and Orthanc, the pinnacle of Isengard, like a black spike. Southward he looked, and below his very feet the Great River curled like a toppling wave and plunged over the falls of Rauros into a foaming pit; a glimmering rainbow played upon the fume. And Ethir Anduin he saw, the mighty delta of the River, and myriads of sea-birds whirling like a white dust in the sun, and beneath them a green and silver sea, rippling in endless lines."

Though the wording is different, the general structure is the same: We see very different landscapes, yet no sign of population, a sweeping view, and in the end: the sea.
Griffith continues:

"Then he seemed to be carried forward towards the scene until he could distinguish the smallest objects upon the earth, and he saw, swarming southward and westward, vast hordes of men, that divided into long streams, and poured through mountain passes and defiles, and spread themselves again over fertile lands, like locusts over green fields of young corn. And wherever those hordes swept forward, a long line of fire and smoke went in front of them, and where they had passed the earth was a blackened wilderness.
Then, too, from the coasts and islands vast fleets of war-ships put out, pouring their clouds of smoke to the sky, and making swiftly for the southward and westward, where from other coasts and islands other vessels put out to meet them, and, meeting them, were lost with them under great clouds of grey smoke, through which flashed incessantly long livid tongues of flame.
Then, like a panorama rolled away from him, the mighty picture receded and new lands came into view, familiar lands which he had traversed often. They too were black and wasted with the tempest of war from east to west, but nevertheless those swarming streams came on, countless and undiminished, up out of the south and east, while on the western verge vast armies and fleets battled desperately with each other on sea and land, as though they heeded not those locust swarms of dusky millions coming ever nearer and nearer."

Now Frodo's vision:

"But everywhere he looked he saw the signs of war. The Misty Mountains were crawling like anthills: orcs were issuing out of a thousand holes. Under the boughs of Mirkwood there was deadly strife of Elves and Men and fell beasts. The land of the Beornings was aflame; a cloud was over Moria; smoke rose on the borders of Lórien.
Horsemen were galloping on the grass of Rohan; wolves poured from Isengard. From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea; and out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains. All the power of the Dark Lord was in motion."

Again there are striking similarities. Griffith applies locusts, Tolkien uses ants. Hordes of men 'pour' through mountain passes and defiles, as do Tolkien's wolves. Warships leave their ports in both stories.
Next, there comes the city, unnamed in The Angel:

"Once more the scene rolled backwards, and he saw a mighty city closely beleaguered by two vast hosts of men, who slowly pushed their batteries forward until they planted them on all the surrounding heights and poured a hail of shot and shell upon the swarming, helpless millions that were crowded within the impassable ring of fire and smoke. Above the devoted city swam in mid-air strange shapes like monstrous birds of prey, and beneath where they floated the earth seemed ever and anon to open and belch forth smoke and flame into which the crumbling houses fell and burnt in heaps of shapeless ruins."

Does this not fit the Battle on the Pelennor Fields as well, particularly regarding those 'monstrous birds of prey'? Frodo as well perceives a city, but strays before war reaches it:

"Then turning south again he beheld Minas Tirith. Far away it seemed. and beautiful: white-walled, many-towered, proud and fair upon its mountain-seat; its battlements glittered with steel, and its turrets were bright with many banners. Hope leaped in his heart. But against Minas Tirith was set another fortress, greater and more strong. Thither, eastward, unwilling his eye was drawn. It passed the ruined bridges of Osgiliath, the grinning gates of Minas Morgul. and the haunted Mountains, and it looked upon Gorgoroth, the valley of terror in the Land of Mordor. Darkness lay there under the Sun. Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising. Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel, tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron. All hope left him."

Though it could not be said that Tolkien has plagiarised Griffith, the basic structure of both scenes is similar enough to raise suspicions. The three dominant elements are the very same, and they come in the same order: (1) a general overview of the setting, (2) an overview of the armies and fleets in motion, (3) a city to be beleaguered.

So, was Tolkien familiar with George Griffith's The Angel of the Revolution? Had he read it once? Did he perhaps consciously try to place this oddly esoteric scene in an otherwise very technocratic story into a better fitting context?

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