Pertaining to the aforementioned topic, it naturally brings up the question – why would a history website like ours cover a seemingly ‘fantasy’ scope? Well firstly Tolkien’s entire legendarium was meticulously crafted and inspired by real-world history. Some pertinent examples from The Lord of the Rings would include the allusion to the Anglo-Saxons when it comes to the Kingdom of Rohan, or the hint of the Roman Empire (and its Eastern and Western partition) in the divided realms of Gondor and Arnor. More importantly, the fantasy works concocted by J.R.R. Tolkien are historically relevant in the avenue of literature. And furthermore, his literary pieces make for a pretty interesting subject when discussed through the comparative lens of history and political systems. But before we begin the list, here is the foreword from the author of the article, Timothy R. Furnish, PhD.
Despite being a historian of Islam and the Middle East with three books published on those topics, I decided some time ago to write on Middle-earth—and the first of my two complementary Tolkien volumes, High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle-earth, was recently published by Oloris. The follow-on work, Bright Swords and Glorious Warriors: A Military History of Middle-earthshould be out early 2017. Following are some interesting political and military aspects of Tolkien’s world, gleaned from his many writings which I researched for these books.
1) The Lord of the Rings [LotR] is the account of a great war in about 4000 BC that takes place in the western part of the Northern hemisphere.
Tolkien wrote that the events of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion took place in the ancient history of our world, and specifically that Sauron’s final defeat, which occurred in year 3019 of the Third Age, was about 6000 years before our time. Thus, Aragorn’s reign as King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor until Fourth Age 120 would have fallen in the Late Neolithic/(very) early Bronze Age. But the Second Age lasted over 3,400 years and the First almost 600. In addition, before these “years of the Sun”, there were the more mythological “years of the Trees”—thousands of years of history that may or may not have corresponded to solar years. Thus, Middle-earth is, in effect, ancient Europe, with civilizations much older than the Greeks, Romans or even Minoans, and populated by races of sentient beings that have since died out or gone away (Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, Orcs).