Last fall, I took the Folktale, Myth and Archetype class with Dr. Kennedy. We talked about Lord of the Rings for a while, and one of the topics we discussed was Tolkien’s representation of nature in that work (fun fact: he was a soldier during the Great War). He often lamented about the loss of the great British countryside through industrialization, urbanization, and the Great War, which is why he used great detail to describe the vast, beautiful frontier inside Lord of the Rings. This passage from our reading reminded me of this idea:
“Between the meadows behind our town there stands a line of old poplars by the stream. They were visible from a great distance, and although they grew on one bank only, we called them the poplar avenue. Even as children we had a great love for them, they drew us vaguely thither, we played truant the whole day by them and listened to their rustling. We sat beneath them on the bank of the stream and let our feet hang in the bright, swift waters. The pure fragrance of the water and the melody of the wind in the poplars held our fancies. We loved them dearly, and the image of those days still makes my heart pause in its beating” (Remarque 120).
This takes a more real-life approach to the destruction of nature, but it has a lot of the same feeling that Tolkien’s work does. We get strong imagery of Paul’s river at home, and it’s described to give off a beautiful and calm feeling. It’s hard to find places like that these days since urbanization is a constant, ongoing process. Paul also has nostalgia for what once was in the last sentence, which is something that Tolkien also felt later in his life.
If you have another connection to a Great War novel that discusses nature, feel free to comment about it. I know it’s a common trope in Great War novels, so I’m curious to see what other novels people have seen it in.