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Posts Tagged ‘history’

Lord of the Rings and real life influences

Posted by picard578 on June 1, 2017


While Tolkien did say that he disliked allegory, his dislike was of a specific type of allegory. Tolkien described Lord of the Rings as being “applicable”, and Silmarillion itself is based on mythological structure, which requires it to be allegorical. Yet this allegory is subtle, direct and historical, very different from rather obvious reference to current problems that the word “allegory” generally implies. So the Dwarves dugging too deep in mines of Moria has no connection to, say, humanity destroying itself by digging too deep into secrets of the world. Dwarves were destroyed by their greed, and that is no allegory, it is a fact – albeit one people can learn from. Tolkien did intend, in both Mines of Moria and the Scourging of Shire, to put forward a message, a message that the nature should be preserved. But Balrog has no connection to atomic weaponry, despite many suggestions otherwise. Neither was the War of the Ring based on World War I or World War II – it does not represent the real war in any way. Events described by Tolkien are for the most part original. However, consciously or subconsciously, Tolkien did base his world on concepts drawn from reality, and then constructed his story around those concepts. So Lord of the Rings, while they may not be an overt allegory, are definetly allegorical. And this is the reason for their quality. The story is relatable, because it is formed in part from humanity’s own historical experiences. A story without roots, solely the product of author’s imagination, could never be so powerful. All the powerful stories ever told have been based on the real life, real events of history, but without being their direct allegory. This formula can be seen in many if not all other great works of art: the Star Wars’ original trilogy is based around the US War for Independence, while Chronicles of Narnia are based – much like Lord of the Rings mythology itself – around Christian concepts, but without LotR’s historical backdrop. Myths too are nearly always based around the real events – the Illiad is based on the real events, albeit told in a mythical way. The Dorian invasion of Peloponnesus is told through the story of the Return of the Heracleidae. The Aeneid is a political propaganda story more than a myth, but still based around the real events. So if Lord of the Rings are based around real concepts and events, only thing remaining is identifying them.

“Each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life” (Tolkien 212) A discussion in Lord of the Rings also shows how Tolkien considered myth and reality to be convergent, a myth being merely a representation of reality: “Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in daylight?” “A man may do both,” said Aragorn. “For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!” Through Lord of the Rings, Tolkien expressed experiences, both his own and those of the Western civilisation as a whole. Tolkien was aware that the history is the greatest myth ever written, a story told by God Himself, and all other myths are merely a reflection of it. But Tolkien was well aware of, and feared, that many readers would interpret the moral and spiritual elements og his mythology as pagan.

Lord of the Rings was intended as a shorter sequel to the Hobbit, but as Tolkien remarked, “the tale grew in telling”.


  1. General
  2. Peoples and cultures
  3. Nations and regions
  4. Events and locations
  5. Mythology
  6. Numerology
  7. Individuals
  8. General politics
  9. Concepts


Humans are blessed by the freedom from the Music of the Ainur. This freedom is the same gift of the free will that humans had been given in the Bible. This gift makes them capable of extreme evil, but also of the great good, and allows them to create their own fate.

Peoples and cultures

Numenoreans are based on Celts. Physically, both have black hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Much like Celts, Numenoreans were noted as being unusually tall compared to the people around them (ancient Celts were about a head taller than ancient Romans). Celts were the first, and the best, iron workers in Europe. This gave them huge advantage over their enemies of the time, allowing them to conquer parts of Illyricum and even sack Rome. Similarly, Numenoreans were the best metal workers in the world during the height of their civilization. Link is further strenghtened by Numenorean relationship with elves, explained later. However, Numenoreans in the east of the island are noted to have blond hair. This seems the parallel of Great Britain, where blond hair is common in the eastern, Anglo-Saxon portion of the island, and black hair in the western, Celtic portion. This is explained by the fact that the First House of Edain, who were mostly dark-haired, settled in the west of Numenor. Majority of Numenoreans were from the Third House, and were thus mostly blond. However, since the Faithful were mostly from the west of the island, surviving Numenoreans in the north-western Middle Earth indeed resemble the “black haired, gray eyed” description.

Numenorean culture is based on Roman and Greek cultures, with influences of Egypt and Central American civilizations as well. All listed cultures had a love for grandiose structures. Ar-Pharazon’s temple in Numenor has some resemblance to Roman Pantheon. Argonath, two colossal statues of kings of Gondor carved into the landscape, reminds of the huge statues of Ramses II. Numenorean practice of offering human sacrifices on top of large pyramids, introduced as they turned to Shadow, is remiscent of similar Aztec practice. This ties into Numenor itself being based on Atlantis, which according to the myth either ruled or influenced all of these areas. Much like Roman Emperors, kings of Gondor often took the epiteths based on the names of conquered peoples (e.g. “Gothicus” to “Umbardacil”). Ar-Pharazon’s temple to Melkor on top of Meneltarma might be related to Roman Pantheon (“temple of all the gods”). Numenorean fascination with heavens, grimness, and eventual search for immortality – combined with tombs and embalming process – are distinctly Egyptian. However, Numenorean thalassocracy and love of sea and shipbuilding has strong Greek undertones, combined with British Empire. Some aspects of Numenorean culture are based on the medieval England. Numenoreans are noted as being excellent archers and sailors, and main advantages of Numenor against its enemies were large numbers of archers with powerful longbows and a powerful navy. This is basically the relation between Britain and France during the Hundred Years War.

Rohirrim are based on Anglo-Saxons. Physically, Anglo-Saxons and Rohirrim tend to have golden hair and blue eyes. Just as Anglo-Saxons have taken south-eastern Britain and replaced the Celtic people there, so have Rohirrim taken over northern parts of Gondor (Calenardhon) and established a new nation there. Much like the Anglo-Saxon forts, Rohirrim fortifications were simple, built with a combination of earthen ramparts and wooden palisades. Rohirrim did use surviving Gondorian forts such as the Hornburg and Dunharrow. Rohirrim ancestry is in the north of Middle Earth, much like Anglo-Saxon was.

Some aspects of the Rohirrim culture, such as mead-halls, are Norse in origin. However, their names are clearly Anglo-Saxon – both personal and of places. In fact, name “Meduseld” is Anglo-Saxon word meaning “mead-hall”. Mead-halls were a symbol of everything warm and familiar, and this shows in the description of Meduseld itself – particularly in Legolas’ line “the light of it shines far over the land”, which is a direct translation of line “lixte se leoma ofer landa fela” from Beowulf. Much like in Beowulf, the party is challenged twice when approaching the king (coatguard and doorwarden in Beowulf; Edoras gatewarden and Hama in The Two Towers). In both sagas, gift-giving occurs after the party meets the King. Character Eomer may have been directly lifted from Beowulf (a character of same name exists there). Grima and Unferth are similar in some ways as well, as are Eowyn and Wealtheow. Names of cities Edoras and Aldburg are from Old English. Rohirrim language is based on the specific Old Mercian dialect of the Old English, and all names are Anglo-Saxon in origin. Names of kings of Rohan – Theoden, Thengel, Fengel, Folcwine – are all Anglo-Saxon words or epithets for the “king”. Eastemnet in Rohan comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “emnet” which means “even meadow”, and is the closest name that English language has for a sea of grass. Rohan term “eored” comes from Anglo-Saxon “worod”, meaning “warband”, but with the prefix “eo-” denoting connection to horses (“Eomer” is one who has won renown with horses, and “Eowyn” is one who loves horses). Rohirrim called themselves “Eorlingas” after their first king, Eorl. Amongst Saxons, local leaders gave name to the groups they led (e.g. Haestingas). Eorl’s hymn is very similar to lines from Anglo-Saxon poem “The Wayfarer”. Much like Anglo-Saxon England, Rohan suffers a lot of invasions through time, and both cultures have very fatalistic attitude towards life – violent death is expected, lauded even. Like Anglo-Saxons, Rohirrim are relatively primitive people living in contact with a higher culture, and occupying lands that had been a part of its domain. Descroptions of shields, spears, swords and helmets are clearly Anglo-Saxon. Unlike Vikings but like Anglo-Saxon, Rohirrim are primarily land-based. Rohirrim however are primarily horse people, while Anglo-Saxons had a pathological aversion to fighting from the horseback. Northmen who were precursors of the Rohirrim used Gothic-style language, as names of the Kings of Rhovanion are Gothic in origin. They came to Rohan after answering a call for help from Gondor, much like Roman emperor Aurelian gave Dacia to the Goths. However, unlike the Rohirrim, Goths eventually turned on the Rome. Much like the Anglo-Saxons, Rohirrim practiced apartheid, slaughtering indigenous Woses and pushing Dunlendings out of Rohan. Gandalf entering the Golden Hall mirrors Beowulf’s entrance into the Great Hall.

Ancestors of the Rohirrim however have Gothic names. They are also involved in conflicts with a horse-riding culture, paralleling 4th century conflicts between Huns and the Goths. They eventually get pushed out of their homeland by the Easterlings, which is similar to the way migrations into Roman Empire started.

Hobbits are also based on Anglo-Saxons, hence Rohirrim ability to recognize their language, and vice-versa. They represent the best of pre-Normanic Anglo-Saxons, an idealized Anglo-Saxon culture contrasting the more realistic Rohirrim. Like the English (made up of Jutes, Angles, and Saxons), the hobbits (made up of Harfoots, Stoors, and Fallohides) migrated from the east. They inhabited the land that had originally belonged to a far greater power. First to come were the Jutes, under their leaders Hengest and Horsa. They were followed by more numerous Angles and Saxons. Of hobbits, the Harfoots came first, to be followed by the more numerous Stoors and Fallohides. The Angles came from “the Angle” in Schleschwig, just as the Stoors came from “the Angle” between the rivers Hoarwell and Loudwater.

Druedain might have been based on the Neanderthals. To humans, Druedain were ugly, but their knowledge of nature was almost as great as that of the Elves. They were unmatched trackers and guardians. Their appearance made them hated by many, but those who know them came to appreciate their skills. However, a reference in Lord of the Rings shows that Rohirrim hunted Druedain like animals. Similarly, Neanderthals were very intelligent – possibly as intelligent as modern humans – but they disappeared for various reasons, possibly including being hunted by modern humans.

Elves are based on the Tuatha De Danann, children of the goddess Danu. In the Celtic mythology, they were the last race of divine people to occupy the British isles before men came and took the land away from them. In Tolkien, this process is finalizied in the Fourth Age. However, it started in the First Age, when Edain – ancestors of Numenoreans – came into the elven kingdoms of Beleriand. Just as the Celts were the first humans to come to the land of Tuatha De Dannan, so were the Edain the first humans to come to Beleriand, further reinforcing the Celtic-Numenorean link. In both cases, in Celtic mythology as in Tolkien, the divine race departed and Men took the land. According to the legend, once Men came, Tuatha De Danann were only permitted to have hidden, underground kingdoms – reflection of which can be seen in elvish underground kingdoms of Menegroth and Nargothrond in the First Age as well as Halls of Mirkwood in the Third Age, and hidden kingdoms of Gondolin in the First and Imladris in the Third Age.

Dwarves are based on Jews. Both are stereotyped as being very greedy. However, both are also very resillient, reliable, dependable and honourable people – as long as cursed gold isn’t involved. Just as Jews are particularly hated by Muslims – Nazi antisemitism has its origins in Islam – so are dwarves hated by the orcs. Result are very long and bloody wars. In those wars, dwarves have the advantages in organization and military technology, but orcs have the advantage of numbers and collective ideological insanity. Through stories, Dwarves seem to have a propensity for losing their homelands and having to live as nomads, depending on the goodwill of other people – Moria was destroyed by a Balrog, and Erebor was taken by a dragon. As a result, they are found all over the Middle Earth, some of them even enslaved by the forcess of darkness – a situation very similar to that of the Jews after the sack of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire. Dwarvish langage, Khuzdul, is based on the Jewish.

Orcs are described by Tolkien himself as being somewhat based on “Mongoloid types”. Orcs are also very numerous, agressive and good at conquest as long as driven by the central force. But once that force was removed, Orcs, much like Huns and Mongols, fell into infighting and ceased to be a serious threat. They also have a lot of connection with Turks, who are probably their primary influence. The first Ottoman Sultan that was able to conquer the European territory was called Orkhan / Orchan. Further, name Turk becomes Tork when pronounced in Persian. Ahmad ibn-Fadlan described Oguz-Turks of the 10th century as being “ugly”, “filthy”, “shameless” and “mean”. In medieval Christian propaganda, Muslims were described as demons, and orcs have many demonic characteristics. Some orcs however are described as having a black skin, which brings to mind Croatian tradition of “black Moors”, based on events of muslim pirates from North Africa raiding European mediterranean coasts. Others have dark-green scales.

Orcish culture is based on Islam. Much like Islam is a war ideology which demands constant warfare and expansion from its followers, so are Orcs in a state of conflict either among themselves, with other peoples, or both. Islam has destroyed the Mediterranean civilization of antiquity, and orcs have – in a previous age – destroyed the old civilizations of the Elves. Orcs themselves are not, so to speak, “biologically” evil, just like no race is. Their evil is being created by an ideology based on hatred, much like Islam. But that ideology has degraded them so much that they only know how to rape, pillage and burn, and design machines that allow them to do those things. Islam has produced nothing of value on its own, all of the islamic “achievements” were taken from other cultures – predominantly Greco-Roman and Hindu ones. Similarly, orcs only take achievments of others and then warp them in their own ways. They have especially long-standing hatred against dwarves, just as Islam has an inbuilt hatred against Jews, dating from the days of Mohammad. Orcs are also driven primarily by hatred against non-orcs, and when there are no such targets around they remember that they hate each other as much as they hate non-orcs. This is very similar to constant religious warfare of muslims against nonmuslims, and between different islamic factions, such as the Sunni and the Shiites. However, just like the other races, not all orcs are evil. During the Council, Elrond notes that “during the last battle, all living things were divided between whether they fought for Sauron or freedom except for the elves”, which would mean that there were some good orcs. This may be a paralel to islamic factions that fought alongside Christians. The Black Speech of orcs is based on the Hurrian language. Language was spoken by the Hurrians, an expasionist people that dominated many territories outside their own homeland, whose ethnonym was incidentally turuk. Turukkeans made a series of devastating attacks against Mesopotamian cities. Turukkum was also possibly Turkic urheimat (ancestral homeland), connecting Turukks to Turks and, thus, Ottomans. Tolkien himself mentions “Goblin war in 1453.”, the exact year that Constantinople fell. But orcs themselves are primarily tools, just how Muslims were tools that Muhammad and later rulers of islamic world used to achieve personal powers, and how western plutocrats are using them in his own schemes. They know nothing but hate, but their own movements are directed by others. Such a state is unimaginable to modern liberals, who refuse “-isms” and “-ologies” as an explanation of violence. They thus fail to understand Nigerian limb-chopping Bokko Haram, Somalian Al-Shabaab or Middle-Eastern genocidal ISIL, all of them deeply rooted in traditions of Islam – modern day orcs, it should be said. Hamas is only a shade better, finding it more useful to use civilians as human shields rather than murder them, but they are still fundamentally orcs.

Wainriders and Balchtoch were based on the steppe people, such as the Huns and Mongols. People that Mordor’s orcs enslaved, living around sea of Nurnen, can be linked to Armenians whose original homeland was around Lake Van.

Haradrim are based on the people of Africa. Description of Haradrim given in “The Two Towers” and “Return of the King” strenghtens this link. Haradrim are, in the first book, described as brown people with black hair and in crimson clothes, carrying gold decorations. Haradrim are also described as living in jungles and deserts of a southern land, and riding elephants. They too were under thrall of Sauron, much like how the entire northern Africa is islamic, and has been ever since Arabs conquered Roman Africa. But at least some Haradrim traded with Numenoreans until Numenoreans themselves fell into darkness and started imperial conquest. After that, Haradrim had to defend themselves, and did not make difference between Numenor proper and Numenorean realms in exile. Through their need for defense, they were seduced by Sauron, and in the end they themselves became agressors. This is similar to relationship between Britain and Africa.

Nations and regions

Numenor is based primarily on Atlantis. Both were island nations with hugely advanced culture and science. This enabled them to form huge overseas empires. Treasure from the empire enabled easy life and endouraged moral decay and decadence. In the end, this led to destruction of the island itself, with only a few survivors escaping the doom and bringing advanced culture to the continent. Mythical Atlantis controlled large portions of Europe, which can be seen through Numenorean dominion over north-western Middle Earth. This is reinforced by the usage of “Atalante” – “Downfallen” – after Numenor sank. Another parallel – albeit likely not an actual basis –  for Numenor is Britain. Both are island nations which formed large maritime empires thanks to naval power. Both got very rich thanks to their empires, which led to degradation and decadence. Both, as their power grew, started behaving more cruelly towards “lesser people”. It is thus possible that Tolkien saw what was happening in Britain of the time and connected it to the fate of Atlantis. It is known from his letters that, while he loved England, he despised the very concept of the British Empire – a stance that may have been, consciously or not, expressed through less-than-flattering descriptions of Numenorean imperialism (Tolkien once even commented that “I shall go back to speaking Old Mercian”.).

Arnor is based on the Western Roman Empire and Carolingian Empire. Like Western Roman Empire, it represents one half of a larger state which is nominally under rule of a single ruler, but in reality both halves operate independently. Arnor and Gondor were established when Elendil split the kingdom between himself and his sons, as did Isildur after him – except Isildur got murdered soon after, making de facto a split between his sons. Roman Empire was split into Western and Eastern by emperor Theodosius, who gave each half to each one of his sons. In both cases, division endured until the Western / Northern portion fell. In Arnor, Dunedain were far fewer than in Gondor, just as the Western Empire was less populous of the two Roman Empires. In Arnor as in the Western Empire, the symbol of authority was the rod. In the latter days of the Western Empire, the Emperor moved from Rome to Ravenna. In latter days of Arnor, its capital of Annuminas became depopulated and was abandoned in the favour of Fornost Erain. Fall of Arnor is similar to fall of Rome: when Alaric sacked Rome, Western emperor had been in Ravenna. Alaric withdrew at the approach of seaborne forces of the Eastern Empire, but Western Empire’s days were numbered. When the Witch King sacked Fornost, the King of Arnor had taken refuge at the shore of the sea. The Witch King withdrew at the seaborne approach of the forces of Gondor, but Arnor’s days were numbered. Much like the Frankish empire, Arnor got split into three quarreling states (Neustria, Austrasia and Lotharingia for the Frankish Empire, and Cardolan, Rhuadur and Arthedain for Arnor). Unlike with Carolingian Empire, theses states did not survive to develop into new states. They were, one by one, destroyed by Angmar. Charlemagne, the first ruler of the Carolingian Empire, purpoted to renew the Western Roman Empire, providing a continuum of sorts between the two. He also tried to dynastically unite the Carolingian Empire with the (Eastern) Roman Empire when empress Irene sat on the throne of Constantinople, crowning herself an emperor. At first, Charlemagne did not accept her, but when she proposed peace and alliance, he proposed marriage. As Irene was past the child-bearing stage, the empire would pass to Charlemagne. This is simlar to how Arvedui tried to secure the throne of Gondor for himself when he was a crown prince of Arthedain. In both cases, attempts were unsuccessful because nobility preferred the native candidate for the throne. Irene was deposed and Nicephorus became the emperor.

Gondor is based on the combination of Eastern Roman Empire and Holy Roman Empire. Much like the Eastern Roman Empire until 15th century, and Holy Roman Empire from 16th century onwards, Gondor acts as a barrier against the spread of forces of darkness. Like Eastern Roman Empire, it was one half of a larger state which is nominally under rule of a single ruler, but in reality both halves operated independently until the Western / Northern half fell. Both medieval Eastern Roman Empire (oftentimes incorrectly called “Byzantine Empire”) and Holy Roman Empire claimed descent from the Roman Empire of antiquity. Eastern Roman Empire was always the richer and more populous of the two halves of the ancient Roman Empire, just like Gondor was richer and more populous than Arnor. Much like with Roman Empire, center of power eventually moved from the West to the East, from Arnor to Gondor. In both Gondor and Eastern Roman Empire, the symbol of authority was the crown. One major factor in continued survival of both states in the face of barbarian hordes was the river: both Anduin and Danube acted as important obstacle to barbarians. Danube also acted as an obstacle for Ottoman Turks in their attacks on Hungary and, later, Austria (HRE). When eastern portions of the Roman Empire fell to the muslims, maybe 80.000 troops out of the active field army of 150.000 were safely evacuated to Anatolia. Unlike in the West, Roman Emperor in Constantinople always retained the authority to sack important officials. Soldiers were given a grant of land, but that land was given directly by the Emperor, who could recall it at will – a system that bore no resemblance to the Western feudal system. Similarly, Imrahil was not a lord of Belfalas – he was merely a Prince of Dol Amroth, strategos of the district itself, but not the landlord of Belfalas. Roman thematic troops were not often deployed on campaigns outside their themes; similarly, fiefs of Gondor only sent small portions of their strength to Minas Tirith. Much like the Roman Emperor was the highest popular and spiritual authority in the Roman Empire, so was the King of Gondor the highest popular and spiritual authority in the Kingdom, as seen from his religious duties, as well as the example of Kings of Numenor. Kings of Gondor like Emperors of Rome had God’s blessing in their rule. When Arvedui tried to unite the two kingdoms, Gondorians chose Earnil as their king. His son Earnur was killed and the rule continued by the stewards. In Roman Empire during the Macedonian dynasty, there were typically two rulers: an emperor who ruled in name, and the general not of Macedonian blood who ruled in reality. After death of Empress Zoe, the people of Constantinople actually stormed the convent where her sister Theodora was living as a nun, and forced her to become empress at the age of 75 – so deep was the Byzantine people’s attachment to the dynasty. Later, the Paleologous dynasty took the same place in people’s affection. In the 14th century, John V Palaeologus, a rather incompetent idiot, appointed the capable John VI Cantacuzenus as his co-emperor. When Cantacuzenus tried to take over sole control of the state, he precipitated a civil war that ruined the empire and turned it into a mere dependency of the Turks. This has obvious similarities to kin-strife in Gondor, which weakened the kingdom and caused the loss of Umbar to the Corsars. Several generations (about a century) after the kin-strife, the Constantinople fell to the Turks. Gondorian kin-strife of 1432. meanwhile precapicitated the fall of Minas Ithil to the Orcs in 2002. Both Roman Empire and Gondor were hit by a plague soon after the strife. But even afterwards, they continued to resist, with a large river (Anduin / Danube) and a city on it (Osgilliath / Budapest) playing an important role in enabling that resistance. Eventually, the city on river fell – one half at a time – and the river itself was crossed, setting up the stage for the final battle at Minas Tirith and Vienna, respectively. And while history of both Gondor and Eastern Roman Empire may be seen as one of a long, steady decline by people not familiar with their histories, reality is very different. Both countries have had periods of major resurgence – examples being reigns of Hyarmendacil I in Gondor and the Macedonian Dynasty until death of Basillius II for Rome (specifically, Basillius I).

Ithillien may be based on Croatia. Both are beautiful lands that became battlefields between good and evil, and were mostly destroyed, vandalized and abandoned in the process. By the time of final battle, Ithillien was mostly conquered by the Orcs, with only one significant military outpost remaining at Henneth Annun. By the time of the Battle of Vienna, and even earlier by the late 16th century, Croatia – then a part of the Holy Roman Empire – was almost entirely conquered. Its remains – Reliquiae reliquiarum olim et inclyti regni Croatiae – consisted of city of Zagreb, few minor cities and few fortresses. Unlike Ithillien, it was never fully liberated, and today’s Croatia only holds half of the original territory of Kingdom of Croatia.

Rohan is based on the Kingdom of Mercia, from central England. Rohirric symbol – the white horse on the green field – is found in Uffington, on the southwestern marches of Mercia. Name “Mercia” is latinization of the name “Mearc”. It translates into the “Mark”, while Rohirrim call their own land “The Mark”, or “The Riddermark”. Both “Mark” and “Mercia” mean the “borderlands”. Another influence is Poland, keeping in with Austrian influence of Gondor. Rohan was bound to Gondor by a promise of mutual aid in case of peril, just like Poland and Austria were. Much like Poland of the time, Rohan’s standing army was very small compared to that of the southern neighbour (Gondor / Austria), and full strength had to be attained through insurrectio. Polish army of the time was predominantly horse-oriented, while Austrian was predominantly infantry-oriented, which again mirrors relationship between Rohan and Gondor. In fact, around the time of the Battle of Vienna, contemporary Polish saying was that ”A Pole without a horse is like a man without a soul”. Poles were superb horsemen, and in addition to normal cavalry tactics many units could perform as mounted infantry. This again is similar to Rohan whose cavalry units often fought dismounted, as evidenced in the Second battle for the Fords and the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Polish winged hussars in particular had proven highly effective even against pike infantry, whose main purpose was countering cavalry. Because of the long lance, Polish hussars were the best shock cavalry of the era. Rohan military is a clear paralel to this: despite having a strong infantry contignent, Rohanic military is based around mounted units. Rohirrim have a devastating shock charge, and their cavalry units are also trained in infantry tactics, as seen with several examples where they form shield walls.

Mordor is based on the Ottoman Empire. “Mordor” comes from the Old English “morthor”, which means “mortal sin” or “murder”. It has similar position and shape to Anatolia. Name of Angmar, northern Sauron’s realm, is similar to Ankara, current capital of Turkey. Ottomans were supported by the Corsairs of North Africa, while Mordor was supported by Corsairs of Umbar. Orcs also utilized wargs, oversized grey wolves, while wolves in Turkey are the symbol of Ottoman expansion. Another parallel to Mordor, in a physical rather than political sense, is Hell. Northern parts of Mordor are a lifeless wasteland.

Shire is based on rural England. Specific location could be rural Warwickshire, Shropshire, Lancashire’s Lune valley and rural Worcestershire. Shire is based on a feudal system much like the Norman England. After the Wars of the Roses, the power of the Norman aristocracy was broken to be supplemented by titled nobility created by a royal fiat. Under this system, most of the land was held by local squires, among whom the titled nobility were the most revered and respectable but not necessarily the largest landowners. In Shire, “the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer”. Once Arnor fell, Hobbits managed themselves under a substitute for the king. When Rome withdrew from Britain, Britons governed themselves under a substitute for the Emperor. There is even a possible naming reference (Buckinghamshire – Dwelling of the people of Buck – Buckland).

Harad is Africa. In fact, word “Harad” means literally “south”, and the only continent directly south of Europe – which is represented by the northwestern Middle-earth – is Africa. Its description of having jungle and desert regions, as well as the presence of mumakil – animals analogous to elephants (their alternative name even is oliphaunt) – reinforces the connection. Fellowship of the Ring also reveals that apes lived in the jungles of the South.

Events and locations

Minas Tirith is based on Vienna as well as Rome. Where Rome is based on seven hills, Minas Tirith is based on a hill on a foot of the mountain, but has seven concentric walls. Much like Rome, Minas Tirith is slightly inland from a river (Tiber / Anduin). Minas Tirith is called “The White City”, because it is made from white stone and all except the outermost city wall are white. It also has the White Tower in the middle, and is represented by the White Tree. Name Vienna comes from Vindobona, latinization of the Celtic name “Windo-bona”, meaning “white base/bottom”, “white land”. Vienna was surrounded by a circular wall, which was divided into eight sections. Minas Tirith on the other hand was surrounded by seven city walls plus eight wall in the form of Rammas Echor. Denethor abandoned command in despair but remained in the city, only turning command over to Gandalf at the start of the siege after Faramir got a seemingly mortal wound. Emperor Leopold I. abandoned Vienna alltogether before the siege started. Battle of Pellenor fields itself is based on the Battle of Vienna. Just before the siege, city received major reinforcements from the outside. In Minas Tirith came the commanders and troops from other Gondorian areas, while Vienna was reinforced by troops led by Colonel Strahemberg. In both cases, civilians abandoned the city en masse before the siege began. Just before the siege, troops in Vienna numbered 12.000 regulars and 8.000 citizen militia. The city was besieged by enemy second-in-command, the Witch King in the book and Kara Mustafa in reality. Kara Mustafa used the Flag of the Prophet, white letters on a black field (similar to flag of ISIL). This is paralleled by the Mordor flag, which is red eye of Sauron on the black background. Besieging forces were significantly more powerful than the defending force, with Kara Mustafa having around 70.000 troops – similar to estimates of the besieging Mordor army in the books (writer of this article estimated besieging Mordor force at 68.000 in private notes, and before having any clue about link between Islam and LotR). Only hard number from the Mordor army is the 18.000 Haradrim, which corresponds to 18.000 Tartars in the Ottoman army. They were also very multicultural and heterogenous as strength necessitated drawing troops from across the respective empires. Before and during the battle, Ottoman forces would behead any captured or killed Christians, a practice also carried out by the Orcs as a way of demoralizing defenders. Minas Tirith had maybe 3.000-9.000 troops before the siege, and was reinforced by 3.000 troops. During the siege, there was a question of wether the city will be relieved. While Vienna was saved by the 18.000-strong Polish cavalry charge, Minas Tirith was saved by the 6.000-strong Rohirric cavalry charge. Both cavalry charges were the largest in history at that point. Just before the arrival of reinforcements, Strahemberg’s messangers managed to slip through the Ottoman lines, much like Denethor’s messangers that met Theoden. These appraised Sobieski / Theoden of the desperate plight of the besieged city – Vienna was on the verge of falling, as was Minas Tirith in the book. Both armies were marching light in order to get to the besieged city on time. Polish army had to cross the Weinerwald woods before arriving to Vienna, while Rohirrim had to cross the Druadan forrest. Polish king Sobieski decided to send his troops through the treacherous mountain passes of Kahlenberg, and charge the Muslim forces from there. This is paralleled by Theoden using a mountain pass through the Druadan forrest instead of the well-known and wide road in order to surprise the Orcs. Both Poles and Rohirrim solved the problem by hiring the local guides. Even after the advance portions arrived, it took hours for the army to assemble for the attack, and they had to pass the terrain decidedly unfriendly for the cavalry before making it to open field. Once the allied reinforcements exited the forrest, they saw the White City under siege by a massive enemy army. Just like Kara Mustafa, the Witch King failed to consider any possibility of a relief force showing up until it actually showed up. The Poles announced their presence to the defending garrison with a barrage of rockets, while the Rohirrim were first noticed when they blew into their horns. Arrival of reinforcements came just as the enemy forces were preparing to enter the besieged city – the walls of Vienna having been breached, and the gates of Minas Tirith having been destroyed. Most of the relief force at Pelennor actually came from Gondor, while most of the relief force at Vienna was Imperial. Difference here is that Gondorian renforcements came much later than the Rohirrim, while Imperial and Polish forces came to Vienna at the same time, and Sobieski’s cavalry charge was done in support of the already-engaged Imperial reinforcements. Kara Mustafa launched a futile cavalry counterattack, while Rohirrim defeated a Haradrim cavalry counterattack much earlier on the Pelennor. Afterwards, the entire Ottoman / Orcish army disintegrated. During the battle, individual Polish cavalry units got isolated and annihilated due to overeagerness in the attack, a fate that Eomer’s Rohirrim almost suffered before being saved by the Gondorian reinforcements and that Theoden’s own eored already suffered earlier. In both cases, besieged forces also sallied out once the siege began to break, cleaning out the remaining besiegers under the walls. After the siege was broken, Gondorian and Rohirrim forces destroyed retreating enemy troops, much like Austrian and Polish troops did. But in the end, the triumph was that of a Holy Virgin Mary, which is paralleled by Eowyn killing the Witch King in the books.

Osgilliath is based on Budapest. Both are cities situated on rivers which cut them into half, and said rivers happen to be largest in their part of the world. Osgilliath was abandoned toward the end of the Third Age, and was used merely as a fortress by both Gondor and Mordor, both holding one half of the city each. Same happened to Budapest after the Ottomans conquered its eastern half. Both cities also happened to be seats of countries (Gondor and Hungary) until said seats moved to the West due to war danger (Minas Tirith / Vienna).

Minas Morgul is based on Istanbul. Both cities were once strong defences against a threat from the East (orcs / Seljuk Turks). However, both of them got captured after a long siege by forces of darkness and renamed. Minas Ithil was renamed to Minas Morgul, while Constantinople was renamed to Istanbul. Minas Ithil is literally “Tower of the Moon”, while the symbol of Constantinople was moon. After the capture, both became primary outposts for further spread of evil. Minas Morgul became the seat of the Witch King of Angmar, while Constantinople became the seat of the Ottoman Sultan.

Minas Tirith was saved in part by an army of ghosts. When Crusaders got trapped in Antioch, they were supported by ghosts of fallen comrades when they attacked the besieging islamic army.

Dead Marshes are based on Tolkien’s experiences at the Western Front. He talked of his experiences on the battlefield, how one would see dead men and boys staring into the sky with the eyes that were never to see again. Two of his three best friends from school were killed in the war. It is this that is portrayed in Frodo’s travel through the Dead Marshes, with dead bodies and dead faces in the water, reminder of a massive battle fought long time ago. But other battles of the War of the Ring, described in previous sections, show also Tolkien’s experience how courage and hope can lead people to victory.


Eru Iluvatar is the Judeo-Christian God. Much like humans in the Bible, elves and humans are His children. From Him all things proceed, and to Him all things return.  Before he created everything – Ainur included – there was only Him and the void. Like Christian God, Illuvatar does not rule the world but allows His creations freedom of thought and will. This, by its very nature, allows evil to enter the world so as to prevent greater evil of enslavement. He is the Beginning and the End, and the cause of Morgoth’s fall was desire to act independently from Eru, his wish to be just like Eru. He is the only one able to create life from nothing, everything being His creation or else a corruption thereof. In an unpublished – and thus likely noncanonical – conversation between Finrod Felagund and a wise woman call Andreth, they realize that the only way to cure the evils of the world would be if Eru Himself entered into Arda. This is a clear parallel of Christ’s coming to Earth, but would have not happened in the Legendarium since Tolkien’s stories take place thousands of years before the Christian era. Eru is the only being powerful enough to defeat Melkor, just as God is the only being that can defeat Satan.

Valar are the Archangels. They are creations of Illuvatar and are not allowed to act outside Eru’s will, so they are not “lesser deities”, unlike liberal “interpretation” of them. In fact, they are less “godly” than humans are, as humans have freedom of will. They are “powers”, “angelic created beings appointed to government of the world”. They were created by Eru before anything else, just as Christian God had created angels before anything else was made. However, some Valar do have characteristics roughly corresponding to gods of pagan religions, which may have been a way of tying fundamentally Christian conception of the Legendarium into pagan Anglo-Saxon legends. Tolkien himself commented that the Valar were angelic beings whose authority is delegated by The One, making them “beings of the same order of beauty, power, and majesty as the ‘gods’ of higher mythology, which can yet be accepted . . . by a mind that believes in the Blessed Trinity.”. They also can appear embodied in human-like bodies, and Silmarillion specifically says that the Valar typically choose such an appearance ever since they saw the image of Children of Iluvatar who were yet to be born. This results in them taking on characteristics of both Angels and pagan gods.

Maiar are the lesser Angels. They are the same type of beings as the Valar, but of a lesser rank. Much like Valar, they are spiritual beings but can appear embodied as humans. Five Maiar were sent to the Middle Earth to guide races against the evil. These appear as old and frail humans, yet are anything but. In power, each of them is equal to Sauron and to the Balrog in Moria. Balrogs themselves are Maiar, who fell into disgrace by following Melkor, and are thus banished, much like the lesser angels.

Christ too is present, not physically but as a concept – of sacrifice and resurrection. This clearly points to Gandalf, who had sacrificed himself in the mines of Moria, only to be resurrected later. He also battled Balrog in the darkness and cast him down, much like Christ overthrowing Satan. Like Jesus, resurrected Gandalf appeared to three astounded persons. But Frodo may also, to an extent, fit the bill – he carried the One Ring, taking on “sins of the world” in a manner. He was also tempted by the Ring through the journey, as Jesus was tempted by the Satan. But being human, and enduring it for much longer time, Frodo’s will eventually failed. Frodo also is a priest, offering a sacrifice to save the world – but also being sacrifice, just as Jesus is a sacrifice in an eucharisty. The One Ring he carries has physical weight and becomes heavier the closer Frodo gets to Mt. Doom – much like Christ had to carry the cross up the Golgoth. Gandalf for his part is gathering people to oppose the evil, never using his supranatural powers or resorting to force to do so, even though he would be clearly capable of it. He even suffers people such as Denethor. Yet he is often unwelcome, by those who want physical help – swords and spears – instead of advice and encouragment. This clearly fits Christ, who was welcomed as a prophet, yet many expected him to lead an armed uprising against the Romans, and were bitterly disappointed when he did not. Aragorn too reflects some aspects of Christ himself, such as being able to command ghosts of men, being “ancient of days” and having healing hands. He thus reflects Christ’s divinity, much like medieval rulers were supposed to do, being blessed by God. He, like Gandalf, undertakes the journey through darkness and comes back to the light of the day – but unlike Gandalf or Christ, his journey is literal and there is no death involved.

Ar-Pharazon’s troops are said to be trapped until the last battle. This seems to be an equivalent of Ragnarok. Rings also have symbolism is Norse and Egyptian mythologies, and Ringwraiths have a lot in common with Valkyries.

Tolkien’s Barrow-wights are basically Norse Draugar. Draugar are said to be evil spirits residing in the bodies of dead heroes and kings and usually (but not universally) unharmed by conventional weapons. Wights in LotR had been raised by the Witch-king, and are thus clearly possessed by evil. Similar creatures were Mahr or Alp from Germanic and Slavic folklore. Unlike Draugar, those were vampiric creatures who drank blood of the living during the night. Primary way to defeat them was to open their Barrow to the rays of the Sun, which was indeed done in Lord of the Rings.


Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Perhaps the most obvious symbolism in Tolkien is numerology, particularly of the Rings of Power. There are Nine, Seven, Three and One ring of power. Minas Tirith has seven concentric walls, and is one of three major cities of the original Kingdom of Gondor. Reason for this is real-world numerology, which stems from the observation of nature: there are seven moon phases and seven colours of the rainbow. This later made its way into myth and religion: twelve major dieties of Greek pantheon, three persons in the Holy Trinity and  three times fourteen generations in the family tree from Abraham to Jesus.

Number one stands for unity and wholeness, as well as originality, invention and creativity. So it is not surprising that it is highly important in Tolkien’s mythology. There is one God (Eru), who even in the text is described as “The One”, the creator of everything that was, is and will be. Number One stands for undivided unity, as well as being an image of the highest being who created the universe. Sunday, the day connected to honouring God, is the first day of the week. One Ring is the opposite of that, a symbol of doom – but for Sauron himself, it is a symbol of hope. In the Egyptian mythology, rings were symbols of eternity as well as tools of power and strength. Sauron himself is somewhat of a mirror to Illuvatar, as he – much more than Morgoth was – is a creator and inventor. He created the One Ring as well as the Black Speech of Mordor. But whereas Illuvatar allowed His creations full freedom of will, Sauron gives no such freedom to his own. In fact, Sauron’s creatures are so dependant on Sauron’s own will that they melt away and hide as soon as Sauron himself is defeated. Fact that there are two opposed supreme beings casues discord and conflict.

Number three stands for the trinity, unity of three different qualities. In Christianity, there is One God, but there are Three Persons of God: The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. It is thus the number of completeness and also of the three Christian moral qualities – love, hope and faith. It is also a number that limits everything, for everything has a beginning, a middle and the end, with sole exception of God Himself – who is thus represented by number one. Trinity also appears in other religions, such as Hinduism with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In Lord of the Rings there are three elven Rings, Vilya, Nenya and Narya, the Quenyan words for water, air and fire. All three were given to great elf lords – Gil-Galad, Galadriel and Cirdan (though Narya was given to Gil-galad and passed on to Cirdan). However, Gil-galad passed Vilya on to half-elf Elrond, and Cirdan passed Narya onto Gandalf. These Rings have the power to preserve and to protect, and are thus by their nature opposed to the One Ring, whose main power is destruction, and were given to most powerful leaders of resistance against Sauron. Vilya and Nenya, with blue sapphire and transparent diamond, represent the sky and the water, two elements that are generally calm but can cause terrible destruction – much like their bearers, who are mostly passive in their opposition to Sauron. Narya has a red gemstone, which fits both Gandalf’s fiery personality and the fact that he is by far the most active of the bearers in opposing Sauron. This also represents the old triad of Air, Water and Fire, with everything in the world being made of these three elements, and nothing existing if one of elements ceased to exist. Thus, if one of Three Rings got lost, broken or captured, Middle-earth would perish (thus the significance of Frodo recognizing Nenya on Galadriel’s hand). Three bearers also represent three different times, combining all three in each one but placing emphasis on different times. Elrond represents the past, being a wise loremaster who does not easily forget or forgive, and who is very passive in his approach. His knowledge of the past also allows him to foretell the future to a certain extent. Gandalf represents the present, being the only one to actively fight against Sauron. Galadriel represents the future, worrying what will happen to her realm of Lothlorien if the One Ring is destroyed, but is ready to make the sacrifice if it means safety for the world.

Number seven stands for plenty and continuity, spirituality and wisdom. It is also the principal number in the Bible, standing aloof and unearthly. There are seven Lords of Valar, and also seven Queens of Valar. All of them have different characteristics attributed to them, as well as associations. Manwe is the one closest to Illuvatar, Eru, and one that understands His designs the best. He is also associated with air, and uses eagles to monitor what is happening in the world. These associations, as well as being leading Valar, make him a parallel of Zeus. Ulmo is associated with water, being Lord of Sea, and is most active in opposing Morgoth during his rule on Arda. This makes him the parallel of Poseidon. Aule was responsible for crafting the substance of Arda, and is the Valar most respected by Dwarves who are master craftsmen. He is thus the parallel of Hephaestus. Orome is Valar responsible for hunt, thus paralleling Artemis and Odin. Mandos is responsible for judgment over the souls of the elven dead. His actual name is Namo, but he got named after the Halls of Mandos in which he resides. This is a reverse of Greek god Hades; Hades too judges over the dead, and resides in underworld of Tartaros. However, Tartaros often is called Hades after the god who resides there. Irmo is a master of dreams and desires, as well as visions, and is often known as Lorien after his residing place. He thus parallels Greek god Morpheus, a god of dreams, who often delivered messages through dreams – as Irmo too did. Tulkas is Vala who is responsible for participating in war, and last Vala to come to Arda. He enjoys fighting and contests of strength. He thus parallels Ares, Greek god of war who represents violent and physical side of war, albeit without Ares’ bloodthirsty nature. Tulkas would thus be closer to Heracles. Varda is Manwe’s wife and the Queen of Valar, making her an equivalent of Hera. Her province is light, as “in light is her power and her joy”. Yavanna is responsible for the growth of all growing things in Arda, and nurtured the first growing things in the world. She may have sent Radagast to Middle-earth specifically to care about the living beings. Thus she parallels Persephone, goddess of spring growth. Nessa was lithe, swift of foot and loved fast creatures such as deer. This association with deer would bring her into relation with goddess Diana, to whom deer were sacred. Nienna is Vala of mercy and grief, thus paralleling Greek goddess Eleos, personification of pity, mercy, clemency and compassion. Este is Vala responsible for healing the hurt and the weary, possibly paralleling Greek goddess Aceso, godess of the healing process, or god Asclepius. Vaire is responsible for weaving the story of Arda, corresponding Greek godesses Moirai, or the Fates. Vana was responsible for preserving the youth of things of Arda, corresponding to Greek goddess Hebe and her power to give eternal youth.

Seven is also number of rest and safety, which is precisely what Valar try to achieve – in Arda, and particularly in Valinor. Seven is also a connection of numbers 3 (divine number) and 4 (number of world and the people), thus representing the union between God and people, which Valar embody. In Bible, seven also corresponds to number of Holy Spirit’s gifts, the pleas of the Lord’s prayer, sacraments, seven virtues and seven deadly sins. God created the world in seven days, Rome was built on seven hills, and there were seven wise men in ancient Greece. Number fourteen, number of all Valar together, combines reason and compassion, two characteristics that Valar display often.


By building on Islamic association, Sauron could be compared to Allah and Saruman to Mohammed. As Jesus said, “By their deeds will you know them”. Analysis of teachings and consequences of Islam reveal it as an ideology of evil. Since God is not evil, assuming that Qur’an really is supernatural in origin leaves only one possibility – that Allah was actually Satan impersonating God, and Muhammad fell for it. This is the same situation as with Sauron. Sauron controlled people of east and south by posing as a god, and these people did their god’s deeds. Saruman was ensnared by Sauron, but it took a long time for Saruman’s mask of peace to fall off. Had Sauron won, people would have been forced to worship him as a God – just as it happened in all the countries that islam had conquered. Sauron wished to impose order on all peoples, just like islam decrees. In fact, Allah’s obsession with order and power combined with lack of love is the main characteristic which differentiates him from Judeo-Christian loving God. Another possibility for Mohammed is The Mouth of Sauron, a description that would fit him well. In the greater scope of Tolkien’s work, Allah / Satan would more closely be compared to Morgoth, the ultimate evil in Tolkien’s world.

Melkor and Balrog, their names at least, come from Phoenician gods of Melkart and Baal. However, Melkor himself is a falled Valar, a fallen Archangel, making him Satan. Melkor was originally to be equal to Manwe, the highest of the Valar, rebelled against Eru, and was cast down. Much like Satan, Melkor fell because of his pride, wanting to be equal to God. He was cast out of the heaven. Melkor/Morgoth even has two names as well, one (Melkor) being used before he got cast down, much like Satan (Lucifer). Morgoth wanted to replace God as the ruler of the universe, then decides to just enslave everyone and finally decides to destroy everything. This behaviour is outright Satanic, and Morgoth is the ultimate evil in Tolkien’s world. Morgoth does not appear in Lord of the Rings, and has no active role there, yet he is the driving force behind the conflict, for he started it. The whole cause of marring of Arda and all the evil that happened was that Melkor wanted to be like God. Tolkien himself went as far as to say that the conflict in the Lord of the Rings is “about God, and His sole right to divine honour”. Satan acts as the leader of fallen angels, and Morgoth gathered many Maiar – beings comparable to angels – to his side. This could mean also that Muhammad was fooled not by the Satan himself, but by a demon in Satan’s employ, pretending to be God – much like Sauron was Melkor’s servant who pretended to be God. Much like Satan marred the Earth and introduced sin into the world, so did Morgoth mar Arda by interfering with the Valar, and finally spreading himself through the creation in order to influence it (Arda is Morgoth’s Ring).

It should be noted that it is through Manwe, the noblest of Valar, that Tolkien shows how being too good, too pure, and thus failing to understand evil, can allow or even cause evil to spread.

Theoden is similar to Theoderid, a Germanic king who in 451. died while fighting against the Huns. The Huns were defeated in the battle. Similarly, Theoden died while fighting the orcs in an ultimately victorious battle.

Galadriel, as Tolkien himself commented, is in some ways similar to the Virgin Mary. Much like Virgin Mary, she plays a passive yet crucial role in salvation of the world. Like Virgin Mary, Galadriel too is a queen, mother, and ethereal. She is as revered by good inhabitants of the Middle-earth as Mary is revered by Catholics. She is always there to provide aid to those who request it. The Phial of Galadriel which she gave to Frodo overpowered the darkness both literal and symbolic: removing the darkness of the Shelob’s lair as it removed the despair from hobbits’ hearts. The gift of the cloaks, which would “aide in keeping out the sight of unfriendly eyes” and were “made by the Lady”, is similar to a gift Mary made to Saint Simon of Stock – a scapular, cloth worn around the neck which would protect anyone who led the holy life from devil’s sight. Like Mary, Galadriel too inspires hope in the faithful, and keeps their hearts at peace.

Eowyn also corresponds to Virgin Mary, being gentle and young yet destined to greatness. She killed the Witch-king, whom “no living man could kill”. This freed Frodo from Witch-king’s pursuit, and victory at Pelennor fields drew Sauron’s attention to Gondor and enabled the expedition to Morannon. Without it, Frodo would have never managed to destroy the Ring. This parallels the Holy Scripture, which in Genesis points to pivotal role of women. It is through Mary that Jesus was born and humanity redeemed, a work of both woman and man. Likewise, the Witch king was defeated by Eowyn and Merry working together.

Third figure which corresponds to Virgin Mary is Varda, Elbereth. While representing Hera in the Valar pantheon, she is not an actual diety but an archangel. It was Sam’s invocation of Elbereth that allowed him and Frodo to pass the Watchers of Cirith Ungol.

Fourth character corresponding to Virgin Mary is Gilraen, Aragorn’s mother. Aragorn himself has some messianic characteristics, and as Gilraen comments “I gave hope to the Dunedain, I have kept no hope for myself”.

Tom Bombadil, again revealed by Tolkien himself, embodies “pure (real) natural science”. Thus Bombadil is the spirit of the nature, and if the nature was destroyed then he himself would fall. From this stems the comment on the Council of Elrond, that Bombadil would be unable to resist Sauron for the latter has the ability to destroy the nature itself.

Gandalf was influenced by Odin, a one-eyed wandering old man with a staff, a long white beard and a wide brimmed hat. Tolkien himself wrote in a letter that he thought of Gandalf as an “Odinic wanderer”, and like Odin, Gandalf promotes justice, knowledge, truth and insight. He is also similar to wizard from Kalevala, Vainamoinen, due to their shared immortal origins, wise nature, and deporting on a ship to lands beyond the mortal world.

Balrog and the collapse of the Bridge of Khazad-dum in Moria are a parallel of the fire giant Surt and the destruction of Asgard’s bridge in Norse myth.

Aragorn has some parallels to Beowulf. Both Aragorn and Beowulf have questionable family lines and take kingship only for the good of the people.

General politics

Tolkien was aware that what seems nice (to modern people) on paper – multiculturalism, uncritical tolerance, cultural relativism – was not necessarily good, and that the best of intentions can have the worst of consequences. This is reflected in how people of Gondor intermixed with lesser peoples, who were not as culturally advanced nor biologically blessed like Numenoreans were, which led to Dunedain there gradually losing their gifts. Loss of gifts was both cultural – loss of knowledge and wisdom – and biological, as reflected in lessening lifespan. Ultimately, this multiculturalism resulted in the civil war which nearly destroyed Gondor. In real world, cultural superiority is not a result of biological superiority, but mixing is still devastating, as shown in Western countries with major Muslim populations. Lord of the Rings also reflects the fact that during the Middle Ages, most cultures that Europe came into contact with were objectively inferior to old Roman culture (represented by Numenorean culture); the only cultures that were comparable if not superior to it – Chinese and Indian cultures in the East – were cut off by a sea of Islam (indeed, all the advancements and achievements that liberal “historical science” ascribes to Islamic culture were actually stolen from either Roman Empire, Persia, or civilizations of India – incorrectly labelled “Arabic numerals” are just one example of that appropriation, stolen from India and then brought to Europe. Other examples are the very concept of zero, algebra, and many others). During the Middle Ages in general, Europe was constantly being invaded from Asia and Africa; reflection of this can be seen in Lord of the Rings where “evil” races are often given description reflecting Asiatic or African physical characteristics. In fact, islamic entities from Northern Africa and Arabia had engaged in enslaving both (white) Europeans and (black) Africans long before post-Roman European entities first set foot into Africa.

This does not, unlike the common opinion among liberals today (example), imply feelings of supremacy (supremacism). It is not a zero-sum game, and to be against multiculturalism, it is enough to acknowledge that cultures and peoples are different, and wish to preserve that diversity. This can be  seen in how Tolkien is against even Elvish-Edain/Numenorean marriage. Both Elves and Edain had been shown to have many faults, and are very similar due to long-lasting and very close contact. Both are “good” races, and are culturally developed. Still, such mixing does not bring good outcome, for diversity, biological and cultural alike, is created through isolation. And diversity is worth preserving.

In recent times, onslaught of liberal Hollywood / McDonalds “culture” has caused massive damage, and muslim expansion into Europe threatens to overshadow even that. One is Western and other Eastern in origin, but for Europe, both are deadly. Influx of Muslims into Europe is as wrong as was the influx of Europeans into America, but one evil cannot be fixed by another. But as Tolkien recognized European cultures to be worth preserving, so he recognized non-European cultures and races to be worth preserving, even those who had fallen under the sway of darkness (islam): two of the Istari were sent to the East and the South, way outside the North-western Middle Earth where the books are set. And much like modern multicultural liberals talk good talk and spread fairy tales of multicultural heaven of tolerance and progress – an idea that is in reality impossible, as Western Europe and South Africa show – so did Sauron come to the elvish masters pretending to be helping them.


Silmarils and the Rings of Power, One Ring in particular, represent earthly riches. Feanor and his sons obsessed over Silmarils, abandoned Valinor against the will of Manwe and Eru, and commited horrific atrocities to reach them. Silmarils also cause many individuals to desire them, but once they are acquired, they become a weight and peril for the one holding them. In similar vein, One Ring is a highly valuable object which causes people to obsess over it. It caused Isildur’s death when he claimed it, corrupted and destroyed Smeagol, and nearly did the same to Frodo. Smeagol even calls it “my Preciousss”. Yet the Ring has no master except Sauron (Satan). Its effects are far greater on people who acquired it in violent or otherwise evil ways, but it affects everyone. It can abandon the person with no warning even though it seemed secure just moments before. These characteristics are all same as those possessed by a great material treasure or fortune. These concepts are represented by the Sampo of Kalevala, which might be an inspiration for the One Ring. Like the One Ring, the Sampo is fought over by forces of good and evil, and is destroyed towards the end of the story.

Tolkien has little actual magic in the world. While there are some magical aspects, all of them revolve around Art, sub-creation and rejuvenation of nature rather than forcible rearrangement in obviously unnatural ways. Even more traditional appearances of magic, such as Saruman’s voice and Rings of Power (One Ring in particular) revolve around illusions and manipulations of will, or else manipulations of spiritual realm, rather than direct manipulation of material. Elvish lembas seems to parallel the Christian eucharisty, and is again a product derived from greater understanding of the world, rather than an unnatural manipulation thereof. Lembas has the power to reinforce not only the body, but the spirit as well, healing the faith and restoring determination.


Lord of the Rings mythology is inspired by various real-world factors, such as history, mythology, religion and Tolkien’s personal experiences. It is not, for the most part, an allegory for current events of the time when Tolkien was writing the books. Rather, it is history of the world, reimagined and retold. Its relevance today draws from this, as history is teacher of the future (or it should be, but is too often ignored).

Further reading

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Posted by picard578 on July 5, 2014

Definition and history

Beth Hagenauer from Dryden has defined supercruise as an ability to fly supersonically without using afterburner; USAF Flight Test Center at Edward Air Force Base defines supersonic speeds as being above Mach 1, without regard for transonic region (which is different for all aircraft – F-16s transonic region is from Mach 0,9 to Mach 1,1, and Gripen’s is even narrower). According to this definition, list of supercruisers is quite long. English Electric Lightning prototype exceeded Mach 1 on dry thrust on August 11, 1954, and could achieve Mach 1,22 without reheat. Term “supercruise” was actually first applied to the Lightning. Mirage IIIO with Avon engine was able to reach Mach 1,3 in 1962. F-104 Starflighter was capable of maintaining Mach 1,1 in level flight in military power, and in fact could maintain it for 15 minutes. A clean F-16 (that is, no external stores except two missiles at wingtip stations) can cruise at Mach 1,1. With 6 missiles, Gripen C can cruise at Mach 1,1, Gripen E at Mach 1,3, Rafale C at Mach 1,4, Typhoon at Mach 1,5. F-22 with 8 missiles can cruise at Mach 1,7. Tornado F3 is also capable of supercruise. As it can be seen, supercruise is nothing new or special.

But just the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburner is not enough if it does not give an operational advantage. Two to one advantage in cruise (or maximum) speed is of no use if it only lasts for half a minute. Read the rest of this entry »

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Strategic bombing – from Douhet to drones

Posted by picard578 on October 7, 2012


Gulio Douhet and bomber mafia

Italian general Gulio Douhet was, along with UK politician Stanley Baldwin (who said that “bomber will always get through”), German general Walther Wever, US general Billy Mitchell and UK marshal Hugh Trenchard, one of main advocates of idea that strategic bombing can win war.

Ideas were as following:

  1. war can be won entirely by destruction of enemy military and industrial capability from air
  2. fighters cannot effectively counter bombers – vastness of skies made defense impossible
  3. strategic bombardment can force enemy to surrender by breaking civilain morale

While point #2 was correct until World War 2 (bombers had speed advantage over fighters and lack of means of detection other than visual observation meant that fighters will be unable to scramble in time), introduction in radar and improvements in fighter performance meant that, by 1945, bombers:

  1. could be spotted from long before reaching targets
  2. were slower, lower flying and less heavily armed than fighters

enabling fighters to effectively counter bombers. While fighters, and especially anti-air artillery, did not manage to stop bombers from coming throught, they inflicted unsustainable casualties on bomber formations until escort fighters became avaliable.

Advances in missiles, both AAMs and SAMs, however, made large, heavy, non-maneuverable bombers even easier targets; with each missile being able to destroy bomber in one hit, and heavy bombers lacking maneuverability to evade missiles, any area covered with fighters or SAMs would be closed to them.

Moreover, strategic bombardment failed to break enemy’s will to fight in all instances of its use, thus negating a major point of proponents of the theory. It’s proponents – specifically Gulio Douhet – tended to ignore Close Air Support mission as “useless, superfluous and harmful”.

However, World War II decisively proved him wrong. Despite intense strategic bombardment by both Axis and Western Allies, and heavy civilian casualties, strategic bombardment failed to force enemy to surrender. Same situation repeated itself in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. In all of these conflicts, strategic bombardment did exactly opposite – it galvanized people in resistance against agressor; and every war in which strategic bombardment was used, was lenghtened due to it.

Walther Weawever, on the other hand, believed that heavy bombers can:

  1. destroy enemy air force by bombing its bases and aircraft factories
  2. prevent movement of large enemy forces by destroying railways and roads
  3. support operations of army formations
  4. support naval operations by participating in naval battles and attacking enemy naval bases
  5. paralayze enemy armed forces by stoppong production in armaments factories

Heavy bombers, however, proved inadequate for most of these missions.

“Industrial Web Theory” also came into being. Idea was that industrialized nations had certain points that were vulnerable to attack, and that these points could cripple entire industry. Unlike Mitchell, Douhet believed that attacks on enemy air force are futile.

One of main reasons why strategic bombing was, and is, popular, is that it provides justification for independent air forces in age of joint military operations. For the same reason, CAS mission is hated by USAF despite its effectiveness, because it makes them feel like part of Army artillery.

History of strategic bombing

World War I


While tactical bombing from aircraft was carried out from early in the war, the first ever aerial bombardment of civilians was carried out on January 19, 1915 – two German Zeppelins dropped 24 fifty-kilogram incendinaries in Great Yarmouth, Sheringham, Kings Lynn and the surrounding villages, killing four people. Public and media reaction was, however, out of proportion.

But main use of airpower was in scouting, and preventing enemy scouting, which led to development of fighter aircraft. Also, UK Royal Navy’s fighter aircraft were used to prevent German Zeppelin bombardments.

Decision to take offensive against German Zeppelin facilities led to development of first British strategic bomber, Handley Page 0/100.

German Zeppelin bombardment, meanwhile, killed 500 people through 1915 and 1916, forcing RAF to allocate 17 000 officers and men to home air defense. While Zeppelins were initially thought of as invincible – they were almost as fast as aircraft, carried a greater bomb load and multiple machine guns, and had great range and endurance; while it was not easy to ignite hydrogen using standard bullets – and had great pschologycal impact (although their strategical impact was unimportant), development of incideary ammo led to the loss of SL.11, ending Army’s interest in strategic bombardment of Britain for a while. German Navy (Kasierliche Marine), however, continued raids.

12-Zeppelin raid was launched on 23-24 September 1916, in which two Zeppelins were lost. 11-Zeppelin raid was launched on 1. October 1916., although only one arrived to targets due to bad weather and was destroyed.

In 27-28 November raid, by unknown number of Zeppelins, two were lost.

In 1917, new Zeppelins were introduced, with increased operating altitude. First raid by these Zeppelins was in 16-17 March, when none of Zeppelins reached targets, as happened to next raid on 23-24 May. Two days later, raid by Gotha bombers was halted by clouds.

In 16-17 June raid, two out of six Zeppelins reached England, and one was destroyed when it was forced to drop to 4 000 meters due to engine and compass problems.

All later raids through 1917 were ineffective. In 1918, there were four raids, with one Zeppelin lost.


Strategic bombing in World War One never had a chance to either prove or disprove Douhet’s theory, due to small scope of bombardment. However, interesting to note are high casualty rates among Zeppelins carrying out bombardment, in spite of original assumptions, and technological advancements which rendered pre-war assumptions invalid, such as incidientary ammo. Same story will repeat itself in World War II.

World War II

Allied campaign

First use of air power in World War II was by Germany. While German generals believed Douhet, they also saw value of precision bombing of tactical targets via dive bombers. These bombers proved important part of Blitzkrieg. Yet, Germany performed strategic bombing from early in the war – such as destruction of Warshaw.

In following Battle of Britain, Douhet’s ideas were to be put on a thorough test after Hitler switched targets to be attacked from military – airfields, radar station, depots – to targeting of the civilian poplation centres. That was a classic Douhet-esque move, aimed at winning a war by breaking civilian morale.

One part of Douhet’s theory was immediately proven wrong by fact of German attack alone – entire UKs heavy bomber fleet did not prevent Germany from bombing British islands. Nor did British retaliation make them withdraw attacks.

However, by switching targets from military to civilian ones, Hitler had allowed by-then badly mauled RAF time to regroup and lick its wounds. Meanwhile, RAFs bombing of German cities – made in retaliation to German bombing – did not stop German attacks on UK cities. Moreover, RAF was forced to change strategy to indiscriminate, and ineffective, night bombing after unescorted day bombing raids failed to come through. Thus came to rest second part of Douhet’s theory.

As matter of fact, there is evidence that Churchill used accidental bombing of London on the night of August 24 to launch counter raid on Berlin; next day Hitler ordered Luftwaffe to switch to bombing cities – which cost it victory in the Battle of Britain.

USAAC also started daylight bombing from heavy bombers, but this time attemoting to destroy Germany’s industrial might. They believed that heavily-armored, heavily-armed B17 will be able to escort itself to and from the target; however, Luftwaffe used light bombs and rockets to bring down unescorted bombers, and no amount of armor proved adequate.

Priorities were described as following:

  • submarine pens and construction yards
  • German fighter aircraft production plants
  • rail network in France and Germany
  • Germany’s fuel supply
  • generalized targets in Germany’s war industry

Aim was to weaken or destroy Germany’s military, industrial and economic system as well as will of German people to fight.

First target were ball bearing plants. However, bombing was halted until early 1944 after losses of 10-35 % per sortie through 1943. It also failed to have any effect – not only there is no evidence that attacks had any lasting effect on ball-bearing industry, but Germany also had large surplus of ball bearings, plus supply from Sweden and Switzerland. Only thing it did was to provide Luftwaffe with opportunity for turkey hunt. Only between 10 and 35 % bombs fell within 5 miles radius of target during each raid; moreover, only 66 % of aircraft actually attacked targets.

Attacking submarine pens also proved useless, since pens were protected by 6 to 8 meters of steel-reinforced concrete. Albert Speer also dispersed submarine production facilities and moved assembly to invulnerable factories, which made further attacks useless.

Attacking rail system at France also failed to stop flow of supplies due to imprecision of bombing and great number of rails avaliable. It was nearly stopped, however, by P-47s and other fighters flying bombing missions, destroying vehicles and lines of communication in precision attacks, slowing German economy.

Attack on Ploesti oil fields had cost Allies half the aircraft. Yet despite oil industry’s importance and vulnerability, it was fourth on the list, and attacks only recommenced in 1944, where oil production was already droppong due to Russian pressure.

Attack on fighter aircraft industry, meanwhile, had opposite effect – Germany increased its fighter production, from 8 295 in 1939 and 15 596 in 1942 to 39 807 aircraft in 1944. However, bombing was success in a sense that bombers drew German fighters where they could be shot down by superior numbers of Allied fighter aircraft – it was P51 that won air superiority over Europe. In fact, by D-Day, Luftwaffe could only launch 200 sorties a day, as opposed to 15 000 sorties a day for Allies. Heavy bombers, meanwhile, failed to destroy German fortifications at Omaha beach. Meanwhile, 1500 P-47s badly mauled 23 German divisions, delaying them for as much as six weeks – whereas original travel time predicted was 3 days; in short, P-47s in CAS role saved invasion from becoming disaster.

All attacks against manufacturing industry had same effect: while production would suffer temporary setback after the raid, it would recover in matter of few weeks. While German industry suffered badly during latter 1944, there is no evidence that bombing was the cause; Soviet pressure, lack of raw resources and many other factors were making for its collapse. Galbraight’s report also indicates that strategic bombing actually helped to streamline, rather than injure, war production, forcing them to bypass usual bureocratic obstacles.

Moreover, RAFs indiscriminate attacks on German cities had the same effect as German attacks on British cities – instead of breaking enemy’s will to fight, they strenghtened it. In Germany, 570 000 people were killed by bombings – yet despite all this, German will remained strong, and German military and overall economic production rose until August 1944 – whereas in beginning of 1940, monthly production figure for Me-109 was 125, it reached peak with monthly production of 2 500 by autumn of 1944 – after year and half of massive bombardment of production plants. If Germany had been producing 2 500 fighters and dive bombers per month since 1939, it could have well won the Battle for Britain.

Heavy bombers only proved effective once they started being used in direct attacks on German military units – that is, Close Air Support. But that is not what heavy bombers are made to do, and is opposite of Douhet’s theories. Not only did bomber loss rate drop by 75%, but they also succeded in disrupting communications – particularly road and rail network.

Strategic bombing, however, was effective in two ways: first, it drew out Luftwaffe and enabled its destruction by Allied fighters. Second way was actually German blunder: instead of producing fighters and training pilots, Germany had more than 55 000 anti-aircraft guns, which used up 20 percent of all ammunition produced, to almost no effect.

Strategic bombing campaign also caused great deal of losses amongst Allied air crews: RAF lost 1404 four-engine bombers through 1942, around 300% of its heavy bomber strength at any point of time during that year. During “Battle of Berlin” between August 1943 and March 1944, RAF bomber command lost its entire fleet every three months – between January 1943 and March 1944, losses totalled 5881 bombers with almost 29 500 airmen (all losses were over Axis-controlled terriroty). In three to four years of bombing, between 1942 and 1945, RAF bomber command suffered over 70 000 casualties and made absolutely no impression on German war production.

On island of Pantelleria and Pelagian atoll, near Sicily, 5 600 tons of bombs dropped by bombers failed to “convince” Italians to surrender.

On US side, half of US’ WW2 budget went to air power, and 65% of that went to multi-engined bombers. Strategic bombing failed to affect German war production, and as result, from March 1944 onwards, 65% of bomber sorties were directed against German positions as opposed to war production. While fighters suffered loss rate of 1,1% at most, bomber loss rate was around 4,5%, with 6 to 10 crew members lost per aircraft, as opposed to 1 crew member lost in fighter.

Out of eight strategic bombing campaigns – against ball bearing, aircraft, steel, armored vehicle production, electrical power, truck production, fuel production and submarine pens – all except oil production campaign were deemed unsuccessfull by USSBS. However, dire German fuel shortages can be attributed to Soviet capture of Ploesti oil fields, although oil fields are vulnerable to bombardment.

Pacific War also proved the same; US indiscriminate bombing of population centres failed to force Japanese surrender, and even atomic bombs – opposite to general opinion – were ineffective. Despite “precise bombing” campaign, B29 force destroyed none of designated high-priority targets, but firestorms created by napalm bombs killed 120 000 people in Tokyo alone, and all 68 major cities, except Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were burned to the floor by incidientary bombs. Yet Japanese did not accept US terms of surrender, and even after usage of atomic bombs, they surrendered only after US accepted their single term; namely, that Hirohito remains Emperor.

Moreover, Japanese have been trying to surrender since defeat at Midway, since they knew they could not win after that setback. Peace feelers continued through ’42, ’43 and ’44, yet US continued to demand unconditional surrender and that Hirohito be tried for his crimes, and possibly executed – neither of which happened anyway, but US knew these terms were unacceptable to the Japanese. Despite general opinion that atomic bombs ended the war in the Pacific, truth is different – they lenghtened it; main purpose of bombs was to scare Soviet Union.

Axis campaign

From 1930s onwards, Axis airpower spending was focused on bombers. In Germany, Col. Gen. Ernst Udest was only opponent of strategic bombing, and was responsible for development of Stuka, which received only 2% of spending – and fact that Udest was close friend of Hermann Goering was probably only thing keeping Stuka from being cancelled – as soon as Udest died in 1943, Stuka’s procurement ended.

Until 1943, production of bombers was 5 bombers for one Stuka – which translated into 25 crewmen for bombers for every two crewmen for Stukas (on average, heavy bombers had 5 crewmen per aircraft while Stukas had two) and 25:1 cost ratio. Out of 114 000 aircraft produced by Germany in World War II, 25 000 were bombers, and only 4 900 Stukas; only 1 000 bombers less would have resulted in doubling number of Stukas, and cancellation in bomber procurement could have resulted in 125 000 more fighters, dive bombers and/or tanks – although crew requirements for last would have reduced the number substantially.

During attack on countries of Benelux, Luftwaffe lost 67 bombers and 16 Stukas. Stukas, meanwhile, excelled in Close Air Support, allowing Wehrmacht to easily cross Meuse river by using pontoon bridges, which British bombers failed to eliminate. During battle of Dunkirk, RAF lost 60 fighters shot down and 117 damaged; Luftwaffe lost 240 aircraft, most of them multi-engined strategic bombers. Per-aircraft, average loss was 0,5 crewmen for fighters, and 0,8 – 0,85 for strategic bombers. While Luftwaffe managed to destroy 6 destroyers and 230 lesser ships, most of casualties were inflicted by dive bombers.

In Battle of Britain, Luftwaffe had 1 109 fighters (809 Me-109s), 316 Stukas and 1134 strategic bombers against 741 fighters (279 Spitfires) on British side.

During first phase of battle, Stukas managed to sink one of every three British ships using English Channel; within three weeks, British ships were forced to abandon the Channel.

During second phase, Luftwaffe strategic bombers started bombing RAF fighter bases in hopes of achieving air superiority. They failed, loosing 621 bombers (45 % initial strength) and 88 Stukas (21 % of initial strength). Moreover, Stukas flew sorties at three times bomber’s rate.

After these crushing losses, Germany switched to night attacks, fuelling British desire for revenge – and their war production.

On Eastern Front, Me-109s shot 179 Soviet strategic bombers they tried to use as early retaliation. Despite that, and despite heavy fuel shortages, Luftwaffe continued to use strategic bombers in campaigns of terror, increasing Soviet morale as well as worsening fuel shortages that were hampering its missions. Other than that, strategic bombardment achieved nothing.

Worse part was that only 300 Stukas were avaliable to cover entire 2 200 mile (3 500 kilometer) front, missing many opportunities for turkey shoot against disorganized Soviet units. Given great successes of Stukas against tactical targets (most successfull Stuka commander had 518 tank kills, second most successfull over 300), as well as possibility of usage of Stukas against Soviet lines of communication, bomber production probably cost Germany any possibility of success on the Eastern Front. In 1941, Luftwaffe had lost 1 798 bombers from beginning number of 1 339, while Stuka losses were 366 from beginning number of 456. That also translates into ~7 000 crewmen lost in heavy bombers for ~180 in Stukas. On a per sortie rate, bomber losses were 500% greater.

It also took one Stuka to sink Soviet battleship Marat – whose 25 million USD cost equalled the cost of entire Stuka production run. Meanwhile, in a similar situation, British sent 299 heavy bomber attacks against Gneiseau, Scharnhost and Prinz Eugen, loosing 43 bombers and 247 airmen; later, they lost 60 aircraft, mostly bombers, and 345 airmen trying to sink ships while they were escaping – out of 150 Me-109s providing cover, 17 fighters and 11 airmen were lost.

Despite all this, Stuka production was cancelled in 1943, with last Stuka being produced in July 1944. Meanwhile, a well-concieved A10-esque follow-on, Hs-129B, equipped with armored cockpit, two widely spaced engines and a 30 mm cannon, was never produced. Cannon itself held enough rounds for 18 tank-killing attacks, compared to 6 for Stuka. Russians, meanwhile, produced 36 000 of Sthrumovik IL-2 CAS aircraft, which allowed them to win first Battle of Kursk (at Prokhorovka, where I don’t know of any CAS aircraft participating, Germans permanently lost 7 AFVs and destroyed 134 Soviet AFVs).

Germany also produced specialized revenge weapons – V1, which was slow and easy to shoot down, and V2, which, while it could not be shot down, was imprecise). 6 000 V2s were produced and 3 000 were successfully launched; for the 6 000 V2s, 48 000 tanks or 24 000 fighters (and Stukas) could have been procured.

Impact of strategic bombing on economy of country undertaking it

(from John Fahey’s paper)

On example of Great Britain, we will analyze impact of strategic bombing campaign on a country using strategic bombing on the enemy.

Britain has expended 2,75 billion GBP on strategic bombing, or 2 911 GBP for every sortie flown, that is, 5 914 GBP per every civillian killed in the bombing.

For purposes of its air offensive during World War II, Great Britain increased domestic production from 893 aircraft in 1935 to 26 461 aircraft in 1944, whereas total mass of aircraft produced increased 11 times.

Moreover, in order to conduct war Britain had to recruit and train over million men and women to serve in RAF, 100 000 to 150 000 of which were required to operate Bomber Command, and uknown number in roles connected to Bomber Command. Moreover, large aircraft and numerous aircrews both required large bases to operate; bombs which were to be dropped on enemy cities also had to be manufactured, and fuel had to be imported. In February 1944, Sir Archibad Sinclair told the House of Commons that the Bomber Command received largest share of resources dedicated to war.

UKs post-war economy was in shambles, with UK being in as large danger of collapse as Germany was. Between 1939 and 1945, Britain lost 7 billion GBP of its wealth; during that period, total British government spending had amounted to 28.7 billion GBP of which 22.8 billion GBP (79.4 percent) was spent on defence, and at least 2,78 billion GBP on Bomber Command; British Government expenditure outside defense was 5,94 billion GBP.

Also, factories and airfields built for strategic bombers were single use assets.


Three years after World War II, fighter production was down from 2 000 per month to 11 per month. Meanwhile, force was approved that would consist from 112 heavy bomber groups – 10 000 heavy bombers; in 1947 that went down to 75 heavy bomber groups and 25 light bomber/fighter groups (latter ones grouped “light” two-engined bombers with fighters). Assuming 50/50 division, only 12 percent of force structure would have been fighters (situation is even worse today – at planned structure of 187 F22s and 2443 “F”35s, only 7% of USAF stealth aircraft would be fighters).

Heavy bombers were also used in quasi-cose support by attacking enemy troops. But their imprecision, low numbers and even lower sortie rate meant that they could not perform it successfully. Moreover, entire B29 force (eventually brought up to 150 aircraft) flew less than 1 000 sorties in three years. At average, USAF flew 13 CAS sorties a day during entire war.

After B29s were withdrawn from CAS, they were used in classic Douhet daydream – bombing civilian populace in effort to force enemy to surrender. In three years, they caused two million civilian deaths; yet North Korea did not surrender. North Korean mlitary production and military operations were unaffected. Following winter, 900 000 Chinese intervened, routing UN forces. Heavy bombers threw 4 000 bombs, achieveing 33 hits, to no meaningful effect.

In May 1952, Fighter Command shut down 90% of North Korean power plants. Meanwhile, North Korea received 500 MiG-15s, which failed to win air superiority against (performance-wise equal) F86s – of which 90 were in theatre. Later, they built up to 1300 MiGs, which failed to defeat 200 F86s. Bombers, meanwhile, suffered 10% loss rate, as opposed to Air Force wide 0,2% loss rate.


After Korean War, bombers again came to dominate Air Force funding. Most “fighters” developed were actually nuclear bombers; F111, tri-role (air to air, interdiction and CAS), tri-service fighter bomber turned out to be 35 000 kg nuclear bomber – which it actually was all along. It failed in everything. All of these (F4, F105, F111) were used in strategic bombing of North Vietnamese cities, where 1 “fighter” + 1 tanker = 1 strategic bomber equation was in effect.

Three times more bombs were dropped on North Vietnam than on Germany; US had complete air superiority. Yet, it lost the war. Bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong, as usual, only served to strenghten morale of North Vietnamese, and their will to win. USAF managed to destroy three unimportant bridges after five years of strikes and loss of 100 USAF and USN fighter-bombers (which were bombers first, fighters second). Strategic bombing also failed to stop the flow of supplies to insurgents in the South; total of 1737 combat aircraft were lost.

In South, B52s equipped with Hope Spot system were semi-successfully used in quasi-close support; however, they failed due to their size, vulnerability and low sortie rate. Bombing of Hanoi also failed to give US leverage in peace negotiations. On the other hand, 1944-designed A4 close support propeller aircraft were successfully used in Close Air Support, both at night and at day – they were slow, maneuverable and highly survivable.

First Gulf War

In operation Desert Storm, all strategic bomber was carried out by fighters and light bombers (F117), while heavy bombers carried out quasi-close air support. Strike fighters, using precision weapons – which were far less effective than claimed – still did heavy damage. 3 to 15 times more bombs than necessary was dropped at each target – without real success, although objective of preserving Kuwait’s oil for use by United States and its allies was a success. Kuwait, however, was liberated mostly by ground forces and destruction of Iraqi armor and artillery was mainly carried out by only aircraft USAF generals universally hate – A10.

It also failed to push Iraqi populace into removing Saddam Hussein, and failed to destroy Iraq’s Republician Guard – 60% of which escaped while Air Force was busy destroying facilities and killing civilians. While 39 days of strategic bombardment knocked out electric power and civilian communications, it had little effect on military activities.

F117 was a minor player in the war – it flew 1 300 sorties (3% of total), making 2 000 laser bomb attacks, most of which failed to knock out targets attacked. Strategic bombers (B29 and F16) failed to achieve significant effect against dug-in Republician Guard. A10s meanwhile mauled Iraqi Guard units sent to attack Khafji, while strategic bombardment ended after two weeks due to targeting blunder killing 300 civilians; militarily, it made no difference. In short, it was hated CAS mission that yielded results, not strategic bombing.


During Operation Allied Force, NATO aircraft flew 38 004 sorties, including 10 484 strike sorties. During sorties, 23 614 air munitions were released, for a total of 6 303 tons. 35 per cent of munition pieces were precision-guided. NATO also lost two aircraft – less than expected piecetime training losses – with one more being damaged and written off (some data put number of sorties flown at 36 000).

However, effects were not what were expected. Only three of 80 radar missile batteries were destroyed; Serbia suffered 387 military and 1 400 civilian casualties.

JNA also fired 845 radar-guided SAMs, accounting for three kills – one F16 and one F117 shot down, and another F117 mission-killed. Results of bombing campaign, meanwhile, were minimal.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

During Obama’s presidency, drone strikes went up from 5 a year during Bush regime, to 90 per year. In 2002, there were 167 drones in US inventory. In August 2010, United States had some 7 000 drones; in 2012, number is 7 500, while there are 10 800 manned aircraft. 161 of them are bombers.

As a Cathecism of Catholic Church says about use of force:

“The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain… All other means of putting an end to it [confl ict] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; There must be serious prospects of success [of the use of force]… and the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated”

Some other religions, to my knowledge, have similar views about use of violence – Islam in particular, and possibly Hinduism as well, while Buddhism forbids killing (interesting to note about Christianity and Judaism is that, in Old Testament, there are 10 Commandments. Sixth Commandment is often mistranslated as “Do not kill”, whereas correct translation would be “Do not murder”. In short, killing is acceptable, but only in self-defense, and only when all other options have been exhausted – everything else is murder; Christianity also encourages passive resistance against oppression (Mahatma Ghandi, anyone?), but that is outside of scope of this analysis).

Strategic bombing, including “precision strikes” by drones, fails at every single criterion. Drones are even worse, however, in a sense that they dehumanize war – drone operators are basically playing war games, except in these war games, real people are getting killed (the effect is called “Playstation mentality”). Moreover, they are out of harm’s way – which may be viewed as a good thing, but in reality is not; as public at home becomes increasingly less aware of real cost of war, war becomes less and less of a last resort. Drones may save lives of aviators, but they are likely to increase casualties in the long run.

Aside from being morally wrong, it is also illegal, as United States often extend bombing into Pakistan. It is also imprecise as any other bombing – and while it may be able to hit vehicles and relatively small areas relatively precisely (at least when compared to WW2 bombers), drones cannot reliably ID individual targets, particularly when targets are people who do not use uniform or vehicles. Moreover, drone strikes are, for all intents and purposes, assasinations – which was banned by Ronald Reagan under Executive Order 12333, issued on December 4, 1981.

From 2001 to 2003, as many as 3 600 civilians were killed in drone strikes. In 2005 – 2008, number was approximately 3 200 civilians. For every militant killed, as many as 50 civilians die. Drones are also known to target civilians who come to help victims of opening strikes.

In Pakistan, over 2 800 of the 3 000 people killed in 2005 – 2012 drone strikes were civilians; only 170 were militants.

Also, Obama has developed a creative way to count civilian casualties. All military-age men killed in a drone strike zone are considered to be combatants, “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Thus official US sources certainly severely underestimate civilian deaths.

And while drone strikes did short-term damage to Al Quaeda, long-term effects are same in all other applications of strategic bombing: strenghtening enemy’s will to fight, and, in this case, bringing more recruits to his cause. Which, having in view US’ dependance on continuous small wars, may have been exactly what US leadership wants. Also, above mentioned problem of decreasing awareness of costs of war at home also helps MICs cause of continuing wars. In similar way that representative democracy creates “democratic deficit”, by removing people away from decision making by layers of bureocracy, usage of drones creates “reality deficit”.

Moreover, drones are everything except safe, from every possible standpoint. Militarily, drones can be hacked; crash rates are also high, even when noone is shooting at them. Drones can also “go rogue” – that is, control is lost. In September 2009, USAF had to shoot down its own drone when it went rogue and threatened to leave Afghanistan with full payload of missiles. In 2008, there was incident when drone used by Irish peacekeepers in Chad decided to go home to Ireland after communications loss. It didn’t make it.

With regards to hacking, insurgents were already able to hack into drones’ live video feed.

Second Gulf War

Before Second Gulf War, USAF advertised that 40-day air campaign will topple regime without ground invasion; they settled for 10 days; during first two, only 1 500 precision bombs were delivered, out of 10 000 planned.

Both Air Force and Navy failed to assasinate Saddam Hussein, and General Tommy Franks launched an invasion which toppled regime in 21 days.


In Libya, Obama has violated aforementioned resolution signed by Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan, which forbids assasination, by targeting Moamer Quadaffi. Moreover, entire war was declared on illegitimate grounds.

Again, it has been proven that air power alone cannot achieve goals.

Libya was attacked not only because of its oil, but because Gadaffi attampted to refuse Dollar and Euro, and implement single African currency and EU-esque alliance of African states.

Civilians in Tripoli have died in large numbers due to bombardment, to no effect. Again, air power was only effective in air-to-ground assignments when used in direct support of troops on the ground. Right now, Libya is in transition towards constitutional corporatistic demoncracy; and that is result of Libyan rebels’ ground campaign, not EU’s and US’s strategic bombardment.

Conclusion: usefulness and consequences of bombing

Strategic bombing – any kind of it, but especially terror bombing carried out from World War II until today (drones!) – has neglible military impact. However, it helps motivate civilian populace to fight harder and longer against enemy carrying out bombing.

Precision bombing, itself, is overrated. Guidance systems can be jammed or disrupted by weather or by enemy; intelligence also must be avaliable beforehand to ensure that bombs hit right targets, and ones which enemy values most. And even when nothing of that happends, precision weapons’ precision is never up to the advertised level.

Moreover, precision weapons are expensive, and expended rapidly – in one (admittedly extreme) case, a F16 and B2 used several 500-pound (230 kg) bombs, several cluster munitions and sixteen 2000-pound (910 kg) bombs to destroy Toyota pick up truck with 15 suspected militants.

Also, even in modern times precision bombing from high altitude requires directions from ground to be effective – directions which may not be avaliable due to possible jamming, lack of communications capacity and so on.

Bombing on its own was never effective; it must be used in support of and concurrently with ground offensive. Bombing on its own cannot ensure fulfillment of either military and especially not fulfillment of political goals. War by precision firepower can easily become killing without purpose. It is important to always keep in mind nature of war as fulfillment of political goals by military means, as defined by von Clausewitz; in that sense, anything that does not further that goal is a waste of time and resources; and strategic bombing has never proven to be anything else. It can be used, however, to remove threat from SAMs before invasion, so as to allow other aircraft to carry out CAS mission.

More disturbingly, myth of “precision bombing” introduced idea of clinical, clean war, slowly removing concept of war as a last resort. Censorship ensures that consequences of bombs missing their targets are not shown; noone feels much compassion for a block of concrete shown on IR camera.

“Paralysis” or “Shock and Awe” theory claims that superior firepower can shock enemy to an extent that he will become incapable of retaliation. It is continuation of basic Douhet logic – and it failed, again.

Modern day USAF

While some will say that USAF has learned its lessons, it hasn’t. F15A, F15C and F22A are only dedicated fighters in US arsenal – and all of them made large sacrifices to BVR altar, while F22A was subsequently turned into faux-multirole aircraft. F15E and F16 are turned into bombers, although they do keep good air-to-air capability. F35, on the other hand, is pure bomber/ground attack aircraft, with capability to carry AAMs thrown in purely so as to allow USAF generals and PR staff to say “well, it CAN fight other aircraft”. It can fight, but it won’t win without good numerical edge – which is a problem, considering that F35 is second most expensive “fighter” out there, after F22.

Appendice: Myth of a nuclear deterrence

From Ward Wilson’s text

Nuclear deterrence works on a threat to devastate enemy’s cities. However, history shows that destroying cities rarely affects outcome of the war; attacks on civilians are not only indecisive, but counterproductive.

Argument holds that no exchange between nuclear-capable states is likely since loss of multiple cities is unacceptable price; and usage of even few nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-capable state would force it to immediately surrender.

Most of it is based on bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, evidence shows that Japanese have been trying to surrender since Battle of Midway in 1942.

Thus, main aspect of nuclear deterrence is not threat of destroying enemy’s cities, but rather threat of destroying enemy’s conventional forces with tactical nuclear missiles. However, possibility of nuclear attacks against cities exists in later stages of conflict. Yet, nuclear deterrence assumes that civillian lives matter to the politicians, and that they are influenced by deaths of noncombatants. There is, however, little evidence for that – as seen from above. All predictions of strategic bombing ending the war or hastening the end of the war have been proven wrong.

Evidence that destroying cities does not force enemy to surrender can be traced from Ancient and Middle Ages. Genghis Khan, during his campaign in the Central Asian empire of Khwarazm in 1220, made a practice of destroying cities and slaughtering their inhabitants. Yet none surrendered. During the Thirty Year War, slaughters were regular occurence, and the city of Magdeburg was destroyed in 1631 and its inhabitants slaughtered. War continued like nothing happened.

Despite burning of Atlanta in 1864 and capture of Southern capital of Richmond, Virginia, in 1865, US Civil War continued until armies of generals Robert Lee and Joseph Jonhston were defeated.

During siege of Alesia, both Gauls and Romans rather sentenced Gaulish civilians to death rather than to allow their own supplies be exhausted on non-combatants.

During World War II, 50 to 70 million people died – at least 47 million were civilians. During Thirty Years War, 20 percet of civilians in Germany lost their lives. Yet war went on. In the Paraguayan War, 58% of civilians in Paraguay were killed in five years; war went on.

Extermination attacks, meanwhile, are not credible, simply because there was single extermination attack against enemy in 3 000 years of warfare – Roman war against Carthage. Yet it only came after a series of massively harmful wars – in one of them, Second Punic War, Romans had lost 5 % of their population (France, which had lost 4,2 % of its population in First World War, is talked about as having been “bled white” and “lost entire generation”).

As can be seen, strategic bombing – both nuclear and non-nuclear – works on a threat to civilians; same as terrorism, and is accurately described as “terror bombing”. However, terrorism is ineffective when aimed towards civilian population (indeed, it only increases its will to fight, which US corporatists have masterfully used on 9/11 to shape public opinion). Terrorist groups were effective 7% of the time – economic sanctions, 34%. Moreover, all successful terrorist groups were not actual terrorist groups, but rather guerilla fighters – in short, they ignored civilian targets and focused on military ones.

As for nuclear deterrence being responsible for peace for last 67 years – that is false. Large wars are always followed by periods of relative peace, and these last 67 years were anything except peaceful; there only wasn’t a world-wide conflict.

Moreover, chemical weapons developed during and after World War I could be as deadly as nuclear weapons – yet they did not prevent World War II, and were not used in World War II with exception of Japanese usage – and even then, Japanese used them exclusively against enemies that could not use chemical weapons against them. While Germany had developed and sotockpiled chemical weapons, these were not used due to fear of Allied retaliation in kind. No historical books credit peace maintained from 1918 to 1925 to chemical weapons.

US nuclear monopoly for four years after World War 2 did not translate into greater diplomatic influence either, and nuclear weapons did not help either Soviets or US win any wars.

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