Remembrance Day. I can only imaging that if you survive war, your worldview and insights will be greatly changed. A friend suggested I research how many famous authors participated in wars, either as military or in the thick of things as relief workers. I can only imagine their experience shaped them and their work. Thank you to all who served and fought for our freedom.
For instance, J. R. R. Tolkien, mostly known for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, joined the British Army in July 1915 after getting his degree at Oxford. Interestingly, most people at Oxford signed up when Britain declared war on Germany and the University was reduced to just 24 students. Shipping out to France on June 4th, 1916, he participated in the bloody Battle of the Somme and spent almost four months in the trenches.
How many battles in Lord of the Rings have Orcs and other beasts swarming over embattled ramparts in protracted, gruesome, and desperate sieges? How well does Tolkien portray man at his lowest ebb, desperate to succumb to their fate, yet finding the spark to hang on against an evil but unknown enemy. The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two contains short stories that were drafted during his time in the war and formed the genesis of The Legendarium, his lifelong work. Middle Earth – the setting for The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954/5) – was center stage in The Legendarium as it evolved over the next several decades.
Tolkien served in the trenches until October 27th when trench fever hospitalized him and ended his active service. It would appear that the scars and impressions of those months stayed with him throughout his writing career.
Below is a short (linked) list of notables from a much longer list if you follow the Wikipedia link at the end.