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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
by Eric Oppen and Steve Payne
says, what direction would fantasy fiction have taken if Tolkien had died on
On 27th October 1916, on this
day a Signals Officer, Second Lieutenant John Tolkien of the Lancashire
Fusiliers died in No Man's Land at the Battle of the Somme.
The Death of Tolkien
In October 1911, Tolkien began studying at Exeter College, one of the
constituent colleges of the University of Oxford. He initially studied Classics
but changed to English Language, graduating in 1915.
Tolkien trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase,
Staffordshire, for eleven months before receiving his Commission. He was then
transferred to the 11th (Service) Battalion with the British Expeditionary
Force, arriving in France on 4 June 1916.
His wife Edith later wrote: ~
Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute. Parting from my husband
then ... it was like a death
By 1918 all but one of his close friends were dead.
On 28th October 1916, on this
morning the Reverend Mervyn S. Evers emerged from a captured German dugout,
planning to return across No Man's Land to the British trenches.
Three soldiers - a Brigade Machine Gun Officer and two Signals Officers - had
spent a very long night with the Anglican chaplain to the Lancashire Fusilliers
who recalled ~
We dossed down for the night in the hope of getting some sleep, but it was not
to be. We no sooner laid down than hoards of lice got up. So we went round to
the medical officer, who was also in the dugout with his equipment, and he gave
us some ointment which he assured us would keep the little brutes away.
Cruel Note of Irony
We anointed ourselves all over with the stuff and again lay
down in great hopes, but it was not to be, because instead of discouraging them
it seemed to act like a kind of ors d'oeuvre and the little beggars went at
their feast with renewed vigor.
One of the soldiers was already dead, and had to be carried across No Man's Land
by his colleagues. Evers noticed a small white paper note tucked in the dead
officer's tunic, and withdrew it expecting to find a note to the man's young
wife Edith. Instead, the note read ~
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Click
to watch Part 1 of the 1977 Animation
Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell,
nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it
was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny
yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall
like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls and
floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of
pegs for hats and coats--the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on
and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill--The Hill,
as all the people for many miles round called it--and many little round doors
opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for
the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes
(he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the
same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the
lefthand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set
round windows looking over his garden and meadows beyond, sloping down to the
This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The
Bagginses had lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and
people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were
rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected:
you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of
asking him. This is the story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found
himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the
neighbours' respect, but he gained--well, you will see whether he gained
anything in the end.
says, in order to draw a parallel between Bag End and the Trenches, we have
of course taken the assumption that Tolkien had started to write the Hobbit much
earlier than is commonly understood..
Eric Oppen and Steve Payne
Respectively, Guest Historian and Editor of
Today in Alternate History, a Daily
Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit
differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore
that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower,
aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning
his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.