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"We were all Orcs in the Great War" - apocryphal

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  • Darrell A. Martin
    ... Greetings: John Garth s Tolkien and the Great War certainly covers topics directly related to the alleged quotation. It is an indirect argument, from
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 30, 2012
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      ...
      >> On Jan 29, 2012, at 4:46 PM, Troels Forchhammer wrote:
      ...
      >>> The statement in question is "We were all orcs in the Great War"
      >>> While Tolkien is known to have said that there were orcs on both
      >>> sides (e.g. _Letters_ no. 71 to Christopher Tolkien in May 1944), but
      >>> the statement that they were _all_ orcs would seem to contradict his
      >>> statements that there were also good people on both sides (as well as
      >>> include himself among the orcs) - while I obviously cannot be sure,
      >>> this doesn't strike me as something Tolkien would be likely to say.
      >>> Can anyone here identify where this comes from? If this group also
      >>> draws a blank, I am inclined to believe that it is a mistake.
      >>> Best,
      >>> Troels

      Greetings:

      John Garth's "Tolkien and the Great War" certainly covers topics
      directly related to the alleged quotation. It is an indirect argument,
      from silence, to be sure; nevertheless, had the quotation been genuine
      one would certainly expect Garth to have at least mentioned it. He did not.

      Garth does quote Letter 71, in T&TGW, pg. 219 that "in real life [Orcs]
      are on both sides" -- but also quotes Tolkien, that both sides include
      "plain naturally honest men, and angels" as well.

      I would add as someone who has experienced combat, that characterizing
      all of ones comrades as essentially evil is a betrayal. It dishonors not
      only ones own service, but that of those who did not come home. (That is
      why I despise John Kerry even more than Jane Fonda, when I bother to
      think about either of them, which is seldom.) What did Tolkien think of
      the TCBSers Smith and Gilson? Orcs?

      I find the body of JRRT's comments on the Great War, and war in general,
      so at variance with the idea that "we were all Orcs" that if someone
      came up with a specific reference I would drive at my next opportunity
      to the Wade Center and look for it.

      I wouldn't find it, I am all but certain.

      Darrell
      former sergeant, US Army Vietnam
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