Saturday, October 29, 2016

ELM (part 6) - The Boys Going West


World War One

That Great War was 100 years ago.

I had a grandfather who fought in that war. And the last veteran of that war, Florence Green,  passed away in 2012. As I write this blog, we will pass the 98th anniversary of the end of the war on November 11, 1918.  [reference: World War I History ]

But Great Britain and its Commonwealth was one of the allies hardest hit during World War One. Over 900,000+ killed in action. More than twice as many as the 450,000+ lost in World War Two.

And this short film gives a summary of this loss:

The grief of such great losses gave rise to an increased interest in  Spiritism after the Great War. A desire for family to contact their lost loved ones. And many mediums took advantage of this grief. Prophets for profit.

Yet many intelligent people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes creator, were convinced that they could contact their departed loved ones, who had moved on to another plane of existence. Much like the modern wonder of the wireless radio could transmit messages across great distances in the real world.

At this time (1920s), Scientific American concluded Spiritism warranted a serious, scientific investigation. And one of its judges included the Great Harry Houdini. As a stage magician, Houdini knew the tricks of the flimflam artists and could reproduce the psychic phenomena that manifested in seances. (Fodder for another blog.)

There is a book written about this: The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World by David Jaher.

In the beginning of the book, The Witch of Lime Street, a phrase jumped out at me. One used by Sir Oliver Lodge. He disliked the barbarous word death. He preferred to see death as an emigration.

The boys going west

That rang a bell.

I recalled English writer and professor J.R.R Tolkien had fought in World War One. And witnessed much of the horror as well as the loss of many of his friends. And that experience made its way into his trilogy:

Lord of the Rings

[reference: Battle of the Somme: the 'animal horror' that inspired JRR Tolkien ]

And at the end of the tale, many of the characters, the Elves, Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, sailed into the West, to the Undying Lands. [reference: Undying Lands ]

And during  The Return of the King (2003) the song, Into the West , was performed during the closing credits.

Into the West ...

The Undying Lands. Life after death. Hope after the devastation of war. Whether the epic battles in fantasies, such as Lord of the Rings. Or the World Wars of reality.

The Boys Going West ...

And war leaves a mark and makes its way into literature. Such as this sixth post in...

 English, Literature, and Musings.



Picture from: Verdun/

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