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Severity of Tolkien's trench fever

The Shire

Nov 17, 7:12am

Post #1 of 2 (391 views)
Severity of Tolkien's trench fever Can't Post

I suppose I haven't really given it much thought previously, but judging from what John Garth says in Tolkien and the Great War, it was a major illness. I'm wondering just how severe it was.
I've been working through my copy of Hecaen and Albert's Human Neuropsychology, and have so far got up to Chapter Four, Disorders of Visual Perception, which amongst other things, discusses visual hallucinations. Some of those sound very much like what Phillip K Dick records of himself - deja vu, deja jamais. And some of it sounds very much like Tolkien's description of the Elvish craft of story-telling:

..thinking he had strayed into a dream, or else he had received the gift of the Elf-minstrels, who can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those who listen.

Compare and contrast, Hecaen, pg 160:

Penfield described the results of stimulating patient R.W. in the cortical region representing the "border between visual and mnestic cortex." He obtained a response that started with an elementary visual hallucination and progressed to a vision of "people coming towards him" or of two people he knew, a girl and a boy, carrying rifles.

We know that certain illnesses cause hallucinations. And much of what Frodo goes through on his Quest to destroy the Ring does sound, in hindsight, like hallucinations brought on by severe illness and poor diet.
So, does anyone know just how severe Tolkien's trench fever was? Anyone have access to the requisite documents from 1917?


Nov 19, 7:16pm

Post #2 of 2 (335 views)
available at National Archives [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting question. Soldiers service records can often be requested - I had a quick look and found this overview of Tolkien's war records but do not have time to read the handwritten documents. (Would love to know if you do and find anything interesting in them.) From the summary though, I gather his illness lasted a very long time, so it definitely was major. He was ill for more than two years. Summary and documents at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/...r/people/tolkien.htm


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