Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Despite his archaic writing style and word selection, it's arguable that J.R.R. Tolkien was the 20th Century's greatest novelist, and The Lord Of The Rings was the 20th Century's greatest novel. Now that will get a discussion going ...

It's not about the richness and depth of the world he created, where you would capture fleeting glimpses of a long lost past, more so than any other novel.  The depth and richness is unmatched, but that's not the source of the greatness.  It's the topic - and Tolkien's recounting of that topic - that is the source of its greatness.

Many 20th Century authors took on the theme of despair.  Tolkien did, too, but always twinned with the key theme, temptation.  Perhaps the greatest scene in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship Of The Ring was Frodo offering the ring to Galadriel (you'll have to follow the link to watch, because New Line Cinema seemingly doesn't understand New Media, and so embedding is disabled):
Frodo: I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.
Galadriel: I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp.
You will give me the Ring freely!

Galadriel (with the voice of the Ring): In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!
Temptation - the temptation of great power, to be used for great good.  Galadriel sees where that future leads, and turns away, and passes the test.  The Ring would be too much for her.

It is said that Tolkien was not a master of characterization, and it's true that many of his characters are stereotypes.  Even Sam (my favorite) is really pretty two dimensional, acting as part prop, part Greek Chorus for the major action.

But Frodo and Gollum are two of the most memorable fictional characters of the 20th Century, as they play out a detailed passion play of Temptation.  They are in essence mirror images of each other, the yin and the yang of Temptation - or more properly the Faust and anti-Faust.  One has given in to Temptation, long ago, and been all but destroyed by it.  The other fights the Temptation, in no small reason because of what he sees it has done to the other.  It is a towering psychological and spiritual story of Despair, Temptation, and Salvation.  Nothing else in the 20th Century approaches it.

Via Toaster 802, we find this same story playing out at Sipsey Street Irregulars:
CA falls into Denethor’s Trap. I do not blame him; I am prone to the same conclusions. Remembering that there is a higher purpose to History is the only thing that keeps me from despair. We do what we ought; we do what we must, regardless -- the end-game of history is written despite our efforts. Even if the glory that was the West goes down to utter ruin (as part of Almighty God’s master plan for the end times), we cannot, if we are to be true to our God and to our duty, true to America’s promise of ordered liberty and to our free heritage, do anything less. Yet in being true to our principled heritage we cannot fall into the tactics or adopt the unprincipled stance of our opponents.

I am concerned that CA, and others sharing his frustration, are advocating that direct actions be taken by Team Restoration – before the necessary breaches of the peace can legitimatize such actions … Yet see my response to his “We’re losing, Mike” comment in the post below. We have never been closer to awakening that remnant of actual Americans; we are still not past Ms. Wolf’s “awkward time.”
People look around at our country, and despair for its future.  They look at the Threeper manefestos, and the voice of the Ring whispers in their hearts.  Their despair makes the temptation sharper.

I'm pretty late to the gun party - I didn't really start shooting until 4 years ago, and I've not even been blogging for three.  I'm new, so I'm not sure how much my voice counts.  But here's the important part: in the midst of despair, the dawn is breaking.  We're winning.

A majority of states have "shall issue" laws.  Several are legalizing Open Carry. The idiotic Assault Weapon Ban expired and is dead as a doornail. Heller stopped the worst of the bans, and McDonnald made it the law of all 50 states.  Gun ownership is way up, CCW licensing is way up, and even the shooting of a Congresswoman isn't enough to jump start the moribund gun control movement.  The Brady Crew seem to be in permanent Sad Panda mode.

In the broader world, the Progressive Agenda has peaked, and is receding.  The Tea Parties have upset the existing too-comfortable elites from both parties, Government Technocrat legitimacy is at an all time low (world wide, not just here), and the question is not whether power will devolve from the center, but how much and how fast.

Sure, none of these battles are won, but we're winning.  Listen with the ears of history, and you will hear the creaking and cracking of the entire statist edifice.

But how do you stop all this?  How to you entrench the Elites and put an immediate and irreversible end to all this progress?  Form Threeper cells and start shooting:
To beat the swine we are up against, we are going to have to be worse than them. Attila the Hun would have laughed at, and then trampled, the Queensbury Rules. We're going to need ruthless killers, not dreamers and moral men.
You cannot use this Ring.  It will destroy you - as the public recoils in horror from your ruthless killers - or you and your gangs will succeed.  That will be even worse - the anarchy that follows the collapse of the governments and the emergence of a truly ruthless Attila-like strongman will be the end of much of the population.

No thanks.  Maybe it's because I'm a Johnny Come Lately, but I will not walk that road with you.  It doesn't lead to salvation and redemption, but to the abyss.
Frodo: He deserves death.

Gandalf: Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.
In Tolkien's story, Frodo does not come through unscathed.  He loses much that is precious to him, as we can expect to lose much that we would keep.  Life is change, some for the better and some for the worse.  But Frodo's great victory was that he kept his soul.  Surrounded by despair, we must not lose ours.
Despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.
- Gandalf

UPDATE 24 February 2011 17:54: Some insightful thinking on this subject, that's worth your while.


ASM826 said...

“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
--JRR Tolkien

aczarnowski said...

Nicely said. I'm pretty sure we can't vote our way out of this mess but doing anything else at this point in history would not be right.

As for Jackson, one of his (few) great failings with the movies was the destruction of Faramir in The Two Towers. Faramir succumbing to the ring almost ruined that movie for me.

Kansas Scout said...

Well said. Recently, I finally found myself utterly and completely repelled by the so call Threepercenters.
These guys want to play army and I am far too old for that nonsense.
We might be "winning" but alas, I fear it's too late. I have just about lost all optimism now. What we win might not be much.

Ken said...

My favorite novel as well. I consider Tolkien the most profound moral philosopher of the 20th Century.

Secesh said...

What an evocative post, perhaps one of the best I've read on the subject. I agree its not time for the 3pers,but if we come to the "end of days" they may be the core of our forces. I still hope for our future as per your last quote from Gandalf.

GuardDuck said...

The king of the threepers, so to speak, was distancing himself from this talk of playing Ghengis.

Every group has it's fringe elements. If you consider a particular fringe to be it's own group, then even that group will have a fringe element.

Fringe's of fringe's ad nauseam.

Grim said...

"To beat the swine we are up against, we are going to have to be worse than them. Attila the Hun would have laughed at, and then trampled, the Queensbury Rules. We're going to need ruthless killers, not dreamers and moral men. "

How quickly forget what the Queensbury rules really were: Honorable conduct to you if you respect the rules. War to the knife if you don't. This has been the west's credo from day 1. I don't long for Attila, I long for us to wage war to knife against those who already wage it against us.

Chris said...

The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book as well, and has been since my first reading over 40 years ago. I agree with aczarnowski about Faramir's choice: in the book, he was not tempted, and there is no reason I can figure why Jackson would make that change.

As for the choice of playing by the rules or the fight to the knife, choosing the latter too soon usually means losing the (western) vision one is ostensibly fighting for. Choosing to use the One Ring is a mistake; evil is the only outcome possible.

The Harry Potter series, while not nearly as good as The Lord of the Rings, also illustrates how the choice between good and evil is an issue of black and white, and those that see grey are often engaging in self-deception. We all know what "behave yourself" means, and all the weaseling and lawyering doesn't change that. You cannot promote chastity by having sex, no matter how good you feel during the act. (Sorry for mixing so many metaphors.)

kdzu said...

Great, Great Post.
Two of the four Greatest books that I've ever read are The Lord of the Rings Trio and The Second is "The Law". The other two are religious and as such are personal to me alone.

Anonymous said...

I need to read Tolkien and the like so I can bring teh smart like this.

But yes, it's worth noting that Mr. Vanderboegh, for all his saber-rattling, is still saying, "it's not time."

phlegmfatale said...

Lovely post.

Atom Smasher said...

But always remember, Frodo *failed*. He succumbed to the temptation and power of the Ring in the end. Maybe irrelevant, as I dk what a Threeper is, but it's an oft-overlooked yet critical part of LOTR.

Sorry, I'm a LOTR geek. :)

Glenn Haldane said...

For a deeper understanding and appreciation of LOTR and Tolkien's genius, read 'JRR Tolkien Author of the Century' by Tom Shippey, HarperCollins 2000, preferably preceded by the first two chapters of the same author's 'The Road to Middle Earth' George Allen and Unwin, 1982.

You have to concentrate on these books, but the effort is well worth it.

Ken said...

+1,000 and a ticket to the Undying Lands to Glenn Haldane's recommendation. I've read Author of the Century twice and Road to Middle-Earth once. Reading Shippey on Tolkien is like reading John Keegan on military history: it's magisterial work.