Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tolkien on Power

Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy was a visually spectacular and a worthy rendition, however one of the things which irritated me about it was its mishandling (misunderstanding?) of the core concept of the Ring of Power.

It must surely strike even the casual reader that political power or the lust for power is a prime evil in Tolkien's Middle Earth (not to mention our own earth) and there are adequate quotes from the man himself to describe his main ideas:

"You can make the Ring into an allegory of our own time, if you like: and allegory of the inevitable fate that waits for all attempts to defeat evil power by power" (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 1995, p. 121.)

"Power is an ominous and sinister word in all these tales" (p. 152.)

"The story is cast in terms of a good side, and a bad side, beauty against ruthless ugliness, tyranny against kingship, moderated freedom with consent against compulsion that has long lost any object save mere power, and so on" (pp. 178-179.)

"In my story Sauron represents as near an approach to the wholly evil will as is possible. He had gone the way of all tyrants: beginning well, at least on the level that while desiring to order all things according to his own wisdom he still at first considered the (economic) well-being of other inhabitants of Earth. But he went further than human tyrants in pride and the lust for domination, being in origin an immortal (angelic) spirit" (p. 243.)

"Of course my story is not an allegory of Atomic power, but of Power (exerted for domination)" (p. 246.)

"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)" (p.63)

Can't get much plainer than that.

Now what I'd like to know is the relationship (if any) between Tolkien and his fellow philologist Nietzsche.

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