There have been hundreds of thousands of books and movies released each year commenting on the state of human civilization, industrialization, and humanity more generally. Each has a unique approach, but essentially the message is the same: humans have done more harm to our world than any other species. Our greed has led us to destroy our environment, isolate our friends and corrupt our youth with materialistic ideals. That is not to say that we, as humans do not have the potential to do good, but rather that history has been dominated by the desire for power and prestige. Among these works is a classic story that has been cleverly by beautiful landscapes and mythical creatures. In The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R Tolkien asserts that there was a time when we, like the hobbits maintained a symbiotic relationship with our environment. However, due to globalization and the influence of industrialization that developed as a result of the advancement of our ability to understand and develop in the fields of science and technology, we “forgot” what it meant to respect our environment.
The comparison that resonates most vividly in my mind is the betrayal of Saruman. The general impression I get from wizards is that their job is to maintain the balance in the world. Not just the balance within the environment and its ecosystems, but to ensure harmony between the races of Middle Earth. The wizard that embodies this concept the most is Radagast the Brown. It appears as though the “lower” the wizard’s rank, the closer he is to nature. Saruman’s “rank” amongst the wizards is the highest, meaning he holds the most power. And it’s fair to say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, as we have seen through communism: theory verse practice. However, in linking white as being the most powerful of wizards, there are connotations of racial superiority. For example, when we first meet Gandalf, he is Gandalf the Grey. He explicitly refers to Saruman the White as his superior, though in this instance the racial distinction is not made as apparent as it is later in Gandalf’s revival and confrontation with Saruman as he is controlling Theoden, King of Rohan. When Gandalf pretends to be of a lower rank, he is powerless against Saruman, but all Gandalf needs to do is to strip off his grey overcoat and the radiance of his whiteness (well, and the power associated with his “upgrade” to Gandalf the White) immediately overpowers Saruman. However, this battle is used to show the domination of “good” over evil. Saruman, though white, is evil because he has allowed his greed for power to cloud his good judgement. Saruman’s greed has caused him to turn Isengard into an industrial centre, not dissimilar to England during the industrial revolution. Saruman is not only an example of industrialization, but also an example of the corrupt reach of imperialism. Discontent with his position as the head of his order and with owning only Isengard, Saruman joins with Sauron in a plot to take over all of Middle Earth. His lust for power is fulfilled through his orc and uruk-hai armies who storm the kingdoms of Middle Earth, terrorizing its citizens and forcing submission through fear. Again, these are not dissimilar to methods employed during the colonization of countries in the Americas.
Contrasted to the corrupt Saruman are the hobbits. The hobbits are able to maintain their purity largely because of their isolation from the outside world. Hobbits aren’t naturally curious and would not venture outside the Shire seeking adventure, with a couple exceptions of course. This is reinforced by Treebeard when he encounters Merry and Pippin in Fangorn Forest. Treebeard, though an Ent, has not heard of a hobbit. It is unusual that a creature as aged as he would not know about the hobbits unless it was true that hobbits did not often venture out on grand adventures. The hobbits essentially live in holes in the ground, making do with the landscape rather than building large fancy structures like the elves or men. They lead simple lives and have an overwhelming desire to do good, as in the example of Frodo. Though Frodo knows at the council of Elrond that he could be forever relieved of the burden of bearing the Ring to its destruction in Mordor, the argument that breaks out amongst those at the meeting in addition to the allure of the Ring causes Frodo to volunteer even though he had no desire to do so originally. I would in part attribute it to Frodo’s good nature, but we cannot ignore the allure of the Ring. The Ring, I believe is symbolic of power itself. The chance to hold ultimate power is always alluring. It is a possession that Frodo, like all the ringbearers before him, are ultimately is unable to relinquish.
That is to say, Tolkien’s representation of real world problems in a fantasy world was one of the best told and well disguised moral stories I’ve had the pleasure of watching. I’m sure that if I had read the book there would have been much more that I could have gleaned and analysed. All I have to say is that I’ve been too long deprived of a critical piece to write and to allow myself to do a critical analyse in a playful way has been much too fun. This could never pass for a genuine essay, but this will do as a response to summer challenge prompt.