No. 49 Vol. 1Sun 26 September 2021Price: 0/0d

Fireside in the Shire

pointing finger Thranalysis >> Sun 26 September 2021 by Thran

I've been making steady progress in my reading of The Fellowship of the Ring. I've had a few loose thoughts on the meaning of the characters, setting and events themselves.

Decency as a defence

Hobbits had better defences against the ring than expected by the 'Wise'. This tells the reader that being down to earth is a strong but not perfect defence against the tempations of power. I define 'down to earth' as enjoying the comfort of small pleasures and the company of good people. This is the lifestyle depicted for Bilbo and Frodo.

Snubbing of Stick-dwellers

Hobbits look 'smaller' to you and I, but they live longer and fuller lives. Perhaps a metaphor for snobbery that some 'sophisticated' city types show towards non metropolitan folk. Only Gandalf took much notice of the hobbits. The cosmopolitan and 'educated' types are tempted to snub those of "simpler" station, while lacking much of the practical wisdom that only living outside of a wealthy city can provide.

Uncompromised debate

When Frodo and Gandalf are debating the characters have lively, involved conversations. They debate at length the rightness and wrongness of possible actions, passionately, attentively and considerately. There is respect for each other's positions. There is empathy for the difficulties that lie ahead. There is never belittling or a stern, heartless glance.

Both are committed to finding the truth and understanding the best choices to make, with all that's at stake. Frodo is terrified of getting involved, and who wouldn't be when faced with what lay before him. But even at this early stage his courage ultimately wins: he takes the first step. He accepts the quest.

Gandalf said we should 'not strike without need' and this reminds me of the non-aggression principle, not to initiate the use of force upon another except in self-defence. There is a great pondering here on the rightness and wrongness of using violence in vengeance.

The Personal Honesty of Friendship

Nothing is hidden, everything is explained when Gandalf is certain he knows the truth. If anything is hidden he explains why, if he has any doubts he shares them. There is no upper-handing or manipulation in their relationship. They are at core honest and curious people, which is what keeps them friends.

The Psychopathy of Evil

The ability of evil to use wretched and needy people is examined in the example of Gollum, who was drawn to Mordor and unwillingly revealed that the One Ring was still in the world. He ended up calling 'friends' people who only used him in his desperation and frustration. These were not friends, friends are people who would try and help him find peace after his mind had been so ravaged by the Ring.

The small deeds are the greatest deeds

Despite the world of 'magic' there is trust in the ability of ordinary people to shape major events, simply through making courageous choices. It takes great courage to do, because they will be met with disbelief and rejected by 'polite society' (i.e the hobbits who mocked Sam when he tried to warn them in the Green Dragon pub). These people value continuity above all. Yet that continuity is threatened because it blinded the same polite society to events in the world outside; forces that mean for the end of its existence.

This is very different from superhero films and Harry Potter[1], which shows only those with magical powers able to do any major good in the world, or to have any serious part in fighting evil. The ultimate effects of such messages are to subconsciously demoralise those who consume them. Thus, Tolkien offers the reader a truly uplifting message. He urges and extols small courageous deeds from the 'little people'. I think this is also among the reasons he chose to write in a homely prose, for that is who he is addressing. Not the 'snobs' and those who view themselves as 'superheroes' leading us all along to 'victory'.

I'm sure I am not alone when I recall watching Star Wars and wishing I had force powers to defeat great evil, or that I had the abilities of a video game character. I never reflected on any morals, which would actually be instructive for my life and empower me against any evil around me, or to withstand any temptation I see inside me.

[1] I've only second hand knowledge that suggests this is the way in those books. But given all the main characters are 'wizards' in an unseen world and the main foes dark magicians, I think my point stands.

Tags for this writ:

literature, lotr, quips, ethics,

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