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Amarinth 03-20-2002 11:07 AM

the scope of sacrifice
one of the most cherished insights i've personally distilled from lotr is that practically all, not some, not a few, not just the small, not just the great, but ALL free peoples of middle earth were needed to perform their own share of sacrifice in the struggle to defeat evil. such a scope of sacrifice hits so squarely on the face of many, many issues surrounding class struggles against despotism or tyranny in third world societies. maybe i'm babbling and not making any sense, but thing is, many of recent experiences in developing nations that have removed corrupt or abusive leaders show that the deed done ultimately results to a return to abusive regimes simply because principles have been compromised in favor of the comfort and advantage of the "great" in society. one full circle in a vicious cycle thus goes.

in lotr, the sacrifice and the willingness of frodo, aragorn, galadriel, elrond and many others have whipped up an inexorable tide towards the death of evil. in a way, it wasn't that frodo volunteered to destroyed the ring, nor that others volunteered to help him, but that all who opposed sauron especially the great committed to its destruction at their own personal costs (even olorin the maia had to anatomically die right?). i firmly believe the ring began its long defeat, if i may borrow from lady galadriel, with this pledge.

i've a question here somewhere and here it is. i've read many assertions to tolkien's religiousness and mythic inspiration in conjuring up lotr and all of ea (here for example), but how about sociological or political dimension of struggle? did tolkien consciously or subconsciously write in the idea that for war to be won all had to sacrifice (2 questions!)? there...

every man's life is a path to the truth -- hesse

Imberantiel 03-20-2002 11:28 AM

You just made me wish, that Finland was joining Nato [img]smilies/eek.gif[/img]

Raefindel 03-20-2002 11:56 AM

Interesting subject, Amarinth. I am willing to bet it was subconscious. People write from what they are and what they know.

I don't go out on a crusade to rid the world of racism, but those values come out in my writings because they are a part of me.

Just my thoughts.

Marileangorifurnimaluim 03-20-2002 02:38 PM

"in lotr, the sacrifice and the willingness of frodo, aragorn, galadriel, elrond and many others have whipped up an inexorable tide towards the death of evil."

First I have to point out that Tolkien said the end of the ring and of Sauron was not the death of evil, even in middle earth. Gandalf pointed this out in the RotK, when he mentioned Sauron was but a servant of Morgoth, (meaning that you'd think the end of evil would come with the defeat of Morgoth, but that was not the case, there was ever more evil to arise).
It wasn't even the end of Sauron, though it seemed unlikely that he could ever rise again.

So Tolkien doesn't point to an ultimate end of evil, but rather to it's constant defeat - by sacrifice, yes - in endless smaller battles.

Amarinth 03-20-2002 09:46 PM

ouch malin, please don't take me literally...what i meant really was the death (of sorts) of sauron, the figurehead of evil, not the death of all evil. so sorry, i do tend to abbreviate and english is really not my first language.

but more on your point about small struggles. that's it really, none of the isolated smaller or petty wars in lotr really made a difference in the long-term, that is, until they were concerted into a much more bigger, unified struggle with a universal purpose. this is a recurring theme in tolkien's works, even in the silm, e.g. the war of wrath, where even the valar participated, shish!

ansi-- nice to be of service [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

every man's life is a path to the truth -- hesse

Marileangorifurnimaluim 03-20-2002 10:33 PM

Oh, okay.

I think another point he brings up is how evil defeats itself: "oft evil will evil mar."

Good working in concert. I don't know, outside of the council of Elrond the foes of Mordor were quite separate from eachother. It always seemed to me that a large part of Sauron's defeat was his attempt to fight on many fronts at once.

[ March 20, 2002: Message edited by: Marileangorifurnimaluim ]

Birdland 03-20-2002 11:09 PM


So Tolkien doesn't point to an ultimate end of evil, but rather to it's constant defeat - by sacrifice, yes - in endless smaller battles.
Maril-etc.-etc. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] - one of my favorite fantasy novels, Prince Ombra, deals with this theme. Evil returns again and again to earth, each time in a different form, and a Hero appears who will take up the challenge.

Every hero in every culture is the same Hero, and every manifestation of Evil comes from the one, same source. Some heroes are not even remembered because, of course, Evil sometimes wins.

I always like to think of Frodo as being included in that long line of heroes, who all bore "The Borrowed Heart".

Kalimac 03-23-2002 01:36 AM

Sociological and political's hard to say, because there are so many things that could defined as fitting into one category. If you're asking if Tolkien set out consciously to make a sociological or political statement, no, I don't think he did. A lot of his attitudes were shown (especially his hatred of war machinery and the way the twentieth century fought its wars and destroyed its land) but he always insisted that he did not set out to write an allegory or a teaching story, and any story whose events are designed with an end towards anything (except getting the story told) is a fable or allegory in some way, often a very weak and mean one.

It's true, though, that one point that's hammered home time and again (all those dotting references to "Sauron would laugh to us so divided amongst ourselves") is the need of all the foes of evil to join together and fight it, all at great sacrifice, for the ultimate betterment of the world. The interesting thing is that even with most of the forces of Middle-Earth joined against Sauron, they don't actually defeat him themselves - Frodo "fails" in his quest and claims the Ring in the end (Tolkien refers in his letters to Frodo "failing" in his quest, but not in any way dishonorable to him - he was honored for having done far and beyond what anyone else could have, until the circumstances were too much for his soul). Sauron is defeated (or neutralized, at any rate, pushed out of the running) ultimately by Fate, as determined by a few actions of hobbits, the desire of Iluvatar, or whatever. But Fate would never have been able to accomplish this without the fact that everybody involved was sacrificing - or willing to sacrifice - everything they had to *try* and bring this about. To sum it up; Frodo and the denizens of Middle-Earth did every last thing they could, but still fell a few inches short of making it - Fate gave them the final push.

This would seem to say a good deal about Tolkien's attitude towards God, but also about allying against evil. What he seems to be saying (subconsciously) is that we have to fight as hard as we can, as much as we can, risk everything and still know that in the end we will be unable to defeat evil on our own. The Lord helps those who help themselves, you could say.

Sorry for the ramble. Does this make any sense as a theory?

Child of the 7th Age 03-24-2002 05:23 PM

I think your post is very perceptive. It was absolutely essential that everyone be willing to battle against the Shadow and, if necessary, to sacrifice all, even life itself. But, in the end, the combined efforts of hobbits, elves, men, ents, and whatever else simply wasn't enough. This I think reflected Tolkien's own view of the word which was shaped by the pessimism of northern mythology and his deep beliefs as a Catholic.

For Tolkien, history could only be a series of delaying actions against the forces of evil. No final victory was possible in his eyes until the end of time. When Clyde Kilby spent one summer with him near the end of his life, Tolkien did talk with him about the end of time and what it would mean. How men would join with Iluvatar and the Ainor in the Second Music of Creation and Arda would be healed.

Amarinth 03-24-2002 08:39 PM

put in the way you have just done, kalimac and child, it just suddenly becomes clear to me the other missing element in tolkien's equation of sacrifice -- all must unify and strive as hard as possible, but it is up to the supreme being to complete, or validate if you will, the goal. one cannot do without the One, however great the sacrifice, as shown in frodod's case. i see now, more profoundly the christian influence of this particular aspect. i've always concentrated on the idea that for change to happen all must work for it, but now i see the other complement to the idea, and am all the more glad for it. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]thanks...

every man's life is a path to the truth -- hesse

littlemanpoet 03-25-2002 09:24 PM


how about sociological or political dimension of struggle? did tolkien consciously or subconsciously write
I'm taking your words loosely, putting together a question you may and may not have asked. Tolkien's Scouring of the Shire is a strong political and social (I wouldn't say sociological) statement. It's a microcosm of the free peoples ousting despots. There had to be leaders, and the Four Travelers had to be prepared by their adventures to come back to the Shire and be the leaders in the fight for freedom. So you again have that sense of destiny. I think Tolkien was conscious of The Scouring of the Shire as a political/social statement, but still wrote it as Story for the sake of story. One of Tolkien's main points is that tyranny in its worst form will not only destroy the will of the people, but it is likely to destroy their culture and the very land on which they subsist.

Amarinth 03-26-2002 06:02 AM

astounding points littleman...come to think of it, even gandalf left the hobbits to themselves, as if he confidently knew that the stream of destiny they had set their sails in in the past will sustain them for whatever lay ahead. the choices they made in the face of the great tyranny ultimately prevailed over the smaller tyrannies in their lives. and having mentioned this particular tyranny in the shire makes me think that maybe there is a political/social color to tolkien's writing of this situation because the tyranny is on a baser level, like saruman's of the shire, born out of plain old revenge and malice. maybe sauron's had a greater ideological aspect to it and thus required dealing with on a different level.

yes, tyranny can destroy the will of any people, and as long as there is will...

but the question comes around, and i have to ask: what really is needed against deep-rooted tyranny? is it religious conviction or political will?

i look up from my own religious but politically ill country, gaze at tolkien's cosmology and the writing i see in his stars tell me it's the latter. isn't it an amazing irony that his work, one that so poignantly captures the essence of his christian conviction, can transmute into a political and sociological inspiration for some?

every man's life is a path to the truth -- hesse

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