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Old 12-12-2015, 07:23 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
Yes, Barad-dūr definitely was a dark satanic mill, more deserving of the title than anything Blake saw in his lifetime.
A very apt way of putting it. Your statement that "we can infer a lot, mutatis mutandis, about the latter from the description of the former" is an excellent point, and I actually wrote a short article about this on my blog:http://opinionscanbewrong.blogspot.c...ntagonist.html
In the article I discuss how, while Sauron's characterisation and situation are largely confined to texts beyond The Lord of the Rings proper, we can infer a great deal from the way Saruman is both characterised and represented as a kind of 'lesser facsimile' of Sauron.

This itself could be considered something of a modern flourish on Professor Tolkien's part, as Saruman can become the lens through which the almost unfathomable evil of Sauron is understood.
Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Hence, the Mouth a Sauron, a mortal lieutenant of Barad-dur, "was crueler than any orc". One needs a good deal of chutzpah to treat with Sauron.
A fine way of putting it.
Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
That the East may well have had a far greater population than the West is evident in the cyclical migration of tribes forced from east to west either by overpopulation, lack of resources or thirst for conquest like the Easterlings and Edain in the 1st Age, and in the 3rd Age the Wainriders, the Balchoth, the Variags, and even the Éothéod.
Both of your points about population are well made. Pitchwife's remarks about "centuries of war, civil-war and general decline" are an interesting point as well, suggesting the kind of attrition and depopulation modern warfare caused. That being said, the idea of continuous warfare is arguably something that could be attributed to the Middle Ages and the early Modern period, particularly of course obvious examples like the Hundred Years' War and the disastrous Thirty Years' War.

In the book, it is argued of the battles in The Lord of the Rings that "One side, led by Aragorn and advised by Gandalf, fights a 'medieval' war of named volunteers and pledged faith, while the bad side is 'modern,' with its nameless conscripts, machines, slaves and creatures of Sauron." (Andrew Lynch, "Archaism, Nostalgia and Tennysonian War in The Lord of the Rings")
This is an interesting way of looking at it, and not an uncommon one: that rather than showing a war of evil vs evil, Professor Tolkien throws the evil of the modern world into focus by concentrating it into one "side" of the war. And yet I think calling it the other side "medieval" is a little inaccurate. Why are the wars in The Lord of the Rings' backstory so long? It is because, I would argue, of the relentlessness of Sauron.

In that sense, perhaps the "evil" "side" in Professor Tolkien's narratives actually concentrates the worst of both medieval and modern warfare: continuous military aggression coupled with industrialised logistics.

In an earlier chapter which compares Professor Tolkien to Sir Walter Scott and particularly The Lord of the Rings to Ivanhoe, the author explores "two main traditions of historical representation that have come down from Scott's work. The first [...] is the realist tradition [...] in which contemporary individuals are depicted as products of historical forces that are absolutely inescapable, whether or not they are beneficial. [...] The second (and much more popular) of these traditions fuses Scott's novel form to Macpherson's desires to make the past comfortable to our fantasies and to allow an escape from history's impact rather than an accession to its inevitability. The alienating distance between the events of the past and the present is closed in this tradition, because its purpose is to remake the unpleasant aspects of the past int something completely unthreatening to the reader." (John Hunter, "The Reanimation of Antiquity and the Resistance to History: Macpherson-Scott-Tolkien")

Hunter goes on to argue that The Lord of the Rings "successfully works in both of these traditions at once." Hunter draws various conclusions that it would be excessive to relate here, but generally argues for the value of a text which blends the historical with the fantastic and uses this to argue for the postmodernity of the narrative.

I've discussed before on this forum, when criticising changes made to the story for the film of The Hobbit, that Professor Tolkien's narrative, despite being wholly imaginary, possesses a great deal of historical realism: history does not merely happen to a core group of "main characters", and relatively minor characters and secondary protagonists do important and significant things without being the primary focus of the plot. I think the idea of "history, true or feigned" is therefore quite crucial to understanding the modern and/or postmodern elements of Professor Tolkien's work, as it does challenge some traditional motifs and structures of "the narrative" as an art form.
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