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Old 12-22-2006, 01:52 PM   #1
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It's 1984 in the Third Age

Every year or so I reread 1984 by George Orwell. The book always bothers me, and maybe for that reason alone I continue to go back. There seems to be something that's missing, just on the tip of my brain, that would refute that Big Brother and his Party would live forever. Think that it's biology-related, but that might just be my own bias.

Anyway, in this rereading I noted these passages that struck a new chord:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Winston Smith in 1984, observing life
He looked round the canteen. A low-ceilinged, crowded room, its walls grimy from the contact of innumerable bodies; battered metal tables and chairs, placed so close together that you sat with elbows touching; bent spoons, dented trays, coarse white mugs; all surfaces greasy, grime in every crack; and a sourish, composite smell of bad gin and bad coffee and metallic stew and dirty clothes. Always in your stomach and in your skin there was a sort of protest, a feeling that you had been cheated of something that you had a right to. It was true that he had no memories of anything greatly different. In any time that he could accurately remember, there had never been quite enough to eat, one had never had socks or underclothes that were not full of holes, furniture had always been battered and rickety, rooms underheated, tube trains crowded, houses falling to pieces, bread dark-coloured, tea a rarity, coffee filthy-tasting, cigarettes insufficient -- nothing cheap and plentiful except synthetic gin. And though, of course, it grew worse as one's body aged, was it not a sign that this was not the natural order of things, if one's heart sickened at the discomfort and dirt and scarcity, the interminable winters, the stickiness of one's socks, the lifts that never worked, the cold water, the gritty soap, the cigarettes that came to pieces, the food with its strange evil tastes? Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?
Quote:
Originally Posted by O'Brien, in 1984, ranting on about 'how does one man assert his power over another?'
'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. Everything else we shall destroy everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'
Wasn't this the exact world that Sauron, Saruman, and possibly the Mouth of Sauron, wished to create? The ill-favored Southerner, the Uruks, the orcs, the Hillmen, the deception, the deprivation, the torture of being in the presence of the all seeing Eye, the environment of and around Mordor, etc, all seem to be in the world in which Winston Smith inhabits. Didn't Gandalf make some remark about Sauron not needing Hobbits as slaves, but would not allow them to remain free and/or happy out of spite? Take away some of the politics, and in 1984 you may have Middle Earth if Sauron would have reclaimed his One Ring.

Tolkien saw much of the same world as George Orwell, yet in Middle Earth we see that humanity and love prevail, unlike the hate found in Oceania. Is there some link between their writings, as I believe noted by T. Shippey?

I found this a helpful start. Thoughts?
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Old 12-22-2006, 03:15 PM   #2
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I think that the paralels run very deep. There would be two things I would have problems with: that there would be no science in Sauron's world (well, at least science as Machine) and that the world would revolve around the intoxication of power (as I doubt Sauron would breed his servants to desire power - rather to be servile).
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Old 12-22-2006, 06:12 PM   #3
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I've always loved George Orwell. I haven't read 1984 in quite a while, there are a few things I remember about it. I also would suggest Orwell's book Animal Farm. It's a bit 'different' and 'out there,' so to say, but certainly another great read.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe the symbol of Big Brother is an Eye as well? Billboards and ads and such just have the 'Eye' on them as an overpowering will that controls and 'sees all'. Which is definitely the same as Tolkien talking about the 'Eye' of Sauron:
Quote:
"It is true, of course, that Morgoth held the Orcs in dire thraldom, for in their corruption they had almost lost all possibility of resisting the domination of his will. So great indeed did the pressure on them become ere Angband fell that, if he turned his thought towards them, they were conscious of his ’eye’ wherever they might be....this servitude to a central will that reduced the Orcs to an almost ant-like life was seen even more plainly in the Second and Third Age under the tyranny of Sauron, Morgoth’s chief Lieutenant."~Home X: Morgoth's Ring, Myths Transformed
'The Eye' is first attributed to Morgoth by Tolkien...and it serves as kind of like a reminder to the Orcs and his servants the power and domination of Morgoth over them. The orcs were held in thraldom and even ant-like state, always conscious of it (Morgoth's power) wherever they were.
Here is an old thread I did about George Orwell and JRR Tolkien. It didn't seem to amount to much, but you may find it interesting or useful.

It's quite obvious after reading stories such as Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle (as well as Orwell's novels) that both Tolkien and Orwell were satiric writers and you could probably spot several parallels in their writing.

The symbol of the 'Eye' can be dated back to several cultures and beliefs. For example the Freemasons used the 'Eye of Providence' (or the Eye of God) to show that everything they did was under God's watch/jurisdiction. Also, in Egyptian mythology the Eye of Horus goes to symbolize protection and power.
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Old 12-23-2006, 02:54 AM   #4
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It's a long time since I've read 1984 now too. To understand that sense of greasy, dingy despair it's useful to read The Road To Wigan Pier and its depiction of the abject poverty of the 1930s, the greasy, dingy digs that Orwell found himself living in, the soot-grimed streets of Wigan and Sheffield, scenes of people scrabbling for remnants of coal on dangerous slag heaps, existing hand to mouth on the dole. 1984 was also written following the war and the realisation of how extreme regimes both left and right were dehumanising, reducing people to mere cogs in the machine. And the final influence I think that's important is wartime Britain with its directives (to be fair, such directives were probably necessary during war), propaganda, identity cards, drudgery, and the misery of rationing, which went on into the 50s and was actually worse and more restrictive after the war.

Engels and Marx believed that the British people were ripe for revolution but in contrast Orwell saw that British people were more than willing to submit to being oppressed and subject to punitive laws. Personally I think there's a bit of both, and Orwell may have seen that in having Winston rebel. The Orcs are like that. When the two Orcs are discussing 'retiring' they are letting their inner rebels show through; in front of the boss and their charges they are part of the machine, but underneath these Orcs lies a love of freedom. I often wonder how Sauron would have managed the peoples of Middle-earth had he gained total control, as if even in Orcs there was the need for some liberty, how would Sauron have controlled all these other people?

That's at the root of dystopian fiction - stories always focus around a person or a few people who for some reason rebel. 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World etc, of course there would be no story if someone did not rebel, but what writers are doing is showing that people are individuals and simply cannot be part of a machine. There are stories set in ostensibly 'perfect' worlds, and ones set in grimy worlds, but all of them share this sense that the individual is greater than the machine.

Tolkien's work is well placed in comparison to novels such as 1984 and the Time Machine (especially with its Morlocks and Eloi - Orcs and Elves?), note how when Aragorn comes to power there is acknowledgement of the other realms and he will leave them to rule independently, and there is acknowledgement that the Fourth Age simply will not be 'perfect', that other evils will come and go. Tolkien even gives us a hint of the dystopian 'perfect' world that could arise when he shows us how dreadful it would be if Galadriel got hold of the One Ring; she might rule over a beautiful world, but the power she possessed would be terrible enough to ruin it.
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Old 12-23-2006, 03:55 AM   #5
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Sauron is certainly capable of commanding certain people (or even armies, as seen in the last battle) - that is, if he focuses on them. In Myths Transformed, Tolkien talks about orcs starting fights among themselves when Morgoth is not around, thus acting against his will and plans - and we certainly see this in the fights of the Cirith Ungol tower, or the fight between the sniffer orc and his companion who came about Frodo and Sam. I doubt that, even with the help of the one ring, Sauron can eradicate permanently the free will of all his subjects.
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Old 12-26-2006, 09:46 AM   #6
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Tolkien repeatedly wrote to his son Christopher about the "orcs on both sides" during World War 2. It seems to me that there's some kind of connection between this sense of Tolkien's and the dystopias of Orwell and others.
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Old 01-02-2007, 12:57 PM   #7
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Thanks for the posts.

Reading more, in The Scouring of the Shire, what jumps out is the purposefulness by which the hobbits' souls, for lack of a better word, are being polluted. Saruman's and/or Lotho's mills don't grind corn, but grind out pollution into both the air and the water, and to me, more importantly, the psyche. The new homes and Shirriff houses aren't just un-Hobbitlike - being above ground and made of bricks - but also are poorly built. To me this is due more to design than in poor or hasty workmanship.

The table in the Shirriff's house in which the Four Companions stay is in need of a good scrubbing. Was cleaning the table against the rules? I think not; yet no hobbit felt the need to clean it. Isn't this like the grimy world of 1984? It's not because the people in each book are poor or are experiencing a hard year, but that the conditions in which they live are set up to break down the spirit. The table could have been cleaned, but no one was motivated to do it, and eventually the dirty dingy table (amongst other things) would be accepted as the norm.

And it's not only the environment that is affected, but the hobbits as well. Surely the Chief's Big Men make one fear to say too much, as one doesn't know who may be a spy, but it seems that even old friends who should know better still maintain an emotional distance. Like in Winston Smith's world, where he is cautious as anyone and everyone would turn him in for heretical thoughts, the hobbits in the Shire at that time are afraid to do anything that might arouse interest, and worse, a trip to the lockholes and/or a beating.

After Saruman is cast out of the Shire (and subsequently murdered), the hobbits get back the life that was once inside them. They return to their industrious selves, cleaning up the mess that had begun to convert the Shire into Mordor/Orthanc. Same persons, different spirits perhaps.

Makes me believe that this is how the elves were made into orcs, and though it might take many generations, how the orcs may be turned back to something a bit more benign.
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Old 01-02-2007, 01:31 PM   #8
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Orwell is an writer I admire greatly but haven't reread for a while, this thread inspired me to do so over Christmas. I am still in the throes of that but a few things have struck me.

Orwell hated extremism of any political colour, he like Tolkien had seen active service - though as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War. Like Tolkien he was a child of Empire, though unlike him he returned to his birthplace in Burma (Myanmar) as a cog in the colonial machinery he came to despise. I wonder if this is the reason for one of the most striking similarities, that they are both writers who engage in examining and describing Englishness. This of course may be more striking to me as a Brit than too overseas readers (I never forget my A level tutor recalling teaching in Africa and his class seeing great significance in the grass in "Wuthering Heights" being green.....).

Orwell is more direct in essays such as "England, your England ( possibly the most memorable piece of writing I have ever read ) while Tolkien develops his mythology for England.

Tolkien famously denied that LOTR was allegorical while Orwell wrote the famous allegories "Animal Farm" but that is probably a superficial observation. There will be more I am sure as I trap the ideas that are currently elusive but one thing struck me when I started looking. I think the emissary of Sauron at the black gates threatens that Frodo may be released when broken byt hte torments of Mordor. At the end of 1984, Winston is not killed immediately by the Party but is released as an example. Whether portrayed allegorically or mythologically, both writers well understood how absolute power works...
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Old 01-02-2007, 03:11 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Alatar
And it's not only the environment that is affected, but the hobbits as well. Surely the Chief's Big Men make one fear to say too much, as one doesn't know who may be a spy, but it seems that even old friends who should know better still maintain an emotional distance. Like in Winston Smith's world, where he is cautious as anyone and everyone would turn him in for heretical thoughts, the hobbits in the Shire at that time are afraid to do anything that might arouse interest, and worse, a trip to the lockholes and/or a beating.
I think Orwell and Tolkien both played up on two distinct and seemingly contradictory elements of Englishness. Firstly, that side which is restrictive and tells us that we must not, above anything else, 'make a fuss' or draw attention to ourselves. That's seen in how easily despots like Big Brother or Sharkey can take control and maintain control. You see it in everyday life all the time - I was watching a video on Youtube today where a woman has an argument with a girl who has her feet up on the seats on the bus, you see a lot of passengers hurriedly getting up and getting off, to avoid the 'fuss'.

But some stay on and join in. And that's the other side that both Tolkien and Orwell make use of, the unreasonable side. Had England just been a nation of people who never made a 'fuss' it would never have produced infamous stirrers of the status quo like Tom Paine, Blake, Scargill and even Thatcher. The world of Big Brother is agitated by Winston Smith as though he simply cannot help himself by going against the grain, and Sharkey's new society is shaken up by the appearance of these Hobbits, who notably have returned from war unwilling/unable to tolerate for more than a day or two this new system (note that this is similar to British history in which WWI and WWII were closely followed by big political shifts - notably Churchill, the victor, being booted out by returning soldiers from WWII in favour of Attlee and his promise of the welfare state).

You can even see this seemingly contradictory nature of 'no fuss please'/'let's kick things up a bit' in the very nature of Hobbits. It's not just Bagginses who go off on adventures but there's also a Brandybuck, a Took and most notably, a Gamgee. Something stirs them up, awakens something that they all had the potential to do anyway. After that, like you say, alatar, they are the 'same persons, different spirits'.

I dare to say you can even see it in Tolkien himself who cannot be categorised as one minute he says he was a conservative and the next an anarchist (note he took newspapers of all shades: The Times, The Telegraph and...The Observer!), was on one level an intellectual in an ivory tower but who also had a relish for pranks and loutish behaviour (he stole a bus when he was a student) - I'd say he was a fairly typical Englishman, refusing to be put into a little box when it didn't suit him to be that way.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithalwen
I think the emissary of Sauron at the black gates threatens that Frodo may be released when broken byt hte torments of Mordor. At the end of 1984, Winston is not killed immediately by the Party but is released as an example. Whether portrayed allegorically or mythologically, both writers well understood how absolute power works...
Good point! And of course, releasing the thoroughly brain-washed out into the world makes for a good, powerful weapon. In a similar vein, that's why the executed traitor would have his body displayed on the city walls as it rotted, to serve as an example to the people. That's why today, the converted zealot is extremely powerful and vociferous, as any smokers out there might know if they ever get cornered by an ex-smoker.
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Old 01-02-2007, 06:34 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
The new homes and Shirriff houses aren't just un-Hobbitlike - being above ground and made of bricks - but also are poorly built. To me this is due more to design than in poor or hasty workmanship.

The table in the Shirriff's house in which the Four Companions stay is in need of a good scrubbing. Was cleaning the table against the rules? I think not; yet no hobbit felt the need to clean it. Isn't this like the grimy world of 1984? It's not because the people in each book are poor or are experiencing a hard year, but that the conditions in which they live are set up to break down the spirit. The table could have been cleaned, but no one was motivated to do it, and eventually the dirty dingy table (amongst other things) would be accepted as the norm.
Interesting. The ruffians are thieves and they know it; they raise the houses without care. They're there to ravage and steal and take what isn't theirs. But the hobbits don't care for the houses either, as you point out. No sense of ownership. It seems that there's a piece of commentary from Tolkien here, on modern life. Shoddy work is done when, among other reasons, there is no sense of ownership. Is this Tolkien's anti-socialism popping up again?
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Old 01-02-2007, 09:31 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Interesting. The ruffians are thieves and they know it; they raise the houses without care. They're there to ravage and steal and take what isn't theirs. But the hobbits don't care for the houses either, as you point out. No sense of ownership. It seems that there's a piece of commentary from Tolkien here, on modern life. Shoddy work is done when, among other reasons, there is no sense of ownership. Is this Tolkien's anti-socialism popping up again?
I think Marx made a similar complaint, lmp, only he called it a consequence of the alienation inherent in capitalist production.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lal
I'd say he was a fairly typical Englishman, refusing to be put into a little box when it didn't suit him to be that way.
Probably the only 'box' which Tollers was ever put into, and which fit, was his coffin.
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Old 01-02-2007, 10:46 PM   #12
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A side note regarding the "capture and release" of broken prisoners.

Tolkien touches on this several times in the Silmarillion, particularly in the older versions, where the Elves fear and shun the broken thralls who have been released from Angband. This isn't quite so evident in the later versions, although we see a touch of it in Gwindor.

It also comes through in Maeglin and his betrayal of Gondolin. Maeglin's worst deed isn't in his breaking, in his betrayal to Morgoth, but in his return to Gondolin-- brainwashed. He not only keeps secret his betrayal, he does more to further Morgoth's work.

We see a failed attempt in the release of Húrin from Angband, Húrin not being quite brainwashed yet. But even so, Morgoth's cloud on his mind wreaks terrible havoc in Brethil and Doriath.
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Old 01-03-2007, 09:54 AM   #13
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I think Marx made a similar complaint, lmp, only he called it a consequence of the alienation inherent in capitalist production.
Either way you look at it, it's yet another criticism of modernism.
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Old 01-03-2007, 12:46 PM   #14
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Thanks for pointing out that Frodo was threatened to be a 'broken and released' prisoner. One difference is that Winston Smith, after he was broken, remade and released, was no harm to anyone in any real way (he could not harm others, as they were guilty of thoughtcrime regardless of whether he indicted them or not). He wasn't permitted to leave the Ministry of Love until he was perfect, in the Party sense. He could have (and did, briefly) met with Julia and they could have done whatever they'd liked, for the Party knew that for these two, life was over and their souls were burned out. Not even a little mischief was possible, as no teeth remained in either of these two's heads.

Not so with the prisoners that Morgoth and Sauron release. Each was sent out with some intent, whether to do a specific deed or just to foment discord. Many still had the ability to resist, to still hate their captors, and to rejoin the fight against the evil. If Frodo would have been caught, tortured and released (assuming that the Ring still wasn't found, as after that, what's the point in playing with the mouse?), it would be to cause pain to those who'd sent him. It would be like a specific arrow fired to damage Gandalf and the other hobbits; maybe Aragorn as well.

Another point: In 1984, the heretic is essential to the Party. Without someone onto which to stomp, there was no need for the power which the Party acquired. Even after turning everyone into mindless duckspeaking robots, still there would be those wouldn't be able to use crimestop thinking all of the time (inevitably, by design) and so the Ministry of Love would always have persons on which to work.

In Middle Earth, resistance/freedom were to be wiped out entirely.

Note that if Sauron had regained his Ring, he would have been able to see the thoughts of the bearers of the Three, very much like having telescreens in Galadriel's, Elrond's and Gandalf's/Cirdan's heads. I assume that, using the palantir in his possession, along with his innate powers, Sauron already had an idea as to what everyone else was doing.
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Old 01-03-2007, 04:06 PM   #15
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It is only by revolution that the native genius of the English people can be set free. Revolution does not mean red flags and street fighting, it means a fundamental shift of power.
This is Orwell, in The Lion and the Unicorn (an oft-misquoted and mis-used essay by such as John Major). He highlights how it's not in the struggles of Tolkien's 'be-whiskered men' that the hidden side of the English can be set free, but in changes in society, changes such as those which happened post WWI and WWII, and which also happened after the Battle of Bywater. That quote rings a bell thinking about The Hobbits. They were stirred, they took it upon themselves to fight back, and The Shire was remade with both the Elvish beauty of Sam's gift and in the practical way of rebuilding Hobbit holes, and lining them with brick to make them more comfortable (echoes of 'Homes For Heroes' and the important welfare reforms of the Labour government post-1945). And probably most importantly, Aragorn takes the step of protecting The Shire by not allowing Men to enter it (me wonders what happened when they had to build a lengthy by-pass for the road to the Grey Havens ).
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Old 01-11-2007, 10:16 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet
Interesting. The ruffians are thieves and they know it; they raise the houses without care. They're there to ravage and steal and take what isn't theirs. But the hobbits don't care for the houses either, as you point out. No sense of ownership. It seems that there's a piece of commentary from Tolkien here, on modern life. Shoddy work is done when, among other reasons, there is no sense of ownership. Is this Tolkien's anti-socialism popping up again?
I see, in the Scouring of the Shire chapter, a definitive statement about and against socialism, as the words 'gathering and sharing' show what typically happens when socialism is played out in life and not on paper.


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Originally Posted by George Orwell
in Animal Farm
ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS
But in 1984 and the Shire it's not just socialism that's the problem. Lotho starts off by throwing his capital around, buying up what he can to sell in southern climes. Obviously there are hobbits that are more concerned with making a buck than maybe stifling the plans that Lotho has. Lotho, updating the Old Mill and creating new ones, was again trying to increase his profits, and someone had to build and maintain the mills, which I'm guessing would be hobbits. It's not until Lotho's plans go (I think, even for him) awry that we get into 'gathering and sharing', and this to me is less socialism and more feudalism (not that that's the right ism, and hopefully someone more knowledgeable can fill in the correct word).

Saruman, when he gets there, isn't a socialist but a totalitarian and a spoiler.

And in Orwell's world, I can see much of the same thing happening in a less socialistic state. In America, we chase the latest thing to consume, and with all of our 'stuff' in our 'castles' we can become less concerned with and more isolated from our fellow citizens. Even families can become estranged. Children come home from their government school and hide in their rooms with their computers and other toys while mom and dad are at work, or pursuing their desired hobby or in front of the tube, droning away.

In 1984 and in Saruman's version of the Shire, no one is connected to any other, and because of this, each can be picked off and removed by the authorities at will, as everyone is afraid to care.
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Old 01-11-2007, 01:34 PM   #17
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Well really the system which operates in The Shire under Saruman is anything but Socialism; the only real parallel to Socialism is the centrist control of The Shire.

How does The Shire begin to fall? With the hand of 'venture capitalism', as exercised by Lotho's family, buying up supplies and property to artificially inflate demand and thus prices - it's a common business practice, legal but greedy. You can see a similar thing today when people started buying up property in order to sell at a later date for profit - the result is that they have lots of money and capital but a lot of other people are now priced out of the housing market.

The Shire became destabilised by the Sackville-Bagginses efforts (as it would in the real world which is why we have anti-monopoly regulations) and of course his not-so benevolent 'business partner' Saruman steps in.

We also have to bear in mind the time period in which Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings. Rationing was in force in Britain from 1940 to 1954, and it actually got worse and more punitive after 1945, at the point it just so happens that the Labour party took power, as the country's resources were half-decimated by the war and we were faced with paying back an immense debt to the US - a debt so big we only finished paying it back a couple of weeks ago. Each person would be issued a booklet with coupons of their food allowance for a week and shops would be allocated supplies from central resources (so there's your 'gathering and sharing' in a nutshell); shoppers had to visit their 'registered' shop.

To get a flavour (no pun intended) of that you would be allowed one egg a week and an ounce of cheese - enough to make one sandwich. My father says he went from the age of 7 to the age of 20 without any chocolate, and my mother fared worse as she was punished for crying when made to eat horse meat, which was after that a regular feature on their table. Tobacco was sent to the troops and at one point was in such scarce supply at home that shopkeepers refused to sell it to women. Tolkien turned his own garden over to vegetables and I believe they eventually got rid of Edith's aviary. He got rid of his car due to petrol shortages.

It had a deep impact on everyone at that time (I have no doubt that my grandmother's food hoarding habit stemmed from years under rationing) and Tolkien won't have been exempt, in fact it may have hit his family even harder being in an urban area. As it got worse at the same time that Attlee took power in 1945 a lot of people 'blamed' the government for something outside its control (what's new?) - and it just so happens that this was also a socialist government.

I've no doubt in my mind that the 'gathering and sharing' was influenced by the privations of rationing, with The Shire suffering by the 'powers that be' instead stockpiling food for economic reasons. There's another comparison here with the infamous 1980s European Union (a truly frightening multi-state 'machine') food mountains, where food was stockpiled to keep prices artificially high (until states complained and when you went down to sign on at the dole office you'd get free cans of 'mystery meat' - that tasted quite good, actually ). Another good comparison might be made with the Irish Great Famine. Here land owned by the lords was given over to growing grain for export with the tenants pushed onto small unproductive land that could only grow potatoes; when blight hit their spuds they had nothing to eat - literally, as the landlords refused to give up their cash crops to feed them.

There's also the consideration that the only Socialism which Tolkien lived under was benevolent and nothing remotely like anything seen in the USSR, in fact it benefited him as he was finally able to get free health care for his and Edth's long term health problems (he often struggled to pay his doctors' bills before the war). So the 'reality' to Tolkien was very different; the only unfortunate fact is that this government was active when rationing had to be deepened (due to the economic reasons I mentioned earlier), and is one of the reasons why they did not stay in power after 1951. There was also still a necessarily huge state machine following the war, something which a lot of people did not like - and they still don't but they are always quick enough to complain if they don't get their child benefits on time or have to queue for more than 20 seconds in the tax office. Putting Tolkien's thoughts into perspective - its a common British thing to 'blame the Government' for just about everything, no matter who is in power. I think it was really the extremes of theoretical Socialism and all modes of excessive state control that he hated. Not really anything unusual for a Brit, I grumble about that too (ruddy nanny state...chunner...chunner). I happen to agree with him that some nice, gentle form of anarchy would be better, like they have in The Shire but alas I'm also a realist and know that everyone is far too concerned with getting home to watch Eastenders than to spend 30 minutes of their day helping out with community essentials like emptying bins.

And if you're still reading after that ramble then you deserve a medal.
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Old 01-12-2007, 07:09 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
How does The Shire begin to fall? With the hand of 'venture capitalism', as exercised by Lotho's family, buying up supplies and property to artificially inflate demand and thus prices - it's a common business practice, legal but greedy. You can see a similar thing today when people started buying up property in order to sell at a later date for profit - the result is that they have lots of money and capital but a lot of other people are now priced out of the housing market.

The Shire became destabilised by the Sackville-Bagginses efforts (as it would in the real world which is why we have anti-monopoly regulations) and of course his not-so benevolent 'business partner' Saruman steps in.
Hi Lalwendë,
What a good thread. A similar thought came to my mind as I read the Lotr.

The humble Hobbits, I mused, may be non other than the good-hearted yeomanry of the English Shires, forced by brute economics from their land and into the dark mills and squalid housing of the Industrial Revolution.

Our little fellowship, in their journey, took a road back through time and encountered the twin streams of their powerful ancestry - the vital, warrior-like Riders of Rohan (Anglo-Saxons) and the mighty heirs of Numenor (Classical Civilisation and the knowledge it brought from across the sea).

They grew as individuals and returned to liberate the Shire from the nightmare which had enveloped it.

Perhaps what Tolkein would have liked to have seen?

Then again, I may be reading too much into it.
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Old 01-12-2007, 07:36 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Wayland
Hi Lalwendë,
What a good thread. A similar thought came to my mind as I read the Lotr.

The humble Hobbits, I mused, may be non other than the good-hearted yeomanry of the English Shires, forced by brute economics from their land and into the dark mills and squalid housing of the Industrial Revolution.

Our little fellowship, in their journey, took a road back through time and encountered the twin streams of their powerful ancestry - the vital, warrior-like Riders of Rohan (Anglo-Saxons) and the mighty heirs of Numenor (Classical Civilisation and the knowledge it brought from across the sea).

They grew as individuals and returned to liberate the Shire from the nightmare which had enveloped it.

Perhaps what Tolkein would have liked to have seen?

Then again, I may be reading too much into it.
That's a really good way of looking at it. I suppose in this thread we are drawing comparisons with the 'political' machine - but the best of all comparisons with regard to what happened in The Shire is simply the impact of the Industrial Revolution. In the name of profit machinery came and not only bespoiled the landscape but took people away from the land, from their localities (and hence from their histories and culture) and made them mere servants to these machines. That was also the change that Morris and his contemporaries disliked - Socialists funnily enough!

And I do like the idea that the Hobbits travelled back into the heart of their ancestry as this is the sense that I get from LotR, that I'm somehow 'seeing' the past. I remember reading the book for the first time and having a vague sense that the Rohirrim were a bit like the Saxons and Norse, the Elves like the Celts, and so on. Of course reading LotR stirred up a lot of change in my outlook - including a never ending thirst for our history, a need to work out the mysteries of our past, and a wish to prevent Sarumans from spoiling what was left. I wonder if Tolkien intended his work to be seen like that - as a journey 'back'? It might make sense of his whole idea of 'creating a mythology he could dedicate to England'.
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Old 01-12-2007, 10:05 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by alatar
Not even a little mischief was possible, as no teeth remained in either of these two's heads. .... Not so with the prisoners that Morgoth and Sauron release. Each was sent out with some intent, whether to do a specific deed or just to foment discord.
This is an interesting contrast between Orwell and Tolkien. Orwell's State was seen as so overwhelmingly powerful, and the Winstons so powerless, that there was no hope that the "good" could win out. By contrast, Morgoth's strategy of sending out "broken" ex-prisoners to cause doubt an despair amongst his enemies, is evidence that Morgoth was quite in doubt about his own chances of victory. This bespeaks a fundamental difference in the ways Orwell and Tolkien viewed the world: Orwell gave his readers a glimpse powerlessness and despair whereas Tolkien gave his readers a glimpse of profound triumph at a profound cost, but not without recourse nor hope.
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Old 01-12-2007, 12:03 PM   #21
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Excellent posts, Lalwendë. You presented some British history alongside personal observations - all with Tolkien references. Pick out a shiny medal from those that you were prepared to distribute and pin it on.

My father lived through what we call here the Great Depression. That colored how he lived the rest of his life. My parents/in-laws were, by American standards, poor folk, and hearing stories about their lives have made some impression - learning that my step-father's toys would disappear a few weeks before Christmas to reappear newly painted under the tree, and that my father-in-law got shoes once a year, to wear on Easter Sunday then not again until the winter - and (hopefully) makes me realize how good life is.

I personally remember the Nixon price- and wage-fixing, and the gasoline shortages caused by Carter. Not sure if it were Reagan, my parents, reading 1984 or some other influence, but I'm big on the invisible hand as described by Adam Smith. We the people will figure it out, given the freedom to act (or not).

Lotho, at first, may just have wanted to increase his wealth, but mammon took over his head, and he begun lording himself around. To me this then is about wanting/having power, and as you say, not about socialism. He may have began treating other hobbits as things, replaceable cogs in the machine, as eventually he was replaced. (Interestingly, the Chief, like Big Brother, becomes a name and not a physical person as actions are done in the name of, but not exactly by, the person).

Saruman, obviously, wanted to acquire the Ring that he might order Middle Earth as he saw fit. Power he wanted. Depravity and deficiency he created because he cared not for the means, but only the end.

The Party, in 1984, obviously acquired and kept power to ensure its perpetual existence. The shortages weren't the result of socialism ("IngSoc") but were by design. By keeping the Low in a state of 'bare survival' (typically below), the riches for the Party and Inner Party members were easily produced as it didn't take much to seem to be beyond the 'poor.' Plus, with everyone scraping for survival, time for thinking and plotting were kept to a minimum.
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Old 01-12-2007, 12:21 PM   #22
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I just today read a fascinating reference to '1984' in John Garth's Tolkien and the Great War. In the chapter "Castles in the Air" he discusses the development of Tolkien's early version of the Legendarium in connection with his WWI experiences. Melko (sic) 's influence over his captive-set-free Meglin (sic) is similar to that of Big Brother, though the writing style is different.
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In its capacity to warn about such extremes, fantastic fiction has the edge over what is called realism. 'Realism' has a knee-jerk tendency to avoid extremes as implausible, but 'fantasy' actively embraces them. It magnifies and clarifies the human condition. It can even keep pace with the calamitous imaginings of would-be dictators. Doubtless Tolkien had no intention of making political predictions, but his work nevertheless foreshadowed things to come. A spiritual kinship exists between the unhappy Meglin and Winston Smith, downing his Victory gin under the eyes of Big Brother.
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Old 02-20-2007, 06:01 AM   #23
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Its my opinion that 'The Scouring of the Shire' is similar to the end of 'Coming Up For Air' when the main character comes back to his home town and finds its all industrialised and almost every thing which he had grown up with had been destroyed. I suppose Orwell and Tolkien who were alive in the same era mourned the destruction of rural England in the name of modernisation.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:13 PM   #24
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Having recently visited the UK on business, as we rode the train to London I noticed that many houses were very similar, small, connected and not having much surrounding green space. I was reminded somehow of the houses depicted in 1984 and in Lotho's/Sharkey's Shire. Are these places on the way from Gatwick airport to Victoria Station old enough to be what Orwell and Tolkien were seeing?

Note that I mean not to disparage anyone or their country, and note that there are places very close to where I live that look like Mordor after the orcs celebrated Sauron's birthday, and no 'facilities' were available.
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:23 PM   #25
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Don't you mind about disparaging England its Scotland's national sport I don't know about the houses in particular you're talking about but a lot of terrible houses were built in England (and Scotland) in that era and they destroyed a lot of the beauty of the countryside. As they cause of this destruction was modern 'progress' and it is no suprise that both writers developed an aversion to this and harked back to a supposedly better time.

P.S. Have you read Coming Up for Air? If not I really recommend it. It is a classic and relatively unknown though I probably spoiled the ending of it in my last post...
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Old 02-21-2007, 02:32 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by hewhoarisesinmight
I don't know about the houses in particular you're talking about but a lot of terrible houses were built in England (and Scotland) in that era and they destroyed a lot of the beauty of the countryside. As they cause of this destruction was modern 'progress' and it is no suprise that both writers developed an aversion to this and harked back to a supposedly better time.
There are houses here that were thrown up (appropriate words) in haste. They are essentially boxes sitting on slabs. Back in the day when I worked construction, we worked on some of the houses and you could see that pieces of wood were numbered - each house was a kit. Anyway, the difference is that many of the same houses have been modified as the sameness, at least around here, is not desired. There are even some more well-to-do plans where even the mailboxes are the same (by village code) and it creeps me out to no end. Newer plans have each house somewhat different.


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P.S. Have you read Coming Up for Air? If not I really recommend it. It is a classic and relatively unknown though I probably spoiled the ending of it in my last post...
Not yet but I will put it on the list, and note that I regularly reread LotR, and knowing the ending never spoils the fun.
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Old 02-21-2007, 04:26 PM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
Having recently visited the UK on business, as we rode the train to London I noticed that many houses were very similar, small, connected and not having much surrounding green space. I was reminded somehow of the houses depicted in 1984 and in Lotho's/Sharkey's Shire. Are these places on the way from Gatwick airport to Victoria Station old enough to be what Orwell and Tolkien were seeing?

Note that I mean not to disparage anyone or their country, and note that there are places very close to where I live that look like Mordor after the orcs celebrated Sauron's birthday, and no 'facilities' were available.
I'm just wondering if you mean the modern houses or the older terraced houses (built of brick and stone, usually late Victorian)? The latter were very much around in Tolkien's day and were not necessarily very 'orcish' as many tend to have high ceilings and large windows and are pretty comfortable (which is why I live in one and not a modern house ). However, I also live in Europe's greenest city (the suburbs look like a forest with the odd building peeking out in high summer) and our terraces are surrounded by trees and all of them have back gardens, whereas in Birmingham the streets aren't quite so 'greened up'.

Now I personally knew well some of the streets Orwell wrote extensively about in The Road To Wigan Pier, all of which were beginning to be demolished when I was a youngster. My father worked in Wigan on the fringe of the district and we'd go and buy meat pies in a shop down one of the streets (cracking pies too - goes without saying in Wigan...). These were the unpleasant kinds of terraced houses - low roofed, quite shabbily built, fronting directly onto the street (no patch of garden), and none even then with inside toilets as there simply was no room to put them in, the houses were so poky (our house got a bathroom by the back bedroom being split in two and the outside thunderbox was long gone before I bought it). I don't doubt these houses were the ones that Orwell had in mind. And they would be nowhere near as nice as a spacious Hobbit hole with a green garden - only backyards in these houses, and sometime not even that if they were true back-to-backs (you only have windows on one elevation as the others have other houses attached to them!). There are still thousands of these in Leeds, all around the University, in the very area next to where Tolkien himself lived; Hyde Park, nothing like the London version, it's Britain's very own Beirut these days.

The one major factor that was lost, however, with the loss of these houses in Wigan, was community. People knew each other and helped each other, and living so close fostered community spirit, looking out for everyone else's kids and so on. The shiny new tower blocks broke up communities and only fostered alienation and then, crime and vandalism. So even the 'Orcish' little terraces of Wigan that Orwell hated had their bucolic side, and the really Orcish thing was to simply demolish them rather than improve them. Ironic and sad.
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