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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room: A discussion of "Law and Arda" by Douglas Kane: Edit Log


May 28 2013, 1:36pm

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A discussion of "Law and Arda" by Douglas Kane

Some discussion points I thought were interesting from the fascinating Law and Arda article from Tolkien Studies (Volume 9) that Douglas Kane, our own Voronwe the Faithful, kindly made available to us! Angelic

Feel free to address as many or as few points as you have ideas about...and as always in the RR, bring up any thoughts or questions you have too! Enjoy all! Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

** Order in the Court! Let us gaze at the Wizard in the dock: a question of "Undue Influence." Is it a charge that can be levelled at Gandalf, for his leading role in giving Bilbo "a little nudge out of the door..."? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undue_influence
The article above provides the legal definition of 'undue influence'. Do you feel that Gandalf can defend against the charge? Does his stature in relation to Bilbo make him more likely to have undue influence? We can consider two things: Bilbo's own indecisiveness in the matter - "Bilbo’s attempt to retreat into a modern, business-like air is defeated by the Dwarf song "Far Over Misty Mountains Cold," which evokes the ancient world and awakens in Bilbo’s heart "the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and magic." (Shippey 73) - as well as his emotional state as described above. Yet also taking into account his own independent inclination to proceed, do you feel his free will was, or may have been, violated?

** JRRT uses Smaug as the voice of legalistic reason to shake Bilbo's resolve, by cunningly asking him: "But what about delivery? What about cartage? What about armed guards and tolls?" (H, xii, 192). As Douglas Kane demonstrates in Law and Arda, the viability of the Contract rests on its executability by both parties. So let's discuss the point raised by Smaug the Barrister: the carting of the 1/14th share - is it a contract breaker? Is the letter of the Contract fulfilled without taking into consideration the return journey, and does 'delivery' simply mean the handing over the Reward? Is Thorin or his representative legally or ethically responsible for the Burglar's management of the Reward once it is provided to Bilbo?

** Douglas Kane sums up Bilbo's choice in the Trollshaw, where he has taken the step in deciding to live up to the title of "Burglar." In Letter #163 JRRT says; "Anyway I myself saw the value of Hobbits, in putting earth under the feet of 'romance', and in providing subjects for 'ennoblement' and heroes more praiseworthy than the professionals..." Let us discuss the role of the Talking Purse: to set the charming scene for Dwarves-in-sacks, or to maintain Bilbo's status as a non-professional burglar/adventurer? Is maintaining the legal fiction of Bilbo as an (non-gifted) amateur needed to advance the story and Bilbo's arc, or is it more of a plot-driven point?

** As Douglas Kane points out, the event in which Bilbo finds the Ring is of enormous and apparently fateful importance, to Bilbo and to Middle Earth. "Although Bilbo found the Ring as opposed to taking it from Gollum by force or stealth, once he learned for certain that it was property belonging to Gollum he would be duty-bound by law to return it to him; failing to do so was as much a theft as if he had taken it by force. On the other hand, one defense that a person accused of a crime can assert is the defense of necessity, and it seems likely that Bilbo could have successfully claimed that it was necessary that he keep the Ring in order to avoid getting throttled and eaten. Moreover, he did not use more force than was necessary, since he used the Ring to escape Gollum by leaping over him instead of his original inclination of 'stabbing the foul thing, putting its eyes out, killing it' [H, v, 81](Kane, L and A)." A turning point in his career. Based on the revised version of Riddles, where do you stand here, in the moral, legal and/or psychological implications of Bilbo keeping the Ring? Theft, necessity or the hand of Fate?

** Burglary or Recovery: whose cup is it anyway? Since the Dwarves have possession of the Key, (a legitimate means of entry, and the Key being undisputed legal property of Thorin) does that legally and ethically sanctify their entry into the Mountain? Taking the Cup: does or does it not make Bilbo a burglar? And how does it compare with Bilbo removing the Arkenstone?

** After Bilbo's departure form the Shire, Frodo faces conflict and "legal folderol", as Douglas Kane quite properly calls it, surrounding the Will, with its seven signatures in red ink; in Hobbiton, apparently it takes a village to sign a will! What does this particular legal fiction say about Hobbit (and possibly in JRRT's mind idealized, countrified, pre-industrial English) society?

** The crucial distinctions of morality over law. In the examples Douglas Kane gives us in Law and Arda, circumstances in which JRRT highlighted morality over law (Frodo allowing Gollum to swear fealty on the Ring; Finrod's oath; the sanctioned Death of Miriel resulting in the birth of the children of Indis; Theoden sparing Grima) each event has a significant story consequence - except for the case of Grima and Theoden. With the idea that in JRRT's world legal fictions create meaning, why might choosing this legally unprecedented act of mercy for Grima, especially after his numerous dark deeds, be so morally (or psychologically) important for Theoden?

** Tolkien experienced deep love in his life, yet through the legendarium shows the reader that he is well aware of strife and unhappiness in marriage (though he did not believe in divorce) and what its grave consequences can be. As Douglas Kane notes: "There is no provision made for Elvish divorce, but Tolkien notes in "The Laws and Customs of the Eldar" that no ceremony was necessary for marriage; a couple was automatically married when they consummated their relationship [Morgoth 211-211].(Kane, L and A) ." No option for divorce is available to star-crossed Numenoreans Aldarion and Erendis either; but then likewise no legal ceremony seems to have taken place. So what do you think JRRT is saying about marriage in a morality vs. law context, by using a lack of formal legal structure in his literary depiction of a highly legalized real-world state; perhaps in both an idealized and real-world sense?

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."

(This post was edited by entmaiden on May 28 2013, 2:44pm)

Edit Log:
Post edited by entmaiden (Forum Admin) on May 28 2013, 2:44pm

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