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Wait a second

squire
Valinor


Dec 28 2012, 11:02pm


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I don't think we're on solid ground, when discussing the minds of tyrants, to use Pol Pot and a fictional character as if they were equally illustrative of the same point. Woundwort is comparable to Sauron, of course, because both are fictional expressions of their authors' ideas about the corruption of power. And Pol Pot is an excellent example of a real-world dictator who may (or may not, depending on the reliability of the evidence regarding his state of mind) have engaged in self-deception regarding his own tyrannical rule.

The question I would ask is, where did Tolkien and Adams get their ideas about the descent into tyranny? They must be working from their own understanding of the human soul and from examples in history, whether ancient or contemporary. I would look for those examples, rather than compare two authors with similar ideas, if I was inquiring into whether the authors' ideas have validity.

For instance: is Tolkien right, when he says in that letter that Gandalf as Ringlord would have been "far worse" than Sauron, because he would have been "self-righteous" rather than merely "righteous"? I admit I'm not really sure what distinction he is making here. As he notes, Gandalf "would have continued to rule and order things for `good', and the benefit of his subjects according to his wisdom (which was and would have remained great)."

"Wisdom" as such is a double-edged sword in Tolkien's vocabulary, since both Denethor and Sauron are deemed by Gandalf to be "wise" without having good sense. Yet, how in the quote above is Gandalf's tyranny "far worse" than Sauron's? As far as I can tell when I read the parts of LotR that describe Mordor, Sauron doesn't even pretend to rule his domain "for the benefit of his subjects", yet Tolkien says Gandalf would have.

???

Tolkien seems to be implying that Evil, honestly acting for its own aggrandizement, is in some way superior to Evil that does not admit that it is Evil. I would agree, in a theoretical or theological sense - but somehow I doubt there are any real-world examples of Tolkien's super-fine distinction between self-conscious and self-deceptive Evil in a ruling tyrant. In other words, I suspect that Gandalf would have been "far worse" than Sauron simply because Tolkien's moral philosophy requires that to be the case, rather than because it would actually true in our own real world.




squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Subject User Time
Elrond and the ring Nerven Send a private message to Nerven Dec 15 2012, 3:48pm
    I find the text quite clear... Otaku-sempai Send a private message to Otaku-sempai Dec 15 2012, 3:55pm
    "If so" ElendilTheShort Send a private message to ElendilTheShort Dec 15 2012, 6:29pm
        Elrond Nerven Send a private message to Nerven Dec 15 2012, 7:12pm
            I do not think ElendilTheShort Send a private message to ElendilTheShort Dec 15 2012, 11:30pm
                Another Nerven Send a private message to Nerven Dec 16 2012, 9:59am
                    I think so CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 16 2012, 4:25pm
                        Very nice analysis ltnjmy Send a private message to ltnjmy Dec 17 2012, 5:25pm
                            Especially Elrond... Nolofinwe Send a private message to Nolofinwe Dec 25 2012, 4:18pm
                                A moment of nostalgia sador Send a private message to sador Dec 25 2012, 9:32pm
                                    That Nerven Send a private message to Nerven Dec 26 2012, 10:17am
    Have often thought that Elrond is overlooked as a tragic figure SilentLion Send a private message to SilentLion Dec 26 2012, 7:43pm
        Were you responding to me? sador Send a private message to sador Dec 27 2012, 6:46am
            Yes, I meant my post as a reply to yours SilentLion Send a private message to SilentLion Dec 27 2012, 11:32pm
                Gandalf's temptation by the Ring (or Frodo) CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 28 2012, 1:44am
                    I think in one of his Letters, Tolkien speculates that Gandalf SilentLion Send a private message to SilentLion Dec 28 2012, 9:00pm
                        Like Pol Pot and bad bunnies CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 28 2012, 9:20pm
                            Good examples! SilentLion Send a private message to SilentLion Dec 28 2012, 10:10pm
                            Wait a second squire Send a private message to squire Dec 28 2012, 11:02pm
                                The point is taken that we need to be careful about SilentLion Send a private message to SilentLion Dec 30 2012, 12:38am
                                    Very interesting thoughts squire Send a private message to squire Dec 30 2012, 1:24am
                                        One wonders how Gandalf could be worse ElendilTheShort Send a private message to ElendilTheShort Dec 30 2012, 4:15am
                                Squire ElendilTheShort Send a private message to ElendilTheShort Dec 30 2012, 4:09am
        Just joking, but CuriousG Send a private message to CuriousG Dec 28 2012, 1:30am

 
 
 

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