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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The point is taken that we need to be careful about

SilentLion
Rivendell

Dec 30 2012, 12:38am


Views: 133
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The point is taken that we need to be careful about [In reply to] Can't Post

mixing 'truths' about how a fictional world functions with how the real world functions. However, part of Tolkien's reasons for creating Middle Earth, and part of the reason why I find it such an interesting place, is that it provides a laboratory for exploring the nature of morality in our real world. Just as Einstein's 'thought experiments' eventually led to a deeper understanding of physics in our real world, there is every reason to believe that debate about the actions of fictional characters in good literature can lead to a deeper understanding of human behavior in the real world.

I think I could make a case that tyrannical rulers who are driven by personal ambition do less harm than tyrants who are driven by an ideological certainty. Two leaders who Tolkien would have been familiar with who fit the personal ambition model were Napoleon and Bismark. Both were driven by a desire for personal power and glory that could be obtained by expanding the power and influence of their nation. Both could be ruthless in pressing their advantage or breaking alliances when it was to their advantage. Both could be considered 'evil' by someone who looked at the human costs of the wars they started. Since both were rivals to the U.K., Tolkien was likely to have considered them in a negative light. However, since they were really all about their own power and prestige, both were happy to latch onto good ideas that they thought would enhance their legacy. Napoleon established many of the public institutions of modern France, and Bismark is regarded as the father of a united Germany. On the whole, they have a mixed legacy where people could legitimately argue the extent of their positive or negative influence on history.

The most truly destructive dictators of the 20th century were more about promoting the correctness of their ideology than their personal success or comfort. Throughout their reigns they pursued ever more destructive means to achieve the ends of their ideology. Tolkien was very familiar with Hitler and Stalin, and their legacies were very apparent at the time Tolkien was writing LOTR. Tolkien would not have been familiar with Pol Pot, but he was an ideological descendent of Stalin and Mao.

So on the whole, I would say that 'Dark Lords' who govern based on an ideological purity are capable of much more profound evil than 'Dark Lords' who simply ruthlessly pursue their own personal ambition.

Returning from the real-world to Tolkien's world, I can see a Dark Lord Gandalf who succumbed to the temptation of power represented by the Ring wanting to pursue ideals of fairness and beauty, and gradually seeing the need to eliminate first enemies, then allies and then whole peoples who resisted his plans.

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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