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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
The Tale of Years (Appendix B): Part I The 2nd Age, 1 -1600
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Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 4 2009, 2:19am

Post #151 of 161 (174 views)
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Police [In reply to] Can't Post

In most countries, a police officer has the right to kill someone if, in his on-the-spot judgment that person poses too much danger to other citizens and the officer can see no other way to restrain him in time. Yet this does not make him a tyrant. For one thing, every time he exercises that authority, he must later answer in an inquest as to whether he did the right thing.

In Aragorn's case, laws exist that set a frame for his behavior. He could not have executed Beregond for insulting him, for instance. And in fact, in the example given, Aragorn had to struggle to wiggle out of a law that would have mandated Beregond's execution (for doing the right thing!) by "exiling" him to a promotion.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 4 2009, 2:23am

Post #152 of 161 (174 views)
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Where is the inquest [In reply to] Can't Post

to which Aragorn must answer? If Aragorn struggles to obey the law, it is because he chooses to work within the confines of the law. And no one questions the mercy he shows Beregond. No human agency forces him to obey the letter or the spirit of the law, or questions his ruling.


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 4 2009, 2:28am

Post #153 of 161 (181 views)
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Something subtler [In reply to] Can't Post

You're right in one sense--that Gondor probably does not have any formal mechanism for questioning the decisions of the King. But there also comes a point when bad decisions weaken one's ability to lead. Time and again people disobey their leaders in Middle-Earth--even some of the good ones--if their orders don't seem to fit the situation.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


squire
Valinor


Mar 4 2009, 3:10am

Post #154 of 161 (191 views)
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So what? [In reply to] Can't Post

You're focusing on the aspect of Aragorn that is modeled on real life: that he is an absolute sovereign, in terms of the theory of kingship. Then you seem to really worry that he must be trusted to be virtuous, because "no human agency" can restrain him from error or misrule. But really, no human agency can prevent any sovereign from doing anything, if the lord can maintain obedience from the military forces of the land that enforce his rulings. The law is, after all, just a social convention, not a physical force. As far as your complaint goes, what "human agency" could stop President Obama from imprisoning the Congress, executing the Supreme Court, abolishing all state governments, and ruling by decree - if the Army would follow his orders? If we were to object that his actions were against the law, or unconstitutional, so that even the Army would balk at such a coup, well, that's what we tell ourselves, isn't it?

But what is the difference between that situation and Gondor as you imagine it? You assume that Aragorn could wantonly break Gondor's customs and laws, and get away with it, because of his status as the True King, or as you put, Priest-King. For that to be so, his Guard and others would have to execute his illegal actions. Yet that actually seems unlikely - as witness his timidity in challenging the rule of the Stewards until popular support for his reign emerged due to his obvious qualifications and heroic deeds. I continue to maintain that real societal restraints on abuse of power exist in Gondor - or as real as they are anywhere else.

Rather than complain that Aragorn has "too much power" so that we are forced to trust in his doubtful virtue, as you seem to do, shouldn't we look at the aspect of his being that is unlike any actual real world sovereign? Perform a thought experiment now. Imagine that:

"Aragorn disobeys the letter or the spirit of the law."

Nope. Maybe you can, but I can't see it. The force of some human agency has nothing to do with it. That's just not who he is, because after all, *whispers* he is fictional. Unlike any king or ruler we can imagine in the real world, he actually does not "choose to work within the confines of the law" - because the alternative is not even a choice for him. He can't help it. He's written that way. You, like Beregond and all the other good folk of Middle-earth, are safer with him than you would be with any political system that has ever existed in the real world, whatever checks and balances it might boast.



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 TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 4 2009, 11:14am

Post #155 of 161 (162 views)
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Sure I can imagine it. [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn's clever judgment of Beregond almost certainly disobeys the spirit of that law, if not the letter. The law was intended to punish. Do you think Beregond was punished?

And Tolkien's characters disobey human laws all the time. Eomer, Hama, Beregond, and Faramir all disobey the law, trusting their judgement instead.

Yes, a military coup is a risk in the Primary World. So what? We do not formally grant the president those powers. Aragorn does not need a military coup -- he already rules by decree. He decrees that the land of the Woses is off limits, and the land of the Shire too. He makes the law. He could change the law that Beregond violated. He could change all the laws, and then the only question is whether he would obey the laws that he made. Again, if that happened -- if a fugitive entered the Shire, for example, and he wanted to follow -- all he would have to do is exercise his judgment, and either evade the law, as he did with Beregond, or simply disregard it, as Eomer, Hama, Beregond and Faramir did.

The aspect of Aragorn's rule that may be unlike the real world, for those of us who are skeptical, is the powerful effect of oaths in Middle-earth, and the involvement of the Higher Powers in the fate of Middle-earth. Aragorn's rule is more like the Pope's than any modern secular sovereign; Aragorn is answerable only to the Higher Powers, but he is most definitely answerable to them.


squire
Valinor


Mar 4 2009, 11:40am

Post #156 of 161 (166 views)
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That explains a lot. [In reply to] Can't Post

Apparently we are using different conceptions of the spirit of the law and the nature of justice. In pardoning Beregond, I believe Aragorn was obeying the spirit of the law that the guard technically broke. You don't. I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree.



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 TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 4 2009, 2:13pm

Post #157 of 161 (198 views)
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I find your point more persuasive than squire's. [In reply to] Can't Post

Aragorn's power is limited, to some extent, by the willingness of his subjects to obey, and Tolkien shows that they are not willing to obey bad laws, or good laws that don't apply to particular situations. Nor are they used to strict enforcement by police powers -- instead, everyone is so law-abiding that there are no police. While it is theoretically possible for King Elessar to turn into Ar-Pharazon, in fact it would probably take several generations for that transformation to take place, as indeed it took several long generations for Numenor to turn into a police state. There is no human agency restricting King Elessar's power, but if he pulls a Saruman he risks open rebellion.

Actually, if I were to imagine such a scenario, I would imagine King Elessar, like Alexander the Great, becoming a despot of the Eastern and Southern lands he had conquered, and then attempting to apply that same despotism to the "free states," which were not used to such despotism. Alexander died before he could make that a reality, but later, after several generations, the Romans managed to tame the Greeks. And, judging by what happened in Numenor, it is perhaps inevitable that eventually King Elessar's empire will decay and grow despotic and corrupt, although it may take more than a thousand years.


(This post was edited by Curious on Mar 4 2009, 2:22pm)


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 4 2009, 3:52pm

Post #158 of 161 (142 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I do appreciate your appreciation of my point, honestly! But, er...Blush I hate to quibble with someone who just agreed with me, but Gondor does indeed have a police force. The Guard, the most elite being Beregond's unit.

As for Alexander, accounts of his later "despotism" only come from the highly propagandized Pseudo-Callisthenes manuscript, which I've always held as suspect for a number of reasons. The only evidence of "despotism" was that he accepted the form of tribute customary in the East: prostration. The Greeks found prostration degrading. He tried to get his Greek officers to do likewise in public, to smooth over the meshing of the two cultures, but they didn't go along with it. (Please note: true despots do not give up when their subjects don't want to do something.) He did not increase the restrictions on anyone's rights. Indeed, he was widely condemned for extending Greek rights to the conquered Persians.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Curious
Half-elven


Mar 4 2009, 6:05pm

Post #159 of 161 (140 views)
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Is the Guard a police force? [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Beregond might resent such an implication. What makes you think the elite Guard, the best of the best, the proudest of the proud, are mere policemen, patrolling the streets of Minas Tirith? I would consider them the equivalent of Theoden's Royal Guard, i.e. an elite standing armed unit which answers directly to the Steward/King, as opposed to the militia mustered in times of crisis, which makes up the vast majority of the armed forces in both Rohan and Gondor.

As for Alexander, I won't argue the point. Let's say I'll base my fictional evil King Elessar on a fictional despotic Alexander, the one who figured in all the nasty rumors spread by his enemies. My point is that if King Elessar did want to become a despot, he would be best off relocating his power base to the countries used to such governance. In Numenor, it was the military governance of the colonies in Middle-earth that eventually led to despotism in Numenor itself. I could see the same think happening in King Elessar's empire, eventually (i.e., well after his and his son's death).


Dreamdeer
Valinor


Mar 5 2009, 4:32am

Post #160 of 161 (140 views)
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I concede both points... [In reply to] Can't Post

...to your reasoning and your diplomacy.

Life is beautiful and dangerous! Beware! Enjoy!


Eowyn of Penns Woods
Valinor


Mar 15 2009, 9:15pm

Post #161 of 161 (390 views)
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The best I could come up with [In reply to] Can't Post

is this map from Johann Jakob Scheuchzer's 1723 Ouresiphoites Helveticus, sive Itinera Alpina per Helvetiae alpinas regiones facta annis (1702-1711) volumes:

.

I know, Switzerland again. =)

(This post was edited by Eowyn of Penns Woods on Mar 15 2009, 9:16pm)

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