Respect Life Month

As many of you already know, I am a Christian, specifically, Roman Catholic.  October is Respect Life Month.  

As a Tolkien addict, for many years, until recently, I had no clue that Tolkien had attempted to write a sequel to Lord of the Rings.  Lately, I’ve been reading quite a bit of Tolkien criticism and analysis, and ran across this little tidbit of information.  I can’t say it didn’t intrigue me greatly.  In ordering the History of the Lord of the Rings, I discovered this “sequel” had been published, within The Peoples of Middle Earth, the last HoME book.  So I read the 20 pages Tolkien had managed to complete before giving up because the book would only be a thriller.  It is called The New Shadow.  It is set after Aragorn’s death, during the reighn of his son, Eldarion.  A plot is brewing to overthrow him.  Mysterious cults sprout.  Children run around playing as Orcs.  

Yet in the end, none of this really impressed me that much.  It was Tolkien’s language, especially the applicability I could bring to them that truly moved me.  A single passage stands out, which is particularly fitting for Respect Life Month. 

“Surely even a boy must understand that fruit is fruit, and it does not reach its full being until it is ripe; so that to misuse it unripe is to do worse than just to rob the man that has tended it: it robs the world, hinders a good thing from fullfillment.  Those who do so join forces with all that is amiss, with the blights and the cankers and the ill winds.  And that is the way of Orcs.” (Tolkien 412-3)

The whole of the writing takes up only ten or so pages.  Yet every page is full of poignant insights and possible applicabilities.  The New Shadow touches upon the heart of evil and its mechanations.  Evil does not just die because its figurehead is gone.  It lurks in the background, ready to rise to the fore when we hang up the axe.  Tolkien’s use of metaphor in this short passage is nothing short of astonishing. 

“Deep indeed run the roots of Evil,” said Borlas, “and the black sap is strong in them.  That tree will never be slain.  Let men hew it as often as they may, it will thrust up shoots again as soon as they turn aside.  Not even at the Feast of Felling should the axe be hung up on the wall!” (Tolkien 411)

Yet another passage rings true to our present world in terms of life and a reverence for our world:

“You spoke of the judgement of trees in these matters.  But trees are not judges.  The children of the One are the masters.  My judgement as one of them you know already.  The evils of the world were not at first in the great Theme, but entered with the discords of Melkor.  Men did not come with these discords; they entered afterwards as a new thing direct from Eru, the One, and therefore they are called His children, and all that was in the Theme they have, for their own good, the right to use–rightly, without pride or wantonness, but with reverence.” (Tolkien 413)

 To continue my earlier remarks about Evil and Orcs, Tolkien has some to say:

“…Orcs did these things at all times; they did harm with delight to all things that could suffer it, and they were restrained only by lack of power, not by either prudence or mercy.” (Tolkien 414)

I recommend reading the New Shadow, if you get the opportunity.  It is extremely interesting, not only in what it implies about the future of Middle Earth, but what it reveals about Tolkien’s own beliefs.

Patience is a virtue

Things have gotten a bit crazy with midterms, projects and papers all coming together at once.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to do my next post, hopefully next weekend.  I’d like to thank you readers for your support, and look forward to getting back into the swing of things.

Try Me: Haldir

Haldir only appears in the second book (TT).  He is one of the elves set to guard the northern bounds of Lothlorien.  He guides the Fellowship to Caras Galadhon and, from what I can tell, that is the extent of his role in the book. 

I see two reasons for Peter Jackson to kill off Haldir, one is purely pragmatic, the other symbolic.  Let’s start with the pragmatic reason.  The elves never go to Helm’s Deep in the book.  In the film, notice that apparently no elves survive.  From the point of Haldir’s death, or the retreat to the Hornburg, we never see another elf besides Legolas.  So the reason for Haldir’s death is simple: to avoid all the problems that come with changing the plot.  How would Jackson have been able to explain away an army of elves?  He couldn’t, because they don’t work, they are totally alien to the plot of the book.  So he kills them off.

Ok, well that theory seems a bit cold hearted and depressing!  So let’s look at the possible symbolism of Haldir’s and the elves’ deaths.  What better way is there to show resolve and loyalty than to sacrifice oneself for another?  The elve’s sacrifice demonstrates their resolve to fight evil.  It also reinforces their “allegience” with men.  Also, it increases the tension and gravity of the scene.  The elves are stronger, faster, better armored, better armed and better trained than men.  They are an army.  If they cannot survive the onslaught of the Uruk-hai, how can the men of Rohan expect to?

Ok, so those are my reasons why Haldir and the elves would die.  Now let me explain why the elves coming to Helm’s Deep in the first place is a horrendous idea.  The Last Alliance is called “last” for a reason!  Also, recall that Lothlorien is attacked three times during the War of the Ring.  Lothlorien would have fallen if troops left to help Rohan.  Remember, the elves are dwindling, both in numbers and power.  It is hard to believe they’d send troops to aid men when they themselves are greatly threatened. 

In their despair and fear of deminishing, the elves begin to pull themselves farther and farther out of the “living world” of Middle Earth, breaking all contacts. It may be, in seeing humans and other races, they see just how far they have fallen. It is very powerful, seeing a race so high and mighty impotent (for the most part)…other than to protect their own realms. It also highlights the strain of interrelationship between races.

ALSO, and this is my biggest point, the elves coming to Helm’s Deep decreases the valour and courage of MEN. The end of the Third age acts as the transition point between the time of Elves/Dwarves, and the time of Men. At Helm’s Deep, we feel the true desperation of being alone in a field of enemies, pitted against foes beyond our strength. And yet, the Rohirrim harden their hearts against fear, to fight on. It is crucial that the defenders be MEN, not Elves. Elves are associated with the mythical, divine, supernatural. It lessens the tension and fear, because their prowess seems so great. In the book, the presence of the Heroic is easier seen: Theoden’s ride, Aragorn, Eomer, Gimli, Legolas…they all stand above the rest. In the film, they are set within an army of elves…much their equals (or betters, if they retain the skills seen in the Last Alliance). To me, it just doesn’t work at all. It ruins the tone and fear of the moment. It ruins the final eucatastrophe of the coming of Erkenbrand and Gandalf.