Lords of the Ring
October 31, 2010
Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
moons ago and for a few years only, I wore my locks long and sported colourful
garb and roamed the psychedelic haunts of Paris, London or Amsterdam, usually
holding a joint in one hand while employing the other to underline with languid
gestures my latest concept of how to bring instant peace and love to the world.
As for my fellow freaks and hippies, most subsisted on very little, at least
money-wise, but nearly all had pets, the latter named frequently after a brand
of heroes much en vogue during those innocent times. For cats, Galadriel
stood high on the agenda, also Arwen and Legolas. In Amsterdam my
next-door neighbour, a middle-aged lady with henna-dyed hair, flowing dresses
and tinkling bells around one fat ankle, owned a huge tomcat called Gollum.
When he was one day run over by a lorry, she came and cried bitterly into my
lap. I did my best to comfort her, though secretly rejoiced because the cunning
bastard, nomen est omen, used to be a veritable bane for the local
sparrows and blackbirds, and long since had I weighed means of abandoning him in
a far-away place without coming under suspicion. As for dogs, I remember a
Frodo, Bilbo and Pippin, also one Boromir, him a mighty
Leonberger and the gentlest fellow I’ve ever met.
Which gives you an idea of how much Tolkien’s arrant epos was on our mind during
those happy years. Wherever you came, you found in the bookshelves from
cardboard boxes or orange crates at least one copy, usually a weighty paperback
falling apart from much use. Walls were hung with coloured maps of Middle
Earth, and Gandalf was a household name for anything from an
Underground publication to a short-lived artistic society. Depending on fantasy
and imagination, and perhaps also on the daily cannabis consume, an inordinate
number of people identified with a member of the Fellowship, or wished fervently
for the return of the King, or would have retired into the Shire without looking
back even once.
On the other hand there were some, myself included, who had enjoyed the book but
found it somewhat lacking in psychological depth. It was, after all, a
monumental canvas painted largely in black and white, with protagonists either
amazingly valiant, handsome and noble or the absolute opposite, namely
unspeakably ugly and wicked. Which made the tale rather predictable and deprived
it of the complex emotional touch that otherwise would have found a way into the
heart. Still, Tolkien’s power of imagination cannot and will not be denied, and
for his excuse it must be said that he relied much on the High Germanic saga
like Edda or the Nibelungen, and that those were on the whole magnificent
exemplifications of the eternal battle between Good and Evil. A battle where
tads of intellectual embroidery might have seemed misplaced.
Yet under the heroic plainness hid an aspect that intrigued me and many of my
friends considerably, namely the deeper meaning behind the fantasy.
Because, as we all agreed, there had to be one since the tale was simply too
carefully thought out to be without one. Never mind that the ghastly Sauron,
title figure and main protagonist aiming to enslave the world and mankind
particularly, didn’t turn up personally during the proceedings. But his presence
is overwhelmingly felt, and he had to have an equivalent within the recent
history of man, and as such a name that made sense.
First in line was of course Adolf Hitler, temporal saviour of a betrayed, ruined
and starving Germany robbed naked by the Versailles victors, but for the rest
and according to the New York Times the biggest blackguard ever to set
foot on our sacred earth. Next came good old Joe Stalin, mass murderer par
excellence supported by a closely knit clan of henchmen as described and defined
by the great
Solzhenitsyn in his Gulag and Two Hundred Years Together.
Then the fabulous Chairman Mao, who most likely holds the Guinness record for
accumulated corpses worldwide. And finally the inventors of the nuke, embodied
by one Robert Oppenheimer who paid, just like that abominable fraud Freud, with
lung cancer and a slow and painful death for his sins.
But try as you might, none of the above really made sense. One reason was of
course that Tolkien had begun The Lord of the Rings already in the
mid-thirties, long before those villains blossomed medially into full bloom.
As to the ring itself, what kind of power did it exactly wield? It was, this we
know, potent enough to enslave the lesser ones, but not all-powerful.
Because long ago Isildur King of Gondor, in a desperate attempt to stem
the advance of the Orcs, had offered battle to Sauron their
chieftain. And in a one-to-one succeeded with God’s help to cut off the latter’s
hand which bore the ring. A feat that routed the Dark One and his hosts, at
least for a while and until he tried another grab at the hideous thing.