Where Did It All Go Wrong?

by Varda

After a year and a half posting here I have noticed that many of us came to The Lord Of The Rings in the idealistic Sixties or Seventies, and perhaps it appealed to our desire for a more equitable world, and for an end to the destruction of the environment. The kind of power Aragorn represents, relying on the efforts of many, devolved on the people, was attractive to us, and the kind of power represented by Saruman and Sauron, militaristic, mechanistic and monolithic, well worth fighting against.

Oh boy, what went wrong?

Today the destruction of the environment is proceeding almost unchecked. Tyrants abound, so do wars and oppression and violence. The world seems, not only to not be getting better but to be sliding into the Age of The Orc. Every second boss is a mini-Sauron, every city an Isengard, every trip to the countryside a horrified glimpse of the Dead Marshes or a cut-down Bagshot Row. What really hurts is no-one seems to care, as they did in the Sixties. We who do feel like voices crying in the wilderness, looked at askance by the world as hopeless dreamers. How often do we refer to the 'Real World', that is, the world outside of the values we find in Tolkien?

The Lord of The Rings does not offer escapism; it offers us a glimpse of the idealism we once had, that the world once had, but which is now an embarrassment, an irrevelance, a hindrance to ‘getting on’ in this bright brave new world of four wheel drives, widescreen tvs and being the office Wormtongue.

‘If only….’ Said Cardinal Wolsey to Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons ‘You could see life without that horrid moral squint, Thomas.’

If only we could, we would be less bullied, more promoted, richer, thinner, blah blah blah.

The fact is that, like Sam, we have seen Lothlórien, and will always be trying to recreate that in our garden. Tolkien did indeed create a myth, one which exerts its power over our lives by putting into a shape our desire for a better world, or at least for better care of the one we have.

Tolkien’s myth, of course, included that perfect idealistic realm of Valinor, to which the Elves, those leavening, enlightening beings of Middle Earth go in the end. But not all the Elves leave; Arwen, their bright star, remains, as do others, like the sons of Elrond. Haldir regrets leaving Lórien and its trees. These Elves have realised that it is not the perfect trees in a golden world that we love, but the imperfect real trees, isolated and in danger on a traffic island, which we look out for every day on the way to work, their trunks scored and scarred, their branches still reaching up to heaven.

In a world where everything, even people, seems to have a price, Tolkien’s story holds out for unconditional friendship and love. Arwen knows she will be left behind in loneliness, but she still chooses to be with Aragorn. Frodo tells Sam he is not coming back, but Sam still goes with him, refusing to lose hope. Even here on this board we have caught a glimpse of that fellowship, friends brought together by a common love and idealism, no less precious for being fragile and vulnerable to the pressures of a world that does not share our views. Just as Haldir said;

‘The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.’