In this posting, we’re continuing our discussion of villains, specifically in Tolkien, but, for a change, we mention the good guys, as well.
We begin with a wail by Gollum, when assured by Frodo that, if there’s no other way to go, he will enter Mordor by the Morannon, the Black Gate.
“No use that way! No use! Don’t take the Precious to Him! He’ll eat us all, if he gets it, eat all the world!” L637
It’s not surprising that Gollum would express his fear in such terms—after all, in his first appearance in The Hobbit, his first words were
“Bless us and splash us, my precioussss! I guess it’s a choice feast, at least a tasty morsel it’d make us, gollum!”
And this from a creature who appears ready to consume anything living, as the narrator says of him:
“He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers as quick as thinking. He liked meat too. Goblin he thought good, when he could get it…”
What were goblins in The Hobbit have become the Orcs in The Lord of the Rings and Gollum would still be interested in them, but now we’re told what they eat—and drink.
“Ugluk thrust a flask between his teeth and poured some burning liquid down his throat: he felt a hot fierce glow flow through him. The pain in his legs and ankles vanished. He could stand.”
“An Orc stooped over him, and flung him some bread and a strip of raw dried flesh. He ate the stale grey bread hungrily, but not the meat. He was famished, but not yet so famished as to eat flesh flung to him by an Orc, the flesh of he dared not guess what creature.”
“”We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand which gives us man’s –flesh to eat.”
To judge by what Merry and Pippin find when they come to Isengard, Saruman certainly didn’t stint himself, including casks of Longbottom Leaf from the Shire.
And here is a glaring contrast between the two sides in The Lord of the Rings, and it has to do with plenty and enjoyment. Saruman seems to have all the wealth in the world, but always wants more, and what he has does not appear to be shared out equally. Sauron, Gollum says, wants to eat the world, but would he ever be full?
Contrast the traveling supplies of the orcs as you see them above in our text with lembas
As the elves describe it, “…it is more strengthening than any food made by Men, and it is more pleasant than cram, by all accounts.” To which Gimli agrees enthusiastically, “Why, it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of…”
Only contrast the look of West and East to see the difference. Here is what the plains of Rohan must look like:
And here is an artist’s rendering of Mordor:
It’s a striking difference topographically, but the difference is even greater in terms of behavior. Isengard is a fortress and a factory, a little Mordor set against the greater Mordor to the east. It can also be a prison, as Gandalf finds out. In contrast, think of the welcome in Rivendell
The West doesn’t plan to eat the world, instead, it lives in a fruitful land, which it makes more fruitful, and it offers this in hospitality to those who come in peace.
This is what is really at stake in The Lord of the Rings, that sense of bounty, generosity, and pleasure, which it must defend from what would eat all the world.
And, as always, we ask what you think, dear readers?
Thanks for reading,