Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Welcome, readers, as always, and, if it’s part of your culture, Happy New Year!

We’ve recently been reading a book about Napoleon

image1nappy.jpg

and his first fall, in 1814.  He was forced to abdicate,

 

thereby losing the massive empire he had built up in the early 19th century.

image3napemp.jpg

His many enemies had a number of possibilities as to what to do with him.  They could, for example, have imprisoned him, as Edmond Dantes is in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo (serialized 1844-46), in a fortress like the Chateau d’If.

image4chateaudif.jpg

Or, more radically—but certainly very effectively—they could have permanently removed him by the same means by which revolutionary France removed his predecessor, Louis XVI.

image5louisheadless.jpg

Instead, they allowed him not only to live, but even to continue to be a kind of monarch—although only of a tiny island, Elba, off the west coast of Italy.

image6napelba.jpg

They thought they’d seen the last of him, leaving him to spend the rest of his life as a sovereign of a ragged collection of fishermen and farmers.

image7napelba.jpeg

For Napoleon, however, who always saw himself as destined for only the greatest things, being king of Elba must have felt to him rather like the way the genie in Disney’s Aladdin (1992) expresses the contrast in his life–

image8genie.png

That being the case, Napoleon lived on Elba for less that a year before he planned and accomplished his escape.

image9napescapes.jpg

Back in France, he was welcomed by the very soldiers sent to stop him,

image10fifth

 

raised new armies,

image11napog

 

marched north to deal with his nearest enemies, Prussia and England, and was finally—and permanently—defeated at Waterloo, 18 June, 1815.

image12waterloo

 

This time, his enemies, having learned their lesson, sent Napoleon as far away from Europe as they could and to a much less hospitable place, the island of St Helena, in the South Atlantic,

image13sthel.jpg

where he died in 1821.

image14napsthel.jpg

From his first success, at the siege of Toulon in 1793,

image15toulon.jpg

Napoleon had climbed and climbed until, by 1801, he was the real ruler of France (as “First Consul”)

image16first.jpg

and then, in 1804, Emperor.

image17emp.jpg

And yet, it was never enough, which reminds us of so many of the “great conquerors” of history, from Alexander,

image18al.jpg

image19emp.jpeg

to Jinghiz Khan and his successors,

image20khan.jpg

image21map.gif

to Hitler.

image22hit.jpg

image23map.jpg

In every case throughout history, no conqueror has ever had enough and, if we move out of this earth to Middle-earth, we find Sauron, a figure in many ways like all of these earthly conquerors, who, although defeated by an alliance of Elves and Men in the past, has returned and, in time, reacquired immense power.  To begin with, he has the entire realm of Mordor.

image24mordor.gif

He has also somehow gained the means to create giant fortifications (sometimes based upon older constructions), like the Barad-dur

image25bd.jpg

and the Morannon and all of the other inner and outer works of Mordor.

image26morannonimage27mordimage28cirithungol

He also controls the Nazgul,

image29nazgul.jpg

massive armies of orcs,

image30orcs.jpg

as well as allies from the Harads and Umbar.

image31harad.jpg

All of which he has done, it seems, by whatever innate powers he possesses—without the Ring.  And this made us wonder:  what is it that the Ring actually does for its wearer that Sauron wants it back?

Certainly, the only power Gollum appears to have gotten from the Ring is that of invisibility (and the side-effect of longevity).

image32gol.jpeg

This is true for Bilbo, as well,

image33bilgol.jpg

and for Frodo–

image34frogan.jpg

although, when Frodo puts on the Ring on Weathertop, he is plunged into a kind of alternate dimension, seeing the Nazgul as they really are

image35weather.jpg

and, again, on Ammon Hen, he is put into direct contact with the Ring’s real owner.

image36ammon.jpg

Does this suggest that the Ring’s power is only as powerful as the Ring’s current wearer? Galadriel confirms this when Frodo asks her about the other rings: “why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?”

To which she replies:

“Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor?”

(The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel”)

This then accounts for Gandalf’s almost violent explanation when Frodo offers it to him:

“’No!’ cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. ‘With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.’ His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. ‘Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused. The wish to wield it would be too great, for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.’” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”)

Or when Frodo offers it to Galadriel:

“You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel”)

image37gala.jpg

Sauron has been able to accomplish so much without the Ring—what would happen should he ever wear it again?  In “The Shadow of the Past”, Gandalf tells Frodo that it controls the other rings—even the three long-concealed from Sauron:

“The Three are hidden still.  But that no longer troubles him. He only needs the One; for he made that Ring himself, it is his, and he let a great part of his own former power pass into it, so that he could rule all the others.  If he recovers it, then he will command them all again, even the Three, and all that has been wrought with them will be laid bare, and he will be stronger than ever.”

And, just as important—maybe even more so—Sauron has based his place of power and refuge, his sure foundation in Middle-earth, upon it, as Elrond tells the council:

“Sauron was diminished, but not destroyed.  His Ring was lost but not unmade.  The Dark Tower was broken, but its foundations were not removed; for they were made with the power of the Ring, and while it remains they will endure.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter 2, “The Council of Elrond”)

So, then, just as Napoleon, exiled on Elba, could plot and accomplish return, given the Ring, Sauron, defeated before, could return and, with a greed for conquest as insatiable as that of the French emperor, reappear again and again in Middle-earth, where there was no St Helena to keep him for good.

image38sthel.jpg

Thanks for reading!

MTCIDC

CD

 

Advertisements