1984, Adolf Hitler, Barad-Dur, Benito Mussolini, Big Brother, Denethor, dictatorships, Elf Kingdom, Eye of Sauron, Gondor, Maiar, map, Middle-earth, Minas Tirith, Mouth of Sauron, Nazgul, Ornthanc, Rohan, Saruman, Sauron, Steward of Gondor, The Lord of the Rings, Theoden, Tolkien, Uruk-hai
As always, dear readers, welcome.
In our last, we began to discuss what we called the governments of Middle-earth at the time of the War of the Ring, making a kind of Grand Tour using the plot movement of The Lord of the Rings to loosely shape our itinerary. (And here we’re borrowing from a witty idea, on a site called brilliantmaps.com, where we found “If Frodo and Sam had Google Maps of Middle-earth”.)
Our first stop was the Shire, where we proposed that this was a “government by the few”: that is, an oligarchy, a certain number of old and established families controlling the state. From there, we moved on to Bree, where there was so little information that our best guess was that it, too, was probably an oligarchy, some sort of loose-knit one among—or perhaps uniting—the four villages which made up the general area.
Next, we grouped together what we suggested were two Elf kingdoms, Rivendell and Lorien, where Elrond and Galadriel (along with the nearly-invisible Celeborn), clearly were in charge, although neither would claim the title of monarch.
At our next stop, Isengard, Saruman,
who had begun as one of the five Maiar sent to oppose the annoyingly-persistent Sauron, had moved from being what Gandalf called “the chief of my order” (The Fellowship of the Ring, Book One, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”), to being a kind of dictator—but one in the shadow of Sauron, just as Mussolini (1883-1945), who, from 1922, had been a model for such figures,
had fallen, by the later 1930s, into being the shadow of another, more powerful, dictator.
Like Elrond and Galadriel, he carries no title, but his captain, Ugluk, calls him “the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man’s-flesh to eat”, which probably tells us more than we want to know about his rule. (The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter 3, “The Uruk-hai”)
We believe that this shadow may have been created by Saruman’s growing arrogance (which Gandalf points out to Frodo in “The Shadow of the Past”) combined with his overconfidence in using a palantir he has found in Orthanc and which puts him into communication with Sauron—and Sauron’s ability to seduce.
Sauron himself seems like the primal dictator, but a dictator before the 20th century, when dictators began to have a growing media world to employ to make themselves omnipresent in the lives of their citizens.
Instead, he’s remote—sitting in the Barad dur, yet
(and we can’t resist this image by “Rackthejipper”)
represented as being like 1984’s Big Brother, always watching.
Or, as it is crudely represented in the Jackson films, literally a giant eye on a tower.
When one thinks of modern dictators, however, one imagines them backed by huge bureaucracies, like the ministries in 1984:
“The Ministry of Truth–Minitrue, in Newspeak [Newspeak was the official
language of Oceania. For an account of its structure and etymology see
Appendix.]–was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It
was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring
up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston
stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in
elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above
ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London
there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So
completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof
of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They
were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus
of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself
with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of
Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which
maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible
for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv,
and Miniplenty. (George Orwell, 1984, Chapter 1)
Instead, what we can see of Sauron’s government is much more medieval, beginning with the Nazgul, who were once human kings,
who would be like the barons, the chief feudal deputies of a king in a feudal world of the sort medieval England was and upon which much of Middle-earth, as we’ve suggested in many earlier postings, was based. The chief of these was then the commander of Sauron’s main attack on Minas Tirith.
To which we would add “the Voice of Sauron” (reminding us, of course, that he is only the spokesperson and Sauron would be presumed to have his eye on him, as well). If you look for images of him, you will commonly find this:
But, like certain other depictions in the Jackson films (that eye, for example), it is a very literal interpretation for someone JRRT described as:
“The rider was robed all in black, and black was his lofty helm; yet this was no Ringwraith but a living man…it is told that he was a renegade, who came of the race of those that are named the Black Numenoreans…” (The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter 10, “The Black Gate Opens”)
Here’s an image possibility which comes a bit closer to the text, in our opinion.
From dictators, we make a final stop at two actual feudal kings, the first, the ruler of Rohan, Theoden,
is clearly the descendant of earlier kings, as we are told in Appendix A, of The Lord of the Rings, “The Kings of the Mark”, where the line begins with Eorl the Young and continues for about five hundred years.
In the case of our other monarchy, Gondor, the kings who ruled for so many centuries (from SA3320 to TA 2050), have disappeared and, though the fiction is maintained that they will someday return, the actual ruler is their deputy, the Steward, and his role as lieutenant is symbolized literally by his position in the old throne room:
“At the far end, upon a dais [a kind of raised platform] of many steps was set a high throne under a canopy of marble shaped like a crowned helm; behind it was carved upon the wall and set with gems an image of a tree in flower. But the throne was empty. At the foot of the dais, upon the lowest step which was broad and deep, there was a stone chair, black and unadorned, and on it sat an old man gazing at his lap.” (The Return of the King, Book Five, Chapter 1, “Minas Tirith)
At the same time, Denethor, and all of the previous Stewards, were kings in all but name, having ruled Gondor for twenty-five generations (see Appendix A, “The Stewards” for details).
So, in sum we have:
- 2 possible oligarchies (the Shire, Bree)
- 4 kingdoms (or at least sort of, in the case of the Elves—Rivendell, Lorien, plus Rohan and Gondor)
- 2 dictatorships (eastern Rohan, extending from Isengard, Mordor)
And, just when we were summarizing, the thought came to us: what about the dwarves? We can imagine that, considering Thorin’s family, there have been the equivalent of kings among the dwarves, but that’s a posting for another day!
Thanks, as ever, for reading.