Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Corrections for Tolkein's Ring

Tolkein's Ring metaphor is good. Divinely inspired, even. It is very true that putting on a Ring will instantly attract Sauron's attention. You might as well give him a signed and engraved invitation. However, there are some significant missteps.

Tolkein misrepresented Frodo's journey. He didn't have a ring himself, and thus couldn't destroy one. Frodo was sneaking into Mordor and trying to steal Sauron's Ring. 

In Reality, the ringwraiths can't touch you if you're not holding a ring yourself. 

Fundamentally, Sauron can't hurt you unless you give him permission. Everyone under his power must have, at some point, consented to domination and conquest. Even in canon Tolkein, nothing happens to you if you refuse his ring. As such, destroying Sauron's Ring is a violation of free will.
Even if you managed it, all that would happen is a sudden surge of unmet oppression demand, which would call forth new supply. The orcs have ontological inertia. They don't suddenly vanish if you manage to overthrow and execute Sauron.

Be a foreigner: don't try to emigrate to Mordor.

Mind your own business. Don't try to steal Sauron's Ring. Don't try to forge a Ring yourself. Don't try to destroy Sauron's Ring; what possible purpose could this have except replacing his Ring with yours? 

If Tolkein had thought his metaphor all the way through, he would have realized he accidentally gave everyone a ring. 

Without these distortions, the book is much, much shorter. Frodo gets attacked by ringwraiths, fumbles the ring, realizes the wraiths can't hurt him anymore. First he tries hot potato and keep away, but he soon realizes that if he just leaves the Ring on the ground, the ringwraiths are powerless. He tells everyone to leave Mordor alone, book ends. When Sauron tries to muster the orcs at Gondor, the Men have all taken their rings off, the orcs can't find the place anymore, they get confused and wander off.  Maybe in the epilogue the Elves refuse to give up their rings. "These are still pure." They get pureed by Uruk-hai.

In canon, Frodo and Bilbo end up having to go to the "Undying Lands" due to suffering mortal injuries. They died, but poetically. In short, they were ganked. (Hint: don't take on "heroic" quests to defeat Sauron. Crime doesn't pay.) 

The rings of the Elves were "kept pure." Yet they also had to retire to the "Undying Lands." What a coincidence. Everyone who gets explicitly wrapped up in these rings get merked. 

P.S. Don't neglect the difference between dunamis and kratia. Illegitimate power is hardly like legitimate power at all. You can wear twenty rings of power if you like, as long as they're not similar to Sauron's One Ring. Exclusive power vs. abundant power. They are Many Rings, perhaps, and every last loop is more glorious than Sauron's petty Ring. It's only gold because his touch tarnishes anything it can...

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