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July 10, 2003

Over mountains and forests and seas

And to go anywhere that I please.

A cunning linguist believes he has spotted a hole in the plot of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. The Ring needs to be taken to Mount Doom... why not ask the Eagles to fly the Ring Bearer to his destination? A variety of objections to this simple point are dismissed one by one. This is a plot-hole which might readily be addressed by minor explication at the Council of Elrond. Something simple like "the Ring is too loathesome for the Eagles to bear" works for me.

But I believe this argument misses the more important place of the Eagles as a trope in Tolkien's fiction. Tolkien repeatedly rejects the idea the LOTR is an allegory for WWII. But Tolkien was opposed to allegory as such even as he enthusiastically mythologized the world as a religious act. I believe this difference leaves plenty of room for Tolkien to tell stories which reflected the world as he found it including the great political upheavals of his times. Let's see: who arrives late in the day at the Battle of Five Armies? Who again arrives in the nick of time to save the Last Alliance before the Gates of Mordor? Who saves the Free Peoples time and time again? Who on earth might this symbol represent?

He comes down, descending into the world of the pairs of opposites, the field of action. One mode of action is war and the other is peace. So in one of his feet, the eagle holds thirteen arrows. That's the principle of war. In the other he holds a laurel [olive] leaf with thirteen leaves. That is the principle of peaceful conversation. The eagle is looking in the direction of the laurel.

That is the way these idealists who founded our country would wish us to be looking diplomatic relationships and so forth. But thank God he's got the arrows in the other foot, in case this doesn't work.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 10, 2003 10:29 AM


Wow... Brilliant.

Posted by: Chaos Overlord at July 10, 2003 10:55 AM

Ahh... but you have yet to hear my commentary on the heated Sauron vs. Galactus debate. I say Galactus would put the smack-down on Sauron.

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at July 10, 2003 11:35 AM

Seriously though... the free peoples of the world owe our freedom to the United States. This comparison with the Eagles is only one which might be made with Tolkien's universe. I often think of Canadians in terms of the peaceful, whiny people of the Shire so ungrateful for the shield of Gondor to the south.

Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at July 10, 2003 11:44 AM

I could probably talk for hours about what everything in that book represents for me. It is clear to me that he took the soul of the Anglo-Saxon people and placed it in that book. It is the peak of mythology for our people and represents all of the major values and aspirations that we hold dear.

As far as Canada, I've always seen England, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as a family.

England is the father but has grown too old to really run the farm. He stays around for advice but produces much less than he once did.

The United States is the oldest brother and protects and runs the farm while trying to lead his brothers.

The younger brothers have varying personalities but are much less responsible as a rule and often take for granted what they have been given.

Posted by: Chaos Overlord at July 10, 2003 02:26 PM

Incidentally the Eagle in the US seal is depicted with arrows in LEFT talon in times of peace. This is generally taken to mean that he is somewhat loath to use them. In times of war they are in the right talon. I think the simple explanation for why the eagles didn't just dump sam and frodo is nothing more than the fact that the Nazgul were flying about and a giant eagle is somewhat obvious.

Posted by: Dennis P. at July 11, 2003 03:55 PM