This article appeared last Sunday (21st) in El Comercio (They also published an article titled: An Englishman in Middle-earth), a newspaper of Lima, Peru. The article was written by Camiko Torres.
ONE OF OUR CENTURY´S CLASSICS
THE HEROES OF APOCALYPSE
A tour through one of the past century´s most fascinating creations: The Lord of The Rings by Tolkien and his mythological gallery of characters.
It all started with an orphan child that liked inventing languages. By the age of 12 John Ronald Reuel Tolkien(1892-1973) had already sorted out at least two languages and during his teenage years felt the necessity to give them a story to justify their evolution throughout time; thus appeared the first signs of what would later become an entire world, with its own rules and disorders, its precise geography and the races that populate it: the elves, who live in a virtual state of grace and overcome everyone because of their wisdom and beauty, inhabiting the woods and knowing their sunset is approaching; the men, who enjoy the gift of being mortal; and the dwarves, shorter but more stocky, skilled craftsmen who live in the mines and underground halls. But also degraded creatures who corrupt nature and speak horrible languages, as the orcs, the trolls and other servants of the Dark Lord. This world has a name: Middle-earth, and the important facts the author speaks of develop by the end of its Third Age.
RABBITS AND POWER
Once upon a time there was an Oxford professor who bored to death correcting exams. One afternoon, moved by a sudden impulse, he wrote some lines in a blank space: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit”. The rare word came to his mind by association of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes and a rabbit. Since then the hobbits appeared in Middle-earth, without any idea of their origin and dedicated to enjoying the quiet pleasures of country life. They are farmers, lovers of gossip and food, their height being the half of a human and they hate to involve in other races´ affairs. One of them however, is seduced by the sarcastic magician Gandalf the Grey and gets involved in a trip of frightening adventures, between treasures and dragons. Hobbes presence in Tolkien’s literature is not accidental, they both share two obsessing subjects: power and war. The story of Bilbo Baggins’ trip was written only to be read by the author’s children and was published in 1937, titled The Hobbit, with no hope that anybody would be interested.
What followed changed the face of literary history. Stimulated by letters of readers who asked for more, Tolkien took the challenge of giving shape to his inmense personal mythology and, after many years of work and confusion, The Lord of the Rings appeared in three tomes (1954-1957). (It is also told that in the forties he used to send the latest written chapters to his son Cristopher, at the time a RAF pilot.) The public bought millions of books and the most demanding critics surrendered to the evidence that an absolute masterpiece was born. In W. H. Auden’s own words, “Tolkien has triumphed where Milton failed”. Luis Alberto de Cuenca compares his greatness with that of the Enid. George Steiner says that we are up to a “coherent mithology of universal authenticity in the middle of the twentieth century”. All the critics highlight the author’s uncomparable capability to “satisfy our sense of historical and social reality” in a work of fantastic character and even fairiec (it can easily be seen as a long fairy tale). Thus, Tolkien was recognized in life as the greater author in english literature since the death of Shakespeare.
A JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE NIGHT
In a transparent language, without any type of formal experiencing, this epic novel is the chronicle of the War of the Ring. By the end of the Third Age, Sauron the necromancer (known as The Lord of The Rings) unchains the apocalypse as he seeks desperately a lost talisman: the ring with the ability to submit men and beasts. A spawn of evil and dedicated to the search for power, this ring must not be used to face Sauron, for anyone who does will end up becoming a new Dark Lord himself. Here Tolkien’s political clearness warns of the tragic destiny of many revolutions that were born under the sign of freedom. One of the universal literature’s most endearing characters is, without doubt, Gandalf the Grey. Ironic, with an ancient solemnity and lively laughter, this old magician that loves pipeweed and always has a sharp phrase is the only one with enough knowledge to distrust his own science and brave enough to face the Enemy, even when dispair takes over the free men. Under his energic direction, young hobbit Frodo starts an adventure that frightens and surpasses him: he accepts the mission of destroying the ring in the same place it was forged, the Crack of Doom, in the land of Mordor, “where shadows lie”
A DIFFERENT BOOK FOR EACH READER
In spite of himself, this englishman’s (born in Southafrica) work, catolic and conservative, has been taken as an emblem by the most varied political groups and cultural movements. The hippies, for example, filled New York and Buenos Aires’ subways with graffities like: “Frodo lives”, “Frodo will triumph”. Although we know Tolkien sympathised with general Franco and that he wrote his books during the tormentous years of the Second World War, we must reject any political allegories coming from him. As he warns in the preface, the subject of unraveled violence was already present since his role in the First World War, in which he lost all of his close friends. On the other hand, antropological and mystical readings point to Tolkien as a messenger of “traditional” archaic or premodern lore, a voice coming from the depths of the past. At the same time, the profound reverence to nature that is showed in his pages (woods, rivers, beasts and winds have a fundamental role) allows this saga to be considered as a modern “ecological gest”. Fernando Samaniego says correctly that a global apreciation must not forget the language versatility that is in its birth.
No interpretation can diminish the meaning of this masterpiece, neither explain its mysterious origin in the mind of its creator. But when you read The Lord of the Rings you become aware of the same religious emotion that Beethoven’s Ninth Simphony and Michelangelo’s paintings inspire. Of The Lord of the Rings we can affirm the same that Einstein declared about one of Chaplin’s movies: it is another step in the everlasting struggle of men against darkness.
ROUTE GUIDE OF THE WAR OF THE RING
1. For a better understanding of the itinerary of the main characters and the development of the story, it is necessary the use of the map that the author added to the book.
2. The spanish translation suffers from disgusting recreations of names (as an example, Strider appears as Trancos) and the lack of Tolkien’s preface and some lines of the novel.
3. The failed animated version by Ralph Bakshi only covers until the half of the second volume.
4. The things that happened in the Third Age are intimately related to the history of the previous ages, which are told in the Silmarillion (published in 1977, after the author’s death), a story of the genesis of Middle-earth and the people that inhabit it.
5. To finish reading this work means an unrepairable loss, similar to the death of someone you love: banishment from Middle-earth. A suffering so great makes me not to advice anyone to read this novel.
Translated by Thraxx