I suppose what I should be doing is putting up the by now more than a week late New Year post, in which I take an astronomical look back at 2010 and forward to 2011, and report on how I did with last year’s resolutions and propose some new ones.
But instead, you get more Tolkien. Following Mike’s lead–and at his suggestion–I’m recycling one of our old e-mail discussions for this post. Enjoy!
Mike: Sauron wants to enslave the people of Middle Earth and usher in a new era of darkness … but, but … Well, had I been a ringwraith, I’d have been longing to ask, “But why, O dark lord?”
Me: Allow me to float some possible answers for further discussion and/or debate.
1. Sauron is afraid of getting his butt kicked. And the only way he can see to avoid that is to enslave or destroy all the enemies that could possibly defeat him. Sauron had been captured by the Numenoreans way back in the day, although he eventually turned that to their undoing; he had been defeated and cast into outer darkness by Isildur and the Last Alliance; and most recently he had been forced out of Dol Guldur by the White Council. At this point, making war on men and elves may be a matter of mere survival.
2. Sauron has a basic biological revulsion to the things that most good beings consider good. He can no more tolerate elves and trees than elves can tolerate orcs and boils. Nice things are yucky, and yucky things must be destroyed. If you find this farfetched, try getting an adult female human to hold a snake or a spider.
3. Sauron is not actually evil; he is a bit paranoid and has a self-actualization problem, but he is also the victim of repeated acts of aggression by Gandalf, Galadriel, and their toadies. He should not, therefore, be villianized for his courageous acts of self-defense against Gondorian aggression. It is very difficult to perceive this because all of the histories of Middle Earth were written by a militant pro-elfer who also happened to be an Ivory Tower old white guy. (It would have been impossible for me to think that thought before I moved to California.)
4. Sauron actually is an old white guy. The Burning Eye is just a special effect to keep the troops in line. Sauron is actually the Wizard of Oz. He pulls some ropes and speaks through this megaphone and these other old white guys (who happen to be dead) saddle up and go do bad stuff on his behalf, or a bunch of orcs march from Point A to Point B and disregard campground regulations. Seriously, does the big S. ever do anything? Hell no. He makes his lieutenants do everything for him. That’s a sign of great leadership–or the sign of a big fat faker.
Next question: okay, Smarty, then how has Sauron managed to stick around for thousands of years? Answer the first: Sauron has always been a big fake perpetrated by the Wizard of Oz, but the Wizard of Oz has been a migratory title, much like the Dread Pirate Roberts. Every time some orc captain starts stringing more than two thoughts together and gets suspicous, the current “Sauron” rattles the Mordorian saber and said orc captain gets to die gloriously on the outskirts of Lorien.
Answer the second: The real Sauron died at the hands of Isildur, and no one heard a peep for, oh, about three thousand years. Then this “Necromancer” pops up in Mirkwood, gets driven out, and sets up shop in Mordor, claiming to be Sauron returned. Gandalf and the elves have always been suckers for a nice big enemy they could use as an excuse to increase military spending and whip the populace into a frenzy, so they bought into it hook, line, and sinker. It’s obvious that the “Necromancer” was a small-time hood who saw an opportunity and took it.
Answer the third: Sauron is Radagast. Pretty odd how ole Rads was always lurking around when Gandalf needed a chat, but once the war started he was nowhere to be seen. I mean, if he is really one of the caretakers of Middle Earth you’d think he could at least show up for the last battle.
5. Sauron wants to bring the benefits of nationalized production to Middle Earth. The capitalist pigs in Gondor want to stop him. Therefore they must be destroyed.
Here’s my “But why, O Mithrandir?”
Why does everyone go around talking as if the world will immediately and eternally fall into darkness if Sauron recaptures the ring? He had it before and still managed to catch an a decisive beating. Sure, maybe there are fewer elves around these days, and maybe the orcs really have been multiplying, but that seems to me to be more of a tactical problem, so that maybe the question should be, “Do we have enough combatants and materiel to defeat Sauron if he gets the ring back?” and not, “Why don’t we all go die now in a possibly pointless diversion so that we’ll be spared the inconvenience of dying later if he gets the ring back and things immediately and eternally go to pot?”
Discuss! At some point I actually will return for the promised end-of-year astronomy post, but right now I am observing myself with horrified fascination to see how long I might put that off. It’s the Jane Goodall approach to procrastination.