Today’s Essential Foreign Affairs Reads
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Already the Ring tempted him, gnawing at his will and reason. Wild fantasies arose in his mind; and he saw Samwise the Strong, Hero of the Age, striding with a flaming sword across the darkened land, and armies flocking to his call as he marched to the overthrow of Barad-dûr. And then all the clouds rolled away, and the white sun shone, and at his command the vale of Gorgoroth became a garden of flowers and trees and brought forth fruit. He had only to put on the Ring and claim it for his own, and all this could be.
In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down inside him lived still his plain unconquered hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him. The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. – The Return of the King. (pg 880 – 881)
“His own hands to use, not the hands of others to command.” Contrast that with JK Rowling’s vision of a Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter that would combat everything from racism to homophobia. The only difference between the Harry Potter bureaucrats & the Lord Voldemort bureaucrats is that of policy, not ideology. They both want big government to do big things for them.
The beauty of Sam’s wisdom and experience in The Lord of the Rings is that he returns to his people to share it, like other classical heroes (Odysseus, Beowulf, Aeneas). Most fantasy stories usually include Nostos, homecoming. It is part of a heroes journey. It’s also another reason I dislike Harry Potter. He hates his boring suburban adoptive parents, who are nothing but abusive to him. It’s as if the Odyssey ended with Odysseus marrying Calypso or Nausica because you know..Penelope is a non-intellectual redneck who shops for mayonnaise at Costco in a minivan. It’s a seductive message to check out of society, keep playing video games and keep partying.
Wilfred Owen was quite wrong. Though it is a hard thing for young men to die, it can be dulce et decorum pro patria mori, so long as the war is just and the leaders something better than the cynical butchers that lead their countries unnecessarily into war.