The Null Device

The Last Ringbearer

A Russian author has written a retelling of Lord of the Rings from a different angle. Kiril Yeskov's The Last Ringbearer specifically repudiates Tolkien's oft-noted agrarian romanticism; in it, Sauron and the land of Mordor represent progress and rationalism, and are destroyed in a war of aggression by Gandalf and his lackeys, reinforcing a backward, feudal order in thrall to superstition and hereditary privilege:
In Yeskov's retelling, the wizard Gandalf is a war-monger intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science "destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!" He's in cahoots with the elves, who aim to become "masters of the world," and turn Middle-earth into a "bad copy" of their magical homeland across the sea. Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron's citadel, is, by contrast, described as "that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilization in Middle-earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic."
Because Gandalf refers to Mordor as the "Evil Empire" and is accused of crafting a "Final Solution to the Mordorian problem" by rival wizard Saruman, he obviously serves as an avatar for Russia's 20th-century foes. But the juxtaposition of the willfully feudal and backward "West," happy with "picking lice in its log 'castles'" while Mordor cultivates learning and embraces change, also recalls the clash between Europe in the early Middle Ages and the more sophisticated and learned Muslim empires to the east and south. Sauron passes a "universal literacy law," while the shield maiden Eowyn has been raised illiterate, "like most of Rohan's elite" -- good guys Tolkien based on his beloved Anglo-Saxons.
While Yeskov wrote The Last Ringbearer in 1999, an English-language translation has just been made available here.

There are 1 comments on "The Last Ringbearer":

Posted by: xbat http://explodingbat.livejournal.com/ Mon Feb 21 22:16:57 2011

Heh, this reminds me of Eliezer Yudkowsky's The Sword of Good: http://yudkowsky.net/other/fiction/the-sword-of-good

Oh and um, any hope of modifying the "(via ...)" part of your posts to link to the exact place where you found the link, rather than that site's top-level page? Reading your blog's older entries is a little frustrating, since i often want to read the associated original MeFi/slashdot/etc discussion but sometimes can't manage to google it up.

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