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Joseph Singleton
Professor Card
Tolkien and C.S. Lewis
January 25, 2006

Moral Victory

The appearance of epic battles in the novel Lord of the Rings is very apparent, in fact to most it seems that the novels are truly about the military might of the characters that appear in the novel. In truth most of what the media has portrayed in the movies gives most the idea that J.R.R Tolkien wanted to create a novel based on military and its victories. However, the truth behind what Tolkien was trying to create is not the struggle of soldiers to win the battle but the battle of human nature itself and its struggle against the immorality of the world. In the novel Following Gandalf: Epic battles and moral victory in the Lord of the Rings by Mathew Dickerson this aspect of Tolkien's masterpiece is discussed.

Dickerson argues that the media portrays Tolkien as creating and glorifying war. He states that one of the greatest projections of this appears in the second section of the movie during the battle of Helms Deep. When all seems lost it is the empowering speech of Aragon that raises the fight back in the people of Rohan's king, Theodin. With the courage to fight battle the people are able to win a very large military feat. We also see a competition develop between two characters Legolas and Gimli who compete in the movie to see who can kill the most during the battle, while it provides good comic relief for very intense battle sequences it sends the signals that Tolkien appreciated the warrior. While the competition is in the novels it is only briefly mentioned by Tolkien and seems to be a passing moment to show the bond that is developed during war. While the battles are in the novel Dickerson points out that the detail of the battle is not as existent as one would think, instead he shows that Tolkien uses the battles to allow his characters to bond and for them to develop through war. In fact most of the dialogue during the novels is focused on the respite, hope and despair of the characters than the actual battles themselves. Dickerson is quick to point out that one of the greatest points against the victory of the fellowship is not that of the battles fought, instead he states that Tolkien gives the highest amount of honor to Frodo and Sam in the novel, both of which did not participate in the novel.

The focus then of the novel is to show the truth in human nature and the moral fight that it must overcome, not the military. Dickerson suggest in his book that Tolkien used every one of his characters to prove this point and that through his characters individual struggles he was able to accomplish the morality of men. The first character that Dickerson focuses on is Gandalf; he states that the character Gandalf was not created to lead men in battle but to lead men in wisdom.

In both the novel and in the movies Gandalf is continuously tempted and given the opportunity to choose immorality over morality. One of the greatest scenes in the first movie The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo returns to the house to find Gandalf waiting for him and Bilbo's ring on the floor. Gandalf refused to even touch the ring to put it away. This shows the true character of Gandalf, Tolkien wanted to convey that the wizard was human in many ways concerning temptation but he also knew his limitations when it came to temptation and refused to give in. Dickerson suggests that it is the role of Gandolf to help the rest of the characters to find the morality that they have with in. To help the rest overcome enslavement and to take freedom instead. Gandalf is that character that understands every character and plays to their native strengths. Through out the novel the fact that Gandolf has no interest in power continuously portrayed. Instead the focus of Gandolf seems to be on the fight at hand, Tolkien portrays that Gandalf is the one true character that knew that the ultimate battle did not lie within the confines of military but in the fight to destroy the ring.

Gandalf was not the only character that fought the power of the ring; instead Tolkien focuses on this battle with most of the characters. One of the greatest victories for morality during the novel and in the movie comes to Gladriel. Gladriel knew that with out the one ring she would suffer defeat. With the one ring in her power she would not only be able to defeat Sauron but would be able to retain her power. Dickerson suggests that her moral victory lies in the fact that she resists the ring when it is offered to her while knowing that her power is going to fade.

Faramir is one of the few characters in the novel that seems to remain constant in the battles that wage in his morality. Dickerson suggests that Tolkien created Faramir to be a pupil to Gandolf. We see this by the fact that he seems to follow only the council of Gandolf and not his father. Unlike his brother Faramir also takes not pleasure in the concept of war, and when given the opportunity to take the ring he proves that he would rather take military defeat than take the ring. Indeed Faramir would rather sacrifice his life and land then to suffer moral upheaval.

Aragon is another character that Dickerson points out as a model of the influences of choice. He states that Aragon knows and is constantly aware of the decisions that he is going to have to make. A lot of this presented in his leadership over the fellowship unlike Gandalf who seemed to understand the influence of every decision, Aragon sees the possibility of failure in every decision made. Dickerson is quick to point out that Aragon is very relieved that the final choice lies within the ring bearer and not himself.

While most of Dickerson's novel focuses on the truth behind the battles in Lord of the Rings, he also points out a religious connotation that seems to underline most of Tolkien's work. It seems that Tolkien wanted to give his reader a sense of religion in the novels. While he does not bluntly come forward and state that the ring represents a sense of sin and toll that it takes upon its bearers it is greatly implied. The greatest example of this is the fall of Boromir. After trying to take the ring Boromir becomes evil, if the ring represents a form of sin, Tolkien then presents this character with a sense of being able to be redeemed. Fortunate for Boromir he does take the chance to be redeemed by trying to save Pippin and Merry, he is remembered in the book while dying stating that he has failed in military, physical, he has failed his father and in the end has failed to save the hobbits. However Aragon allows him to see that he has not failed but has conquered by redeeming himself by trying to make amends for his wrongs.

Unlike Boromir who redeems himself in the end, Gollum's salvation is never achieved. Instead in regards to Gollum Tolkien uses the work cured instead of saved. It seems that it is the evil part of Gollum that needs the cure and that through kindness he is able to achieve that change. However, we see the final and crucial occurrence at the forbidden pool when Gollum believes that Frodo has betrayed him it is this turning point that sends Gollum completely into evil with no point of return. Even Gandolf who sees hope in almost all things during the novel holds little hope for Gollum.

After reading Dickerson's novel I have come to understand better that Tolkien is trying to help his readers understand that war is a big part of history of the world and that man kin in a whole is not perfect. In Peter Jackson's movie version the war shots and the action shots are more of an attention getter, to get people in to the theater. While Tolkien does talk about war in the novels the full aspects of war are not portrayed. In this aspect I agree with Dickerson I do not believe that Tolkien was giving the true art of war but that he wanted the reader to understand a greater battle.

We see Tolkien change the view of the reader from a main voice narration to the views and feelings of the hobbits and some others who are not really involved in the war. I is quite possible that Tolkien is doing this to give an inside view of what it might be like to see the true realities of the battle as it is fought then from a character that does not fully understand it. I also believe that Tolkien may have used the various characters to convey the impressions that he had during his own experiences in WWI, such has the hobbits, it is possible that Tolkien really did feel that small during the battles that he himself faced. That like the Hobbits he did not understand and was not fully enlightened to the full aspects and reasoning behind war. I feel that the war part of the Lord of the Rings gives an insight to or more attention to those who are indeed fighting the war for those who pick the fight.

He also gives use the ring a tool that could lead to the down fall of one then to the down fall of the others in time. I think that the "One Ring" is also the physical representation of ones need for worldly things and would do any thing at any cost to get them. Those who have felt its power grow wanting it and seek to do its will. Just like a person who has a bad habit and wants to get the joy or pleasure fulfilling that habit.

Dickerson feels that Tolkien was trying to write a religions meaning behind the story. And that Tolkien used different words that would mean or have a close meaning of a religious word. Dickerson talked a lot about salvation and those who redeemed them selves and those who did not. I feel in a way that one could read and see that this meaning could be there, but as humans we do recognize are faults and realize that we have a choice to do good or evil, to have salvation or damnation. We choose to say were sorry about what we have done or not. Yet I feel that Tolkien was just trying to have a story that were the characters in the story were like every day people that make mistakes, and that they either do something about it or not.

Dickerson also talked a lot about Tolkien and giving wisdom to his characters. I think that wisdom is something that you gain as you 1) get older 2) learn it form your own experience and from those how are close to you 3) talking about something that might have happen or my not happen and think about it. Yet wisdom also has to be applied by those who have it. Having info in your head might make you seem wise but your not if you don't use it to help your self or others. Wisdom is something that is I feel given to each person in this earth and we need to use it. Yet in the books we see those who are wise and they do well and give council or evil and are blinded by that which they hate and become that very thing. The Humans listen to Gandalf the Wizard who gives his thoughts and opinions to the people trying to save their lives and freedoms. Most people think that Wizards are wise and all knowing. So that is also one reason that the men look to them and from there knowledge learn and decide what to do, what is right and what is wrong.

Dickerson's novel was very enlightening into the world of Tolkien and helped give me insight into the things that he was trying to convey through objects such as the one ring and most definitely through his characters. I truly feel that Tolkien did not mean for his book to be a focus on the art of war but rather he wanted to give his readers a sense of the truest fight, to keep ones reality.

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