I've had a few ideas in the genre of fantasy. One being a further interpretation of the Lord of The Rings. But first, you know how fantasy seems to depict female armor as midriff baring, or chainmail bikinis, or strategically placed to only cover up certain small bits? Well I had a thought that could make that motiff plausable, within any fantasy setting you wish to apply it to.

Common in fantasy settings are magical materials. Lord of the Rings had Mithral, a fantasy counterpart to comic book adamantium. And how many settings use crystals or something similar as "magic fuel"? Well to make any kind of high fantasy setting work, or even approach something as over the top as a D&D setting, all sorts of magical mcguffin substances are probably going to be required.

So this brings me to Invisibal (or Phantomite, or whatever you want to call it). Invisibal is a fantasy substance that can form many different compounds or alloys. Invisibal is inately magical, and most of these alloys are completely invisible. Not just clear like glass, but invisible.

The right compound of Invisibal could be used to make armor that is extremely light, tougher than steel, and completely see-through. Other compounds could be used to shield the wearer, making them invisible as well. Some compounds of Invisibal actually have negative weight, allowing for flying craft and landmasses.

Creatures which incorporate Invisibal into their biological structrure can be invisible, or partially invisible (like a life form where just the bones are visible). Some of these life forms will be extremely well protected because of the Invisibal, or be able to use it to produce magical like effects, or even use it's weight reduction ability to fly when it should not be able to.

Raw sources of Invisibal will be much sought after, and if you can afford a breastplate/chestpiece of this material, you may have to complete your armor with more common substances such as mithral or steel. So next time you see a fantasy warrior maiden seemingly wearing innapropriate armor, just remember that you may be able to see her undergarments, but you can't even see where the gaps in her armor are to try and reach anything.

So, I've pieced together a number of influences behind The Lord of the Rings:

  • Atlantis (the Island of Numenor)
  • King Arthur and Merlin (Aragorn and Gandalf)
  • The Ring of Gyges (magic ring that makes you invisible but corrupts you)
  • Der Ring des Nibelungen (opera about an epic battle over a magic ring that grants control of the world)
  • The Wizard of Oz (a magic-user sends a group on a quest to get rid of a powerful magic item they're stuck with)
  • Dante's Inferno (passing through the mines of Moria)

And of course he borrows bits and pieces from mythology, folklore, fairy tales, medievil literature, epic poems, etc. But the over-arching inspiration would have to be language, specifically the evolution of Latin into the romance languages. Tolkein was a philologist (the study of languages), this was his sphere of interest and expertise. But I think that only tells half the story.

While Tolkein was writing LOTR, his friend and fellow scholar C. S. Lewis was working on the Chronicles of Narnia. They discussed and debated their concepts for a whole fantasy world, but while Tolkein created a subtle work of literature, Lewis created a beloved young adult series painted with much broader strokes.

Lewis basicly just ripped off the Greek pantheon of mythical creatures and expanded that with talking animals. Tolkein again was much more subtle in how he did things, but he and Lewis were working in tandem and collaborating on the basic ideas of fantasy. Lewis and Tolkein were also both devotely religious. Lewis made that an overt part of his work, as an overt allegory to Christianity.

Tolkeins world, on the other hand, is completely devoid of religion. There are no churches, no clerics, and any religious concepts seem vaguely mythological at best. But I don't think Tolkein was avoiding religion; I think he was merely avoiding muddying the idea that the LOTR as a whole is an allegory for Christianity. Specifically, it is one part the story of Jesus, combined with one part the progression of Christianity across Roman and Medievil Europe.

To start most directly, Gandalf is Jesus. He's a higher being who's assumed a mortal form to come to our world and save humanity. He has his Disciples/Apostles, which even mirror the Bible. Sam and Frodo are Paul and Simon Peter (unsure which is which) (And their book, The Red Book of Westmarch, chronicling the story of their adventures with Gandalf? That's the Bible -- started by the old Testament prophets like Moses (Bilbo)).

Boromir is Judas, and Aragorn is Carolus Magnus, Charlamagne, which is part of our connection to medievil Europe. Gandalf's character himself enters a definite allegory for hell (the mines of Moria), faces a devil, dies and is ressurected "greater".

To start the story, let's go back to the fall of Numenor, the Atlantis allegory. But instead, this is now a Noah and the flood allegory combined with the Tower of Babel. Tolkein is setting the background with familiar imagery.

The Numenorians found an empire (Numenor) on the main land, and here's where we really begin. The mainland Numenorian empire is Rome. And the Numenorians are the original Catholic Romans. In fact, throughout the LOTR, the humans represent white/Europeans.

We have the known world, for all intents and purposes, composed of the Roman/Numenorian/Christian/European empire. These are the high men. We also have the middle men; the less civilized men who don't have any elvish blood (more on that in a moment), these are semi-Christians. The Gauls and Goths and Vandals who've mostly converted. And the low men, Picts and Woads and Vikings who are still pagan.

The elves are around, but diminishing. Their world is dissapearing. In them we see a tall, beautiful, perfect version of ourselves. This is the Greek world of ancient philosophy and gnostic mysticism, statues of ideal people and images of immaculately white robes. But, this image is dying. (I think the elves are also meant to represent angels, with the real breakdown being the highest elves who remained in the undying lands, the medium elves who remained in middle earth, and the corrupted elves which are the orcs.)

There is another race that is not truly man but still has a connected cause. We have the dwarves. Short men with long beards, stubborn and unchanging, burrowing into the earth for the only thing they really care about, wealth. And in this we have Tolkeins rather racist depiction of the Jews.

In the LOTR, the dwarves are mainly represented by a single individual, and the elves are a small handful that still weild some power. And just like men, Tolkein depicts high elves, middle elves, and low elves, which is  a big part of the foundation behind accusations of racism in the LOTR.

However, non-europeans get the worst treatment of all. Anyone not-white (or at least Jewish) is a monster. You've got your low goblins (orcs), and high goblins (uruk-hai), split under two leaders.

Lets start with Sauron, the big eye. He's the main ruler of the non-europeans. On their armor they wear a stylized depiction of an eye as their symbol. How is that depicted? Basicly it is this: (*) on its side. But what if you remove one lid and just leave this: (* ? You have a crescent moon and a star, the adopted symbol of Islam. Even Saurons tower is presented as topped by a crescent moon with the eye floating in the middle of it.

So this is the invading horde of non-whites who follow a different religion, Islam. While Numenor is lush and green, their land is a volcanic desert.

Just like in history, the great (Roman) Numenorean empire winds up splitting in two: into Arnor in the north and Gondor in the South. The Roman empire split into the Western Roman empire and the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) empire, where it was eventually whittled away by the loose Islamic nations that became the Ottoman Empire.

Except in Tolkeins version, the Western Roman empire (Gondor) never falls. The Byzantine empire is whittled away by Islamic forces that coallesce into the Ottoman Empire (Mordor), which now threaten to invade Europe (a la the Crusades and the Moorish invasion of Europe).

The tough part I had at first was how to place Sauruman. He couldn't be Muhammad because that is covered by Sauron. Could he be John the Baptist, the potential competition to Jesus in religious reform? No, I think if anyone represents John the Baptist it's Radagast the Brown. Could he be Simon Magus, Simon the Magician, the head of the Gnostic religious movement in Rome when Paul and Simon Peter arrive there? Well yes, he does exactly represent Simon Magus in the scouring of the Shire, but that's not his chief role.

Sauraman at first promises to be an even greater salvation to man than Gandalf. But soon he's chopping down forests and inventing gunpowder and only has a mind for wheels and machinery. Most telling is his symbol, a human handprint. Sauruman represents humanism and materialism. At first it's at least potentially helpful, but as time goes on Tolkein presents it as more and more corrupt and harmful. Not as potentially harmful as Islam (Sauron), but still a huge threat.

Along the way Tolkein presents us with the danger of putting our faith into philosophy and egalitarianism with the temptation of Galladrial, and his thoughts on Judaism with the stagnation of the dwarf kings and Gollum. The ring wraiths show us human kings ruling for themselves, as opposed to ruling religiously. And I'm pretty sure Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, is meant to represent the Pope.

Anyway, the inhuman Muslim horde is eventually pushed back and the white, true humans are free to restart their Christian empire across all of white Europe again. As such, Charlamagne (Aragorn) founds the Holy Roman Empire out of the chaos of the dark ages and ashes of the Roman empire.

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Comment by Matt VDB on December 25, 2011 at 8:12am

Just a side-note, but:

The reason for the fact that the men of north-west Middle Earth are "white" and the people of the south east are darker is that Middle Earth is based on Europe and the Mediterraneanin a period of prehistory. Look at the ethnic make-up of Europe and the Mediterranean, and what do you see? White people in the north-west, brown people in the south and east.

The racial make-up of Middle Earth therefore deliberately mirrors that of historical Europe. Thus the lack of black people in Bree.

Note that in The Silmarillion, where these geographical/pseudo historical considerations are not in play, the racial mix of those seduced by the “dark side” is entirely varied.

Comment by Space Sergeant 101 on December 23, 2011 at 12:43pm

I recently had an additional thought. I believe Lucas ran into a difficult spot converting Gollum from LOTR into a Star Wars character. The Hero With A Thousand Faces formula tells him Gollum should be a mentor/guide figure, but has a hard time reconciling that with Gollum's role and behavior. So Lucas reconciles this by giving Yoda a bit of a trickster dual personality, as a mentor.

But the difficulty arises because Gollum isn't really a mentor figure, he's more of a tempter figure, trying to mislead the hero. But where does he come from, why is he filling this role? And Gollum could wind up being a loose end in the LOTR version of our universe, still alive today, if it weren't for the events in The Return of The King.

Gollum neatly fills two biblical roles. The second of which, and only quasi-bibilical, is while in Mordor. Here, Frodo does adopt a Christ-like role. We're seeing an allegory to the Passion, complete with Sam bearing the "cross" for a while, and implying a Passion like ending. But unlike with Gandalf, Frodo does not die and resurrect; somebody else dies for him (Gandalf/Jesus metaphorically, Gollum physically).

While in Mordor, Gollum adopts the role later to be called the Wandering Jew, the Jew who taunted Jesus on the way to his crucifixion. And remember, Gollum was stalking the Fellowship through Moria as well, acting as a similar character for Gandalf.

Now the Wandering Jew character is a later convention, believed to be partially based on the story of Cain. And now let us re-examine Gollum's origins. Smeagol and his brother Deagol were gathering food (fishing). Deagol finds a prize, a reward, of which his brother Smeagol is jealous. Smeagol winds up killing Deagol and claiming the prize for himself. However, Smeagol winds up being cast out of his society, becomes physically changed, and is cursed to live forever. That's right, Gollum is Cain!

Comment by Space Sergeant 101 on December 18, 2011 at 5:06pm

Bear in mind this is conjecture, along with my insights into Lord Of The Rings, but...

I think that when George Lucas sat down to write the original Star Wars trilogy, he sat down with a copy of The Lord Of The Rings, a copy of The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and a copy of Dune, and this is why we wound up with the beloved franchise.

When he sat down to write the prequel trilogy, I think he had come to believe his fandom and sat down with just a copy of Hero, thinking he was so great he could just plug his own ideas into the the formulas and create a great story. And this is why we wound up with a piece of crap prequel trilogy.

There's a difference between two works having mentor archetypes, and making a direct reference (or in Lucas' case, simply ripping off a great work). Saying that Gandalf and Obi-Wan are alike because they are both mentor archetypes is like saying the one ring and the ring of Gyges are alike because they are both macguffins. If anything, I think you may be forcing LOTR to fit the Hero With A Thousand Faces mold, more than it already does.

I think you recognize Star Wars as simply being redressed LOTR; from the giant eye of Sauron to the giant eye of the Death Star, from Frodo's mentoring being handed from the slain Gandalf to the ancient and crazed Smeagol to Luke's mentoring being handed from the slain Obi-Wan to the ancient and crazed Yoda (he even helped him cross a mystical swamp!).

And a true believer wouldn't cast the Christ allegory as the hero, the Christ allegory would be the mentor. I think it's a greater stretch to say that LOTR isn't allegorical, but merely fits common archetypes.

Comment by David Raphael on December 11, 2011 at 4:39am

Perhaps your references need not be so specific in terms of characters, ie, Boromir = Judas, Merlin = Gandalf, etc

Lord of the Rings is based on mythological archetypes, just as Merlin, Arthur et al are also based on exactly the same archetypes. These archetypes are reflected in stories throughout mankind's history and across cultures. They were even touched upon by Aristotle in his 'poetics'.

If you want to know more I suggest reading the works of Joseph Campbell, particularly that of the 'monomyth' (which LOTR fits very well). You might start with 'The Hero with a Thousand faces'. Campbell's extensive work has also been summarised by Christopher Vogler for the film industry in his book 'The Writer's Journey'.

Merlin, for example, actually belongs to 'mentor' archetype, as does Dumbledore (Harry Potter), Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Morpheus (The Matrix )etc.
It's also seen in older stories - the fairy godmother (Cinderella), 'Mentor' (The Odyssey), and even in the bible (god in the Garden of Eden).

Gandalf is not a Christ allegory. If anything, Frodo is Christ, or rather Christ, Frodo, Luke Skywalker, and Harry Potter all belong to the same archetype. Gandalf is a mentor. For example, both Gandalf and Obi wan Kenobi have 'magic staffs'; they are both slain and rise again in a purer form; they even both have names that they themselves have forgotten (Gandalf the grey/Ben Kenobi)

I think you're reading a bit too much into other aspects, ie, the eye vaguely resembling the crescent moon/star.
You could postulate a dozen theories about what the eye might represent that would be more credible.

I think you've read a muslim/christian/roman aspect into the story that isn't really there. I believe that much of the story was based on Tolkein's experiences in World War I, and also his dislike of industrialisation.



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