Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lord of the Rings and Philosophy

Despite being a bookworm, I only read Lord of The Rings after the hype passed, when I was 16/17 (and the movie came out when I was, what? 12?) And the only reason I read it was because my friend assured me that once you get past the hobbits, it's not boring any longer. And I really have to thank her, because the book was amazing. So, I'll naturally read any book related to it, such as this one: LOTR and Philosophy.

The book is divided into 5 parts: The Ring, The Quest for Happiness, Good and Evil in Middle-Earth, Time and Mortality and Ends and Endings. The five parts are quite comprehensive for a book this short, it covers things like the environmental themes, the pursuit of happiness, modernism, etc.

One thing I learnt was about Gyges ring, which Tolkien might have based The One Ring on. This ring was used in Plato's "Republic" as a reason why there's no need to live a moral life. It's actually quite interesting when you think about it; throughout the book, the Ring tempts all with the promise of power (like how the Gyges ring gave the shepherd the kingdom in the end). But perhaps extrapolating from the story, we see that the power from the ring doesn't bring happiness. Gollum is a wretched creature and I don't think many people will want to be Sauron.

So, I could go through each chapter (that was from chapter one) and talk about all the things that I learnt. But then, it'll be way too long and I'm sure you'd rather read the book. But the only other chapter I want to mention is Chapter 14 - Talking Trees and Walking Mountains: Buddhist and Taoist Themes in The Lord of the Rings.

Why in the end, the author does admit the the similarities are superficial, I still don't understand how people would interpret LOTR in a Buddhist way. Tolkien was, by all accounts, a devout Roman Catholic so I would presume that any religious influence would be Christianity. Plus, he was a scholar of Western Mythology so I would think that the Eastern religions are very unlikely to influence his writings. Plus, if you take the whole talking trees and stuff, it actually ties in with Christianity. Like the chapter says, Tolkien emphasises stewardship, a Christian concept that originated when God gave Adam dominion over the earth. And the whole Ents thing, well, is it possible that he was influenced by Luke 19:40 which says " 'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.' "? If you've read anything that could shed light, please tell me, I'm actually quite interested in finding out.

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