The author of the literary source of the trilogy, Professor Tolkien, wrote not a fantasy, but an epic. From his youth he created a new reality, thinking everything to the smallest detail: the alphabet and languages of the peoples who inhabited his universe, their manners, customs, appearance. In a sense, he “chewed up and put in his mouth” all the details of his monumental work for the future screenwriters; they had only to painfully cross out the scenes and characters, trying to fit into three films, albeit two series each.
The powerful epic tradition absent from the Anglo-Saxons, but elaborated by a British professor, got a new incarnation on the screen thanks to the New Zealander Peter Jackson, a marginalist director ready to take the fire of fan and Hollywood criticism.
He managed the impossible: reviews of the film trilogy came out mostly positive. Users of Internet Movie Database gave the trilogy second place among the best films of all time after The Godfather.
The trilogy has become one of the biggest projects in world cinema and one of the most profitable, grossing nearly three billion dollars. Seventeen Academy Awards and other such records have silenced the meticulous lovers of Professor Tolkien, who grumble about inconsistencies and deviations from the original. Tolkien always objected to a literal understanding of his creation and warned against attempting to transfer the map of Middle-earth to the map of Earth-as without this, the trilogy has several basic levels of meaning.
The philosophical meaning of the trilogy: the evil of omnipotence
Many people try to look for a religious and specifically Christian meaning in the trilogy, pointing to the author’s outlook. Tolkien’s complex philosophy was religious, but in the book and film we see a society detached from religion. Knights, kings, elves, orcs, hobbits, wizards–but not priests and shamans–act here. In fact, the world of Middle-earth is free of religion, but not free of notions of good and evil, guilt, sin, forgiveness, responsibility. The main artifact around which the action of the story is built is the Ring of Omnipotence.
For the ancient peoples of the Earth, the ring symbolized eternity, was a symbol of oaths, initiation, belonging to a special clan or rank, a sign of mercy and special power. The Ring of Omnipotence is unusual. First, it has its own power and its own will. Secondly, it gives its wearer complete, absolute power, which makes it like God. But it is forged by the bearer of evil, and therefore ruins his master.
Even the thought of such an all-encompassing power is pernicious. All who fall under its enchanting power are doomed. The face of the good-natured Bilbo Baggins instantly transforms into the mask of a hideous orc as soon as he sees the ring; Gollum loses his human face completely, Boromir breaks his oath and attacks Frodo for the chance to possess the cherished symbol of power. And Frodo himself feels the destructive power of the ring every second. But it is not magic they suffer from, nor are they fighting magic: they have to fight the terrible temptation of Omnipotence, the opportunity to subjugate the whole world.
Omnipotence or powerlessness
Does this mean that the point of the trilogy is the evil that comes from power? Of course not. Middle-earth is built on a strict hierarchy of power structures. The film ends not with an abstract victory, but with the coronation of the rightful heir, Aragorn. No one calls for anarchy. After all, it is not about power itself, but about the attitude to it of the one in whose hands it is concentrated.
A man who assumes responsibility for the fate of others must perceive the power handed to him as a burden, responsible for his subjects, not possessing them. Responsibility versus lust for possession is the choice every ruler makes.
Without a king, the kingdom dies. Even when King Theoden’s mind was in turmoil, his subjects did not try to overthrow him. And here he is, now fully conscious and sane, leading his army into mortal combat, not hiding behind their spears, but ahead of them all. He is the first to die, and a ruler must be like that, because when he gets power, he gets responsibility in the first place.
Responsibility and mutual assistance
Responsibility is not the privilege of kings. The film vividly illustrates the role of each hero for the fate of his comrades, his companions, his country, and all of Middle-earth. Individually they would never have achieved victory. The tiny Fellowship of the Ring is a strange, motley company that disintegrates almost at the beginning, its members subsequently acting without news of each other.
But they go forward doing their own thing. Had any of them failed, the outcome would have been very different. The little hobbit Merry and King Theoden’s brave niece, Eowyn, kill King Charmer Angmar, who could not die by a man’s hand. How would the future have turned out if these two had not entered the battlefield?
Each hero has his own burden, his own duty, his own destiny, but together they do one thing. This is what makes the story told in The Lord of the Rings a heroic epic. We see a few horsemen tossing aside an entire army of orcs. The laws of reality and the laws of fairy tale do not apply here; any distortion of reality is symbolic.
The fantastical tricks during battle in a normal fantasy movie only emphasize the skill of the characters (or the high level of computer graphics), but in Jackson’s trilogy the digression from reality makes sense. The battles are shot without the naturalism typical of action films and thrillers. The power and brutality of the battle is shown with a real epic sweep without relishing the details, because here every detail is truly part of the whole.
The Little Hero Versus Universal Evil
The little hobbit is a “distant relative” of man, a simple villager with his simple troubles and joys. The nickname “halfling” seems as derogatory and offensive as it is affectionate. Who expects hobbits to do heroic deeds? Only warrior-heroes do feats!
But it was the little hobbits to perform an incredible mission, to play a major role in the fate of the world, to save people, elves and wizards. Throughout the trilogy they persevered, did not give up, did not retreat, dragged the absolutely unbearable burden of responsibility. They earned the gratitude and worship from humans, mages, and elves, which they were rewarded with after peace was established. Therein lies the implication: the fate of the world depends on everyone, regardless of their stature or fighting skills.
And mercy was called to the fallen.
After the destruction of the Ring of Omnipotence, the other rings lose their power and magic leaves Middle-earth. A new age begins, completely owned by humans. What is left to them as a legacy but smoking ruins?
The realization that evil cannot be used for good. With the Ring of Omnipotence, no one has ever been able to become happy or give happiness to another.
Orcs are the “fallen” elves; the creepy Nazguls are once the best of the best, kings chosen by the Ring-bearers but unable to resist the temptations of evil; Saruman the White is one of the wisest mages who bowed to Sauron. Looking at the ugly orcs who were once elves, one cannot help but feel compassion for them. Gollum, despite his ugly appearance, also evokes pity. It is not without reason that justice comes only because Frodo took pity on Gollum.
The meaning of the trilogy’s ending
The terrible power of the ring poisons Frodo’s soul. Somewhere there is a knowingly losing battle, men and elves go to their deaths so that the little hobbit reaches the blazing mountain of Orodruin, but he no longer cares. The lust for Omnipotence has taken over him completely, and he cannot throw the ring into the lava. Gollum, biting off the hobbit’s finger, flies into the fire along with the ring. Thus the good deed once done by Frodo saves the world.
Middle-earth celebrates victory, but it tastes bitter. Frodo has not kept his promise, has not fulfilled his mission, at the decisive moment he surrendered to the power of evil. No one blames him for this, but he himself is well aware of everything. Finishing the narrative of his adventures, the hobbit leaves his homeland forever.
The Ring has damaged Frodo too much for him to live his old life. The wounds he sustained on the journey also took their toll. He could never find peace. He could not live in the beautiful world he had fought for and saved, though unwittingly. He became the last victim of the ring-the last victim of the thirst for gold, the thirst for evil, the thirst for Omnipotence. This is the final, sad lesson of the epic: one second is enough to betray one’s ideals, but one will regret it forever.
WHAT DOES “LORD OF THE RINGS” TEACH US?
The novel and the adaptation captivate fans not only with the deeply written world of Middle-earth and the stories of the creatures that inhabit it, but also with a powerful philosophical message. Tolkien teaches us to distinguish between good and evil and shares life’s wisdom in a unique authorial manner. So what lessons does “The Lord of the Rings” teach us?
“And the weakest of mortals can change the course of the future.”
The little hobbits, who no one took seriously, were able to save the world by destroying the Ring of All Power. Their feat proves that you don’t have to be great to change the world around you for the better.
Even a “small” person doing small acts of kindness accomplishes a feat. Yes, imperceptible, but very important.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
When Aragorn wandered all over Middle-earth, he never thought that this journey would lead him to the throne. He wandered, not knowing what his ultimate goal was, but he kept going anyway. Aragorn understood that only in movement could he achieve anything.
Movement without purpose is still movement. We may search for ourselves for a long time, going through various trials, but this search does not mean that we are lost.
“Unknown feats are no less valiant.”
Before the battle, Aragorn told Eowyn that her mission was to serve the people, not on the battlefield, though the girl dreamed of heroic glory. He was trying to convey to Eowyn that her work was meaningful, even if others did not appreciate or notice it.
If everyone started doing something just in the hope of recognition, only a small fraction of the work would be accomplished. Yes, praise is nice, but it should not motivate us to do good things. It is important to remember that our deeds affect at least one life-our own. And that’s something.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time we have been given.”
Frodo was born during the war. As fate would have it, he was the one asked to help destroy Sauron. These events were beyond Frodo’s control, but he was not afraid and accepted the challenge.
There are many things in life that we cannot influence. For example, we have no power to change our past. But we are free to decide what to do with the present and the future. We alone know where to go, and that is our strength.
“There is something good in this world, and it is worth fighting for.”
Carrying the Ring of Power through Middle-earth is no easy task, and poor Frodo almost succumbed to its influence a couple of times. But Sam, Frodo’s loyal companion, always came to his rescue.
Some problems seem so big that we lose hope of dealing with them, and our struggles begin to seem pointless. But why not try to change the world at least for the sake of the good people around us? In despair, we forget the good things, even though they are what should motivate us to move forward.