May 12, 2005

The Lord of the Rings/Star Wars Discussion Spinoff

I have been enjoying the conversation about whether Star Wars had a bigger impact than the LOTR. The initial post is here. But I want to thank Doctor Bean for bringing a new element into the discussion. He remarks here about an article that is very interesting.

It is called The 'Ring' and the remnants of the West and I thought that it was worth citing some of the more interesting elements.

The most important cultural event of the past decade is the ongoing release of the film version of J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. No better guide exists to the mood and morals of the United States. The rapturous response among popular audiences to the first two installments of the trilogy should alert us that something important is at work. Richard Wagner's 19th-century tetralogy of music dramas, The Ring of the Nibelungs, gave resonance to National Socialism during the inter-war years of the last century. Tolkien does the same for Anglo-Saxon democracy.
Tolkien well may have written his epic as an "anti-Ring" to repair the damage that Wagner had inflicted upon Western culture.
Tolkien himself
despised Wagner (whom he knew thoroughly)
and rejected comparisons between his Ring and Wagner's cycle
("Both rings are round," is the extent of his published comment).

Ok, so what we have here is the opening salvo in which the author presents the idea that Tolkien wrote his series based upon Wagner's piece. This may not be news to some of you, but it is to me. It should be noted that the author mentions that Tolkien was familiar with Wagner.

It is hard for us today to imagine what a cult raised itself around Wagner after the 1876 premiere of his Ring cycle. Compared to it the combined fervor for Elvis, the Beatles, Madonna and Michael Jackson seems like a band concert in the park. Perfectly sensible people attended a Wagner opera and declared that their lives had changed. Bavaria's eccentric King Ludwig II literally fell in love with the composer and built him the Bayreuth Festival, to which the elite of Europe repaired in homage. It was something like the mood that swept the youth of the West in the late 1960s, but an order of magnitude more powerful.

In 1848, Wagner was a disgruntled emulator of French grand opera who stockpiled hand grenades for revolutionaries, a fugitive from justice after that year's uprising. A quarter-century later he stood at the pinnacle of European culture. What precisely did he do?

Wagner announced the death of the old order of aristocracy and Church, of order and rules. Not only was the old order dying, but also it deserved to die, the victim of its inherent flaws. As the old order died a New Man would replace the servile creatures of the old laws, and a New Art would become the New Man's religion. The New Man would be fearless, sensual, unconstrained, and could make the world according to his will. Wagner's dictum that the sources of Western civilization had failed was not only entirely correct, but also numbingly obvious to anyone who lived through the upheavals of 1848. But how should one respond to this? Wagner had a seductive answer: become your own god!

Using elements of
old Norse sagas and
medieval epic,
Wagner cobbled together a new myth.

So Wagner takes Norse mythology to carve out a new story about a new world and way of life and it just so happens that this myth utilizes a talisman that bestows great power upon the wielder of it. And not only that, but the talisman corrupts the wielder.

Corruption leads to violence which leads to chaos which eventually leads to a destruction of the talisman and a new world order.

It sounds quite similar and personally I do not have a problem with it. Kohellet said it, "there is nothing new under the sun" and that is not necessarily a problem. All ideas spring off of another idea.

The question is how you improve upon the original idea. I had planned on writing more about this but had way too much fun tweaking my blog. It probably looks kind of rough, but that is the challenge of teaching myself how to code.

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