January 01, 2003
Ash Nazg Durbatuluk Department

Ash Nazg Durbatuluk Department

From the United Airlines Skymall Catalog:

The One Ring. Individually engraved with a laser process to capture the intricate details of the elvish writing.... A certificate of authenticity.... Cast in solid gold.... $295.

Hmmm. Invisibility. The power to command the Nine. Greatly expanded lifespan. The power to turn the hearts of others--even Istari--to your purposes and make them your willing slaves. At $295 plus shipping and handling, it sounds like quite a bargain. Of course there's also the madness, the transformation of your soul into that of a Dark Lord, plus feeling stretched as every day of your half-life becomes a weariness.... Maybe $295 is too much...

Addendum: Work with me on this: In the Uttermost West, Sometime Between the End of the Fellowship of the Ring and the Beginning of the Two Towers. Posted by DeLong at January 01, 2003 03:46 PM | Trackback

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Still kinda disappointed that Sir Ian didn't take a stab at delivering a bit o' the Dark Tongue of Mordor:

Ash nazg durbatuluk, Ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Was one of the highlights of my twelve-year-old life, sitting in a darkened house, parents away, being scared even more witless than usual by the scene in the book where Gandalf intones the fell phrase ...

Posted by: Paul on January 1, 2003 05:32 PM


>>Still kinda disappointed that Sir Ian didn't take a stab at delivering a bit o' the Dark Tongue of Mordor<<

Maybe you should buy the extended-version DVD...


Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 1, 2003 07:07 PM


Posted by: FMguru on January 1, 2003 07:34 PM

If this ring was so god damned important, why was the military operation to dispose of it so badly planned?

Posted by: dsquared on January 1, 2003 11:48 PM

> If this ring was so god damned important, why was the military operation to dispose of it so badly planned?

Er. Is this question rhetorical? Sort of like "military intelligence"?

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 2, 2003 01:09 AM

Who signs the certificate of authenticity, anyway? Feanor? Or maybe you just get dreams of a giant eye?

Posted by: rea on January 2, 2003 03:32 AM

Don't forget the opportunity to have the magnitude of your own folly revealed to you in a blinding flash, as your towers and battlements topple like an overwhelming wave. Such a deal!

Posted by: Patrick Nielsen Hayden on January 2, 2003 04:24 AM

"Who signs the certificate of authenticity, anyway? Feanor?

"Posted by rea at January 2, 2003 03:32 AM"

Well, you know, they never did confirm the death of the Mouth of Sauron... (Incidentally, the 8 pages of "The New Shadow", Tolkien's sequel to the book, hint that the villain in that one would have been either the Mouth or one of his descendants. And even if Tolkien did drop the book -- as he aborted EVERYTHING he tried to write about Middle-Earth after LOTR -- those 8 pages are surprisingly good.)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on January 2, 2003 04:27 AM

"Don't forget the opportunity to have the magnitude of your own folly revealed to you in a blinding flash, as your towers and battlements topple like an overwhelming wave. Such a deal!

"Posted by Patrick Nielsen Hayden at January 2, 2003 04:24 AM"

Ah, but that's only if you're dumb enough to LOSE the thing.

Incidentally, am I the only one who's always had a lot of questions about that "final fight on the slopes of Orodruin" at the end of the Second Age? Virtually all we learn about it from the books through "Unfinished Tales" is that Sauron burned Gil-galad to death (presumably by bunny-hugging him) and that it was Isildur who actually "gave our enemy his death-blow". Why did Sauron leave Barad-dur and head to Orodruin in the first place? (Hoping for a power recharge, maybe?) How did he kill Elendil? If just getting close to a Nazgul terrifies all but the few strongest souls in Middle-Earth into total paralysis, how did anyone get close enough to Sauron himself to take a swing at him? And if just stabbing a Nazgul burns up your enchanted sword and paralyzes your arm, how did Narsil's hilt-shard stay in one piece after it was used to cut Sauron's own finger off (and how did Isildur deliver that "death-blow" and survive, either with a piece of Narsil or anything else?) For that matter, why didn't Isildur's companions lay down the law to him at the time about throwing the Ring into the Cracks of Doom (or, if that failed, suggest slyly that he might like to do a little victory dance at its brink)?

I can't help it; some of us are cynical enough to THINK about such things. I suppose that last point could be explained if no one realized the Ring's power to corrupt all of its owners until it had actually started to corrupt Isildur -- but I'm damned if I can come up with a solution to those other questions.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on January 2, 2003 05:05 AM

"I can't help it; some of us are cynical enough to THINK about such things." Including Peter Jackson, judging by his radical revisionism in this matter.

Some of us are also cynical enough to wonder why the Fellowship didn't just have Gwaihir Airlines fly them all the way to Mount Doom -- or, if the smog problem there was too intense, at least to the borders of Mordor -- thereby avoiding one hell of a lot of walking, rowing and fighting? Tolkien himself indicated in a letter that this was one plot hole he had never been able to resolve to his own satisfaction. Maybe the Eagles -- being after all animals, albeit unusually intelligent and noble animals -- were particularly suceptible to the Ring's lure? Alternatively, maybe they couldn't stand to get near the thing for some reason? It will be interesting to see how Jackson deals with this one -- assuming he does. (Maybe Gandalf the White's increased power will give him greater command over the Eagles?)

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on January 2, 2003 05:44 AM

Re: Gwaihir Airlines
I believe the vulgate response to why not Gwaihir is that the eagles are a proud, independent race that would resent being involved in the petty affairs of other creatures. (I most recently heard this from Douglas A. Anderson, annotater of The Hobbit.) Of course, this makes it difficult to explain the 4 rescue flights that occur in The Hobbit and LOTR. I fear it is really a plot flaw.

It is also hard to credit Elrond's assertion that not even Glorfindel would have a better chance of success than Frodo does. (This could have been easy to deal with by having the orcs have blades that glow blue when elves are nearby!)

Posted by: M. Scott Anderson on January 2, 2003 06:13 AM

I had always thought that there was more logic to the plan of Manwe's Ring Disposal Company than is apparent. As best as I can reconstruct the plan, it seems to have been this:

From this perspective, it is rather clever--especially the genetic engineering part. But things went wrong...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 2, 2003 07:48 AM

Could they not at least have given Frodo a blinking *map*?

Posted by: dsquared on January 2, 2003 10:08 AM

well, look, down a different leg of the trousers of Time they did fly the ring straight to the Cracks, no problem.

But that was a really short book & no-one made a movie out of it. Weak anthropic principle, sort of.

Posted by: clew on January 2, 2003 12:50 PM

David Brin, of the _Earth_ and _Uplift_ books fame, writes about how seductively backward-looking LOTR is. Why are we cheering for kings who are kings because of birthright who slaughter the working class races who are trying to use technology to better their lives? Do we really want to go back to the serfdom of the Middle Ages (err, Middle Earth)?

J.R.R. Tolkien -- enemy of progress

Posted by: Eiji Hirai on January 2, 2003 06:44 PM

Regarding Manwe's Master Plan: I've also always been puzzled by why the Valar -- even if they were in a huff over the Noldor's misbehavior and unwilling to rescue THEM from Morgoth -- sat on their fat semi-divine asses refusing to rescue the OTHER inhabitants of Middle-Earth from him for 500 years, until Earendil finally showed up to chew them out. Again, Tolkien never was able to come up with an explanation that doesn't sound lame: "But Manwe moved not; and of the counsel of his heart, who can say?" Evidently not JRRT.

I suppose it's possible that Earendil had some blackmail material on Manwe (a clandestine affair with Ungoliant, perhaps?) More seriously, it might be that the pronouncements by Mandos -- "the doomsman of the Valar", who apparently was unique among them in having detailed advance knowledge of the Music of the Ainur and thus of Iluvatar's intended ultimate plans for the world -- regarding the future were actually explicit orders from Iluvatar as to what the Valar were forbidden to interfere with, and that rescuing the inhabitants of Middle-Earth prematurely would have interfered with God's plan to bring the Music to a really good conclusion.

This might also make clearer the unusual nature of Mandos' move in personally responding to Luthien's plea regarding Beren; it wasn't so much that he had "never been moved to pity" by anything else (he was, after all, one of the good guys), but that this was the only time he ever dared to take action on his own without waiting for explicit orders from God.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on January 3, 2003 08:49 AM

To M. Scott Anderson: actually, it was Gandalf who recommended against having Glorfindel join the Company; and it was Merry and Pippin, not Frodo, whom he recommended as a substitute -- again, puzzlingly (although Gandalf always seemed to have a subconscious intuition regarding the hidden potential of hobbits).

On the other hand, it always made clear sense in both the book and the movie to have Frodo be the actual Ringbearer; the sinister nature of the Ring lies in the fact that it's actually MORE dangerous to someone who has a strong will and is a natural leader -- and it was perfectly plausible that only somone like Frodo would have just the right personality to have the best chance of carrying the thing all the way to Mordor without succumbing to its psychological temptation.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on January 3, 2003 08:59 AM

The greater your power, the greater the temptation of the ring, as Bruce points out. And Glorfindel was extremely powerful, even by the standards of the elves. He couldn't have made it there because he would have fallen to the ring, even though no ork or Nazgul could have stood against him.

Pity, for some odd reason Glorfindel has always been one of my favourite characters.

Posted by: Ian Welsh on January 5, 2003 03:11 PM

Watching armchair strategists sit around making fallacious criticisms of Tolkien's military strategy gives me new appreciation for armchair strategists who sit around making fallacious criticisms of real-world military strategy.

Posted by: Simon on January 5, 2003 08:59 PM
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