Like many of you, I was appalled to learn that the first Blu-Ray release of the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy will contain the theatrical releases only. Sauron and his money-grubbing hoardes Peter Jackson & Co are counting on legions of LOTR fans to purchase the Theatrical Releases on Blu-Ray this year, and then purchase the Extended Editions when they come out on Blu-Ray next year, or whenever they get around to doing it. I fell in to that trap last time around with the DVD releases, but not this time. (If you want to have Amazon notify you when the Blu-Ray Extended Editions are released–click here ).
I know that some skeptics hate LOTR for its dramatic use of magic and the paranormal, for instance Penn Jillette: “LOTR was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.” For any skeptic that feels that way, I have this suggestion–shuffle LOTR from the literary genre of fantasy to that of science fiction.
“But Tsar,” you are surely thinking, “the Lord Of The Rings is classic fantasy. It has magic, it has elves, goblins (so-called in The Hobbit, called Orcs in the rest of the books), wizards, dragons, trolls and other strange magical creatures.” I understand why you might think that way–I really do. But as Fantasy, LOTR makes no sense. As Science Fiction, it is transformed into a cautionary tale of the societal impacts of genetic manipulation of organisms (and manipulation of the human genome in particular), genetically modified crops in agriculture, information technology, and nanotechnology. When you think of LOTR as Science Fiction, it is much more enjoyable and interesting to read or watch–give it a try next time.
Not convinced? Fine. The Tsar shall explain. All of the events in LOTR and The Hobbit took place in the Third Age. Traditionalists, and Tolkien himself, would consider the the Third Age to be in our distant past (Tolkein placed the events of LOTR around 4000 BC), and that we would be living in the time beyond the Fourth Age, possibly even the Sixth or Seventh Age. This is, of course, absurd. There were no elves, wizards, trolls, orcs, ents, trolls and the like around 6000 years ago. The entire Tolkien universe makes much more sense if you place our present time at the start, or even before the start of, the First Age. You won’t see much about the First Age in the LOTR books–for that you have to read The Silmarillion. The First Age starts with the awakening of the elves, so let’s talk about that.
Tolkien’s elves were tall, slender, physically attractive, intelligent, physically strong, with enhanced visual acuity and hearing, and an extremely long life span. They also had the ability to use magic to interact with the world around them. At least some of them had the ability to have instant communications across great distances. In short, they make much more sense as genetically enhanced human beings, rather than magical creatures. For everything except the magic stuff, Tolkiens’s elves have virtually all of the attributes you would expect a parent to select if given the choices of advanced genetic engineering. For the magical attributes, remember what Arthur C. Clarke said: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Thus Lady Galadriel’s ability to communicate with Elrond over great distances can be seen as embedding some means of remote communication inside the body. You can see similar advanced technology in the perfectly accurate arrows fired by the elves–they are guided arrows, perhaps guided by a remote link between the arrow and the brain of the elf firing it.
Perhaps creatures like the Trolls are the result of mistakes in genetic engineering. After all, they are ugly, and die if exposed to sunlight (at least Bilbo’s Trolls did, in the movies they seem to have some trolls that can survive in the daylight).
Other magical creatures that appear in the books or films should be seen as the products of genetic manipulation, for instance the Ents, a race of moving, intelligent plants, or the Orcs, or the giant eagles, or even Hobbits.
Wizards like Gandalf and Saruman, like the elves, possess and know how to use extremely sophisticated magic, controlled by their staffs, which are obvioulsy disguised technological devices.
The One Ring makes much more sense as an extremely advanced technological device, one that obviously uses some form of advanced nanotechnology. How else could a ring like that make people invisible, or allow instantaneous communication over great distances merely by putting it on?
One of the more fascinating technological innovations in LOTR is Lembas, the elvish waybread. In the movies, Legolas said that one bite could sustain a grown man for an entire day, although in the books Tolkein said that it was one cake of Lembas that could do it. Either way, Lembas is an extremely energy-rich food that can stay fresh for months. In other words, it is an advanced food product that is the obvious result of advanced farming techniques using genetically modified crops.
I could go on, and on, and on, and on. There is very little, if anything, in LOTR that cannot be better understood if seen through the prism of futuristic science fiction. I know that Tolkein did not intend it as SciFi, but it just makes so much more sense that way. All I ask is that the next time you watch the movies, or read the books, you think of what I have said here, imagine the events taking place in a far-flung future, and then let old Tsar Bomba know what you think.
Tsar Bomba is currently forming a support group for the eternally bewilederd, of which he plans to be the charter member. You can hear more of what he says on the Dogma Free America Podcast.