December 22nd, 2003

Kings Before, Kings Behind

Seeing that Time magazine has just declared the American solider its "Person of the Year," I had another Lord of the Rings-related thought.

(I know, but Skylar is obsessed with the story too, so I get a double dose)

You see, while ordinary hobbits are among the biggest heroes in the trilogy, we also get to see leaders who lead, rather than follow.

When Aragorn or Théoden, King of Rohan rally their forces in Return of the King, the effect is stirring.

The former war-player in me was moved, predictably, by Aragorn's speech before the Black Gate of Mordor, in which he says, to paraphrase, that "There may come a day when we turn on each other. . .but it is not this day. On this day we fight."

On the flip side, Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, is depicted as hopeless because he holes up in his halls instead of leading the defense of Minas Tirith.

And is it any accident that the Dark Lord of the trilogy is a disembodied ruler who seems to communicate solely by "broadcasting" his eye/I throughout the realm?

As was pointed out over and over during the Vietnam years, it's hard to imagine leaders sending troops into danger so readily if they were required to be present at the subsequent struggle.

Aragorn goes out of his way to avoid the privileges of being a "fortunate son." Elrond and his other companions have to work their asses off just to get him to assume the role of king.

If only our own "fortunate son" were so thoughtful about the consequences of ruling.

Incidentally, the book Fortunate Son, about which the excellent documentary Horns and Halos was made, is now back in bookstores. I saw it on the feature table at Borders.
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