I have a confession to make. My favourite character in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is Faramir. I wanted to marry Faramir when I was a teenager, despite him being fictional, and thus Mr Eagle harbours a bizarre jealousy against him, threatening to deface my Faramir bookmark. (Actually Eaglet No. 2 ruined the Faramir bookmark by chewing it into a pulp when he was about 1 year old, much to the joy of Mr Eagle).
But I also admire some of the evil characters. The two characters I really quite like are (a) Saruman and (b) Uglúk of the Uruk Hai. I think I like Saruman because he has a clever tongue, and even before I was a lawyer, I have always admired someone who can twist words. Christopher Lee made a fantastic Saruman in the film adaptations; I can’t imagine anyone better to play him.
I like Uglúk for quite reasons. For those who aren’t obsessed with the books as I am, Uglúk is the orc who captures Merry and Pippin and attempts to take them to Saruman’s lair in Isengard at the beginning of The Two Towers. Uglúk is brutal and unpleasant, to be sure. But he manages to unite a disparate group of orcs together quite successfully (including Sauron’s orcs, his own Uruk-hai and a bunch of mountain orcs). He is loyal to his master, and unlike the vile Grishnákh, he is not tempted to search the hobbits for the Ring and take it for himself. He is efficient, managing to spur the orcs on a tremendous sprint towards Isengard. Here is an account of Uglúk healing Merry’s wounds:
‘Now for the other!’ said Uglúk. Pippin saw him go to Merry, who was lying close by, and kick him. Merry groaned. Seizing him roughly Uglúk pulled him into a sitting position, and tore the bandage off his head. Then he smeared the wound with some dark stuff out of a small wooden box. Merry cried out and struggled wildly.
The Orcs clapped and hooted. ‘Can’t take his medicine,’ they jeered. ‘Doesn’t know what’s good for him. Ai! We shall have some fun later.’
But at the moment Uglúk was not engaged in sport. He needed speed and had to humour unwilling followers. He was healing Merry in orc-fashion; and his treatment worked swiftly. When he had forced a drink from his flask down the hobbit’s throat, cut his leg-bonds, and dragged him to his feet, Merry stood up, looking pale but grim and defiant, and very much alive. The gash in his forehead gave him no more trouble, but he bore a brown scar to the end of his days.
(The Two Towers, pages 51-2)
Uglúk is also brave and resourceful. When the Uruk-hai are surrounded by the Riders of Rohan, he organises the orcs into a last stand, and attempts to break the Riders by second force hidden in Fangorn forest, led by ‘Mauhúr and his lads’. Uglúk meets his end with as much honour as an orc can muster:
So it was that they [Merry and Pippin] did not see the last stand, when Uglúk was overtaken and brought to bay at the very edge of Fangorn. There he was slain at last by Éomer, the Third Marshal of Rohan, who dismounted and fought him sword to sword. And over the wide fields the keen-eyed Riders hunted down the few Orcs that had escaped and still had the strength to fly.
(The Two Towers, page 63)
So I always felt that there were some positive aspects to some of the Orcs.
Apparently a Russian paleontologist has written an alternative Lord of the Rings, according to this report from the Mumbai Mirror:
Every story has two versions. However, for the longest time J R R Tolkien’s epic three-part novel Lord of the Rings was the only version of life on Middle Earth and the dark lord Sauron its main villain.
However, a new book titled The Last Ringbearer looks at the War of the Ring (the climactic battle at the end of LOTR) from the perspective of the people of Mordor.
The novel was written by Kirill Yeskov, a Russian palaeontologist, and published to acclaim in his homeland in 1999.
However, last year Yisroel Markov posted his English translation of the book as a free download. It is the official version, having been approved by Yeskov, and is fast gaining in popularity now.
In Yeskov’s retelling, the wizard Gandalf the Grey/White is a warmonger, intent on crushing the scientific and technological initiative of Mordor and its southern allies because science “destroys the harmony of the world and dries up the souls of men!”
The elves aim to become “masters of the world” and turn Middle Earth into a “bad copy” of their magical homeland across the sea.
Barad-dur, also known as the Dark Tower and Sauron’s citadel described as “that amazing city of alchemists and poets, mechanics and astronomers, philosophers and physicians, the heart of the only civilisation in Middle Earth to bet on rational knowledge and bravely pitch its barely adolescent technology against ancient magic.”
The protagonist of The Last Ringbearer is a field medic from Umbar (a southern land), who is assisted by an Orocuen that is, orc scout, who is not a demonic creature like the orcs in The Lord of the Rings, but an ordinary man.
They’re given the task of destroying a mirror in the elf stronghold of Lorien before the elves can further use it to infect Middle Earth with their alien magic.
Meanwhile, the remnants of Mordor’s civilisation fight a guerrilla campaign to sustain the “green shoots of reason and progress”, in opposition to the “static” and “tidy” pseudo-paradise of Middle Earth under the Elven regime.
It sounds very interesting. I think I shall have to download it.
(hat tip to F.O.B. – you know who you are!)
Update: You can download it from here.