Alternative Lord of the Rings

By Legal Eagle

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.

18 Comments

  1. Nick Ferrett
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The thing I love about this post is the tone of revelation that accompanies LE’s confession that she had a girlhood crush on Faramir.

  2. Patrick
    Posted February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    How ironic!

    I too love the LOTR, I’ve read it at least 5 times and I’ve read everything else associated with it, except the very latest stuff edited by his grandson.

    I think I’ll give this a go too.

  3. Posted February 18, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I must admit that I didn’t mind Ugluk.

    The orcs, at least the originals (not necessarily the Uruk-Hai created by Saruman) were elves that had been mentally twisted – I think that’s in the Silmarillion.

    It means that

    (1) like Elves, there should have been two Orc sexes – and orclings, as long as orcs weren’t so evil as to practice infanticide constantly

    (2) Orc’s would have been physically well-knit, and I suspect immortal like Elves.

    (3) If they could be psychologically twisted, and the Elves were as advertised, I’d see an obligation on Elves to capture their quasi-kin when possible rather than kill, with a view to psychotherapy (assisted perhaps by large doses of pipeweed or magical brews). Instead, the Elves must have had an attitude that their mental health system costs would be too high, so FOAD to the mental crips.

    Hmmm. The Orc’s backstory makes their place in LE’s “bad/mad/sad” criminal taxonomy less clear cut,

  4. Posted February 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Not a huge LOTR fan myself as you probably know, but as far as evil/ambiguous characters go I did quite like Gollum. Though typically it’s the portrayal of him in The Hobbit that I’m drawn to, not the longwinded exposition that occurs in LOTR.

    Michael Moorcock once wrote a long, rather funny take down of Tolkien, Lewis, Lord Dunsany, and A A Milne called ‘Epic Pooh’ (it’s online) praising Sauron with words to this effect:

    ‘Anyone who hates hobbits can’t be all bad.’

  5. Posted February 18, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I loved LOTR as a child, and so got to enjoy it without an awareness that Tolkien hated the Industrial Revolution and desperately wanted to unpick it. I think if I read it as an adult with that knowledge I wouldn’t enjoy it so much. Tolkien’s politics are one of the reasons the tagline to Bring Laws and Gods is ‘factories in fantasy stories are all in Mordor’.

  6. Posted February 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s interesting that the rewrite is from a Russian perspective; I’m not sure if this sort of idea for a rewrite would ever have come from the Anglosphere. (Or, if it had, it probably would have been satirical, not serious). It would be like, say, rewriting Bambi to be sympathetic with the hunters, or rewriting the history of WWII to be sympathetic to Hitler.

    Maybe this is to do with differing perspectives on 20th century Russian history/the rise and fall of communism.

    Incidentally a satirical history of WWII from Hitler’s perspective could be quite interesting (has it been done? Maybe Chaplins ‘The Great Dictator’ counts?). Though you’d have treat your subject matter quite carefully. One of my favourite books is Henry Fielding’s mock-biography of career criminal Jonathon Wild – a very funny book, though probably less shocking now than it was at the time, when Wild’s crimes were still fresh.

  7. Posted February 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    The orcs, at least the originals (not necessarily the Uruk-Hai created by Saruman) were elves that had been mentally twisted – I think that’s in the Silmarillion.

    Only read some of the Silmarillion but did re-read LOTR about seven years back, I think Tolkien had some passages in there about how the orcs ‘developed’. He saw it as a mixture of nature and nurture. The orcs were selected for nastiness and interbred with that in mind, and raised in a culture of fear and intolerance, etc. Basically your typical libertarian society. 😉

  8. Posted February 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    David Brin has already gone there back in 2002.

    [email protected] The Orcs are surely trapped in the ultimate command economy 🙂

  9. Posted February 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    David Brin’s take down of Lucas’ vision in the Star Wars universe is a thing of beauty.

  10. Posted February 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    There’s also “Hunt for Gollum” an unofficial (and quite well done) short that wasn’t covered in LOTR, but … there is Bored of the Rings (my copies keep going AWOL – and follow the link at least to read the spoof names)

  11. DrPaul
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    LOTR could also be retold as the story of four young males who, radicalised by the teaching of their aged, bearded spiritual leader, undertake a jihad to destroy several towers with thousands of casualties, create massive explosions, incite environmental extremists to demolish an industrial complex, and re-establish a feudal regime headed by an absolute monarch who is also a student of the aged, bearded spiritual leader.

  12. Posted February 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    I have heard Osama bin L described as a spoiled little rich kid who watched too many Bond movies at an impressionable age.

  13. Kyle
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    As much as I don’t like Nazi biased stuff (which seems to be popular among historians as much as they deny it)

    This particular idea does sounds fascinating as long as people find a way to unite just when all seems lost or some kind of moral lesson comes out of it.

    I really don’t agree with pointless fighting/wars like a certain war the USA is in and a certain President that keeps on lying about ending the war so the troops can come home for some much needed R and R.

  14. Kyle
    Posted April 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    For every couple generations there seems to be an *AntiChrist* type character always wanting world power claiming to be good then oppresses people making those who oppose *vanish*.

    Shortly after those wars there is a scientific and spiritual awakening with people from ALL religions that try to turn the clock back to stop progress.

    After every major war there has always been a strong period of progress and knowledge both technological and spiritual.
    Especially in the last 200 years in an increasing rate which now certain groups are attempting to shut down the flow of information in one last hurrah.

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