Thursday, May 29, 2014

nepotism in "Fellowship of the Ring"

Last month, I watched Fellowship of the Ring again.  It is an amazing movie, and I watched all 17 hours of bonus commentary.  However...!



Aragorn is obsessed with the "weakness that runs in his veins" because he is inherited from Isildur.  Three thousand years ago!  Even if his ancestors had children at age 50, that's 60 generations!  He is only 0.000000000000000086% blood from Isildur by this point! [1]  We should be far more concerned whether his more recent ancestors have weakness in their blood or not.

Also, the story makes a huge deal about how Aragorn is the ONLY ONE who can unite Gondor.  At one point, it looks like Aragorn will refuse, and Boromir goes on about how the race of men will fail now, and the White City will come to ruin.  There is no one else in all the tens of thousands in Gondor who can lead?  In 3000 years, not a single other leader emerged?  We have to wait for Aragorn with his 0.000000000000000086% royal blood (blood tainted by weakness, no less)?

Other than these problems, Lord of the Rings has great lessons.  Throughout many pre-launch moments on my software projects when it was "darkest before the dawn", I reminded myself and others that the journey always feels gritty and broken while you're in it.  One does not simply walk into Mordor.  It's only afterwards that the epic elf songs are written and sung throughout centuries.  While you're trekking to Mount Doom, it does not feel epic at all!

Also Lord of the Rings teaches us that even a hobbit (or two, since Frodo had a cofounder) can contend with the will of Sauron.

But the nepotism is lame!  Some random dude in Gondor should have risen up and said, "Hey, I'm a great leader too, how about we stop waiting decades for Aragorn and just unite under me instead?" and they should have gotten on with it.

[1] computed via (0.5)^60

9 comments:

ArC said...

You're assuming no inbreeding in Aragorn's heritage, which seems unlikely, especially for a royal family in a medieval-ish society.

Christopher Chang said...

The proportion is closer to 1.8% * [probability of no misattributed paternity through 60 generations], due to the Y chromosome.

Also, ArC is correct about inbreeding: it's not mathematically possible for Aragorn to have had 2^60 distinct (great^58)-grandparents, unless Middle-Earth is way more populous than Tolkien has ever implied. Instead, most ancestors contribute many, many times.

Peter Norvig said...

I also saw the LOTR films as allegories on project management ... how do you motivate teams, and how do you get the allies to actually show up at the scheduled time ...

gregbo said...

To really appreciate Aragorn's concerns about his susceptibility to the Ring, and why no one in Gondor rose up to challenge Sauron, you have to read the LotR books.

David said...

Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic, and wrote, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. However that is very clumsily put, and sounds more self-important than I feel. For as a matter of fact, I have consciously planned very little...." (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #142 to Father Robert Murray) Knowing that, it is easy to find many references to Catholic ideas in The Lord of the Rings. The meek shall inherit the earth, give to Caesar what is Caesar's (like the Ring itself), temptation to sin (the Ring beckons), the real existence of pure evil, implicit distrust and dislike of power (even possibly hatred of power, as Nietzsche claims), bad outcomes due to committing various sins (including Greed, Lust, and Envy, like wanting the Ring and what it enables), the burdens of leadership (the responsibilities and dealing with the temptation to abuse power), we are all weak and sinful and capable of great good, ...

Could Aargorn's concern about "weakness that runs in his veins" be a reference to Original Sin (Adam and Eve eating an apple in Eden, Isildur wanting the Ring instead of destroying it, resulting in the fall from grace where all are now weak and capable of sin, including Aargorn)?

The metaphor is imperfect; but Tolkien himself says that Catholic religious elements are absorbed in the story with little conscious planning.

P.H. said...

"The Serial Dilutions of Isildur: A Partial Analysis of Leadership Failure Modes in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Series" --N. Wang

Niniane said...

Chris Chang, thank you for the correction of 1.8% paternity.

Niniane said...

Peter Norvig, I'm glad you also see LotR as a project management fable! I agree scheduling was important, like Gandalf on the fifth dawn.

I also think it teaches about motivation, like convincing the elves or the Ents to fight instead of staying neutral.

And about how it is likely you will make lots of mistakes but it's important to keep your eye on the goal and keep going!

gregbo said...

Fellowship of the Ring 60th Anniversary: How the Masterpiece Reflects JRR Tolkien's WW1 Involvement