Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Becoming Evil to Better Fight Evil

Some fine themes in the Lord of the Rings books were neglected or even reversed in the well-known film based on the story.  During a parley before their last big battle, and emissary of Sauron, a splendid character who styled himself "the Mouth of Sauron" came out to the heroes to bluster and intimidate.  In the book it went like this:
...he mocked, turning to Aragorn with scorn.  "It needs more to make a king than a piece of elvish glass, or a rabble such as this.  Why, any brigand of the hills can show as good a following!" 
Aragorn said naught in answer, but he took the other's eye and held it and for a moment they strove thus; but soon, though Aragorn did not stir nor move hand to weapon, the other quailed and gave back as if menaced with a blow.  "I am a herald and ambassador, and may not be assailed!" he cried. 
"Where such laws hold," said Gandalf, "it is also the custom for ambassadors to use less insolence.  But no one has threatened you.  You have naught to fear from us, until your errand is done.  But unless your master has come to new wisdom, then with all his servants you will be in great peril."
The ambassador is later allowed to retire from the field, humiliated but unharmed.

Here's how it goes in the movie.  The opposite outcome - unprovoked violence against an unarmed noncombatant, followed by a joke.  Thus the "good guys" become more like the wicked enemy they are seeking to master.  If the bad guys weren't so ugly, you wouldn't be able to tell the sides apart.

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