Picturing Justice, the On-Line Journal of Law and Popular Culture

Kandel G. Eaton
J.D. is ex-officio newsletter editor for the ABA Committee on International Arms and National Security


Read other reviews:

The Followship of the Ring:
Internet Movie Database
All Movie Guide

The Two Towers:
Internet Movie Database
All Movie Guide

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The creatures of Middle Earth band together to prevent further darkness and destruction. Despite its potential and capabilities to do so the UN hasn't. It is the broken fellowship that must now rely on personal relations and associations to rebuild Iraq. The UN's credibility and direction has been broken by the war in Iraq. Having agreed to the War on Terrorism, it remains to be seen that it will act there either.

Feature article


by Kandel G. Eaton

"Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."


It used to be a generation was twenty years or so. The revival of the sixties decade has taken nearly forty years to repeat. Lord of the Rings was a book affected by wars then and became an appealing escape into counterculture. Forty years later, it is a wildly successful film trilogy, affected by a war on global terrorism, bringing the past with it to a new incarnation of cultural phenomenon. Infinite parallels can be made from LOTR to our socio-political and economic spectrum. As a cinematic conceptualization, LOTR is a psychic meeting point for synergistically related thoughts of mythology, illusion, analogy, symbology, and technology which help enforce our perception of the world.

"The world is changed" is the timeless light to our minds, shining through a mental prism we create to interpret it. With all the rainbow spectrum to influence us, we choose to beam forth our colored understandings. This microcosm expands to the entire world based on the popularity of these multi-faceted and multi-dimensional colorizations. We can fragment any given light through any size prismatic subject to shifting reflections. It has not changed the world. Only how we adapt to it. LOTR taps into the psyche on a very personal level. This source that lights our minds is important to know, because its familiarity has become part of us. The prism of global terror through the many lights of LOTR show our true colors. How we interpret the prism of global terror will lead to annihilation or world peace.


"It is a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door, you step onto the road, and if you don't heed your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
--Bilbo Baggins


The uncertainty of not knowing where you are going in the midst of crises around you is a universal theme that cycles revivals of democracy and freedom for everyone. A just system leads to just people. It is the duty of any democratic government to respond to the will of the people, to be responsive, to serve them. A government created and run by and for and of the people must grow to include all the people of the world in a world government.

LOTR exemplifies how this has always been done through the life and strife of humankind, claiming through the senses that "The World is Changed," from peacetime to war in the microcosm of the Shire because of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins. A pattern revived when one goes after the power to rule the world, war ensues from an alliance of those who would not be ruled. History does repeat in a similar pattern, and in that sense the world is not changed.

The Ring of Power as Inheritance

Has it been forgotten how many years of unsuccessful peaceful diplomacy have already passed? Iraq despite changing regimes is still under UN sanctions. Aragorn in the film wearies and disavows his heritage, as the sixties generation had. But the void left remained empty of the promise of utopian paradise for all the people of the world. There are many parallels in the country freed and its turmoil to that of Aragorn, the future king whose long ago relative kept the ring for his beneficiaries.

The Ring's succession to Gollum (Schmiegal, the 500-year old Hobbitt) is ineffectual in wait for its owner to reclaim it "The ring has a will of its own." Then it was captured for 60 years by Bilbo until he left it and Bag-End to Frodo. In our real world schema it can parallel the formation and sworn destruction of Israel, giving it significance in its biblical proportions. Hatred and destruction are themes that power responds to. The theme is detected only by the aged wizard, Gandalf, who had previously defeated Mordor (in the novel, The Hobbitt), who leads the charge against Mordor this time.

In the Islamic world, women were first given inheritance as their legal right. It has been taken away by Hussein and Bin Laden. Their identity has been maligned. Gender has no direct sources in LOTR, but some thought of women'' role in the present day should be made, since it is a first that women in combat have become POWs. There are no main female characters, but for elves. Hobbitt women are basically homemakers, the princess of privilege in the Two Towers is an anomaly. It is to the race of men to be strong and fight. LOTR was made before Operation Enduring Freedom. The next incarnation of LOTR may well be more suited to the present day foibles and occupation of women as combatants, but not yet, and not here.

A Rush to Judgment

But reel action? That is in both films. LOTR has taken a stand and followed through. Where is our will? We decry war for peace, meaning that the status quo, however unsuccessful, won't succumb to leadership and actual justice for 9/11/01 and the continuing threat of nuclear terrorist violence. The Two Towers of Hussein and Bin Laden are evil aggressors in the prism of global terror that the Muslim world has no solutions for.

They refuse peace. 9/11 began the most recent change in our world. And wanting to get justice for being attacked, the USA seeks out a way to get it: The War on Global Terrorism. The theme moves to the real world and labels this hatred and destruction. And we saw its ugly head reared in the oppression of the Iraqis when Saddam (Sarumon) rebuilt his army in the image of Bin Laden (Sauron's) 9/11 partial victory.

All should band with the USA and have only in principle. "The ring cannot stay here," Lord Elrond says about the ring being brought to Rivendale. Real action is another matter entirely. Frodo (representing the Iraqis, not lacking intelligence or drive, but as Frodo lacking defensive resources) or Gandalf (the USA and its alliance) stand alone. Now that more is known about what is going on in both worlds, human nature goes into denial. The one striking feature of the Global War on Terror is that THEY WANT TO KILL US! We use our LOTR prism--view to defend our stand. Others see their prism--view of us as aggressive, occupying conquerors. Bin Laden and Hussein started this conflict. Saruman and Sauron continually cause conflict to conquer for themselves. It always has been the same conflict.

The United Nations and the Races of Middle Earth

Elf Lord Elrond said "The race of man is failing....It should've ended that day but evil was allowed to endure (In the Desert Storm the UN mandate did not go far enough and left Hussein in power)..there's no strength left in the world of men. They are scattered and divided, leaderless. (The League of Nations disbanded due to lack of will, and the UN not following through on its resolutions may end the same.)"

The Ring of power is the threat of terrorism wielded by ruthless murderers willing to do anything by any means; wanting to go undetected until they choose the time and place of conflict. Both cyber and nuclear weapons are aimed at each government on Earth. New lights for the prism to interpret. The fellowship that is breaking is allied unity due to fear and greed (those countries doing business in Iraq that may lose that revenue permanently in their depressed economies). The fellowship breaks and the UN, even after Enduring Freedom has not regained its credibility as a useful organization that benefits its mandate of conflict resolution. Even the trees in the film decide to fight, and take a side, something the UN has yet to do. A lesson of justice we can learn from the film because we have not seemed to have learned this lesson elsewhere.


The Two Towers aligned is Osma bin Laden as the Wizard Saruman creating his oruk-hai soldiers. Saddam Hussein as Lord Sauron, who lost his first war to conquer Middle Earth, and won't be denied world power even in defeat. They have banded together against the world, even though they are thought to be dead. Their underlings keep them alive, and recruit by greed, in this life and the next. Wormtongue symbolizes these gross activities.

Twin Towers of Evil

Sarumon and Sauron do not offer help but find all in their path enmity. And destroyed if no use. Gollum surviving the torture of Sauron (Bin Laden) parallels survivors of 9/11 and the newly freed Iraqis and what happened to them was not their choice, but of individual survival to overcome the hatred and destruction that they witnessed.

There was no hate so definite as the bombing of the World Trade Center. Our methods and media changed overnight, all try to capitalize on this great tragedy, which should've been prevented during the last administration. We paid create Hussein and Bin Laden (financial tracking for evidence is irrefutable proof) who represent each destroyed tower of the world trade center. Sarumon and Sauron, are the literary twin axes of evil of singular purpose. The schizo, evil Gollum as France, Germany, Russia supports Frodo because he wants the ring back. Being near Frodo and Sam (Muslims and their energy resources) other makes it appear possible, although he is torn, by his own motives, stuck in his own way of life, different from his own people, feeling betrayed the longer he connects with others. Proof that being alone a long time can make you alone even with help. Yet Gandalf reappears to lift the burden from Frodo, as promised in the Fellowship, the same way as the USA got the unanimous lifting of sanctions of Iraq from the UN Security Council, and relieved, both now relieved from each other's exclusion.

Regime Change as an Unsafe Result

Other countries will follow this lead now that the "nuclear floodgates" have been opened by the UN's lack of will. North Korea has. Pakistan and India are making such overtures. We know that sanctions don't work, but what has worked in many countries like Cambodia, Afghanistan, Central and Eastern Europe, and in China, has been the creation of the rule of civil and criminal law. Here is finally something gone right, however indeliberate. Would the Chinese model work in Iraq, too? And in other "hotspots" like Africa. We should be in Africa. The prism rainbow loses its brilliant spectrum when singularly focused on one color. We choose the color or colors we view in our prism. We form prisms to protect us from the unknown.

Light is infinite, and from many sources. All of LOTR's elves have a halo of light around them, seemingly with no prisms or spectral divisions to cloud them-- a naïve light representing internal existence. Because of this Queen Galadriel is called the "Lady of Light." Elves were solitary unto themselves, and rarely collaborated with any other race. Queen Galadriel was the bearer of one of the rings. Her ring, called Nenya , enabled the Mirror of Galadriel to see into the future and gave her the vision to see Sauron's moves. It created a prism of Sauron in her; an unnatural division in her being she was unable to shatter, and she changed. For the elves, seeing a rainbow was defeating in the sense that they needed to collaborate with the other races. They came out but stopped, limited by their prisms. LOTR never gets to the goal of a rainbow of light, the full spectrum without having to form protective prisms. This is why the elves sent much needed troops to help Rohan. It may not be possible to exist without the prisms. All the races of Middle Earth had a part in the creation of Sauron and Sarumon, as all the countries of the UN had a part in creating Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. All have been touched by these evils. All have made prisms to deal with them.

The UN should be its most active in the enforcement of its mandates. It still hasn't done so and this may lead to its own destruction. No will to defend positions already taken, conditions must evolve again in a new perception to keep the war on terror going, to be inclusive of all the races, to see the entire spectrum.

The creatures of Middle Earth band together to prevent further darkness and destruction. Despite its potential and capabilities to do so the UN hasn't. It is the broken fellowship that must now rely on personal relations and associations to rebuild Iraq. The UN's credibility and direction has been broken by the war in Iraq. Having agreed to the War on Terrorism, it remains to be seen that it will act there either.

The UN's refusal to face down Hussein will leave a permanent scar on the UN's credibility. From Bin Laden and Hussein came the collateral damage to the UN. The collateral damage of Middle Earth is the elves retreating prior to Mordor's attack. The inadvertent victims in LOTR are more theoretical and environmental: the land will be in darkness and destroyed by the industrialized economy of Mordor. With the oil crisis also at stake, a case can be made for energy independence by the USA as the inadvertent victim. The nine races of Middle Earth took the magic rings and destroyed themselves in isolation and surprise. The future of the UN is at stake. Bin Laden won't ever step down willingly. How many more repeats? When "fallen out of memory," again, will we keep repeating ourselves to a final destruction? This cycle is unchanged.


The Middle East has long had throned kingdoms. Saddam came to power as a dictator, though it was clear he sought to establish a blood-line of rulers through his sons. The purpose of Operation Enduring Freedom was to free Iraq only from his regime. It remains to be seen if Iraq will refuse democracy, but instead opt for a ruler or king like the rest of its compatriots. We know the race of men in Middle Earth seek a king to unite them again to glory...perhaps by the
Christmas 2003 release of LOTR, Iraq and the rest of the world will know itself better to decide whether they want more war or peace and are willing to work at getting it.

It is far from over yet, and Sauron and Sarumon are not the only evil to contend with. It revolves in the same ways, and unbroken through new generations the world will never change. New prisms to create, interpret and follow. The fights in all of us will bloody the world, but will never permanently replace the all too human urges to kill and conquer at all expense. It is the same battle no matter where it takes place, no matter whose prism defines it.

LOTR will remain timeless in both its appeal and descriptions of human nature. Is the world truly changed? One light can fragment in many ways. Perhaps the colors fragment into what we want to see so much that we miss that there is one source of the light, one light distorted through a prism we created. The times set for LOTR and the War on Global Terror seem to similarly motivate and influence humankind. The recent bombings around the world demonstrate that the ring of power has taken on human form. Must we always need some personified belief to follow? Our prisms are not enough to show the world is changed. It remains as it is.

Posted May 27, 2003

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