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October 8, 2005

“Darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.”
Posted by Patrick at 11:33 AM *

The nine Senators who voted against the anti-torture amendment:

  1. Sen. Wayne Allard [R-Colorado]
  2. Sen. Kit Bond [R-Missouri]
  3. Sen. Tom Coburn [R-Oklahoma]
  4. Sen. Thad Cochran [R-Mississippi]
  5. Sen. John Cornyn [R-Texas]
  6. Sen. James Inhofe [R-Oklahoma]
  7. Sen. Pat Roberts [R-Kansas]
  8. Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-Alabama]
  9. Sen. Ted Stevens [R-Alaska]
Henceforth to be known as the Nazgul.

(Meme via Jim Henley.)

Comments on "Darkness went with them, and they cried with the voices of death.":
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:01 PM:

"They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men; but too often they beheld only the phantoms and delusions of Sauron."

#2 ::: ds ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:27 PM:

"you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness."

#3 ::: Zack ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:29 PM:

I am feeling a bit narcissistic today, so I'll point out that Jim linked the word "Nazgul" to my post on the topic which is titled Pro-Torture Senators or the Nazgul?

#5 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Every day I find a new reason that I'm not living in my home state of Oklahoma. NOT ONE, BUT TWO! The shame...THE SHAME!!

#6 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:22 PM:

"Come NOT between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in they turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."


Of course, after that impressive-sounding speech, he got his butt kicked by a three-foot tall hobbit and a girl with serious identity issues.

#7 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 01:38 PM:

Most of those people are adamantly "pro-life" when asked about the abortion issue, too.

Odd, that.

#8 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 03:46 PM:

The Nazgûl indeed. I like it. Do you cast Dubya as Sauron, or just the Mouth of Sauron (with, say, Karl Rove as the main dude, the one with no, that won't work).

OK, the analogy has limits. That doesn't make it a bad analogy.

PS. You can spell 'Nazgûl' correctly by using 'û' for the û. This suggestion brought to you by PedanTech International.

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 03:49 PM:

I'm not surprised at Stevens and Inhofe being on that list. They're two of the biggest non-thinking Bush/GOP supporters around. IMHO, if Inhofe left Oklahoma, the state's average IQ would rise five points. (What it would do for his destination is another matter.) Stevens is a cheerleader for More Oil Drilling, especially in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, but everywhere else also suits him just fine.

#10 ::: Elusis ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 04:10 PM:

And so when will the DNC or other progressive body start describing the Republican party as the "pro-torture party"?

#11 ::: Manon ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Xopher, I get bogged down in the sheer number of candidates for Wormtongue.

#12 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 04:45 PM:

I been SAYING Oklahoma is the reddest of red states. I bet y'all thought I was exaggerating. I have this really strong urge to call my mother and ask if she still thinks Abu Ghraib was "just a few bad apples." She really said that to me. It is impossible to overestimate the degree to which they've swallowed the koolaid. I wonder what the hometown take on the DeLay indictments is...


#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:01 PM:

At least, none of the Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of torture. Right?

#14 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:21 PM:

Serge: For some reason, one Democrat - Corzine, NJ - abstained. Seems a sensible chap otherwise - on examination, he didn't vote that day at all, so I presume he was away.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:29 PM:

It's a safe bet that Corzine was off campaigning for Governor of NJ when the vote was taken.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:46 PM:

Still, Corzine's timing seems suspicious.

By the way, why are Republican-leaning states referred to as Red States. I'd have thought that Red would be associated with Democrats since we apparently hate America and would most willingly turn the whole country to the Kremlin if it were still around.

#17 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 05:55 PM:

It used to be, as I understand it, Red-Blue on elections - Red the challenger, Blue the incumbent. Then, in 2000, the maps stayed in the public view constantly, for days or weeks - previously they'd been in the next day's papers and not much else - and "red" and "blue" became solid definitions as, well, Red States and Blue States. Simply chance that it happened to be R. challenging D. when it happened rather than the other way around.

(Randomly, in the UK, party colours - so I am told - got fixed in the mid-seventies, after colour television came out. Previously local parties chose their own colours, but this confused viewers when the television news interviewed Conservatives wearing red or Labour wearing green - their local colours, sure, but the rest of the country was baffled)

#18 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 06:06 PM:

Thanks, Andrew. I thought this Red/Blue thing was a recent advent. It's a relief to find out I was right.

#19 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Someone should photoshop their faces onto the bodies of Dungeons & Dragons beasties.

Maybe arrange them into a group picture, and call it "Pickman's models".

#20 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 06:43 PM:

Jonathan Moeller: "Be you living or be you dark undead, I will kick your skanky ass if you touch him."

#21 ::: John Slade ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Thanks. I'd been looking for these freaks names for a while - nothing easy had them.

#22 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:11 PM:

All right, who gets to be the Witch King? Are we going by seniority?

#23 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 08:48 PM:

Actually, the Red/Blue thing is kinda neat -- the networks assign the colors red and blue to the two parties according to which has the Presidency, and alternate between the colors. So if (say) the incumbent was a Republican for four elections, then the Republicans would be red, then blue, then red, then blue.

In 2000, the incumbent was a Democrat, and the incumbent's color was blue that year. In 2004, the incumbent was a Republican, and the incumbent's color was red that year. So for two very contested elections, red has been the Republicans, and Red State/Blue State has become established as a meme.

Now in 2008, the incumbent is still a Republican (always assuming there won't be a bunch of impeachin' goin' on, and we end up with President Pelosi after a saner 2006 -- hey, I can dream, yeah?) and so states who go Republican will be blue and those who go Dem will be red, and blogtopia (yes, skippy invented that term) will melt down entirely.

Or maybe they'll just keep red as Republican, who knows? I have no idea how entrenched the Red/Blue State meme is in the general populace.

#24 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 09:16 PM:

If we had to pick a Witch-King, they'd all hold spiteful hearings over who got to wear the impressive-looking spiky crown thing.

Lila: And at that point, the Witch-King realized that, perhaps, he ought to have paid a *little* more attention to certain ancient prophecies...

#25 ::: Saucyworchester ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:08 PM:

Oklahoma - we have no excuse for Inhoff or Coburn - we have had some decent Senators in the past, and Reps as well. But we hang our heads in shame and promise to fight harder next election.

We are not all evil.

An Okie.

#26 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 10:49 PM:

Given that the House leadership have made it clear this amendment won't survive conference committee, where do they fit in? As Uruk-Hai? And remember, Senator Frist voted in favor, after holding up consideration of the entire bill purely to quell this amendment. So I'm expecting that the House-Senate reconciled bill will not contain the anti-torture provision, and all the Senate Republicans will happily line up to pass the bill anyway. So at least these nine were up front about it, instead of hiding behind procedural trickery.

Oh, and yes, Senator Corzine was on the gubernatorial campaign trail. Clearly, his vote wasn't needed.

#27 ::: Victor S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:24 PM:

Actually, I can never remember which side is supposed to be red, and which blue.

#28 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2005, 11:48 PM:

I thought it was very weird when the blue state/red state color code got set, I was used to "the blue team" being the one playing the US side or the Home Company, and "the red team" playing USSR or the antagonist role (on proposals, "the Red Team" were the people who tried to tear the proposal into shreds wherever they saw something that looked shreddable, so that "the Blue team" writing the proposal would go back and fix whatever holes the Red Team noticed and address all the weaknesses...)

#29 ::: Flora ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 12:00 AM:

Oh, that is priceless. So perfect a description. (I think the Mouth of Sauron is whoever the White House Press Secretary happens to be - though Scotty M. is not nearly as scary as Karl Rove.)

#30 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 01:21 AM:

Actually, I can never remember which side is supposed to be red, and which blue.

Red = Republican

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 07:37 AM:

President Pelosi, Michael? That would be interesting. Damned unlikely, but indeed one can dream.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 08:54 AM:

Coming soon! Cape Fear, starring Robert de Niro as Judith Miller. Even scarier than the original Mitchum version...

#33 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 09:13 AM:

Oh, great.

At least we sent a Democratic to the Senate last election.

Not my city, though. Unfortunately my city hosts the real power in this country: Focus on the Family.

Why is it that Bush and Rove don't feel they have to give Congress privileged information on their Court pick, but James Dobson has veto power?

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 09:16 AM:

Is that a trick question, Richard?

#35 ::: sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 10:54 AM:

I thought the press got the red blue thing from the crips and the bloods.

#36 ::: Beth Meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 12:44 PM:

The current "red state" locution gives new meaning to "better dead than red". The stalinists have taken over the republican party.

I must say, I was awfully surprised to see that Jon Kyl had voted for the anti-torture amendment. Must have been part of a deal with McCain.

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 01:39 PM:

What about John Kyl, Beth?

Isn't it ghastly that our representatives have to bring up whether or not torture should be used? I'm old-fashioned. Maybe it's because of all those World War 2 movies I grew up with, but I always thought it was bad guys like the Gestapo who casually use torture.

#38 ::: L.N. Hammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 04:31 PM:

Kyl tends to be a fellow-traveler with the Nine Riders on most issues.


#39 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 04:53 PM:

a depressing supposition: how many of the 46 do you think really oppose torture, and how many were punishing Bush for Miers?

It's not as if they haven't voted differently in the past.

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 04:53 PM:

He's probably pissed that they only made nine rings.

#41 ::: CmdrOverbite ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 06:46 PM:

The whole red/blue thing has never been standardized or systematic before now. I remember being a young political junkie watching the '88 election returns and wondering why the Dems were red on two networks and blue on the third.

All the talk of long-standing standardized conventions smells like an ad hoc explanation after-the-fact to me. My guess is that different outlets had different and arbitrary standards -- some alternated, some were consistently red for Reps and blue for Dems, some were vice versa, and some were entirely different color schemes. It was the post-2000 navel-gazing about the geographical/cultural divide that had people using the phrases "Red State" and "Blue State" the way we do now, especially an article by David Brooks in the Atlantic.

I would be highly surprised if the networks followed the alleged "standard" and reversed the colors for the 2008 election.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 07:11 PM:

Was the Contract with America the first time that politicians started using ad agencies to name their 'products'? In all the years I had been in the USA before I could vote, they were usually named after their originators. But the Contract came along. True, it didn't fly too well because it could - and was - easily turned into the Contract ON America. But they got better since then. After all, if you oppose the PATRIOT Act, they can suggest this must mean that you are against patriotic acts and you find yourself on the defensive.

#43 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 07:26 PM:

I'm a little surprised that Santorum isn't on that list...

#44 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 08:59 PM:

I'm going to have to reread Tolkien, since I don't recall Sauron making any rings for the Trolls, and yet, there's Kit Bond...

#45 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 09:43 PM:

Thanks, Patrick. You have saved me the trouble of looking them up. I find myself relieved that I've never lived in any of the states these nine men represent. I wonder if any of them are up for re-election in 2006 and what if anything this vote will mean -- will their constituents agree with them no matter what, or will they be challenged and forced to defend themselves? (I guess not in Oklahoma, anyway...)

#46 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 10:01 PM:

And yet BartCop is in OK. He must bring up the average IQ about a point or two all by his lonesome (for all his protestation of having an IQ of 65).

Serge: if the House goes Dem in 2006 and both Junior and Smirk are impeached (or Junior is impeached and the stress makes Smirk's shrivelled heart gasp its last), then yeah. President Pelosi. Stranger things have happened!

#47 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2005, 11:15 PM:

Thank the good lord that I a) didn't vote for Mr. Bond and b) live in a saner state now.

And as to the witch king? The pointy hat isn't big enough to fit most of their heads.

#48 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:43 AM:

Now is the time to write to your senators (assuming they aren't numbered among the Nine), thanking them for voting for the anti-torture amendment.

#49 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 05:03 AM:

Chris: Sauron taught men, elves, and dwarves how to make the rings rather than making them himself. Of course he hid backdoors in the code so when he forged the one ring it controlled all the others. Or had the potential to do so. The rhyme starts out

Three rings for elven kings under the sky
Seven for the dwarf lords in their halls of stone

So the dwarves did have rings.


#50 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 05:40 AM:

Mary Kay wrote: Sauron taught men, elves, and dwarves how to make the rings rather than making them himself. Of course he hid backdoors in the code so when he forged the one ring it controlled all the others. Or had the potential to do so.

Only the Second-Age elves and Sauron had ring-making capability. The elves -- specifically, Celebrimbor -- made the Three: Sauron seems not so much to have inserted backdoors as to have hacked their code ("he learned all their secrets, and betrayed them") to produce the One. He didn't teach men to make the Nine but handed them out: "Nine he gave to Mortal Men ..." says Gandalf in chapter 2. Likewise, when Glóin tells the Council of Sauron's offer to the dwarves, he indicates that the Seven were also gifts: "Rings he would give for it, such as he gave of old."


#51 ::: Lizzy Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 08:17 AM:

It is a pleasure to hang around a group of folks who can turn from LOTR to the US Congress without getting whiplash. Over in Open Thread 51 we have been discussing Leavenworth, with grim and (I submit) premature delight.

Now is the time to write to your senators (assuming they aren't numbered among the Nine), thanking them for voting for the anti-torture amendment.

You are right, Jim, but I have to say it pisses me off that I should have to stroke senatorial ego for doing what is so evidently THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Of course, it pisses me off even more that such an amendment should have to be presented to Congress, and that Bush should even consider vetoing the bill it's attached to. But then, I needn't worry about that. It won't end up in the bill Bush sees -- it'll get dropped in conference, because the House won't pass it.

#52 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 08:44 AM:

McCain as Theoden would explain a lot....

#53 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 09:20 AM:

Mary Kay, Dave is right. The Three were made by the Elves, and "Sauron's hand never touched them or sullied them." The Man-rings and Dwarf-rings were made by Sauron himself.

#54 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 09:41 AM:

The Elves made all the rings except for the One, but the Elven-smiths were instructed by Sauron and he knew all their secrets.

Sauron took all the rings but the Three in a war, and gave nine to men.

The Dwarves claim that at least some of their rings were given directly to them by the Elves without Sauron's intervention, which may or may not be true.

At any rate, Sauron eventually took them all back, apart from those destroyed by dragons.

#55 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 10:46 AM:

Well, all but the Three. Which of course you meant.

Hmm, I might have been misremembering. While I reread TLOTR on a regular basis, I haven't read the Appendices in some time.

#56 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 11:22 AM:

Weren't there some concerns that when the One was destroyed, it would have a negative impact on the Three?

I remember that being mentioned, but not if it was confirmed or denied.

(On topic: torture == Bad. I thought the Dems had given up making a fuss about it. Nice to see I was wrong.)

#57 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Laura - yes, but not because Sauron made them. He made the One so it had power over them, and had to put much of his own power into it to make that work (which is why he faded into the Outer Darkness when it was destroyed). I could speculate why it should be that their power would diminish when the One was destroyed, but it does seem that it did.

#58 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Xopher - I know he didn't make them. I can't remember which Ring(s) got made first.

One would think that if Sauron learned how to make Rings from the Elves, then the Elven-Rings would be more powerful than, or at least not affected by, a derivative Ring. (What a Lot of Capital Letters.) But OTOH it doesn't seem like the Elves were interested in designing rings that had power over other rings. Perhaps Sauron designed his ring to be backwards-compatible.

#59 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:36 PM:

At the end of the First Age, Sauron apparently repented, but vanished from the ken of the Host of the West as a means of refusing to return to Valinor to be judged. (Manwë's herald, Eonwe, didn't have authority to judge a member of his own order, so all he could do was tell Sauron he would be returned for judgement.

Yes, many of the management in Valinor appear to suffer from being Lawful Stupid.)

Sauron then went around in a fair form calling himself 'the Lord of Gifts'; Gil-galad (and Elrond, Cirdan, and Celeborn and Galadriel) would have nothing to do with him and forbade him from coming into Lindon, the elf kingdom in the remnant of Beleriand, west of the Blue Mountains. (This is where the Havens are in The Lord of the Rings.)

Celebrimbor of Hollin, on the other hand, had his curiosity get the better of him; son of Curufin and grandson of Fëanor, one supposes that he's disadvantaged in showing sense.

What Celebrimbor wanted was to be able to 'heal the hurts of Arda' -- to slow or stop the damaging effects of time, to, in effect, make areas of the creation un-marred.

What Sauron -- in his fair, persuasive, "Lord of Gifts" guise -- told him and showed him and helped him to do produced the lesser rings of power and the twenty Great Rings.

Aside from other characteristics, any of the Great Rings allowed the exercise of will to affect the environment, but did not set limits on what or how. (Think of it as an early command line interface...)

Of those twenty, three were made by Celebrimbor alone, and these are the ones he considered the actual master-works. (These are the eventual, 'unsullied', Elf-rings.)

When Sauron made the One Ring in secret, he effectively used the knowledge of how the rings were made to create a controlling, master ring that would allow him to use the existing Great Rings to enslave their wearers and anybody under the sway of their wearers.

"But the elves were aware of him, and took off their rings."

Sauron attacked Hollin to take the Great Rings, captured Celebrimbor, and tortured him to make him tell him where the three, purely Elven, rings were.

Celebrimbor didn't, though he did surrender (or Sauron found) the seventeen rings Sauron had had a hand in making; Sauron's forces used Celebrimbor's naked, mangled body as a battle-standard for some while thereafter.

Galadriel got away because she (and her children) went through Khazad-dum to Anduin; Celebrimbor, keeping the long grudge over the sack of Doriath, refused to enter into a dwarf dwelling and lead a remnant of the people of Hollin north, where they met Elrond and a force out of Lindon.

This is when Imladris -- Rivindell -- gets founded; the survivors of Hollin and Elrond's force aren't enough to fight Sauron's forces in the open, so they get besieged, and Sauron, thinking to make himself master of Middle-Earth, attacks Lindon and Gil-galad.

They're just holding the passes in the Blue Mountains, and in a state of increasing desperation, when Tar-Minastir, King of Numenor, sends a great fleet to their aid. Sauron makes it back, just, to Mordor and Mount Doom, after a very bad campaign season that involves the first battle of Dagorlad with only a tithe of his bodyguard.

All of the forces Sauron had arrayed to take over the world, or at least Eriador and Lindon, are destroyed; Eriador is ruined, and takes a thousand years or more to recover as much as it will; Sauron starts to turn his attention to Numenor, and for two thousand years, there is war between the Elves and Sauron.

During the start of that war, Sauron can still take fair, persuasive guise -- he only loses this ability in the Whelming of Numenor, when his naked spirit has to flee back to Middle-Earth, over the angry sea, and re-embody itself -- and he uses the seventeen Great Rings as ways to win influence by giving them away.

The ones he gives to men get him mighty undead servants, for fear of death defines man; the ones he gives to dwarves can make them proud and greedy, but little else, because Aulë the Smith made the dwarves to resist dominion, and it is very likely that dragons ate four of those seven.

(Note that the last of those seven was in dwarf hands almost up to Bilbo's day; it was taken from Thorin Oakenshield's father.)

So, anyway, the three elf-rings were made for the elves; the other seventeen weren't made for men or dwarves, they were Celebrimbor's practice pieces and distributed by Sauron for his own advantage after he took them in the sack of Hollin.

#60 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:40 PM:

Re: Red/Blue coloring.

According to my grandfather, a former NBC news president:

In 1972 on election night, a subordinate of my grandfather [name removed; it's not important] wanted a big map on the wall with each state colored in for which way they were voting. My grandfather shot it down, saying it would give the wrong idea and make, for example, Montana seem more important than Rhode Island.

By 1976 my grandfather had left and the subordinate did it anyway. He (the subordinate) and John Chancellor jointly decided to make red the color of Republicans because red is the color of radicalism. It was a swipe at Republicans.

Of course, a few times it has switched up. My grandfather remembers Geraldine Ferraro bemoaning a "sea of Republicans"--all colored-blue states--in 1984 during the Reagan reelection.

Now, of course, red/blue has entered the vocabulary, even independent of elections, and my grandfather still likes to tell his (former) subordinate, "Look what you did."

#61 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 12:46 PM:

Thanks, Graydon.

What is it that makes Tolkein so cool?

#62 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 01:17 PM:

What makes Tolkien so cool?

He did this kind of self-consistent worldmaking and he did it for more than just humans.

I did some research on this fairly recently [failed attempt at alt-LOTR fanfic where Frodo falls into Moria, rather than Gandalf.] I don't think I can live up to Graydon's post but I am apparently incapable of shutting up. . .

The three Elven Rings were fundamentally different from the rings of Men, Dwarves, and Sauron. The rings Sauron made with Elf-smiths [unnamed?] were rings of dominance, for lack of a better word- they allowed the user to force his will on others. The Three did not make the user invisible [or otherwise bring them into the 'worlds invisible to mortal men']- Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel can all be seen while wearing their rings. Also, their powers do not seem to revolve around pure dominance- Galadriel apparently uses hers for concealing Lothlorien, Elrond for securing Rivendell. It's not clear to me how Gandalf uses the Ring of Fire, aside from minor onscreen tricks and [possibly] Balrogproofing himself.

#63 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 01:49 PM:

What makes Tolkien cool?

A deep understanding of the difference between allegory and applicability is one thing, I think. The Nazgul are not strictly an allegory for anything -- but they are a handy and highly applicable tool for thinking about people so eaten up by proximity to power that they have no moral center. And this ability to create applicibility rather than allegory probably stems from wide reading and experience -- as a deeply thoughtful person who had read Homer and The Battle of Maldon in the original and fought in WWI and had children fight in WWII, Tolkien had great insight into the recurring themes and essential samenesses of human nature when faced by war and the struggle for domination. But narrow experience and thought might be more likely to lead to allegory -- the one-on-one correspondence between what you write and very specific referents in the real world.

In any case, note that the good guys in Middle-earth follow the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners pretty strictly...the only things I could think of as questionable are Strider 'taming' Gollum by denying him food and drink ("Council of Elrond"), or Gandalf putting "the fear of fire" into him to get information on the Ring ("Shadow of the Past").

Oh, and Sandy -- Gandalf used the Ring of Fire more to kindle hope in others -- that was to be his job in Middle-earth, to "oppose the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succors in wanhope and distress" (Unfinished Tales).

#64 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 02:14 PM:

. . . as a deeply thoughtful person who had read Homer and The Battle of Maldon in the original and fought in WWI and had children fight in WWII . . .

Let me rephrase my question. It's not just what makes Tolkein "cool," it's what makes him different from all the other British men of his generation, who received a classical education and lived through two world wars?

What made him more than just another Oxford philologist who contributed to the OED?

Maybe it is the "deeply thoughtful" part that makes the difference.

I have been wondering about this ever since I read LOTR for the first time as an adult (one of those "let's see if the book is still any good" moments) and thought to myself, "Damn, this guy can write!"

#65 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 02:40 PM:

What made Tolkien different? Besides "deeply thoughtful," add genius, had been "inside language," loss of both parents when young, both romantic and intellectual attachment to his faith, perhaps? Well, there are a couple of things which differentiated him as a writer from the other poets and authors who came out of WWI -- he delayed writing about the war (if you accept LotR as a work deeply influenced by WWI) till much later than many of them; he wrote fantasy (widely applicable) rather than realistic fiction or memoirs (specific to the situation; take more effort on the part of the reader to apply to other situations); he read widely in folkore and fairy tale and had a phenomenal feel for recurring motifs and the reasons humans tell stories; and his overall response to the war was not ironic -- "all this awfulness is human nature and will never change, so we might as well give up" -- but more courageous and influenced by both his religious faith and the "Northern theory of courage" -- "even if we are doomed to fail, even if what we do is undone a day or a year from now, fighting for what is good is the only right thing to do, for the good of the world and your own soul."

And yes, the man could write. Isn't the word "wanhope" wonderful -- don't you just want to go out and use it right away? He could write both on the superficial level of stringing wonderful words and exciting scenes together, and the deeper level of saying many meaningful things. That's truly rare.

#66 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 02:50 PM:

Um, I think trying to ask why Tolkien wrote good books is like asking why some other man made good beer, or a hive made good honey. I mean -- it's not mysterious, but it's not a simple answer, and I don't think it's the interesting question to ask (the interesting questions are "how" and "under what conditions." And maybe "with what stuff in it.")

I really don't think there's anything terribly unique about Tolkien's characteristics. Thought, intelligent, well-educated men of a certain era exist in sufficient numbers -- and so do such men who write good books, really, since we've got all this literacy and technology going on.

I think I'm trying to de-sanctify authorship, here. Which might mean that I'm sideways to this part of the conversation, and reacting to my own little triggers and not what people actually said, though that's not my intent.

#67 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 03:02 PM:

Hmm. He also gives the impression of being a caring person - caring about his characters, about their world, and about Right and Wrong.

He puts the heart first, not the mind. Sauron and Saruman are both extremely intelligent, cunning, cold-blooded people. The Hobbits, being the true heroes of the book, are smart enough, but not "intellectual" in any way.

#68 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 03:20 PM:

Lucy - no, he doesn't seem unique, does he? One can't put one's finger on it.

Another question that seems related to me is: Why have there been so many Tolkein imitators, or would-be imitators, and what makes them less good? I mean, the process for making beer, or honey, or even books, is fairly well-understood and straightforward. But everybody combines the ingredients in different ways and comes up with different stuff.

#69 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 04:23 PM:

One thing that stands out for me about Tolkien's writing: there's an awesome amount of thought and detail that went into Middle-Earth, and into the writing of Lord of the Rings. The world has depth- Grond, the battering ram that split the gates of Minas Tirith, was named after the mace of Morgoth. As an example. There's something like thirty years of genealogies, theologies, maps, histories, languages, myths, stories, songs, behind every sentence of Lord of the Rings.

I think most Tolkien imitators spend an afternoon drawing up a worldmap, another one making a list of funny names, and they're ready to go.

#70 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 04:25 PM:

(And thanks, Janet, for explaining the Ring of Fire. )

#71 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 04:51 PM:

OMNES: whoops. That's what happens when I post in the wee hours because I can't sleep.

I knew that. Really I did.


#72 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 08:07 PM:

Sandy, Laura --

It's possible to do a comparable amount of work without anything like the same quality of result.

My take on it is that if you're asking that kind of question, you need to go read "On Fairy Stories" and "Smith of Wottan Major".

Two other things -- there is a shedload of not only primary experience but primary emotion in there; the inevitable, crushing loss of much that is good and beautiful comes through as a matter of lived experience; and, secondly, the genesis of the story was history, and the genesis of the history was language.

That last is the thing that's really hard to duplicate; everybody has primary emotion and primary experience and there's always a way to use those, but starting, not with the story, but with the language, so that the story arrives out of the necessity for history in the shape of a language, is to start not with the force of nature but with the primeval conditions which create the forces of nature.

That's not an easy thing to do; it requires no small learning, and a particular cast of mind.

#73 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 08:38 PM:

Graydon: re your earlier post timestamped "October 10, 2005, 12:36 PM", I assume that in

Galadriel got away because she (and her children) went through Khazad-dum to Anduin; Celebrimbor, keeping the long grudge over the sack of Doriath, [....]

"Celebrimbor" should read "Celeborn"? Otherwise, that would be rather a neat trick for a guy whose mangled corpse is being used as Sauron's battle standard. And which volume of HoME were these bits in? I mainly bought the ones with recognizable similarities to the Silmarillion as first published, and so don't recall any of the above except a vague draft of Amroth as Celebrian's brother from, er, somewhere or other.

#74 ::: Mark Z. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2005, 10:17 PM:

Julie L.: That does make more sense. Celebrimbor, besides being dead, was an ally of the Dwarves of Khazad-dum. ("The doors of Durin, lord of Moria. ... I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Eregion drew these signs." And "these signs" include emblems of the houses of Durin and Feanor.) He never lived in Doriath, and a few years after the Dwarves sacked it, Celebrimbor's father went and sacked it again.[0]

(Whereas Celeborn did live there, and was Thingol's nephew or something, and is the poster boy for Sindarin anti-Dwarf discrimination even by the time of LOTR.)

[0] I always found it funny that when the Silmaril gets to Doriath the sons of Feanor are all over it, and again when it's taken to Arvernien, but they never even considered taking it off Luthien during the 50 years or so that she wore it. Sure, they'll pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the world, etc.--but they're not that stupid.

#75 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 12:25 AM:

Your pardon, yes, Celeborn, not Celebrimbor.

Julie -- I don't honestly recall. I might well be out of Unfinished Tales.

#76 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:08 AM:

Now is the time to write to your senators (assuming they aren't numbered among the Nine), thanking them for voting for the anti-torture amendment.

You are right, Jim, but I have to say it pisses me off that I should have to stroke senatorial ego for doing what is so evidently THE RIGHT THING TO DO.

You don't write your senators to simply to stroke them. You write to them to let them know you're paying attention. If you can get to them before there's a vote, so much the better. "Not only am I watching what you did, I'm watching what you're doing."

#77 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:27 AM:

I mentioned Leavenworth expressing a wish for Rove etc. to get ensconced there, it wasn't that I am prophesying that that shall come to pass, it again was that I was expressing the desire to see that happen.

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:52 AM:

Me, Paula, I keep hoping that enough you-know-what will hit the fan that, for many years to come, the People will think twice before giving the GOP any majority anywhere.

Then again, the Abu Ghraib scandal came up before the Elections and still it didn't make a damn bit of difference. Or maybe it did, considering how narrow Dubya's victory was, but not enough of a difference.

Makes one wonder what's wrong with the People...

#79 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:58 AM:

Then again, the Abu Ghraib scandal came up before the Elections and still it didn't make a damn bit of difference

We can't easily draw lessons from the 2000 and 2004 elections because we don't know, can't know, will never be able to know, what the actual literal vote was on either occasion.

However, it is the case that there are entirely too many people still saying nice things about the regime of cronyism,corruption, incompetence, dishonesty, and torture.

There was some guy on the radio saying that the reason Bush sounded like an idiot is because he's an excellent doer. There's a bitter pun there somewhere but I don't have the heart for it.

#80 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 02:19 AM:

Election Questions in 2004...

Karl Rove and Diebold plotting,
The districts with hours-long lines,
The questions of ballot tamp'ring,
Vote fraud in Ohio...

"You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can fool some of the people all of the time...." However, when there is fraud and those committing fraud are in the top 1% of the population controlling what, 40% of the wealth in the country, versus more than half the population many of which aren't even near the poverty level, let alone having yhe resources and clout and energy and time and wherewithal and backing to even start -looking- for justice, much less be able and empowered to get any justice and relief provided to them/us, against the overprivileged oligarchical robber baron plutocrats and their associates and apologists and promoters and facilators.

They have lots of power and lots of control and lots of money to on one side encourage/reward/promise considerable benefit and opportunity and comfort to those who support them, and on the other to discriminate against/disempower/make miserable/harm those who oppose them.

Personal consequences are one thing, but when the viciousness and vindictiveness range to the results in the Plame affair, or worse (rumors alleged in at least one of the books about Bush that there are people who fear for their lives and their families' lives, not merely their well-being and livelihoods and reputations if they stand up publically with their charges of hypocrisy and malfeasance and lies regarding the Schmuck and his history), most people find themselves in the position of having to stop their opposotion, in order to continue to survive with an income and without harassment and defamation and slander.

#81 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 04:36 AM:

It's become pretty clear that there is a lot of political manipulation of the US ciminal justice system, where charges can be laid for essentially political reasons, and the prolonged pre-trial process is either being used as extra-legal punishment, or as a political statement.

#82 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 04:40 AM:

It says somewhere that Gandalf was able to use the Ring of Fire to inspire and lead and revive the spirit. I'm sure it helped him bring Théoden out of Wormtongue's grasp.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 07:16 AM:

Yes, yes, yes... But, no matter how much manipulation there was of the last Election, I don't think they could have gotten away with it if the People had been more disgusted out of Abu Ghraib, among other things.

I remember going to vote that morning and the localc classical station was playing Copland's Our Town and that more than anything else gave me hope for what lay in the People's true soul. Pretty silly of me.

#84 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 09:00 AM:

Is anyone else being plagued with an earworm of Gollum singing a cover of Johnny Cash?

While I'm at it, I may as well mention that I accidentally poisoned the original song for my husband by suggesting its use for slash songfic and/or a hemorrhoids commercial.

And also:

A Elbereth Gilthoniel
Yodelayee yodelayee yodelay hee-hoo
Silivren penna miriel
Yodelayee yodelayee yodelay
#85 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 09:16 AM:

"Sandy, Laura --

It's possible to do a comparable amount of work without anything like the same quality of result."

I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. I may not have been clear enough that it was only one part of what made Tolkien's work great. I suppose I highlighted the world-building because it's something I know a little of, and it's something I could never do as well as he did.

The idea of someone doing 30 years of work and still ending up as a Tolkien imitator is . . . depressing.

#86 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 10:00 AM:

A couple of additional notes on the rings:

1) Gandalf implies, in talking to Frodo, that there were rather more than the twenty Great Rings -- that there were many other "essays in the craft", some of which were repossessed by Sauron and some of which might have been floating around at the time of the War of the Ring.

2) It always seemed to me that (aside from the defence of the realm aspects) the principal use made of Vilya by Elrond was that of preservation of the experience of the First Age as memory; the principal use of Nenya by Galadriel was preserving the experience of the First Age as experience. Narya's use by Cirdan, and then by Gandalf, seems to have had less to do with preservation and more with healing/rekindling.

On the "what sets Tolkien apart" topic: he grew up and lived inside a worldview (or a set of worldviews -- (a style of) Catholicism, pastoralism, pursuit of knowledge for its own sake) which was already old-fashioned by his own day -- and that was before he steeped himself in the poetic world of the early Germanic poets, and this was all tempered by his experience of the War. In some ways the closest parallels are to David Jones, except that Jones' mythos was that of his Welsh heritage and his focus was more on poetry than fiction, and the whole mythos which Tolkien developed can be seen as an attempted end-run around the problems of "the gap" as discussed by Jones (if there's been a break between us and our past, create an alternate past to work with).

That's also why while there may be good or even great writers who learn from Tolkien and show his influence, there are (at least to my mind) no really good Tolkien imitators: being a good imitator would require being like Borges' Pierre Menard in relation to Cervantes.

#87 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 11:41 AM:

I have another Tolkien question: why is there no religion in LotR? It appears that religion was important to him.

The closest thing to it is the Elves' veneration of Elbereth, but I don't think that is ever clearly explained (rather, there is a brief explanation that I don't clearly recall). Even in the Silmarillion, I don't think that Elbereth & Co. are described as deities. They recognize the existence of a god who created them . . . but that god is not worshipped by the Elves or anybody else?

#88 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 12:00 PM:


I wonder if that has anything to do with the idea that Tolkien was creating an English mythos? (I don't know if he said that or if it is just speculation on the part of commentators)

#89 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 12:31 PM:

There is worship of Eru in the backstory (once a year, on the Meneltarma, in Numenor). Presumably this was derived from information coming from Eressea or Valinor. The Valar are recognized by Eldar and Edain as explicitly not gods.

And there is worship of Melkor in the latter days after Sauron was taken captive and introduced it.

Internally to the story, I think that Tolkien would have said that the Elves, being made for this world in a way that Men aren't, weren't built for religion as we would recognize it. Externally, he didn't want to saddle "good" characters or peoples with pagan observances, and developed Judaio-Christianity except in the form of an abstract belief compatible with them on a cosmological level wouldn't work, as Christianity and Judaism are heavily and essentially historically-conditioned religions.

Religion as such wasn't important to Tolkien; Christianity was.

#90 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Laura re religion in LotR: A couple of reasons. Tolkien wanted his mythology to be fairly universal; he didn't like allegory (and thought Lewis's Narnia too painfully, obviously allegorical); he felt the whiff of religion was death to a fairy tale (his comments on the Arthuriad being an unsuitable model for his mythology bear this out); and he conceived of Middle-earth as a pre-Christ world (several comments in the letters). And as James implies, the stories were Elf-centric, and their view of "religion" would be entirely different from that of Men. Elves were immortal, and many of the eldest among them had seen the Valar face-to-face -- two great differences from Men. If you're really interested in pursuing the questions you've been asking, Laura, the Letters would be one of the best places to start -- Tolkien was a voluminous and thoughtful (there's that word again) letter writer.

#91 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:04 PM:

Thanks, Janet and James!

Elves were immortal, and many of the eldest among them had seen the Valar face-to-face

That does remove the "religious" aspect somehow.

he didn't like allegory (and thought Lewis's Narnia too painfully, obviously allegorical)

Me too. I have had that same thought many times during this discussion.

Religion as such wasn't important to Tolkien; Christianity was.

And yet he avoided doing the Narnia thing, thankfully.

#92 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 01:40 PM:

I remember in 1992 I wanted to "follow along at home" with the election mapping. I photocopied a blank outline map of the U.S., showing just the state borders, and with red and blue magic markers colored the states as the election returns came in.

But I remember clearly that all the networks that year showed the Republicans (Bush père) in blue and the Democrats (Clinton) in red. Being fond of both blue and Clinton, I reversed the colors on my own map. Thus I am greatly amused that my choice (of colors, if not of candidates) now seems to be the defacto one.

#93 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 05:48 PM:

The Abu Ghraib scandal was what caused me to break with the current administration and support John Kerry for President in 2004, much to the hilarity of daffy ab fool. I have disheartened by the fact that only a very few people have been held accountable, and those, mostly of lower-ranking personnel. Only one general officer (Karpinski) has been penalized, and several other field grade officers may suffer some sort of penalty eventually, but there has been a definite lack of holding people to account.

The military intelligence (MI) people who I work with and supervise are still very upset over this entire affair. They want to see people held accountable, all the way up the chain of command. Most of them are politically conservative in their outlook, to say the least, but the professional soldiers among them look at this as a stain upon this country's honor.

For my stand, I have been called 'old-fashioned' and 'quaint,' among other things. My patriotism has also been called into question. My experiences in the Bosnian war are held to be 'not-relevant.' I note that in almost all instances this has been done by people who have never served in the military, have never heard a shot fired in anger, and in general are totally clueless. Note that it was civilian lawyers with no military experience, rather than military jurists with much better knowledge of the law, who stated that the rules could be set aside in the name of the War on Terror.

The fact that there are more incidents being revealed is even more disheartening. The Army Field Manual is explicit. None of this conduct is to be tolerated. Yet we continue to hear of poorly-trained officers and enlisted personnel abusing and torturing detainees who are bound and can't fight back, doing it for the sheer pleasure of it, and what is more, being directed to do so by shadowy figures in MI who have yet to be fully identified.

The main question is: who authorized this treatment? Who gave the orders? Where did people get that idea that they could abuse and torture detainees and not be held to account? These are questions that very badly need to be answered.

An impartial, totally independent investigation needs to be done, with the power to hold people accountable up the chain, no matter now high it goes, no matter whose political ox is gored. Full disclosure and accountability are vital in order to remove this stain from our country's honor.

This, and the debacle in New Orleans, have caused me, a life-long Republilcan, to finally switch my party affilation to the Democratic Party. There it will remain until the Republicans get a clue and run someone competent for the nation's highest position.

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 07:24 PM:

Good post, Robert.

By the way, Molly Ivins has a few words to say about our representatives feeling they have to vote on the issue of torture.

#95 ::: Jonathan Edelstein ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2005, 09:47 PM:

Hmmm. One Bush to rule them all, one Bush to bind them, one Bush to bomb them all and leave the dust behind them?

#96 ::: Sharon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 07:16 AM:

I think at least some of the UK party colours are considerably older than the 1970s. Tory blue and Labour red certainly appear in Jessica Mitford's 1960 autobiography, in a section about her childhood (1920s/30s) (extract here).

#97 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 08:37 AM:

Ah, but for different reasons. The Workers' Flag has been Deepest Red for well over a century now (the song is still sung at every Labour Party conference; that's how different British and American politics are) and the Labour Party was originally meant as an offshoot of the labour movement, hence the name (originally the Labour Representation Committee). As for blue=Tory... maybe something to do with blue blood and the Tories traditionally being the party of the landed aristocracy? The Liberals have been yellow (recently orange) since the 19th century.

Don't forget there was probably a process of elimination involved as well. Green and orange were already associated with the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland respectively in the 19th century. White implies surrender (or earlier the Bourbon monarchy, hence ultra-monarchical conservatism) and black mourning or anarchy. Brown and grey are just a bit drab and boring. Doesn't actually leave many colours to choose from.

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 10:47 AM:

Here's a record of Dubya's latest conversation with God, as reported by Mark Morford, columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle.

#99 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:32 AM:

I am of course in complete agreement that Bush is an idiotic satan-worshipper but from the example given Mark Moford would seem to be a talentless and unimaginative bore.

#100 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:45 AM:

I realized last night that God must not care who is on the Supreme Court. Because if He did, He would never have recommended Miers, right?

#101 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2005, 11:50 AM:

ajay: If you poke around on the quoted site, incidentally, you find the Mitford quote alongside one talking about voters being "neatly labelled blue, or green, or red" - green seems to have been not uncommon for Liberals in the past.

[pokes] Hmm. The usenet post on the matter I was vaguely remembering was here.

#102 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 08:30 PM:

Well, there's a brief "Shame on you" message off to nine senators. Thank you for the links, Patrick; that helped.

Before I go patting my local Republican on the head for not being completely venal, at least not today, at least not on one side -- who was the 100th, non-voting senator? Or are we down by one at the moment?

#103 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2005, 08:37 PM:

Kate: Corzine, Democrat, New Jersey. He was off campaigning for the gubernatorial election that day, and didn't vote on anything.

#104 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 03:26 AM:

Nina Armstrong Sees comments spam on Darkness Went With Them and they cried with vvoices of death.

#105 ::: Clifton Royston sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2007, 03:29 AM:

That's almost poetic in its appropriateness.

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