Just recently I found a gem.
They seem to pop out at me whenever I delve into the good ol' Red Book of Westmarch. But this one is different. It has a more somber tint than most. No "'chance' meeting in Bree" or "Felarof, father of horses" this. The Professor addresses our world, using his only for comparison, and he speaks to matters far more serious than one man's imaginings. While I'm sure I had at least scanned the words before, I'd never grokked them for what they are: a scorching indictment of the behavior of the Powers during and post WWII.
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-Dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves.
Lord of the Rings
Forward to the second edition
He wasn't pulling any punches with that. His words are pretty pointedly harsh, a righteous rant, once they're unraveled a bit. I think there's a lot of frustration showing through his cynical half-snark.
To me it's really no wonder why.
Recalling from the book; the destruction and, just as important, forbearance of the Ring, the Ringbearer's quest, was the only viable option. The One Ring was too potent a weapon for any person to wield, or even possess, without being seduced into evil by it, no matter that person's native constitution. Such power was rightly seen to be too much for anyone to control.
Yet Middle-earth's Very Serious People saw the quest as "madness" and "folly" and "a fool's hope". In another world they might have called it "hippy liberal peacenik talk". Boromir. Denethor. They wanted a war. They wanted the ultimate contest with Sauron, and wanted the Ring, the ultimate weapon, to win it. They wanted the scenario described above, and were it not for the clear-sighted restraint of such hippies as Faramir, they would surely have had it. And the Third Age would have ended in just such a contest, and then in a second darkness.
So we have found ourselves, living out Tolkien's grim and almost prescient account of modern history.
Among those people who've had their hands on or near the reins of power, few have refused a Great Ring if one were offered. Few of the already powerful have refused a bump in power if such were available. Many grasped right hold of it with both hands, even spent their tenures actively pursuing greater and greater personal power, and very little else, with little or no regard for future cost or consequence.
For many decades globally we've devoted vast resources to the research and development of new and increasingly devastating Great Rings, often with slim reasoning for having them other than to simply HAVE them. Everyone's striving to be a Ring-lord these days, and have a Barad-Dûr of their own.
And the lovers of peace and quiet and good-tilled earth have indeed been held in hatred and contempt, and are scorned as naive or lazy or worse.
Our own Very Serious People have largely been granted their desire for the ultimate weapons, and even though the ultimate contest with Sauron hasn't happened yet, the drums of war have not stopped for a long, long time.
The Professor was right to be frustrated, and cynical, and harsh.
For we sure as hell seized that Ring.
And turned that sucker up to eleven