How Did It Come To This?
It is well-known Tolkien didn’t do any pacifist crap. If you read “The Lord of The Rings” (or even “The Hobbit”; or all the rest, comes to that) you see a warrior’s attitude everywhere. Not, mind, in the way of the pacifist “fighting in a non-violent manner” for some wrong cause of his; but as very real, sometimes very physical and deadly confrontation.
The movie cannot even hope to render the richness and complexity of Tolkien’s world, and the greatness of his mind. But in its beautiful photography and in some moments of intense lyricism it manages at time to transmit something of Tolkien’s message.
The video above is a good example. At this point of the narration the situation seems desperate, and the King himself has no real hopes. It is clear the impression is shared by most. But crucially, whilst he very much doubts about the victory, not for a moment does he doubt that he will fight and die as a King.
In the simple words of Gamling, the entire world of Tolkien is admirably contained: “Your men, my lord, will follow you to whatever end”. Tolkien writes of a world where the individual does not demand to know what is right of wrong, or to question the duty he is called to fulfil, or to put his “conscience” in front of everything. Wisdom and honour belong to the one who obeys, not the one who questions.
Still, notice the situation is desperate, and seemingly hopeless. King Theoden could have said to Gamling it would be better to be “nuanced” about their judgement of Sauron. He could have said Sauron’s final victory is “inevitable”, and therefore it is better to “adjust” to the new situation.
Crucially, he doesn’t. He doesn’t, because he has now become a new man; or better said, because he has rediscovered the man he used to be.
The last words of the clip, at which this short excerpt wisely ends, are the words in the minds of so many Catholics these days: how did it come to this. How could we so weak and stupid and naive as to believe the orcs would not come marching towards us in huge numbers, encouraged by our weakness and cowardice.
The (conservative) Catholic world is now, in a way, in the same situation in which Theoden found himself: staring in disbelief at the follies of the past, in the imminence of a deadly battle. Thankfully, our chances of victory are infinitely better than Theoden’s, and the Grima Wormtongues (the film doesn’t really render Tolkien’s absolutely crushing criticism of Grima’s slimy talk, “peace” rhetoric and convenient defeatism so typical of the breed) have been, thankfully, exposed in time.
How did it come to this? Because of the far too many Schoenborns and Nichols and Martinis who have been allowed by far too many Pontiffs to poison the body of the Church, that’s why.
This is another parallelism between the movie and real life: Theoden is weak and in a state of stupefied weakness for a long time; but when he is freed from the spell, he reacts in the right way and throws all the weight of his authority in the fight. I would love to say the Church is at the same point, only the facts would contradict me in a tragic way.
We can say, though, the Theoden of the Church is slowly awakening and is beginning, in a confused way, to understand his soldiers will follow him to whatever end, if he only dares to declare outright war.
We are not there yet. Not with this Theoden, for sure. With the next Theoden, perhaps.
I truly hope he will not wait until he is kettled in the Hornburg.