Feudal Values, Vassalage, And Fealty in the Lord of the Rings.
Mythlore 2007, Spring-Summer, 25, 3-4
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THE social structure of Middle-earth, in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, is clearly based on medieval historical models. The style of governance and the societal landscape of Rohan and Minas Tirith are modeled on the individual, divided kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England that were united in the later Middle Ages under one king. According to Marc Bloch's socially based definition of feudalism in Feudal Society, the king ruled over all the people of his kingdom, including the various levels of aristocrats. The highest ranked dukes and earls in turn governed fiefs or land holdings and the vassals that dwelt there, including lower ranked aristocrats, barons and knights, as well as the commoners--serfs and peasants. The higher ranked lords conferred smaller fiefs to the barons and knights beneath them who dwelt within their borders. The lords at each level were responsible for distributing the land and its revenues and protecting their people in exchange for their service and loyalty. In reciprocity, the lower level aristocrats, serfs, and peasants pledged their fealty and service--military, domestic, or field/manual labor--depending on rank and ability, to the lords at ranks higher than their own. Tolkien has carefully explicated the role of lord and leader in this society, positively through Theoden and negatively through his foil Denethor, and culminating in the ascension of Aragorn to the throne, thereby reenacting the medieval unification of smaller realms ruled by lords under one absolute sovereign. Interestingly, Tolkien chooses to portray the change of guard from elves to men not as to a more modernized society with a parliamentary governing structure as found in Victorian England or later but to a tiered society united under one king as existed in the High Middle Ages. In fact, Saruman, with his wicked machines and newly bred orcs, actually represents a warning against the potential danger and destruction that come with the dawn of the Industrial Age and which are realized in the war and ruin of the twentieth century. The reclusive Hobbits, who must join the other races of the world, are much like the reclusive Victorians who could afford such insularism due to the political and economic stability at home during the nineteenth century, only decades before England would have to join with its allies to fight in both World Wars. While history tends to concentrate on the rulers and leaders who rose and fell as society evolved, Tolkien's imaginative vision highlights the importance of the role of the vassal, the loyal follower, the everyman of medieval society, who defines himself in relation to his fellows and to his lord.
- 2,99 €
- Categoria: Arti e discipline linguistiche
- Pubblicato: 22/03/2007
- Editore: Mythopoeic Society
- Pagine: 21
- Lingua: Inglese