Saturday, April 02, 2016

how DO you respond to someone taking over your country and ruining it?

The hobbit-folk had previously enjoyed a society largely free of the affliction called “government.” Frodo and his friends were mortified to encounter a regimented dystopia in which the shire-riffs –who had been peripheral under the old order – were enforcing an ever-growing list of rules handed down by an unseen “Chief.” The shire-riffs themselves weren’t intimidating, but behind them lurked a band of “Ruffians” who looked upon the inhabitants of the Shire with disdain and were prepared to inflict mortal harm on anybody who resisted the Chief’s decrees.

Farms and homes, once self-sufficient, had been ravaged by officials called “Gatherers” and “Sharers,” although the bounty that was gathered in the Chief’s name was never shared with the populace. The verdant countryside, which once thrived under the husbandry of private landowners, had been despoiled by those acting on the “authority” of the new government. Any residents of the Shire who resisted that “authority” were hauled away to “lock holes.”

Furious over what had been done to their home and steeled by their experience in battle, Frodo and his companions sounded the tocsin and organized the Hobbit-folk to “scour the Shire.” This meant driving the Ruffians and their adherents from the land, including any shire-riffs who remained loyal to the usurpers. Frodo gave strict instructions to avoid bloodshed where possible. The Chief – as it happens, Saruman in disguise – would not relinquish power without extracting a price in blood.
The “scouring,” as portrayed by Tolkien in “Return of the King,” is distant kindred to Homer’s account of Odysseus dealing with the interlopers who had plundered his home and sought to seize control of Ithaca during his lengthy absence. “I will not stay my hand till I have paid all of you in full,” Odysseus told the men who had sought to steal everything he cherished, including Penelope. “You must fight, or flee for your lives.”

In dealing with the shire-riffs – or, to use the more familiar term, sheriffs – who had become oppressors, Frodo, and his friends were more merciful than Odysseus and Telemachus had been. As Sauron had expected, many of those who had been public servants found it intoxicating to exercise power over the “little folk.” Others, disgusted by what they had become, threw away their badges of authority and were welcomed into the righteous rebellion against the Chief and his enforcers.