Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Lord of the Rings and the Seige of Constantinople

My favorite radio/broadcast/podcast service is Sir Meyvyn Bragg’s In Our Time. It’s reason enough to buy an iPod all by itself, as well as being a scathing indictment of every other “talk” show in existence. The Seige of Constantinople is particularly good, and if one is a fan of a certain movie it comes with its own internal video stream … 

Telegraph | Entertainment | The day the world came to an end (Noel Malcolm)

... Even as a young schoolboy, I couldn't help noticing the uncanny resemblance between the siege of Minas Tirith in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the siege of Constantinople. On one side, the beautiful walled city with its ancient nobility and the few adventurers who had come to help in its defence; on the other, evil teeming hordes under a despotic ruler. You had only to look at the map in the end-papers, where the land of Mordor loomed to the east like Asia Minor, to get the point.

Tolkien even chose the name "Uruk-Hai" for some of his nastiest creations, fighting forces of Sauron who were a cross between orcs and goblins. This was surely borrowed from the "Yuruk", nomadic tribesmen used as auxiliary soldiers by the Ottomans. Few readers would have known that; but most would have got a whiff of something Asiatic here. For one thing Tolkien was outstandingly good at was tapping into the subconscious of our own, European, cultural history. ...

Alas, my working class education, though decent enough, was not the equal of Mr. Malcolm’s. On the other hand, it means there’s yet more to discover. The podcast is most highly recommended for those who, like myself, have a number of gaps in their cultural history. In addition to the terrible and wonderous story, it does give some valuable context to Cyprus, the European Union, Serbia, Turkey and Iraq. The thing about history, is that it isn’t.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

last week our group held a similar discussion on this topic and you point out something we haven't covered yet, appreciate that.

- Kris