[b-hebrew] Documentary Hypothesis - Just a Bit More

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Jun 7 03:44:31 EDT 2004

A colleague posted this documentary analysis of an ancient text, from

The Lord of the Rings: A Source-Criticism Analysis

Experts in source-criticism now know that The Lord of the Rings is a
redaction of sources ranging from the Red Book of Westmarch (W) to Elvish
Chronicles (E) to Gondorian records (G) to orally transmitted tales of the
Rohirrim (R). The conflicting ethnic, social and religious groups which
preserved these stories all had their own agendas, as did the "Tolkien"
(T) and "Peter Jackson" (PJ) redactors, who are often in conflict with
each other as well but whose conflicting accounts of the same events
reveals a great deal about the political and religious situations which
helped to form our popular notions about Middle Earth and the so-called
"War of the Ring.". Into this mix are also thrown a great deal of folk
materials about a supposed magic "ring" and some obscure figures named
"Frodo" and "Sam". In all likelihood, these latter figures are totems
meant to personify the popularity of Aragorn with the rural classes.

Because The Lord of the Rings is a composite of sources, we may be quite
certain that "Tolkien" (if he ever existed) did not "write" this work in
the conventional sense, but that it was assembled over a long period of
time by someone else of the same name. We know this because a work of the
range, depth, and detail of The Lord of the Rings is far beyond the
capacity of any modern expert in source-criticism to ever imagine creating

The tension between source materials and the various redactors is evident
in several cases. T is heavily dependent upon Gondorian records and
clearly elevates the claims of the Aragorn monarchy over the House of
Denethor. From this it is obvious that the real "War of the Ring" was a
dynastic struggle between these two clans for supremacy in Gondor. The G
source, which plays such a prominent role in the T-redacted account of
Aragorn, is significantly downplayed by the PJ redactor in favor of E
versions. In the T account, Aragorn is portrayed as a stainless saint,
utterly sure of his claims to the throne and so self-possessed that he
never doubts for a moment his right to seize power. Likewise, in the T
account, the Rohirrim are conveniently portrayed as willing allies and
vassals to the Aragorn monarchy, living in perfect harmony with the Master
Race of Numenoreans who rule Gondor.

Yet even the T redactor cannot eliminate from the R source the towering
Amazon figure of Eowyn, who is recorded as taking up arms the moment the
previous king of Rohan, Theoden, is dead. Clearly we are looking at
heavily reworked coup d'etat attempt by the princess of the Rohirrim
against Aragorn's supremacy. Yet this hard kernel of historical fact is
cleverly sublimated under folk materials (apparently legends of the
obscure figure of "Meriadoc"). Instead of the historical account of her
attempt on Aragorn's throne as it originally stood in R, she is instead
depicted as engaging in battle with a mythical "Lord of the Nazgul"
(apparently a figure from W sources) and shown fighting on Aragorn's side.
This attempt to sublimate Eowyn does not convince the trained eye of the
source-criticism expert, who astutely notes that Eowyn is wounded in
battle at the same moment Denethor dies. Obviously, Eowyn and Denethor
were in league against Aragorn but were defeated by the latter's partisans

This tendency to distort the historical record recurs many times in T.
Indeed, many scholars now believe the so-called "Madness of Denethor" in T
(which depicts Denethor as a suicide) is, in fact, a sanitized version of
the murder of Denethor by Aragorn through the administration of poison
(possibly distilled from a plant called athelas).

In contrast to T, the PJ redaction of Aragorn is filled with self-doubts
and frequently rebuked by PJ-redacted Elrond. Probably this is due to PJ's
own political and religious affiliations which seek, in particular, to
exalt the Elvish claims to supremacy against Numenorean claims.

T suggests some skill on Aragorn's part in the use of pharmaceutical (and
hallucinogenic?) plants which may account for some of the more "visionary"
moments of mysterious beings like "Black Riders" who appear to have been
tribal chieftains hostile to the Aragorn dynasty. PJ, however, exalts
Elrond's healing powers over Aragorn's. This is probably rooted in some
incident of psychosomatic healing repeatedly chronicled in different
sources. Thus, the G source also has an account of Frodo's "healing by
Aragorn" on the Field of Cormallen but E places it at Rivendell and
attributes the healing to Elrond. Since we know that "Frodo" is likely
just a figure representing the rural population and not an historical
personage, most scholars therefore conclude that "Frodo's" healing is just
T's symbolic representation of Aragorn's program of socio-economic
appeasement of the agrarian class, while his healing by Elrond is a nature
myth representing the renewal of the annual crops.

Of course, the "Ring" motif appears in countless folk tales and is to be
discounted altogether. Equally dubious are the "Gandalf" narratives, which
appear to be legends of a shamanistic figure, introduced to the narrative
by W out of deference to local Shire cultic practice.

Finally, we can only guess at what the Sauron sources might have revealed,
since they must have been destroyed by victors who give a wholly negative
view of this doubtlessly complex, warm, human, and many-sided figure.
Scholars now know, of course, that the identification of Sauron with "pure
evil" is simply absurd. Indeed, many scholars have undertaken a "Quest for
the Historical Sauron" and are searching the records with growing passion
and urgency for any lore connected with the making of the One Ring. "It's
all legendary, of course," says Dr. S. Aruman, "Especially the absurd tale
of Frodo the Nine-Fingered. After all, the idea of anyone deliberately
giving up Power is simply impossible and would call into question the most
precious thesis of postmodern ideology: that everything is a power
struggle on the basis of race, class and gender. Still... I... should...
very much like to have a look at it. Just for scholarly purposes, of

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