The movie begins twice. First, in an ancient past – a story some of whose actors, those who were there to see & do, are still here to tell. It is a story about an evil so powerful that it proved that power is as such evil, fighting against a good so majestic that it proved that majesty is powerless. We see a man rise to kill his mortal enemy; the power that rewards his self-defense disfigures him. The truth is ugly; beauty hides it. The truth about power is that the powerful must also die.
Millennia pass to our second beginning. So, does power or authority last longer? We will learn the answer by looking at creatures who know little or nothing of either. The second beginning is among firmly democratic creatures that chase their pleasures rather peacefully & accept their limitations – as pain follows pleasures – without much complaint. It is strange to see these people answer the questions raised by their ancestors, who were like giants compared to them.
We have already seen that majestic creatures cannot rise above necessity. We see elves longing for immortality, no longer willing to do anything, for all doing is a road to death. We must be surprised to see that wisdom seldom indulges hope; nor is old age infrequently insane. For the last time, perhaps, we see one generation passing & another one coming to replace it.
This halfling hero finds himself in the possession of power he had never imagined. It occurs to him that he should do right. This includes doing one’s duty, which includes sacrifice, & sparing others that which they cannot do, which suggests that sacrifice is not expected of them. The humble look down on the proud, who lack endurance. The halfling takes the ring which scares & attracts warriors & wizards.
The choice, who will take the ring, is not democratic. It requires an alliances between cities. The balance of fear, however, is ever changing – it makes alliances, but also breaks them. But the destruction of the alliance shows that some are willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater good. The failing alliance reveals a fellowship less weak. This overcomes fear of death, pointing, again, to immortality. But does it offer a political model?
The ring of power renders its wearers invisible & is bound to do evil, including to its bearer or wearer. Longevity is also included there. Invisibility, we learn, is the piety of fear, wishing not to be seen. Being seen is being vulnerable. (Consider also assassination…) Invisible mind becomes invisible to itself in looking at things. The evil do not see that, thinking that announcing terror is the same as controlling necessity.
The film for which Peter Jackson will be remembered. A film for the times.