Thanks to the timeliness and popularity of the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, comparisons between the hobbits’ quest and our own struggle against the Great Jihad have become commonplace. It’s hard to avoid goosebumps of uncanny recognition when Aragorn says, “This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand, men of the West!”
Sauron is clearly a composite of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Mullah Omar, Saddam Hussein, with all of al Qaeda and the other mujahideen for his legions of orcs. And Saruman? I would vote for Hugo Chávez, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong-il, all rolled into one. And the Fellowship of the Ring represents… well, it represents all of the rest of us, doesn’t it? “The Men of the West,” indeed.
The analogy really struck home the other day, when I was thinking about how invisible George W. Bush had become as his political enemies did everything they could to bring him down.
“I know what is,” I thought. “He found himself in danger, and has put on the Ring!”
It was Boromir, in the person of Senator John McCain, who induced this behavior in President Frodo: “Just let me have the Ring, Mr. President! I could do great things with it!”
Then he looked around in surprise as the wily hobbit vanished and slipped from his grasp.
So how far can one extend the metaphor? Bilbo is obviously Bush 41, who had the Ring in his possession for a little while, but relinquished it to his younger kinsman. George Galloway does well in the part of Grima Wormtongue, sneaking around the back corridors of power with his all his lying and scheming. And Gollum is a certain Massachusetts Senator and former presidential candidate: “It’s ours, precious, yes it is! The nasty hobbitses stole it from us!”
And the Riders of Rohan? I vote for the doughty Australians for that role. But that puts their Prime Minister in the part of Theoden, so Mr. Howard will have to watch out that his horse doesn’t fall on him.
I see Jacques Chirac as Denethor, burning down the palace around himself as his countrymen despair of their ability to withstand the onslaught of the evil horde from the east.
The analogy is not perfect. We lack Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and all the other Elves. I might hand their parts to Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher, but these greats have already departed for the Grey Havens, or are waiting on the quayside.
And Aragorn has not appeared on the horizon. The Sword That Was Broken has yet to be reforged.
So, for President Frodo, a brief word of advice: while you have the Ring on your finger, avoid the gaze of the lidless eye.