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Author: Craig Fraser
Challenging European Despair: Riding the Tiger in the European Myth
Much has been said, probably too much, on the writings of JRR Tolkien. For a community of Traditionalists I believe Tolkien stands triumphant as the best example of where a synthesis of Germanised (paganised) Christianity in the form of a strange orthodox Roman Catholicism can find unity with the cultural ideas of European paganism and heathenism and have enough common ground to share the metaphysical space. Crucially that should be our starting point in any exploration of Tolkien’s writings; the man was a Catholic spiritually, and believed in the veracity and solidity of the Bible and Biblical traditions but he was also a staunch lover of Anglo Saxon culture, Germanic paganism and the way of life and spirituality of the Germanic, Nordic and Celtic tribes. In the story of the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien believed he was giving back the English people their religion.
“I have not been nourished by English Literature . . . for the simple reason that I have never found much there in which to rest my heart (or heart and head together). I was brought up in the Classics, and first discovered the sensation of literary pleasure in Homer…I do know Celtic things (many in their original languages Irish and Welsh), and feel for them a certain distaste: largely for their fundamental unreason. They have bright colour, but are like a broken stained glass window reassembled without design. They are in fact ‘mad’. . . but I don’t believe I am…[I] set myself a task, the arrogance of which I fully recognised and trembled at: being precisely to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own.”
Rooted in their mingling of pagan faiths via the Romans, Celts, Germans, Scandinavians, and myriad other Northern European tribes, the English for Tolkien stand on a firm ground of belief and certainty of a singular spiritual source of creation, what he called in the Silmarilion, Iluvatar, or All Father. From out of this central source emanated all the pantheistic conceptions of “gods” with the classical pagan and Romanised/Grecian pantheon present in the vast array of Valar and Ainur, just as the Indo-European cultures had their gods and Titans, Asuras and Devas, Aesir and the Vanir, etc. From out of these forms emanated a further conception of universal creation and evolution, and thus contradictorily a spiritual sense of creation by a colossal but conscious force was unified with a scientific but mythical approach, essentially a form of proto-Cosmotheism. This unified approach to interpreting the myths of all peoples is best summed up in the words of William Pierce:
“All we require is that you share with us a commitment to the simple, but great, truth which I have explained to you here, that you understand that you are a part of the whole, which is the creator, that you understand that your purpose, the purpose of mankind and the purpose of every other part of creation, is the creator’s purpose, that this purpose is the never-ending ascent of the path of creation, the path of life symbolized by our life rune, that you understand that this path leads ever upward toward the creator’s self-realization, and that the destiny of those who follow this path is godhood.”
For those that have read the Silmarilion it goes without saying that such sentiments could fall from the lips of any of the Vanyar in their state of perpetual unity with the gods in Valinor.
Returning to our main point then, Tolkien believed the Lord of the Rings and its companion literature was a method by which the English people could retrieve their spiritual consciousness from the mire of rationalism and modernism and regain their contact and contract with the numinous. Tolkien was effectively the first and most brutally self-aware Romanticist of the tail end of the Kali Yuga. That Tolkien based his stories in an ancient age is not unknown and he even went as far as to date the War of the Ring in a historical period, roughly 5300BC when Sauron was finally defeated, and the floods of the Genesis narrative occurring 2300BC, to fit it neatly within both pagan and Christian structures.
However it is also worth noting that Tolkien despised allegory (“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author”) and when pressed to confirm or deny whether the Orcs and forces of Mordor were supposed to be Nazis or Communists he always returned the spiritual dimensions and enforced the point that anyone could be spiritually an orc and anyone an elf. In his private letters he said to his son that the triumph of technology over nature was a sure victory of the orcs in the modern era. His loathing of allegory then places the story of the Lord of the Rings if it is a semi-historical (therefore mythical) event as being part of an ever cycling form of history, or eternal return as Nietzsche would have it. He understandably saw the roots of the conflict he described in the Lord of the Rings rooted in a consistently returning pattern throughout the ages as anyone with an understanding of myth would agree.
Moral “good” and moral “evil” come into conflict and the two go to war, two world views clashing and coming to a head and ushering in a new age, with soldiers on both sides believing they will bring in a new period of peace (or enslavement) which will better the world (for their own kind). It is therefore easy to see how people cling to the Lord of the Rings by applying it to their own lives and the political and social climates in which they find themselves. In that sense Tolkien has been hugely successful in his desire to give the myth back to English people. The “system” will be described as the Eye of Sauron, NSA computers, the CIA, nosey nanny statists etc. all being compared to the machinations of the wicked characters in the War of the Ring. Heroes and heroic last stands for noble causes are easily compared with the people of Rohan and Gondor and corruption is pointed out in the characters of Denethor or Boromir, both being tempted by the ring in similar ways, wanting to use evil objects/subjects for positive ends. This form of applying myth to current situations is ancient and Europeans in particular have done it for millennia, eventually encouraging the repetition of these events to the point of living them out almost identically again. It seems hugely ironic then that Tolkien may have had a hand in the repetition of such a myth coming into the forefront of the European psyche, especially as we face hordes of eastern and southern invaders into Europe and the majority of Sauron’s human allies were Haradrim, Southrons, and Easterlings, a blindingly obvious mix of Ottoman, Persian, Arabic, and African cultures bent on the destruction of the old crumbling, morally vacuous empires of Gondor, Rohan, and Arnor.
Leaving the strict sense of allegory behind we can loosely see a pattern emerge for our own benefits especially in the sense of seeing patterns of similarity between our own predicament as men of Tradition and that faced by the characters in the War of the Ring. Arnor then emerges geographically and culturally as a kind of Scottish/Scandinavian mountainous area where the once semi-immortal heroes of the sunken continent of Numenor lived, a clear reference to the ideas of Atlantis and Hyperborea which Tolkien was known to enjoy. Anyone interested in the linking of this land with that of the North Sea islands should read the appendices to “Fall of Arthur” by Christopher Tolkien where he expounds on his father’s writings of Tol Eressea and the hidden isle of everlasting youth of the Celts and Britons, etc. The Shire is obviously the south west of England and anyone who doubts this needs to come to Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset, etc. and spend some time among west country folk to see that the Hobbits are alive and well at county fairs and farmers unions around the rural backwaters, still worrying about who has the best sheep and pigs far more than wars in far off lands. Rohan then slips neatly into the German territory, what would have once been the Mark where the horse-riding German warlords conquered and controlled most of what the Romans called Germania and pushing constantly into neighbouring lands. Gondor then becomes what was once unified with Germany as the Holy Roman Empire, i.e. the split Empire under Rome and Constantinople. Again Tolkien was clear that the White City of Minas Tirith was Constantinople and the savagery of its fall at the end of the War of the Ring echoed the brutal sack of the city by the invading Turks; the only brutal point about that fact being that the White City did fall and the enemy still control it.
Bringing this all back to a useful angle leaves us with the following points; history, like myth moves in patterns and cycles, and the mythic structure of the “great war” which Tolkien laid out in both the Silmarilion and the Lord of the Rings (which themselves mirror each other in strange forms) follows the same pattern as our own history and the current struggle we face. All around us are the citizens of the fallen empire of Gondor and Rohan, all around us are spiritual orcs, mutilated traitors who have betrayed everything to a foreign alien and evil god, all around us are the soldiers of the once great kingdom, beaten, down trodden, certain of failure, unprepared and unwilling to fight. All they have binding them to each other is a sense that there was once something better, they have the legends and myths of their people, and even though once great cities like Minas Morgul and Osgiliath have fallen into enemy hands, the embittered people of Gondor endure, even though a false king sits on the throne and the true king resides unknown and ignored in the wilderness somewhere in the far north. That binding sense of unity the inhabitants of Middle Earth retain is Tradition, it is the sense of a great Golden Age when gods (elves) and men walked together and as that age is slowly receding and dying a great myth has died with it and continues to crumble brick by brick. The concept of Riding the Tiger, then, essentially becomes the concept of carrying the Ring back to Mordor to be destroyed, a hopeless task, certain to fail, but one we do nonetheless.
In this article I’d like to look at three core moments of despair which grip major characters and the entirety of the struggle itself to destroy the Ring of power and defeat the Eye of Sauron. In the Fellowship of the Ring there is a moment of great doubt and it is voiced perfectly by one character, the same occurs again in the Two Towers and again in the Return of the King and each time a great eucatrastrophe occurs, when suddenly the powers of darkness are flipped and a character or pair of characters face something spiritual, overcome it, and advance onwards. This is crucial to both Tolkien’s entire work and our own Traditional application, especially of concepts like Riding the Tiger.
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
That moment in Fellowship of the Ring is when the fellowship itself has been shattered by the Uruk Hai and split into three groups; Frodo and Sam carry the ring alone on a perilous path through a perpetual valley of the shadow of death which just gets worse and worse as they advance, Merry and Pippin have been captured by Orcs and are being carried to Isengard where when it is discovered they are not the ring bearers they will be executed, and the main warriors are scattered by the Orcs only to regroup and find Boromir mortally wounded at the hands of Lurtz, Aragorn slays the chief Uruk and goes to Boromir’s aid. We will quote the scene (as it appeared in the movie) in full and then assess it step by step.
BOROMIR – Frodo…where is Frodo?
ARAGORN – I let Frodo go.
BOROMIR – Then you did what I could not. I tried to take the ring from him.
ARAGORN – The ring is beyond our reach now.
BOROMIR – Forgive me, I did not see. I have failed you all.
ARAGORN – No, Boromir. You fought bravely. You have kept your honour.
BOROMIR – Leave it! It is over…the world of Men will fall and all will come to darkness and my city to ruin.
ARAGORN – I do not know what strength is in my blood, but I swear to you… I will not let the White City fall, nor your people fail…
BOROMIR – Our people…our people…I would have followed you, my brother…my captain, my King.
ARAGORN – Be at peace, son of Gondor
So to begin with Boromir asks after the person he has wronged, he is panicky, he believes he has broken the fellowship and ruined the quest (which he has in some ways, but for a better end), Aragorn assures him all is well, that Frodo continues on the mission. Boromir is broken and confesses to his crime, he knows Aragorn is the better captain, better leader, he refused the ring’s temptation and proved himself where Boromir failed, he pleads forgiveness and begins to despair. This is the position many Traditionalists and Nationalists find themselves in when plans are foiled or original measures they took to combat the enemies they see on all sides were thwarted and they see certain failure, they despair and they have a realisation at how foolish their early methods were. A more sensible character around them voices Aragorn’s assurance, “you fought bravely and have kept your honour,” but Boromir and the despairing Traditionalist continue, “leave it, it is over, the world of men will fall and all will come to darkness and my city to ruin.”
Here then is the crucial answer which the redemptive character gives, there is strength in the blood, the hereditary right of the king to rule is not in question and Aragorn and Boromir’s earlier argument about his right to claim the throne of Gondor is brought back, Aragorn essentially promising that he will do what is necessary. He describes the people of Gondor as your people, pointing to the alienation between the men of Arnor and the men of Gondor and Rohan, but Boromir, filled with the realisation of Aragorn’s aristocratic spiritual strength, repeats, “our people.” Then comes his great moment, the full U-turn of his despairing moment, “I would have followed you to the end,” to the very pits of Mordor, fighting tooth and nail for their country, as brothers, no longer separated by the old borders and old animosity of different interpretations of tactic, in death it is all washed away, my brother, my captain, my King. This moment is the first when Aragorn is referred to as King by one of the characters and it is a critical realisation for all involved. In that last moment Aragorn is King of the united kingdom of Arnor, Rohan, and Gondor, and Boromir is forgiven of his moment of weakness and dies in the position of a knight and son of Gondor in the words of the ranger who is now a king on the unstoppable path to his rightful throne.
These moments speak volumes to the way the despairing Man of Tradition can be brought round, they are central to the myth Tolkien spoke of being given back to the English people. In the moment of weakness and doubt the faithful man almost destroys his mission through desperation for power or the opportunity of ending the fight quickly, but he is wrong and he does harm to those he seeks to protect. The voice of reason and certainty in the person of Aragorn is intended to echo that of Christ or Arthur or Beowulf in their own myths and legends where they reassure a trusted friend and comrade that all is in hand, all has gone well, no wrong has truly been done and the war is not ended, there is still fight and strength in those who continue on.
This is crucial for us to understand as Europeans. When one of our number makes a mistake, despairs and sees only enemies, ruination and annihilation, those of us who are certain of victory have a responsibility to stand up and say with Aragorn, “I swear to you, I will not let the White City fall nor our people fail.” It is not a meaningless piece of rhetoric, it cuts to the very core of the European myth, we will not fail
THE TWO TOWERS
The second time in the trilogy when someone faces ultimate despair again features Aragorn and is in my opinion the fundamental turning point of the entire story. Each book contains a eucatastrophe but the one in the Two Towers is the eucatrastrophe par excellence for all of the characters involved.
Right at the end of the battle of Helm’s Deep the characters face certain death and their resolve to fight honourably begins to waver. Once again, the groups are split, Helm’s Deep has been virtually sacked by Uruks, Gandalf is gone, the Rohirrim are lost, the army of Rohan has been slaughtered and the women and children will be slaughtered by the horde pounding at the door.
THEODEN – The fortress is taken. It is over.
ARAGORN – You said this fortress would never fall while your men defend it. They still defend it. They have died defending it.
ARAGORN – Is there no other way for the women and children to get out of the caves? Is there no other way?
GAMLING – There is one passage. It leads into the mountains. But they will not get far. The Uruk-hai are too many.
ARAGORN – Tell the women and children to make for the mountain pass. And barricade the entrance!
THEODEN – So much death. What can Men do against such reckless hate?
ARAGORN – Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.
THEODEN – For death and glory.
ARAGORN – For Rohan. For your people.
THEODEN – Yes………Yes………The horn of Helm Hammerhand……shall sound in the Deep……one last time.
THEODEN – (placing his hand on Aragorn’s shoulder) Let this be the hour when we draw swords together.
THEODEN – Fell deeds, awake. Now for wrath……now for ruin and a red dawn.
THEODEN – Forth Eorlingas!
Again, let’s break this down. Theoden stands a broken king, all his words and his bravado have been shattered, he was certain of victory, all his hopes had been pinned on using the tactics that had worked before and this new enemy, the Uruk Hai (and their suicide bomber), have broken the wall and annihilated his men. He says without hope “the fortress is taken, it is over,” Aragorn angrily retorts that Theoden (a fellow king) had said with certainty that the fortress would never fall whilst his men defend it, perhaps Aragorn here is feeling the fear as well that his promise to Boromir to not let the White City fall would also face similar despair. Theoden does not answer Aragorn’s anger and instead stares at the floor. Aragorn immediately turns to concern for the women and children and asks if there is a way for them to escape, just as we face the same concerns in Europe, whilst the men of our nations sit and despair, staring glumly at the floor, women and children are raped and murdered.
Theoden then enters what I believe to be the state of mind every European Traditionalist and Nationalist is currently feeling, “what can men do against such reckless hate?” He has no answers, he has no tactics, his tactics failed, he has nothing but despair and hatred for his enemy but no way to act, nothing which feels like it will work. And then, then Aragorn speaks. “Ride out with me, ride out and meet them,” the answer of the heroic man, the man with vigour and hope and pride in himself and his people, a true King, he says the answer is to fight. And again Theoden gives a despairing answer, the answer our men would give in this day, “for death and glory.” All they see is the certainty of death and extinction so all they can say is “at least we can say we stood against them.” NO! Aragorn responds, “for Rohan, for your people.” This is the moment the entire story flips, a despairing king realises his duty, the great stories of his ancestors, he realises the power of myth, he senses the great moment of the great hour of the great age and he feels forces of the great age moving through him. “Yes, yes, the horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep one last time.” It does not matter that he believes they will all die, it does not matter that he still believes there is no hope, he has chosen to act and he has chosen to fight back.
The European man stands upon the same precipice, our women and children are in the caves, but the enemy is at the door, they are weeping, “they are at the door, they have broken through,” and all about us stand stunted, staring, slack jawed men who stutter and weep, “what can men do against such reckless hate,” and all we need, all we need, is an Aragorn to stand up and say with a loud voice, for all of Europe to hear, “ride out with me, ride out and meet them, not for death, not for glory, but for Europe, for our people.” I do not doubt for a second that all true men of Europe would stand with one voice and say together, “we will follow you to the end, brother, captain, king.”
RETURN OF THE KING
The last moment of doom and despair comes at the final battle, when all of the men of Rohan and Gondor have risen up to defend their nation, they have ridden to the field of battle, the old alliances have been honoured, the armies of the world are gathered at the fields in front of Minas Tirith and man of Gondor and Arnor stand opposing the forces of darkness, Easterling, Haradrim and Southron and make war to the knife.
In the great castle of the White City the false king has gone mad, the city wall has been breached, all appears to be lost –
GANDALF – Retreat! The city is breached. Fall back to the second level. Get the women and children out. Get them out. Retreat.
The orcs enter the city and slaughter anyone in their path, women and children scream as they are butchered.
GANDALF – Fight! Fight to the last man. Fight for your lives.
PIPPIN: Gandalf! Gandalf! Denethor has lost his mind. He’s burning Faramir alive!
GANDALF -Up! Quickly!
As Gandalf and Pippin ride up the city the Witch King lands in front of them.
GANDALF – Go back to the abyss! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your master!
WITCH KING – Do you not know death when you see it, old man? This is my hour!
WITCH KING – You have failed! The world of men will fall.
Again (!) this theme is repeated, at Boromir’s death the focus was on the White City falling, at Helm’s Deep Theoden despaired that the fortress had fallen and all was lost and now from the lips of the enemy himself the declaration, “the world of men will fall, you have failed, this is my hour.” Does this declaration not resound from the lips of every Communist, Liberal, government politician, and Islamist across the world? Do we not hear it all the time from every one of the enemies of Europe? You have failed, your empire has fallen, your people will be wiped out, you will be punished, this is our time.
And once again, the same thing happens, the eucatastrophe, the horn is blown in the distance, Gandalf and the Witch King look up, both of them surprised as the horns blow again, as something from the north gathers on the horizon. The Rohirrim appear with the rising sun and stand ready for battle.
THEODEN – Eomer, take your Eored down the left flank.
EOMER – Flank ready!
THEODEN – Gamling, follow the King’s banner down the centre. Grimbold! Take your company right after you pass the wall. Forth and fear no darkness!
THEODEN – Arise! Arise riders of Theoden. Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered, a sword day, a red day ere the sun rises!!
Theoden rides across the front of the men, running his sword along all their spears.
THEODEN – Ride now, ride now! Ride! Ride for ruin and the world’s ending! DEATH!
ARMY – DEATH!
THEODEN – DEATH!
ARMY – DEATH!
THEODEN – DEATH!
THEODEN – DEATH!
EOWYN/MERRY – DEATH!
THEODEN – Forth Eorlingas!
Gone is the man who despaired at the battle of Helm’s Deep. Here stands a true son of Rohan, and giving frank and sharp orders to his men finishes with a staunch command “forth, and fear no darkness.” Then begins his speech to his men, most of whom are certain to die, but he has experience behind him now, he has faced worse odds and he has lived and he has triumphed, he has the fire of victory in him now, but he gives the opposite speech and in my opinion steals the show from Aragorn in terms of rousing words. He does not encourage his men to victory, he calls them to rise, arise and he promises that their spears will be shaken, their shields splintered, this will be a sword day, a red day, a day of blood and violence and savage death. As he rides in front of them clashing his sword against their spears he calls them to ride for ruin and the world’s ending. Then begins a chant which every fascist and nationalist from the 1920’s and 30’s would have warmly appreciated “Death! Death! Death! Death! Death! Death! Death!” This is no meaningless war cry, this is the battle chant of European men, and as they ride from a trot to a gallop they are certain of their place in their history.
That Aragorn returns as King riding a white horse and enters the battlefield with an army of dead knights, saves the city and massacres the enemy army is for me by this point moot, because the Riders of Rohan have had the victory of the day, when all was lost, all was beyond hope and everyone was despairing, when the Witch King declared this to be his hour, the men of Rohan stole it from him.
This is our myth. British men–European men–can look to the Lord of the Rings as a cyclical tale of eternal imperial might which has faced the men who call this continent home. We have faced Moors in Spain, Huns and Mongols from the East, Ottomans from the South, and savages from all over the world trying to take our countries by force and to enslave our people, rape our women, and murder our sons and daughters. But each time an Aragorn, a Theoden, an Arthur, Beowulf, and Sigurd has emerged from among the men of the north and raised an army in defense of her borders. Each time the borders of our Europe are threatened, when orcs run rampant in our streets, when our old cities fall and the enemies without and within begin to openly declare their desire for us to be destroyed, wiped from the face of the earth, that is when a Leonidas, a Charles Martel, a Crusading Army, a Holy League arises and says enough.
Again I will repeat, as Traditionalists and Europeans we stand at the brink of our Helms Deep, when all will be lost, when every man and woman and child thinks, there is nothing left, we are doomed, what can be done? And a man will rise up from somewhere in the north and say “ride out with me, ride out and meet them.”
Until that day brothers and sisters, do not despair. We are certain to win.
Read more from Craig Fraser where this article was originally posted, at http://www.sigurd.org.uk/journal/