On Uncivilized Peoples

The Ride of the Rohirrim

The Last Ride of Rohan - and the sun rises! (Source)

The Last Ride of Rohan – and the sun rises! (Source)

The “other” need not always be categorizes as the Enemy, but instead as the “lesser” – time and time again throughout The Lord of the Rings the wise and powerful underestimate the courage and wisdom of weaker and uncivilized folks. Saruman and the Ents; Denethor and all outside of Gondor; just about everyone and the halflings of the Shire: with their biases and expectations, they cannot open their mind to the surprising capacity of those of inferior blood or small accomplishments. Yet it is through the bravery and insight of uncivilized people that ultimately comes the key instruments of success for the forces of good.

Consider the Drúadan. It is not unjust to describe them as uncivilized: wild men, lacking the trappings of farm and homestead, city and industry. A remnant of the hunters and gatherers of old, they cannot ride out for the defense of good. Nevertheless, they possess their own wisdom and virtue: to approach willingly a vast army of horsemen who have in the past hunted their people; to guide along secret paths through ancient forests to save time and avoid dangerous obstacles; to know the passing of the Sun and the movement of the air even in the darkness of stifling shadow. “Wild Men are wild, free, but not children” – and to consider their offerings lesser because of that is the folly of prideful empire. Uncivilized does not mean unjust, or unvirtuous, or un-good.

We do not often use the term uncivilized in our conversations of the rise and fall of peoples these days, yet we understand its aim. For there remain in this world communities of lesser development, of weaker strength, of more struggling civilization. We who have the fortunate to have been born or raised amongst the great towns and cities of the world can fall into the folly of disdain and dismissiveness. Let us resist this! The contribution of all people, both the great and the small, matter to the weaving of the ultimate tapestry of the world. Even those who cannot ride forth as the Rohirrim for justice and righteousness have their own insight and strength to supply.

However, we must also remember the occasional imbalance of roles. The Drúadan would not be able to survive the onset of Mordor save for the valiant efforts of Gondor and Rohan. The Shire would not have blossomed in peace and fruitfulness had not the long and secret vigilance of the Dúnedain kept their borders secure. That such lands need the assistance of those of arms lessens not the people who reside in them: the deeds of four small hobbits will outweigh the movements of all of the great. Nevertheless, there is a warning in this for those blest with resources and authority: there are things beyond one’s borders worthy of defense and preservation, lest they be obliterated before their time of fulfillment.

The Ents, the Shire, the Drúadan: all are uncivilized, all are “lesser,” and yet all are necessary for the victory of good. The long laboring of Aragorn and Gandalf in defense of these lands comes to fruition, for the all things, great and small, have the capacity to perform wonders.


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