Tolkien on democracy

04 Nov

“King Bard! King Bard!” they shouted; but the Master ground his chattering teeth.

“Girion was lord of Dale, not king of Esgaroth,” he said. “In the Laketown we have always elected masters from among the old and wise, and have not endured the rule of mere fighting men. Let ‘King Bard’ go back to his own kingdom-Dale is now freed by his valour, and nothing binders his return. And any that wish can go with him, if they prefer the cold shores under the shadow of the Mountain to the green shores of the lake. The wise will stay here and hope to rebuild our town, and enjoy again in time its peace and riches.”

“We will have King Bard!” the people near at hand shouted in reply. “We have had enough of the old men and the money-counters!” And people further off took up the cry: “Up the Bowman, and down with Moneybags,” till the clamour echoed along the shore.

“I am the last man to undervalue Bard the Bowman,” said the Master warily (for Bard now stood close beside him). “He has tonight earned an eminent place in the roll of the benefactors of our town; and he is worthy of many imperishable songs. But,
why O People?”-and here the Master rose to his feet and spoke very loud and clear – “why do I get all your blame? For what fault am I to be deposed? Who aroused the dragon from his slumber, I might ask? Who obtained of us rich gifts and ample help, and led us to believe that old songs could come true? Who played on our soft hearts and our pleasant fancies? What sort of gold have they sent down the river to reward us? Dragon-fire and ruin! From whom should we claim the recompense of our damage, and aid for our widows and orphans?”

As you see, the Master had not got his position for nothing. The result of his words was that for the moment the people quite forgot their idea of a new king, and turned their angry thoughts towards Thorin and his company. Wild and bitter words were shouted from many sides; and some of those who had before sung the old songs loudest, were now heard as loudly crying that the dwarves had stirred the dragon up against them deliberately!

“Fools!” said Bard. “Why waste words and wrath on those unhappy creatures? Doubtless they perished first in fire, before Smaug came to us.” Then even as he was speaking, the thought came into his heart of the fabled treasure of the Mountain lying without guard or owner, and he fell suddenly silent. He thought of the Master’s words, and of Dale rebuilt, and filled with golden bells, if he could but find the men.

At length he spoke again: “This is no time for angry words. Master, or for considering weighty plans of change. There is work to do. I serve you still-though after a while I may think again of your words and go North with any that will follow me.”


Posted by on November 4, 2011 in government


2 responses to “Tolkien on democracy

  1. Will S.

    November 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Interesting passage.

  2. Will S.

    November 5, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Incidentally, I’ve always liked the late 19th / early 20th century humourist Ambrose Bierce’s take on various political matters (in his book entitled The Devil’s Dictionary, filled with humourous definitions of various words), e.g.:

    A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

    DICTATOR, n.
    The chief of a nation that prefers the pestilence of despotism to the plague of anarchy.


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