Sauron Was The Good Guy, Says One Whole Russian Novel
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We've had a lot of fun in past articles, looking at villains in stories and flipping the point of view to make them the hero. One villain ripe for this treatment is Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. Sure, there's no defending him if you go totally off the original text, but what if the book has an unreliable narrator? After all, in reality, even when a war has a clear good side and a clear bad side, the people fighting for evil aren't literally disgusting monsters—except for in propaganda. So (says this theory), we have to treat The Lord of the Rings as elvish propaganda and imagine the truth for ourselves.
A fair amount of fanfiction has taken this route, and one bit of fanfiction went further than most. The Last Ringbearer is a full-length Russian novel that made it to print, and in the 20-plus years since it was first written, it's been published in many different countries and translated to half a dozen languages. Author Kirill Eskov was originally inspired by a major flaw in the original story of Middle-earth. We are of course talking about ... tectonic plates.
The world of Middle-earth consists of a single continent, and that means a massive mountain range must sit at the center. Eskov knew this because he is a paleontologist. Tolkien didn't because he wasn't—Tolkien was a philologist, and he designed the story around the languages he invented, not around realistic geography. So, reasoned Eskov, The Lord of the Rings gives us just a limited account of what "really" happened in Middle-earth, and if it was wrong about this one thing, what else did it leave out?
Plenty, when he thought more about it. For starters, how is there not a single mention of currency in this massively long story about society and conflict? And then, of course, there was the big one: How can an entire side of a war, multiple whole races, be inherently evil? That can't possibly be true. And so he wrote The Last Ringbearer, in which Mordor's only crime is industrialization, which threatens the warmongering traditionalist men and wizards. The elves are racist (though, that was true in the original story as well), and Arwen only weds Aragorn to gain control of Gondor.
In 2011, a translator named Yisroel Markov made an English version of The Last Ringbearer freely available to download. You can hunt that down, but it'll be a little while longer till anyone publishes it and sells it anywhere near Tolkien estate lawyers. That'll have to wait till Lord of the Rings enters the public domain ... which happens in just around 30 years or so.
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Top image: New Line Cinema