Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Leave us alone please.

     A point was raised in class today that I found thought provoking.  Were Giles and the villagers justified in seceding from the King's governance, or was it an unjustified act of rebellion?  The folk of Ham had remained largely unhindered by the King.  He paid little attention to them, and in turn they paid little attention to him.  Tolkien characterizes them as plain country folk that want to be left in peace.  This seems analogous to the hobbits of the Shire.  The king of Gondor used to have power over that corner of the land, but no more, and the hobbits had quite forgotten that they ever used to be under the dominion of anyone.  They want to remain free, and at the end of The Return of the King their autonomy is secured.  Even though Aragorn is now king over the land, he leaves the Shirefolk to go on with their lives unhindered (at least I think he does if I remember correctly).  As for Ham, they openly rebel against the King for their independence.  Even though the hobbits and the people of Ham want the same thing, does the way they get that thing matter?  It seems clear that Tolkien would have valued his independence as well, but how would he have gone about it?  Are rebelling against an established monarch to gain independence and being left alone long enough to remember only independence the same thing, or are the means more important than the ends?

7 comments:

Michael Lott said...

Lore wise the Shire I believe was never under any one's control accept its own. Also it would have been the kings of Arnor, the northern kingdom, and not the kings of Gondor that ruled the lands around the Shire. This is a reason why having a large number of goods leaving the shire in Return of the King is rather odd, as they would have neither traded much or given tribute to people outside the shire. In response to the people of Ham revolting, I think that it is as justified as most rebellions and successions in history. As this particular one was spurned on by a useless or nasty king I find it likely that Tolken was inspired potentially by William Wallis, the Barron's Revolt, or even the Glorious Revolution.

Richard Wentworth said...

It's a strange kind of rebellion, since the King is really the aggressor in this case. I think, like you said, that the King and Ham didn't have much to do with each other. They probably thought of themselves as independent already.

Giles says, "I reckon Tailbiter is better off with me than with your folk." The King's folk are not Giles' folk. I think Ham is defending an independence it already has. It may be under the power of the King by law, but that law, like the King and his knights, is ineffectual.

Maybe we're also to understand that the King has voided his feudal contract by failing to protect those under his power. If Giles is the one doing the business of defending the realm, why shouldn't he be King?

Troy Wells said...

As further evidence of Richard's last point I would look at the comment Giles made while he was with the knights in the valley. As they were arguing about precedence he wondered how they "earned their keep." I view this as implying that for kings, knights or leaders in general to earn their keep that they were expected to (at least according to Giles) have a certain level of toughness that would give them the monopoly on violence that leaders usually have. Once the king and his knights lost their monopoly on violence to Giles they lost their jobs too.

Anna Adams said...

I feel that they were justified in their rebellion. The King and his men didn't do their jobs when they needed to be done. Specifically, they didn't defend the villagers from the dragon. The village of Ham was never really governed by the King since they were out on their own. It made sense for them to seize their independence officially. I agree with what's already been said, that they probably had already thought of themselves as independent.

Julie Lautenschleger said...

Anna, I really do agree with your position. The king was very apathetic and did not use his power for the betterment of the people he governed. However, we must also consider the fact that Giles was also a bit lazy himself. The king and their knights were in it for the money, but Giles was no better. He simply wanted to avoid ridicule. Surely his kingdom would then be no better than the last kingdom! Another lazy ruler dragging his feet! Giles was not a bad man, by any means, but he was not a noble leader either.
-Julianna Lautenschleger

S. M. said...

I agree with Richard that it seems that the king’s power over Ham became null when he failed to ensure the safety of that village. Also, it appears that the king did not really consider the villagers to be his people because if he had, then he would have visited Ham in both its times of trouble and of joy. Instead, the only time we see him eagerly heading off to Ham is when he hears that a great load of treasure is supposedly going to arrive there.

Megan said...

What really sparks my interest in this discussion is less what the characters were doing or thinking and more what Tolkien himself was thinking. I could expect "sticking it to the man" like this from a more contemporary author, or from an American--but from an Englishman born in the 1800s??? It's kind of crazy! I always think of Tokien as really conservative and probably fairly imperially-minded. I've never heard of him complaining about the monarchy or the government. He was in the military as was his son. So it just boggles my mind that he would write such a horrible king against whom rebellion is kind of awesome. We can always say "oh, it's just a story, he didn't really hold with any of that" but that's a weak answer. Thoughts?