One of the main reasons I chose to study psychology was because I was incredibly fascinated by where thoughts come from. I’ve been a semi-professional writer for several years and there is always that sense of what am I going to write. Sometimes articles have to be forced, other times it is easy to focus on current life events, and other times unexpected inspiration shows up. It’s this unexpected inspiration that I like looking into and trying to understand. And that brings us to something that happened last night.
I was comfortably asleep when I had a dream. I know, great let’s hear about this asshole’s dream, but let me finish. I dreamt I was explaining our moon, and seasons, and basic astronomy to Gollum, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit monster. He referred to the moon as Rex, not relevant just thought that was interesting. Almost immediately after explaining to him about the earth being tilted and thus creating the different seasons, I awoke. I thought about what I had just dreamt and those thoughts quickly got me to wondering about Middle Earth experiencing a science renaissance.
This opened a giant can of questions for me that I have spent most of the day thinking about. It was a nice contrast to the mind numbing prattle of the NFL announcers.
The world in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is similar to our own medieval and pre-medieval times. Because we are able to make that connection we also tend to think there are many other similarities and we believe we can relate to ourselves and the world and the history we know, yet we still get the sense of the fantasy and make-believe that Tolkien is creating. But for now let’s just ignore the fantasy elements.
When we consider the similarities then there is the expectation of a timeline, or perhaps some evolutionary ideas that would lead us to believe that this world will start to develop the sense of wonder and fascination in the world they don’t understand; the same kind of ideas that lead Galileo to contemplate the sky above him. It could be easy to expect hobbits to ignore these thoughts as they seem to exist in a simple place, living simple lives. But hobbits like Bilbo and Frodo, et.al. have experienced and seen so much more than the shire could ever show them, and such experiences often create thoughts of grander things.
Would it be too much of a stretch to think these folks would venture into the realm of science as we know it? Why wouldn’t they try figure out the human body or try to understand space? Do they believe Middle Earth is flat? Is Middle Earth flat? With all that walking would they be looking for an alternative which leads to the automobile; or other such inventions? Or have the beings of this land reached their intellectual peak?
There is one thing Tolkien’s world has that ours lacks: magic. In addition to whether or not the beings of middle earth reach an age of enlightenment, the other question that lingers is what role does magic play in the world of science? In many stories involving magic and wizards and all that shit we often see them creating potions, which I suppose is a form of chemistry. The question then becomes is science necessary when magic exists? Generally we use science to answer questions we can’t explain, but when you can just defer to magic does science serve a purpose?
It seems like it would serve a purpose considering the primitive lifestyle that seems to exist on Middle Earth. Then again maybe that’s the way they want it. This just opens a more philosophical question of who is better off: us with our scientific advancements, or them with their easy living magic? I don’t actually care to get into that discussion.
It does seem their magic is a bit limiting. Or maybe I’m just asking how far it can take them? Is Gandalf able to explore space? I don’t think so. I assume they don’t have the ability to overcome the pressure or lack of oxygen often associated with space exploration, so they would know about as much as old timey astronomers, but nothing like our NASA.
In addition to Gandalf’s lack of space knowledge, I believe there are several different types of wizards all with different specialties, so you might have to utilize multiple magical beings to get your science answers. Now that I think about that, maybe all this magic stuff is actually just a metaphor for science. There’s all these different fields of science, and often to get the answers we need we have to apply aspects from these different fields.
I think I got a bit off track, ultimately I just want to see where the folks of Middle Earth go from here. Do they grow scientifically and artistically? Can science and magic co-exist in the same world? Do they need to? I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas. But mostly I want Gollum to understand grade school science and tell me why he called the moon Rex.