The Nine Walkers And The Nine Worthies

One of the major themes of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is that of unity and division. The forces of Mordor spend most of their time quarrelling amongst themselves; such as in the episode of the Tower of Cirith Ungol where the Orc garrison fall upon each other in a dispute between two opposed factions.

“Sam strode forward. Sting glittered blue in his hand. The courtyard lay in deep shadow, but he could see that the pavement was strewn with bodies. Right at his feet were two orc-archers with knives sticking in their backs. Beyond lay many more shapes; some singly as they had been hewn down or shot; others in pairs, still grappling one another, dead in the very throes of stabbing, throttling, biting. The stones were slippery with dark blood.”

It is striking that the forces of Sauron seem unified only by their hatred of good and the mesmeric influence of the One Ring which draws them to Mordor-

‘One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie’.

On the contrary it is ultimately the unity of the forces of good which defeats Sauron, built on the foundations of the company of the Ring- brought together by choice unlike the forces of Mordor enslaved by the One Ring.

‘The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours.’ ‘For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men.”

(As a Bahá’í I find Tolkien’s emphasis on the importance of unity very moving. The founder of the the Bahá’í Faith Bahá’u’lláh wrote “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth”).

The ‘Nine Walkers’ themselves represent a unity in diversity very reminiscent of the ‘Nine Worthies’ of Medieval romance. The ‘Nine Worthies’ were a recurring motif in Medieval art representing universal heroic values. In the manner of the Company of the Ring they were a diverse group comprising Pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar) Old Testament Jews (Joshua, David Judas, Maccabeus) and Christian Knights (King Arthur, Charlemagne, Godfrey of Bouillon).

(All quotations from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J RR Tolkien, Harper Collins 1994 edition)


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