Tolkien, Sauron, and the NSA

It’s been a very long time since I read The Lord of the Rings. It’s hard to remember now what all my reactions to it were – admiration of Sam and Frodo, concern for Merry and Pippin, a fair bit of boredom with all the elf-lore.

I’m sure I sensed that along with a very creative story set in an incredibly detailed world of Tolkien’s own imagining, he was also illustrating important principles about human behavior, morality, and the nature of life in general. What I’m sure I never thought about was any connection between Tolkien’s fantasy and real-world spying.

An article in Slate makes some fascinating comparisons between the Eye of Sauron and recent activity of the National Security Agency. It’s a short enough article, so I won’t try to summarize it – read what two professors have to say about how Tolkien understood today’s spying better than George Orwell.


One Response to Tolkien, Sauron, and the NSA

  1. Peter L says:

    Interesting analogy. Who would have thought that in writing an adventure story Tolkien could have uncovered weaknesses in an agency yet to exist. All those fearful of “Big Brother” have to realize that it would take millions of operatives to listen to or read every message millions of citizens send. So why worry that the NSA is hearing every word of every conversation when it would be impossible to do without each of us being an agent.

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