Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Last Ringbearer 

Kirill Yeskov’s The Last Ringbearer serves as an informal parallel and sequel to the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, opening towards the end of The Return of the Ring with an original character, the orc Tzerlag, on the wastes of Mordor. A few chapters in, Yeskov describes the climate of Middle-earth, and adds that “A state that is unable to feed itself and is dependent on food imports cannot be considered a formidable foe.” The chapter afterward focuses on a fictitious meeting between the wizards Gandalf and Saruman, with the latter accusing the former of planning “the Final Solution to the Mordorian problem.”

Yeskov describes the alliance between Mordor and Isengard and that between Gondor and Rohan, suggesting that Mordor dreaded being cut off from its food sources. Factors such as the Ent Fangorn’s battle against Isengard and Aragorn’s army of the dead on the fields outside Minas Tirith helped turn the tide of the war, and as this happens, Tzerlag discusses with the human doctor Haladdin what can be done to save Mordor. It is suggested that Sauron’s land was on the brink of an industrial revolution, and Haladdin meets one of the nazgúl, known as Sharya-Rana in his previous human life, and who gives the monk the ring that had enslaved him before vanishing.

The main goal of the main Mordorian protagonists is to shatter Galadriel’s Mirror to deal a blow to Elven magic, with the further suggestion that the One Ring actually wasn’t actually magical and not meant to grant power over all of Middle-earth. The second subsection of Yeskov’s book focuses on the canon characters of Tolkien’s trilogy, with the mention of spies, among them being Cheetah, who desires to act in the name of the King. The action in the following part returns to the non-canon characters, chief among them introduced being Baron Tangorn, whose responsibilities hinder his relationship with his love Alviss, and minor focus is given to his shopping for her favorite flower.

Yeskov describes a behind-the-scenes organization, the Umbarian Secret Service, fronted as the Department of Special Documentation, with its animalian-named agents such as Cheetah on the move, and Tangorn playing his part, as well. The main plan by the original characters is to steal one of the communicative palantír and destroy it in a fashion similar to the One Ring. After the main text is an epilogue stating that the narrative is based entirely on Tzerlag’s detailed stories, with the statement that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a history written by the victors.

All in all, Yeskov’s alternate account definitely shows promise, but somewhat falls flat, given things such as its stylistic dissonance with Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy. The constant bouncing back and forth between various characters can really confound readers, particularly the fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy that likely serve as the book’s primary audience, and the book consequentially has a fragmented feel that makes the more-straightforward LOTR novels seem much preferable. Yeskov is definitely right in saying that the War of the Ring wasn’t completely black and white, but overall, his alternative account winds up being something of a glorified fanfic.

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