Because Gandalf refers to Mordor as the “Evil Empire” and is accused of crafting a “Final Solution to the Mordorian problem” by rival wizard Saruman, he obviously serves as an avatar for Russia’s 20th-century foes. But the juxtaposition of the willfully feudal and backward “West,” happy with “picking lice in its log ‘castles'” while Mordor cultivates learning and embraces change, also recalls the clash between Europe in the early Middle Ages and the more sophisticated and learned Muslim empires to the east and south. Sauron passes a “universal literacy law,” while the shield maiden Eowyn has been raised illiterate, “like most of Rohan’s elite” — good guys Tolkien based on his beloved Anglo-Saxons.
Laura Miller – Middle-earth according to Mordor
Kirill Eskov, a Russian paleontologist, biologist and writer, tells the tale of the largest battle in Middle-Earth from the opposite point of view. Though the book was written in 1999, until recently there weren’t any good English translations of Mr. Eskov’s work – enter Yisroel Markov, who stepped up and translated it for us, providing a free translation under a non-commercial license.
My reading list has just grown by one.
If you’re the least bit interested in Lord of the Rings, (real) history or even the gray areas of copyright, check out Laura Miller’s piece on the story and its translation Middle-earth according to Mordor, which provides some interesting insight beyond the story itself.