Friday, July 19, 2013

The Lord of the Rings, by Ayn Rand

So part 3 of Atlas Shrugged. I'm already done with the first two chapters! Eight more to go!

At first I was reminded of The Wizard of Oz when Dagny wakes up in Galt's Gulch after her airplane chase above Colorado.

But soon it struck me that Galt's Gulch is much more like a place from another novel, a novel with a cult-like following to which Atlas Shrugged has already been compared:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
As much as I love that quote - and I first read it via the Mighty Krug-man, I have to disagree because both novels involve orcs: Rand has so dehumanized the characters who stand in the way of her personal Triumph of the Will that they are very similar to orcs - in their physical unsightliness and stupidity and especially their instinctual hatred of anything good.

And the people living in Galt's Gulch are every bit as realistic as the Elves in Rivendell, and John Galt is every bit as noble and in control of his emotions as Elrond. The Gulchers only live to work - either sustenance labor or their real work which is being the greatest musician, or greatest surgeon, or greatest actress or greatest metal smelter or whatever, of all time. And they never quarrel and they are never jealous of each other. Very like the Elves, although Tolkien's Elves are more likely to sing than smelt metal. Almost all the metal-smelting in the LOTR gets done by dwarves.

And as in the Mines of Moria in Middle Earth, Galt's Gulch too has a voice-activated door. Although instead of the simple Elvish "say friend and enter" Galt makes you recite his anti-Communist Manifesto: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for mine."

Rand's characters never tire of being humorless and dreary.

Like Frodo, waking up in Rivendell after his injuries, Dagny wakes up in The Gulch and meets up with old friends while healing.

Francisco d'Anconia shows up - he was missing for a little bit because he was out trying to rescue Dagny who, for all anybody outside of the Gulch knew, died in an airplane crash. Because although John Galt is able to create a deflector shield to hide the entirety of Galt's Gulch, and a voice operated door and a zero-point energy motor, etc. etc., he can't figure out some way to communicate with Gulchers outside the Gulch.

D'Anconia's thrilled to see Dagny alive and in Galt's Gulch and immediately tells her that although he has been celibate for twelve years because she's the woman of his dreams, he's perfectly OK with her choosing Rearden over himself.

Well within the context of this book it makes perfect sense: in a world where the bourgeoisie collectivize their own factory then surely it's no big deal if a handsome man at the peak of his super-competent virility puts himself, without anybody suggesting he does so, in the friendzone.

And the bitter irony of it all is that although d'Anconia thinks he's stepping aside for Rearden, Dagny has summarily dumped Hank in favor of John Galt.

Come to think of it, The Lord of the Rings was actually more realistic when it came to romantic triangles - Aragorn clearly feels much worse about having to reject Éowyn because he's already betrothed to Arwen than Dagny ever feels about rejecting d'Anconia. And Éowyn is clearly much more upset about being rejected than d'Anconia is.

The men of Galt's Gulch, although they are impressed that Dagny has shown up - she's famous, especially in the Gulch -  don't seem to express any sexual interest in her and that's odd because the only women mentioned in Galt's Gulch besides the Dagster are Kay Ludlow, the most beautiful actress in the world - who is married to Ragnar Danneskjöld (I'm glad his manly beauty isn't going to waste as the focus of Rearden's imagination only) and "the fishwife" because she fishes, and an unnamed mother of two boys - so we can assume she's in a monogamous marriage in the land of Galt's Gulch. So there are two single women in the Gulch and one of them is called The Fishwife.

So what's a single attractive railroad executive got to do around here to get a little Übermenschen action?

But would you expect wolf-whistles in Rivendell, where the male:female ratio is about the same?

So I'm musing over the similarities between Rivendell and Galt's Gulch and I'm thinking how funny it would be if somebody did a mash-up between LOTR and AS - and abracadabra, say friend and enter, somebody already did - and it is hysterical!

Ayn Rand's The Lord of the Rings begins like this:
Page 1: 
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was a great stir in Hobbiton. Friends and relations gathered to pay tribute to this brave individualist. Bilbo was rich and therefore a good person, having gained wealth from a mysterious journey many years before. But the party-goers’ thoughts were occupied with a different mystery, one that had nothing to do with the source of Bilbo’s wealth. There was another question on the lips of the Tooks, the Sackville-Bagginses, the Brandybucks. And that question was this—
             “WHO IS SAURON BARAD-DÛR?”
The second-most funniest part is:
“We must hurry,” said Gandalf. “Already the statists and the welfare bums are moving across the land — a vast, vile tide of compromise and mendacity. There is not a second to spare!” 
“But wait,” said Frodo. He held the ring up to the light. “This is a most interesting metallic alloy.” 
“It is a mixture of aluminum, mercury, lead, and bromide,” Gandalf replied.
“Of all the exciting things in the world! A metallic alloy!” 
“With an 0.0003% ad-mixture of strontium,” Gandalf added. 
“You must tell me more!” 
Gandalf nodded. He exhaled a cloud of smoke from his pipe. 
“Certainly. …Shall we discuss the metallic alloy for, say, three hundred pages or so? The actual plot of the book can wait.” 
“I insist that we do so!”
Page 383: 
“…And after the strontium smelting process is complete; well, that is that, as they say.” 
Frodo glanced out the window. Winter had turned to Spring. “How absolutely engrossing that was,” he murmured. 
“Well!” said Gandalf. He put his hands on his knees and rose with a creaking sound. “Shall we be on our way?” 
Frodo wrinkled his brow in thought. “Actually, I did have one or two more questions about the metallic alloy…”
Page 803: 
“…And the distribution center for the ball-bearing castings used in the rail-line in order to transport the strontium to the subsidiary in Jakarta… that distribution center — as I say — is located in… Chicago.” 
“Fascinating,” murmured Frodo. A light autumn wind blew through the tree branches, setting them tapping against the windowpane, reminding him that time was of the essence. “Well! Shall we be on our way, then?”
But the funniest part is this (this is Sauron talking):
"Is it ever proper to help another man? No; and also give me my Ring back. I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man because I want my Ring back…  I have many, many more thoughts on this subject. In fact I have 33,300 more words worth of thoughts on the subject. Using this magical palantír, you, Peregrin Took, son of Paladin Took, may see these words now.”
And then to my wonderment and merriment, the author provides a link to a parody of the endless speech that John Galt delivers in Atlas Shrugged. I haven't gotten to that part yet, and so I don't know how much Sauron's speech differs from John Galt's, it could just be a replace-all with "the Ring" throughout. But somebody doing this much work for the sake of an Atlas Shrugged parody is impressive.