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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ethics and the wars of Lewis and Tolkien

In a previous post, I quoted a secondary source, which credited Aquinas with three parts of a just war: proper authority to wage one, having a just cause, and having right intentions. A commenter said, I think correctly, that Augustine also contributed to just war theory.

Did the "good guys" in C. S. Lewis' Narnia books wage just wars, when they waged them? How about the "good guys" in J. R. R. Tolkien's Ring books? I'll try to answer those questions.

First, Lewis. I have seen the trailer for the soon-to-be-shown "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," and, judging from the emphasis given in the trailer, the battle fought in the book the movie is supposed to be based on will be more important than it was in the book. This war seems to have unquestionably been just, on the part of Peter and his siblings, and, of course, Aslan. The White Witch attacked them.

Other wars are mentioned briefly in the Narnia books, and I don't think there's enough information to judge as to whether or not they were just. In The Last Battle, much of the book is about warfare between King Tirian and the Telmarines. Again, self-defense was involved.

Tolkien described lots of wars in The Silmarillion, and in the appendix to the Ring trilogy. I won't concern myself with these. What about the final war, where Gondor, Rohan, and others (such as the Ents) go into combat against Sauron. Although it's more complicated than the battles in Narnia, I think, again, that this is mostly self-defense. Sauron or Saruman have harried and harrassed, and conquered lands they were not entitled to. Sauron attacks Gondor. Saruman destroys sentient Ents. Sauron clearly plans to overcome the world. Gandalf gives, as it were, supernatural approval and encouragement to go to war. So does prophecy.

Because I have temporarily left most of our library behind, including our Tolkien and Lewis books, I am operating from memory. Also, this is merely musings on the wars in these books. Perhaps a reader can take this much further than I have. For what it's worth, Lewis and Tolkien (who had both served in the British military) presented wars that had to be fought, against enemies who were grossly unjust, in these works of fiction. There was proper authority: Aslan/Peter, or Gandalf/Denethor/Aragorn/Theoden. There was just cause: evil conquest and destruction that needed to be defeated. There was right intention: restoration of justice (including, in both worlds, better care of the environment.)

1 comment:

quicksilver said...

Excellent post! I linked you over at my site. It's an interesting concept of a "just" war. The Bible calls us to a spiritual war, and perhaps those are the underlying issues of both stories from Tolkien and Lewis.