To the editor,
I felt that the recent review of the Lord of the Rings films by Lee Sandlin was sound, if a little dry ["A Strange Hell," January 7]. However, I have to take deep exception to a few things in his reading of the film.
Whether you like Tolkien's work or not, it is unfair and incredibly insulting to call his vision of war "adolescent" or "infantile" or to suggest that the story itself tries to make war fun. At no time does Tolkien glorify war itself, nor does he advocate the genocide of anyone, including the orcs of Mordor, some of which (if you carefully read the books) survive the Ring's destruction.
Both the books and the films strike a balance between the realities of war and the "Arthurian" version that Mr. Sandlin sees as so distasteful. You can argue that the Peter Jackson movies oversaturate the story with blood-and-guts descriptions of violence, but the hardships, sacrifice, and horror of war are well documented in both the Jackson and Tolkien versions.
I also noticed that Sandlin couldn't resist a small but telling cheap shot leveled at the war in Iraq and its supporters, which seems to be almost obligatory in any Chicago publication having to do with anything these days.
Leaving alone for the moment that not all Tolkien fans are prowar, and that comparing the conflict in Iraq to World War I is like comparing an anthill to Mount Everest, Mr. Sandlin has completely overlooked a basic underlying theme of Lord of the Rings: War is horrible but sometimes necessary. Given a choice between submitting to murderous aggression and allowing brutal domination of the world and fighting a bloody, "infantile" conflict for the benefit of mankind, you must choose the latter.
There is nothing adolescent and infantile about recognizing and understanding that. In fact, it is much more childish and stupid to ignore that choice and allow innocent people to die.
Disagree if you wish, but at least try to differentiate between an ignorance and zeal for war and a recognition and understanding of its necessity. Tolkien did.