Malfunctioned Will to Power
Tolkien often examines the use and abuse of power in his epic fantasy fiction. The stories are written with a subtly Catholic ethical backdrop. I agree with your posting, that Nietzsche’s world view is incompatible with Tolkien’s created world. I will argue that there are several characters that aspire to the will to power, but none achieve being a superman as described by Nietzsche. In fact most fail in this goal spectacularly – most of the villains fall into this category. I will assume the reader has at least seen the movie of LOTR but I will explain my many references to the prequel The Silmarillion.
If there is one rule in Tolkien and Catholicism, is it is you should not strive to surpass God (known as “Eru” in Tolkien’s world) – in their ethical systems it is disastrous. As you mentioned, Nietzsche asks “Must we not ourselves become gods?” In a quote worthy of Nietzsche, Sauron states:
“the Valar [angelic beings] have deceived you concerning him, putting forward the name of Eru [God], a phantom devised in the folly of their hearts, seeking to enchain Men in servitude to themselves. For they are the oracle of this Eru, which speaks only what they will.” Downfall of Númenor
Most people know that Sauron was “not a nice guy”. But this is not necessarily grounds to dismiss his argument. Nietzsche wrote:
“You highest men who have come within my ken! this is my doubt of you, and my secret laughter: I suspect you would call my Superman- a devil!” TSZ
I should stress that Sauron does probably not a superman for reasons I will discuss…
Melkor and Aulë
First a tiny bit of background or memory jog. The Silmarillion is set thousands of years before LOTR and mainly concerns the Valar (powerful angelic beings) and the Elves in their doomed war against Melkor (the devil). The Valar include Manwë (the chief Vala), Ulmo (lord of water), Aulë (the smith) and originally Melkor (before they kicked him out).
In fact Melkor’s name literally means “He who arises in Might”. His power was immense and in the beginning his will contended with Eru himself in the creation of the world. He is perhaps the archetype of reaching towards the superman but being corrupted.
“[Melkor] among the Ainur had been given the greatest gifts of power and knowledge, and he had a share in all the gifts of his brethren. He had gone often alone into the void places seeking the Imperishable Flame; for desire grew hot within him to bring into Being things of his own”…”But being alone he had begun to conceive thoughts of his own unlike those of his brethren.” AINULINDALË
“Both [Aulë and Melkor], also, desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill. But Aulë remained faithful to Eru [God] and submitted all that he did to his will; and he did not envy the works of others, but sought and gave counsel.” VALAQUENTA
The Imperishable Flame is the power to create originality which is essentially the Will to Power. Eru has total control of the Imperishable Flame and therefore it is impossible to achieve full Will to Power in Tolkien.
Aulë is content to work within the limits that Eru has set for him (and when he breaks the limits, he is apologetic to Eru). In Tolkien, power can be a corrupting force and Melkor becomes totally corrupted in heart.
“Melkor spent his spirit in envy and hate, until at last he could make nothing save in mockery of the thought of others, and all their works he destroyed if he could.” Melkor “became a liar without shame”. VALAQUENTA
Nietzsche often warns against envy: “So bless me then, you tranquil eye that can behold even the greatest happiness without envy!” TSZ, also also against lies “To speak the truth and to shoot well with arrows, that is Persian virtue” (Ecce Homo).
In the mythology, no one can surpass Eru – not even Melkor. The Valar and helpers created the fate of the world in “The Music of the Ainur” and Eru speaks to Melkor saying:
“And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'” AINULINDALË
This means no one in Tolkien’s world can surpass the will of God (Eru) and Will to Power is arguably destructive in this context.
Manwë and Zarathustra
As a side note, both Nietzsche and Tolkien admire nobility and associate that with eagles. Manwë is lord of the airs and he loves eagles.
“But of the airs and winds Manwë most had pondered, who is the noblest of the Ainur.” AINULINDALË
“Then it became yet stiller and more mysterious, and everything hearkened, even the ass, and Zarathustra’s noble animals, the eagle and the serpent,- likewise the cave of Zarathustra and the big cool moon, and the night itself.” TSZ
I will move on to Fëanor, Turin, and the Lord of the Rings (book and Sauron himself) in my next post.
Thus began Anti Citizen One’s down going. 🙂