Approaching the Nano-Age
Despite Tolkien’s insistence that his Lord of the Rings trilogy should not be read allegorically, the work is often interpreted as a cautionary tale against modernity in general and technology in particular (Schick 2003).2 The idyllic simplicity of the land of the Hobbits is contrasted with the wasteland of Mordor, laid barren by Sauron’s relentless quest for power. The rings are themselves products of technology, forged with great craftsmanship with two intentions. The three elven rings were created with the intent of restoring, healing, preserving, and enhancing Middle Earth. The other rings were created to provide wealth and dominance to those who manage to possess one. The One Ring, capable of forging an abiding and unlimited power to consolidate the rest, can be seen to represent both the obsessive desire for material power and the moral burden that comes with having such power. At one level, and perhaps the level overtly intended by Tolkien, the tale simply cautions against the temptations inherent in placing too much faith and importance in objects of the material world. At a metaphorical level, the power represented by technology is more complex. It can be characterized as having both the positive and healing potential of the elvin rings and the more negative and corruptive power of the other rings-the dualistic nature of all technologies to harbor both benefit and risk.