The Dismal Science of Middle-Earth (TCWT December blog-chain)
Which fictional world would you most like to be a part of, and what role do you think you would fulfil within it?
For those of us who have long suffered high fantasy addiction — who, when we were young, imagined finding Narnia at the back of the wardrobe (though it never worked); who reeled in shock with Bilbo when a throng of dwarves appeared on his doorstep; who have drifted to Hogwarts in spirit when our own studies grew too dull — for us, this prompt has done nothing to help break our addiction. It has caused us to want to prove, rather — for better or worse — that fancy can cheat so well as she is famed to do, and that perhaps she is not so deceiving an elf after all.
The question of what world I would like to be a part of is not easy. Earlier bloggers have pointed to the inherent undesirability of most of these worlds — stemming from the high risk of being murdered by a fellow teenager, placed under an excruciatingly painful curse by an unsociable wizard, or living under the shadow of a villainous eye who raises hordes of ugly elf-mutations for the purposes of world domination.
While all of these are certainly drawbacks, I think this stereotype of fictional worlds is unfair. Take Narnia, for example. In The Last Battle, Jewel the Unicorn explained to Jill Pole that “In between [the visits of the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve] there were hundreds and thousands of years when peaceful King followed peaceful King”. I think this is representative of fictional worlds in general: most of them aren’t really any worse than our earth. Thus, what I am really looking for is the world with the most depth, the most three dimensionality, the most interesting qualities in general.
Considering these factors, the world I decided on is Middle-earth. That land may have been the setting of many long and terrible wars, but in between those wars were long periods of peace, where men lived for long generations in relative happiness and prosperity. And Middle-earth is a land of such incredible depth; such rich and varied history; such sublime beauty (even if I wasn’t studying Romanticism just now). Of all the worlds I have ever read about, Middle-earth is certainly the most three dimensional and the most large-as-life. I would love to live in the realm of King Aragorn II, in the period following the Great War of the Ring.
So Middle-earth is the world that I choose, but what is my occupation? What role do I fulfil in Middle-earth? This part of the question was harder to answer. It started me thinking of things I like to do in the real world: could they be transferrable to Middle-earth? What skills would King Elessar need in his realm that I can offer? What skills do I have that are scarce in his kingdom?
I like writing, but there are writers enough in Middle-earth. Maths is cool, but I wouldn’t want a career based solely on Maths. History is fascinating, but how could I compete with the elves, having experienced so little?
What about Economics? I started studying Economics this year (in the real world) and it’s great. That wonderful subject that is all about common sense — about the choices people make because they simply can’t have everything in life. Surely Aragorn needs a good economist in his empire? Maybe, with study, I could be that economist. Even if I can’t predict anything that is going to happen, at least I can explain to the King why it happened, afterwards.
I would live in a lodge in the mountains west of Minas Tirith and commute to work in the city each day. Imagine how much fun it would be, being an economist in Middle-Earth:
“King Aragorn, after all those years of war against the East, your human capital is poor. I suggest you allocate more funds towards setting up schools in your Kingdom.”
“King Aragorn, you really must get rid of these tariffs on gold, gems and mithril from Erebor. All you are doing is making these things more expensive for your citizens — and encouraging Erebor to increase tariffs on our wheat and corn in retaliation. Globalisation — I mean, Middle-earth-alisation — it leads to lowest prices and greatest choice in goods and services for all of us.”
“King Aragorn, that big ugly new mill built by Ted Sandyman in Hobbiton is a prime example of a negative externality. It is beneficial for Sandyman to have his big mill right in town, and it’s beneficial for his customers in that flour is cheaper, but it has made Hobbiton a nastier place to live in for everybody! I suggest that you tax him in order to simulate the cost to the ambience of Hobbiton. Either that or … screw taxes, just shut him down already! I don’t like that guy.”
As you can see, being an economist in Middle-earth would be brilliant. Even if, due to his great wisdom, Aragorn would have done everything I suggested anyway. Even if, due to my encouragement, Aragorn lowers interest rates (with help from the Reserve Bank of Arnor), which contributes to a hobbit-hole price-bubble which bursts, precipitating a
global Middle-earthal financial crisis. (Well, I don’t think Aragorn would let that happen. He’d be too wise to follow any of my not-so-good advice.)
Even so, I’d be busy as a dwarf in a goldmine, and as happy as one too… for a while. But then my fiftieth birthday would arrive, and I would grow restless.
Forget inflation rates, I want to see ents … and oliphaunts … and elves, sir.
So I would pack my bags and leave Gondor. I would visit the forest of Fangorn and drink a draught or two with Treebeard. I would travel to Laurelindorenan and join the elves, singing under the stars. And I would cross over the Misty Mountains cold, and come to Rivendell, the first homely house. There I would eat and sleep and tell stories and sing — and at times just sit and think.
What world did others choose? Follow the blog-chain to find out!
4th December ~ Against the Shadows
5th December ~ Deborah Rocheleau
6th December ~ The Little Engine That Couldn’t
7th December ~ Relatively Curious
8th December ~ The Magic Violinist
9th December ~ Laughing at Live Dragons
10th December ~ This Page Intentionally Left Blank
11th December ~ Kira Budge: Author
12th December ~ Brooke Reviews
13th December ~ Next Page Reviews
14th December ~ Susannah Ailene Martin
15th December ~ Musings from Neville’s Navel
16th December ~ Mirror Made of Words
17th December ~ Woah!
18th December ~ Lily’s Notes in the Margins
19th December ~ Tara Therese
20th December ~ Please Forget My Story
21st December ~ An MK’s Meandering Mind
22nd December ~ Miss Alexandria
23rd December ~ Unikke Lyfe
24th December ~ Miriam Joy
Posted on December 21, 2013, in My Thoughts, Teens Can Write Too Blog-Chain and tagged career choices, CS Lewis, economics, fiction, fictional worlds, JRR Tolkien, Middle-earth, Narnia, TCWT, Teen Can Write Too!. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.