There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
— John Rogers
When last we spoke, I had made a shocking scholarly discovery and revealed that Star Wars had been plagiarized from a lost play by William Shakespeare. Well, my literary research continues. As I was leafing through forgotten volumes in a dusty library, I came across the only copy of a lost manuscript. Written in 1944, it predates J.R.R. Tolkien’s series of novels by a decade.
And so it is clear that Ayn Rand, Objectivist philosopher and author of Atlas Shrugged, wrote the first draft of the most beloved fantasy series of all time. I present excerpts from her version of this classic:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
by Ayn Rand
When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was a great stir in Hobbiton. Friends and relations gathered to pay tribute to this brave individualist. Bilbo was rich and therefore a good person, having gained wealth from a mysterious journey many years before. But the party-goers’ thoughts were occupied with a different mystery, one that had nothing to do with the source of Bilbo’s wealth. There was another question on the lips of the Tooks, the Sackville-Bagginses, the Brandybucks. And that question was this—
“WHO IS SAURON BARAD-DÛR?”
Gandalf the Gray pulled back on the reins of his pony, halting his carriage ride. That one name — SAURON BARAD-DÛR — was on everyone’s lips. And the question — WHO IS SAURON BARAD-DÛR? — floated through the realms of Middle-Earth; everyone was asking it, from the highest Elf to the lowliest Orc. To Gandalf, the name carried with it the aura of a titan, a hero, a stark individualist — a man who would take a defiant stand against the mediocrities of the world who seek to drag everything down into the mire. Compelled by this thought, Gandalf spurred his pony and drove his carriage towards Bag End…
Gandalf reached in and pulled the ring from the fire. “The language is the tongue of Mordor, which of course I will utter here”:
“…One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the open marketplace bind them. In the Land of Mordor — a.k.a. ‘Sauron’s Gulch’ — where the captains of industry lie…”
He paused, and then said slowly in a deep voice: “This is the Master-ring, the one ring to rule them all. This is the one Ring that the second-handers and Democrats stole many ages ago, to the great weakening of his power. He greatly desires it — of course we must return it to him.”
Frodo was silent and motionless. A great feeling of economic contentment stretched over him like a vast hand, like the invisible hand of the marketplace, like a bright cloud rising in the East, engulfing him. “This ring! I am so glad it came to me — who understands that sharing leads to weakness, and that selfishness and the sign of the dollar is the one true way.”
“We must hurry,” said Gandalf. “Already the statists and the welfare bums are moving across the land — a vast, vile tide of compromise and mendacity. There is not a second to spare!”
“But wait,” said Frodo. He held the ring up to the light. “This is a most interesting metallic alloy.”
“It is a mixture of aluminum, mercury, lead, and bromide,” Gandalf replied.
“Of all the exciting things in the world! A metallic alloy!”
“With an 0.0003% ad-mixture of strontium,” Gandalf added.
“You must tell me more!”
Gandalf nodded. He exhaled a cloud of smoke from his pipe. “Certainly. …Shall we discuss the metallic alloy for, say, three hundred pages or so? The actual plot of the book can wait.”
“I insist that we do so!”
“…And after the strontium smelting process is complete; well, that is that, as they say.”
Frodo glanced out the window. Winter had turned to Spring. “How absolutely engrossing that was,” he murmured.
“Well!” said Gandalf. He put his hands on his knees and rose with a creaking sound. “Shall we be on our way?”
Frodo wrinkled his brow in thought. “Actually, I did have one or two more questions about the metallic alloy…”
“…And the distribution center for the ball-bearing castings used in the rail-line in order to transport the strontium to the subsidiary in Jakarta… that distribution center — as I say — is located in… Chicago.”
“Fascinating,” murmured Frodo. A light autumn wind blew through the tree branches, setting them tapping against the windowpane, reminding him that time was of the essence. “Well! Shall we be on our way, then?”
“Absolutely, my dear friend!”
In the midst of the commotion, Frodo rose and stood before the council of Elrond. He spoke in a trembling voice:
“I will take the Ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way.”
Elrond stared at him with his endless gray eyes. “If I understand well what you say, you will take the Ring to Mordor, and restore it to its rightful heir — Sauron Barad-dûr.”
“Yes,” said Frodo. “I shall keep the Ring from the foolish parasities who wish to destroy it. For shockingly, many wish to destroy the Ring! They wish to keep the Ring from the rightful ownership of the rugged individualist who made it as his own, in clear violation of the sign of the dollar. For the only role of the state is to protect a man’s property. What a man has made is his and he is under no obligation to help anyone else even if that would be… helpful.”
Just then, Legolas son of Thurdill rose. “In this quest, Frodo shall have my bow. For shockingly, many wish to destroy the Ring! The moochers and the parasites wish to keep the Ring from the rightful ownership of the rugged individualist who made it as his own. That is blasphemy. For I say this to you now: the only role of the state is to protect a man’s property. What a man has made is his and he is under no obligation to help anyone else even if that would be… helpful.“
“You just said the same thing as Frodo,” observed Gandalf.
“…That will happen a lot in this book,” said Elrond in his low, sage voice.
“….And in this quest, Frodo shall have my axe!” said Gimli son of Gloín, who also rose. “The Ring belongs to the titan, the creator who fashioned it as his own. It must be kept from the rabble which society calls the ‘needy’ and the ‘indigent.’ For the only role of society is to protect a man’s property—”
And then rose Aragorn son of Arathorn and Merry and Pippin and all of the host; and all made speeches about individualism and how great it is and how awful poor people are, and the voices carried deep into the night as the members of the host sang out their speeches again and again…
As Frodo pushed the bow of the boat into the water, a sudden noise made him turn and look to the shore—
“Master Frodo! You mustn’t go without me! Not without your Sam!”
“Sam!” He spun to face his friend. “I have told you before; I am going to Mordor alone.”
“Of course you are, Master Frodo! And I’m going with you!”
“Oh, gentle Sam.” He patted the bank of the shore, and both sat down. “Foolish, gentle Sam. Now I must begin a forty-five minute lecture on the virtues of selfishness…”
“Master Frodo, will anything interesting ever happen in this book?”
As Pippin stared into the center of the magical palantír, he saw a great flaming eye, the great Eye of Sauron, and he heard a voice which spoke, not to his ears, but somehow within his mind, for the words rose soundlessly yet he heard every last syllable and word:
“This is Sauron Barad-Dûr speaking! …For many years, you have been asking: ‘Who is Sauron Barad-dûr?’ This is Sauron Barad-dûr speaking! I am the man who loves his life. I’m the man who’s taken away your victims and thus destroyed your world, but then you took away my Ring. And so, if you wish to know why you are perishing — you who dread knowledge — I am the man who will now tell you…”
“Until I get my Ring back, I have decided to go on strike, here in ‘Sauron’s Gulch,’ along with the other titans and industrialists and creators of the world. We’re on strike against your creed of unearned rewards and unrewarded duties, because I want my Ring back. If you want to know how I made them quit and go on strike, I told them exactly what I’m telling you tonight. I taught them that it was right to pursue one’s own happiness as one’s principal goal in life. I am a trader. I earn what I get in trade for what I produce, and I produced my Ring, which I want back. I ask for nothing more or nothing less than what I earn. That is justice…”
“Is it ever proper to help another man? No; and also give me my Ring back. I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man because I want my Ring back… I have many, many more thoughts on this subject. In fact I have 33,300 more words worth of thoughts on the subject. Using this magical palantír, you, Peregrin Took, son of Paladin Took, may see these words now.”
And so Pippin saw his words. As Winter turned to Spring, then to Summer and Fall, then to Winter again, he read, and he saw. And Pippin marveled at what he saw.
The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, at the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.
“Master!” cried Sam.
Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.
“I have come,” he said. “But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. I will not return the Ring to Sauron Barad-dûr. For though he created the Ring, I have now earned it through labor, which is the means of production. A is A. Labor equals value, thus I am a titan, a creator, a heroic individualist. The Ring is mine!” And suddenly, as he set it on his finger, he vanished from Sam’s sight. Sam gasped, but he had no chance to cry out, for at that moment many things happened.
Something struck Sam violently in the back, his legs were knocked from under him and he was flung aside, striking his head against the stony floor, as a dark shape sprang over him. He lay still and for a moment all went black.
And far away, as Frodo put on the Ring and claimed it for his own, even in Sammath Naur, the very heart of his realm, the Power in Barad-dûr was shaken, and the Tower trembled from its foundations to its proud and bitter crown. The Dark Lord was suddenly aware of him, and his Eye piercing all shadows looked across the plain to the door that he had made; and the magnitude of his own folly was revealed to him in a blinding flash, and all the devices of his enemies were at last laid bare. Then his wrath blazed in consuming flame, but his fear rose like a vast black smoke to choke him. For he knew his deadly peril and the thread upon which his doom now hung.
But then Gollum grabbed the Ring, shouting “Gollum, Gollum! The Precious-ssss! Yes-sss!” But then Sauron came and grabbed the Ring. But then the other members of the Fellowship came and grabbed the Ring. Meanwhile Isengard fell. Rohan fell. Rivendell fell. Gondor fell. Mirkwood fell. Bywater fell. The Shire fell. Mordor fell…
Because that’s what happens when you remove all laws and rules and regulations and trust individuals to act okay. They don’t act okay. When you remove all rules and regulations on businessmen, they don’t magically act okay and noble all of a sudden. Instead they make little kids and pregnant women work sixteen-hour shifts in mines and factories with no weekends off for two dollars an hour. Or they collapse the world’s economy by building a real estate bubble based on swapping mortgage loans for their own benefit, which just fucking happened, fucking duh. Because Ayn Rand was an idiot. Because she was wrong about everything. Because she was insanely overreacting to everything but was too dumb and insane to see what she was doing. Because she was a liar and a hypocrite. A liar and a hypocrite who spent her whole life bitching about government intervention, but then got Social Security and Medicare payments under a fake name. She needed Medicare because she got cancer. She got cancer because she smoked and refused to believe the government warnings about how cigarettes cause cancer. Because that’s how fucking dumb she was. Because this isn’t really a literary parody anymore, but you figured that out already. Because this is about how fucking dumb Objectivism and Ayn Rand is. Because this is about bitch-slapping Ayn Rand around. Because this is me digging up her dead body and pissing on her corpse, because dumb thinking like hers caused the Wall Street collapse and the Tea Party. Because the Wall Street collapse was caused by lifting regulations on businessmen just like she wanted, and that really hurt everyone, except for the already rich people that it benefited. Because this is me pissing on her for being so dumb. I guess maybe Sam survives in her version of Lord of the Rings and goes back to a ruined Shire, and everyone else dies. Because that’s what happens if you follow her dumb ideas. Rich people destroy everything. And that’s why we have laws to stop that from happening, hopefully? This is the end of this parody now. And now I get paid for writing it, which Ayn Rand would have approved of, I guess. So peace out, and Namaste.
…Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha? Wasn’t that a funny parody? So realistic, too, the way I didn’t break character for a single second. Anyway, tune in next time, when I find a lost manuscript in a garbage can that proves that Jack Kerouac wrote Harry Potter. Or something. Until then, shalom.
Previously: Shakespeare’s Star Wars