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The Return of the King

The Return of the King

by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Home Quotes

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Quote #10

It was one of the saddest hours in their lives. The great chimney rose up before them; and as they drew near the old village across the Water, through rows of new mean houses along each side of the road, they saw the new mill in all its frowning and dirty ugliness: a great brick building straddling the stream, which it fouled with a steaming and stinking outflow. All along the Bywater Road every tree had been felled. (6.8.200)

Hey, wait a minute. Where'd the Party Tree go? The replacement of Bag End's lovely trees (especially the Party Tree) by this "new mill in all its frowning and dirty ugliness" is, let's face it, the worst thing ever. But more importantly, it provides an eighty-or-so-word critique of the physical effects of the Industrial Revolution on England. The old greenery of the Shire (a stand-in for rural England) is getting turned into a pollution-producing machine, destroying "the old village" in favor of "rows of new mean houses." In the name of progress and profit, Lotho and his men have "fouled" the Shire with "a steaming and stinking outflow." Gross. The Shire is supposed to be a homey place of refuge. To see it torn up and polluted seems like a total violation of the natural order of things. But it also seems all too familiar in our world of oil spills and the like. Its very recognizability makes this mill seem almost worse than Sauron, who has no parallel in our times.

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