October 1, 2003

"Choking In His Own Blood"

Steve Hayward has a great bit on The Corner this morning about The Return of the King, the trailer, the speech we've all been dissecting, and Winston Churchill. You should go read it all, but here's a bit of it:

Near the end of the story Aragorn and Gandalf lead a last-ditch attack on Mordor with an inferior force that knows it marches to its death—a diversion they hope will aid Frodo’s chances of destroying the ring. In the book, Gandalf has a long parley with a senior captain of Sauron’s forces before the battle begins. It wouldn’t work very well on film, and it appears from the trailer that the filmmakers have substituted an original speech (that is, not from the book) from Aragorn in place of Gandalf’s parley that reminds of nothing so much as the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V: “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. This day—we fight!”

Okay, maybe not as lyrical as Shakespeare, but both fictional scenes recall a real moment from the not-too-distant past: Churchill’s “choking in our own blood” speech on May 28, 1940. Not yet three weeks in office, Churchill was facing intense pressure from the appeasers still in his war cabinet (Halifax and Chamberlain) to seek terms from Hitler. Churchill put them down once and for all with a speech to the entire cabinet that ended as follows: “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” (Churchill’s deed didn’t become publicly known until after the war. The whole story is told in John Lukacs’ superb book Five Days in London, May 1940, from Yale University Press.) The point is: moral fiction sometimes does reflect reality at moments of great clarity.

Posted by Ithildin at October 1, 2003 7:40 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE

The greatest virtue of The Lord Of The Rings, apart from the magnificent storytelling, is its unflinching moral clarity. C. S. Lewis, whom Tolkien converted to Christianity, was so powerfully affected by the books that he imbedded references to them in his Space Trilogy before the complete LOTR was published!

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at October 1, 2003 2:44 PM

After listening to quite a few Churchill speeches you start to see the amazing similarity between the speeches of aragorn and churchill. check for yourself if you dont believe!

Posted by: Tom mills at January 23, 2005 8:17 AM