The LOTR Movie Site
October 20, 2000

Natural Law, Middle Earth Style
Stacy B.

Derek McG. mentioned something that jogged a thought, and probably one that you all thought of a long time ago.

I'll take as a premise that power is innate in Tolkien's world, and certain races seemed to have a excess of power: the Elves, Maia, Balrogs, etc. Then, too, there are powers "of another kind" in the inhabitants of the Shire, in Dwarves, and presumably in Men, though some apparently dispute the latter. Hobbits seem to have a resilience and a sort of innate ability to forgive that other races lack, and the rather minor talent of being the most soft and sure footed race after the Elves. Dwarves have a power to endure that (one supposes) derives from the very earth and stones that they have such original affinities with.

There seems to be a correlation, however, between the strength of this innate power and the ultimate freedom of a species. Elves have probably the most intensive innate power of the races of Middle Earth, a power that allows them to affect things and events other than themselves, specifically through the manipulation of time, whether through the preservative powers of the rings or through racial foresight. And yet this simply binds them all the more tightly to temporality and its effects. Dwarves are individually made to endure the ravages of time and physicality, but as a race their survival is extremely precarious and dependent upon (meta?)physical circumstances (see index of LoTR). And Hobbits, with their resilient forgiveness (which is, I think, an alteration of how one remembers events and peoples) are doomed to be forgotten (even in their own time, they were overlooked and forgotten by many of the other free peoples). 

It's a sort of "he who dances must pay the piper" philosophy; it's poetic justice.    The more a given race is defined by its innate power, the broader the effects of that power and the more dependent said race is upon the forces that define that power. The more the Elves exploit their ability to manipulate time, the broader the effects of their manipulation, the more quickly and severely they are subjected to the ravages of Time in the end. Sir Isaac apparently held true even in Middle Earth.
Of all the races of Middle Earth, only  Men survived. And yet they apparently have no innate powers... unless one counts the very very limited power of choice. Men were not made to endure, nor as a race (necessarily) to forgive and bounce back; they were not given much foresight, and what foresight they had was an individual gift that came to fewer and fewer and in less scope as time wore on (as a general rule). The power of choice is limited to changes that they can effect within themselves. In that sense, they are subject to no one *but* themselves, so that despite their shorter lives and immense capacity for suffering, Men seem ultimately less subject to the degradations of Time, the wearing away of memory, and to the forces of destiny than any of the other races.

All this is to say: Despite my broad interpretive gloss,  I don't agree that Men had/have no innate powers. It's just that what they do have is radically limited in scope, but the trade off is that, as Legolas remarks "the deeds of Men will outlive us, Gimli." And yet come to naught, not because of a failure of promise, but because the promise is empty in the first place; it is continually constructed by human beings: whatever we achieve, this *is* what we are.