Years ago, back in 2002 to be precise, I had an idea. Having just re-read Tolkien’s immortal The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I suddenly realized that there may be two sides to this story. That the book, which I enjoyed so much and read so many times, may just be an overly simplistic version of the history of Middle Earth, as told by the victors. So what if I tried to write down the history of the One Ring and the all-encompassing War of the Ring between Gondor and Morder from the perspective of a Mordorian orc?
I actually sat down and began writing the story, but I never got past the first page. No author, I.
Little did I know that the story I wanted to write was already written, published by a Russian author, Kirill Yeskov, in 1999. In it, just like in the version I envisioned but never wrote, Gandalf is a great manipulator; Aragorn is little more than a highway robber turned usurper; and the “evil empire” of Mordor is, in fact, a land of industry, science, and technology, despised by the magic-wielding but oft illiterate feudal lords of Middle Earth’s West.
In short, Yeskov wrote the story I wanted to write, only he did it much better than I could or would have. And Yeskov’s book is finally available in a (very) decent English translation, as a free download. I downloaded it yesterday, printed it, even bound it in the form of a little book, and now I am enjoying every page of it. Yes, surprisingly, it is actually a page-turner! And also an eye-opener.
I have no idea yet how the story will end. The ending will probably be a lot less neat and tidy than the ending of Tolkien’s version. But, it may also be a lot closer to “reality”.
I think it’s a fitting irony that Yeskov’s book was never officially published in English, as publishing houses feared the wrath of the Tolkien estate. When we say that history is written by the victors, what we really mean is that the victors are usually successful at preventing any version of history other than the official one from reaching bookshelves. It seems that the situation is no different in the case of Tolkien’s fantasy world.