Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Art of War

Recently, Ain't It Cool News ran a contest, challenging readers to write a short piece explaining how they would contend with a Balrog, were they in Gandalf's shoes in the mines of Moria.  I entered this competition, devoting a whole hour toward composing a battle strategy.

The grand prize was an object with more worth than all of the Shire: two tickets to see the score of The Fellowship of Ring performed live.

Someone else won that.

However, unless there is another Erin Snyder in Astoria, NY who entered this contest, I came in a respectable second.  So, without further ado, here is my entry:


First things first - I’d need a little time to work.  I mean, there’s a good quarter mile or so between myself and the bridge of Khazad-dum, and, since I don’t personally serve the secret fire or wield the flame of Anor, I’ve got some prep work to take care of.  That means I have to buy some time to do this right.

So.  What are my assets?  I’ve got Aragorn and Boromir, both of whom are a tad too eager to cut down anything in their way: fine in most circumstances, but swords are no more use here.  I’ve got Legolas, who can apparently neuter a fly at a quarter mile: again, impressive… but not much help.  And there’s Gimli, who’s still pissed about the extermination of all the bearded men and women in Moria.

The thing is, those guys are all going to be useful down the road.  I need something expendable; something we’re not going to need to wrap up the trilogy.

What’s this?  I’ve also got four hobbits.  Let’s stop and think for a moment.  All right, we’re definitely going to need one hobbit to hurl the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, and it’s good to have a spare halfling in case you lose one to giant spiders, orcs, or a hungry house cat or something… but FOUR hobbits?  Come on; who are we kidding?  This fellowship is supposed to represent the unity of the diverse peoples of Middle Earth.  Hobbits account for what?  Maybe zero-point-two percent of the world’s population - even less if you measure by biomass.  Why do they make up nearly half the damn fellowship?  You think we couldn’t use a few more elven archers here?  Or what about one of Beorn’s descendants?  Come on: which is going to take out more orcs: a hobbit or a freaking were-bear?

Unfortunately, when the details were getting ironed out in Rivendell, Elrond was half-assing it.  Not too surprising, since he’s getting ready to retire to a nice gated community in the west.  You could see it on his smug face: “Three more spots on the fellowship?  Yeah, the hobbits will do.  Why the hell not?  I’m leaving, anyway!”

But that’s in the past.  Here we are now, with an army of orcs in wait and a demon of shadow and fire bearing down on us.  I know it’s harsh; I know it’s cold, but a leader’s got to know how to make sacrifices.  That’s why I need Pippin to run down a side tunnel screaming, “I’ve got the ring, I’ve got the ring!”

Don’t look at me that way: if the pipsqueak had kept his hands to himself, we’d have avoided this mess altogether.

Where was I?  Oh yes, while Pippin’s luring the Balrog away, that gives the rest of us some time to heroically survive crumbling staircases, dodge orcish arrows, and dart over the thin bridge.  At this point, we’d have plenty of time to escape while the Balrog’s roasting the Took like a marshmallow over a campfire, only… well… I just don’t feel right about leaving.

Besides, if we don’t avenge Pippin’s death, the other three halflings are going to be bitching about it all the way to Mordor.

So.  Time for Gimli to earn his keep.  The bridge of Khazad-dum isn’t the most structurally stable piece of engineering in the best of times; beneath the weight of a Balrog, it’s got to be on the verge of going on its own.

All I need Gimli to do is help it along.  A few well placed swings with his ax, and he should have a crack going.  Then I’d get everyone across and wait for old Durin’s Bane to show his face.

Now this is the important part: I’m not going anywhere near that damn bridge.  Not within ten feet.  Why?  Because the Balrog’s got a goddamned whip!

No, I’d keep a good distance from the bridge and shout insults across.  “Hey, we got a call from King Minos, and he wants you back in your maze!”  He takes a step, the bridge falls out from under him, and down he goes, tumbling end over end until he hits the bottom.

Not good enough?  He might still survive?  Fine.  Then I take up a collection of spare change from the fellowship and toss the coins over the edge.  If a quarter dropped by a construction worker can dent my Chevy from twenty stories, these things should be a damned meteor shower by the time they reach the bottom.  And, if not, no big deal: that Balrog isn’t climbing back up anytime this week.

So, with a little common sense, I could get eight out of nine members of the fellowship through all right, as well as rid us of some comic relief.  I just have to remember to tell Treebeard to take a stroll by Isengard, and I’ll need some other way of lighting the Beacons of Gondor.  That shouldn’t be too difficult: after all, they keep the fire burning right above the fuel.  I could probably knock it over with a rock or something.

All in all, not too shabby.


The Middle Room offers our sincere apologies to fans of Pippin and Billy Boyd.  And to the first place winner, we offer our congratulations... and our scorn.


Janice said...

Not bad, but far better to have given a link to all the winning entries. Yours was a bit (too) tongue in cheek - in my view; and I'd have been curious to have seen the winning entry which is NOT accessible at the aintitcoolnews website - at least not easily accessible, I've just tried to pull it up for over 10 minutes - 9 minutes too long as a simple search should have done it.

Erin Snyder said...

I'd gladly have provided a link if such a link existed. Aintitcoolnews never published the winners' entries; only our names. I tossed mine up in case anyone was interested; as far as I know, I'm the only one who has.

If you find any of the others, please feel free to put a link here - I'd love to read them, too.