For random reasons I will not explain for fear of being incomprehensible, I was poking around the Internet the other day to see if the Nine Worthies had had any influence on Tolkien’s nine kings of men who fell under the power of Sauron.
Why yes, I’m a nerd, how ever did you guess?
So while fishing around for any connection between Priam’s son Hector and J.R.R. Tolkien, I stumbled across an old forum where someone asked why there were no ‘five rings of power.’ The thread author felt stymied and frustrated that Tolkien had skipped from three rings for the Elves to seven rings for the Dwarves, with no five rings for the—I don’t know, Ents?
The thread went something like this (bear with me):
First Poster: “So the absence of the five rings really disturbs me. I think Tolkien was messing with the foundations of the universe or something by leaving out a part of such an obvious pattern.”
Second Poster: “Actually, it’s the nine that bothers me. All the others are prime numbers, but nine’s not. In order to make sure the world doesn’t end I have to go count twenty-two brown left shoes and arrange all fifty-seven paperclips on my desk in perfect rows precisely one centimeter apart.”
Third Poster (budding mathematician): “Wait, look at this. If you add up the three Elven rings, the seven Dwarves’ rings, and the nine rings for Men, you get nineteen.”
Fourth Poster: “Bwahaha. The Chaos King’s reign approaches, O Discordia.”
Fifth Poster: “Tolkien died 2/9/1973. Mind-blowing, man!”
First Poster (again): “Seriously, nineteen? That’s too cool and now I don’t care that a minute ago I was concerned about the lasting endurance of the earth’s foundations. Because nineteen is just awesome.”
Sixth Poster: “King’s a Tolkien fan, you know.”
Seventh Poster: “Hile! Long days and pleasant nights. Lol lol lol lol lol.”
Eighth Poster: “Um. Excuse me. I don’t get what nineteen as to do with—well, with anything.”
Let’s stop there, at poor Eighth Poster, who I’m sure feels like he got lost on his way to a lecture on the deep feelings of bereavement and anger Legolas felt on account of his family’s slaughter at the Black Gates, and instead found himself at a Boys over Flowers fanclub. Or maybe like a professional poker player who finds himself at a table full of Killer Bunny addicts. You get the picture.
Eighth Poster is a forlorn, abandoned child who lurks inside us all, and even has the temerity to emerge every once and awhile, although with any luck he does it anonymously online, rather than in person, like that time you were talking to a group of friends and had to ask who on earth Jean Picard is (yes, I know it’s happened to you. Just be glad you didn’t inquire into the identity of Harry Potter). Eighth Poster is the part of a person that, during their advanced ‘Works and Influences of C.S. Lewis’ class, forces one to ask who Charles Williams was. Or worse, what a Pevensie is.
(Oh, wait. I see an Eighth Poster out there in the cyberspace crowd now, raising his hand. Yes? Oh, nineteen is a number of metaphysical significance in Stephen King’s sprawling Dark Tower series. As for what exactly nineteen means, or why it’s nineteen instead of, say, forty-seven, no one knows. I mean no one knows. King doesn’t even know why his characters are ruled by the capricious dominion of nineteen. Many, probably most, Dark Tower fans are also Tolkien nuts. Kind of runs in the blood, I guess. I mean, from rotund Hobbits, talking trees, and austere Elves it’s a natural progression to vampires, the Wild West, and quantum universe theory, right?)
My personal Eighth Poster likes to show his uneducated little head when I am confronted with the bewildering landscape of pop culture (and politics, though living in California, it can be tough to differentiate between the two). Who’s Bennifer and what’s a TomKat? How many Jonas Brothers are there? And I freely admit that I could only stomach the first Harry Potter book, so I have only the vaguest grasp of what exactly Voldemorte’s soul-splitting thing is. Actually, I dozed and daydreamed about 24 during most of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, so I also have only the foggiest idea of what quidditch is.
Ideally, we would banish our Eighth Posters to the outermost ether, or outgrow them about the time we outgrow our baby fat. Unfortunately, Eighth Poster is much too stubborn for that. He’s a ubiquitous individual, like that step-uncle you always run into at family functions who tells you the same jokes he’s told you since you were twelve.
Since we can’t divest ourselves of Eighth Poster, I supposed the best we can do is put up with him, maybe even get a few laughs at his expense. The next time he prods you to ask the most blindingly obvious question (or at least, the question that’s blindingly obvious to everyone else), try to see the positive. Yeah, so okay, maybe everyone else in the room knew that Scarlett O’Hara was in Gone With the Wind and not Sense and Sensibility, but just think: Eighth Poster will never be able to stymie you with that particular lack of knowledge again. And don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself, because it is funny.