Russian Lord of the Rings from Mordor’s Perspective – The Last Ringbearer

Richard WessDecember 3, 2023

In the expansive universe of literary fan fiction, The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Eskov emerges as a remarkable and audacious reimagining of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Set in the aftermath of Tolkien’s epic, The Last Ringbearer offers a strikingly different perspective: it tells the story from the viewpoint of the defeated orcs and their allies, painting Mordor, not as a realm of evil, but as a bastion of rationality and progress. Eskov likely drew inspiration from his own time, writing this novel in 1999, within a decade of the Soviet Union’s collapse to a Western culture whose economic and cultural system took over his country. This article delves into Eskov’s unique narrative, exploring how it flips the traditional good versus evil dichotomy on its head, challenges long-held perceptions, and holds significant relevance in today’s complex sociopolitical fabric.

The Last Ringbearer stands out in the world of fan fiction for its bold inversion of the classic Tolkien narrative. Rather than a simple retelling, it presents an alternative history, suggesting that the story we know from The Lord of the Rings is merely a version written by the victors. Eskov’s work is a testament to the power of perspective in storytelling, questioning the simplicity of the tales we accept and the truths we uphold.

For readers both familiar and new to Tolkien’s Middle-earth, The Last Ringbearer offers an intriguing exploration of a world where lines between heroes and villains are blurred, and moral certainties are questioned. It’s a journey that goes beyond the realm of fantasy, inviting readers to ponder the narratives they believe and understand. What truths lie hidden in the stories of the defeated? How does our perception shift when viewed through the lens of the so-called antagonist?

Through this exploration of The Last Ringbearer, we prepare to engage with a narrative that is as enlightening as it is entertaining. Eskov’s novel is not just a creative exercise in fan fiction; it’s a profound commentary on history, morality, and the multifaceted nature of truth, offering a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on a story that has captivated millions.

Map of Middle earth in the Third Age from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
Map of Middle earth in the Third Age

Where to Read The Last Ringbearer

Due to The Last Ringbearer’s fan fiction status, you won’t be able to buy it in bookstores. Instead, you can read it online.

You can read the English translation of The Last Ringbearer here on the Internet Archive. This version is translated by Yisroel Markov and approved by Kirill Eskov himself.

Meanwhile, Kirill Eskov’s original, self-published version of The Last Ringbearer in Russian can be read here on Author Today.

Quick Plot Description of The Last Ringbearer

The Last Ringbearer presents an alternative perspective to the events depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The story unfolds in the aftermath of the War of the Ring, but in Eskov’s narrative, the Kingdom of Mordor is an advanced, culturally rich civilization, wrongly demonized and destroyed by the West.

At the heart of the novel are the characters Tangorn, an orc medic, and Tzerlag, a human ranger. They are drawn into a complex plot that challenges the traditional portrayal of good and evil in Tolkien’s universe. The novel begins with the remnants of Mordor trying to recover from their defeat. Tangorn and Tzerlag are entrusted with a crucial mission to ensure the survival of their civilization. They are tasked with destroying the Mirror of Galadriel, an artifact that has been used to manipulate the perceptions of Middle-earth, maintaining a distorted version of reality that serves the interests of the victors, primarily Gandalf and the elves.

Their journey is fraught with challenges and moral dilemmas. As they travel through various lands, they encounter characters and situations that offer a different view of the events and people familiar to fans of The Lord of the Rings. The novel explores themes of propaganda, the rewriting of history by the victors, and the moral ambiguity of war. Eskov’s characters are complex and multi-dimensional, far removed from the black-and-white morality often found in traditional fantasy narratives.

Eskov also delves into the politics of Middle-earth, portraying the elves and Gandalf as manipulative and power-hungry, contrasting sharply with Tolkien’s portrayal of them as wise and benevolent. The novel paints a picture of a world where the lines between good and evil are blurred, and where the so-called villains have their own stories, cultures, and justifications for their actions.

The Last Ringbearer ultimately is a story about the other side of the coin, the untold narrative of the losing side. It’s a compelling exploration of how history is shaped by those who prevail and how the truth can be manipulated to serve specific agendas. Eskov’s reimagining of Middle-earth presents a world where understanding and empathy for the ‘enemy’ can lead to a more nuanced and truthful comprehension of history and reality. It’s a narrative that not only provides an intriguing twist on a beloved story but also offers insightful commentary on the nature of conflict, history, and the human condition.

Eskov’s Middle-earth: The World Upside Down

In The Last Ringbearer, Kirill Eskov daringly inverts the familiar world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, presenting a narrative that starkly contrasts the original. This novel, a bold exercise in speculative fiction, repositions the story’s traditional antagonists – the orcs and their allies – as the protagonists, painting a picture of Mordor not as a land of darkness and evil, but as a civilization of enlightenment and advancement. This inversion is not merely a gimmick; it’s a profound statement on the nature of history and the victors’ power to shape its narrative.

Eskov’s Mordor is a realm burgeoning with scientific knowledge and industrial progress, starkly different from Tolkien’s depiction of it as a wasteland of desolation. The orcs and their allies are shown as rational beings, striving for peace and progress, battling against the forces of the West, portrayed here as aggressors driven by a lust for power and domination. This depiction challenges the reader to reconsider their understanding of good and evil, right and wrong, as defined in the classic Tolkien narrative.

Such an interpretation resonates deeply in a world where the narratives of the marginalized and defeated are often overshadowed by dominant voices. It raises critical questions about the stories we inherit and the histories we are taught. Whose perspective is missing? What other truths are out there waiting to be heard? The Last Ringbearer encourages readers to look beyond the surface, to seek out those untold stories, and to understand that every narrative is shaped by the perspective from which it is viewed.

The novel masterfully utilizes familiar elements from Tolkien’s world but reinterprets them through a radically different lens. Landscapes and characters that were once seen as emblematic of evil are now shown in a more sympathetic light, or at least with a more humanized portrayal without black-and-white narratives. The narrative compels readers to question the biases inherent in storytelling, especially in tales of war and conflict. It suggests that the story known to us through The Lord of the Rings might be akin to propaganda, a crafted narrative serving the interests of the victorious.

Eskov’s reimagining is a powerful reminder of the subjectivity of perspective. In The Last Ringbearer, the line between hero and villain is blurred, and the reader is left to navigate this moral ambiguity. This approach reflects real-world complexities, where narratives are often dictated by those in power, and the truth is multifaceted and rarely absolute. Eskov’s narrative thus becomes a metaphor for the real-world histories written by victors, often overlooking the perspectives and sufferings of the defeated.

The brilliance of The Last Ringbearer lies in its ability to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. By flipping the traditional narrative, Eskov doesn’t just tell a different story; he forces us to reconsider the stories we thought we knew. This novel is a journey into a world turned upside down, where the black-and-white moralities of traditional fantasy give way to shades of grey, compelling us to question the nature of truth, history, and morality in our understanding of both fiction and reality.

Contemporary Relevance of The Last Ringbearer

The relevance of Kirill Eskov’s The Last Ringbearer in today’s world transcends mere literary critique; it provides a compelling commentary on the nature of truth, power, and the narratives that shape our understanding of history and current affairs. In an era marked by political polarization, social upheaval, and a re-examination of historical narratives, Eskov’s novel resonates with a profound sense of timeliness.

At its core, The Last Ringbearer challenges the conventional wisdom of a single, absolute truth, a concept deeply relevant in our age of information and misinformation. In an era where ‘fake news’ and biased media narratives are part of everyday discourse, Eskov’s reimagining of a classic tale becomes a metaphor for the need to critically evaluate the information we receive. It urges readers to consider the perspectives of the ‘other’, the voices that are often silenced or marginalized in mainstream narratives. This novel acts as a reminder that history, both real and fictional, is often more complex than the simplistic, one-sided stories that are frequently presented.

Eskov’s work also speaks to contemporary discussions around the nature of heroism and villainy. In a world grappling with the legacies of colonialism, imperialism, and cultural hegemony, The Last Ringbearer offers a nuanced view of these concepts. It prompts readers to question the labels of ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, understanding that these are often assigned based on power dynamics and cultural biases. The novel’s repositioning of Mordor as a civilization striving for scientific progress and enlightenment challenges readers to rethink their own preconceived notions about progress, development, and the dichotomy between civilization and barbarism.

Furthermore, The Last Ringbearer holds a mirror to the human tendency to create binary oppositions and the danger of dehumanizing those who are different. In a world increasingly divided along lines of race, religion, nationality, and ideology, Eskov’s narrative is a cautionary tale about the ease with which we demonize the ‘other’. It invites a deeper understanding and empathy, encouraging a more inclusive and multifaceted view of the world.

In conclusion, The Last Ringbearer is not just a novel for fans of fantasy literature. It is a significant work that resonates with the contemporary global context. Eskov’s reinterpretation of Tolkien’s world challenges us to reflect on the narratives we accept, the histories we believe, and the perspectives we may have overlooked. Its contemporary relevance lies in its ability to provoke thought, challenge assumptions, and encourage a more critical and empathetic engagement with the world around us. Eskov’s novel is a testament to the enduring power of literature to reflect and shape our understanding of reality.