Lord of The Rings: Absence of Laws

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till” – Gandalf[1]       Law is an indispensable requirement for any society, its absence leads to the dismantling of peace and social order, its presence is significant for the appropriate functioning of any society. Lord of the Rings is the greatest example of how society might turn into, if not governed by laws.


Even if the society is governed by laws it is not mandatory that the subjects will follow and abide by the rules and regulations, there would always be certain elements (Orcs, Gollum, Sauron) which will try to provide a hindrance to the system. These certain elements have few emotions in common, greed, lust, anger, hatred, jealousy and resentment towards the set pattern of the society. Their existence in the society is not needed but nonetheless they still exist and their sole aim is to achieve anarchy and own titles of power. These elements want respect which they don’t deserve, they want power, which they can’t channelise into good.

Law, thus, makes sure that these elements remain in control and do not provide any more destruction to human society. Therefore, the absence of law is an invitation for these elements to conquer the place. Absence of law is a nightmare for innocent people but on the other side, it is the most irresistible dream for the marauders. Laws, thus, should be given a proper shape, that is they should be properly formulated, they should meet the standards and requirements of the modern society and they should also help the society to conquer its negative elements. Laws should be uniform and they should be universal. Non-universality of the law is a big stumbling block for human civilization. This is the reason why international conflicts arise, this leads to economic disturbance, absence of peace, also international threats remain free to increase and strengthen its roots. 

In Lord of the Rings, in the beginning, the fact is clear that all the beings of the middle earth are different from each other. Their differences result in not so good relations among each other. The free men of middle earth only get united when they see a larger threat in front of them. Thus, the absence of laws on the international level or to say ineffectiveness of the laws on an international level gives rise to dreadful conflicts and furthermore acts as a deterrent factor for achieving peace in the world.

Laws and Lord of the Rings

Law is one of the several vital elements of Lord of the Rings, although it does not expressly mention the laws but nonetheless it establishes the very concepts of laws in its own eccentric way. It is an epic high fantasy novel, a novel which doesn’t fail to amaze the commonest reader, reader relates himself with the free men of middle earth.[2] Laws govern these free men of the middle earth, these laws aren’t followed by Sauron and his house. This also makes a very strong sense since laws are applied and are meant to be followed by all, but some certain sections of the society do not follow or abide by the rules not because laws aren’t applied on them but because these sections don’t want to follow them.[3]

Frodo can be related with judiciary, since Frodo was on a quest to destroy the ring (powerful but a harmful law), similarly judiciary too does the same, it improvises and sometimes struck down the dreadful laws that are formulated by legislature.[4] Frodo at the end was successful in doing so but eradicating erroneous laws in real world is tough and needs to follow a very specific and harsh process. Most of the times laws once passed cannot be overturned by judiciary since laws may come with a layer which might protect them from judicial interference.[5]

Sauron can be related to the terrorist organisations of the modern world, which by all dues want to cause harm to the society, want to make the society lawless. Analysing the acts of Sauron we can come to the conclusion that he was a crook who disobeyed all the laws with the help of his fellow desperadoes. Sauron burned down the houses, went on ravaging the boundaries, killed innocent and harassed the souls. Comparing this with the world we can form an argument that his acts were against the rules and regulations of Geneva Convention. Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that these detrimental elements of the society aren’t bound by the laws of common nations but that they are more inclined toward haemorrhaging the pre-existing laws and that in this process they might formulate laws which might be beneficial to them and govern their own subjects. It is clear that laws aren’t just for the ones who dwell good but they are also for the people who dwell evil.[6]

The Shire(Middle Earth)

The Shire region mentioned in Lord of the Rings fantasy, is undoubtedly a peaceful region, reason being, presence of laws and proper administrative system. Poverty and the poisonous elements that come with it are nowhere found in the region.[7] Resources are abundant in the region, all the resources are utilised for the progress of a community and there is an equal distribution of wealth, thus, greed, jealousy and hatred aren’t the emotions that we find in Shire. Result is that the Hobbits are satisfied, they aren’t greedy and laws are virtuously abided in the region.  Interestingly the above fact highlights the pre-existing notion of how wealth in any society acts as a negative element when it becomes a privilege of only a few. Laws concerning limiting the excessive wealth are the backbone of any healthy society since they prevent society from getting half paralysed, meaning they don’t let the other half gain an unreasonable quantity of wealth, thus, maintaining equilibrium.

Marriages in certain primitive tribes of southern America aren’t conceptualised, meaning there isn’t any established procedure of marriage. The Hobbits in the Middle earth are fairly progressive and order maintaining race. Marriages are considered sacred in the Shire society, hobbits have adopted the Dunadan marriage customs, furthermore, laws regarding the inheritance are distinctly important and are of great consequence.[8] In the real world too, marriages should carry a sacred value, polygamy should be declared illegal and legal principles should be operational in marriage practices. As a matter of fact, personal laws are religiously motivated, they have their own pros and cons, thus, such laws which have the innate quality of being ambiguous, their usage in a modern society should be prohibited. 

Various Laws Highlighted in the Lord of the Rings

Although there are several instances where the human legal system prevails in Lord of the Rings, this system not only involves laws and other law-related authorities but also security forces and institutions.

    There are policies in Lord of the Rings, perform similar functions and their absence may lead to disruption in social order since most of the people are dependent on them for the internal security purpose. Also, they differ from what we call external security forces, internal security functions are also different from the Bounders(which protect the shire from outside interference)  functions.

    Humans need this system to maintain peace and harmony. Law enforcement largely depends upon these authorities and they are mandatory to maintain a smooth functioning society. Lord of the Rings too had laws regarding the Bounders and ‘shirriffs’, real-world too, has certain laws to control and limit the powers of these authorities. 

    When laws fail to limit the powers of these authorities, these authorities take control of the powers that govern the state, furthermore promoting the chances of tyranny and stateless society.


Succession Laws 

Laws related to succession are paramount for having uninterrupted business-related activities. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo is seen as the main successor of the ring, since it is Bilbo Baggins who had found it, so Frodo was the principal heir.

Gollum and his greed to have more power and control, sobs to have one more ring. He claims that he is the soulful owner of the ring which is completely against the law, thus, his greed infringed the  already existing norms related to succession in Lord of the Rings world. This act falls under the bracket of “acquisition by adverse possession” clause of property law. Gollum took harsh actions for claiming the rights of rings, for example, he killed his friend who was actually the real owner of the ring which just proves the point that he used illegal activities and actions to claim the ownership of the ring. Gollum keeps the ring for a long time too, which strengthens his alleged rights. Technically, the ring should have stayed within Deagol’s family.[9]

In the real world too, succession laws are paramount in the legal world, since human nature is full of greed, hatred, jealousy and ambitions. For this, the man can conquer every good thing and try to gain access to what we call property. Man has made certain provisions related to property laws and they are effective in nature.

Their absence can lead to the promotion of violent acts, hatred and pain against other innocent human beings. Absence of Property Laws can trigger certain consequences which might not be good for the society and the economy of the country. 

Marriage and Personal Laws

Marriage is a sacred thing, but in the modern world, it has transformed into a business deal, where one person marries another because he/she earns well, because he/she has a well-to-do economic background and family. For this Marriage, laws are tremendously important. For a fact marriages fall in the ambit of personal laws, this gives a blow to the proper legal system. Since all the religious houses try to impose their own laws on their subjects and thus, make it impossible for the legal system to correct what is wrong.[10]

Marriages in Lord of the Rings were sacred, they had their own vital importance in the society. All the races ranging from elves, dwarves, hobbits and men had their own marriage laws and rules.[11]

    The Eldars which is an immortal elvish race had its own marriage custom. 

    They had a simple theory of marrying a person for eternity. 

    Eldars could marry only once, they mate for the infinite life.[12]

This goes against the real world although ancient Vedic texts hint that marriage was sacred and it should be performed only once but in the modern era, the world developed practical reasoning and diminished the one marriage system. This paved the way for proper formulation of marriage laws. Marriage laws in India still fall in the ambit of personal laws, but the common law of the country can still be imposed on such marriages where disputes arise. 

Absence of laws concerning marriage can trigger certain consequences which might destroy the social life of a person. 

    Humans furthermore won’t have any major difference to differentiate from other living animals.

    Human race won’t value the importance of marriage, humans would ignore emotions, promote rape and induce in sexual violence.

    For Marriage is a sacred thing and it should be kept as one, it should thus be under the set boundary of law, making it safe and sustaining. 

Uniform Civil Code and Marriage

All the races in Lord of the Rings had their own rules and regulations regarding marriages. This system paved the way for conflicts between the races.[13]

Aragorn who is a mortal man and Arwen who is an immortal elf maiden, fall in love with each other. Their love finds obstacles, which they need to overcome. Arwen’s father puts a condition that Aragorn and Arwen can only marry when Aragorn becomes the King of Gondor and Arnor which are southern and Northern kingdoms of Middle earth. Arwen knowing that choosing Aragorn as her love partner would end her boon of immortality, she still chooses him and proves the value of sacred love.[14]

The conflict here proves that marriages are complex, their domain demands a lot of sacrifices and this sacrifice comes at a huge cost. For combating the complexity of marriages, laws are important. When there is an absence of law regarding marriage, society generally faces a lot of hardships. But when these laws vary from race to race or religion to religion, they trigger even more precarious consequences.[15] Uniformity is, thus, a basic requirement for any society to function well. All the laws need not be present, but it is mandatory to have equal laws for all. Uniformity, thus, promotes peace, less discrimination and more effective legal system.[16]

Laws of War 

Laws related to war and international conflicts are essential for the world’s safety. Science and technology are important and they are a boon to the society but the problem with science is that it can be used to incur damage and promote the negative elements in the society. For example, the terrorist organisations have increased in the number and also strengthened because of the high tech guns that they use. These guns and their ammunition are manufactured by well-developed countries. Furthermore, these well-developed countries declare war on these organisations and the countries that give shelter to the terror spreading organisations. This becomes a cycle, cycle of death not for the rich and privileged but for the poor and underprivileged. 

Laws, thus, are required for controlling the ill-effects of this cycle. In Lord of the Rings, it is clearly evident that certain races try to indulge in violence, Orcs who belonged to the elvish race were tortured and tormented, this pain made them orcs. This also sheds light on the fact that criminals aren’t criminals by their nature but because of the conditions and earlier incidents that happen in their lives turn them into people who are responsible for the barbarous activities. 

Laws need to be formulated to control and limit the powers of armies, they should put certain limitations on the powers so that these armies don’t cause damage to the innocents. In Lord of the Rings, Orcs are the ones who cause damage to the property of innocents. They go on ravaging the houses, plundering the properties and killing the innocents. It proved the fact that Laws related to wars aren’t strong enough to control the uprising of these elements. The same can be seen in the real world scenario, international terrorist organisations carry on with their activities without any stumbling block in the complete process. International laws are damaged, they are incomplete and ineffective. Their presence isn’t felt and seems like they do not exist.[17]

Steps that need to be taken in the making of international laws are basic in nature. The laws need to be backed by sanction, they should be uniform, they should be effective in doing what seems correct. They should act as a deterrence factor for the negative elements. Their applicability should be felt and their existence should be strengthened.

Absence of Laws: Boon or a Curse?

Some things are necessary, but sometimes these necessary things become a burden for society. Laws are necessary for the proper functioning of the society but when laws become outdated or to say they become an easy utility for the wrongdoers, then these laws need to be eradicated or chopped. 

The BJP government in India removed 1500 Acts in just three years of their tenure. The reason being that those laws were outdated and redundant.[18] Therefore, laws need to be properly furnished for modern times. Absence of law is a bizarre thought but not impossible. Laws when become obsolete they generally prove vital for the criminally intended activities. They boost illegal acts and give a defence to the wrongdoers. Therefore, eradicating laws which are unessential is a powerful way to smoothen the functioning of a legal system.[19]

It is better to have no laws than having laws which would promote violence in society. But sometimes laws which are considered outdated or obsolete are essential because society follows them and has ultimately made itself accustomed to the fact that that specific law is mandatory to have a peaceful life and infringing that law would lead to havoc. Thus, laws which get eradicated can be brought back, as the sociological school of jurisprudence suggests that laws are there to fulfil public interest.[20] Society needs laws as a man needs oxygen. Laws are to protect and safeguard the innocent and punish the vicious. Absence of certain laws is acceptable but the absence of all the laws would give rise to mass and steady destruction.[21]


Laws work as a blood for the human civilisation. Their absence triggers lots of dire consequences, they played a huge role in the epic fantasy novel Lord of the Rings and they likewise play a huge role in the real world undoubtedly. There are various sources of law and custom is one of them. But the interesting inference that can be drawn from Lord of the Rings is that the laws developed through customs are generally defective in nature. International society isn’t primitive in nature now, the society thus demands modern laws, absence of laws isn’t a problem but their defective presence is. International society demands effective laws, which hold the ability to eradicate the international threat.

Absence of law can result in the collapse of the entire civilisations and societies. Absence of laws in a certain remote field leads to the promotion of terrorist organisations. Countries which have weak law enforcing bodies like, Pakistan and Afghanistan, face destruction. Lives of innocents are sacrificed, illegal activities get a boost. As these illegal activities like drug trafficking and gun/ammunition supply increases, they further develop an underground market, these underground markets gain monetary benefits for the terrorist organisations. These funds raised through these activities are used in developing strong militants. Funds are furthermore channelised to gain access to the security of any other nation. Bringing innocent lives at stake. Thus laws need to cover all the areas of society.

Uniformity in the application of laws should be given the foremost attention. Where the absence of law is abysmal, unequal applicability of law is dreadful. Countries should give major importance for making the laws available to all instead of just predetermined sections of the society. Non-uniformity in the applicability of law results in communal violence. Therefore fruits of law should be enjoyed by all and not just be few.

Analysing the Lord of the Rings and the real-world legal system we find a strong connection between them. This connection just doesn’t relate to the modern legal system but also highlights the age-old customs of India. Laws may be formulated in such a way that larger public might not follow them if they think that the laws aren’t helping them. Therefore, laws may end up being just formalities and nothing more than that, for this the nation should be responsible. Judiciary should be given proper strength and powers, Lord of the Rings had laws/rules but the world lacked a separate judicial body. This, thus, made laws ineffective and the ones which were pre-existing had a huge chance of being powerless or faulty and absence of judiciary made it even worse since it had no chance of improvising the laws.

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”[22]




[2] Michael Martinez, VISUALISING MIDDLE EARTH, 1st ed., 2000, pp.216-218.

[3] J.R.R Tolkien, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, VOLUME II. THE TWO TOWERS, 1954-1974, p.14.

[4] Fali S. Narina, GOD SAVE THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT, 2018, p. 173.

[5] Christina Sternbenz, “ Six Laws from the Lord of the Rings”, Business Insider, June 17,2013, available at https://www.businessinsider.com/law-in-the-lord-of-the-rings-2013-6 (Last visited on March 11th, 2020).

[6] N.N Singh,The Absence of a Sovereign Legislature and its Consequences for International Law.” MALAYA LAW REVIEW, vol. 12, no. 2, 1970, pp. 277–297.

[7] Michael Martinez, VISUALISING MIDDLE EARTH, 1st ed., 2000, pp.216-218.

[8] Michael Martinez, VISUALISING MIDDLE EARTH, 1st ed., 2000, pp.216-228.

[9] Supra note 5.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Michael Martinez, VISUALISING MIDDLE EARTH, 1st ed., 2000, pp.216-228.


[13] Michael Martinez, VISUALISING MIDDLE EARTH, 1st ed., 2000, pp.216-228.


[15] Linda D. Elrod and Robert G. Spector,  “A Review of the Year in Family Law: Working Toward More Uniformity in Laws Relating to Families.” FAMILY LAW QUARTERLY, vol. 44, no. 4, 2011, pp. 469–518.

[16] Linda D. Elrod and Robert G. Spector,  “A Review of the Year in Family Law: Working Toward More Uniformity in Laws Relating to Families.” FAMILY LAW QUARTERLY, vol. 44, no. 4, 2011, pp. 469–518.

[17] N.N Singh, “The Absence Of a Sovereign Legislature And Its Consequences for International Law”, Malaya Law Review, available at www.jstor.org/stable/24862627 (Last visited on 11 Mar. 2020).

[18] Harish V Nair, “Centres clean up act: Modi government terminates 1500 archaic acts”, India Today, July 29, 2018, available at https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/centre-s-clean-up-ct-modi-government-terminates-1-500-archaic-laws-1299212-2018-07-29 (Last visited on 31st March 2020).

[19] Fali S. Narina, GOD SAVE THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT, 2018, p. 168.

[20] John Laws,Beyond Rights” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, 2003, pp. 265–280. 

[21] John Laws,Beyond Rights” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, 2003, pp. 265–280. 

[22] J.R.R Tolkien, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, VOLUME II. THE TWO TOWERS,1954-1974, pp. 178.


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