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War of Saruman on Theoden: An analysis using St. Aquinas’s definition of just war

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According to St. Aquinas, in order for a war to be just, three things are necessary. First, the authority of the sovereign by whose command the war is to be waged.  Second, a just cause is required, namely that those who are attacked, should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault. And third, it is necessary that the belligerents should have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. (Summa Theologica Part 2 of Part 2, Question 40, Art. 1)

Let us now use these principles to analyze whether Saruman’s war on Theoden was indeed unjust, as the latter claimed. (Two Towers p. 204)

1.  Does Saruman have an authority to wage war?

Gondor gave Saruman the keys to the Tower of Orthanc in year 2759 (III Age).  But before it, in the year 2510 (III Age) Gondor gave the Mark to the people of Eorl the Young of Rohan, in reward for his aid against the wild men and the orcs:

Cirion (Steward of Gondor), therefore, in reward for his aid, gave Calenardhon between Anduin and Isen to Eorl and his people; and they sent north for their wives and children and their goods and settled in that land.  They named it anew the Mark of the Riders, and they called themselves the Eorlingas; but in Gondor their land was called Rohan, and its poepole the Rohirrim (that is, the Horse-lords).  Thus Eorl became the first King of the Mark, and he chose for his dwelling a green hill before the feet of the White Mountains that were the south-wall of his land.  There the Rohirrim lived afterwards as freemen under their own kings and laws, but in perpetual alliance with Gondor.  (Return of the King, pp. 379-380)

Thus, Saruman is answerable to Gondor.  Before he can wage war on his neighbor, Rohan, he must first present his cause before the Steward of Gondor and the Steward can settle the matter.  Therefore, Saruman has no authority to wage war on Rohan.

2. Does Saruman have a just cause?

Saruman used the grievance of the wild men of Dunland against the heirs of Eorl the Young.  As Gamling said to Eomer in the battle of Helm’s Deep:

I know that tongue.  It is an ancient speech of men, and once was spoken in many western valleys of the Mark.  Hark!  They hate us, and they are glad; for our doom seems certain to them.  “The king, the king!” they cry.  “We will take their king.  Death to the Forgoil!  Death to the Strawheads!  Death to the robbers of the North!”  Such names they have for us.  Not in half a thousand years have they forgotten their grievance that the lords of Gondor gave the Mark to Eorl the Young and made alliance with him.  That old hatred Saruman has inflamed.  They are a fierce folk when roused.   They will not give way now for dusk or dawn, until Theoden is taken, or they themselves are slain. (Two Towers p. 153)

The the Kings of Gondor and their Stewards have a divine right to rule the Men of Middle Earth.  This is because  their ancestors joined the Valar in their war against Morgoth.  In reward for their help,  the Valar Eonwe blessed the Fathers of men with “wisdom and power and life more enduring than any others of mortal race have possessed. ” This became the Dunedain, the Numenorians,  the Kings of Men. So if the Lord of Gondor gives the Mark to the men of Rohan, no other men may dispute such authority, not even the wild men of Dunland nor even Saruman.  Thus, the war of Saruman against Rohan is unjust.

3. Does Saruman and his army have a rightful intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil?

Saruman does not intend the advancement of good, for his interest is only to rule Rohan for his own profits, as Theoden said.  And even if Saruman’s war on Theoden was just, his soldiers, the orcs and wild men, need not do more harm than necessary.  As Theoden said to Saruman:

Even if your war on me was just–as it was not, for were you ten times as wise you would have no right to rule me and mine for your own profit as you desired–even so, what will you say of your torches in Westfold and the children tha lie dead there?  And they hewed Hama’s body before the gates of the Hornbur, after he was dead.

Thus, Saruman does not have the right intention.  (In the Medieval Ages, the Peace of God punishes with excommunication on those who injure the defenseless: children, women, peasants, and clergy.  Nobles are forbidden to beat the defenseless, burn houses, and so on.  See Wikipedia.)


Written by Quirino M. Sugon Jr

May 6, 2009 at 7:33 am