It's been just over a year since I responded to this thread. I was a little disappointed that it had lost interest because I like talking about literature and so forth.
Unfortunately, I haven't made too much more progress, as it is a recent development that I've been able to read for short periods at a time without distraction. So, I'm still on 5, II (book five, chapter two) "The Passing of the Grey Company".
Feel free to jump in with ANYTHING, no matter what. I really feel like discussing this one a bit more because the book does fascinate me, or else I would not have bothered to spend all this time reading it [or attempting to].
We can see modern DIPLOMACY in the Lord of the Rings, and international relations or geopolitics or yore and of today. I think the Shire is, in many ways, the United States of America in some respects. (Tolkien obviously didn't intend it as such, but there are similarities.) The inhabitants of the Shire seem to think "Oh, not our business what goes on beyond our borders." Yet, evil is lurking literally everywhere around the borders of the Shire.
Gondor or Rohan would be more like Britain's role in WWII, as opposed to the Shire (United States). Or perhaps the Rangers, who kept the Shire safe without the fat, happy inhabitants thereof knowing of it or thinking about it. The People's Democratic Republic of Gondor (which I have privately styled it, since Gondor has no king, and needs no king, according to Boromir in the movies at any rate) is the country that holds back the forces of evil in Middle Earth. Without it, Sauron would have been successful a long time ago.
Mordor can be Germany: after the great "defeat" of Sauron by the last alliance of Men and Elves, it was put down but not for good: a partial defeat is no defeat, and it will come back to haunt you, just as the unfinished business of WWI turned into WWII. He wrote the book while the latter was raging, so he'd have been thinking about such not-quite-victories. And after such events, the world NEVER quite goes back to being the same as it was before such a calamity.
OK: anyone want to jump in and revive this discussion? I'm sorry if anyone's bored of it by now but it's just something that fascinates me and, as you well know, I am terribly fond of intellectual discussion. (Right...)