Monthly Archives: August 2013

Tolkien, the Ring of Power, and Benzene

Well I don’t like to admit it, but I have a body too!

moe 4295 CROPPED

Subject to the usual ills, but also, like many sufferers, the  ills of this chemically saturated age. I’ve some nasty bouts I describe as ‘chemical hangovers‘, often from small exposures to solvents. A friend told me that her frequent migraines turned out to be related most of all to chemicals containing benzene. She said there was also an unspecified ‘spiritual dimension’ to this.

This got me thinking. My first thought was that it’s striking the structure of the benzene molecule is a ring. This was discovered, or dreamed, by the chemist Kekule one night in the symbolic form of a circle of snakes biting onto each other’s tails.

Ball-and-stick model of the hexahydroxybenzene...

Perhaps the Middle Earth ‘ONE RING’ or ‘Ring of Power’ of our time is the benzene molecule (part of the pertol mix I gather) and its nine ring-wraiths are the ‘infernal combustion engine’.  Tolkien always hated the motorcar… Did he know of the benzene ring?
So perhaps your bodily rejection of benzene is my friend’s deep knowing that modernism is making us all sick. And that so-called escapism of fantasy is pointing us to the only way out of the American– no that’s not fair – WESTERN – dream/ nightmare of endless expansion and unlimited rapid travel.

This rings true for me anyway- even though I love invention and enterprise. Perhaps I am more like saruman than I realized,  and that’s why I’ve been so conflicted  in my eutopianism and fantasy. And so attacked by chemical poisoning, like my friend who also writes fantasy. (There’s a reason why most fantasies are set in a pre-industrial age: that is the most romantic, and whatever evils it contains, they are somehow part of the fabric of life, not mechanical and alien to our natural evolved organic being. Science fiction is the principal instrument for wrestling with the impact of the machine on our being; fantasy is the vehicle for exploration of a oneness with nature and natural beauty and yes of course magic, we are in danger of losing touch with altogether.)

I too was part of the Benzene Dream, working like a maniac in a ‘dark satanic mill’ of my own construction, for the purpose of unlimited production of photoframes for the masses, delivered worldwide by the infernal combustion machine. Now I mostly write fantasy, and hope the benzene ring doesn’t destroy us all before we come to our senses…

Strangely, my own fantasy, Apples of Aeden, (free volume one ebook:  has an enemy, the Aghmaath, whose ‘logo’ is a hexagonal ring of scythes and a snake biting its tail:

BLACK simple spinning scythes 290408 copy

This was not intentional. But it fits. The Aghmaath quest is to put an end to life and the ‘wheel of striving’, the negative side of which the benzene ring in its toxicity symbolises so well. I trust there is a middle way between the mad pursuit of the benzene-fueled good life, and the pessimism of the misanthropic philosopher Schopenhauer.  If there is, its outlines are at least glimpsed  in the invented realms of (serious) fantasy. So, everybody should read fantasy! It’s not escapism, as Tolkien would say there are different types of escape. The ‘escapism’ of high fantasy  could just show us the way out of the 21st Century lunatic asylum.



Filed under musings by the wizard, the epic