Religion vs. Science
Tolkien’s Roman Catholic upbringing shone through his fantasies. And the setting in which thousands of years have gone by without any technological advancement whatsoever makes the struggle between faith and knowledge all the more prominent.
Saruman and Sauron, the evil ones, create some of the most significant technological advancements in the books. These advancements are considered so great that men deem these things magic, foul magic. Not entirely unrealistic, considering historical reactions to gun powder – and general reactions to incredible new things.
But there are more ways in which Tolkien attempts to manipulate the reader into believing these technological advancements are evil, and one of these is the “nature’s” reactions.
Evil Tech Hates The Good Earth
Our heroes constantly talk of the enemy as though they were a blight on the land.
Aside from constant darkness that supposedly follows the evil ones around, you can tell this is the message when they speak of the once forest loving, tree-hugging Saruman, who as he turned evil began felling all those trees.
Yes, for specific purposes he did.
True. Nature should be preserved, but Saruman was hardly doing anything heinous. Men also fell trees, just for different purposes and from other forests.
Men, dwarfs and elves reshape the world to their liking all the time. But when the enemy does it… well… that cannot be allowed – because that land should be for the shaping of men. Kind of reminiscent of Hitler’s hatred for Jews because they had the jobs that Aryan Germans didn’t. He hated them because they ran industries and held many high positions that dealt with social, economic and technological advancement. And while there is a strong argument to be made of the battle between technology and nature that isn’t the argument Tolkein is necessarily making – or sticking to.
Nature isn’t necessarily on Gandalf and his allies’ side. Note all the animals that work for Saruman, the snow-capped mountain that just simply hated our heroes for whatever reason, and the reminder that once our heroes win most likely the natural world would be lesser for it (as the elves’ rings would most likely lose their power and thus any good they did would cease to be.)