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'From The Ashes A Fire Shall Be Woken'

So how do you say "orc" in Persian?
So how do you say "orc" in Persian?
In an effort to keep would-be protesters on their couches, Iran's Channel 2 has been airing Peter Jackson's nine-and-a-half-hour trilogy "The Lord of the Rings."

"Time" magazine has an anonymous on-the-couch report saying that Iranians are associating their recent political struggles with the analogy-rich fantasy movie. The author points to the politically-charged Farsi dubbing of the film:

"On the screen, Gandalf the Grey returns to the Fellowship as Gandalf the White. He casts a blinding white light, his face hidden behind a halo. Someone blurts out, 'Imam zaman e?!' (Is it the Imam?!) It is a reference, of course, to the white-bearded Ayatollah Khomeini, who is respectfully called Imam Khomeini. But 'Imam' is at the same time a title of the Mahdi, a messianic figure that Muslims believe will come to save true believers from powerful evildoers at the time of the apocalypse. Isn't that our predicament? ...

I wonder which official picked this film, starting to suspect, even hope, that there is a subversive soul manning the controls at 'seda va sima,' central broadcasting. It is way too easy to find political meaning in the film, to draw comparisons to what is happening in real life.... And listen: there is the sly reference to Ahmadinejad. Iranian films are dubbed very expertly. So listen to the Farsi word they use for hobbit and dwarf: "kootoole," little person. Kootoole, of course, was and is the term used in many of the chants out on the street against the diminutive president. In the eye of the beholder in Tehran, the movie is transformed into an Iranian epic."

You don't have to be watching the trilogy in Iran to find Persian parallels (e.g., Reilly's "Persian Influences in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings"). From Elrond's advice to the fellowship -- "You will unite or you will fall" -- to Gandalf's assertion that he is "never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to" -- it's apt. Those watching in Iran before going up to their roofs for the near-ritualized shouting of "Allahu Akbar" seem to believe that their moment has arrived not too late, not too early, but precisely when it should. They hope that, as Tolkien puts it, "from the ashes" -- ashes here being Neda Youtube footage -- "a fire shall be woken."

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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