I've painted a rather idyllic picture of the newsgroup rec.arts.books.tolkien in these web-pages, and for the most part it's had a history as being a relaxed and enjoyable newsgroup.
The occasional flamefest is inevitable on Usenet, however... and, sadly, it takes only one stubborn, unbending personality to take a simple disagreement and turn it into a heated and unnecessary conflict.
After one particularly unpleasant and protracted argument had taken place, complete with kill-files being intentionally bypassed and a number of ISP complaints being filed, I found myself wondering what Lord of the Rings would have looked like if the current group of rec.arts.books.tolkien posters had written it.
...'Alas! alas!' cried Legolas, and in his fair elvish face there was great distress. 'The tidings I was sent to bring must now be told. Smeagol, who is now called Gollum, has escaped.'
'Escaped!' cried Aragorn. 'That is ill news indeed. How came you to fail in your trust?'
'Not through lack of watchfulness,' said Legolas; 'but perhaps through over-kindliness. We had not the heart to keep him ever in dungeons under the earth.'
'You were less tender to me,' said Gloin with a flash of his eyes as old memories were stirred of his imprisonment in the deep places of the Elven-king's halls. 'We were on a quest to defeat a dragon, and you trapped and waylaid us.'
'I'm not sure that "trapped" is exactly the right word,' Legolas replied.
'"Trapped" is exactly the right word,' Gloin cried, his anger building. 'Look it up in the dictionary if you have to.'
'Well, I always interpreted "trapped" to imply a certain amount of enmity, and planning,' Legolas tried to explain. 'Yours was more of a "capture", I think-'
'No, we were "trapped",' Gloin insisted. 'It's not my interpretation, it's what happened. I was there, you know.'
'I don't think we're interpreting the word the same way,' Legolas insisted. 'I can't subscribe to your interpretation.'
'Can we get back to the Ring?' Glorfindel asked.
'No, no, wait a minute,' Gloin said hotly, returning to the Elf. 'What's there to interpret? We were "trapped", by definition. How can you cay we were "captured" but not "trapped"?'
'It's a question of intent-' Legolas began.
Gloin cut him off. 'I didn't say anything about intent,' he snapped, rising to his feet. 'Did I say anything about intent? We were trapped. I didn't say anything about what anybody's intentions were (though they certainly must have had a foul and evil intent to waylay us on our great and noble Quest). I didn't say anything about "intentions". Don't be putting words in my mouth.'
'Hey,' Legolas insisted, 'I was only talking about whether we "trapped" you or merely "captured" you. But I wouldn't have brought it up at all if I'd known you were going to get all hysterical.'
'Oh! So now I'm hysterical?' Gloin shouted. 'You liar! You put words in my mouth and then lie about me.'
'I - what?' Legolas gasped, trying to follow Gloin's angry words.
'Every time you open your mouth I'm going to remind everyone at this Council that you're a liar,' Gloin vowed.
This was too much for Legolas, who stood and turned away. 'I don't think we two can hold intelligent discourse any more,' the Elf said angrily. 'Whatever you may say, I'm no longer going to listen to your words.'
But Gloin stood and, rounding the table at great speed, grabbed Legolas and shouted into his leaf-shaped ear. 'Gonna ignore me, huh?' the angry Dwarf shouted. 'Gonna call me hysterical and then ignore me, huh? Well, ignore this! Liar, liar, liar!' he yelled, directly into Legolas' face so there would be no chance of ignoring him.
'Can we get back to the Ring?' Aragorn asked.
'No, wait, my honor's been besmirched,' Gloin demanded. 'I'd be happy to talk about the Ring, but everyone else here keeps on impugning my character. And I'm sick of it.'
'Will you shut the hell up!' Boromir shouted, standing suddenly and pulling his great broadsword in his rage. 'I'm sick and tired of your arguing! Shut the hell up and listen! We were talking about Gollum and the Ring! Can we get back to that, please?'
'I don't think the current conversation is being very constructive,' Aragorn agreed.
Gloin looked at the two Men, a surly look on his face. 'Oh, sure, it's easy for the people who aren't involved in the argument to play at being peacemaker. Their honor isn't at stake! But if either of you were involved in this argument, you'd understand that dropping it isn't as easy as all that.'
'I've been in many a battle-' Boromir announced.
'Yeah, I bet,' Gloin said dismissively.
'Maybe you could both just put this behind you, so that we can get back to weightier matters,' Aragorn suggested.
'Why are you taking his side?' Gloin snapped at the Dunedain, indicating the silent Legolas with the edge of his axe. 'I think I've already had enough crap from you and your ancestors. Wasn't it Beren who murdered the Dwarves who were transporting the Nauglamir? And now you suddenly want to elect yourself as peacemaker?'
Aragorn said no more; and taking Frodo by the hand he walked silently away from the incensed group, who took little notice of the departure.
Bilbo, who had Gloin's friendship in days gone by, turned quietly to the angry Dwarf. 'It seems to me that you and Legolas are not exactly listening to each other too clearly right now,' he said simply. 'Maybe you both ought to just relax, maybe agree to disagree, as we say in the Shire. I mean, we're old friends, yet Dwarven ways are sometimes strange even to me! Think well, Gloin! Will you not calm down?'
There was a pause, and Gloin seemed briefly to consider these words; but after a moment, his former anger and pride recaptured him and he remained steadfast. 'No, I cannot allow his heinous lies to stand,' Gloin insisted. 'I did not undergo all that I have to come to this Council just to be called "hysterical" by some liar.' He glared long and hard at Legolas as he spat out this word. 'And I don't think you should be siding with the abuser here.'
'This is just making me sick,' Glorfindel suddenly announced.
'That's it! I've had enough of these lies,' Gloin snapped, and turned to Elrond. 'I'm complaining about the behaviour of Legolas and Glorfindel. I want you to throw them both out of the discussion!'
'I agree with Gloin!' shouted Gimli.
'No,' said Elrond clearly and distinctly. 'I'm not going to play referee for you. Sit the hell down and start behaving like adults. That's the very last word I'm saying on the subject.'
There was a short pause. 'These Elves,' Gloin muttered angrily under his breath. 'They always reply both no and yes. Can't trust any of 'em. Unruly bastards.'
A long silence followed. Finally Gandalf cleared his throat and attempted a change of subject. 'I was down in Rohan the other day,' the Wizard began. 'Wormtongue lied to me of Theoden.'
Gloin arose again, pulling his axe from his belt. 'Are you trying to imply that I'm a liar?' he demanded...