Princes and Kings Gazing at the Stars in “The Leopard” and “The Lord of the Rings”

The soul of the Prince reached out toward them, toward the intangible, the unattainable, which gave joy without laying claim to anything in return; as many other times, he tried to imagine himself in those icy tracts, a pure intellect armed with a notebook for calculations: difficult calculations, but ones which would always work out. “They’re the only really genuine, the only really decent beings,” thought he, in his worldly formulae. “Who worries about dowries for the Pleiades, a political career for Sirius, matrimonial joy for Vega?”

Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

Death was ever present, because the Númenóreans still, as they had in their old kingdom, and so lost it, hungered after endless life unchanging. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living, and counted old names in the rolls of their descent dearer than the names of sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry; in secret chambers withered men compounded strong elixirs, or in high cold towers asked questions of the stars. And the last king of the line of Anárion had no heir.

Faramir in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Lampedusa’s The Leopard tells the story of the decadence of Sicilian nobility, as the new republican order is emerging in Italy after Garibaldi’s victories. Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina, who studies astronomy, often retreats to his study and gazes at the never changing stars. There is permanence in the starry night, the movements of the stars can be calculated with precision, while human affairs cannot. As his house fails since his family is losing social and political power, Don Fabrizio contemplates on the infinite and cold sky.

Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina in The Leopard (1963), dir. Luchino Visconti

Faramir recounts the story of the downfall of the Númenóreans, an ancient race of men who lived in the Second Age, on the island of Númenór. They rebelled against the Valar – the Gods, and the island was destroyed, only the faithful survived (they will be the main protagonists of Amazon Prime’s TV show The Rings of Power). Anárion was the last of the kings who ruled in Middle-Earth, Aragorn is their descendant. Faramir recounts their decadence, and how they started cherishing their dead more than the living, and connects this to their interest in the stars, similarly to Lampedusa’s depiction of Prince of Salina.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Argonath, Pillars of the Kings

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