The problem with Tolkien

When the Lord of the Rings movies charmed moviegoers and critics alike, the SPLC fired back with a hostile Pacific News Service review that slammed the movie for its celebration of all things European: “Almost all of the heroes of the series are manly men who are whiter than white” and “exude a heavenly aura of all that is Eurocentric and good. Who but these courageous Anglo-Saxon souls can save Middle Earth from the dark and evil forces of the world?”

Well, we can’t have movies extolling manliness, now can we? And any work of art that portrays defenders of traditional European culture as anything but evil MUST be shunned.

But now here’s the Guardian exposing the underlying fault of Tolkien’s works — it’s not just the fact that no actors of color were cast in the movies based on his best-selling novels; the real problem with Tolkien is his enduring ideal of what constitutes “the good”:

Tolkien’s myths are profoundly conservative. Both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings turn on the “return of the king” to his rightful throne. In both cases this “victory” means the reassertion of a feudal social structure which had been disrupted by “evil”. Both books are one-sided recollections made the Baggins family, members of the landed gentry, in the Red Book of Westmarch – an unreliable historical source if ever there was one. A balanced telling might well have shown Smaug to be much more of a reforming force in the valley of Dale….

We’re left to take on trust from Gandalf, a manipulative spin doctor, and the Elves, immortal elitists who kill humans and hobbits for even entering their territory, when they say that the maker of the one ring is evil. Isn’t it more likely that the orcs, who live in dire poverty, actually support Sauron because he represents the liberal forces of science and industrialisation, in the face of a brutally oppressive conservative social order?

Perfect. The Elves in The Lord of the Rings are “elitist,” Sauron is a reactionary’s lampoon of enlightenment, and Sauron’s hellish mills represent Marxist “liberal forces of science and industrialisation.” Of course.

These people aren’t just attacking a fantasy classic. They seek to destroy the Western civilization that classic celebrates. Tolkien’s aim in writing The Lord of the Rings, besides giving us a rip-roaring and inspirational story, was to create a new heroic mythology for Europeans.

And our enemies know that.

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29 thoughts on “The problem with Tolkien

  1. Thaddeus

    Typically, the Left has it precisely inverted. The problem with Tolkien is not that he is “reactionary.” The problem is that he isn’t reactionary enough.

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  2. redphillips

    The problem with Tolkien is that he is boring. There, I said it. Someone has to. I was dragged to one of the LOTR movies by my kids, the 2nd I believe, and I fell asleep in the theater. I mean head back, mouth open snoring asleep.

    I saw the 1978 Lord of the Rings animated Bakshi film when I was a kid, and I remember afterwards having the same question then that I still have today. If this ring is so powerful and so sought after, then why does it ruin the person who gets it? The fact that it turns you into some shriveled up toad looking thing pretty much makes it not a particularly useful object to have, does it not? My father couldn’t explain it to me then, and I have yet to get a satisfactory explanation.

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    1. laughingtorch

      Yes, it is wise to base all literature off of the movies. The Ring is the Ring of Power, and with that corruption. The ring therefore corrupts the wearer with its malign will. Read the book dude. And read the book to your kids. The books are not boring in the slightest. And actually, here is a hint with literature in general (and maybe even life), the most boring parts sometimes turn out to be the most important. Peter Jackson isn’t JRR Tolkien. He’s not boring. You may lack imagination, however, and find them boring.

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  3. Mike Post author

    redphillips,

    Tolkien needs to be read to be appreciated. He had a real feel for the rhythm and harmony of language, as well as for an appreciation of of heroism, sacrifice, and the boundless worth of an ordinary life.

    As for the Ring, well, I think he’s saying that the lust for unnatural power is at the root of evil, and evil feeds on itself.

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  4. Thaddeus

    Red, I’m surprised and disappointed. That’s the kind of infantile reaction that gives us Michael Bey “bigger ‘splosions” entertainment. If you feel asleep, that’s your own limitation. You do realize that your reaction is *exactly* like that of the jejune modern journalist who dismisses Western culture with a wave of his hand because it’s over his head, and he’s used to considering himself the arbiter of what’s good and bad. Shakespeare is “boring” to those who haven’t put in the work to mine its sublimity.

    Funny how easy it is to make fun of the chimps for their inability to appreciate anything more sophisticated than thug rap (rightly, I add) — but let’s all keep that in mind before any of us sound chimp-like in dismissing marvels of Western culture that may be above *our* heads.

    Like I said, Tolkien isn’t reactionary *enough*. But he certainly isn’t “boring,” unless someone is looking for a J(ew) J(ew) Abrams videogame-masquerading-as-a-movie.

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  5. Kirt Higdon

    I think Tolkien is over-rated as a writer and parts of his Ring series are boring, his command of the language notwithstanding. The LOTR movies were well done for the most part, although the last one was repetitious and about a half hour too long. But the first Hobbit movie put me to sleep and I haven’t bothered with the follow-on.

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  6. weavercht

    Red,

    the idea that great power cannot be wielded for good and that only evil can destroy evil (Golum accidentally destroying the ring in his fight with the corrupted Frodo) are two important themes.

    The idea that the world is degenerating and in need of a rebirth is a very pagan theme, but in a sense it’s also Christian since the apocalypse and Christ’s return is expected. There’s no rebirth that I’m aware of, but the world does slowly decline. There’s also the sense that the world is flawed from the start. And it’s brilliant that Tolkien throws in how a nation declined when focusing too much on ancestors and not enough on the future. I at least have never seen such a theme elsewhere. The Great Pyramid comes to mind: What insanity. Why focus so much on a tomb? A temple would have made more sense, unless the Great Pyramid meant to glorify the ruling family and the first pharaoh as the source of the society.

    Liberalism welcomes technology, assumes man is naturally good if only he can do away with race and religion, views history as a line of forward-marching progress.

    How does one fight the culture war if not appreciating Tolkien? What themes do you focus on?

    Thaddeus,

    what more would you want? Eric Rücker Eddison once said Tolkien was too soft, but Eddison wasn’t interested in race as you seem to be. I assume Eddison meant that Update: realised I left this blank. I assume he was referring to how the most manly / strongest would come alive in times of danger, bored otherwise. I’m not really one to judge him though.

    Tolkien smashes William Pierce who got so lost in his extremism he went over to the other side without realising it. Pierce’s Cosmotheism is dangerous to race if that’s all you care for.

    If anything Tolkien is underappreciated and too good for us. Tolkien, CS Lewis (Space Trilogy), and GK Chesterton (Napoleon of Notting Hill) are giants for their works that detail the very issues we face today. We see what atheism brings us: Pierce and the death of race.

    Btw, the elves and humans go to different places after death. Marriages between elves and humans never end well. All lines end that are mixed.

    Kirt,

    LotR is incredible. I was brought almost to tears at times by the heroics. I’m unaware of a better series of movies.

    I’ve learned not to underestimate you, I expect you have a list of equally amazing movies; but for myself LotR is my all time favourite.

    Mike,

    partly LotR is hated because it hails a different centre than Rome: Nordicism. LotR is meant as a mythology for the English, and it praises the Celtic and the Norse. Tolkien and I suppose Robert E. Howard, Lord Dunsany, and others have spawned this high fantasy industry that reveres the Nordic. Critics want Rome and only Rome revered. Nothing can be beautiful but what originates from Rome, they demand. No one else may have pride or heritage. And this is not only Catholics.

    Separately, we additionally have white nationalists who fear a division of whites would create crack for their dreamt white empire and the WWII obsessed who seem to view Nordics as evil.

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  7. Ken

    Tolkien was a story teller. His works have inspired countless copycats. He is the standard by which all other fantasy works are measured. The libs just can’t enjoy anything without turning it into some sort of political ploy. They are despicable.

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  8. hawthornecht

    “Critics want Rome and only Rome revered. Nothing can be beautiful but what originates from Rome, they demand. ”

    Weaver, it was American Conservative Prots/anti-papists who declared Heavy Metal, Tolkien, CS Lewis… satanic.

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  9. weavercht

    What I’m referring to is how Roman and Greek pagan references are viewed as acceptable, because it’s Roman (Greek is now grouped in with Rome as compatible). But Nordic pagan references are somehow terrible.

    We see this with the white nationalist types, with others who revere the Roman empire, and with the Christians.

    My personal reference to Satanism of course was to the specific movement started by the Jewish Anton LeVey. I do see that you didn’t refer to me, but I’m wanting to be clear.

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  10. weavercht

    Protestants who reject all paganism go too far, but I don’t like how Greek and Roman paganism is somehow more acceptable. Not that I need to add this argument for you, but: If we’re book-burning, then all books should be burned equally. And the atheism that results in the void is worse than paganism, because it essentially reveres man and/or progress in the place of God: So it’s equally a worship of a false idol, and it positions itself very differently from those who believe in a god(s) (generic reference).

    I tend to side with the Orthodox over the Catholics in their conflict over authority. I don’t like Rome’s desire to be the centre. And I’m aware Constantinople was essentially Roman too, but regardless a more decentralised authority makes better sense to me. Empire, to me, is a very depressing, lifeless thing. I want a rich diversity of societies.

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  11. hawthornecht

    Weaver;

    As I was asked to comment on the Heavy Metal thread, and I mentioned Tolkien (as I have done many times regarding American Prot resistance), I want to make sure my position is clear–at least for friends.

    Pagan Mythology is our Old Testament; prior to Tolkien, we got glimpses of it from the Anglo-Celts in the late 1800s early 1900s (e.g. Yeats.) Tolkien rather turned it into an Epic–it matters not that it was not an ancient text. Stories of the Flood and so forth, while closer to universal, doesn’t make them “our stories” the way our Pagan past prepared us for the New Testament. The Bible Literalists of course, saw the threat. We are sympathetic to them for their Young Earth views, in so far as its a cultural survival strategy, but we can also point out their alliance with the Bad Guys.

    “I don’t like Rome’s desire to be the centre.”

    It’s in our blood to be permanent againstists. We are the Dwarves (Welsh to be exact) in Tolkien’s world, not the humans.

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  12. hawthornecht

    Race, culture who knows? But anyone here in 2014 has something inside that cannot just quite fit in. And we want our stolen gold back.

    Addition:

    English Literature, History, Myth, from King Arthur to Blind Harry up through Shakespeare, is our Old Testament as well. I don’t want to be thought too modern.

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  13. weavercht

    Re: Addition: Yes.

    Re: Againstism: I don’t see the value. That’s better suited for a populist movement or movement of disparate parts that opposes a system without knowing quite what it wants. I have an idea of what I want and value.

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  14. weavercht

    Btw, I’ve got a book: “The Celts” by Peter Ellis. It is… amazing. The Celts were much more developed than we currently think today, and the book adds evidence the Celts were culturally connected with the Hinduism’s roots, which is what an older book on India had theorised. Among the surprises is that the Celts had a highly developed road system, wooden roads that rotted away except for in bogs. Perhaps they had stone too in regions, and we wrongly assume those were Roman today. We have these amazing advances, but we have to fight over Israel in the Middle East and blow up the archaeology instead of studying it (it seems to me Iraq etc are largely due to Israel, not the dollar standard or oil or the milit-indust complex). All for the Chosen who must have their lands, can rebuild nowhere else, even if it means WWIII…

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  15. redphillips

    Thaddeus,

    First of all, I have never called anyone a chimp and would never describe anyone as chimping out because it is rude and counterproductive. That language plays into caricatures of what politically incorrect folks are like. The PC Mafia loves it when people use language like that, because they can then trot it out and say “Look, here be racists.”

    Second, I would never criticize someone for listening to rap music per se. I criticize rap music because much of it is vile with grossly immoral themes. Rap that is edifying would not be my thing, but I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

    Also, I have never pretended to be highbrow. In fact, I tend to wear my low brow tastes as a badge of honor. I like football, MMA, professional wrestling, NASCAR, fishing, country music and I’ve even been to a few Monster Truck rallies in my day. I don’t like soccer, and if I had to sit through a classical music concert I would probably plunge a pencil in my ear to make it stop. And yes, I like movies with explosions and beatdowns as evidenced by my promotion of the Expendables series. That said, I’m not crazy about a lot of modern blockbuster type movies because I see them as contrived and painfully melodramatic. I like old school style action flicks and shoot-em-ups. But I don’t concede that the LOTR movies are highbrow. They’re long periods of boredom punctuated by outrageous melodrama. They are equivalent to Harry Potter, for example, mostly for kids through young adults.

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  16. hawthornecht

    Weaver;

    Look at Christmas Carols like Good King Wenceslas or I saw Three Ships, and see a world that did not look to Rome. The Three Kings–and their science–and Zarathrustra-ism. It’s right there in front of us.

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  17. weavercht

    Red,

    Harry Potter is no different from NASCAR and reality TV: distracting entertainment.

    LotR is entirely different. LotR is intended to make a person good and to explain the struggles we face today. LotR is productive. There’s nothing productive in Harry Potter, that I’m aware of, certainly not in NASCAR.

    Surely you at least like Braveheart?

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  18. weavercht

    Hawthorne writes: “Look at Christmas Carols like Good King Wenceslas or I saw Three Ships”

    Thanks. I’ll take a look. I do ant to gather such things.

    “The Three Kings–and their science”

    You mean Astrology? It was then very religious. Astrologers believed the moon etc affected us and events. Zarathrustra actually changed the tradition somewhat, so you have to be wary of him for tradition, though perhaps the changes were good. The parallels today tend to be between Hinduism and Celts. Hittites are similar if I recall correctly from one book.

    I just write this to clarify that “science” isn’t necessarily ours as some suggest. Whites might have made disproportionate discoveries, but science is quite dangerous.

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  19. redphillips

    OK, I admit the Harry Potter comparison was below the belt. LOTR is a classic of Western literature that a series of movies were made from. Harry Potter is a teen fantasy book. My comparison was more aimed at the style and feel of the movie.

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  20. redphillips

    Weaver and Hawthorne, as one of those Prots, I have very little use for paganism. Cultural myths and stories are good, as long as they don’t invoke supernatural elements. Or if they do, the supernatural elements are treated as just part of the story, the way Americans view Greek and Roman mythology for example. I consider my Protestantism my heritage. One of the points of low church Protestantism, and I mean original low church not contemporary worship foolishness, was precisely to get away from what we viewed as pagan influenced elements of the Catholic Mass, such as chanting, candles, incense, etc. and even to a degree our different view of the ordinances (as opposed to sacraments) of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It’s hard to understand some of this if you weren’t raised in the milieu, and when you were, it’s hard to shake it, not that I want to shake all of it.

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  21. weavercht

    Paganism has value for the ideas, symbolism, and sense of place/identity. It especially has value for those who seek something new, outside Christianity. If there’s only atheistic modernism to choose, that isn’t so good. I find paganism points to Christianity.

    And once you’ve emptied Christianity of all its roots, it’s not very appealing. It’s not too surprising that descendants of Puritans tend to be globalist and atheist.

    I can’t imagine anyone in this day believing in astrology. I know some do, but it seems so foolish. Other superstitions are similarly foolish.

    Claims such as wicker men, btw, have never found evidence to support them. Anyone demanding evidence though seems to be at risk of being burnt for a witch. We must believe the pagan Romans apparently…

    The Amish btw have some pagan superstitions, or so I’ve read – something with protective symbols I want to say. I’m sure it’s realised they’re silly superstitions, like Santa Claus. Such things though should probably be tolerated. They’re harmless. In Iceland there are twelve weird trolls and other things supernatural: It just adds colour. Has anyone ever worshiped or sacrificed to the Tooth Fairy?

    If religion were more fun and interesting, without being idol worship or heretical, perhaps we wouldn’t have this view in society that “sin is fun”. Faith should be fun too. CS Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters” btw are another good work that’s fictional… It doesn’t call one to worship an idol. Works like his are high quality and add to society.

    Fanatics attack paganism in this day, because of the name, not the form. If they were attacking false idols, they should be going for the atheists and “progress”/science-worshipers. Fanatics just want to feel like they’re serving God. They take the easy path. They don’t actually want to attack evil, because that would be difficult. They only want to feel good.

    Scientology, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism: These are additional false idols. Yet, fanatics only target “pagans”, as if anyone actually believed in Euro-paganism in this day. Wiccans are bizarre and unlikely to be historically rooted. That’s not really Euro-paganism, only claims to be. There’s no evidence Wicca is authentic.

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  22. weavercht

    Euro-paganism likely did involve sacrifice and magic, but there’s no evidence of human sacrifice, that I’m aware of anyway. We have ritual killings, but these could have been for punishment.

    We have nothing like the Egyptian Book of the Dead, unless one goes to Hinduism, which is likely very similar.

    Even Christianity has sacrifice though. When a monk takes a vow of silence, he’s making a symbolic dedication. He doesn’t believe it to be magical or within the Bible, but he does it in faith nonetheless. Such a sacrifice is not necessarily an idol, though sure it could be if believing silence in itself serves some purpose.

    Indulgences seem heretical to me, admittedly. I’ve never understood how one can buy forgiveness for a sin. If one sins, how does money correct the sin? Perhaps wealth in general is corrupting, but paying money for a specific sin seems deeply wrong to me.

    The Orthodox btw do not believe in “Holy War”. War to them can never be holy, and I expect they’re right.

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