Time for TolkienDavid Engels
Translated by Margot Metroland
We are in an epoch in which numerous religious, ethnic, or sexual groups are risking community-implosion by trying to impose their own values on everyone else. A time in which a certain politician we shall not name has been pushing political correctness to the point where it’s now proposed we should teach history according to the ethnicity of students. At the same time we’re witnessing a paradoxical return to the nostalgic comfort of the old-fashioned grand epic, marvelously exemplified in the current craze for J. R. R. Tolkien.
The Tolkien world is deeply imbued with a hierarchy that is charismatic rather than technocratic. A place where earthly power, in the image of the Kingship of Aragorn, is depicted as a burden, while obeisance is an honor. Here the hero is deeply individualistic, though driven not by egotistical materialism but rather a moral humanism that forces him — Elendil, Bilbo, or Faramir — to remain faithful to his convictions even at the price of a rupture with society.
Herein lies Tolkienian conservatism, which understands that happiness and harmony cannot be guaranteed by external means such as technology or institutions, but only through the ethical behavior of the individual, who learns, as Eowyn or Sam do, to accept their innate nature rather than a disordered idea of artificial egalitarianism. At the same time, this universe is deeply religious: it was defiled by the original fall of Melkor [or Morgoth, the First Dark Lord], making all happiness transient, and any hope of an ideal earthly order illusory. The history of Middle Earth is fundamentally a tragedy, consisting of a series of heroic acts — by Beren, Eärendil, and Frodo — doomed to failure. Only divine grace permits one to achieve the ideal of completing his quest.
But this vision is not merely confined to literary imagining. It’s also accompanied by a critical reflection on modernity, which today would probably suffice to expel Tolkien from Oxford. Here he is in a letter of 1943, being ironical: “It is getting to be all one blasted little provincial suburb. When they have introduced American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism, and mass-production throughout the Near East, the Middle East, the USSR . . . how happy we shall be.” Even the long-awaited Allied victory leaves him skeptical: “The real war is not like the legendary war. If it had inspired or dictated the development of the legend, the Ring would certainly have been seized and used against Sauron.” (The Lord of the Rings, 2nd ed., Foreword.)
What to say of the ulterior reasons behind this renewed popularity of Tolkien at the beginning of the twenty-first century, other than that it conceals a deep dislike of our postmodern world and a longing for a grand epic about a simple, integral, ancestral society? An escapism, moreover, which is in the process of gradually transforming itself, as shown in the rise of charismatic, conservative movements for political restoration . . . When is the return of the king?
1. Deputée Catherine Moureaux. (Not named in original, but discussed here: http://www.causeur.fr/belgique-education-islam-histoire-molenbeek-41291.html )
2. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien. 1981. London and New York: Allen & Unwin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Source: “C’est le moment de… (Re)Lire J.R.R. Tolkien.” Le Vif-L’Express, Brussels. 2 December 2016. Online: https://www.academia.edu/30198155/Cest_le_moment_de_…_relire_J.R.R._Tolkien_in_Le_Vif-Lexpress_1.12.2016_18
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Tolkeins’ cosmology and philosophical concerns are Rene Guenons’ transformed into an epic mythology; the battle for the ring during the third, or Bronze Age, is a battle to halt the approach of the fourth, or Iron Age, the Kali Yuga and the inevitable descent into darkess. Possibly, on some level, people though unacquainted with this theory, sense this. As in movies and popular novels, there’s a happy ending, the ring is destroyed, unfortunately not so in the real world.
I am glad someone finally brings up the relevance of Tolkien to out movement at the present hour.
I myself am fan and I have a blog where I discuss various viewpoint relevant to the Alt-Right and the broader neoreaction. You can check it out at https://elfnonationalist.wordpress.com/
The Lord of the Rings has the outer appearance of the standard quest story.
The quest story is basically Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’. An innocent, having destiny thrust upon him, is forced to leave home and go on an adventure. Luckily the young hero has an experienced mentor figure to help him, and possibly some companions. He passes a series of tests, gathers some talismen or a special weapon, crosses a thresh-hold and, eventually, using all he has learned, faces a terrible monster. If he defeats the monster he wins a great treasure which he can take back home again.
The reason the quest story is told over and over again is because the quest story is really the story of growing up. When you’re a child you’re safe and innocent but you don’t really have your own independent identity. But life comes calling. You’re forced to grow up whether you want to or not. At first you have your peer group of friends to belong to, and hopefully an older mentor to give you good advice, but eventually you yourself have to face up to the awful truth about life. To do so you will need to conquer your own fear (which is the monster).
What is the awful truth about life? That no-one can tell you what to do with your life. That lots of people don’t make it. There is cruelty and suffering. You can’t even blame your parents (they were just people) or society. And even if you succeed you are still going to eventually get sick and die. Who wouldn’t want to run back to the safety of childhood!? But you cant. You have to face up to it. You have to defeat your own fear.
If you defeat that monster then you win the treasure. What does the treasure represent? It represents YOU, it represents your character. Winning the treasure symbolizes the fact you have successfully grown up and become an independent person.
The quest story is told over and over again because growing up is the challenge every person has to face.
The Lord of the Rings takes the shape of the traditional quest story but with one crucial difference. Instead of the treasure being something the hero has to go out into the dangerous world to find and win, instead the treasure (the ring) is already in the possession of the hero (Frodo) at the START of the story. The hero has instead to take the ring to the most dangerous place in the world and GET RID OF IT.
So Tolkien has cleverly written a story with the outer form of the traditional quest story but with the central motivation reversed. So what’s going on?
If the traditional quest story is really a story about growing up, and the Lord of the Rings is the traditional quest story inverted, then the Lord of the Rings must be a story about the opposite of growing up. The Lord of the Rings is a story about death. Notice how many times the theme of death comes up in the story? (Jackson gets this right in the movies too).
What Tolkien is telling us is that in the first half of life it is necessary to have a ‘lust for life’. The One Ring represents the selfish ego. The selfish ego is the prideful, hungry aspect of yourself that has a desire to possess life. And you need to have that if you’re going to face up to the challenges of life and become someone.
But in the second half of life you have a different challenge. How do you give it up? How do you defeat the mid-life crisis and find meaning in life even as you face decline and death? Tolkien is telling us that the only way to defeat death is to recognize that ultimately the real treasure is not something you as an individual can possess for long but rather it is something larger than yourself that you can choose to be a part of – your family, your home, YOUR PEOPLE.
Frodo’s sacrifice is for the Shire and the Shirefolk. The reason so many white people today feel so alienated and lost is that we are forbidden from participating in the life of our people. Our people can never be ‘diversity’. We know that is a lie. Peoplehood must have an existence formed from nature, from ‘blood’. Lacking a true peoplehood and culture to belong to all we have in it’s place is chasing the individualistic ring. Chasing money and possessions and status for their own sake. But the ring alone can’t satisfy us spiritually. For that we need a true community to belong to.
So our people must be made to understand the true value of our real treasure. They need to understand the value of our shared peoplehood and culture and it’s importance to the meaning of their own lives. If we can do that then the White Tree can flower again.
Daniel, I don’t usually read such long comments but yours was very good. Every word counted.
Excellent post. Great insights.
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