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Remembering J. R. R. Tolkien:
January 3, 1892–September 2, 1973

500 words

“I am in fact a Hobbit.”—J. R. R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is a favorite author of New Left “hippies” and New Right nationalists, and for pretty much the same reasons. Tolkien deeply distrusted modernization and industrialization, which replace organic reciprocity between man and nature with technological dominion of man over nature, a relationship that deforms and devalues both poles.

But philosophically and politically, Tolkien was much closer to the New Right than the New Left. Tolkien was a conservative and a race realist. His preferences ran toward non-constitutional monarchy in the capital and de facto anarchy in the provinces, but he recognized that state control can be minimized only in a society with a deep reverence for tradition and a high regard for individual honor and self-restraint.

Many of Tolkien’s most fervent New Right admirers are neo-pagans. But Tolkien himself was a devout Roman Catholic traditionalist, albeit one with a deep love of pre-Christian myth, epic, and tradition. And although The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with their many themes from Norse and Celtic mythology, resonate especially with pagans, the ultimate mythological framework of Middle Earth, particularly as expressed in the posthumous work The Silmarillion, is biblical in inspiration, with a creator God (Eru Ilúvatar), a devil (Melkor), a fall, and even a hint of the necessity of a divine incarnation to save creation.

In honor of Tolkien’s birthday, I wish first to draw your attention to several works on this website:

For more background on Tolkien’s life and work, I recommend two introductory books, which are accessible even to teenagers: Leslie Ellen Jones’ Myth and Middle-Earth: Exploring the Medieval Legends Behind J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Bradley Birzer’s J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth. The most thorough and serious biography and overall interpretation of Tolkien is Joseph Pearce’s Tolkien: Man and Myth.

For those who need no introduction, there is no better commemoration than to spend a winter evening snug in one’s own Hobbit hole reading the works of the man himself (or watching Peter Jackson’s masterly and inspiring movies of The Lord of the Rings).

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  1. Captain John Charity Spring MA
    Posted January 3, 2021 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    One thing though. CS Lewis edited Lord of the Rings into something useful and probably made The Hobbit a smooth read.

    Shout out to the Blackwell family for publishing the books too.

    If you are buying books, think about using Blackwells for your purchase. They’ve been hammered by Lockdown. That bookshop is sacred.

  2. Bill Miller
    Posted January 3, 2021 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I remember when the $PLC denounced Lord of the Rings as some kind of celebration of white supremacy. Made me like Tolkien even more.

    • Autobot
      Posted January 4, 2021 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      I was going to do an essay: Tolkien, One of Us! What was saruman’s greatest sin? Miscegenation! If you read carefully, the Hobbit is an allegory about world war 1. What’s it saying?

      • Captain John Charity Spring MA
        Posted January 4, 2021 at 6:32 am | Permalink

        Disagree. It’s not about ww1 or ww2. Used to think that but there’s no way that one side or another in the war matches the orcs and Mordor.

        The Hobbit was a little bit more interesting though. Quite clearly about race wars, imperialism and the banal truth about greed being the root of evil. The reaction of the Dragon to losing something he never noticed he possessed or needed before it was taken from his stash…

        But its all rooted in much older myths anyway.

        • Autobot
          Posted January 4, 2021 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          I said the Hobbit. Goblins=Germans , eagles=USA. Dwarves=?
          You have to look at it from the mind of a young Englishman at the time.

          It’s been debunked that lotr was about ww2, mostly because we are told it was completed before the war, but I can’t help feeling there is a general sense of interwar angst about the story, misgivings that dark storm clouds are gathering. The elves gradually departing from middle earth reminds one of Jews gradually leaving Germany. Lotr as a whole I don’t think has a specific allegorical significance.

          • Captain John Charity Spring MA
            Posted January 4, 2021 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

            An academic who grew up the grime of Black Country Birmingham and settled into the paradise of the Dreaming Spires of Oxford was just as much outlining England’s idyll, the push and the pull between the rural and the industrial. No one as educated as Tolkein, himself of distant German ancestry, would have cribbed a German myth and cast the Squareheads as the Orcs. He did joke about the Dwarves being Jews though.

  3. Autobot
    Posted January 3, 2021 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    I was reading Robert frost in detail and I noticed the poem The Encounter in which the poet fancies to meet a living tree who is searching for a feminine plant. I bet that’s where Tolkien got the idea for the Ents and their search for the Entwives.

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