LOTR trashing

Ben Courtice benj at connexus.net.au
Tue Dec 17 16:21:46 MST 2002


I tend to agree with a lot of Craig Brozevsky's comments. When I was a
kid I was a huge fan of Tolkien and still have a soft spot. I certainly
agree that the series is highly Eurocentric if not actually racist. And
it reflects the sort of English mishmash of feudal, bourgeois and
Christian values that Tolkien himself seems to have held to. On the
other hand it's IMO (still) the most credible of escapist fantasy
world-settings mainly because Tolkien was a great linguist and more than
competent amateur mythologist (is that a word?). In fact, I read
somewhere Tolkien saying that one of the purposes of LOTR was to show
that you can't just invent a language (I think Esperanto was the target
of his criticism) without a mythology attached. So he tried to show this
with his elvish languages (based on Finnish, by the way) and wrote the
stories as a kind of mythology. Whatever the critics may say (read
Michael Moorcock's "Epic Pooh" essay in "Wizardry and Wild Romance" for
a bit of enjoyable iconoclasm) the success of Tolkien's fiction kind of
speaks for itself.

The article posted here recently which decried the willingness with
which we are attracted to stories of struggle and conflict I thought
pretty terrible. Just like the article " Mike Friedman posted. In fact
the "good vs evil" struggle is such great escapism because it lets us
feel good about our real daily struggles and bigger picture stuff too,
often by simplifying good and evil (and providing a happy ending). That
doesn't justify seeing LOTR as militarist propaganda. In fact, in many
ways it's more about defending people (e.g. the innocent Shire folk)
from invasion and war. And as it was written about the time of WW2,
Tolkien explicitly pointed out that it wasn't a representation of that
war. In fact he said that if it had been, he would have had the good
guys trying to use the Ring for their own purposes. Although this was
(from Tolkien) a broad metaphor for all sorts of technological
destructiveness and pollution, I think it's pretty obviously also a
ringing (no pun intended) denunciation of nuclear weapons (Hiroshima &
Nagasaki).

Ben Courtice


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