Be thankful every day that you don’t live in California or in Britain where the newest, craziest, and most extreme forms of contemporary insanity flourish, multiply, and metastasize in more outrageous and virulent forms every week.
Douglas Murray, in The Spectator, recently noted in an editorial that British Counter Terrorism’s Prevent’s “Research Information and Communications Unit” (RICU) identified some potential sources of indoctrination in right-wing extremism.
[A]ccording to RICU there were warning signs if people absorbed information or opinions from ‘pro-Brexit and centre-right commentators’. These included Jacob Rees-Mogg, Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle and yours truly. So everybody reading this column is at as much risk of being ‘radicalised’ as some young Muslim settling down with a tape recording of Ayman al-Zawahiri or Osama bin Laden, and Rees-Mogg becomes the equivalent of a finger–waving imam sending the young off to become martyrs in the cause of Allah. Which is strange because he never came across that way to me when we crossed paths at Conservative Philosophy Group meetings.
I have since been able to look over some of this pathetic material provided at public expense and can confirm that it gets worse. In one RICU document a number of books are singled out, the possession or reading of which could point to severe wrongthink and therefore potential radicalisation. These include a book on the Rotherham rape gangs, books by Peter Hitchens, Melanie Phillips and – once again – me. Without wanting to beat my own drum, the book of mine that is singled out for this sinister treatment is my 2017 work The Strange Death of Europe. This book spent almost 20 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller lists, has been translated into dozens of languages and was for some time the bestselling non-fiction book in the UK. So that is an awful lot of potential radicals just there. …
When I first saw these documents I felt a sort of white-hot anger. But then I read on and saw that these same taxpayer-funded fools provide lists of other books shared by people who have sympathies with the ‘far-right and Brexit’. Key signs that people have fallen into this abyss include watching the Kenneth Clark TV series Civilisation, The Thick of It and Great British Railway Journeys. I need to stress again that I am not making this up. This has all been done on your dime and mine in order to stop ‘extremism’ in these islands.
These include Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, as well as works by Thomas Carlyle and Adam Smith. Elsewhere RICU warns that radicalisation could occur from books by authors including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Aldous Huxley and Joseph Conrad. I kid you not, though it seems that all satire is dead, but the list of suspect books also includes 1984 by George Orwell.
So in general, I begin to feel in good company. If government agencies are going to compile lists of suspect books, then I am very happy to stand condemned alongside these fine people, both living and dead.
Ismael Cruz Córdova will be the first person of color to play an elf, Arondir “a silvan elf,” onscreen in a Tolkien project.
The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien auctioned the rights to the stories originating in the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and the winner was Jeff Bezos’s Amazon paying $250 million.
Comes the new Numenorean series that begins streaming September 2nd, long-time readers like myself, I expect, are going to feel that Christopher Tolkien did not get nearly enough, considering what Amazon and their millennial screenwriters and “showrunners” J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will be doing to J.R.R. Tolkien mythical universe, in particular, repopulating it with characters of their own, and especially with characters whose raison d’être is not even a dramatic goal, but mere politically correct “diversity.”
Vanity Fair spilled the beans on what is coming back in February:
Amazon’s series will also broaden the notion of who shares the world of Middle-earth. One original story line centers on a silvan elf named Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova, who will be the first person of color to play an elf onscreen in a Tolkien project. He is involved in a forbidden relationship with Bronwyn, a human village healer played by Nazanin Boniadi, a British actor of Iranian heritage. Elsewhere, a Brit of Jamaican descent, Sir Lenny Henry, plays a harfoot elder, and Sophia Nomvete has a scene-stealing role as a dwarven princess named Disa—the latter being the first Black woman to play a dwarf in a Lord of the Rings movie, as well as the first female dwarf. “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like,” says Lindsey Weber, executive producer of the series. “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
When Amazon released photos of its multicultural cast, even without character names or plot details, the studio endured a reflexive attack from trolls—the anonymous online kind. “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash,” says Tolkien scholar Mariana Rios Maldonado, who is not affiliated with The Rings of Power, “but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?”
Catch the final note of intimidation in the second paragraph of the Vanity Fair summary. Get in line! Dare to object to the intrusion of extraneous and inconsistent characters and complete infidelity to J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagined world and text, and YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MAKES YOU! A BIGOT! A RACIST! AN UNPERSON! THE NEXT SUBJECT OF TWO MINUTES HATE!
Well, too damn bad, Señorita Maldonado. I don’t feel “threatened,” but, yes!, I am already disgusted with the prospect of some self-important, brain-washed-at-school, 1980s-born twerps misusing their opportunity of working with the products of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination and brain to intrude their own completely incongruous and abrasively obnoxious political ideology.
It is perfectly obvious to every reader of the LOTR that Tolkien’s fantasies represent an alternative mythical pre-modern European world. Eskimos, Japanese, Cowboys and Indians, astronauts, sexual deviants, and the notion of Affirmative Action are all missing.
Tolkien was born in 1892. His sensibility is fundamentally Edwardian, and his viewpoint is completely Northern-European-centric, more than that: England-and-Scandinavian-centric. Persons of color are represented, as Haradrim pirates, as dark-skinned wild men, and, of course, possibly, one could argue, as Orcs. One will look in vain to find Dutchmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Italians, Spaniards, or Slavs.
There was no depiction whatsoever of female dwarves, and presumably Tolkien had his own reasons for omitting them. There can be no possible legitimate justification for Amazonian twerps putting in what a great author and creative genius left out.
One new character is Isildur’s sister Eärien, played by Ema Horvath. Invented for the series, this bright and ambitious young woman has dreams of being an architect. Horvath describes her as being “on the cusp of womanhood,” adding that “she’s still quite insecure and naïve about the way the world works.” Tolkien wrote that Elendil had two sons: Isildur and Anárion. (At the start of Rings of Power, Anárion is off screen.) When it came to inventing new details like Eärien, McKay and Payne say they and the writers’ room approached the task almost like historians, poring over Tolkien’s work to “excavate” details and common threads they could weave into a larger narrative.
For fans worried about conflicting canon, McKay and Payne point to one of Tolkien’s published letters, where he wrote about wanting “other minds and hands” to create art in his legendarium. “We feel like we’re taking up the gauntlet that he himself put down,” Payne adds. “He gave us what we like to say are the stars in the sky that we have to connect and draw the constellation in.”
The diversity of the cast has also been scrutinized. For the first time, Middle-earth will be populated by multiple actors of color, including those playing dwarves, elves, and more. It’s a decision that’s been key to the show’s DNA from the start, and [Cynthia] Addai-Robinson [who plays Tar-Miriel, the last legitimate ruler of Numenor] says to complain about that diversity would be to go against the very spirit of the source material. “[Tolkien] explores many themes, but one of them is the idea of people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and walks of life all coming together for a common cause,” she says. “For me personally, as a viewer, I would have the expectation that [the show] would reflect the real world, as well as the world as I aspire it to be.”
So much for Legitimacy! If we’re unbound by any obligations of fidelity to the author’s vision and we’re going to go right ahead and “reflect the real world” and have a go at making “the world as [we] aspire it to be,” well, we certainly don’t want to grow old and die. We clearly need to climb aboard the ship with Ar-Pharazon the Golden, break the Ban of the Valor, invade the Undying Lands, and go for Equity and Diversity of Immortality!
Tolkien might have liked the idea of other people writing fan fiction spin-offs set in Middle Earth, but he certainly would have expected his epigones to respect the Middle Earth he created as he defined it, and to confine their creative innovations to new storylines and personages consistent with the world as he invented it. He would have been absolutely infuriated by the intrusion of sanctimonious left-wing egalitarian ideology and identity group politics.
It’s clear that the new Amazon series will be certainly as bad as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which at least was watchable and had some good things in it. But it looks perfectly possible that it’s going to be every bit as bad as Jackson’s The Hobbit movies (which were terrible), or worse.
Amazon may butcher Tolkien’s Numenor as completely as they made a hash of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.
Sophia Nomvete plays dwarven princess named Disa and will be the first Black woman to play a dwarf in a Lord of the Rings movie, as well as the first female dwarf. And she’s missing her beard!
The Tolkien Estate now has a web page worth a visit, offering interesting bits of Tolkieniana, including paintings, maps, some of his scholarly articles, &c.
Earlier this year, David Engels reassessed the significance of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythopoetic world-making.
[I]t is tempting to associate Tolkien’s enormous mythopoeic activity with the catchword “escapism”, and to reduce it once again to his biography, albeit this time not as a correspondence but as a compensation. This, too, misses the point — all the more so because Tolkien’s earliest literary activity goes far back into his teenage years: his work is not a reaction to his life, but rather the two grew in union, not unlike the mythical trees Telperion and Laurelin. Indeed, one might even regard Tolkien’s rather ordinary academic and family life as a consequence of his consuming, lifelong work on myth rather than the other way around. But what was Tolkien’s intention — and what can we learn from him?
In the beginning, there was disappointment. The Anglo-Saxon world, unlike France or Germany, has scarcely left any traces of an indigenous myth tradition; even the saga of King Arthur belongs to the pre-Anglo-Saxon, Celtic tradition. The Norman Conquest destroyed the entire Anglo-Saxon legend tradition, apart from a few nursery rhymes and place names and a very brittle literary corpus.
As an ardent lover of the Northwest of the Old World, the young Tolkien felt cut off from his own heritage and enthusiastically took up Indo-European linguistics as a technique for reconstructing the historical and mythical tradition of times long past. He set about, partly in play, partly in earnest, creatively deciphering and reconstructing the hitherto misunderstood evidence of England’s dark centuries. In the process, the boundary between etymology and mythopoetics quickly blurred, as Tolkien enriched the hypothetical material obtained by merging it with the archetypal content of the other legends of the ancient world. He created a mythical tradition that took on a character of its own.
Darnya Kolomiiets, another brave and subborn Ukrainian, while explaining in the London Spectator her decision to remain in Kiev referenced Tolkien.
These orcs destroy absolutely everything. They fire rockets at us. They send sabotage groups. They shoot indiscriminately at people in the villages and countryside. Near Kyiv is the town of Irpin. Or, I should say, there used to be a town called Irpin. It was full of young couples and their children, as well as lots of new buildings. It has been entirely destroyed by Russians determined to break through into Kyiv.
Unlike the Germans with their ponderous celebration of Goethe and Schiller, or the French with their adulation of Molière or Victor Hugo, the English celebrate their favourite authors with a lighter touch. Societies dedicated to the lovers of the works of a given author are common, but are generally private, amateur and low-key. Groups of amiable middle-aged to elderly bibliophiles with no particular academic pretension but a love for, and a generally encyclopaedic knowledge of, the writing of a particular person get together to enjoy convivial company and, as often as not, a posh dinner in London or Oxford once a year. Organisations such as the Sherlock Holmes Society or the Trollope Society publish slightly recherché background papers, such as Why Holmes Went German at St James’s Hall: The Reason Behind His Musical Taste, or From Winchester to Barsetshire: Anthony Trollope’s links with Hampshire. Addresses at formal events organised by these clubs are likely to be witty and reasonably erudite, but not over-intellectual or over-taxing on the audience.
What you won’t get from any of these amateur gatherings is anything like the high-pressure, jargon-ridden writing one sees in academic journals, or the deadly serious arguments, incomprehensible to non-initiates, that one increasingly hears in university lecture halls. They are emphatically societies, not research institutes.
Or at least most of them are. In the last year something very curious seems to have overtaken one of them, the Tolkien Society, founded in 1969 to celebrate the life and work of the author of the Lord of The Rings. Until 2020 the society was what you might expect: talks on music and Tolkien’s landscape, naming astronomical bodies after Tolkien place-names, the elvish language, and so on.
This year, by contrast, it has gone full-on woke, as witness the programme for its 2021 Annual Seminar, beginning on Saturday week. A straw in the wind came with the announcement of the theme, which read more than anything else like a formal call for papers from some new university anxious to make its mark on modernity with a trail-blazing conference. Contributions were demanded on Tolkien’s approach to colonialism and neo-colonialism, representation of race, gender, sexuality and the rest in Tolkien, and so on.
This call was answered with appropriate gusto. The programme for the event is too large to reproduce here: but we can give a flavour of it. It kicks off with Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings. We then have delights such as “The Burnt Hand Teaches Most About Fire”: Applying Traumatic Stress and Ecological Frameworks to Narratives of Displacement and Resettlement Across Cultures in Tolkien’s Middle-earth; and The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism. The second day continues with more in the same vein: “Something Mighty Queer”: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien; Questions of Caste in The Lord of the Rings and its Multiple Chinese Translations; and something which should puzzle anyone, Hidden Visions: Iconographies of Alterity in Soviet Bloc Illustrations for The Lord of the Rings.
This menu, more appropriate to a series of dreary staff seminars in a second-rate polytechnic than an event set up for a club of book-lovers, has already attracted deserved derision.
A sign for The Lamb and Flag is seen as the Grade-II listed pub is forced to close, after more than 400 years of business, following outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in central Oxford, Britain, January 25, 2021. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh – RC21FL975VBS
Not the famous pub where the Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson, and others, regularly met back during the 1930s and 1940s. That was the Eagle and Child. But still a 450-Year-Old Oxford institution, owned by St. John College abd much frequented by Tolkien, Lewis, Thomas Hardy, and many other famous Oxonians, it has been announced is another casualty of COVID-19 lockdowns.
U.S.â€”An American firearms manufacturer is making waves after unveiling a brand new AR-15 that glows blue whenever libs are nearby. Constructed with ancient elven technology from the forgotten land of Gondolin, this semi-automatic rifle will pulse with an ethereal blue light whenever it detects a democrat within a 100-yard radius.
Amazon Studiosâ€™ LOTR Series Heads Into Uncharted Carnal Waters with Casting Call for Nudity and an â€œIntimacy Coordinatorâ€
This might be a singularly surprising or even upsetting concept to present to Tolkien fans. If I were to address this reality to Star Wars, or Harry Potter, or even Miyazaki fandom it would raise eyebrows or outright alarm. But gather â€™round the campfire and hear my tremulous words:
â€œPrepare for a newly-sexualized version of your favorite fantasy world.â€
Itâ€™s the equivalent of saying: â€œGet ready to watch Anakin and Padme do something onscreen that will forever alter the way you see Star Wars. Sorry about the sand. It gets everywhere.â€
Is this a real lightning rod issue? Depends on your temperament. I have to be really careful about presumed gatekeeping (which is not my intention) or any semblance of that; I just want this discussion WAY out in the open. Letâ€™s get to the heart of this, because it is a thing now.
We must clearly ask ourselves what we want and donâ€™t want from a billion-dollar Tolkien TV adaptation, because the tracks are laid and that train is headed straight for us, via your streaming device and paid subscription.
WASHINGTON, D.C.â€”While battling the darkest monster from the pit of hell, known as “COVID,” Donald the Orange fell to his doom several days ago, sacrificing himself to save America from the deadly demon.
So Americans were ecstatic to learn that Donald the Orange had returned in a new, better form, now known as Donald the White. A brilliant white light shone from Walter Reed Medical Center as Donald the White emerged just in time to save America from COVID, Antifa, and the Deep State.
“I come back to you now at the turn of the tide!” he cried as he rode triumphantly out in the presidential limousine, codenamed “Shadowfax,” cutting right through the ravenous hordes of Antifa counterprotesters blocking the way.
“Donald! Donald the Orange!” cried his supporters outside Walter Reed Medical Center.
“Yes…” he said as he sat in the back of Shadowfax. “Yes… Donald the Orange… that is what they used to call me.”
HANOVER, NHâ€”At a New Hampshire campaign stop, presidential candidate Joe Biden claimed he was at Mount Doom 3,000 years ago when Isildur decided to take the Ring instead of destroying it.
“I was there,” he said, his voice trailing off as some long-forgotten memory flashed before his eyes. “I was there 3,000 years ago… when Isildur took the Ring. I was there the day the strength of men failed.” Biden said that “the time of white men is over” and that “the time for us to listen to minority voices instead has come,” though he was quick to clarify that he should still be the one to wield the Ring of Power.
Alex Acks is a geologist who thinks J.R. Tolkien, where geology is concerned, is an excellent scholar of linguistics.
Iâ€™m good with the mountain ranges on the west coast of the map. I can pretend that Eriador is like the California of Middle-earth, and itâ€™s a nice active marginâ€”I will just ignore that my housemate, who unlike me has completed the Silmarillion slog, has disabused me of that notion. And I can buy the placement of the Misty Mountains, again as a continent-continent collision, perhaps, even if there should be a lot more shenanigans going on then, in terms of elevation. But when you throw in the near perpendicular north and south mountain ranges? Why are there corners? Mountains donâ€™t do corners.
And Mordor? Oh, I donâ€™t even want to talk about Mordor.
Tectonic plates donâ€™t tend to collide at neat right angles, let alone in some configuration as to create a nearly perfect box of mountains in the middle of a continent. Iâ€™ve heard the reasoning before that suggests Sauron has made those mountains somehow, and I suppose right angles are a metaphor for the evil march of progress, but I donâ€™t recall that being in the books I read. And ultimately, this feels a lot like defending the cake in the song MacArthur Park as a metaphorâ€”okay fine, maybe itâ€™s a metaphorâ€¦but itâ€™s a silly metaphor that makes my geologist heart cry tears of hematite.
Mount Doom, Iâ€™m more likely to give a pass to, since itâ€™s obviously a place of great magic. But geologically, it posits a mantle plume creating a hot spot under Mordorâ€”since thatâ€™s the only way youâ€™re going to get a volcano away from subduction or rifting zones, and Iâ€™ve already called shenanigans on Mordor being either of those. And the hallmark of hot spot volcanism is that you get chains of volcanoes, with the youngest being the active volcano and the older ones normally quiescent. This is caused by the tectonic plates moving over the hot spot; examples include the Juan FernÃ¡ndez Ridge, the Tasmantid Seamount Chain, and the Hawaiian Islands (more properly called the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain). Youâ€™ll notice most hot spots can be found in the oceans, because thereâ€™s more ocean on Earth than land, and also the crust is thinner there, so a hot spot causes volcanism much more readily. On continents, youâ€™re more likely to get dike swarms (e.g.: the Mackenzie dike swarm in Nunavet, Canada) where magma filters into cracks and weak spots between formations and remains underground until unroofed by erosionâ€”or chains of massive volcanic calderas like the ones you see ranging from Yellowstone to the Valles Caldera in the US.
Okay, so maybe Mount Doom is from a really young hot spot and thereâ€™s been no drift since it started. Thatâ€™s the best Iâ€™ve got for you. Itâ€™s better than the nonsensical border mountains.