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.
He finds a political subtext in LOTR And Damien Walter disapproves.
Tolkienâ€™s myths are profoundly conservative. Both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings turn on the â€œreturn of the kingâ€ to his rightful throne. In both cases this â€œvictoryâ€ means the reassertion of a feudal social structure which had been disrupted by â€œevilâ€. Both books are one-sided recollections made by the Baggins family, members of the landed gentry, in the Red Book of Westmarch â€“ 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.
And of course Sauron doesnâ€™t even get to appear on the page in The Lord of the Rings, at least not in any form more substantial than a huge burning eye, exactly the kind of treatment one would expect in a work of propaganda.
Weâ€™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. Isnâ€™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?
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings arenâ€™t fantasies because they feature dragons, elves and talking trees. Theyâ€™re fantasies because they mythologise human history, ignoring the brutality and oppression that were part and parcel of a world ruled by men with swords. But we shouldnâ€™t be surprised that the wish to return to a more conservative society, one where people knew their place, is so popular. Itâ€™s the same myth that conservative political parties such as Ukip have always played on: the myth of a better world that has been lost, but can be reclaimed by turning back the clock.
Detail: Arnold Friberg, The Prayer at Valley Forge, 1976.
Jefferson Shupe sees a strong resemblance between George Washington and Frodo,
On an estate in Northern Virginia, there lived a hobbit.
He lived in the countryside and liked to keep to himself. He was slow to make speeches or draw attention. He loved things that grow and preferred quiet evenings at home to far-away adventures.
His name was George Washington.
No, he didnâ€™t fit the visual hobbit stereotype. He was 6â€™2â€³, wore shoes, and we have no record of him visiting Middle Earth even once. But hobbits are curious things, and given his life and his choices, he may have been one all the same.
John C. Wright sounds like C.S. Lewis when he argues the importance of the epic to humanity, and contends that Epic Deprivation Syndrome has a lot to do with the deficiencies of the contemporary age.
The moderns are hallow without knowing they are hollow: the world is not descending into paganism. It has reached something darker and worse. The postmodern is craven and smug and doomed where the ancient pagan was noble, melancholy, and doomed, because the modern world is hollow and small, but he postmodern men are too hollow and too small to notice.
The Webley Mk V [Correction: Mark VI -thanks to Hammond Aikes] of 2nd Lieutenant J.R.R. Tolkien.
According to the Imperial War Museum,
Tolkien was an Oxford University student in 1914 but was commissioned into the Lancashire Fusiliers soon after taking his degree in 1915. He joined the 11th Battalion of his regiment in France in June 1916, shortly before the Battle of the Somme. During the battle Tolkien served as the battalion signals officer. In late October 1916 he contracted trench fever and was sent back to England in early November. He spent most of the rest of the war convalescing. It was at this time that he began to write early versions of his Middle Earth stories. Debate continues regarding the extent to which Tolkienâ€™s war experiences influenced his literary work.