Monday, October 20, 2014

A wonderful new book on . . . Hobbits!

Jay Richards and Jonathan Witt, The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot(Ignatius Press, 2014), have apparently done a bang-up job on this new book on Tolkien's Hobbits.

So says our undercover researcher, Guy Noir, anyway, in his latest missive: "Yes, I know," he writes, "But it has to be better than the devolving series of films about Smaug!"

But wait! There's more! "See these pretty unusually full-throttle book blurbs where no one calls the authors by their first names! Thomas Howard calls it "glorious"! And the ever edgy Spengler likes it too."

Yes indeed. See for yourself!
"Beautifully written, this work gives fascinating insights into the realm of Middle-Earth. Moreover, it is a tour of the important issues of our world through Tolkien's eyes, including limited government, man's temptation to power, freedom, just war, socialism, distributism, localism, love, and death. These topics are woven seamlessly throughout, and you will leave the book with unforgettable impressions of these themes illustrated by Tolkien's imagery."
Art Lindsley, Vice President, The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

"J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most widely read but arguably misunderstood of the twentieth century's literary geniuses. In this book, Witt and Richards lift the veil on Tolkien and reveal a political and, yes, economic thinker who constantly surprises readers and whose insights are even more valuable for our time than his own. Tolkien fans who read this book will never think about this great author the same way again."
Samuel Gregg, Research Director, Acton Institute Author, Becoming Europe

"This book is a 'drop everything and read it' book. Richards and Witt have opened up an often ignored aspect of Tolkien's work, namely the sense in which his myth bespeaks a political and economic order that stands in stark, even violent, contrast to the presiding power structures that dominate this unhappy globe. It should be made required reading in all courses in political philosophy. It's a glorious book."
Thomas Howard, Author, Dove Descending: A Journey into T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"

"Witt and Richards do a brilliant job of rescuing Tolkien's literary legacy from the clutches of the cultural left. They reveal Tolkien as a profoundly Catholic thinker, with deep insights into the fundamental issue of religion, namely man's attempt to grapple with his own mortality. As a conservative’s companion to Tolkien, The Hobbit Party renews our appreciation of Tolkien’s contribution to literature and his profound impact on our culture."
David Goldman, Author, How Civilizations Die
Also interesting:

Tolken as a Soldier: Daniel Hannan, "Supposing him to be the gardener: Sam Gamgee, the Battle of the Somme and my Great Uncle Bill" (The Telegraph, April 28, 2014):
There’s a moment in the film version of The Lord of the Rings which doesn’t appear in the books, but which I find rather beautiful. Faramir, with a hint of repressed mirth, asks Samwise whether he is Frodo’s bodyguard. “I’m his gardener!” replies the little hobbit, in a manner which is supposed to be dignified, but which comes across as gnomic. When the hobbits later part ways with the Men of Minas Tirith, Faramir, now overcome with respect, tells Sam, “The Shire must truly be a great realm, Master Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honour.”

Peter Jackson, the producer, was making overt what Tolkien had gently left as subtext. Sam, who is about to become the true hero of the story, has been dragged from a world of growth and fecundity into a blasted wasteland. Having previously tended to living things, he has been turned into the unlikeliest of soldiers.

... Tolkien was very clear that his books were not allegories. Still, his experiences as a lieutenant on the Western Front could hardly fail to suffuse them.... “My ‘Sam Gamgee’ is indeed a reflection of the English soldier,” Tolkien later admitted, “of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself.”
[Hat tip to G.N.]


Ralph Roister-Doister


I have not read anything of Tolkien. Don't really plan to either. Everyone was reading Tolkien when I was in college, but I missed the boat. I just plain have no use for elves and sorcerers and dragons, not even as lawn ornaments, any more than I do for Star Wars science fantasy. Say the word "fantasy" and I am gone.

But I was impressed by the Ring movies, and in the process did a little research on Tolkien. I can see how a leftist reading of him might develop, with Frodo and the brave ecologists on one side, and Sauron, the evil, tree-killing war machine mechanist hater (probably used child labor too) on the other.

But I think all you really have to know about Tolkien to understand what his books are about is that he was an Englishman who fought the Huns during the first world war and lived in England under their attack during the darkest days of the second. Sauron is the essence of Hitler, and Mordor the dark lair of the Ork-Huns with their mechanically superior war machines, V2 rockets, blitzkreigs and Germanic death obsessions. All of the Rings subtexts flow from that basic vision, which would seem to leave abundant room for Christian symbolism, but not so much for tree-hugging. After all, nazism is nothing more or less than one gnarled branch of the tree of German idealism. Where are tree-killers when you need them?