February 27, 2013


Why Do Precious Leftists Loathe Tolkien's Shire? (DAVID PLATT, January/February 2013, Standpoint)

But wait. Things are not as they seem. There is an agenda here. There usually is when it comes to popular culture--but in the case of Tolkien we are looking at big politics. For the author of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and The Hobbit was the greatest conservative writer of the second-half of the 20th century. No--not in an Ayn Rand sense, nor in the raw modernist style embraced by T.S. Eliot or Wyndham Lewis. Rather, Tolkien combined remarkable talents for story-telling and philology with a matching ability to communicate conservative values and images with unequalled popularity. His pre-history of the West is dominated by hereditary structures and a settled social order that appealed to the nostalgia of a postwar generation. He was clearly doing something right, given that Rings has sold more copies than almost any other work of fiction in history. It has been voted the nation's favourite novel in England, Australia, the US and even Germany.

It is this astonishing success that underlies the fierce hostility one encounters from a literary and cultural establishment dominated by the liberal Left (notwithstanding the brief counter-cultural popularity which Rings had in the 1960s). While by no means all on the Right "get" Tolkien (the poet John Heath-Stubbs called it "a combination of Wagner and Winnie-the-Pooh"), all too often those who should know better are simply carried along by an ill-informed deference to established critics who shout louder. Too many conservatives simply do not engage in this area of cultural politics--and then naively wonder at general elections why the broadcast media is pumping out an undercurrent of left-wing assumptions which have scarcely moved on since 1945.

For the Left political battles are won indirectly through the domination of institutions, the professions, culture and received thought. The idea that our children, visual media and society could be significantly influenced by the social conservatism of Middle Earth is anathema to that world view. Germaine Greer wrote: "It has been my nightmare that Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the 20th century. The bad dream has materialised." E.P. Thompson blamed the Cold War mentality on "too much early reading of The Lord of the Rings". Rosemary Jackson described his works as "conservative vehicles for social and instinctual repression". 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by at February 27, 2013 7:54 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus