Against my better judgment, I’m going to address the claims of someone who commented on my spoof audio commentary for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Jonathan doesn’t care for my sense of humor (I’m unapologetic), and he hates Tolkien’s story, actually agreeing with what my commentary satirizes:
Lord of the Rings is outrageously conservative, sexist, and (above all else) anti-urban fascist. When Tolkien ranted about Hitler, he was protesting too much – because he was at war with the beast in himself… I’ll never understand the 60s love affair with Tolkien. He wasn’t an environmentalist (unfortunately), he was an anti-urban fascist. He stood for all the crap we hippies despise: Victorian virtue, national obligation, and Wagnerian racism. All this poison finds its way into Lord of the Rings.
Many feel this way. Neil Camberly describes the attitude of egalitarian critics who have attacked Lord of the Rings for being racist and fascist:
“The films are “fascist”… They hold up beauty as something inherently good, and ugliness as something inherently bad. Their heroes are strong men and women of honor, decency and moral character. The films glorify ethnic collectivism and nationalism, self-sacrifice on behalf of one’s biological community, and courage in the face of overwhelming odds and overbearing evil. Like the 20th century’s fascist philosopher-kings, Tolkien’s kings spend little time taking votes from their nervous soldiers and citizens over whether their kingdoms should perish with honor or perish with each man desperately trying to save his own skin. But most of all, the films earn their “fascist” credentials by clearly delineating good and evil in the tradition of Western literature’s great adventure stories.”
But Tolkien was, if anything, an anarchist. This is what he wrote to his son Christopher in 1943:
“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remain obstinate!… Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people… The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” (Letter #52; bold mine)
Tolkien was no fascist. He railed against Hitler, not because he was “at war with the beast in himself” (as Jonathan preposterously puts it), but because he was at war with the corruption of the Germanic spirit. This is what he wrote to his son Michael in 1941:
“I have in this War a burning private grudge: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler… Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble, northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true lights.” (Letter #45)
Nazi-fascism was a perversion of the ancient pagan ethic to which Tolkien was drawn (despite his Catholicism). And it’s that northern ethos which makes its way into Middle-Earth — not a “Wagnerian racism” supposed by commenter Jonathan, nor any implied Hitlerism. Tolkien’s themes are so simple that they sound trite when listed: courage in the face of hopeless odds, loyalty and friendship, love for nature, and doing good for goodness sake. In that light, I suppose it’s easy to see why people misconstrue Lord of the Rings as fascist. Middle-Earth presents “fascism” — if we could suppose it — in an unfallen state, uncorrupted by tyranny and bigotry.