Luminary Perspective

March 22, 2006

Hating Tolkein

Filed under: Spiritual Growth, Writing & Education — Luke @ 11:32 am

I just realised something. I hate Tolkein. Well, his books anyway. Kind of. Millions of grown adults worldwide are totally in awe of this man’s fiction series, but it is all a pure dumb fantasy. A bunch of untrue stories about wierd creatures and fantastic coincidences. They never existed outside the imagination, and the outcome of their imaginary actions will affect no one. And yet, when reading the books (or even watching the movies) it’s hard not to like them.

The first book is about a hobbit. Hobbits are little human-like critters with furry feet and a horrible tendancy to overeat and gossip. Nonetheless, they are supposed to be great farmers and burglers. The main character is always complaining throughout the book, eventually stealing a ring which gives him the magic power of invisibility. Every foe he encounters in a group is either a foolish-yet-good (elves, men, dwarves) or an unquestionably bad group of people (spiders, goblins). Two shady characters encountered are Smaug the dragon, and Gollum the mysterious cave-creature. Gandalf the Wizard is an infallible authority figure who helps him along the way.

The second book, or rather series of books, takes this world and treats it ten times more seriously. Suddenly, there are about five heroes, plus a few side characters who either are weak and become strong, or fall and get redeemed in various ways. The trouble is it is so magical and non-rational that it doesn’t teach a solid moral message. Instead of showing how real people fall into temptation and get redeemed, it instead vividly shows how fantasy people fall and get redeemed. By Magic.

The One Ring is used as a kind of catch-all plot device that makes people fall to temptation or darkness for reasons completely magical. A thematic explanation is provided, but it is not one that translates to anything in the real world. Gandalf is tempted to take the ring and use it to do good, but decides that doing so would lead (in no uncertain terms) to him becoming evil. Galadriel and Aragorn experience the same temptation. No logical reason is actually given for them to know this to be the case — they just know it because they are the good guys and it would be the end of the story if they did.

This misrepresents how people are really tempted and really overcome it. Temptation comes from very mundane sources. Things around us provoke irrational responses, and we are tempted to act on those. The only way to really overcome temptation is to gain a better real understanding of the area of temptation, and fund out why it is really wrong to give in. It is not to use catch-all phrases and meaningless platitudes to cover your ignorance.

L misrepresents temptation, redemption
O  magical source of temptation : redemption also comes magically
T real temptation, redemption 
R  misunderstanding produces temptation : understanding brings lasting repentance

1 Comment »

  1. I hate fantasy, because it’s so easy to slip away just when you are needed most in the real world. I love fantasy because I can embrace it to escape my real problems. I love a good adventure, so I think the real balance would be somewhere between real life troubles and how I look at them. It’s all an adventure.

    Comment by Fyara — March 26, 2006 @ 2:02 am

  2. Tolkien, not Tolkein.

    Tolkien hated Tolkienism too and couldn’t really understand it. He was a good Catholic himself and therefore preferred reality to fantasy.

    The Lord of the Rings was in origin a spin-off from a project (of interest to him only) to invent languages complete with philology and historical development. And of course a language can’t exist without a world to exist in, and a world can’t exist without history and culture and the rest… and so it just grew. [“The Hobbit” was the first to be published but it was tangential to the main story].

    But the idea of hiding in a fantasy world simply never occurred to him. It would be interesting to know if he would have published LotR if it had.

    Comment by universalis — May 5, 2006 @ 2:38 am

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