Christianity and Middle-Earth

Monday, November 01, 2004

Neo-Pagans and Tolkien

One of the reasons that some ultra-conservative churches oppose The Lord of the Rings is that it has over the years been commandeered as support for any amount of loonybiscuit New Age/neo-pagan ideology and as a springboard for a dark fantasy culture: this association makes Tolkien immediately even more suspect.

Yet, far as the '60's "Frodo Lives" crowd is concerned, that was a hijacking, pure and simple. The baby boomers - of whom I am one - took Tolkien's understandable distaste for certain aspects of modernity and ran with it, completely ignoring the clear (Christian) chivalric principles by which his heroes lived. That particular folly has reached a pinnacle in underground "cults" such as the Earth Liberation Front (otherwise known as ELF), a loose association of three-sheets-to-the-wind crackpots who express their superiority to the average American by torching SUVs and laboratories in the name of protecting nature.

Gandalf would not have approved.

From The Two Towers, after the fall of Isengard and the confrontation with Saruman at Orthanc:

“Treebeard…turned to Gandalf. ‘So Saruman would not leave?’ he said. ‘I did not think he would. His heart is as rotten as a black Huorn’s. Still, if I were overcome and all my trees destroyed, I would not come while I had one dark hole left to hide in.’

‘No,’ said Gandalf. ‘But you have not plotted to cover all the world with your trees and choke all other living things.’ ”

The nature-above-all mindset also flies in the face of all that the Shire was: agricultural, orderly, stable, hard-working and above all, as Bilbo could tell us, respectable. It was this treasured and tradition-encumbered culture that Frodo sacrificed himself to save; not violently overthrow. Nature in the Shire was tamed. That’s why there was the High Hay: to keep the aggressive Wild on its own turf and out of the Shire’s.

But instead the good green earth for which Tolkien so eloquently pleaded has become the god of the neo-pagans, though 'goddess' might be more accurate. A great deal of silliness goes along with this - everything from psuedo-Druidism to ley lines to crystal therapy to channeling the royalty of Atlantis: a darker side dabbles in the out-and-out occult. But neither these movements nor the hard-core dark-fantasy community is a legitimate expression of Tolkien's mythology.


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