• Tolkien and the Fellowship of all Living Things: The Politics of Proximity, Person and Place

    Peter Critchley (see profile)
    Christianity, Literature, Ecology, Religion, Tolkien, J. R. R. (John Ronald Reuel), 1892-1973, Literature--Study and teaching
    Item Type:
    literary ecology, Tolkien, Literature and environment, Tolkien studies
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    Tolkien’s words on ‘fighting the long defeat’ are wonderful and endlessly inspiring – he gives us a ‘hope without guarantees.’ And a long defeat that, in acts of love and kindness and solidarity, gives ‘glimpses of final victory.’ There’s a lot of discussion on what it takes to motivate people to act at the moment. Tolkien’s environmental concern came years before environmentalism as a movement, and is really a Christian stewardship. Many would consider him nostalgic, reactionary even, anti-technological – but he saw the impacts of industrialisation and urbanisation and didn’t like them, thought that they drew us away from the right way of relating to each other and to the world. Tolkien teaches that large scale ambitious projects need to be grounded in small-scale reasoning, communities of practice and love of place – a Hobbit like existence in which the ordinary actions of the little people knit communities together and create the warm and affective bonds between us, making us prepared to act to defend the places and persons we love and value. I develop these themes at length in this Tolkien piece. We need an environmentalism that gives the ‘little folk’ a material and moral stake. If we are Hobbits at heart, and if we create the Hobbit habits of the heart, then we will have the motivation to act and don’t need to be persuaded. And here I show how the protagonists in the Lord of the Rings put everything on the line and throw their whole heart and soul into the struggle. Everything they hold dear is at stake, the people and places they love, everything they hold true and know to be right. They long to preserve these things and are prepared to sacrifice themselves for their protection. I develop Tolkien's natural anarchy and pacifism.
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    6 years ago
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