The Corner

Luddism and Lotr

Several emailers have echoed John Miller’s point about Tolkien’s luddism. But let me offer a contrary view. Yes, of course, Tolkien liked the pre-industrial age (as I noted in my own piece about LOTR (scroll down)). But if we are going to stick to the Lord of the Rings, rather than Tolkien’s personal policy preferences, I’m not sure the left can make peace with the book on this score. As I understand it the destruction of the Shire was in no small part a metaphor for Tolkien’s sober understanding that change cannot be stopped and that, while lchange might be regretted, longing for a past frozen in amber is no excuse for doing nothing when action is required. Indeed, the whole point of the Hobbits departing from the shire is to show that these metaphorical British babbits cannot hide from the world. In the film they cut out the scouring of the Shire, but Peter Jackson did make it clear that at least in his internal life, Frodo could never be made like he was. Too much had happened. Similarly, all of the anguish about whether or not Theoden should come to the aid of Gondor is a play on the same theme.

Meanwhile, today’s leftwing luddites are real luddites who believe you can turn back the clock. This gap between what you want in your heart and what intellect and duty demand of you is faced squarely by Tolkien while it is glossed over and denied in Romantic fashion by so many on the luddite left (and a few on the right).

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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