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3.28.2004

With Fans Like These . . . .

Fans like the ones linked below are part of the reason I am no longer a die-hard Tolkien fan. It was fun when it seemed like my own imaginary world. But when all these other people got into the act, it lost something and began to be an embarassment. Plus I am older, which makes a difference.

Additionally it is increasingly clear, notwithstanding the author's disingenous claims to the contrary, that Lord Of The Rings is in fact a Christian allegory filled with implict and explicit symbols of the Christian faith. This caused me to lose interest in CS Lewis, and now it has spoiled some (not all) of Tolkien for me.

Tolkien is nowhere near as saccharine as Lewis (faint praise -- how could he be?) but I can't resist the impression that the LOTR story is "for my own good". This impression is less true of The Hobbit and much less present in the Silmarillion. I remain fond of the LOTR books, and do not regret the time I spent reading them, but I find that I can no longer do so.

Moreover, it is also clear that Der Herre Der Ringe is constructed out of some of the same archaic-Germanic materials that gave us the Wagner ring cycle. One of my favorite wisecracks about Tolkien's work came from an English writer who said it was a case of Wagner meets Winnie The Pooh. Quite a perceptive jest. Tolkien was quite sensitive to the comparison, and at one point, pressed about the comparison, said "Both rings are round." It's true that Tolkien's Catholicism was different from Wagner's what-do-you-call-it. But this is German mythology nevertheless.

I would argue that The Hobbit remains his greatest work, and (paradoxically) the one most available to the adult reader. It represents the best balance of his different interests and is the most finished of the books artistically. Much as I enjoy the tale of the fall of Sauron, the fall of Smaug is in many ways the better story.

Or maybe I am just a more simple-minded reader . . . . . . all those years of carrying the precious took their toll.

joc


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