The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #174: Tolkien for the Hostile

David Grubbs and Nathan Gilmour attempt to defend the works of J.R.R. Tolkien against Michial Farmer–a well-known hater.

CORRECTION: Grubbs mentions Faramir meditating sympathetically about a dead human soldier allied with Mordor; that moment is not, in fact, Faramir’s, but belongs to Samwise Gamgee:

It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace… (TT 269)

5 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #174: Tolkien for the Hostile

  1. I probably deserved Michial’s response to my smart-aleck e-mail, but great episode. And two of my suggestions in a row! 😉
    A few thoughts on the question of whether LotR is a realist psychological novel or a medieval-ish romance: the four main hobbits are psychologically developed and basically modern literary characters (and perhaps Gollum too, a hobbit of sorts). The non-hobbit characters tend to be static and archetypal, with only a couple of exceptions. Aragorn, for example, is very much a heroic archetype, Theoden even more so. Frodo, on the other hand, is a well-rounded character who changes over the whole story and fits right in with lots of other twentieth-century novels. The Hobbits are the everymen stepping out into a mythic world which is coming to an end, or at least the end of an era.
    Incidentally, one reason Book III (first half of Two Towers) is my least favorite of the six is that the Hobbits have only a minor presence. So it’s mostly very archetypal, while also not generally reaching the mythic heights of some of the other romantic parts.
    And an interesting note about the orcs from the deep levels of Tolkien nerd-dom: late in his life when he started adjusting lots of small details in the mythos, Tolkien actually came to see the orcs as something of a problem. He was deeply bothered by the fact that they appear to be irredeemably evil. He kept tweaking with their origin story to “fix” it without changing LotR, though he never settled on anything definitively before he died (“corrupted elves” is one possible idea he considered, but not definitively “canon”).

  2. And an interesting note about the orcs from the deep levels of Tolkien
    nerd-dom: late in his life when he started adjusting lots of small
    details in the mythos and re-re-rewriting The Silmarillion, Tolkien actually came to see the orcs as
    something of a problem. He was deeply bothered by the fact that they
    appear to be irredeemably evil. He kept tweaking with their origin story
    to “fix” it without changing LotR, though he never settled on anything
    definitively before he died (“corrupted elves” is one possible idea he
    considered, but not definitively “canon”).

  3. CHP Dudes – would you say Tolkien was a free-market capitalist?  It seems he has a real dislike for a socialized economy  😉
    Also, what about the Ents and his view of nature / ecology?

  4. Great episode, guys. I am unable to be objective on either LotR or Back to the Future. This has been a good CHP year for me, you all are hitting the cultural high points as far as I am concerned!

    I had a couple thoughts. One, in discussing the rings you didn’t mention the practice of earls giving rings to their thanes, who upon receiving them, bound themselves to the lord’s service. Wasn’t that an Anglo-Saxon/Norse practice, or am I importing that from somewhere? If it is, it seems like it has relevance as well, both for the roots (it being more direct than Plato), and for the way it is used (binding one to the power of the ring).

    Second, the way Tolkien often comes across is as a Romantic. Now I know it is somewhat anachronistic to assign that label properly to him, but his love of the medieval often strikes me (as it does with Lewis), as that sort of golden-age thinking that we find in the neo-mystical Romantic folks. Do any of you know what connection with Romanticism he had, if any?

    Great episode, I really enjoyed it, particularly Michal’s irrational blustering. I do the same thing when I start talking about Star Wars vs. Star Trek (with Trek being the obviously superior product). Lots of fun as always guys, thanks!

  5. ChenBuLei Regarding the economics: he’s certainly not any sort of Marxist, since the “gatherers and sharers” of Sharky’s Shire are an analogue of that approach to economy. However, he’s also suspicious of the inordinate clout that the very wealthy wield in the political sphere, by virtue of their names showing up on so many deeds and paychecks–Lotho Sackville-Baggins and his pipeweed monopoly is the example of that. If you haven’t listened to it, our Profiles interview with Jay Richards (The Hobbit Party) gets into this topic.

    Regarding the environment: The Hobbit Party has points to make about that too, but I also recommend Dickerson and Evans (Elves, Ents, and Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J.R.R. Tolkien). And, yeah–that’s Jonathan “Dog-Mess Jonny”Evans, my PhD mentor. The short answer: there is a proper human “use” of the environment, but we are also its stewards tasked with the responsibility of its nurture and protection, not only as a (limited) resource, but as a positive good with its own independent beauty and dignity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *