https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkNwQAWu5AM&t=173sTolkien, Reactionary & Catholic Writer
by Christopher Lannes
Those who are following me in “La capsule”, my audio show have already heard of that story, I’ve already mentioned Tolkien but there’s no reason not to make you enjoy it in a video clip.
Aaah Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Magic, Heroic Fantasy, … Well no, those who think that way are absolutely wrong. Unlike many thought and still think today Tolkien in the sixties was not a heroic fantasy author loving magic esoterism or New Age philosophy, even hippie could we say. Not at all! Tolkien was first and foremost a traditional Catholic and politically speaking he was ultra-conservative and reactionary! Ah yeah !! Really! We are far from a joint smoker. Through the Tolkien biography which was written already a few years ago by Humphrey Carpenter we may realise that Tolkien was a much deeper and more complex and most of all miles away from the way we see him today. Like I said he was a Catholic. He loved the magical Catholicism that reigned in the Middle-Ages. He was fascinated by the medieval era with all its mysteries and legends. All this universe came to him by an agitated childhood which we will talk about immediately.
Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, you know, it’s in South Africa on 3 January 1892 but he can’t stay long in his native country because he suffered from extreme heat and that’s how he left for England. His father passing away while he was aged 4 his mother, Mabel, gave him his upbringing. A traditional upbringing. She was a fervent Catholic herself. So a traditional upbringing in which she inculcates to him the values of the past and the love for the fatherland.
There the hippies watching this video have already fainted, so we’ll go on together.
His childhood hero was not Cristiano Ronaldo, Booba [French rapper] nor even Cyril Hanouna [French TV announcer of culturally atrophied shows]. He doesn’t have a poster in his bedroom either. It’s the medieval Knight. He loves the King Arthur legends and all this Knight idealism with his values and virtues fascinates him. He’s steeped in Latin. He loves languages, word musicality, consonance, etc and so he got a passion for Northern and Indo-European literature and mythologies. That’s how he created his first universes. In 1915 the Great War comes disrupting all that and he enlisted with the British army as a liaison officer. For those who've seen the film "Stalingrad", well liaison officer, you do need a thick skin. It's a very open post. He notably took part in the Battle of the Somme but like so many he came back from that conflict totally traumatised by all this madness.
That's where his universe takes a much darker dimension. He notes all this in his diaries. Between two offensives in the trenches he starts writing his first texts which takes a much darker form with ferocious beasts and monsters, etc. He could come out of all that with pacifism, no-borderism, etc. But no, his patriotism was consolidated by that experience and in his work he pays tribute to the British soldiers who are no less than the Hobbits. Yes, those hobbits, these fragile humble rural petty bourgeois but who yet in the great hours contributed to the victory and showed their courage : the British infantrymen.
After a wond he was reformed in 1917 and during his recovery he writes his first elfie tales which he had already started in the trenches. He capitalised on this convalescence to develop even more this whole universe in which he more and more takes refuge in.
His patriotism and his respect for the small infantrymen/hobbit got consolidated but he also came out of this war with a radical hatred towards Progress, Modernism, Industrialisation. He who was inspired by the valorous knights filled with values and virtues only could note the powerlessness of a human being faced with technological and material insanity in which the one who wins is on the right side of the artillery barrage.
Progress is chasing him. Living in Oxford he sees the landscapes of his childhood ravaged by the building of roads, factories, etc and he's deeply upset by it. Yet even when he later got rich he refused to leave his small Oxford suburb because like a good English soldier and like a Hobbit, he has to stand up.
According to Humphrey Carpenter, his rootedness and his will to face dangers shows a deeply Christian and ascetic attitude.
In 1920 he became an English Professor at Oxford University. He teaches English but also regional languages and medieval litterature.
Politically speaking, well I'm hesitating a bit because if some leftists have held through thus far and hadn't collapsed yet they will have it for their money. Well he is ultra-conservative, reactionary, anti-Modern, as an Englishman he's bound to his Monarchy which he even finds too democratic. In his opinion democracy leads to the dictatorship of an order.
He equates modernist values with pollution. Like there's industrial pollution, modernist values are in his opinion spiritual pollution.
He didn't beat around the bush, you know.
When WWII broke out he was very resentful to national-socialist Germany for inspiring from Northern Mythology which he so much loved and he declared:
“I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.”
After WWII he took refuge in men's clubs. No, not that (while posting gay pictures). Men's clubs mean authors' clubs. So with C.S. Lewis - the author of the Chronicles of Narnia - he founded the Inklings which is a Christian Authors' Club. He also founded a Viking Club in which he invited his friends to sing, drink and laugh and most of all leaving the modern world aside and let is melancholy going.
With regards to his work it's filled with symbolism and Northern, Indo-European but also Christian mythology: this magical Christianism that took place in the Middle Ages, pervaded by myths, legends, etc, which he most of all doted on. Of course he didn't believe in the primary sense of his creation but in his opinion, whatever, it was symbolical and they nonetheless corresponded with deep truths.
His best-seller - The Lord of the Rings - was a late-bloomer. He wrote it in 1955 and he needed 10 years before it was really successful: 1 million copies sold at that time. Over 200 millions nowadays. In the span of a few months he became a true idol but most of all a misunderstood master. You know his readership were rather hippies and people who were pervaded by this New Age state of mind and who found themselves in his works. But Tolkien deplored the fact that his readers only superficially understood his works and didn't dig deeper. His work was fundamentally medieval and Christian and he couldn't stand being adulated by hippies who themselves couldn't stand all he conveyed: values and tradition.
Despite all that he was still fair play and enjoyed kindly and humbly answering his admirers.
Despite the success Tolkien aged in a sad way. His best friend and wife died before him. He cut from a university world he considered too degenerescent. Religion also played dirty tricks on him because with Vatican II, as you know, religion bowed to Modernism and he as a liturgy fan was brokenhearted to see the office formerly served Latin now served in vernacular languages. Yet he remained true to Rome and until the end of his life in 1976 he took more and more refuge in his works and in his clubs in order to retire from this Modern World which he so much hated.
Beside Bilbo the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, his two best-known works which have been adapted to cinema he has also left us dozens of fantastic short stories, university works and, as a language passionate, an elfist alphabet.
The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the "happy ending." The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed. So great is the bounty with which he has been treated that he may now, perhaps, fairly dare to guess that in Fantasy he may actually assist in the effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation. All tales may come true; and yet, at the last, redeemed, they may be as like and unlike the forms that we give them as Man, finally redeemed, will be like and unlike the fallen that we know.
Tolkien [in his essay: “On Fairy Stories” (1939)]
I think we can stop with that.
Thank you all for attending this new episode of "La petite histoire". I really hope you enjoyed it. I say "see you soon on TV Libertés on Tuesday and on Radio Libertés on Friday." See You!
In the comments I even read:
Tolkien a soutenu les nationalistes et le Caudillo Franco pendant la Guerre d'Espagne, à l'instar de son ami le poète sud-africain Roy Campbell, qui s'est battu aux côtés de la Phalange espagnole.
“Tolkien supported the Nationalists and Caudillo Franco during the Spanish Civil War like his friend, the South African poet Roy Campbell who fought alongside the Spanish Phalange.”
The author’s username suggests that he approves of the said support. Let us remember here that the Spanish Civil War was a time of great religious persecution: 6,800 clergymen killed (20% of the Spanish clergy). Roy Campbell converted to Catholicism by that time. He offered his home to welcome Toledo Carmelite but those refused in order not to put the lives of his family at risk (but the Carmelite Fathers agreed to store their priceless library at Campbell’s home). However this does not mean he was a Fascist. Campbell enlisted with the British army during World War II and after the said war he disavowed Franco for Salazar because of the former’s connivance with the Axis Powers.
Besides Roy Campbell was a fluent speaker of Zulu from childhood and in South Africa he intended to excoriate the Afrikaner racist society. He wrote the beautiful poem “Zulu Girl”. Tolkien’s character “Aragorn” was partly based on Roy Campbell’s personality. The Zulu Girl - Poem by Roy Campbell
When in the sun the hot red acres smoulder
Down where the sweating gang its labour plies
A girl flings down her hoe, and from her shoulder
Unslings her child tormented by flies.
She takes him to a ring of shadow pooled
By the thorn-tree: purpled with the blood of ticks,
While her sharp nails, in slow caresses ruled
Prowl through his hair with sharp electric clicks.
His sleepy mouth, plugged by the heavy nipple,
Tugs like a puppy, grunting as he feels;
Through his frail nerves her own deep languor's ripple
Like a broad river sighing through the reeds.
Yet in that drowsy stream his flesh imbibes
And old unquenched, unsmotherable heat-
The curbed ferocity of beaten tribes,
The sullen dignity of their defeat.
Her body looms above him like a hill
Within whose shade a village lies at rest,
Or the first cloud so terrible and still
That bears the coming harvest in its breast.