Tolkien a pothead? And what would his position on gay marriage really have been? Readers respond to Steven Hart's "Who's Sauron -- bin Laden or Bush?"

By Salon Staff
Published March 2, 2004 9:06PM (EST)

[Read the story.]

Conservatives might want to think twice before adopting Arwen as a majorette for the anti-choice brigade. In choosing to remain with Aragorn, she not only fails to honor her father but also turns her back on her people -- her nation -- to pursue her personal pleasure. No patriot she!

And let's not even mention the race mixing.

No, conservatives, you'd best leave Tolkien off your agenda -- unless you care to explain Gimli and Legolas' long-term companionship to your kids.

-- Kari Fleming

In Steven Hart's story on the politics of Tolkien, he mistakenly observes:

"When the book's original paperback editions became campus bestsellers in the 1960s, conservatives wrote it off as hippie-dippie pablum, an incense-scented ur-text of the New Age movement. Religious conservatives were suspicious of the book's popularity with rock groups like Led Zeppelin, and its connection to the seminal role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons..."

There's one problem with this. Dungeons and Dragons didn't exist in the 1960s. Neither did any of the popular fantasy role-playing games known today. The first hints of Dungeons and Dragons came about in a book called "Chainmail," published in a very small print run in 1969. It wasn't until 1974 that Dungeons and Dragons was published and began to grow popular.

The curious can click here.

-- David Eckelberry

Tolkien was Christian yet loved paganism, was a conservative of the variety that views power with suspicion, wanted to leave gay people alone, loved trees, hated industrialism, and wrote about growing and smoking a strange kind of weed?

Now I don't want to be another Tolkien bandwagon jumper -- but truth be told, the man sounds just like most of the marijuana activists I know. Are you sure he wasn't a pothead? There was a lot of it around in the 1920s. It was the Jazz Age, you know, and World War I veterans also used it, for the same reasons Vietnam veterans used it in the '70s: to cope with post-traumatic stress from the war.

-- Patricia Schwarz

Get real, Mr. Hart. Even divorce horrified Tolkien, who argued that it was always invalid even among non-Christians. How can anyone seriously propose that he would have supported gay marriage?

It's true that Tolkien doesn't much resemble a modern American "neoconservative," as Mr. Hart infers. (I doubt, for example, that he would have supported the war in Iraq. He detested both English and American imperialism.)

Equally, Tolkien has little in common with a modern libertarian. His anarcho-conservatism was not based upon a blank-slate vision of human rights, as it were, in which all things are permitted until society decides to forbid them.

His views developed in the context of English common law, which assumes that rights cannot be invented or created but grow out of immemorial custom, rooted in natural law, which in turn comes from God.

As there is no tradition of gay marriage in Britain (or anywhere else, as far as we can tell), the invention of such an institution and then its retroactive establishment as a "right" would have bewildered Tolkien more than it appalled him.

-- Lise Legault

Steven Hart's recent article about the ongoing dispute on the contemporary political meaning of the "Lord of the Rings" movies overlooks a crucial point: They are debating the movie -- not the books. The book actually ends on a more somber and complex note than the movie.

While the major events and themes of the trilogy were for the most part carried through (very nicely) on film by director Peter Jackson, major points were not. The final parts of the books relate how much the major characters were changed by their experience. In the end of the books, Gandalf is spent: His life was focused on defeating Sauron. Frodo carried lifelong physical and psychological scars. The other hobbits are more mature and wiser, and far more serious. They become municipal officials, librarians and responsible members of society.

The final act of the War of the Ring literally ends on Frodo's doorstep with the death of Saruman. And the age of magic -- where there was a clear-cut division between good and evil -- ended with the passing of the Elves and other magical creatures, leaving the scene for the coming age of men and all their gray ambiguities.

-- Julian Wan

Salon Staff

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