‘The Hobbit’ as Anarchist, Anti-State Manifesto

Jeff Berwick has written a case for the interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as an anarchist manifesto.

Via LewRockwell.com:

I am looking forward to the release of The Hobbit on December 14th. Its author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was essentially an anarchist. He once stated:

“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good.

Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people … The most improper job of any many, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity …”

The entire story of the Lord of the Rings centers around the ring of power… otherwise known as the state. The journey begins in a anarchic place where the people are happy, no policemen, no king (or one that was thought long forgotten). There is apparently a mayor but he does nothing as the locals frolic  sing, dance, play with fireworks, drink and smoke pipe weed. Soon, however, the ring wraiths, driven by the lust of power come to ruin it all.

Read more.

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  • JohnFrancisBittrich

    The Shire as an “anarchic, happy place” that is worthy of idealizing is a weak metaphor. The (non-Baggins) hobbits are frightened, conservative sheep who fear change and outsiders. The Shire is better understood in metaphor as the UK during the isolationist period before its involvement in the World Wars, refusing to acknowledge the horrors mounting up around them and living in a sort of well-mannered pastoralist fantasy world. Of course, the Shire ends up just as embroiled in the conflict as anywhere else by the end of the trilogy. Or at least that’s my take on it…

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Je suis entièrement d’accord.

      How anyone could have mistaken Tolkien for Alan Moore is completely beyond me. I was literally horrified when I saw the title to this article.

      What some people won’t do to flog some half-*ssed psuedo-literary diarrhea.

      • DeepCough

        Lotta people don’t know this, but “The Hobbit” was a children’s story.

  • Miracles

    inb4 virgin tolkien fanatic butt pain

  • Howl!

    filthy hobbitses…

  • BuzzCoastin

    like any great work of literature
    there are as many interpretations of the work
    as there are readers
    nice slant on a great book

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    I think artists are often channelers or savants, even. Their opinion on politics often has fuck all to do with their art. If anything I see an “aristocracy of the Spirit” in the Hobbit.

    Of course maybe Its more like he knew we were in a Dark Age and that anarchy is preferable to oppression by dolts.

    But I’d like to think that people like Gandalf, if they exist, should be in charge, at least, in a well respected advisory role. Like the modern day Lao Tzu, or somebody exercising power from behind the scenes without people noticing. If you want to call that “anarchy” then I’m all for it.

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      Bilbo was a pretty humble person, with a crucial role to play (he reminds me of the tarot card of the fool) so in that sense The Hobbit was very egalitarian. But then at the end of the Lord of the Rings, the people of the Shire fell prey to what seemed to be industrial Capitalism, then the battle hardened crusaders restored the old order, by force of arms and bravery.

    • http://donnachadelong.info Donnacha DeLong

      Given Tolkien appears to have known what he was talking about, Gandalf could be read as a Kropotkin or Rocker type figure – a great teacher who inspired people to follow them without “leading” per se. They also had beards – particularly spectacular in Kroptkin’s case.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        Yeah, but remember that Tolkien was a hard core, opus dei-like character who was incredibly bigotted against Protestants and deferential to Catholic authority.

        Anything is possible, but it seems 100% against any reasonable biographical reading of the historical Tolkien.

        • http://donnachadelong.info Donnacha DeLong

          Closer to Tolstoy then!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742104313 Adam Goodwin

        Kropotkin!

  • DeepCough

    No, no, no: the Hobbits are Communists. I mean, look at them, they’re fat; they’re lazy (the pipe weed might be the reason for the first two things); they’re opposed to Industry and to war; they have no discernible hierarchy–it’s like they live in a Marxist Wonderland!

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I always b*tch and moan about other people inferring too much from an author’s biography, so I now plead ‘guilty’ to acting hypocritically on this one.

      Tolkien was a radical opus dei-sort of Catholic, extremely deferential towards Papal authority and heierarchy. He hated modern secular states of all descriptions, and subscribed to T. S. Eliot’s brand of crypto monarchism, a fantasyland characterised by happy serfs ploughing verdant fields on the behalf of benevolent despots.

      A particular case in point that shows itself in his literature was his portrayal of the corrupt, cowardly and avaricious Steward of Gondor. Tolkien was extremely hostile to any authority constituted on a basis other than a divinely sanctioned bloodline.

      • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

        Are you sure you know what you want, politically? I mean seriously, I know I haven’t always. Its a worthy endeavor to try to figure out. But I mean if permaculture, for example were ever to really take off and revolutionize society, many people would live lives very similar to peasants of the middle ages. (speaking as a person who was several times this past summer covered in LLama shit and dirt and loving it!)Gardening actually is rewarding, so its not anathema to me that many peasants in the middle ages may actually have been happy.

        Are you simply anti? I also have worked in fairly well paid Factory jobs and everyone around me was miserable. I prefer Gardening for Room and Board any day.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          I’ve written far more about my political/economic vision than you. You should try understanding it.

  • Wulf Blitzer

    I don’t think this is a far-fetched interpretation. I came to roughly the same conclusion after I read the book. I always liked the ring of power as a metaphor for power itself. Something that corrupts anyone who touches it. As the old anarchist saying goes “power attracts the worst and corrupts the best” which certainly seems to be a major theme of the series. It’s true he was a hardcore catholic and it certainly influenced his writing. The black and white portrayal of good and evil seems to be the best example of this. If anything I would compare him to Tolstoy who had similar libertarian thoughts while still clinging to catholicism.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    The only ample evidence I can think of wouldn’t be the explanations of hobbits or the shire, but rather the ending…as the recently enslaved hobbits serving Saruman and his remaining half orc thugs watch their pastoral life transformed into a hell of industry and servitude…and rise up, coaxed by now veteran Merry and Pippin, to drive away the brutal goons who have turned hobbit against hobbit and eventually return to their more rural way of life. The Scouring Of The Shire was arguably one of the most anarcho-socialist battle cries against industrialism ever so widely read (but generally misunderstood or ignored).

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