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Defending the Ring and Tolkien
by Bernard Chapin
24 February 2004

According to Andrea Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein's masterpiece would be better titled, The Return of the Patriarchy.

Bob Dole asked in 1996 where the outrage was, but if we share with the general public a recent article by Andrea Lewis called “A ‘Return’ of the White Patriarchy?” we may soon be able to find it.

The piece itself showcases the same deconstruction techniques that have made the study of the liberal arts at some of our universities a masochistic boondoggle. 

The trilogy’s plotline stands athwart progressive politics and post-modernism, so we should not be surprised that someone would attempt to vilify it.  Tolkien and his work must be defended, however.  His tale of grandeur resonates with men and women of any age, color or religion.  Its depiction of evil is timeless and universal.  Yet, his very presumption that evil exists is what has made him anathema to those who worship cultural determinism.  No doubt her views found Miss Lewis a warm reception among many readers. 

In defiance of fact and reason, Miss Lewis juxtaposes the film version of The Lord of the Rings with The Matrix trilogy and finds it to be racist and sexist; The Matrix she finds to be the height of multicultural sensitivity.  She argues:

The Rings films are like promotional ads for those tired old race and gender paradigms that were all the rage back in author J.R.R. Tolkien's day.  Almost all of the heroes of the series are manly men who are whiter than white. They are frequently framed in halos of blinding bright light and exude a heavenly aura of all that is Eurocentric and good. Who but these courageous Anglo-Saxon souls can save Middle Earth from the dark and evil forces of the world?  On the good side, even the mighty wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) is sanitized and transformed from the weed-smoking, rather dingy figure we first meet in the The Fellowship of the Ring, into Gandalf the White, who, by the time of Return of the King, has become a powerful military leader complete with pure white hair and an Eisenhower attitude.

Well, we know someone got all A’s in her womyn’s studies curriculum.  Unfortunately, every statement she makes is rooted in distortion.  When exactly was Tolkien’s day?  She doesn’t say but it hardly matters whether the writer knows because she would regard the patriarchy as still existing and manipulating our lives.  Lewis, like most racial panderers, reads race into everything under the sun but there is no place race is more inappropriate to discuss than in reference to this epic work of creative genius.

The Lord of the Rings is a multicultural utopia far beyond the fantasies of today’s diversity mongers.  No tenured anthropologist could ever imagine such a setting.  Unlike the world we inhabit, Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a land where different species, as opposed to races, compete for dominance with one another.  The modern equivalent of the Battle of Helm’s Deep would be a group of musk oxen and ptarmigans laying siege to Duluth, Minnesota (it is interesting to speculate as to whom the press would choose to embed with during this particular conflict).

Perhaps it is really multicultural envy that causes Lewis to praise The Matrix for its African and Asian characters, as any honest examination would cause her to admit that the figures she mentions in the film are all members of the same species; whereas those in Middle Earth she describes as being “whiter than white” are often members of differing species. 

Elves, dwarves, and hobbits are clearly not human beings.  When Elrond the Elf says, “Men are Weak,” he is definitely not including himself in this observation.   Incidentally, this same elf is the individual with the halo of light around his head, but Miss Lewis is wrong, as “elf” does not equate with “European” (although orc might do in the case of their socialist party leaders). 

One of the most powerful characters in the film is Saruman, who allied himself with the embodiment of pure evil, Sauron.  He was a white wizard far before Gandalf became one, but his color and rank did not deter him from embracing the powers of darkness.  Lewis conveniently leaves Saruman out of her discussion; to include him would destroy her bogus case. 

Furthermore, Gandalf’s character, after being transformed from gray to white, is fundamentally unchanged.  His nobility and virtue are a constant (as was his love of tobacco).  He inspired the entire fellowship of the ring and assuredly most of Tolkien’s readers.

The mention of Eisenhower is also rather comical as I believe the reference is due to a trendy disdain for all things military rather than to anything specific about the former president.  Besides, if one possessed an Eisenhower attitude, he or she would exude diplomacy rather than bellicosity.

Then, through her discussion of The Matrix, Lewis lays her racist credentials upon the “I hate white males” table:

Most of the really bad guys in The Matrix are Euro, including the very snobby Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) with his French accent; the dread-locked, very British albino twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment); and the Oracle's evil counterpart, the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), a rather stuffy and pompous white guy with white beard and white suit who reeks of imperialism.

Who really thinks like this?  More people than you realize.  Why does Lewis hold white males in such contempt?  No answer is given but her euphoria over the casting of the film’s characters is unmistakable.

Then she returns to the “women are subservient” theme that neither Tolkien, nor any of his fans, knew was a part of his work:

By comparison in The Lord of the Rings, three women play minor roles: the powerful elf Galadriel (Cate Blanchett); the selfless Arwen (Liv Tyler), who is willing to give up immortality for the man she loves; and Eowyn (Miranda Otto), the niece of the king who must disguise herself as a man to go into battle.

Galadriel is not merely powerful, her physical resistance to the ring’s spell provides one of the most memorable scenes in the trilogy.  She is omniscient and her gift to Frodo saves his life. 

As far as Eowyn is concerned, simply saying that she disguised herself as a man and dismissing her is as accurate as stating that Bill Clinton is famous for being a graduate of Yale Law School.  It was Eowyn who stood between the Nazgul Lord and the wounded King Theoden.  Her ability to inflict damage on the Black Captain was exceptional and something of which no male was capable.  Eowyn’s remarkable valor is worthy of direct quotation.  In response to the Nazgul’s directive to move aside as no man can hinder him, Eowyn replies,

But no living man am I!  You look upon a woman.  Eowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter.  You stand between me and my lord and kin.  Begone, if you be not deathless!  For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.

Eowyn’s courage is undeniable and emphatically related by Euromale J.R.R. Tolkien, but Miss Lewis would be the last person to ever acknowledge it. 

It may come as a surprise to some readers that perspectives like Lewis’s actually exist, but they do and it is our duty to rebut them.  Should we not, we will soon find ourselves cast as the Sauron and Saruman characters in their nationwide production of a new trilogy entitled, The Elimination of the Scapegoats.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago.

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