Once again, the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien has become counter-culture. Back in the days of hippies and yippies, Tolkien was accorded mythic status by certain elements within the counter-culture movement. After all, a barefoot hobbit smoking his pipe and out picking mushrooms in the forest had some things in common with a hippie living in a yurt in the forest outside of Santa Cruz. At least, that’s one perspective.
Now, however, decades after the hippies have gone grey and taken the reins of industry and politics, and years after Peter Jackson completed the ultimate mainstreaming of Tolkien, the venerable professor is undergoing a new revision. A recent analysis by an obscure British government bureaucracy called the Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU) has concluded that reading Tolkien can be an indication of right-wing extremism.
I myself would conclude that such analysis can be an indication of profound idiocy. But what do I do know? At any rate, the analysis seems to infer that belief in moral absolutes, in a worldview that acknowledges good and evil, is evidence of extremism. Right-wing extremism, mind you.
Tolkien is in Good Company
Of course, the genius report from the morons at RICU also called out C.S. Lewis, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and others as philosophically dangerous. I imagine they will go after J.K. Rowling next; though, to be fair, she’s already been targeted by elements of revisionist society.
The RICU report, as absurd as it is, takes place alongside the also recent kerfluffle involving the Puffin publishing giant–and not a big, friendly giant either–announcing their plan to edit the works of Roald Dahl in order to make his books more palatable to the thin-skinned readers of today. Dahl, as anyone who has read him knows, was fond of calling things as they actually were. If Augustus Gloop is fat, then Dahl would call him fat. If Aunt Spiker was a nasty, miserable wretch of a woman, then Dahl would point that out. Let the chips of reality fall where they may seemed to be his writing motto.
And all of us children understood accordingly and were not harmed in the reading. That is, until today. Apparently, the children of today are thin-shelled shrinking snails who recoil at even a few grains of brisk salt.
Modern Literary Criticism is the Wicked Witch
I’ve always detested the modern view of literary criticism that says the reader should bring his or her perspectives to a story and make that interpretation more important, more primary, than the author’s original intent. This is just a despicable manifestation of narcissism. Modern literary criticism is the witch holding out the poisoned apple.
A lot of people seem fine with the apple. As long as it is organic.
This inward focus is one of the same motivations fueling Puffin’s decision to sanitize Dahl for the modern reader. They are intent on remaking Dahl in their own image. It’s an absolutely outrageous decision and will contribute further to the overall dumbing down of society. When we decouple books and communication in general from the author’s original intent, we are separating ourselves from a proper understanding of history.
Oh, there are plenty of reasons why rejection of original intent is bad, but the loss of history is particularly troubling. If we forget history, we tend to then… well, you can fill in the rest of the sentence, unless you’ve forgotten your history.
Considering the intersection between RICU’s analysis of Tolkien and Puffin’s contempt of Dahl, I daresay it’s only a matter of time before someone suggest an edit of Tolkien for modern sensibilities.
And where do we go from there?
We cannot reshape reality into our own image. That applies equally to Roald Dahl, as well as the arrogance of the transhumanist movement in both its cyborg branch and its sad gender branch. Be content with making your bed when you consider reshaping reality.
I find it ironic that many of these revisionist nitwitteries going on–whether in academia, entertainment, business or government–are overseen by the aging post-hippies of the 60s and 70s, those admiring fans of Bilbo Baggins and his free-wheeling hobbit ways.
There and back again…