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Firchow’s argument in The Politics of Fantasy: The Hobbit and Fascism, is imbued with hyperbolic assertions and far-fetched ideas. Fichow’s argument is very weak, its fundamental assertion, that of fascist thought in the Hobbit was not demonstrated in the text. Furthermore, after asserting that Tolkien “Warned against any such interpretations”, Fichow refuses to define Fascism and in consequence lost me as reader, as the definition was indispensable to his alleged claims. Nevertheless, the author states “I will in the course of this essay argue that certain social traits and or ideas can and even should be looked at as fascist in tendency”.
The basis for his argument, in this case, the definition of fascism, is not clarified by the author. So how can one even to begin to consider his argument.
Tolkien’s novel does indeed incorporate diverse racial communities. Within some of these communities there are different factions such as those of the high and low elves. Just because there is a hierarchal structure within Tolkien’s work does not make him or his narrative fascist.
Fichow, states in his essay that he aims to clarify that the hobbits are “not merely good-natured, comfort-loving, seedcake-eating hedonists but can become, especially when in the company and under the influence of a powerful wizard and a group of assorted warlike companions, very different sorts of beings whose actions are at times reminiscent of some of the worst phenomena of recent European history.” Yet he goes on to claim that he is not arguing “that hobbits are fascists in the sense that they would have qualified for (or desired) membership in either Mussohni’s Fascist party or Hitler’s Nazi party.
” He then goes on to contradict himself again when he states “that hobbits and their various associates (wizards, dwarfs, heroes, etc.) can sometimes behave, especially in extreme circumstances, like fascists, i.e. like some of the adherents of Italian fascism or German Nazism”. I had to read his essay several times to try and understand his argument. I came to the reading with an open mind regardless of how ridiculous the title rang to me. I was not convinced by his essay and often felt lost with his vague or overreaching statements.
It must be remembered that Tolkien is a language scholar who drew inspiration for his works from actual languages, middle earth was also inspired by some of these languages and their cultures. The emphasis for Tolkien was not to create a prefect society, rather the basis of his novel revolve around the theme of moral obligations that require one to act according to principles to better society as a whole. In the case of the Numenoreans, they were a progressive race. When they became blinded by their endeavors to attain immortality and started fighting amongst one another, they become cruel and suppressive. Tolkien through the trials of the Numenoreans shows how governments can become corrupt when seeking power, and expresses through his text an abhorrence for fascist like governments.
Fichow’s main support for his argument is Middle earth’s hierarchal condition, however he neglects that its various inhabitants are only successful when they work together, while there are those in the story who have more power, their failures are emphasized and in most cases it is power mishandled which brings about their ruin. Furthermore, Tolkien clearly demonstrates disputes amongst his characters being resolved through general accord or a moral authority. Tolkien’s middle earth is structured in a way that it emits any intuitional power. It is a world fremescent of ancient feudalist order that governed our world in the past. This comes as no surprise given Tolkien’s academic background influencing his work.
Fichow claims that Tolkien is anti-democratic and genocidal without putting forth any solid evidence to support his stance. Following Fichow’s logic, one can deduce that humanity is genocidal and anti-democratic. Tolkien’s mythologizes human history using different creatures and in a relatable fantasy world. His work though fictional, is full of messages with real world application. Tolkien was not a fascist, he felt a strong aversion to institutionalization, this is reflected in his works, and is evident in one of his letters where he describes his “political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) – or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy.” Tolkien’s political views reflected common sentiment during an age where totalitarianism was feared due to government encroachment and regulation on its citizens to support the war effort. Tolkien goes on to pen in his letter “Anyway the proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, 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”.
Tolkien as any other man has the right to his personal political views, one should not factor those views when evaluating his works. The Hobbit and LOTR are symbolic of man’s constant trial and failures due to his incompetence in averting greed and corruption especially in his longing for power at any cost. Middle earth’s inhabitants epitomize many of humanities characteristics, its narrative reflects human society from the prism of fantasy. To Fichow I say- Hobbits “can sometimes behave, especially in extreme circumstances, like fascists, i.e. like some of the adherents of Italian fascism or German Nazism” the same way humans display fascist tendencies under extreme circumstances of war, corruption and greed in society. The very vices Tolkien warns us against through genius literally form.
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