“But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good tilled earth.”
― JRR Tolkien
The work of J.R.R. Tolkien seems to at times forget about his legacy. No, not his legacy of being the father of modern fantasy fiction but the legacy of his philosophy. It is easy to look at Tolkien and only see him as a literary giant rather then somebody who sought to not only create a new mythology but whole new society. It is far more easier to focus on the fantasy and not so much the real world idealism he placed in the pages.
For Tolkien, he did not look to create Middle-earth just as place to escape the woes of this world. He created the world to restore what he most certainly thought was lost. Theology, culture, economics and politics were very much part of the organic framework in the societies in Middle-earth. For Tolkien his desire to escape into Middle-earth was not because he wanted to leave behind the real world rather the dreary and unimaginative one of modern times that replaced it. He sought not just high fantasy but actually the simple and ordinary aspects of the Agrarian society. This totally seen in the Shire and the hobbits. To him he wanted both the fantastical and the humdrum aspects of Middle-earth. He wanted the once pristine natural world along with the beautiful hallmarks of medieval society. His work while a great piece of imaginative art is actually less fascinating without his philosophy embedded into it.
The truth is, Tolkien’s idealism of Middle-earth is still very much needed even more now then it ever was. As destructive the modern age was with industrialization, war and materialism. The post-modern age is even more destructive in a more dull way with globalism, digitization, agnosticism, neo-liberal secularism, proxy wars & corporate mass consumerism. Now more than ever, we need to escape to Middle-earth. A place where not only will we see the good green earth but small local communities thriving. Just as Bilbo longed to see mountains again we also long for a time where the core fundamental values of Western European and Christian culture is at the fore front. As more people becomes slaves to the digital age and social media we need to unplug and have a good pipe, an old book and a roaring fire to keep us warm. We need to flee our constructs of technological terrors and remember the warmth of the sun on our back as work in our gardens or roam the woods. There is need for all of us to go on adventure just like Bilbo being thrust out our hobbit holes and into the world. We need to see the faith of Gandalf in our leaders in our communities and families. We need to remember the goodness of Samwise Gamgee and the devotion of Aragorn to his friends. We need tell tales over large ales and sing and dance. We need to remember the good and simple things of life.
We need all of this now because people are more at each other’s throats more than ever before. Now more then ever the curse of Smaug has come to mark us with greed. We have lost sight of what matters the most and Middle-earth is our way back. The philosophy of Tolkien is what can bring us back to our roots and take us back to the fundamental truths we all knew as wee little hobbits.