Before 'The Hobbit,' Peter Jackson Brought Tolkien's Conservative 'Rings' to Life
Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien used to deny that his masterpiece, "The Lord of the Rings," was an allegory of the great struggles between good and evil of his time, but in fact "LOTR" is an allegory of the great struggles between good and evil of all times.
As the release of the first of "The Hobbit" films this Friday approaches – I have tickets for that afternoon already – it is fitting to appreciate how subversive Tolkien’s work truly is in a culture bereft of any understanding of right and wrong, and of duty and honor.
Director Peter Jackson’s astonishing "LOTR" trilogy is arguably the greatest trilogy in the history of film. Some counter that the original "Star Wars" saga can claim that honor, but these people are wrong. Dudes … Ewoks? The original "Star Wars" was a highly amusing diversion, but its prequels were about as much fun as the Bataan Death March, only with more bizarre racial caricatures and clumsy anti-conservatism.
"LOTR," both in substance and in form, was far superior. A technical and artistic marvel, Jackson’s cinematic vision was parsecs ahead of the pedestrian one George Lucas presented in his delightful space opera. Also, there was never a question – as Sauron’s lieutenant discovered, Aragorn would always shoot first.
But in substance, there can be no debate. "Star Wars" was an all-meat, no-filler heroic quest stripped down to its bare essentials. It’s mostly terrific. But while the framework of "LOTR" was also a quest, "LOTR" had a fully fleshed-out world that gave the moral choices and sacrifices of its characters resonance.
Jackson was wise enough to recognize that this world made the story what it was, and he found a way to convince his backers to fund three long films that could do it justice.
"LOTR" is conservative not in a practical political sense – though one might anticipate the reaction of the Riders of Rohan to some goof trying to tell them that “fairness” requires them to pay a 39 percent federal income tax rate in order to subsidize Democrat-voting welfare cheats. Rather, it demonstrates a big picture conservative in the basic values it celebrates, and in its rejection of the foundational premises that support modern liberalism.
Particularly important is its utter rejection of moral relativism – it doesn’t try to understand Sauron’s feelings and cares nothing about his rotten childhood or how his daddy didn’t hug him enough.
Even if Jackson is inclined against conservatism in the real world – I have zero idea what his personal politics are, though being from New Zealand I expect he supports some sort of pro-sheep agenda – Jackson could not have made such a masterful adaptation of "LOTR" without reflecting Tolkien’s inherently conservative premises. As a result, the LOTR trilogy – along with the equally conservative "The Dark Knight Rises" (itself a part of a great trilogy) – belongs in every conservative’s DVD collection. Moreover, as we recently did, parents should sit down and watch it with their kids.
"LOTR" opens with a vision of conservative bliss in the form of a tour of the world of the yeoman farmers of The Shire. The hobbits seem to get along without much of any intrusive government, tending their fields, drinking their beer, all without being bossed around and hectored by know-it-all nannies who demand conformity to their own faculty lounge-spawned notions.
The hobbits are just fine being in control of their own lives, and their society works. No one is trying to “improve” anyone – we all know that “improvers” ultimately morph into dictators when those that need to be “improved” dare to resist. I suspect you can smoke your pipeweed inside your own pub in The Shire if you please without having some stormtrooper carting you off to the local dungeon. Hobbits are free people who appreciate their freedom. And the resulting culture of personal responsibility makes possible Frodo’s resistance to the seductive power of the ring, where others falter, and eventually lead to the ultimate defeat of evil. Gandalf needed someone like Frodo to dear the ring.
When danger from outside manifests in the form of the ring, Frodo instantly understands that he must act personally to protect his countrymen. Later, he and Sam wonder “Why us?” but both understand that the world isn’t fair, and the demands of duty do not fall equally. They don’t waver. Interestingly, whenever he and Sam meet obstacles on their quest, it is the memory of The Shire and the danger their beloved homeland faces that drives them forward into danger. This is real patriotism, the individual willingness to put one’s duty before his personal interest.
Most of today’s sick culture treats duty and honor and self-sacrifice as a joke. "LOTR" rejects that fashionable cynicism.
Frodo’s is not cheap pseudo-patriotism, like the lies of today’s real world Wormtongues who claim it’s “unpatriotic” for hardworking people to refuse to hand over ever more of their hard-earned money to the liberal leviathan to be squandered buying the votes of slack-jawed losers. No one makes Frodo undertake his quest; he sees that he is the only one who can do what must be done to protect his country, and he does it. His patriotism isn’t a cheap joke.
But his patriotism comes with a price.
It’s not mere posing – the essence of liberalism is assuming the correct pose but never acting on it, like talking endlessly about diversity while counting among your icons a KKK Imperial Cyclops. Frodo acts upon his commitment, and at the end of "Return of the King" we see how it actually costs him his ability to enjoy The Shire he sacrificed so much to protect. One can’t help but compare him to the veterans who return to the United States mentally and physically damaged and who must struggle to regain their place in the land they defended.
The "LOTR" teaches the most conservative lesson of all, that there is good and that there is evil, and that evil must be confronted and defeated with force of arms. The only characters who utter clichés along the line of “violence never solves anything” are the same kind of fools – or worse – who do so today in our world. When evil comes, "LOTR" teaches that you run a broadsword through its black heart. That’s a message our emasculated culture needs to hear.
If you want a scene that sums up the conservative warrior ethic that liberals hate (and civilization’s enemies fear), fast forward to the scene in "Return of the King" when the mass of Rohan –prepares to charge into the flank of the enemy army as it besieges Minas Tirith. King Theoden rides before his troopers, knowing they face near certain death, and urges them on as the last chance to save the free peoples of Middle Earth.
He and his troops then give the enemy a lesson in the power of a heavy cavalry force made up of free men. Garry Owen!
That is another lesson of "LOTR," that free men, when called upon to defend their land, are greater warriors than the slaves of the tyrants who fight only because of fear of their master. Tolkien, a World War I veteran of the British army – led, like the Middle Earth armies, by a king but still composed of free men – understood.
The "LOTR" story is a powerful rebuke to a culture spiraling down the drain. We are often discouraged that Hollywood filmmakers refuse to make conservative entertainment. Yet sometimes they do – they just don’t say so. But there’s nothing to stop us from doing it for them!