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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) Re: The Best Introduction To The Mountains
Date: Thu, 03 Jan 2002 10:59:45 -0600

on 1/2/02 8:53 AM, Andy Robertson at andywrobertson@clara.co.uk wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Adam Stephanides" <adamsteph@earthlink.net>

>> I haven't looked at MEDITATIONS ON MIDDLE-EARTH, but possibly Wolfe's
> essay
>> was rejected because the image of Tolkien as propagandist for a society in
>> which the lower orders cheerfully obey and serve their betters was not one
>> the editor wanted to project.
> But no, no, no, Wolfe is not propagandising for feudalism.

Not feudalism, but an idealized version of Merrie Olde England, in which the
squire or local aristocrat (or factory owner) is the acknowledged leader of
the community, dispensing counsel and noblesse in exchange for the gratitude
and obedience of the little people; but with some opportunity for social
mobility thrown in.  In other words, an organic society, and one which would
in practice require strict limitations on the free market to maintain,
although I'm sure Wolfe thinks of himself as a libertarian too.

> I understand that could be a mistake one would make reading this essay, but
> he is talking about something much more like libertarianism:  freedom,
> liberty and *property*. .   This has absolutely nohing to do with supporting
> tyranny, (and if conservatism is about supporting tyranny, Wolfe is not a
> conservative)

That reading, though, doesn't account for this passage:

"Philology led him [Tolkien] to the study of the largely illiterate
societies of Northern Europe between the fall of Rome and the beginning of
the true Middle Ages (roughly AD 400 to 1000). There he found a quality --
let us call it Folk Law -- that has almost disappeared from his world and
ours. It is the neighbour-love and settled customary goodness of the Shire.
Frodo is "rich" in comparison to Sam, though no dragon would call Frodo
rich; Sam is poor in comparison to Frodo, though Sam is far richer than
Gollum, who has been devoured by the tyranny and corruption of the One Ring.
Frodo does not despise Sam for his poverty, he employs him; and Sam does not
detest Frodo for his wealth, but is grateful for the job. Most central of
all, the difference in their positions does not prevent their friendship.
And in the end, poor Sam rises in the estimation of the Shire because of his
association with Frodo, and rich Frodo sacrifices himself for the good of
all the Sams. 

"A different illustration is found among the elves of Lorien, in their love
of beauty and their love of nature. They are Sylvan Elves (East Elves) but
the rulers they choose to obey are Eldar (West Elves). They choose to be
ruled by people better than themselves, in other words, exactly as we choose
to be ruled by people worse. Most clearly of all it is shown in their will
to preserve the wisdom of the First Age.

"Earlier I asked what Tolkien did and how he came to do it; we have reached
the point at which the first question can be answered."

Wolfe's illustrations of Tolkien's "discovery," which he allegedly wrote
LOTR to propagandize for, both center on the willingness of people to serve
and be led by their "betters."

And if he is really talking about libertarianism, it's curious he should
pick the "Dark Ages" as his exemplar, a time not particularly known for
security of property.

>> Between this and Wolfe's comments on 9-11 I'm learning more about Wolfe's
>> politics than I think I want to know, and I fear for THE WIZARD KNIGHT.
> Wolfe is a Conservative Catholic Christian right-winger.   Deal With It!!!!

I knew that (although I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that he
advocated deporting all non-citizens).  But his sudden political
outspokenness has me worried that THE WIZARD KNIGHT may be an explicitly
propagandistic book, as his other books haven't been.  I'm not fond of
didactic novels, even when they express points of view I agree with.

Lafferty, whom I also love, is an even more right-wing Catholic than Wolfe,
but he's eccentric enough so that even his didactic stuff is interesting,
though not his best work.  This isn't true of Wolfe, IMO.


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