Literature

When Imaginary Worlds Collide

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Juliusz Jablecki contrasts the libertarian fiction of Ayn Rand and J.R.R. Tolkien. I can't completely endorse any essay that looks to Hans-Hermann Hoppe for its model of a free society; and I've never read Atlas Shrugged, so I don't know if there are passages in the book that undermine Jablecki's thesis. But this rings true for me:

Tolkien's novel also ends with a theme of rebuilding the world, a promise of setting things straight, bringing back the right order of things. It begins, however, in an entirely different way: not on the platform of a huge railway station, nor in a big factory, nor in a beautiful palace. The Lord of the Rings begins in the Shire—more precisely in Hobbiton, a small village peopled by hobbits, unobtrusive, somewhat clumsy, little creatures, whose straightforward and rather friendly nature makes them very similar to humans….

In Atlas Shrugged [the protagonists] are exceptional and it is precisely because of that quality that they became characters of the novel. Each of the Atlases is unblemished, pure, proud. Every detail of their physiognomy speaks of genius and magnificence. The Übermenschen do not simply move: they make motions full of charm and elegance. They do not simply work: they craft, always with passion and enthusiasm. They never get tired, weary or bored with what they do; they have no families, no children, no obligations; they are frightfully rational; they live only for themselves and for their occupational passions. If they happen to be businessmen, they never own little family businesses; they run huge corporations, ironworks, mines, or railway companies. In Rand's novel there is no place for moderation and inconspicuousness. Only that which is huge and effective deserves praise and attention.

Completely different, more human-like, are Tolkien's characters….There are men in The Lord of the Rings, to be sure, but it is the hobbits who resemble real humans the most—they are rather clumsy, neither exceptionally smart, stout, nor courageous, but good, sociable, faithful and generally cheerful. The most important characters in Tolkien's novel are actually anti-heroes—they try to stay away from the world of big politics; however, when fate throws them in its very middle, they act bravely and ultimately bring salvation.

A few years ago, writing about "Leaf by Niggle"—my favorite Tolkien story, both shorter and deeper than Lord of the Rings—I made a similar point: "Niggle is, in his ground-down way, an individualist hero—smaller, realer, and altogether more interesting than the boring supermen favored by another sort of libertarian."

Bonus question: Whose sex scenes are creepier, Rand's or Tolkien's? Before you object that Tolkien didn't write any sex scenes, pick up The Two Towers and turn to book four, chapter 10.

NEXT: The Crash of 29

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  1. It’s really a question of which type of individualist hero you prefer, the one that is lauded by everyone for his incredible feats or the one who simply lives his own life and destroys a magic ring without much payoff.

    Rand would have made Frodo claim the ring because its power was sooooo awesome.

    Also, she has a mind of wheels and metal.

  2. I’m seeing a mash-up opportunity.

  3. I’m seeing a mash-up opportunity.

    Like this?

  4. Rand really is creepy, almost Nazi-like.

  5. Sauroman is a Randian hero.

    What kind of sub-men join a fellowship, anyway?

  6. Edward,

    Whittaker Chambers wrote that Atlas Shrugged had “the whiff of the gas chamber about it.”

  7. Actually Sauron’s military tactics are quite Randian. The whole cut off your enemy’s heads and burn your insignia on them then fling them back into the city thing especially.

    And damn Rand would have hated those hippie Ents and Elves who were so damned concerned with forests. They should have been making themselves busy building diggers and submarines to find those lost Silmarils!

  8. That pretty much sums up why I never liked Rand and do like Tolkien. There is something really creepy in the way Rand’s protagonists are so perfect. More than a bit of aryan superman going on there. I agree with the Chambers quote Joe gives. I have never heard that before, but Chambers was exactly right.

  9. Tolkien is pretty anti-industrial and pastoral. The whole Sauroman breading the race of super orcs and destroying the forest and killing the ents is pretty analogous to heavy industry. Also, the shire is kind of a long ago English country life. That part of Tolkien I don’t particularly agree with, but it makes for a great story.

  10. I’m surprised no one has leaped in to defend Rand yet.

  11. Somehow we need to merge the Hipster Librarian thread and this one…

  12. If I remember it correctly, Chambers quote was “it screams from every page ‘To the gas chambers, go'”

    and Chambers is persona non grata in these here internets.

  13. Tolkien was anti-industrial. The language he uses to describe machinery and engines is invariably hostile.

    Ayn Rand, on the other hand, struck me as anti-pastoral. She really hated anything that wasn’t the product of purposeful human action toward goals she approved of. One of the prerequisites for tyranny is a leader who knows what’s best for you and has the will to force you to obey. And, as her behavior towards members of her circle demonstrated, Ayn Rand had these tyrannical tendencies in spades.

    Both had an aversion toward thieves, murderers, looters, pillagers and people who lusted after unearned power. This is of course a very libertarian attitude.

    In the end, Tolkien is preferable since he wanted people to be left alone to do whatever the hell they wanted to do, whereas Ayn Rand… well she hated anyone who didn’t agree with her goals.

  14. Rand and Tolkien obsessives–who are the more obnoxious?

  15. Rand and Tolkien obsessives–who are the more obnoxious?

    Randroids by a country mile.

  16. Jesse,

    Somehow, I’m not surprised.

    Rand wasn’t so bad as to back Saruman. No. She’d have backed Denethor and his strike against the looters on the White Council.

  17. Rand didn’t like anything that wasn’t paved or encased in metal.

    And it’s Saruman, not Saroman, dammit!

    *smokes a big bowl of pipe-weed to calm down*

  18. And for christ’s sake it is Saruman (Curun?r L?n in Sindarin) 😉

  19. Randolph Carter

    Tolkien pedants unite…

    Is that long-bottom leaf?

    Hipsters only smoke long-bottom.

  20. Randolph Carter,

    It was Serutan in Bored of the Rings.

  21. I believe Ayn Rand’s point was that when humans are free they will accomplish great feats. There is, of course, a gradient. She concentrated on those near perfection to illustrate the point that they can (and will) improve the world in the highest degree only through the free market because of the inevitable human nature concerning greed.

    And Ayn Rand tyrannical? As far as I know her entire philosophy revolved around the inherent right of humans to be free to do as they please. Sure, she was arrogant towards those she disagreed with, but I don’t think she ever wanted the STATE to do anything about it. Maybe you people should start making distinctions between violence and non-violence.

  22. Yes it is Saruman. What was that about Randians being more annoying?

  23. Bored of the Rings was fairly amusing

    And Neu Mejican, it’s from the Southfarthing.

  24. Rand and Tolkien obsessives–who are the more obnoxious?

    AFAIC, they both spewed more than their fair share of utopian fantasy, making them both equally obnoxious in my book.

  25. Rand and Tolkien that is. Their obsessives are just weenies.

  26. I haven’t read LOTR, but I did read the Silmarillion. Mythical struggles can be read for their messages, but the messages never overwhelm the story. Proof: there’s disagreement about what the “message” of Tolien’s work and world is.

    Then there’s Rand. Why, I wonder, did Alyssa Rosenbaum leave Russia at all? She had a great future ahead of her writing grandiose boy-meets-tractor epics for Stalin.

    It was Proust who said a novel with a message is like a present with the price tag left on.

  27. The distinction is simple. Rand would not have had a heroic character actually try to wield the power of the Ring. That would be wrong, even in her philosophy. However, if Rand actually was handed the One Ring, she’d definitely use it.

    Hope that clears everything up.

  28. Sure, Rand’s protagonists are all Olympic gods indifferent to the plight of mere mortals, while Tolkien’s characters are Everyman or perhaps more aptly, Old Testament figures (“Who, me? Um, God, couldn’t You find someone else?”) I’m not sure there’s all that strong a libertarian theme in Tolkien, though, unless it’s the Hobbits’ natural inclination to be left the hell alone. We may be more fascinated by the former, but it is much easier to identify or empathize with the latter.

    As a matter of principle, I refuse to find or re-read any of the Lord of the Rings books, but few things could be creepier than Gary Cooper raping Patricia Neal, so I give the nod to Rand on that one.

    Never read Atlas Shrugged, eh? Can’t say I blame you. If I hadn’t deliberately taken it as the only novel with me on a vacation once where no bookstores were to be found, I’d probably say the same. Still, if you ever suffer from insomnia, you might consider keeping a copy on your nightstand.

  29. And as a Tolkien obsessive, I would say that we’re not particularly annoying just because we’re chock-full of trivia about a created world.

    At least we don’t run around trying to proselytize an atheistic pseudo-religion and get furiously angry whenever someone criticizes the word of objectivism who became flesh.

  30. Awesome pic, Jesse! The URKOBOLD shall reward you at an arbitrary time and place (and with an appropriate URKOBOLDIAN method) for your bravery!

  31. I’m guessing Jablecki hasn’t actually read either author. His remarks are so far off the mark I suspect he is reviewing a review of a review. I’ve read both novels, and for him to say the hobbits are more like men than the men are is simply preposterous. “The most important characters in Tolkien’s novel are actually anti-heroes…” Really? The definition of anti-hero must have changed while I was asleep.

    Rand’s Atlases are “unblemished, pure, proud….They never get tired, weary or bored with what they do; they have no families, no children, no obligations….they live only for themselves and for their occupational passions.” (?) Incorrect on all counts. Of all the major characters, only Galt is “ready made.” The others do indeed have conflicts and contradictory ideas and make errors in judgement along the way. Those conflicts are ultimately resolved, as they are in LOR. Resolution of conflict is, after all, a cardinal element in good storytelling. It’s what separates romantic fiction from the naturalist school. Among other things.

    Rand’s detractors fixate again and again on her “creepy love scenes.” Please feel free to cite an excerpt and explain yourself, if you can. And I know it will be difficult, but try doing it without resorting to ad hominem.

  32. But then there is the deeply disturbing sex scene. Roark, temporarily banned from architecture, spends his days working in a quarry (“to feel the drill and his body gathered into the single will of pressure, that a shaft of steel might sink slowly into the granite”). It’s there he first meets Dominique, who believes him to be not a genius but the hired help. Nevertheless, she is drawn to the man with hair the color of a ripe orange rind and invents tasks designed to lure him into to her domain. But when Roark takes Dominique, it’s in an act she later describes as rape. “The act of a master taking shameful, contemptuous possession of her was the kind of rapture she had wanted.”

    “I think I willfully misread the rape,” says Daphne Gottlieb, the poet. “But then again, I misread my own rape. The idea of the poem, however, was violence begets violence.”

    It’s certainly the reason, at the end of “Sweet Sixteen,” that Gottlieb has Atlas cleaning her floor.

  33. When Roark raped Dominique … that was a little creepy.

  34. With Tolkien, people usually know what they are talking about, or as least try to. With Rand, not so. As demonstrated in these comments.

  35. Tolkein presented a monarchist, divine-right-of-kings vision of the ideal society in the Lord of the Rings, except for the Shire. Even then, the loosely organized Shire was only the result of the end of the line of Kings in Arnor.

    Actually, I find the more interesting parallel between LOTR and AS in their portrayals of worlds where the past was more advanced, civilized and populated than the present. They both portray the ruins of civilization and their respective current ages of reduction vividly at certain points of each novel.

  36. The definition of anti-hero must have changed while I was asleep.

    Yeah, that was a rather eccentric use of the term. You know what he means, though.

  37. “Sure, Rand’s protagonists are all Olympic gods indifferent to the plight of mere mortals, while Tolkien’s characters are Everyman or perhaps more aptly, Old Testament figures (“Who, me? Um, God, couldn’t You find someone else?”)”

    To me that is why Rand is a lousy author. Gods are boring as hell. They never change or evolve. They just are. Gods are essentially forces of nature. Human’s in contrast change and evolve and learn making them much more interesting. The Greek tragedies and epic poems bear this out. The God’s are just uninteresting filler. It is the humans who are interesting. Rand writes about Gods and her books are corrispondingly boring. Like reading the Illiad if Agememnon were a great general and Achilleus a selfless serving soldier.

  38. John,

    This is why the Gods in the Iliad envy folks like Achilles and Hector.

  39. Certianly I agree that anyone who takes Hoppe serious has a problem.

    My copy of Atlas had 1056 pages. Rand was rather merciless in her cutting of material (anyone who has seen original manuscript pages will attest to that) that was not considered central to the plot. What role would children have had in that?

    I just finished a novel which also lacks any children as characters. But then many novels written for adult readers do precisely that. Many do depict children but as evil, but no one assumes that means those authors hate children. The absence or presence of specific elements in a story are driven by the plot.

    In the world of Atlas Rand was making a point about role of specific kinds of entrepreneurs. You will see that in the opening description of New York the small shops are mostly empty. In the highly regulated world of state capitalism it is the small businesses who suffer the most not the big guys. To have depicted her heroes as small businessmen would have undermined the point she was making and been less believable. In fact the whole plot would have fallen apart. That criticism is just silly.

    But then go forward to the capitalist utopia that is created. Here every business is a small one and the entrepreneurs are still happy and productive. And the setting was in a rural valley in the mountains of Colorado. To say that is anti-pastoral is a bit strange.

    I confess that the obnoxious Objectivists, especially the pro-war nuts, really turn me off. And I yearn for a post-Objectivist libertarianism. But at the same time the absurd accusations flung at Rand by various Rothbardians (who originated many of the false stories about Rand) are equally a turn off. Both sides exaggerate and distort the facts. Why do people either have to worship her or demonize her? How about a simple dose of the truth?

  40. cls,

    I guess if I had my druthers I would just ignore her and her writings altogether.

  41. Chris Anderson,

    With Tolkien, he was consciously trying to write a mythological tale. It’s fairly common in mythology for the present to be something less than the past, when we all walked and talked with the gods, etc. Not that he may not have been making a larger point–I’m sure he was lamenting the loss of the pastoral lifestyle.

  42. Yeah, Gandolf is no hero!! None of the fellowship was, no heroism in the trip to destroy the ring. Of course that’s sarcasm.

    I think the difference is that in LOR, they do not aspire to be great, they are called upon and they rise to the call. With Rand, greatness is part of what it is to be a quality human. It’s not a calling, it’s intrinsic.

    In Tolkien, the everyday dumbass can become a hero. In Rand, the everyday dumbass, is just a dumbass. In Atlas Shrugged, I think Rand is commenting on our ability to escape the dumbasses, it would require crash landing a plane in the middle of fantasy land.

  43. “pick up The Two Towers and turn to book four, chapter 10”

    Seriously man, I think you’re reading too much into it.

    Yeah, if I read it and really think about it, I see it, but I’ve got to squint.

  44. I will say this: I was able to get through Atlas in about two weeks. I was not able to complete the LOTR trilogy over a period of four weeks. I got bogged down in Return of the King, and just couldn’t bear to continue.

  45. “Tolkien’s novel also ends with a theme of rebuilding the world, a promise of setting things straight, bringing back the right order of things.”

    This is, simply, false, and the manner in which it is false demonstrates why this guy doesn’t understand Tolkien. [Since he doesn’t understand Tolkien, his comparisons to Rand are immediately inapt by definition.]

    LOTR does NOT end with rebuilding the world and setting things straight. It ends with the explicit knowledge that the world can’t be rebuilt and can’t be set right. Tolkien’s entire universe [as should be clear when you include the Silmarillion] starts out perfect and gradually decays from there, in a recurring cycle where the forces of good struggle to maintain a stasis, while evil strives to undo it. Evil is periodically dealt a huge defeat, but only at the price of the very stasis good hoped to protect.

    And as for apparent libertarianism in Tolkien, look at it this way: Tolkien’s creation myth essentially makes existence the result of choral music among divine beings. One of those divine beings decides he doesn’t want to be part of a chorus, but wants to sing his own individual music. That act damages existence and creates evil. To Tolkien evil and discord are synonyms. That doesn’t sound very libertarian to me. Later acts of mythological individualism are equally destructive. Feanor and Al-Kharazon the Golden are individualists who refuse to passively accept the role assigned to them by the divine order, and fuck things up specifically by seeking knowledge or by refusing to allow themselves to be victimized.

    Sorry for all that, but I’m both a Tolkien nerd and a Rand nerd, which means that essentially I’m the world’s biggest possible nerd, unless someone out there beats me by combining Rand, Tolkien, vampires, and open source software.

  46. One of those divine beings decides he doesn’t want to be part of a chorus, but wants to sing his own individual music. That act damages existence and creates evil. To Tolkien evil and discord are synonyms.

    So Sauron is Tolkein’s version of Ikhnaton (Akhenaten)?

  47. Fluffy,

    For Tolkien the world at the end of the LOTR ends more fucked up in some ways than it was when the books began in that the Elves leave middle earth and the last vestiges of perfection leave with them. Yeah, we get some half elves who pass their blood along to give us people like Mozart but pretty much the elves are the most divine things left in the world and they leave. The age of man arrives and I don’t think Tolkien viewed that as a good thing.

    I think you read too much into his view of individualism. Tolkien is not talking about individualism he is talking about sin, as in discord from the divine. His point is that when man steps away from the divine and goes his own way, you get evil. Moreover, when man tries to build his own utopia, you get really evil. I think that is different than saying that everyone should go along and get along and know their place. Knowing your place before God is different than saying that you should do what other men tell you to do. Further, Tolkien is absolutely against the idea that man can without God accomplish much of lasting value. In that way, he is as different from Rand as you can get.

  48. Anyone who says that the characters in Atlas Shrugged (with the exception of John Galt who, let’s face it, cannot be flawed as he is the sum of all of Rand’s philosophy) are flawless gods has not read the book. Now, Atlas Shrugged is not a shining example of literary merit, but I do think the Fountainhead is an excellent book. The character of Gail Wynand in particular I find to be an excellent example of Rand’s success in writing.

  49. John,

    Athens v. Jerusalem

  50. Whose sex scenes are creepier, Rand’s or Tolkien’s?

    Why don’t Rand’s characters ever have enjoyable, vanilla sex? Rather, they always seem to be on the verge of non-con or rape or something that would get you into trouble if you tried it now.

    And did I miss something in The Two Towers?

  51. It is not that they are flawless Trevor, except for the one God, gods never are. It is that the characters are unchanging. They never evolve or learn. They just are.

  52. That’s true. Rand was so rooted in philosophy that her characters embody very specific concepts or failures in execution (Wynand, Stadler) that it would defeat her intention to make them evolve. I enjoy her books but I believe on philosophical, rather than literary grounds.

    Tolkien on the other hand I detest on purely literary grounds.

  53. From a philosophical perspective Rand engages in a lot of question begging.

  54. “Tolkien on the other hand I detest on purely literary grounds”

    What is wrong with him on literary grounds? Seriously? I like the books. I read them as an adult and found the story to be interesting and the world he created to be very interesting. They are not my favorite books, but that is because I like other books better not because I think they are bad books. I would be curious to hear what your objection to them is.

  55. My knowledge is limited basically because I was so fed up with the Fellowship of the Ring I did not want to continue the series, so my objections are basically all on that book. I just found it to be insufferably boring and overly wordy. I suppose in theory that could be an abberration but I wasn’t really interested in pursuing it.

  56. Grotius & Fluffy: The Pharaonic reference in Tolkien is Ar-Pharaz?n the Golden, the last king of N?menor. It’s one consonant away from a transliteration of Hebrew / Arabic PhR`WN, with a variant of the Arabic definite article to introduce it and of course with vowels stolen from King James.

  57. How is it possible to write for Reason without having even read Atlas Shrugged?

  58. Trevor,

    I had the exact same opinion as you did for years. I tried to read the fellowship and found is awful. Then a few years ago, I gave it another try and for some reason got through it and liked it. I can’t honestly say what changed. Although I will admit Return of the King drags in places, especially the parts about Frodo. My God, how long does it take to get up that mountain?

  59. David Ross,

    Is it your impression that Tolkein is an anti-Herodotus (who has often been deemed a lover of “barbarians”)?

  60. Trevor – I also enjoyed The Fountainhead more than Atlas Shrugged, but… Fellowship too wordy? How about John Galt’s 50+ page rant? Talk about wordy!

    Atlas Shrugged left me feeling very uncomfortable, upset and angry, which was probably Rand’s goal – so score one for her I guess.

    How many of you who read Atlas read John Galt’s speech in its entirety? In one sitting? I admit that after the first 15 pages I gave up and skipped to the last 5 or so.

  61. Bronwyn –

    I would estimate that I read the first 500 pages of Shrugged scattered over a handful of days, but the last 500 pages in what amounted to one sitting. The speech is in the 2nd half so that would be included.

    If you’re enjoying it, Shrugged is one of those books where you can really build momentum and stay immersed.

    I would say that I enjoyed Shrugged more than Fountainhead, but would acknowledge the superior literary merit of the latter.

  62. Heh, Galt’s speech I did not read the first time, I admit. I always stop for the night when I get to it and read it as basically a seperate work of nonfiction.

  63. Grotius: My thought is that N?menor stands in for the 20th century United States, in the British Tory view.

    Founded upon a new continent in the west, and through the gumption of immigrants from Eriador (Nordic Europe, mostly), N?menor becomes fabulously wealthy with power enough to save the old country from the invasions of Sauron’s easterly despotism. But over time N?menor becomes proud, loses its faith in the Valar and Eru, and unconsciously mimics that most iconic of despotisms: Bronze Age Egypt.

    As for Herodotus, it is fair to say that Tolkien did not try nearly as hard as did Herodotus to give his foreign races the benefit of the doubt. For Tolkien, you were with the good guys, or you were too selfish to join the good guys, or else you were with Sauron and his orcs. I did not find very many travels and memoirs of the wondrous cities of the Far Harad in Tolkien’s oeuvre.

  64. Perhaps I should give it another try, then… when I’m not already overtired.

    Now when that’ll happen, I don’t know. I’ve got a 4-month old baby which I think goes hand-in-hand with overtired. Maybe I’ll read it to him at bedtime 🙂

  65. “Do you know what your baby is saying when he reaches for that bottle? He is saying I am a leech!”

  66. Even more so, as he’s reaching for my breast!

    /moo

  67. My copy of Atlas had 1056 pages. Rand was rather merciless in her cutting of material (anyone who has seen original manuscript pages will attest to that) that was not considered central to the plot.

    I don’t think anyone who writes a 1000 page book with 200 pages of content can be considered “merciless in her cutting of material.” Rand had a lot of interesting ideas, but she was a terrible writer.

  68. [Walks in, late to the party]

    Hey, what’s happening?

    AAAAAHHHHHH!!!
    NERDS!!!

    [Runs away, starts getting ready to watch the All Star game]

  69. David Ross,

    Yeah, depending on my mood, Herodotus is often more of my sort of writer.

  70. Rhoads –

    I actually would disagree. The literary flaws in Shrugged are primarily the thin characterizations and the spare and repetitive descriptions. But in story terms, there is very little there that doesn’t function to advance the plot. Even the speeches advance the plot in a certain sense, given that they’re necessary to understand the character motivations and the central plot mechanism. The most accurate criticisms I’ve seen point out that the book sacrifices character [and virtually everything else] to the service of mechanically advancing the plot. If true, that criticism implies pretty heavily that a “well-written” Shrugged that included more introspection, reflection, examination of the environment, detail on minor characters, etc. [all the necessaries of modern literature] would be even longer than the book we’ve got. By a considerable margin, probably.

  71. Fluffy,

    Well, I guess we just disagree fundamentally on that point. I remember when I read the John Galt speech thinking that there was not a single idea contained within it that had not been expressed earlier in the novel. Because she is so determined to unfold her philosophy gradually, it results in literally repeating the same idea over and over again. Most of the words in the novel deal explicitly with the overarching philosophy as expressed in John Galt’s final speech…why does the same philosophical idea need to be expressed in the same novel multiple times?

  72. Some thoughts:

    1) Sauron was not the first discordant note; it was the greater Maia Morgoth. Sauron lived past the destruction of Morgoth in the first age by pretending to repent to the Valar.

    2) Numenor was not the US settled by immigrants from Eriador. The combined three houses of the elf friends were moved from Beleriand before its destruction the end oft he first age. You can think of them as a chosen people more than an amalgamation of immigrants. It’s stated multiple times in the books that all mingling with lesser men decreases the potency of the Numenorean dna. The only being mentioned who comes to Numenor is Sauron, who encompasses its downfall.

    3) I’m not sure about Tolkien’s libertarian views, but he was a staunch catholic, along with CS Lewis. Morgoth’s original sin of discord against the manifold mind of god is equivalent to Lucifer stating he would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven.

    4) I don’t have the book handy, but book 4 is Frodo and Sam’s journey from the Dead Marshes to Minas Morgul. Yes, that dialogue seems gay to us, but we are father in time and distance from the English concepts of servant and master than Tolkien. A perfect servant was supposed to know his place and love and serve a fair and honest master.

  73. Frodo and Sam weren’t gay. Not in the books.

  74. I don’t have the book handy, but book 4 is Frodo and Sam’s journey from the Dead Marshes to Minas Morgul. Yes, that dialogue seems gay to us, but we are father in time and distance from the English concepts of servant and master than Tolkien. A perfect servant was supposed to know his place and love and serve a fair and honest master.

    You’re on the wrong track. The intercourse in question involves a man and a woman. Sort of.

  75. The mysterious attack on Hans Hoppe — Walker gives no reason for his vicious swipe — coupled with the admission that he hasn’t even READ one of the books he purports to be discussing has got to make this one of the lamest posts on this blog ever, and that is saying a lot. (A Reason writer who hasn’t read the major novel of the author that inspired the founding of his magazine — perhaps this partly explains why much of what appears in Reason seems so utterly disconnected from libertarianism properly understood).

  76. Jesse,

    Surely you’re not implying Shelob and Sam had some sort of sexual encounter!

    I’m just making it up as I go along here, not having any portion of The Lord of the Rings on hand at the office.

  77. Pro: Bingo.

    Justin: If I read The Driver, will that count?

  78. No, it wouldn’t count. But I have to say that your attitude toward these things betrays a certain contempt for your readers. You can’t be bothered to read a book you’re writing about, and you also can’t be bothered to explain why you seem to hate HHH — and all this is a magazine that calls itself “Reason.” Why not just call it “Sloth magazine,” and be done with it?

  79. Excerpt from: http://www.bookrags.com/notes/two/PART22.htm

    Book 4, Chapter 10
    Sam sees Frodo’s sword on the ground and he charges at Shelob with it. She is surprised as he blinds one eye and then a second. Sam slashes her body and her venomous blood seeps out. Sam clutches the blade as she jumps at him, and lets the weight of her body impale herself upon the sword. She shudders and Sam reels in the stench of her filth. She stares at the hobbit with her many eyes and fears that her death has begun. He chants elvish words that he does not know and struggles to his feet. He breaks into a new rage and begins to attack her eyes some more. She hobbles to a crack in the earth and slips in ide leaving a trail of blood behind. Sam collapses next to Frodo and begins to cut the web from his body. He searches for breath or heartbeat and hears nothing. “‘Did I come all this way for nothing?'” Book 4, Chapter 10, pg. 427

    Sam is silent for a moment and thinks that he must carry on the quest, even though he fears it. He does not want to leave his friend’s body and wonders if he is even right to take the Ring. He stoops and kisses Frodo’s forehead, wiping away his own tears. He slips the necklace of the Ring around his neck and takes the phial of Galadriel. Stepping into the dark tunnel, he soon finds himself near its end. He sees that orcs are coming and slips the ring on his finger to avoid being caught. Sam realizes that Frodo is the true Ring-bearer and feels that a terrible fate has befallen him. The orcs lift the body and go running through the passage, afraid of Shelob. Sam tries to follow them but has trouble keeping up with the pace.

    Near the top, Sam hears the captains arguing over Frodo’s body.

    Some think that it is elvish. One of the orcs talks about fearing the Nazgul. He wants to be rid of the leadership of Sauron and wishes he had never come back. They talk about the impending war and wish that they had no part in it. The Nazgul told them that something was going to try to get into the gates near Minas Ithil. Two of the orcs argue about whose job it was to watch the stairs. They have seen Gollum before and decide that they should no longer interfere with Shelob’s hunt. One orc says that something hurt the creature and is still lurking in the tunnels.

    Sam listens carefully as the orcs realize that there must be another enemy near them because someone had to cut Frodo’s cords. One of the orcs doesn’t agree with this. They look at the body and make sure that all of his possessions are recorded. One orc thinks that the dead body is no good but another reminds him that Shelob’s venom merely makes a body seem dead. She likes to feast on live meat. Sam comes to the grim realization that he has let Frodo become captured and almost abandoned him. The orcs want to have fun with the prisoner and Sam gets more frustrated as he tries to figure out how he is going to get into the fortress. He catches up with the orcs and listens to their singing. He cannot follow them through the doors.

    “The great doors slammed to. Boom. The bars of iron fell into place inside. Clang. The gate was shut. Sam hurried himself against the bolted brazen plates and fell senseless to the ground. He was out in the darkness. Frodo was alive but taken by the Enemy.” Book 4, Chapter 10, pg. 446

    So his steel rob fleshed itself in the dark recesses of Shelob? I guess it’s sexual, but did Sam therefore bring home an STD for poor Rosie Cotton? Although I do admit that sometimes during the height of passion I too recite words whos meaning I do not know…

  80. Well, in Bored of the Rings, the Sauron and Shelob analogues were actually a divorced couple.

    Hobbit and giant spider porn–already on the Internet? Probably.

  81. Justin: I’m not “writing about” Atlas Shrugged. I’m linking to an interesting article about it & admitting I’m not in the best position to judge the author’s argument.

    As for Hoppe, I threw that in because I didn’t want this thread to get bogged down with comments assuming that because I’m recommending an explicitly Hoppean piece I must be a fan of Hoppe’s. If you want the short version, I think his “ultimate justification” for libertarian ethics is sophomoric, that his defense of border controls falls apart with any substantial scrutiny, and that he’s far too fond of medieval hierarchies. I’ll admit that his defense of monarchy is clever, but I don’t find it convincing either.

  82. If I were still a 13-year-old girl, this thread would be like a bizarre conglomeration of everything I was into. Of course, then some of you would be speaking Sindarin.

    If we’re going to be making comparisons between Tolkien and influential libertarian novelists, though, I think you’re more likely to hit similarities between Tolkien’s idea of “sub-creation” as demonstrated in “Leaf by Niggle” with the zany intergalactic joyride into literary theory that is Heinlein’s Number of the Beast.

  83. Mr. Walker:

    I would like you to explain how and why do you find Hoppe’s justification for libertarian ethics “sophomoric”. Since it’s epistemological basis is the same as Praxeology’s, I would like to know -in depth- if you dismiss Ludwig von Mises’s work too. Please point to specific Hoppe and Mises texts on epistemological justification for ethics and for economic laws respectively while you discuss it. Thanks, I’m sure it will be interesting as a topic for all your readers, since we all have to deal with the basis for our stances very frequently.

    Greetings from Ecuador.

  84. I wouldn’t call LOTR libertarian in any grand sense, but the ultimate distinction between the good characters on the one hand and the villains or at least not-good characters on the other is how they react when offered absolute power… you might even say that the destruction of the one ring is an affirmation of the principles of limited government.

  85. Which is creepier: Rape or bestial arachnid snuff scenes? Hmm, I’m going to have to go with the latter, but, like many others, I think you’re reading way too much into this passage.

  86. Rand’s sex scenes are far creepier.

  87. This thread is dumb.

  88. One of Rand’s heroes in Atlas did change during the course of the novel: Henry Rearden, who went from supporting the cause of the statists to opposing it. Along the way he actually becomes a more three-dimensional character.

  89. If you don’t think the characters in Atlas Shrugged change, you haven’t read the book. Pages upon pages are devoted to how much Dagny and Hank (wasn’t it Hank?) waste time metaphorically beating their heads against the wall trying to remake the world on their own–only to finally realize that you really do need other people to do anything really worth doing in this life, but you can’t force them to change.

    The whole point of John Galt’s action, then, is not to either force people to change (re: Hank’s incessant fight with the law and his family, neither of which will listen to reason) or continue picking up the slack for everyone else (re: Dagny’s major fault–she runs herself into the ground when no one else is willing to lift a finger), but to give people an honest look at the consequences of their actions.

    John Galt is not the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged. John Galt is a plot device. Dagny and Hank are the protagonists, and they both damn near destroy themselves over the course of the book, but grow and change for the better in the end.

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