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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6824/tales-of-titans-and-hobbits/

Tales of Titans and Hobbits

July 9, 2007 by

Both Rand and Tolkien passionately tell their tales about freedom, writes Juliusz Jablecki, but they resort to completely different aesthetics, and, in consequence, paint two entirely different pictures of the world, with different heroes and different challenges. Are those differences important? How do they affect the “moral” of the respective tales? Given that it is of utmost importance just what kind of story one tells, it is perhaps worthwhile to reflect upon the different world images depicted in Atlas Shrugged and The Lord of the Rings, comparing the characters of both narratives along with the predicaments they face. FULL ARTICLE

{ 55 comments }

Paul Gross July 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I read both Tolkien and Rand when I was in my early teens. Atlas Shrugged had a huge effect on my subsequent thinking. Tolkien entertained me for a couple of weeks. So much for their relative merits, as far as I am concerned.

The difference was Rand’s powerful presentation of an overt philosophy of rational individualism, which I saw as an attractive alternative to both mysticism and collectivism.

Tolkien, on the other hand, makes very few philosophic assertions, and offers nothing resembling a comprehensive philosophy. Most of the practical problems his characters face are handled by lopping off heads. Furthermore, Tolkien’s universe is a magical place — meaning that things in his world do NOT work the way things do in the real world. To kids looking to make sense of the world around them, Tolkien offers no relevant advice, let alone answers. The Lord of the Rings is fun reading, sure. Deeply inspirational and thought-provoking — not.

Paul Gross July 8, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I read both Tolkien and Rand when I was in my early teens. Atlas Shrugged had a huge effect on my subsequent thinking. Tolkien entertained me for a couple of weeks. So much for their relative merits, as far as I am concerned.

The difference was Rand’s powerful presentation of an overt philosophy of rational individualism, which I saw as an attractive alternative to both mysticism and collectivism.

Tolkien, on the other hand, makes very few philosophic assertions, and offers nothing resembling a comprehensive philosophy. Most of the practical problems his characters face are handled by lopping off heads. Furthermore, Tolkien’s universe is a magical place — meaning that things in his world do NOT work the way things do in the real world. To kids looking to make sense of the world around them, Tolkien offers no relevant advice, let alone answers. The Lord of the Rings is fun reading, sure. Deeply inspirational and thought-provoking — not.

Paul Gross July 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I read both Tolkien and Rand when I was in my early teens. Atlas Shrugged had a huge effect on my subsequent thinking. Tolkien entertained me for a couple of weeks. So much for their relative merits, as far as I am concerned.

The difference was Rand’s powerful presentation of an overt philosophy of rational individualism, which I saw as an attractive alternative to both mysticism and collectivism.

Tolkien, on the other hand, makes very few philosophic assertions, and offers nothing resembling a comprehensive philosophy. Most of the practical problems his characters face are handled by lopping off heads. Furthermore, Tolkien’s universe is a magical place — meaning that things in his world do NOT work the way things do in the real world. To kids looking to make sense of the world around them, Tolkien offers no relevant advice, let alone answers. The Lord of the Rings is fun reading, sure. Deeply inspirational and thought-provoking — not.

John Donohue July 24, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Some of my points below have been brilliantly made already above, but I’ll post it in it’s entires anyway as part of a chorus showing how the author mistakes both books in this clumsy effort.

Tolkien’s universe is not about freedom. It is about God’s plan for his subjects. Read the origin myth in the Silmarillion. Yes, the refusal of the ring of power is a proper project for the children of Illuvatar (God), since it was the work of Sauron, henchman of the fallen angel Melkor. However, the elves and mortals did not overthrow Illuvatar; they are God’s children, God’s property. They are not an end in themselves. They are not free, yet they seem not to chafe at being subjects. The only ruffle of rebellion you will find in the elves is in the Noldorian line of Finwë, namely in the character of Fëanor and Galadriel. They dared to, respectively, ‘create the essential light of reality’ and ‘rule a kingdom in Middle Earth.’ One suspects Galadriel would have loved to have ruled all of Middle Earth. Yet even these two would not fully reject God.

The drama of the refusal of the Ring of Power is a distraction. You are so relieved that Sauron did not enslave the world that you do not notice that the world is not free; it and all the sentient beings in it are subjects.

It would be interesting to write a history of the Arda from the point of view of Melkor, who revolted against God.

Meanwhile, the analysis of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged in this piece is atrocious.

“…Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s idea of natural order…” You have to be a libertarian anarchist to think this theory has anything to do with freedom. Judging Ayn Rand from the perspective of Hoppe, yes, she would not be about his ‘natural order’. Judging Hoppe from the perspective of Ayn Rand, yes he is an anarchist who pins hope on competing governments (civil war) and is not about freedom.

“Ayn Rand, after all, was primarily a novelist.” Wrong intent. This is the typical libertarinistic attempt to marginalize Rand as a philosopher.

“… a fairy tale…” Hilarious. The use of this word is for the purpose of leveling Rand to Tolkein. Dishonest. Rand’s genre was romantic realism. Mr. Juliusz Jablecki should have said “fiction” and stopped there, as we all know that fiction is fiction! We do not need to have it intimated to us that it is the same as a fairy tale.

“Rand does not write about labor unions or working masses, but about titans…” This is a common error. Rand has an explicit example of an ethical and valuable union at work and her strike is not just for “the Titans” (libertarian bogeyman term). Please note the everyday people who inhabited Galt’s Gulch and also her reference of ethical Taggart employees, students, “housewives”, movie stars, etc. and the vast numbers of upright, honest non-collectivist people of the country who were never called out on strike, but who shrugged in place.

“Dagny Taggart, … to lay hands on her fortune.” Yes Dagny did not want her fortune confiscated. However, that was not her main objection. It was to the confiscation of her freedom and her life’s work.

“The society in which the heroine lives is dull, envious, lazy, essentially quite helpless, and were it not for the handful of Atlases, it would have definitely plunged into despair.” Hogoblinism.

“The real burden for [Dagny] is not work itself, but the necessity — the legal obligation — to share its plentiful fruits with the rest of society — the ungrateful mob of losers.” This sentence is propaganda. It does NOT represent Dagny’s gaze. She does not need to characterize the mob, she does not think in terms of “sharing” or “plentiful fruits.” She has her life’s productive work as the fire in her soul. She objects to the murder of that. There was no need for Jablecki to use the purple prose he chose here. That is, unless he is after a slant.

“…the relieving thought in mind that she is not alone, that other great achievers feel and think similarly, and though they may be outnumbered, they constitute the real engine of the world. ” Completely wrong! Could not be more wrong. Up until the time Galt shows her his strikers, she thinks she is completely alone, that she is the only one who thinks as she does, and if fact that her lover Francisco, who she thought was of a like mind, is actually a complete betrayer and that the real engine of the world is “the destroyer.” Did Jablecki even read Atlas Shrugged? His abject errors are so blatant one thinks not and that yet he has the effrontery to make proclamation like this sentence.

“…among the losers:
“How should I deal with it?” asks one frightfully mediocre worker.
“How should I know?” is the invariable, dull reply. “Who is John Galt?” ”
Despite the quotes, this is NOT an excerpt. It is invented by Jablecki, especially the attributions. The “how should I know” is very Rand-like, but the rest is propaganda, and along with the word “losers” is intended to project into Rand and Dagny’s mind that cynical distemper against “people” in general, which the two of them did not have at the moment. This is a dishonest segment.

“Galt used to be one of the titans, but greed, collectivist bias, and ingratitude from the society to which he had given so much in the past have induced him to go on strike — not to fight with the oppressive system, not even to try to change it, but simply to leave, taking others along. And so they go, one by one: the great composers, innovators, creators, directors, owners… As a result, the engine of the world stops, and the economy plunges into chaos, for when there is no one to prey upon, the society of insatiable vultures no longer knows what to do. ”
More slant slam and sarcasm. This is not the actual tone of Atlas Shrugged. Galt was not a titan, he was a complete unknown, he did not give anything to society, did not expect gratitude from society and the cause of him going on strike was the explicit threat to enslave him directly. This paragraph also attempts to construct the value that “leaving” is morally inferior to “staying to fight with the oppressive system.” Why is that better when the system is about to enslave you?

At this point in my destruction of this slur piece I leave the reader to observe the tone of the next four paragraphs, starting with the totalized word “Ãœbermenschen. These paragraphs hilariously drip with disdain and thinly veiled disgust for Rand and Galt’s strikers. We get it Jablecki. But thank you for this over-hurl; your bile is clearly visible and duly noted.

The next segment of the piece is a description of Middle Earth at the end of the Third Age and the War that ended it. I could quarrel with some of it. Not worth the time.

Then, the payoff: the juxtaposition of AS as a world driven by a benevolent dictator who “maintains the reality in order” while Middle Earth is the wet dream of anarchism, the happy place humanity is supposed to reach after the state is…abolished?

Can’t be abolished, that would be authoritarian and who would abolish the abolishers? They would wither away? Maybe authoritarians would cease to arise and the natural order of pure hobbit-like people would emerge……….WHOOPS, sorry, I digressed.

And yes, duly noted, an attempt was made to throw a sop to AS with the language “They wish neither to exploit, rule, nor control the rest of the society” and ” they want to make use of their genius and bring prosperity and comfort to all.” which I contend are intended to get Jablecki off the hook as having outright declared Rand as advocating a Dictatorship of the Ãœbermenschen. Unfortunately these platitudes are contradicted by the rest of the implicit meaning from top to bottom of this essay, not to mention being somewhat…..castrated?…..by having this phrase injected between the two above phrases: “…to impose upon it their rational project of “enlightenment”.” Nice attempt at pretzel making there. I am not buying it.

As to the characterization of an anarchist Middle Earth, please see my above insight that Arda was never a place of freedom. Everything in it, including the ‘gods’ in the Blessed Realm, are simply the subjects of Illuvatar, not ends in themselves. They are not free. And if you think Illuvatar is benevolent, just try crossing him or disobeying one of his commandments as did the Númenóreans.

The tone of this piece is: ‘the Ãœbermenschen irritate me just be being Uber instead of flawed and ordinary and “clumsy, neither exceptionally smart, stout, nor courageous, but good, sociable, faithful and generally cheerful” and I suspect they work for the evil corporations and they will dominate and impose on the world just because they exist. Damn it they are doers, not abnegators; you know that is evil in and of itself! They even have big plans and like big dramatic projects! They will give rise to that which will disturb us from living quiet and hobbit-like in a world very much like Merry Old.’

What this piece is actually saying is: anarchism only avoids its fatal flaw if no one gets uppity.

John Donohue July 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm

The Elven Races did not “die.” Quite the contrary. It is their fate to NOT die from Arda as men do. They are bound up with its fate forever. The Elves (most) departed Middle Earth at the beginning of the Fourth Age, true, but they did not depart the world.

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