Stephen Wigmore

The moral inspiration of Tolkien’s universe

Accusations of racism fundamentally misunderstand his work

  • From Spectator Life
(Photo: Getty)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the new Tolkien-inspired TV series on Amazon Prime is already the most expensive television series in history.

Amazon paid $250 million up-front for the rights, and has reportedly committed a billion dollars to future production. The fact a business as canny as Amazon would commit that much money to develop the appendices of a novel — which is what The Rings is based on — shows just how much cultural heft Tolkien’s works continue to have. The wild success of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies is matched by the popularity of the books behind them.

Tolkien’s books and their adaptations have never attracted the scale of controversy that became attached to the Harry Potter saga, ever since J.K.Rowling broke with progressive orthodoxy on trans rights, or Game of Thrones, due to the sheer level of violence and misogyny portrayed. But this being the 2020s, the recent series has at least managed to raise a few complaints. Some fans are concerned that modern ‘woke’ themes are being crowbarred into Tolkien’s thoughtfully crafted world. Elon Musk suggested Tolkien would be turning in his grave.

On the other end of the ideological spectrum, Tolkien’s world has for years received criticism from progressives who fear its popularity represents a victory for reactionary propaganda. Particularly, accusations of racism have been periodically raised against Tolkien and his works, a charge angrily denied by fans.

The anger behind these denials is understandable. Tolkien and his Middle-Earth are revered by many, not just as entertainment, but as a source of moral inspiration.

In an era when some progressives have even suggested it is impossible to be a conservative and a true artist, Tolkien is one of the most prominent conservative, Christian writers, academics and creative figures of the 20th Century.

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