Flat White

The Lord of the Woke

6 July 2021

3:00 PM

6 July 2021

3:00 PM

James Ronald Ruel Tolkien was an English academic with a particular interest in Anglo-Saxon languages and legends and philology. He wrote one charming children’s book, The Hobbit, then a grander extended work of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, which was released into a world freshly enlivened by the new and unfamiliar scents of marijuana smoke and patchouli oil.

The hippies loved the book and his son Christopher loved the money it bought in, publishing virtually any scribblings of his father’s bar the shopping list over 50 years before he finally carked it last year.

And so The Lord of the Rings exists at two levels. There’s the crassly commercial, best represented by Peter Jackson’s abominable films, and the hippy-dippy.


Hippies, of course, were all into opening the mind to new realms of possibility. Unfortunately, a little subset still obsessed by Tolkein and clearly still fond of the odd toke — if not something stronger — has taken his work and plonked Middle-Earth down firmly in Wokeworld.

For what else are we to make of these sessions offered over the northern weekend at the Tolkien Society’s Summer Seminar?

  • Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings
  • The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’
  • The Problem of Pain: Portraying Physical Disability in the Fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkien
  • “The Burnt Hand Teaches Most About Fire”: Applying Traumatic Stress and Ecological Frameworks to Narratives of Displacement and Resettlement Across Cultures in Tolkien’s Middle-earth
  • The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism
  • Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!
  • “Something Mighty Queer”: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien
  • Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Just last Friday, when a piece appeared in The Guardian with the title “Future Lord of the Rings films should acknowledge the book’s queer leanings“, we thought it was just The Guardian being The Guardian. We now stand corrected.

Those familiar with Tolkiens oeuvre will know that the Elves are always leaving Middle-Earth, sailing, sailing west.

Now we know why. They’re desperate to escape these nonsensical interpretations of their home.

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