Understanding the Hobbitt Through Chesterton

The Dude has a point here:

The company of Dwarves isn\’t the hand-picked band of mighty warriors that the Fellowship of the Ring was, but ordinary (if short) blokes united by faith and loyalty. This is a thread which runs through all Tolkein\’s work: the idea that free people thrust into extraordinary situations will do remarkable things. Tolkein never claimed to have been influenced by his experiences on the Western Front in 1916, but it\’s clear he was. He asserted there to be no analogy to the second world war in his books.

Gandalf\’s greatest insight is that Hobbits – a sort of idealised rustic Englishman were a better bulwark against evil than the great princes and warriors of greater strength and fame, who\’re too easily corrupted by power. This is perhaps the reason the mythological cycle of which the Hobbit forms a part is so appealing to the Anglo-Saxon world: it speaks to a dimly remembered folk-memory of doughty farmers and nascent local democracy dating from the dark-ages. The idea that we\’re free, and they\’re not.

And it\’s very similar to Chesterton\’s point here:

Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget,
For we are the people of England, that never has spoken yet.
There is many a fat farmer that drinks less cheerfully,
There is many a free French peasant who is richer and sadder than we.
There are no folk in the whole world so helpless or so wise.
There is hunger in our bellies, there is laughter in our eyes;
You laugh at us and love us, both mugs and eyes are wet:
Only you do not know us. For we have not spoken yet.
….
They have given us into the hands of the new unhappy lords,
Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords.
They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes;
They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies.
And the load of their loveless pity is worse than the ancient wrongs,
Their doors are shut in the evenings; and they know no songs.

We hear men speaking for us of new laws strong and sweet,
Yet is there no man speaketh as we speak in the street.
It may be we shall rise the last as Frenchmen rose the first,
Our wrath come after Russia\’s wrath and our wrath be the worst.
It may be we are meant to mark with our riot and our rest
God\’s scorn for all men governing. It may be beer is best.
But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.

It might be that this is all wromantic and wrong. Certainly it\’s very much out of place with this modern world. But I do think this is at the heart of the English exception. Hmm, perhaps English isn\’t quite right. Some bloody minded mixture of Anglo Saxon and Viking perhaps. The basic underlying reaction to plans and order and regulation and systems and high falutin\’ ideas being, yes, lovely, now bugger off and what time does the pub open these days?

It\’s why the bureaucrat with his clipboard is a standard figure of fun in England. In a way that the fonctionnaire is not in France. Our default is just that we\’ll manage quite well on our own thank you.

18 comments on “Understanding the Hobbitt Through Chesterton

  1. ….or indeed Kipling….

    “My son,” said the Norman Baron, “I am dying, and you will be heir
    To all the broad acres in England that William gave me for share
    When he conquered the Saxon at Hastings, and a nice little handful it is.
    But before you go over to rule it I want you to understand this:–

    “The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
    But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
    When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
    And grumbles, ‘This isn’t fair dealing,’ my son, leave the Saxon alone.

    “You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
    But don’t try that game on the Saxon; you’ll have the whole brood round your ears.
    From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
    They’ll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

    “But first you must master their language, their dialect, proverbs and songs.
    Don’t trust any clerk to interpret when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
    Let them know that you know what they’re saying; let them feel that you know what to say.
    Yes, even when you want to go hunting, hear ‘em out if it takes you all day.

    They’ll drink every hour of the daylight and poach every hour of the dark.
    It’s the sport not the rabbits they’re after (we’ve plenty of game in the park).
    Don’t hang them or cut off their fingers. That’s wasteful as well as unkind,
    For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher makes the best man- at-arms you can find.

    “Appear with your wife and the children at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
    Be polite but not friendly to Bishops; be good to all poor parish priests.
    Say ‘we,’ ‘us’ and ‘ours’ when you’re talking, instead of ‘you fellows’ and ‘I.’
    Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper; and never you tell ‘em a lie!”

  2. Er, the bureaucrat with the clipboard is now in charge of England. Something to do with Blair, I think.

    Yes, it’s hard for those of us Englishmen who no longer live in England to appreciate just how bureacuratized the country has become, but I am assured it has.

    Also Tolkein denied all sorts of blindingly obvious things about LOTR, such as the parallels with Wagner’s Ring. I guess he was humorously bullshitting the critics.

  3. Mmmmmm…..
    That Chesterton poem defines exactly what is wrong with the English. Not the words but the poem itself. That’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it? Others may rebel & riot but the English are not so easily provoked. We will bide our time but when we are roused our anger will inspire fear in our enemies.
    All a complete load of bollocks. When was the last time the English got out of their pram? 1940. With Hitler’s army at the Pas de Calais. After a shambles in France & blame it all on the French.
    You could ram anything down the English throat & we’ll gag swallow & beg for more. Probably about the most gutless nation in Europe.

  4. And yet we’ve won every battle that mattered, with the sole exception of the tragedy in 1066.

    I remember reading that in North Africa, the Germans and British had the highest respect for each other but that both sides despised the Italians and the French.

    It is the English genius to want to live as they wish and let others do also. That’s not “gutless”, that’s good manners.

    The rise of the EDL shows that English “antibodies” are forming against an infection poisoning that tolerant “live-and let-live” culture. Because the one thing that an Open Society cannot tolerate is Intolerance.

  5. “It is the English genius to want to live as they wish and let others do also. That’s not “gutless”, that’s good manners”

    Amen to that

  6. “And yet we’ve won every battle that mattered, with the sole exception of the tragedy in 1066.”
    Do you want a list we didn’t?
    American War of Independence, for a start. Although thank heavens the right side won in that one.
    But it’s not foreign enemies, is it? It’s the enemy at home. The one that’s camped in Westminster.
    & every town hall in the country. We need a new English flag. Just remove that superfluous red cross from it & it’d suit us fine.
    ““It is the English genius to want to live as they wish” And the English lack of guts prevents us from insisting that we do.

  7. BiS, spot on. England is a land of craven, enervated, chippy wretches. This misty-eyed romanticism is embarrassing.

  8. Yes, I have to say that the naysayers are right on this one. Curtain twitching and banning are national sports.

  9. Though of course eugenics is an evil pseudo-science, dysgenics ain’t. You can see its results all over the country.

    (Lest their be any doubt, I’m referring to the indigenous here.)

  10. It’s not embarrassing, Mr Lud. It’s deluded.
    From our host:
    “It’s why the bureaucrat with his clipboard is a standard figure of fun in England. In a way that the fonctionnaire is not in France”
    Since when, Tim? Since a Carry On film from the ’50s? The bureaucrat is the guy goes to a secret court gets a protection order has someone’s children pulled out their beds in the middle of the night. A court they can’t even give evidence to, why not. The figure of fun with the clipboard can shut your business & take away your livelihood at the stroke of a pen. That’s comedy?
    French don’t find les fonctionnaires amusing because they don’t like them. French guy I know inherited the family spirit distilling licence. The official still is in the shed next the farmhouse. The one where he makes the other few thousand litres the locals consume is in a barn up the field. Any fonctionairre goes sniffing round that one had better be prepared for a whole world of grief. He’s in very hostile territory.

  11. I’d just like to add my name to the bis, Ed Lud, Rob axis of realism here. That stuff about winning every battle sums up the superficiality of the English romantic myth, it just isn’t true and what about those we may have won but had absolutely no bloody need to have fought in the first place ? A long and dishonourable list.

  12. “Our default is just that we’ll manage quite well on our own thank you”

    Well it was once, and maybe could be again, but we seem to going through a temporary lapse.

  13. There’s nothing to get misty eyed about when your Welsh! Its shit and the people are a bunch of inbred, back stabbing, commies. I emigrated as soon as I could

  14. Do you mind MakajazMakako. It’s us English we’re knocking here, not the sheep shaggers. Get yer own thread an stay off our turf.

  15. I thought of the same Kipling verse that Spartacus posted.

    Sadly Britain and England is a third world sewer now, the women are fat drunken slags, the men thuggish halfwits. I pray for invasion so I can help them destroy everything.

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