by Niall Gooch
Monday, 5
July 2021
Reaction
12:10

The queering of The Lord of the Rings

Progressives think Sam and Frodo were more than good friends
by Niall Gooch
Deep, intimate friendships between male characters in LotR had little to do with sexual relationships.

The Tolkien Society. The very words conjure up certain images. Earnest, tweedy Englishmen with old-fashioned glasses and luxuriant beards, reading each other densely argued papers about Elvish grammar and little-known battles from the First Age. Long and complex arguments over pints of real ale in Oxford pubs, about the real significance of Tom Bombadil or the true causes of the Fall of Gondolin.

It would seem, however, that my stereotype is out of date. This weekend saw the Society’s annual conference, the agenda for which provoked anger and derision when it was made public last month. The call for papers had stressed that this year’s theme was to be identity and diversity, and attendees got it good and hard. Speaker after speaker discoursed on queerness and transgenderism, racism and sexism. Some of the paper titles were close to self-parody, with their talk of Othering and Problematics; my personal favourite was “Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien”.

Maybe next year we’ll get back to hearing the thoughts of the Reverend Peregrine Cocklecarrot, MA on the correct dating of the abandonment of Fornost, but I’m not especially optimistic, given the monomania that tends to mark progressive activists. Once they get their claws into an organisation, it is very difficult to get them out again. As Robert Conquest famously noted in his Second Law of Politics, “any organisation not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing”.

Naturally, the kerfuffle over the Tolkien Society’s “surrender to woke” created its own backlash. An essay argued that Tolkien had intended Sam Gamgee and Frodo Baggins to be read as gay lovers. The Guardian carried a piece suggesting that it would be no big deal if the forthcoming Lord Of The Rings TV series featured gay characters because, well, it’s all made up anyway, innit.

We face the age-old question of who gets to say what a work of fiction is really about. Conservative readers of Tolkien often note that the great man himself was a traditionalist, who stated that the saga had been written with a deliberately Catholic lens.

This assertion, while true, is not the whole story. You don’t sell 150 million copies without a certain breadth of appeal. Hippies famously loved Lord Of The Rings. Peter Jackson, who is not a Christian conservative, did an excellent job of bringing the book to the big screen. I am modern enough to accept that authorial intention can’t always be the last word in the interpretation of art — and I’ll even admit some of the papers at the Tolkien Society conference sounded quite interesting, notably the ones about disability and Soviet illustrations.

All the same, to use the Tolkien legendarium as a Trojan horse for a particular political agenda, which is alien to the text and which he would certainly have strongly disliked, is fundamentally disrespectful to, and contemptuous of, the book. Authorial intention isn’t always the last word, but it cannot be disregarded entirely. We know, for example, the experiences and archetypes that fed into Tolkien’s portrayal of deep, intimate friendships between male characters — notably the officer-batman bonds formed on the Western Front — and they had little to do with sexual relationships.

The temptation is to write this off as yet another meaningless culture war skirmish: small earthquake in Chile, no-one killed. On the contrary: the attempt by activists to colonise every area of cultural life with their faddish neuroses must be resisted by all those who enjoy books and films for their own sake.

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Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

As it happens, I sent the following comment to the debate under that Guardian article:
That looks like a textbook example of cultural appropriation to me. Or does it not count when it is for a deserving minority?
It was removed by moderator as contrary to guidelines. Hate speech??

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

No, an articulate point to which the left has no answer, so it gets deleted.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Everything posted in a Guardian thread that the paper’s staff don’t agree with is “hate speech”. I once got into an interesting discussion on the Guardian’s site with two gay men who, in fairness, were willing to engage and hear me out. But the mods were not. It’s the “bwana” mentality of the left in action. The modern equivalent of the White Man’s Burden. You have to cosset and mind the minorities because they’re too weak and fragile to look after themselves.

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
1 year ago

Well this gay man is with you on the rank hypocrisy of the Guardian’s comment mods. Buncha pearl clutching mimsies. I also agree with the author on this weird ‘queering Tolkien’ stuff. On the one hand, this is the kind of thing that Literary Criticism as an academic field does – reinterpretation through contemporary themes. On the other, I just wish they’d leave a wonderful series of books alone. I read them in my closeted teens while my mind was filled with some quite detailed homoerotic fantasies but the idea that Sam and Frodo were engaged in some surreptitious man on man action while Gandalf was off fighting the Balrog was not amongst them.
Then again, Gollum was very fixated on Frodo’s ring …

Richard Sutton
Richard Sutton
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Well this straight man appreciates your comments. And found your last sentence very very funny!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Uptick for the last sentence alone. Thinking about which – as a closeted gay teen can you recall any particular reason you were drawn to a book called The Lord of the Rings?

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Haha. Who knows? I’ll ask my shrink to recover some memories for me.

Last edited 1 year ago by Derek Bryce
David McDowell
David McDowell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It’s obvious isn’t it!

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

Bravissimo! If only I could give you 2 upvotes for that comment…

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Derek Bryce

There was an article in the New York Times magazine about Walt Whitman. How the references to loving other men indicated he was gay. Even vocabulary has been stilted. He meant no such thing. The love of which Whitman openly spoke was understood as humanity. The author of the article also cited the reference to “rivers of myself” as a gay reference.

Mark Cole
Mark Cole
1 year ago

A christian author clearly expressing deep friendship ,”brotherly love” in adversity, similar to that shown by all those died in the trenches fighting for their friends and “brothers”. Rather a twisted appropriation and a sad “pastime” of re reading old texts and actions out of context and in search for a controversial spin to lay claim to.

George Glashan
George Glashan
1 year ago

for the Guardianland types projecting queerness and sex into Tolkien, surely the Hobbits are first and foremost to be understood as children or childlike, why is it that Guardianland is trying to sexualise children?

Last edited 1 year ago by George Glashan
Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  George Glashan

Perhaps anyone who has read Tolkien was drawn because they’re actually gay. At least that might be the next assumption.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
1 year ago

Tolkien wasn’t just a Catholic, he was an ARCH Catholic, a convert to the Church in the days when it was in the fullness of its uncompromising, imperial, Thomistic beauty and glory. He’d turn in his grave to see this nonsense.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 year ago

I saw the list of the topics of debate and my primary thought was; what a huge waste of money our education system is. I don’t think it’s far wrong to say that most of the drivel that is produced, is purely because the proliferation of academics, has far exceeded the scope of topics of any academic value. At the risk of sounding like the woke; perhaps the best solution is to defund the universities. Tax payers money shouldn’t be paying for this rubbish.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matthew Powell
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago

cishetero

I was reading about him recently in ‘How Can Man Die Better‘. He was an inspirational commander and adept tactician who made his Zulu militia into perhaps the best light infantry in the world.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon Redman
Robert Hochbaum
Robert Hochbaum
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That’s pretty funny

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Tolkien? Really? I wasn’t aware he was a military officer, or that there ever had been a Zulu militia.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

And the cultural vandalism continues!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

“”””””””Peter Jackson, who is not a Christian conservative, did an excellent job of bringing the book to the big screen.”””””””””
HE DESTROYED THE BOOKS. Jackson was the absolutely wrong guy, he was terrible. Good settings, good actors, but then the Jacksonification, yechhhh

CS Lewis and Tolkin and their group fought in the trenches of WWI, they knew honour, ethics, morals, Christianity, courage, Nobility, comradery, death, terror…. then this Hollywood, shallow, secular, dude who would not know a single one of these traits if they bit him, does the story.

Like the guy who did the Narnia books, what a waste (and the actors were completely wrong). You need a director who is in the mould of the writer to really get the book across.
LOTR was a book of real worth and moral strength. The Jackson guy is the sort who should make the perversion kind of sword and blood and dragon sadistic movie like Game of Thrones. One where no soul is needed, just action and cruelty and wickedness, then Hollywood people can do those – but not where a actual human soul is at play as they have Portrait of Dorian Greyed theirs.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

the Narnia books, what a waste (and the actors were completely wrong)

I thought Edmund and Susan were well-cast and looked the part, although the latter’s acting was ho-hum. But the others were forgettable, and too much CGI. They did ever-diminishing box office as I recall.
My two favourite books in the series were The Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy, which could still be made even now if someone felt like reviving the franchise. They don’t require any of the original cast, because only in the latter do any – Edmund and Lucy – feature, and they’re adults.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I thought Peter and Susan were utter Prigs (Prig = ‘A person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner.’). Always exasperated and huffy and so obviously not at emotionally caught up in it at all, still back in Finchly emotionally. They were cast for their looks and accents – bad casting, like so much of the movie, looked great, rang hollow.
Lucy and Edmond were good enough.

My favorite was The Silver Chair, likely because ‘The Weird Stone of Brisengamon’ was likely my childhood favorite. (I read voraciously as a child, I had a capacity to live in my sort of wonderland of my imagination). I actually ended up doing a bit of extreme caving as a young adult, the underground world was so amazing to me from those books – I got really back in some increadable, and virtually unknown, caves. I have always been at home alone in the woods, and underground, and anywhere in nature. As a child in London I was off in the local woods constantly, daily, or off fishing (London has them everywhere , preserved as Greenbelt) and was as home alone at night in the woods as at home.

Moomentroll books were my favorites… and I always loved Snufkin, and identified with him and wondered of his mysterious travels, as when I left home I hit the road and lived out of a back pack 5 years just drifting alone and broke – always off to see what lay ahead….

I think in many ways I lived my childhood books impressions, and am still the person they created in me. I still am hours a day in the woods, the brush and marshes, and on the water, every day – I still am sort of a wild creature in how I am one with nature – I even went off and lived years in the far North remote bush – sort of the elves of Brisengamon, The Finnish Tagia need for the purity of the wild places and High North.

Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
1 year ago

I have no problem with the homosexualising of LOTRs, but I’d really rather they left Sam and Frodo out of it. Their friendship is an unusually sweet and true reflection of many real-life straight male friendships, specifically the special bond between two pre-pubescent boys. To bring sexual attraction into Sam and Frodo’s childlike relationship feels a little disturbing. Might I instead suggest an on-off romance between Gandolf and Gimli, as it wont interrupt the major narrative and they’re both dressed for it

Derek Bryce
Derek Bryce
1 year ago

Regardless where one sits on the ’queering’ of Lord of the Rings, you can pretty much guarantee someone in the gay porn industry went there years ago with some hilarious sub/dom skin flick no doubt entitled ‘Lord of my Ring’. Have a trawl through pornhub – bet it’s there.
I speak with some authority, having watched, back in the 90s, a VHS recording of a bad taste classic called ‘Batdude & Throbbin’ (spoiler alert they catch and ‘discipline’ supervillain the Poker and his evil sidekick, the French Tickler). How me and the rest of the gaggle of gays watching cackled at that one!

Scott Norman Rosenthal
Scott Norman Rosenthal
1 year ago

“Woke” are infiltrating disability. Society for Disability Studies(SDS) has been taken over. I was cut off from a conference in contravention of the rules by 2 “woke” who have taken control of the Board. They are, typically, younger people than have previously held the various posts in an organization.