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29 June 2005 @ 11:38 am
Moorcock flips Tolkien the bird  
I sometimes think that as Britain declines, dreaming of a sweeter past, entertaining few hopes for a finer future, her middle-classes turn increasingly to the fantasy of rural life and talking animals, the safety of the woods that are the pattern of the paper on the nursery room wall. Old hippies, housewives, civil servants, share in this wistful trance; eating nothing as dangerous or exotic as the lotus, but chewing instead on a form of mildly anaesthetic British cabbage. If the bulk of American sf could be said to be written by robots, about robots, for robots, then the bulk of English fantasy seems to be written by rabbits, about rabbits and for rabbits.
— Michael Moorcock, Epic Pooh

Laying the smack down on Watership Down. The essay itself is a condemnation of trends in fantasy fiction in general, and J. R. R. Tolkien in particular. In its political analysis of a popular classic of a genre, it's sort of like Brin's essays denouncing Star Wars. However, while Brin's essays seem to come down to "I don't like it because it doesn't agree with my politics", Moorcock's is a lot more interesting (and better written): he ties it in to the sentimental, reactionary myth of Merrie Olde England.

The little hills and woods of that Surrey of the mind, the Shire, are 'safe', but the wild landscapes everywhere beyond the Shire are 'dangerous'. Experience of life itself is dangerous. The Lord of the Rings is a pernicious confirmation of the values of a declining nation with a morally bankrupt class whose cowardly self-protection is primarily responsible for the problems England answered with the ruthless logic of Thatcherism. Humanity was derided and marginalised. Sentimentality became the acceptable subsitute. So few people seem to be able to tell the difference.


I don't agree with everything Moorcock says—I still think The Lord of the Rings is great—but I love how he says it.
 
 
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Animalanimal_co on June 29th, 2005 10:40 pm (UTC)
I'm amazed at how few people see Watership Down as I saw it: Astute and clever social commentary.

I enjoyed Watership Down a lot. (The sequel, on the other hand, sucked.) I still re-read it every year or so.
Justin Grahamstr1 on June 30th, 2005 02:08 am (UTC)
I never read any of Moorcock's books, but from what friends of mine have said about his writing, he really doesn't have any business talking trash about Tolkien.
gwalla: king crimson fingergwalla on July 1st, 2005 02:29 am (UTC)
I read one of his Dancers at the End of Time books. It was definitely original.
wanderingbhikkhwanderingbhikkh on June 30th, 2005 07:25 am (UTC)
See, this is what I'd love to see more of in LJ.
wanderingbhikkhwanderingbhikkh on June 30th, 2005 07:49 am (UTC)
I feel he gets a mite diatribish towards the end, and never stops mocking the 'middle-class bourgeoise' under different names. And his high and mighty tone made me want to trout him one after awhile.

But there were a number of good nuggets there, and some of his words gave me inspiration to dig deep in the Arabian Nights and the Kwaidan.
cholma: blankcholma on July 4th, 2005 01:43 am (UTC)
The funny thing is that Tolkien hated allegories and denied that LotR was ever a social commentary, but people have constantly tried to fit the story to World War I and other major events in Earth's history. Why can't people be happy with a story as a story, instead of always trying to find deeper meaning or hidden symbology in them?
gwalla: king crimson fingergwalla on July 9th, 2005 03:31 am (UTC)
I don't think Moorcock is claiming that Tolkien meant for it to be allegorical, just that it's the product of a certain nostalgic bourgeois (and in Moorcock's view, head-in-the-sand and reactionary) mindset.