gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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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.
Tags: essays & commentary

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