Someone told me that McCain was getting flak for comparing Tea Partiers to Hobbits. “You mean the little dudes from Tolkien?” I said. I didn’t believe it. Nothing is too silly for politics but who’s got a beef with Hobbits? Did McCain read the books?
It’s true. McCain haplessly quoted an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal which compared Tea partiers to Hobbits. Not one of his brighter moves.
I was mystified. What’s wrong with Hobbits? I love Tolkien. His signature creation, Hobbits, are one of the greatest literary devices since the Greek Chorus. Every story needs a hero. Tolkien needed heroes too. But heroes are usually portrayed as glitzy assholes who stomp around smashing things. Testosterone soaked behemoths starting wars, slaying dragons, slaying opponents, slaying each other, and… Well that’s about it. They slay stuff (and occasionally get laid…but only after the slaying has been well and truly hammered home). Sometimes they feel bad about it (like Achilles) and sometimes they don’t (like Beowulf)…but there’s scant room for humility in the average hero. Tolkien knew that humility is among the greatest of character traits.
So Tolkien created Hobbits to be heroes grounded in humility and simplicity. Hobbits don’t like fighting. They’re capable of enlightened self-defense but would rather just avoid trouble. Hobbits aren’t princes or kings, wizards or warriors; they’re unimportant gardeners. Genius! Had Tolkien churned out a generic gore fest led by the usual sword wielding bodybuilder he’d be long forgotten by now.
Tolkien’s Hobbits are the antidote to Thor/Hercules/RoboCop. Tolkien showcased the triumph of common everyday decency, morality, and resolve. His pleasant, overfed, peaceful Hobbits enhance the story’s scale. He threw his innocent but not naïve characters into a world of epic mayhem and violence. He made them walk amid wizards, face dragons, and parley with otherworldly elves. They had to swim against the tide in a universe awash in currents of power and evil beyond anything in their simple honest little world. End result? An exceptionally good story with a unique type of hero.
How can it possibly be bad to be compared to Tolkien’s decent and honest little heroes?