Imperialism In Lord Of The Rings

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J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) is a difficult (often cumbersome) read and a problematic text to criticize. The novel1 has elicited contradictory responses, from ecstatic admirations for its broad, epical sweep to supercilious dismissals for its jejune simplifications. A sequel to the more enjoyable The Hobbit: There and Back Again (1937), The Lord of the Rings invites us to dive deeper to appreciate the multiple meanings hidden underneath. The most popular, among these multiple meanings, must be the one which detects contemporary resonance embedded in the text. Written during the troubled years of the World War II, the novel cannot be dissociated with obvious allegorical readings. Tolkien himself has denied the presence…show more content…
It was Alfred Crosby who introduced the term ‘ecological imperialism’ to designate this form of environmental destruction caused under the supervision of Western imperialism. According to him, European imperialism is integrally associated with invading the indigenous region with ‘portmanteau biota’ (his collective term for the organisms brought by the colonizers) and/or exploiting the natural resources for their own benefit. In fact, there is a direct correlation between Western imperialism and environmental degradation in the colonized countries. The European colonizers created ‘Neo-Europes’ in regions which are climatically similar to the European countries, they were apparently less successful in the Middle East, China and Indian subcontinent. But this apparent failure is more than compensated by the unrelenting destruction of natural resources, flora and fauna, for their mercenary gains. Saruman’s desire to colonize the forest through a mass-scale ecological destruction associates him with the colonizers who relate “progress” with destruction of natural…show more content…
Tolkien himself has not helped the readers by refusing to elaborate on the role he is playing in the novel. Whatever he slips out, adds more to the element of confusion. In a letter to Naomi Mitchison, Tolkien states that “Tom Bombadil is not an important person — to the narrative. I suppose he has some importance as a ‘comment’. . . . [I]f you have, as it were taken ‘a vow of poverty’, renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the rights and wrongs of power might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is war.”5 He appears primarily in three chapters of The Fellowship of the Rings when he saves the hobbits from the Old Man Willow, gives them shelter in his house for couple of nights and saves them again from the barrow-wights. He is often viewed as the natural man, living in harmony with the natural world. I refuse to fall in line with this optimistic reading as Tom Bombadil doesn’t appeal me as a lover of nature. He is not even an extension of Beorn’s character in The Hobbit. In Tolkien’s earlier poem “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil”, Tom rather is seen fighting with the natural world, rivers and trees. His prime adversaries were the river-spirit Goldberry and the wily Old Man Willow.

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