Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Tea-party hobbits? Hardly, say indignant Tolkien scholars.

Sen. John McCain's disparaging comparison between tea-party politicians and the small contented creatures from 'Lord of the Rings' has brought scholars, Gandalf-like, to the rescue.

(Page 2 of 2)

(Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, a leading tea party member, appears to agree. Calling hobbits "heroes" and McCain a “troll,” he said, “I’d rather be a hobbit than a troll.")

Skip to next paragraph

Frodo Baggins and his uncle Bilbo Baggins are the most famous hobbits in Tolkien’s trilogy, much of which was written during World War II. The novels center around a drama where Frodo and friends leave their beloved homes to help a series of trolls, fairies, elves, and humans destroy an evil ring controlled by the disembodied, demonic force of Sauron.

Mr. Fisher, author of the recent “Tolkien and the Study of His Sources,” is sure that hobbits have little in common with the Tea Party, whose members are mostly white southerners who have not so far appeared on the House floor without shoes, as hobbits would.

“Hobbits are agrarian, simple, they don’t have guns, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t complain their rights are infringed,” says Fisher, a German medieval scholar who lives in Dallas. “The Tea Party is about being dissatisfied. They feel they’ve given too much and gotten too little in return. This isn’t how hobbits think. Hobbits are content. They are about preserving the status quo; the tea party is about changing the status quo.”

Tolkien’s hobbits are between two and four feet tall with oversized hairy feet, and long skillful fingers. Contentment is their main virtue. They reside in “the Shire,” part of Tolkien’s imagined “Middle Earth,” and eat many breakfasts every day, love a well-tended garden and festivals. They live in holes, “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell,” as Tolkien famously describes, “nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The Lord of the Rings films by Peter Jackson marked a global rebirth of interest in Tolkien’s work in recent years. Mr. Jackson is currently at work on a two-part film, “The Hobbit,” after Tolkien’s beloved children’s story that preceded his later trilogy. It is due out at the end of 2012.

After the Lord of the Rings references in the Senate, both Hammond and Fisher confirm, there was a viral moment of anger among Tolkien scholars and among a vast Tolkien blogosphere. But it disappeared quickly. “Mostly there was a large murmer of agreement about how absurd these comparisons are,” Fisher says.


Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story