Former Archbishop of Canterbury on Tolkien as a warning against fascism

Here's former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on J.R.R. Tolkien, often seen as a reactionary but also the creator of a myth of Englishness completely opposed to fascism and other rotten boughs of capitalism.

So, how do we now respond to Tolkien’s imagined world, a world that is hierarchical, notoriously short on female agents, and which was accused by the poet Edwin Muir of being populated exclusively by different-sized schoolboys? As with Lewis, the complaint about implied misogyny is regularly coupled with worries about racial stereotyping, the romanticising of violence and the reduction of moral issues to cosmic battles between absolutes.

It is worth noting that Peter Jackson’s superbly visualised film versions of Tolkien’s novels if anything intensify some of these problems. But things are not quite that simple. ...

...he ends up writing, despite himself, a story that is more of a novel than a myth. Myths have no authors, it has been said. Even with the apparatus of invented language and ethnography, Tolkien’s history and “legendary” are haunted by the self-awareness of a particular type of 20th-century author: English, Catholic, academic, intensely aware of the devastation of a very specific England by industrialisation and urbanisation, more stoical than optimistic, yearning for a shared social narrative that would reaffirm certain solidarities of faith and mutual respect; deeply conservative but just as deeply opposed to unexamined power and the tyranny of profit.