105: TOLKIEN SPEAKS TO US TODAY
THE CONCLUSION OF LORD OF THE RINGS, THE SCOURING OF THE SHIRE, IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW
Near the end of Tolkien’s masterpiece is a chapter describing how the Hobbits returned to their home country and found a disaster that in some ways mirrors today’s.
The point of this post is that we are not in a unique or novel situation. Tolkien, Orwell, and many others through the ages wrote about times like ours, and our parents and grandparents lived through them. We face ancient human evils. Once we know this, we understand that we must act as our forefathers acted—with courage, sacrifice, and resolution.
Back to Tolkien:
The land looked rather sad and forlorn… (and there was) an unusual amount of burning going on, and smoke rose from many points round about…
Through rows of new mean houses along each side of the road, they saw the new mill in all its frowning and dirty ugliness: a great brick building straddling the stream, which it fouled with a steaming and stinking overflow. All along the Bywater Road every tree had been felled.
As they crossed the bridge and looked up the Hill they gasped… The Old Grange on the west side had been knocked down, and its place taken by rows of tarred sheds. All the chestnuts were gone. The banks and hedgerows were broken. Great waggons were standing in disorder in a field beaten bare of grass. Bagshot Row was a yawning sand and gravel quarry…
Predators had grabbed power and were stealing from everyone:
'What's the matter with the place?' said Merry. 'Has it been a bad year, or what? I thought it had been a fine summer and harvest.'
'Well no, the year's been good enough,' said Hob. 'We grows a lot of food, but we don't rightly know what becomes of it. It's all these "gatherers" and "sharers", I reckon, going round counting and measuring and taking off to storage. They do more gathering than sharing, and we never see most of the stuff again.'
There were new laws, free speech was gone, and businesses were closed:
On every wall there was a notice and a list of Rules…
The leader of the Shirriffs, a two-feather hobbit [said] 'You're arrested for Gate-breaking, and Tearing up of Rules, and Assaulting Gate-keepers, and Trespassing, and Sleeping in Shire-buildings without Leave, and Bribing Guards with Food.'
And what's all this about the inn being closed?'
'They're all closed,' said Robin. 'The Chief doesn't hold with beer. Leastways that is how it started. But now I reckon it's his Men that has it all. And he doesn't hold with folk moving about; so if they will or they must, then they has to go to the Shirriff-house and explain their business.'
The Shire had its own politicians, billionaires, corruption, and even a bogus leader:
'It all began with Pimple, as we call him,' said Farmer Cotton; 'and it began as soon as you'd gone off, Mr. Frodo. He'd funny ideas had Pimple. Seems he wanted to own everything himself, and then order other folk about. It soon came out that he already did own a sight more than was good for him; and he was always grabbing more, though where he got the money was a mystery: mills and malt-houses and inns, and farms, and leaf-plantations. He'd already bought Sandyman's mill before he came to Bag End, seemingly.
'Of course he started with a lot of property in the Southfarthing which he had from his dad; and it seems he'd been selling a lot o' the best leaf, and sending it away quietly for a year or two. But at the end o' last year he began sending away loads of stuff, not only leaf. Things began to get short, and winter coming on, too. Folk got angry, but he had his answer. A lot of Men, ruffians mostly, came with great waggons, some to carry off the goods south-away, and others to stay. And more came. And before we knew where we were they were planted here and there all over the Shire, and were felling trees and digging and building themselves sheds and houses just as they liked. At first goods and damage was paid for by Pimple; but soon they began lording it around and taking what they wanted.
'Then there was a bit of trouble, but not enough. Old Will the Mayor set off for Bag End to protest, but he never got there. Ruffians laid hands on him and took and locked him up in a hole in Michel Delving, and there he is now. And after that, it would bc soon after New Year, there wasn't no more Mayor, and Pimple called himself Chief Shirriff, or just Chief, and did as he liked; and if anyone got "uppish" as they called it, they followed Will. So things went from bad to worse. There wasn't no smoke left, save for the Men; and the Chief didn't hold with beer, save for his Men, and closed all the inns; and everything except Rules got shorter and shorter, unless one could hide a bit of one's own when the ruffians went round gathering stuff up "for fair distribution": which meant they got it and we didn't, except for the leavings which you could have at the Shirriff-houses, if you could stomach them. All very bad. But since Sharkey came it's been plain ruination.'
Pimple's idea was to grind more and faster, or so he said. He's got other mills like it. But you've got to have grist before you can grind; and there was no more for the new mill to do than for the old. But since Sharkey came they don't grind no more corn at all. They're always a-hammering and a-letting out a smoke and a stench, and there isn't no peace even at night in Hobbiton. And they pour out filth a purpose; they've fouled all the lower Water and it's getting down into Brandywine. If they want to make the Shire into a desert, they're going the right way about it. I don't believe that fool of a Pimple's behind all this. It's Sharkey, I say.'
So the hobbits revolted, “raising the Shire:”
'Now! Wake all our people! They hate all this, you can see: all of them except perhaps one or two rascals and a few fools that want to be important, but don't at all understand what is really going on. But Shire-folk have been so comfortable so long they don't know what to do. They just want a match, though, and they'll go up in fire. The Chief's Men must know that. They'll try to stamp on us and put us out quick. We've only got a very short time.
[They cried and blew their horn] Awake! Awake! Fear, Fire, Foes. Awake!
Fire, Foes! Awake!
As soon as [the Shirriffs] saw how things were, most of them took off their feathers and joined in the revolt. The others slunk away.
“The Battle of Bywater” resulted, and several hundred died.
[At the start, the Hobbits were challenged:] 'Who are you, and what d'you think you're doing?' said the ruffian-leader.
Farmer Cotton looked at him slowly. 'I was just going to ask you that,' he said. 'This isn't your country, and you're not wanted.'
There rose a roar of voices all round them, and suddenly they were aware that Farmer Cotton was not all alone. They were surrounded. In the dark on the edge of the firelight stood a ring of hobbits that had crept up out of the shadows. There was nearly two hundred of them, all holding some weapon.
Although Tolkien denied it, his observers have always thought this chapter was metaphorical and possibly about Britain after WWII. His description of the lies, suppression of dissent, and selling totalitarianism using failed socialist ideas are close to our world today. We now have millions dead from a manufactured virus, and millions more are being murdered with a poisonous vaccine and by withholding true therapies. All this is being done to gather power and wealth into the hands of a few. What is happening is ancient, recurrent, and even Biblical. It should surprise no historian.
Since our tale is still being written, we must still fight. Monstrous evil still stalks among us, and it could win. But there are many more of us than there are “ruffians,” so we will prevail if we defend ourselves. Disappointingly, many of our warriors are immigrants, for they understand America’s hope better than most of us do. I beg all of you to stand with us. It is not over.
Awake! Awake! Fear, Fire, Foes.
Awake! Fire, Foes! Awake!