J. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings had political messages (and economic messages, and cultural messages, etc.) that contributed, if subtly, to making these enormously popular books–and the films based on them–among the most influential and best loved works of art of the past century. However, the didactic back-story has not been well explored: until now.
Two Discovery Institute fellows, Jay W. Richards and Jonathan Witt, are authors of The Hobbit Party, coming out this time next month. Prepare for it to start appearing in book clubs, cocktail party banter and maybe debates.
I have not read the book yet, obviously, but I know that both authors think of The Shire less as a place than a frame of mind and a kind of culture. On semi-rural Vashon Island, off Seattle in Puget Sound, this weekend, I met with one of the people who is mentioned in the book. He does not have large hairy feet, but he does have a way of life that meets the criteria of virtue, good spirits and hard work that Tolkien had in mind. I would have said so myself, but Richards and Witt beat me to it.
It helps my un-Hobbit-like pride that Jay Richards and his family lived in my wife’s and my farmhouse on Vashon last winter while the Hobbit Party manuscript was in progress. My question in reading the result will be, how hard it is for people to opt into Shire citizenship. Do I have to give up TV? Well, I’ve mostly done that already. What else?
Jay and Jonathan are old friends who both hail from Texas originally and have worked together at Discovery Institute and Acton Institute (in Grand Rapids). Jay has written and lectured on science and culture, as well as economics. (He co-authored The Privileged Planet with Guillermo Gonzalez and Indivisible with James Robison. Jonathan Witt co-authored, among other things, A Meaningful World, with Ben Wiker. In addition to maintaining their Discovery affiliation, both men are helping James Robison launch a new internet aggregating site that will be announced soon and headquartered in Dallas.