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Review of Hobbit Party
By Renasha Chanthalangsy
Christian Ministries Major
Reviewed March 28, 2017


When the name Hobbit Party comes to mind, you may think the word “party” regarding a celebration. In reality, the book is a play on political issues. While most writers and researchers who read Tolkien's work tend to concentrate on the religious perspectives in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the writers, Jonathan Witt and Jay Richards, focus on its political environment. Tolkien’s time molded his views, and if we look close enough, we can find the financial examples in his compositions today.

In the book, the authors equate property and contract law with a broader sense of propriety and courtesy. Although Bilbo’s adventure begins with the reading of a record between Bilbo and “Thorin Oakenshield and Company,” Witt and Richards do not see this system merely as a practical one. They argue instead that it is part of general social graces, such as Bilbo’s manners and desire to do things “properly” (p. 33). They turn the Marxist cliche´ that “everything is economic” on its head and present a model in which the economic is a subcategory of courtesy and propriety. One follows contracts and respects the property of others not because a commercial law is enforced by an economically determined big government but rather because doing so is right and proper. This model acts as an unspoken assumption throughout the book. For example, in their examination of the One Ring and power, Witt and Richards recognize that the temptation of the Ring is not the power to do evil but rather the power to do good expeditiously. They see the power of evil versus good as one of “Domination versus Inspiration” (p. 73)—in other words, as doing things the customary way.

This view also guides their defense of the depiction of war in the books, arguing that the laws of just war neither reject war as intrinsically wrong nor weigh the potential outcomes as Saruman does. Instead, it points to the “use of moral judgment when dealing with the details of war and its aftermath” (p. 111). A just war is not solely for the purpose of moral good but is morally conveyed. Convenience governs everything, even the extreme violence of warfare.

The Hobbit Party calls us to stop and think about where we might be instead of feeling inclined just to be carried along by the adventure. Witt and Richards convince us that Tolkien had a much grander ambition which is to form the value of human freedom, the importance of the person as the image and likeness of God, and the morally wrong side-effects of the longing to rule over our fellow man. The driving force of the plot in The Lord of the Rings is this very truth; the ring was created for the purpose of overriding the free wills of other creatures and bending them to someone's purpose. It is useless for anything else, and every attempt to use the ring for anything other than its specific purpose will corrupt the user. The noblest characters in the novel are those who reject the temptation to use the ring or to enslave their fellow creatures even in the service of noble ends.

 

This book is a 'drop everything and read it' kind of book. Richards and Witt have opened up a frequently overlooked part of Tolkien's work. They specifically reveal how his myth indicates a political and financial request that stands in sharp, even vicious, complexity to the managing influence structures that demand this troubled planet. It ought to be made a requirement to peruse all courses with political reasoning and with a sense of freedom. This book is an unquestionable must read.