On Tolkien

The Common Places of Siliconía
4 min readApr 4, 2024


On Tolkien 1.1

The Red Book of Westmarch is an awful lot of backstory for about 100 lines of poetry in Beowulf (2214–2310)

Tolkien and Grief. Frodo is one of the most famous examples of PTSD in modern literature. He suffers two days a year from the knifing at Weathertop and the sting of Shelob. He finally removes himself from his happy agrarian life to an island spa where elves feed him cookies.


The Epicurianism:
p290 “The Hobbit”

The Literary Club — “The Inklings”, Pub Life. Trying to build new myths. “Beowulf and Beer”, “The Endangered Art of Male Friendship”. Tactically laughing to push back the strategic grief.

5.1 The political dimension of Lewis — Tolkien Friendship. Lewis became an Anglican. Not a Catholic. Why?

Tie this in with Umberto Eco and the shift from 1860 to 1964. Dad, the journals. There is a lot here to deal with. Lot of archives.


“The Xian Myth is a myth. Except that it’s true.” That seems rather convenient. Tolkien, Lewis, Rene Girard, and Richard Rorty.

Imagined Communities


“How is your hobbit?”, “The unpayable debt” (to Lewis). Tolkien is a Modernist Writer coequal to Joyce and Faulkner. He is not merely escapist fantasy. Tolkien is discussing the profound disruption of Modernity from 1860 to 1914 on life in England. This was a universal phenomenon, seen globally during the same time period. Industrial Economies destroy Agrarian Feudal economies. We see this over and over again. EG — The US Civil War, the Liberal Conservative Wars in Mexico, the Prussian State. ((possibly. Junkers versus Industrialization I know nothing about. Long conversation. I dunno. Maybe.) The Meiji Restoration, the later May 4th movement in China etc
From the establishment of the simple life of the agrarian hobbits and their joy of good food, ale, and merriment in the beginnings of the Hobbit to the very end of the Return of the King where the Shire is scoured by Sharkey and Grima
Tolkien is the equivalent of Joyce AND Faulkner together — the language play of Finnegan’s Wake combined with the World Building of Yoknaptawpha County. Part of the reason Tolkien got shat upon by serious academia was that he simply wasn’t progressive. I will not defend Tolkien’s politics or the politics of Vatican I Catholicism. But his vision of life as Agrarian Simplicity and Conviviality is worth taking seriously. Albeit, politically, it glosses over the profound issues of class, race, slavery, roles of women etc. that is all there in the corpus. Neither attacking nor defending that. I’m more interested in Tolkien signaling the disruptions of the period from 1860 to 1914. Tolkien is reactionary. 100%. But his reactions need to be taken seriously.

“On The Shield of Beowulf”

The Parable of Coltrane. Versus Mingus who just did whatever the hell he wanted to.

Like every other Gen X’er white boy in Texas, I learned to play the blooze by listening to Classic Rock. However, unlike the Modern Era, where All Music Is Available All the Time Everywhere, we had one limiting factor — the number of lawns mowed. You couldn’t just get on YouTube or Spotify and listen to an entire discography at once. Napster was 10 years away. In the old days you had to earn your music — one lawn at a time, one CD at a time. Literally, get off my fucking lawn.

In 8th grade, I had mowed enough lawns to purchase the Led Zeppelin discography in chronological order. By “Ramble On”, it was obvious to me that I needed to read The Hobbit. I read it and loved it. Of course, being raised as an experimental Jungian Wolf-child. Gods and monsters, the hero’s quest in a form interesting and accessible, in a somewhat Celtic form — what Catholic school boy wouldn’t love The Hobbit? Then later that Fall and winter, I read LOTR. I remember tearing through Twin Towers over four days during Thanksgiving brea, instead of reading my assignments — some crap like Anthem by Ayn Rand or equally sophomoric a text. This might have been the semester I got a 69 in my honors English class. My father was pissed.

English Teacher father. Nolan. I didn’t touch English with a ten foot pole as a college major, instead choosing Philosophy and Spanish Lit. Father dies. I realized I’d never read Beowulf.

LOTR comes out. Massive hit. Working at Barnes and Noble, I start reading all the available LOTR/Tolkien and I realize that I need to finally read Beowulf. Some weird psychological block. I read it and love it. Eminem was originally done in Anglo-Saxon and Beowulf is what Eminem sounds like in the original Anglo-Saxon. Excessive violence and lots of drinking. Beowulf fucking rips Grendel’s arm off and beats him with it. What’s not to love. Than the Dragon. Ahhhh the Dragon. More on that in Chapter 1.

Take aways :
The Keening of the Geat women on line 3150–3155. I read that with fear and foreboding. We know the name of his sword, Naegling. I do not know the name of Beowulf’s shield. Should shields even have names? If it protects you from a hail of arrows or a blast of dragon fire, seems like that should merit a name as well.

But the Aegis of Beowulf, yes I know Aegis is Greek. Never be afraid to go off and do your own thing. Aesthetically, you might want to keep up with fashion, but you get caught in a trap of being dictated by memetics and aesthetic whims of crowds.