Similar Vision, Essential Difference: Mass Violence in Tolkien and Le Guin

Jamie Campbell Martin

Abstract


J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin put forward similar visions of the good society. Tolkiens Hobbits inThe Lord of the Ringsand Le Guins Athsheans inThe Word for World Is Foresteachmodel a community that is peaceful, nature-loving, and non-expansionist. Yet Tolkiens belief in the need for just war contrasts with Le Guins pacifism. In 'The Scouring of the Shire', a final chapter ofThe Lord of the Rings, Tolkien argues that to flourish, the Shire must be willing to employ violence in self-defense and to accord a lesser moral status to outsiders. Peaceful without being pacifist, the Shire reaches a stable equilibrium, safe from any invaders. To the Le Guin of the Vietnam era, in contrast, only true pacifism is stable for Athshean society. The Athshean demotion of their invaders to lesser moral status, undertaken in self-defense, nonetheless brings about a downward spiral that suggests future indiscriminate war.


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