Monday, 26 September 2011

A note on Hobbit government

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Hobbits were not Men (or, at least, they were a very distinctive race of Men - long separated) - in particular they were much less status-seeking than men, and less aggressive. A different species naturally has a different form of government.

Despite the apparent 'anarchy' of the Shire at the beginning of Lord of the Rings; overall, I think that Tolkien advocated a religious monarchy, somewhat on the Byzantine model - Gondor under the Kings (before the Stewards) was the nearest thing in the Third Age - and the link between Gondor and Constantinople is explicit in Tolkien's private writings (although the religion in Gondor was extremely vestigial), but Numenor was a more exact parallel.

In other words, Numenor/ Gondor was a monarchy that united spiritual and secular leadership - in which God chose the King, and the King represented God to his people.

Divine sanction was revealed in LotR by Aragorn's 'miracles' of healing - and healing of a type only he could achieve (curing the Black Breath of the Nazgul King).

The authority of the King was absolute, except that he must not go against the will of God (implicitly) - and it just happened to be the King Aragorn's judgment and will (for the good of his subjects) that he left The Shire to govern itself (subject to protection from the King's Men).

A good, kind King would have regarded Hobbits rather as we regard children or mentally-incompetent persons - creating for them a protected environment where they can conduct their own games safely.

But Hobbits could not, and probably should not, be integrated into the world of Men - there could only be some kind of parallel Hobbit society - else they would have been enslaved by bad men.

(I would *guess* - no supporting evidence that I know of - that the Rangers had for centuries been preventing this from happening in Bree, while they were also protecting the Shire Hobbits from invasion).

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6 comments:

Dale said...

Historically, problems always arise when the two realms of God's governance are mixed up.

God governs by the Gospel in the Church, that is, by love. The Church's primary responsibility is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins for Christ's sake, the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with God's Word by means of the office of the Holy Ministry, etc. "My Kingdom is not of this world." The Church brings good news to guilty sinners. It tells them that God is reconciled to them for Christ's sake. To be sure, it must excommunicate from its fellowship and its sacraments those sinners who are publicly impenitent. The Church is to pass on, faithfully, the deposit of the Faith and so to make disciples.

God governs "indirectly" by reason and even by fear in the secular realm. The state's primary responsibility is the maintenance of justice for the sake of good order. Officers of the state have the vocation of formulating and enforcing good laws. The innocent are to be protected and the guilty are to be punished. The state is not to devote itself to reforming evildoers. Heaven help anyone who falls into the clutches of governments that set themselves to "cure" people. Of course, all modern states do set themselves to do just that, to some degree at least. See C. S. Lewis's "Humanitarian Theory of Punishment" for why this is so bad. The state operates on the basis of reason rather than faith. It is not supposed to dictate to people what they are to believe. The state may rightly use fear to curb proclivity towards bad actions. The recent English rioters clearly were not afraid of serious punishment. They thus damaged private property with impunity; soon after, various pundits set themselves, often with little warrant or expertise, to "explain" and even to justify this hooliganism. To the extent that officers of the government (such as police constables) put themselves in the position of condoning criminality, they are betraying their calling and frustrating the purposes of the God who has established earthly government. It's hard times for the law-abiding when this happens, though it may be a fun time to be a lawbreaker. To get a kick again, the lawbreaker will need to escalate the degree of the offense....

When Church and secular government get mixed, the Church is apt to take upon itself the state's agendas, with the lamentable results we have seen in various totalitarian states but also in relatively free ones. Pastors do not have the vocation of enlisting parishioners in state campaigns. Pastors are not to enlist in secular agenda e.g. for gay rights. Conversely, when the state takes upon itself to enforce beliefs about God, the soul, etc., here too you end up with trouble -- persecution of heretics and so on.

I don't know Byzantine history nearly well enough to comment on how things went there.

bgc said...

@Dale - I disagree with Lewis on this, and agree with Tolkien - Lewis said he was a democrat, Tolkien not. Although it seems that Lewis changed his mind on this later - if comments in his letters are anything to go by.

I regard the separation of Church and State as a big problem, not a desirable thing - an undesirable attempted specialization of function that destroys the unity of life and eventually drains it of meaning.

I also disagree with Lewis on theocracy. There is no reason why a theocratic government has to be 'therapeutic' - indeed, there are many Christian reasons why it should not be (that salvation *must* be *chosen*).

But a divinely ordained government can and should make it much easier to be Good - instead of having 24/7 endemic propaganda for evil (by evil I mean worldliness and pride).

Theocracy can also sustain the conditions for advanced levels of holiness - Sanctity - whereas at present this seems all-but extinct.

In the end, theocracy is simply running society on the basis that salvation is the most important thing in the world (or rather, not in the world).

Dale said...

My mistake -- I meant to post my earlier message as a response to the Miscellany entry on Byzantium!

bgc said...

Never mind - I don't get many comments on the NCP blog, so it was welcome...

Dale said...

It would be worth someone's while to correlate the similarities and the differences vis-a-vis Tolkien's Shire and Lewis's St. Anne's household.

George Goerlich said...

This is interesting then that Tolkien describes the penultimate failure of Denethor (we can say the acting King of Gondor) as occurring when he completely forsakes his faith in God: he believes Gondor's fall is imminent and desires to be burned "like the pagan Kings of old," symbolic of totally renouncing his religion. It was only after he perished and the true King - Aragorn - who still had faith and carrying out God's will that Gondor could be saved. Specifically, when the acting King loses his link to the divine the entire nation/people fails. Only when a King with divine inspiration arrives can the nation succeed and even flourish.

I think we could go further into how Denethor was mislead by evil influence, with fall of Gondor occurring as a byproduct of renouncing his faith. The goal then was to destroy man by destroying his faith.