By EDDY BUTLER
IN RECENT MONTHS the unlikely figure of J.R.R. Tolkien has been the object of some controversy. To counter claims made by Paul Comben in New Nation to the effect that Tolkien was a proto-Nationalist, Searchlight magazine hit back. Using no less an authority than the Chairman of the Tolkien Society, they have declared that our creed was repugnant to the author.
Tolkien made an interesting speech in the 1950's which shines some valuable light on the subject. It was for the first 'O'Donnell Lecture' to be held at Oxford University ― an annual series of lectures held on the subject of the "British or Celtic element in the English language and the dialects of English counties and the special terms and words used in agriculture and handicrafts and the British or Celtic element in the existing population of England".
Being a philologist, Tolkien concentrated on the linguistic side of this brief in his lecture entitled "English and Welsh".
If we examine some of the more interesting passages from this lecture in depth, we will find that Tolkien exposed his heart and soul as being close to, if not identical to, the romantic spirit of Nationalism.
Early in this talk he described himself as "a Saxon in Welsh terms, or in our own one of the English of Mercia ... one who had always felt the attraction of the ancient history and prehistory of these islands". Tolkien obviously did not consider himself to be a citizen of the world! He treasured his past and was passionately aware of the continuity of our national heritage.
He also had an inkling of the threat to this continuity, although not being a politician he could not pinpoint the source of this threat.
He went on: "Governments ... understand the matter of language well enough for their purposes. Uniformity is naturally neater; it is also very much more manageable. A hundred-per-cent Englishman is easier for an English government to handle. It does not matter what he was, or what his fathers were. Such an 'Englishman' is any man who speaks English natively, and has lost any effective tradition of a different and more independent past."
Tolkien saw, as we in the National Front see, that Britain's strength and underlying unity, lies in her magnificent diversity. Throughout this talk Tolkien bemoaned the decline of the Welsh language. He saw Welsh as a vital instrument in retaining the separate identity of Wales. He also had a personal attachment to this language despite being English.
This was because Tolkien fully understood that Welsh is the modern successor of the British Celtic language. We ourselves are descendants from these Britons, albeit with a strong infusion of Saxon and Norse. Therefore, the surviving 'British' tongue in Wales was, and is, a vital link to our ancestors.
How did Tolkien view the British with respect to the rest of the world? What would his reaction be to the present day threat of racial mongrelisation? We get some hints from his lecture:
"Language is the prime differentiator of peoples ― not 'races' whatever that much misused word may mean in the long-blended history of western Europe."
Here Tolkien is talking of the differences between the nations of western Europe, which are largely only divided on language (and other cultural details which Tolkien believed were reinforced by linguistic differences). Of course he is correct in saying that until recently western Europe was racially homogeneous. That is not to say that he did not recognise the subtle varieties of blood between the various nations. Indeed, as we shall shortly see, Tolkien saw north-west Europe as a distinct unit. The maintenance of the world's natural diversity was of the greatest importance. Moves towards uniformity were anathema to him. He even described the widespread usage of English as "the ruinous honour of becoming the lingua franca of the world".
Tolkien continued: "// we leave such terms as Celtic and Teutonic aside, reserving them for their only useful purpose, linguistic classification, it remains an evident conclusion from history that apart from language the inhabitants of Britain are made of the same 'racial' ingredients, though the mixing of these has not been uniform."
Here he clearly spells it out: the British are all kinds of kindred stock; differences between, say, the Welsh and the English were "primarily a struggle between languages", not races. As for the tales about differences in culture and temperament between the Saxon and the Celt, "Unlike most myths, this myth seems to have no value at all".
The next passages fall fully within the bounds of traditional romantic nationalism:
"Far off and now obscure as the Celtic adventures may seem, their surviving linguistic traces should be to us, who have lived here in this coveted and much-contested island, of deep interest, as long as antiquity continues to attract the minds of men. Through them we may catch a glimspe or echo of the past which archaeology alone cannot supply, the past of the land which we call home ..."
"The north-west of Europe, in spite of its underlying differences of linguistic heritage ― Goidelic, Brittonic, Gallic; its varieties of Germanic; and the powerful intrusion of spoken Latin ― is as it were a single philological province, a region so interconnected in race, culture, history, and linguistic fusions that its departmental philologies cannot flourish in isolation."
It is interesting that he highlighted the "intrusion of spoken Latin"; a Mediterranean language, not indigenous to north-west Europe, and from a separate sub-race. This is not to suggest that he despised the Latins. It is far more likely that he would despise the politicians who have enforced miscegenation onto us.
Tolkien was writing in the 1950's, when the horrors of our multi-racial nightmare were but a dim flicker on the horizon. Tolkien would have been appalled had he realised that the proud blood of his ancestors was going to be contaminated.
Tolkien was entranced by Welsh. While at Oxford University he endeavoured to study this modernised form of ancient British, but astonishingly found "It was easier to find books to instruct one in any far alien tongue of Africa or India than in the language that still clung to the western mountains and the shores that look out to Iwerrddon".
This primeval feeling Tolkien had for the Welsh derived from the recognition of an Englishman of his linked Celtic, Saxon and Norse heritage, and seemed to him to be intrinsic to all those in whose veins flowed the same blood. These yearnings were natural, often unconscious, but unquenchable.
He described it in this manner:
"These tastes and predilections which are revealed to us in contact with languages not learned in infancy ... are certainly significant: an aspect in linguistic terms of our individual natures. And since these are largely historical products, the predilections must be so too. My pleasure in the Welsh linguistic style... would not therefore, be expected to be peculiar to myself among the English ... It lies dormant, I believe, in many more of those who today lived in Lloegr and speak Saesneg ..."
"Modern Welsh is not, of course, identical with the predilections of such people. It is not identical with mine. But it remains probably closer to them than any other living language. For many of us it rings a bell, or rather it stirs deep harp-strings in our linguistic nature. In other words: for satisfaction and therefore for delight... we are still 'British' at heart. It is the native language to which in unexplored desire we would still go home."
Many of the above passages could have been culled from the pages of an average Nationalist publication. What does this mean? Was Tolkien a sinister neo-Nazi? When he put his pen down from writing Lord of the Rings, did he shine up his jackboots and strut around his living room whilst the Horst Wessel Lied blared from his gramophone?
These are preposterous images that Searchlight enjoys conjuring up to ridicule the possibility that Tolkien was a latent Nationalist. It is a pity that people like the chairman of the Tolkien Society are ready to swallow such rubbish.
Tolkien had a feeling for his country which transcends ordinary patriotism. In what was by no means a political speech he betrayed his inner nationalism. He revelled in our national heritage, and saw it for what it is ― a link with the past and a guide to the future. He recognised the homogeneous nature of our blood line. He saw what was wholesome in the world, and knew it was being threatened.
Tolkien rather vaguely identified central government as this threat. If more people realised that this threat did not merely emanate from Whitehall, but from a much greater entity, then we would be close to a solution. If Tolkien had devoted more time to the study of power politics then he might have grasped this truth.