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Tolkien fans outraged as Neo-Nazis hijack legend.

Byline: Sophie Blakemore

The eagerly awaited second instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy hits cinema screens across the UK today. Many Tolkien admirers will sit chomping on their popcorn, enjoying The Two Towers for what it is - an epic fantasy journey, perfect for Christmas viewing.

But others have different ideas. Websites are littered with plaudits written by neo-Nazis and Fascists for the Tolkien books.

'Lord of the Rings is one of the finest movies I have ever seen. I urge every white nationalist to see it,' writes one website which catchlines itself 'uncensored news for whites'.

'This movie is such a magnificent epitome of the greatness of our race and civilization that it underscores all that we have lost,' rails one writer under the pseudonym The Cat Lady.

It is views such as these which have sparked outrage from loyal Tolkien followers and concerns from others such as Midland academic Dr Stephen Shapiro.

The Tolkien Society has condemned the extreme right wing interpretation of the trilogy as shocking and ridiculous.

But Dr Shapiro, while condemning the actions of far right groups, said he could understand why Tolkien's works could be interpreted as representing a pro-European race.

'Tolkien was not a Nazi or racist but he was a Nordicist in that his works hark back to England's original culture before the Norman invasion.

'The Lord of the Rings represents a claim for a pan-Nordic identity or a paradigm for Great Britain and a lament for the disappearance of these races.

'This speaks to long-standing European anxieties of being swamped by non-European races - Tolkien was a real traditionalist in this way but he was not racist,' Dr Shapiro said.

However, he said Tolkien's epic would have been interpreted as championing white England when it was published in the 1950s, as large numbers of immigrants started arriving in the UK.

'Birmingham and the Midlands, where Tolkien lived much of his life, was the most multi-cultural region in the country and the books resonate in this way around Middle Earth.

'Unfortunately it is in this way that neo-Nazi groups are interpreting these books and using them to champion their beliefs,' he said.

The concern over fascists hijacking Tolkien to further their own cause has even been voiced by those involved in the latest screen blockbuster.

Viggo Mortensen, who plays the warrior king Aragorn, appeared on a US TV chat show last week to promote the film. He sported a home-made T-shirt with the slogan 'No blood for Oil' after hearing that some had interpreted The Two Towers as an allegory of the invasion of Iraq.

'I don't think that The Two Towers or Tolkien's writing or our work has anything to do with the United States' foreign ventures,' he told the host, 'and it upsets me to hear that.'

However, Dr Shapiro said it was easy to understand why Tolkien's works could be interpreted as war propaganda. 'Tolkien has been accused of writing war propaganda and it is hard not to think of his works in that way.

'The films exagerate this and the works are being interpreted as demonising the Middle East and aggravating issues in the current climate,' he said. The trilogy - The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King - was published in 1954 and 1955, in the shadow of the Second World War and as Cold War tensions grew. Some readers at the time saw Hitler in the evil wizard Saruman or read nuclear Armageddon into the Dark Lord Sauron's war to wipe out all the people of Middle Earth.

But Tolkien himself spoke out against these allegations, stating his 'prime motive was the desire of a tale teller,' and that the trilogy 'is neither allegorical nor topical'.

Fact File

Hobbits: Hobbits are small men who lead quiet, peaceful lives in their homes in the ground. They have pointed ears and oversized hairy feet.Elves: Elves are immortal. They do not physically age, but instead they become more wise and beautiful.Dwarves: Male dwarves have long beards and are stocky, strong, and a proud race with resistance to fireHumans: Humans are mortals and are subject to age, disease, and rough elements of Middle-Earth. Humans are a diverse race and became the dominant race.

Ringwraiths: The ringwraiths were once powerful kings and sorcerers among men until they were tempted by the power of the ring and damned to serve Sauron.

Orcs: Orcs enjoy the pain of others and are fierce warriors. They are cannibals

CAPTION(S):

The mysterious Easterlings are one of the many cultures of Middle-earth in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. Below, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) leads the defence of humankind
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 18, 2002
Words:781
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