Ten years after Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was first published in 1954, an unexpected party discovered Middle-earth. America’s counterculture adopted the series, despite its largely conservative, patriarchal, and militant ideologies. Tolkien himself was not fond of the hippie movement, calling them his “deplorable cultus” (Helms 7). Although always adamant that his books were not allegory, the hippies found it anyway and applied his art to their own agendas. Second-wave feminists understood Eowyn’s refusal to let her romantic interest and her father determine her fate, as well as her fear of being kept in a cage and unable to participate in “great deeds,” as resistance against the patriarchy. Mordor’s impersonal machines, existing in stark contrast to the Shire’s green pastures, spoke to environmentalists. The Shire’s uninvolved and distant authority – bringing about Middle Earth’s most peaceful, selfless, and content residents – resonated among anarchists. Even the drug culture identified with the hobbits’ love for pipeweed and mushrooms. (Ciabattari) But it was the anti-Vietnam movement which took up Tolkien’s work more than any other group. “Frodo Lives,” and “Go Go Gandalf,” became the countenance of the young American counterculture. This essay will examine the publication and reception of Tolkien’s work, as well as his philosophies on war, peace, and power which resonated among the anti-Vietnam movement, and which continues to resonate as we search for truth and peace in a disordered world.
Spencer, Kayla, "The Anti-War Adoption of Lord of the Rings" (2015). 4610 English: Individual Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien. 9.