Be Kind to Your Fur-Footed Friends

Everyone’s used to political mudslinging — but how often does the mud come from Middle-Earth?

Senator McCain criticized some colleagues’ approach to the debt-ceiling issue on July 27, quoting extensively from a Wall Street Journal op-ed that compared tea partiers to “hobbits”.

The WSJ‘s Tolkienesque analogy reads:

The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . Barack Obama. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.

Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post reports that “Tea Party members responded in kind”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) deadpanned that ‘he would rather be a hobbit than a troll,’ while 2010 Senate candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada said that ‘it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land.’

True – up to the point when Frodo put on the ring for the last time, had delusions about ruling the world, and was only spared an evil fate because Gollum bit the ring off his hand and accidentally fell into Mount Doom.  I couldn’t tell you where to look for checks and balances like that in our democratic system.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

The Dorms of Middle Earth

Someone who picks the right university can have a fantastic life in more than one sense of the word.

For example, after a student at UC Irvine meets with Professor Gregory Benford she may amble home to her dorm in Middle Earth:

Middle Earth houses approximately 1,690 students in 24 residence halls. The names of the halls and other facilities were selected from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The halls are divided into six clusters or theme areas of four halls and offer classes associated with their names.

Middle Earth was built in three phases:

  • Phase I opened in 1974 with seven (7) halls: Hobbiton, Isengard, Lorien, Mirkwood, Misty Mountain, Rivendell, and The Shire. Brandywine Commons, and Brandywine Student Center (BSC) are also in Middle Earth.
  • Phase II opened in 1989-90 and it includes 13 halls: Balin, Harrowdale, Whispering Wood, Woodhall, Calmindon, Grey Havens, Aldor, Rohan, Gondolin, Snowbourn, Elrond, Shadowfax, and Quenya. Phase II also includes Pippin Dining Commons, the housing office, and Bucklebury Library. 
  • Phase III opened in Fall 2000 and includes four (4) halls: Crickhollow, Evenstar, Oakenshield, and Valimar. Arkenstone, a 24-hour academic resource and study center, officially opened in fall of 2007.

And a student at Azusa Pacific University enrolled in one of Dr. Diana Glyer’s classes may leave a talk about the Inklings to return to his mod in the Shire. My own nephew Adam lived with his roommates in one of those modular apartments for a term.

While I find the naming convention quite entertaining, even names out of Tolkien’s legendarium once officially attached to university housing are prone to lose some of their magic. That’s why Azusa Pacific student Mychal Clements, Online Editor of The Clause, recently challenged people to make more playful use of the Shire’s connection with Tolkien.

In my three years at Azusa Pacific I have not heard one single joke about the Shire. I am astounded and shocked that this is the case, hey readers. It’s called the Shire. The Shire, where Hobbits come from.

Am I saying that there needs to be an overkill of references and jokes? No. But maybe the occasional comment, joke or event would make me happy. However you should not do it just to make me happy, but instead because the nomenclature of the Shire demands it.

I’m sure that if the ghost of Mr. Tolkien were to walk Azusa Pacific’s campus he would be disappointed and depressed at the lack of recognition for the Shire.

Shire residents, please make more references, or put up the occasional poster. Don’t do it for me, don’t do it for yourself, but rather do it for the possible ghost of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[Via Andrew Porter and Michael J. Lowery.]