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Updated: 6/1/2002; 10:14:52 AM.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Get Your War On

Seems like the first great satirist of the terror era has been posting a bit more frequently since the Times discovered him last month. But nothing can match the freshness and audacity of his original pages as read in real time last fall.
5:11:44 PM   comment []  

Tolkienís Jews

Itís dangerous to read The Lord of the Rings as allegory, because Tolkien layers on multiple meanings. But last night I picked up The Silmarillion for the first time in maybe twenty years and found more evidence for one of my pet theories: the Dwarves are the Jews of Middle Earth.

This is not a political analysis. It has nothing to do with the current events in the Middle East. But from Tolkienís point of view, many of the attributes he gave his Dwarves--physical, cultural, historical, and linguistic--would have been applicable to the Jews.

The Dwarves of Middle Earth are bearded exiles from a beloved homeland to which they desperately wish to return. That alone makes them passable analogs for the Jews of pre-1948 European imagination, but it is just the start. The name of their lost homeland is Moria. Moriah is a hill in Jerusalem that would almost certainly have been known to a scholar of Tolkienís stature.

The Dwarves, said to be overfond of gold (in keeping with the European stereotype of Jews), mingle with the other free peoples but are always outsiders among them. They maintain their own ancient religion and their own language, which Tolkien the philologist has filled with a ďkhĒ sound that is found also in Hebrew; I could swear I heard the Dwarvish war cry, ďBaruk Khazad-dum, Khazad ai-menuĒ at Seder last year.

What I found last night is some scriptural evidence. The Silmarillion has the ďGodĒ of Tolkienís universe telling the ďfatherĒ of the Dwarves that he must kill his offspring. It is a scene very much like the one in Genesis where God tells Abraham that he must kill his son, Isaac. In both cases, the child is permitted to live and thus become the patriarch of a race.

Of course there is more to the Dwarves than their Jewishness. Their morphology and much of their culture, not to mention many of their names, come directly from Norse and northern European mythology. But thatís part of Tolkienís genius. Itís not wrong to read LOTR as an allegory for World War II, or the Crusades, and in places itís hard not to, but if thatís the only way you take it you will miss other layers of meaning. Same with the Dwarves, who can be understood accurately but not exclusively as Middle Earthís Jews.
11:11:37 AM   comment []  

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