It seems J. R. R. Tolkien has been my constant companion these forty years. I first read The Hobbit and LOTR when I was about eighteen or nineteen. I liked the books and was disappointed that the fantasy fiction I tried to read afterwards could never quite measure up. I include C. S. Lewis in the “not measure up” category, since, to me anyway, Lewis always seems a bit condescending about what he thinks “children” want. Not that he’s a bad writer. Tolkien lives in a different universe completely.
I have read The Hobbit to each of my nine children—that’s a lot of readings! And when I was a Waldorf teacher my classes read the book as well. When the first Peter Jackson LOTR film came out in 2001—can it really be that long ago?—I took my eldest son to see it for his twelfth birthday. I even bought him the LOTR chess set. Next week he’ll be thirty-one. And I’ve seen all of the films umpteen times with the rest of my children, most recently with my two youngest, aged ten and twelve.
Despite this rich history, I have never been a Tolkien freak. Not by a longshot. In fact, for years I resisted—and criticized more than once—those grownups with a Tolkien fixation who use the Shire, the Ring, and Mordor as constant reference points. I have also expressed irritation upon occasion with Distributists who get all Tolkien-y about pipes, ale, and tweed but still shop at Walmart and Costco and have never heard of a CSA. Having said that, I do have a dear friend who has nicknamed her children after the hobbits of LOTR. It’s the cutest thing ever! Though I have nine children, I have as yet refrained from nicknaming them after the Nazgûl—but don’t think I haven’t considered it!
Nevertheless, the time has come for me to confess my hobbitness.
Basically, my family and I live like hobbits. We live on a biodynamic farm among pigs, goats, chickens, bees, and a cow, close to a river and to a forest and meadows rich in mushrooms. We run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which is about as Distributist as it gets, and much of the commerce I undertake outside of the farm is with the carpenters, butchers, and farmers of an Amish community not far away. When I talk to the Amish men, we mostly talk about farming, hunting, and folk remedies.
But our agrarian lifestyle is not the only thing that defines our hobbitness. It also shows up in our desire to live lives without the intrusion of the various evils of the outside world. For example, we stopped vaccinating our kids a long time ago—and never gave even the eldest all the prescribed jabs. Of course, when the oldest was a baby, there weren’t that many recommended. Now the number is insane. My kids are rarely sick; only the older ones who received vaccinations have ever had ear infections. Another thing we do is homeschool, which has increasingly become looser as our family has grown and our trust in how the miracle of learning happens has increased.
But the world, even in our shire, is changing it seems. BLM protests, for example, occurred in a small village nearby this summer and the police there (all five of them—they are all thinking of taking early retirement) have been harassed as racists and bullies—though there are no reports of any racism or police brutality and most calls the police get are to help someone unlock a car door after the keys were locked inside or to coax a kitten out of a hole under the stairs. And then there’s this business of forced vaccines and immunization passports. And don’t even get me started on The Great Reset. To cop the rhetoric of my Tolkien fanatic comrades, Sauron has returned.
Though both my wife and myself were raised in the city, we have chosen this life for a reason. We want to live in peace in a way that is healthy for us, for our friends, and for the Creation. I can think of no better explanation than this one given by H. J. Massingham, himself something of a hobbit: “For when man lived more or less naturally, and at the same time believed the world to be the porch to an otherworldly room, his civilization made rapid and intensive growth, whereas he has made a sufficiently poor job of his own self-glorification in disowning Mother Earth and the Fatherhood of God.”  Mindful of Mother Earth and the Fatherhood of God is how we strive to live.
But, as I’ve indicated, there are forces, for the most part invisible, moving to change all this. And as that great philosopher Samwise Gamgee once said,
“And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”
What sort of a tale have we fallen into?
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz and Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Garden.
1. H. J. Massingham, The Tree of Life (London: Chapman & Hall, 1943), 15.
2. J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers (New York: Ballantine, 1993), 362.