Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frivolous But Fun Piece in the Washington Post

On Wednesday the Washington Post emailed me and asked for a short OpEd piece on the labor politics of Middle-earth (really).  This is what I came up with on short notice: Dept. of What If: Would hobbits go on strike?

I started out with all kinds of in-depth analysis, but settled for cheap laughs.

There was a lot of back-and-forth with the editor (at one point I was trying to make a joke about the Shirriffs, and the editor put in something like "...the bourgeois is concerned with finding stray beasts, not oppressing the proletariat" and I wrote back "well, it would be the police apparatus of the State, not the bourgeois who were doing any oppressing..." and then realized I was actually being more nerdy about Marxism than I was about Middle-earth). 

But I think it ended up in a form where I can justify all the claims, even though at times it is a stretch.

For example, I wanted to hedge a little more on possible lack of upward mobility among the elves but also keep the joke about being stuck in a dead-end job for 1,000 years because nobody dies or retires.  We obviously don't know that for sure, though there might be hints in Laws and Customs Among the Eldar.

For the dwarves, I was thinking of the way they drive hard bargains for excavating elf caverns, and then how they change their minds about the price of re-fashioning necklaces (or promising to pay Bilbo gold, silver and jewels in the letter but only offering gold and silver to Bard).  Don't really know that there weren't wildcat strikes in Moria, though that's probably not a huge stretch.  The gold standard joke was a cheap laugh, but really, can you image dwarves using fiat money for any reason?

Otherwise I think I'm on solid ground.  Perhaps no one but Sauron goes into the Sammath Naur, but if he were running a smithy in contemporary America, he'd still need to put up handrails, lay down non-slip coatings on the floors, and post an MSDS for the boiling lava.

[update: thanks to those who pointed out the faulty link.  Fixed]


John Cowan said...

That link doesn't seem to work, but this one works for me.

Anke said...

Yup there's an extra "%20" on the end of the link in the blog that shouldn't be there.

Ian C

Michelle said...

That's great, thanks! I shared the link with the Tolkien Fans yahoo group, and they enjoyed it too.

OBTW - Patrick Conner was citing your work in his talk about the Exeter Book last week at Amherst College. The lexonomics project... thought you might like to know :)

Carl Anderson said...

Huh, I never thought of those particular ramifications of immortality! Which would be worse: being an Elven post-doc, or a prisoner of Morgoth? Or could we tell the difference!? ;)