Geo- and Biopo­li­tics of Middle-earth. A German Reading of Tolkien’s „Lord of the Rings“ (2005)

Peer reviewed / Buchveröffentlichung


This year, 60 years after the end of the Third Reich, the German public predictably is celebrating the collective reminiscence of this era. The Oscar-nominated German movie The Downfall, with its „human“ perspective on high-ranking Nazi „protagonists“ and their entourage performing the regime's last act in the „Fuehrerbunker,“ is playing a significant part in this culture of remembrance. Whereas the protest generation in the 1960s and '70s criticized the hundredfold continuity of Nazi institutions, staff, laws, and ideology, The Downfall is styling the end of the National Socialist dictatorship as an epochal tabula rasa. Whoever outlived the breakdown of the Reich was sentenced in Nuremberg or reeducated under Allied surveillance. Therefore, May 8, 1945, can be seen as Hour Zero, „die Stunde Null.“ Such a standpoint gets backing from The Downfall, which dramatizes the end of the Third Reich in very suggestive pictures of destruction, annihilation, death, and suicide. Based on the destroyed battlegrounds in the film, the audience may assume that something altogether new would be built. However, in this essay I will investigate which components of the Third Reich have survived the collapse and are still present today. This interest in a „subliminal“ continuity of pre-1945 modes of thinking was enhanced by the tremendous success of John Ronald Reul Tolkien's epic novel The Lord of the Rings on the German book market and the awesome triumph of Peter Jackson's movie adaptation on German movie screens. Both novel and motion picture are obviously obsessed with the differences between certain races (Elves and Numenor, Dwarfs and Hobbits, Ores and Southrons, Istari and Balrogs), their genealogies, bloodlines, crossbreedings, and even their biogenetic pro creation (Uruk-Hai). Their respective realms (pretty Shire, proud Gondor, beautiful Imladris, terrible Mordor) mirror these differences.


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Werber, Niels (2005): „Geo- and Biopolitics of Middle-earth. A German Reading of Tolkien’s ‚Lord
of the Rings‘“, in: New Literary History 36 (2), S. 227–246.