When readers in England recently were asked to name “the greatest book of the century,” they chose J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Many critics were scandalized, finding it incomprehensible that the public could honor a work the literary community had largely dismissed as old-fashioned, didactic, and escapist.
In a literary sense, The Lord of the Rings might be regarded as a defense of the West by its virtual resurrection of the literary forms and themes from the West’s greatest cultures. In a century when writers and artists routinely scorned the wisdom of the past—an age dominated by the anti-heroes of the literary naturalists, the nihilism of the cultural relativists, the purportedly scientific atheism of writers on the brink of suicide—Tolkien’s work arrived like a bracing mountain wind, for it introduced modern readers to forms of literature that are unafraid to explore truth as well as ambiguity, beauty as well as ugliness, good as well as evil, and heroism as well as cowardice.
Europe is under attack