Saturday, February 21, 2009

J.R.R. Tolkien Gives Us Insight into Abortion

In his "Introductory Note" to Tree and Leaf, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about the inspiration for his story "Leaf by Niggle," which comprises the second portion of the book. Tolkien writes:

One of its sources was a great-limbed poplar tree that I could see even lying in bed. It was suddenly lopped and mutilated by its owner. I do not know why. It is cut down now, a less barbarous punishment for any crimes it may have been accused of, such as being large and alive. I do not think it had any friends, or mourners, except myself and a pair of owls.

Of course, the context for Tolkien's passage has nothing to do with abortion. And yet, it immediately struck me as applicable to abortion. Unfortunately, women who commit abortions are duped into thinking that they are "owners" of a "fetus," rather than mothers of a baby. The "crimes" of these babies--being large and alive. While the mothers (and fathers) often later come to mourn these babies, at the time, such babies may indeed have no friends or mourners, other than perhaps some sidewalk pro-life witnesses.


The new guy in town said...

Sorry, but I don't see the connection. As a fan of Tolkien, I worked on this new book and I want to bring it to your attention. Please visit this website:

Jason Fisher said...

Hi Pete. While Tolkien certainly would have opposed abortion, I’m not aware of his having ever made any explicit statement(s) about it. But anyway, I think it’s an enormous stretch — and disingenuous — to apply the quotation from Tree and Leaf to the subject of abortion.

And yet, it [Tolkien’s passage] immediately struck me as applicable to abortion.

I really don’t see it. I need hardly point out that a mature tree has almost nothing whatsoever in common with a human fetus. If you really want to try to make this point, you’d be better off looking for some of the things Tolkien wrote about human life, the marital relationship, religious obligation, etc.

Pete Caccavari said...

New Guy: Good luck on the book.

Jason: I greatly enjoyed reading your blog. I am preparing to teach a course on mythology and am reading "On Fairy-Stories," so I appreciate your blog and the interesting links you have there to related material.

For my use of Tolkien's passage to be "disingenuous," I would need to have been trying to pass off the context of his passage as being about abortion, which I indicated I was not doing. As I mentioned, it simply struck me as providing an interesting image to parallel abortion. Metaphor is all about taking two things that are quite dissimilar and finding some relationship between them. I admit that the liberty is mine, not Tolkien's.