Posted by: Ken Brown | June 25, 2009

What Do Tolkien and Iran Have in Common?

Quite a bit, it seems. There’s an interesting article at Salon on the Iranian government’s ill-advised decision to broadcast the Lord of the Rings trilogy this week, in an attempt to distract the populace (HT: Wheatstone Forum). Oops:

Gandalf the Gray returns to the Fellowship as Gandalf the White. He casts a blinding white light, and his face is hidden behind a halo. “Imam zaman e?!” someone in the room asks. Is it the Mahdi, the last imam and, according to Shia Islam, the savior of mankind?

Who picked this film? I start to suspect that there is a subversive soul manning the controls at Seda va Sima, AKA the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. It is way too easy to play with the film, to draw comparisons to what is happening in real life. There are the overt Mousavi themes: the unwanted quest and the risking of life in pursuit of an unanticipated destiny. Then there is the sly nod to Ahmadinejad. Iranian films are dubbed (forget the wretched dubbing into English in the U.S.; in Iran dubbing is a craft) and there are plenty of references to “kootoole,” little person, the Farsi word used in the movie for hobbit and dwarf. “Kootoole,” of course, was, is, the term used in many of the chants out on the street against President Ahmadinejad. He is the “little person.” (“And whose side are you on?” Pippin asks the ancient, forest-dwelling giant named Treebeard. Those watching might think the answer is Mousavi, since Treebeard is decked out in green.)

Read the whole thing.

To be honest, I really don’t know what ought to happen in Iran. I’ve got a–well let’s just say a very, very close acquaintance–who is Iranian and just got back from three weeks in Tehran. He has a cousin who was picked up in the middle of the night by the police–no one knows why, and they cannot contact him–and my “friend” wants to go back himself (his wife will not hear of it). He says that even though he was there during the election, he chose not to validate the system by voting. After all, as long as the Supreme Leader controls the outcome, any election will be a sham no matter who “wins.” What then is the solution? Revolution? He doesn’t know, and neither do I. But no matter what, I’m praying for the people of Iran, and I hope Tolkien gives them just a little bit of hope in their fight.


  1. I thought you might be interested in learning about OUR Jewish traditions which embrace the real Christ. We are the Frankist Association of America. One of our members has a new book out:

    These are our teachings passed on through generations. If you can’t afford the book you can see the website of one of our teachers –


    Beth El Jacob Frank

  2. Cheers to the brave Iranian people seeking a more just and free society.

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