BOOKS: by Brian A PeacheyNews Weekly
Return of the Heroes : The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter And Social Conflict
, September 20, 2003
RETURN OF THE HEROES:
The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter And Social Conflict
By Hal G P Colebatch
Available from www.cybereditions.comThis second edition of Return of the Heroes is classic Colebatch. Dr Colebatch, barrister, scholar and political scientist is, arguably, the outstanding poet and writer in Australia. In Return of the Heroes he displays his literary style and grace, but of more value is his discernment and philosophical depth.
He commences the book with the thought-provoking premise that, "At the dawn of the third millenium it often seems that every traditional Western value, system of ethics and art form is collapsing. Notions of chivalry, heroism, nobility and valour - even to a large extent notions of dignity and modesty - which previously infused Western culture seem to have vanished."
Then with hope, which is the essence of the work, he writes: "But against a picture of endless collapse and upheaval there have emerged enormously popular works of film and literature that reveal underlying attachments to traditional Western Values. The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars
- more recently and in a different key the Harry Potter stories - are among the most notable. The deep responsive chord they have struck tells more about the true state of culture."The Lord Of The Rings
is estimated to be the biggest-selling novel of the 20th century, with sales of at least 50 million. The first Star Wars
movie is consistently voted the best movie of the millennium and sales of the Harry Potter books have reached about 100 million in less than four years.
As a boy in the 1930s, I enjoyed many Saturday afternoons at the movies enthraled with the adventures of heroes of space, Buck Rogers
and Flash Gordon
. In The Unauthorised War Compendium,
Ted Edward says that: "The most important idea Star Wars
borrows from Flash Gordon
is the idea of a fairytale in which technology plays the role of magic."
Colebatch looks back at the 20th century, which saw advances in doctrines of moral relativism, from Lenin: "We do not believe in an eternal morality, and we expose the falseness of all fables about morality"; to Sir Julian Huxley: "There are no absolutes of truth or virtue, only possibilities of greater knowledge and greater perfection".
Colebatch's defence of JRR Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings,
and George Lucas, creator and director of Star Wars
is a slashing attack on their critics, "who have run along modern nihilistics lines with a political agenda" (pp 75- 87). This is a literary gem and like most of the work is worth reading in isolation.
One of the most frustrating aspects of reviewing any work of Colebatch is the temptation to quote large pieces of it because of his insightfulness and the literary quality, which of course would make the review inordinately long and possibly spoil it for the reader.
This is no more so than in the chapter, "Religion, Culture and the Tales". Throughout the whole work he refers to those with whom he has a kindred spirit and with whom (in my opinion) he is on the same literary plane, such as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. He commences this chapter with: "The great Australian poet James McAuley (another kindred spirit) once wrote: "The final program of the modern world is to kill Christ."
"In The Lord of the Rings
and Star Wars,
" Colebatch claims, "that there is a general consistancy and other values. A political outlook that emphasises the individual rather than the ideological collective is linked with a religious outlook emphasising Eternity and Last Things [his capitalising] and also the importance of the individual in Last Things, or, put another way, the transcendent existance and transcendent importance of a personal God, who is the author and authorisation of permanent values."
In this chapter Colebatch says he has "attempted a 'religious' summary of The Lord of the Rings
, which could apply to Star Wars
episodes IV, V and VI with only changes of names. Harry Potter is a less exact parallel, but there are still obvious similarities." His summary is well worth reading. For those parents who have qualms about children reading Harry Potter, I recommend this chapter and indeed the whole book.Return of the Heroes
is more than just a good read. It is an important work which looks to tradition and the heritage of the past as things to be preserved and cherished, not shattered to make way for the future. It does not propose a new, popular morality or way of thought, but encourages traditional morality and good behaviour "in defiance of the spirit of the age".