May 12, 2019

J.R.R. Tolkien, the Heterosexual Who Wrote about Men in Love

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) was one of the iconic authors of my childhood, his Lord of the Rings trilogy one of the first gay novels I ever read.  I didn't even know what "gay" meant yet, but I knew about Sam carrying Frodo up the slopes of Mount Doom, Merry and Pippin putting their beds next to Aragorn's, Gimili forsaking Middle Earth to follow Legolas to the Elven lands.

I didn't know anything about Tolkien himself, except that he was a scholar of Medieval literature from England.  I assumed that he was gay, of course.  What straight guy would evoke so many same-sex romances, and omit women, and desire for women, from Middle Earth?

Later I found out a few more details: he served in World War I, he was married to Edith throughout his life, he had four children, and he was a devout Roman Catholic (religion, too, was entirely absent from Middle Earth).  On the other hand, he was deeply involved in an informal group called the Inklings, men (including C.S. Lewis) who got together to drink, dream of Medieval worlds, and form those strong quasi-homoerotic bonds of Oxford best boys.

I certainly don't want to see the movie Tolkien (2019), which takes place before he even begins writing the novels and centers heterosexual romance as the great inspiration of his life. What's next, giving Oscar Wilde a great hetero-romance just because he was married to a woman?

So let's skip the details and see if Tolkien has any gay characters or beefcake potential.

1.  Nicholas Hoult (top photo) as good old John Ronald Reul himself.

2.  Anthony Boyle (second photo) as  Geoffrey Bache Smith, a childhood chum killed in the War.

3.Tom Glynn-Carney (left) as Christopher Wiseman,who invites Tolkien into his social group, his "fellowship," as it were.

4. Craig Roberts as Sam Hodges, a soldier Tolkien serves with,  maybe Sam to his Frodo?

5. Patrick Gibson as Robert Gibson, a fellow artist killed in the War.

That's about it,unless you want to take a look at the uncredited Bargeman, Drunken  Student #2, Rugby Spectator, and Moroccan Waiter.

See also:The Lord of the Rings


  1. I think you might be missing a trick here. The boys in the film are all rather lovely. (It's directed by Dome Karukoski, whose last film was a biopic of Tom of Finland, so that's not really surprising.) And the men are... OK. There's a little bit of heterosexual kissing and "romance", but most of the focus is on the romantic relationships between Tolkien and his school-friends. (They're all nice, clean-cut teenagers who like wearing stiff collars and going out to have tea with each other, etc.) And one of them was a poet, and we're supposed to imagine that therefore he must have fancied Tolkien, who felt all sort of guilty about it when he died during WWI. (There's no evidence for that in real life but... you know.)

    1. I was fooled by the promos and posters, which have a gigantic image of The Girl, while the guys are tiny inserts in the background.

    2. TBH, in Tolkien's time, you were only gay if you preferred being the bottom. Masturbate with other guys, that's nothing. Get your dick sucked in exchange for cash, also nothing.

      Not that I'm saying JRRT ever did those things, just that before the 1950s, male friendships were far more intimate, and one could even have sex with other guys (provided one did it the "right" way) without being gay.

      Then came the neo-Freudians, who basically took the one time Freud was right and said "Yeah, no, your ideas are great, but have you considered homophobia?"


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