Earlier this semester, Dr. Schacht, Ken, and I had a side discussion about whether we would consider J.R.R. Tolkien a contributor to the humanities for his epic tales. We spoke about how his significant impact on literary fiction made him a relevant topic in humanities.
Wikipedia defines literary fiction as “a term principally used for certain fictional works that hold literary merit. In other words, they are works that offer deliberate social commentary, political criticism, or focus on the individual to explore some part of the human condition.”
Tolkien’s epic tales absolutely fall under this definition, but now in a new way.
The New York Times published an article yesterday (December 4th, 2015), titled Is Gollum Good or Evil? Jail Term in Turkey Hinges on Answer.
Apparently, a Turkish physician, Dr. Bilgin Ciftci, lost his job with the Public Health Institution of Turkey for jokingly comparing the appearance of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to that of Gollum, the slimy, bug-eyed character in Tolkien’s Middle Earth – a crime punishable with jail time in Turkey.
Because the Judge has admittedly and unfortunately not read Tolkien’s works, or seen The Lord of The Rings in its entirety, a panel of “experts” was assigned to assess the question “Is Gollum good or evil?” before the next phase of Ciftci’s trial begins in February. Turkey’s team of experts will include “two academics, two behavioral scientists [psychologists], and a film-and-telivision aficionado,” according to NYMag’s discussion of Turkey’s predicament.
In a statement to The Wrap, Peter Jackson, director of Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, along with two screen writers (Fran Walsh & Phillippa Boyens) who worked with Jackson on the films, pointed out:
“If the images below are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically: None of them feature the character known as Gollum. All of them are images of the character called Smeagol.”
Hilariously, they’re right.
Simply put for those who don’t know, Smeagol is Gollum’s less devious, arguably innocent alternate personality (it’s actually a little more complicated than that) – though this does not mean Gollum is definitively evil.
So with regards to what defines the literary fiction and the humanities, this ridiculous situation Dr. Bilgin Ciftci found himself in is another indication of Tolkien’s works being contributions to the humanities. It is an assessment of the human (or former hobbit) condition within Tolkien’s epic tales, and provides deliberate social commentary.