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Hobbits, Dwarves and Kings - Oh My...

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

On the events of Monarchy and Kingship.

Death is interesting. Our little island this week experienced a major event - no matter where you live in the world you couldn't help but notice. Of course it was the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the subsequent heralding of a new King - Charles III.

No matter what the feelings towards the British Royal family - and there are a whole spectrum including love and admiration, to fury, anger and hatred; another one of the human family has departed and is journeying to the afterlife; leaving a hole in a family cosmology.

As I ponder the passing of the figure head under which I was born (Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne when I was born and been the only monache I have ever known) the English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, and Cornish peoples are being asked to collectively pledge their allegiance (through the adoption of a new king) to the new figure head, adopting Charles as the leader of our collective British tribe.

The night before QEII death I watched Tolkein's Hobbit - a wonderful adaptation and I think cinematically gripping - visually wonderful and ladened with Norse mythology if you look under the nearest onscreen stone. From the obvious Rune carved on Bilbo's door, to the names chosen by Tolkein for the Dwarves. I have read the book and know the story well, and watched enthralled at the bravery and leadership of Thorin Oakenshield as he led his comrades and battled with Orcs and Wargs.

Watching reminded me of the role of Kingship, and how Kings were often sacrificed by their tribe - they willingly accepted the role knowing it meant a death sentence. It was by no mean all cake, comfy beds and job for life. The sacrificial and violent death of the Sacred King (the Queen's son or Neolithic Goddess's son) was the foremost part of an archaic ritual that, periodically pursued the propitiatory influence of Earth Goddess's invisible forces and energies on cosmos renewal and the tribe's impurities and sins expiation. It was one of the primitive cultures and world's proto-histories' most characteristic religious events which marked the thereafter man's relationships with the sacred realm.

This ancient and complex ritual phenomenon was typified by James G. Frazer in 'The Golden Bough: A study in Magic and Religion' (1890-1922), as the 'Sacrifice of the Sacred King' which alluded to the dramatic fate of a young monarch who, first under the tutelage and rule of the Queen, then as sovereign King, and finally as King's surrogate, was meant to cover the earth with his blood and die after a year, after eight years, twelve years or the cyclical period prescribed in the ritual. The purpose was about injecting the energies and power of his youth both into a cosmos in decline and at risk of disappearing.

Tolkein knew this well, and in many of his stories (and sub stories) there are many sacrifices - for instance Frodo and the Hobbits leaving the safety of the Shire, Arwen's sacrifice of Elvish mortality in marrying Aragorn, and of course we cannot forget Boromir who as steward of Gondor - a King by another name, pays the ultimate price for trying to attain power - his life.

Watching Thorin battle the Orcs and then watching Charles III speech after his mother's death, caused me to ponder a simple question - who is the King that I could follow and what type of King would want to follow, could pledge my allegiance too and, in the old time, who would be the king that I would give my life for?

Pondering the two archetypes - Thorin and Charles, I am faced with A King who would die for his people and one that is willing to depart from his ecological campaigning due to the matters of state and governmental policy. I am presented with one who is dynamic and one who is reactive.

Of course, I know full well that all of these archetypes are within me. Both Thorin and Charles present different versions of Kingship for me to choose between. The death of the monache presents itself as the death of the old ways inside of me, a chance to change deep, entrenched, stoic hierarchies within the self..... As such I asked myself what does Kingship mean in the modern era - or atleast what should it mean in the modern era?

Credits and acknowledgements

Picture Credit: James Fisher - all rights remain with the artist and publisher

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