Thursday, December 25, 2003

'Gimli' (John Rhys-Davies) on Tolkien and the world today 

Read this wonderful interview with John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings. For Tolkien fans, there is a lot of interesting discussion of the development of the character in the movie compared with the book and the relationship between dwarves and elves (all important if you love Tolkien's writing). However, the really interesting stuff comes out in a discussion of the world today:

"I’m burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it’s painful. But I think that there are some questions that demand honest answers.

"I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me.

"I have had the ideal background for being an actor. I have always been an outsider. I grew up in colonial Africa. And I remember in 1955, it would have to be somewhere between July the 25th when the school holiday started and September the 18th when the holidays ended. My father took me down to the quayside in Dar-Es-Salaam harbor. And he pointed out a dhow in the harbor and he said, 'You see that dhow there? Twice a year it comes down from Aden. It stops here and goes down [South]. On the way down it's got boxes of machinery and goods. On the way back up it’s got two or three little black boys on it. Now, those boys are slaves. And the United Nations will not let me do anything about it.'

"The conversation went on. 'Look, boy. There is not going to be a World War between Russia and the United States. The next World War will be between Islam and the West.'

"This is 1955! I said to him, 'Dad, you’re nuts! The Crusades have been over for hundreds of years!'

"And he said, 'Well, I know, but militant Islam is on the rise again. And you will see it in your lifetime.'

"He’s been dead some years now. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and think, 'God, I wish you were here, just so I could tell you that you were right.'

"What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is and what a jewel it is.

"How did we get the sort of real democracy, how did we get the level of tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you around this table, and yet you will take it and you will think about it and you’ll say no you’re wrong because of this and this and this. And I’ll listen and I’ll say, 'Well, actually, maybe I am wrong because of this and this.'

[He points at a female reporter and adopts an authoritarian voice, to play a militant-Islam character:]"‘You should not be in this room. Because your husband or your father is not hear to guide you. You could only be here in this room with these strange men for immoral purposes.’

"I mean… the abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True Democracy comes from our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world."

Food for thought, and pretty damn unusual thinking from a movie star.

Credit where credit is due - I spotted this on Andrewsullivan.com.


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