Mimetic Theory: Middle-earth Review

Mimetic Theory: Middle-earth Review March 27, 2024

In his latest literary adventure, Matthew J. Distefano takes us back to the Shire in a follow-up to his first foray into Hobbit wisdom. If his debut, The Wisdom of Hobbits, was a gentle stroll through Middle-earth, uncovering the spiritual truths of love, kindness, generosity, hope, and compassion, then this sequel is the deep dive into the philosophical underbrush. It’s like going from sipping tea with Bilbo to debating the finer points of Hobbit sociology with Samwise.

Beyond Second Breakfasts: Mimetic Theory in the Shire

Distefano’s book isn’t just another academic dredge trying to dissect Tolkien’s work with the enthusiasm of a Goblin in a jewelry shop. Instead, it’s a witty, insightful dive into how mimetic theory—basically, the idea that our desires are copy-pasted from those around us—plays out in the Shire. It turns out that hobbits aren’t just about second breakfasts and avoiding adventures. They’re a mirror to our own societal cravings for more, pushing us to question whether we’re after what we truly want or just following the crowd to Mordor.

Now, before you dismiss this as another “let’s all move to a tiny house and grow turnips” manifesto, hear me out. Distefano isn’t suggesting we all don thrift store cloaks and start walking barefoot (though, in some circles, that’s already a thing). Instead, he’s prompting a reflection on our own communities, desires, and the societal pressures that shape them. Through the lens of Hobbit wisdom, we’re invited to reconsider our priorities, relationships, and the environmental footprint of our personal Mount Dooms.

Clear as the Waters of Bywater: Accessibility and Insight

The brilliance of this book lies not just in its analysis but in its accessibility. Distefano translates the complex themes of mimetic theory and societal behavior into a language as clear as the waters of Bywater. He makes philosophy as palatable as a well-brewed ale, proving that profound insights don’t need to be draped in the academic equivalent of Elvish cloaks to be taken seriously.

But it’s not all second breakfasts and Ale; Distefano doesn’t shy away from the shadows lurking in Middle-earth. He delves into the darker aspects of desire and imitation, showing how even in the Shire, not all that glitters is gold. It’s a reminder that even in a world filled with beauty, simplicity, and community, the Gollums of greed and envy can still find their way into our hearts.

A Pause in a Busy World: The Call of Hobbit Simplicity

In a world where being busy is worn as a badge of honor, and our feeds are filled with curated lives that scream “adventure,” Distefano’s book is a much-needed pause. It’s a call to embrace the simplicity of Hobbit life—not in a literal sense, but in finding joy in the small things, cherishing community, and questioning the desires that drive us.

So, if you’re tired of self-help books that promise the moon and deliver a handful of dirt, or if you’re just a Tolkien fan looking for a fresh perspective, this book might just be your cup of tea (or pint of ale). In the end, Distefano’s work is a reminder that sometimes, the smallest things can hold the greatest wisdom. And perhaps, in our fast-paced, complex world, we could all use a little more Hobbit sense.

Get Mimetic Theory & Middle-earth: Untangling Desire in Tolkien’s Legendarium here.


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About Stuart Delony
I'm Stuart Delony, your companion on this exploratory journey. As a former pastor now podcast host, I've shifted from sermons to conversations with Snarky Faith, promoting meaningful discussions about life, culture, spirituality. Disheartened by the state of institutionalized Christianity, my aim is to rekindle its foundational principles: love, compassion, and dignity. If you're yearning for change or questioning your faith, you've found a refuge here. You can read more about the author here.

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