Posts Tagged ‘Tomas Sedlacek’

On a couple of occasions in his Economics of Good and Evil – which I’m skimming, trying to suppress irritation, in search of a few ideas for the piece I’m writing up on the market in classical antiquity – Tomas Sedlacek refers to the fact that money plays no role in Middle Earth: “the extremely careful J.R.R.Tolkien (who loved to immerse himself in details) never mentions currency anywhere in the Lord of the Rings. In this it is similar to most older tales, fairy tales, myths, and stories” (137; cf. 20 n.5).

Since Sedlacek’s aim is to find the economics in myth and other early literature and the myths in economics, it’s all too tempting to offer such an analogy between the Myth of Gilgamesh and “our own modern myth” – but clearly he doesn’t know the books very well. I found monetary transactions in the first two places I thought of looking in The Fellowship of the Ring: in chapter 3, Frodo sells Bag End to the Sackville-Bagginses – and there’s some discussion locally as to what the price might have been, and whether he’s selling because he’s run out of money – and buys a little house at Crickhollow; in chapter 10, at the Prancing Pony in Bree, there’s no reference to payment for room and board (my first thought; surely it’s implied?), but when confronted with Strider Frodo “thought uncomfortably that he had brought only a little money with him” – and in the next chapter, the hobbits buy Bill Ferny’s knackered old pony for 12 silver pennies and receive 18 from the innkeeper for the loss of their horses.

There’s no doubt that the rest of the epic operates in the realm of gift exchange, guest friendship and the like, and quite possibly this is part of the drama of the journey from the comfortable, everyday Shire into the realms of danger and adventure; Frodo and the others have to learn how to navigate a world in which social interaction is based on status and codes of honour rather than monetary worth. The Shire¬† is an idealised community of bourgeoises, in which monetary transactions are taken for granted as one of the bases of social life; the whole point of the last gasp of heroic/feudal struggle is the preservation of a world of petty commerce, even at the expense of the higher values that have no place in such a world. It’s all so reminiscent of the opening of the 18th Brumaire

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