The radical right-wing leader Giorgia Meloni, who is likely to be the next prime minister of Italy, used to dress up as a hobbit.
As a youth activist in the post-fascist Italian social movement, he and his fellowship of extremists, with nicknames such as Frodo and The Hobbit, revered “The Lord of the Rings” and other works by British author JRR Tolkien. He visited schools in character. They gathered at the “sound of Boromir’s horn” for a cultural conversation. She participated in “Hobbit Camp” and sang with the extremist folk band Compania. Ditch‘Anello, or Fellowship of the Ring.
All of this may sound like some youthful infatuation with work typically involving fantasy-fiction and big-budget epics rather than political extremism. But in Italy, “The Lord of the Rings” has been a central pillar for half a century, on which post-fascist descendants sought a hard-to-correct identity in search of a traditionalist mythological era free of symbols, heroes and creation myths. rebuilt. Fascist taboos.
“I think Tolkien can say better than us what conservatives believe,” said Meloni, 45. More than his favorite book series, “The Lord of the Rings” was also a sacred text. “I don’t believe in the idea of ’The Lord of the Rings’,” she said.
Tolkien’s agrarian universe, full of good people defending their idyllic, barbarian kingdoms from hordes of dark and violent orcs, decades of scholars and conventions on the author’s racial and ideological preoccupations, his approach to modernity and globalization Inspire the Center’s debate. More recently, his works have also provided a fertile poet for nationalists who see themselves in his heroic ideals.
But in Italy, the exploits of Bilbo Baggins and maps of Mordor have informed generations of post-fascist youth, including Meloni, who the latest polls strongly suggest, will emerge from the election on Sunday as Italy’s first female prime minister. – and descended from the roots of the first post-fascism.
Meloni – who leads the hard-right Brothers of Italy party, has called for a naval blockade against illegal migrants and warned his supporters about the dark, conspiratorial forces of international bankers – read Tolkien earlier, A conservative who once called Hitler a “pretty little”. Ignomus,” at age 11. She became a fictional fanatic.
In her early 20s, she appeared in chat rooms under the nickname Khay-ri, calling herself “the little dragon of the Italian Undernet”. Most recently, he named his political convention Atrezu, an Italian rendition of the name of the protagonist of “The Neverending Story”, a 1980s cult film featuring a flying animatronic character. Featuring what appears to be a Half-Dragon, Half-Labrador Retriever. ,
As a government minister in 2008, Meloni posed for a magazine profile next to a statue of the magician Gandalf. In 2019, he hailed a manga character, Captain Harlock, as a “space pirate” “symbol of a generation that challenged people’s nostalgia and nostalgia.” Last month, she regretted that her busy campaign schedule had kept her from mainlining Amazon’s new “Rings of Power” series.
But Meloni’s otherworldly interests have as much to do with politics as personal interests.
“The genre of fantasy in Italy has always been cultivated by the right,” said Umberto Croppi, a former member of the Italian Social Movement, who is now director of the national association of public and private agencies in Italy’s culture industry. Shared “A vision of spiritualism against materialism, a spiritual vision of life against the forms of the modern world”.
The modern world did not work out so well for the staunch fascists who remained loyal to Hitler and Benito Mussolini after the official Italian government switched sides to join the Allies during World War II.
After the war, many of them joined the Fascist Italian Social Movement, but the party’s efforts to rejoin Italy’s institutions eventually hit a wall. Its young members, feeling excluded from civil society, seized on an Italian version of “The Lord of the Rings”, presented by a philosopher Almire Zola, as a point of reference on hard authority. and who argued that Tolkien was “talking about” everything we encounter every day. ,
This resonated with a small section of the party’s Yuva Morcha, which was already dependent on the left’s cultural dominance. He saw himself as one of its leaders, Generosso Simeon as it was “the inhabitants of the mythical Middle-earth, who struggled with dragons, orcs, and other creatures”. In search of a more palatable alternative to quoting Mussolini’s speeches and spray-painting swastikas, which Croppy told were “easy to reproduce on the walls,” in 1977, he created the first Camp Hobbit festival.
Croppy, one of the founders, said, “The idea to call it Camp Hobbit came from a real strategy.” The thinking sought to move beyond old symbols and capitalize on the party’s isolation, smallness and oppression by violent left-wing foes, calling its hero “not the warrior Aragorn, but the petty hobbies – we wanted to get out of this militaristic, heroic idea.”
The old party guards were surprised. But backed by hard-liners, the Camp Hobbit festivities emerged as an early touchstone for youth activists. Celtic cross flags that were completely waved with a Tolkien aesthetic. The band Fellowship of the Ring played songs about European identity, including the party’s Youth Front anthem, “Tomorrow Belongs to Us”.
A chilling scene in the movie “Cabaret” echoes a ballad sung by a member of the Hitler Youth, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. Croppy acknowledged that the camps had their fair share of fascist salutes, but argued that they were “ironically”.
When Meloni entered the picture as a teenage activist at the Youth Front in Rome in the 1990s, the far-right – especially in the capital – was still in a chasm-like mindset, to break with the previous generation was struggling.
Francesco Lollobrigida, a leader of Meloni’s party, the Italian brothers (as well as his brother-in-law), said that his and others’ desire began in the 1980s “to break the pattern of a party that was still in it.” Those are the people who were in the social republic, who did fascism.”
Meloni, who was sitting in front of him, agreed.
“There was a desire to get out of there,” she said.
Meloni attended a new iteration of Camp Hobbit in 1993, which he called the “Political Laboratory” and where he sang with Fellowship of the Ring and discussed culture and books.
“We read everything,” Meloni said.
The bookstore of choice for the hard-right in Rome was Europa, just outside the walls of the Vatican. On a recent tour, it featured titles such as “Mussolini Boys” and “The Occult Origins of Nazism”. Above the register next to a cup stood a picture of Hitler.
Europa has a section dedicated to Julius Evola, an enigmatic, deeply taboo, Nazi-affiliated Italian philosopher who became a favorite of Italy’s fascist terrorists and bourgeois-hating atheists. Evola argued that progress and equality were toxic illusions.
“A little boring,” Lollobrigida said of Evola’s work.
Meloni noted that, instead, a more influential writer at the time was Ernst Jünger, a former German soldier who sought to make sense of the war, but also glorify the war.
But for Meloni, all of that took a back shelf to “The Lord of the Rings.” She said she had learned from dwarves and elves and placed “the value of uniqueness” with “each indispensable to the fact of being special”. He expanded it as a lesson about protecting Europe’s sovereign nations and unique identities.
In the 1990s, after becoming leader of the youth wing of the National Coalition, the party that succeeded the Italian social movement, Meloni began his own political celebration, which he called “similar” to Camp Hobbit. But this time he named it Atreju. “It was the epitome of a boy in the fight against nihilism, against anything going forward,” she said.
She joked that Italians could hardly pronounce Atreju, but she said that the annual convention, which was about the dangers of globalization, had arrived, including the first in 1998.
“We wanted to say globalization, you have to control it,” she said. “If you look around, we weren’t wrong, were we?” He added.
At the 2018 Atrezu convention, the guest of honor, Steve Bannon, displays patriotic posters of “Heroes of Italy” and desks selling Evola-themed T-shirts and works by Evola. Supporters of Meloni have interpreted his call to save Italy from mass migration – and the replacement of native Italians by invaders – as a fight to protect Middle-earth. This month, at a rally in Sardinia, the leader of the local youth wing of the Italian brothers, David Eneda, 21, wore a T-shirt reading “The Hobbit.”
“It’s very hard to understand if you’re not from our world,” said Eneda, explaining that The Hobbit was a fascist far-right rock band and that Tolkien wrote “a fundamental part of our history.”
And for Italy, perhaps a part of its future.
Meloni, who is ready to grab a brass ring of his own after decades in the political trenches, said that his understanding of power and his ability to corrupt and isolate a person “is closely tied to Tolkien’s reading Had happened.”
“I consider power very dangerous,” she said. “I consider it an enemy, not a friend.”
Written by Jason Horowitz