Now goblins are cruel, wicked, and bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. They can tunnel and mine as well as any but the most skilled dwarves, when they take the trouble, though they are usually untidy and dirty. Hammers,axes, swords, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture, they make very well, or get others to make to their design, prisoners and slaves that have to work till they die for want of air and light. It is not unlikely that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working withtheir own hands more than they could help; but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far. -- J. R. R. Tolkien, from "Over Hill and Under Hill," The Annotated Hobbit (revised and expanded edition, Douglas A. Anderson), pp. 108-109I've been re-reading Tolkien sporadically in pockets of free time since I got back from the hospital. The reassurance of well-worn paths, I suppose. This passage is of course quintessentially Tolkienian and no surprise philosophically, but I was surprised nonetheless at the bluntness and force of its critique of facile techno-modernism in a story so unambiguously for children.
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