Fascists take heart from hobbit revival

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The Independent Online

The release of the blockbuster film The Lord of the Rings has stirred turbulent political sentiments in Italy.

For the fortysomethings of Alleanza Nazionale (AN), the right-wing party in government, J R R Tolkien and his cast of elves and hobbits are as much a part of their political property as Che Guevara was for the left-wing. So much so that AN members of parliament and sympathisers held their own private première of the film.

Attending the private screening were the cabinet ministers Giovanni Alemanno and Maurizio Gasparri. Mr Alemanno, the Agriculture Minister, said: "I feel I am a hobbit who has got hold of the ring of power and doesn't know quite what to do with it." Mr Gasparri, the Telecommunications Minister, added: "Tolkien helped design our value system."

Tolkien was adopted by the MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano), the heirs of Mussolini's Fascist party, in 1977 in an effort to give its young supporters a sense of identity beyond Fascist nostalgia. Celtic crosses aloft, the movement ran the first Hobbit Camp, a cross between boy scout jamboree and a paramilitary camp.

Some 25 years later, Tolkien's work remains a focal point of rallies by shaven-headed youths who have difficulty digesting their party's renunciation of Fascist ideology in its quest for European respectability.