Hobbits on the Wall: The ‘Frodo Lives!’ Campaign as Psychosocial Symbol

Alexander Sergeant

Abstract


The ‘Frodo Lives!’ campaign was a widespread social phenomenon of counter-cultural disobedience, reaching its zenith throughout the mid-to-late 1960s. Beginning in the United States but spreading to the United Kingdom and beyond, the campaign encouraged its participants to display the slogan ‘Frodo Lives!’ (inspired by the protagonist and narrative of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) on public spaces including subway stations and bus shelters, as well as individually through badges, t-shirts and protest banners. Without any overt political agenda and without being particularly organised, the movement became a popular way of articulating youth dissatisfaction and dissent within a generational cultural war, offering a playful but nevertheless empowered register inspired by mid-twentieth century fantasy literature.

            This article examines the ‘Frodo Lives!’ campaign from a psychosocial perspective. Exploring the ways in which the campaign was discussed both in mainstream and counter-cultural publications through the 1960s and 1970s, it will find evidence for the socio-political function this slogan was perceived to have both amongst its instigators and its detractors. It will then theorise that contribution from a psychoanalytic perspective, reading it through the critical lens of Kleinian and Lacanian theories of phantasy and symbolism. Whilst language requires the subject to accept a dominant societal structure and shared sense of meaning, phantasy allows the subject to express a pre-existing, individually-determined emotional relationship to the world forged through preconscious engagement. Applied to ‘Frodo Lives!’, phantasy’s capacity to highlight the emotional over the intellectual power of symbols highlights both the individual and cultural value of the campaign to 1960s US society. The apparent frivolity and inconsistency with which the slogan was used highlights its therapeutic value to a deeply divided society fractured by generational conflict and ideological trauma who, through the ‘Frodo Lives!’ campaign, came together to celebrate the illogical over the logical, the silly over the serious, and the power of words as tools of self-expression rather than of intersubjective discourse.


Keywords


psychoanalysis, culture, US history, fantasy fiction, phantasy

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1234/fa.v0i78.331



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