Lord of the Rings—Racist Warhawk Propaganda?

|

Gentlemen, start your comments:

The purely evil Orcs are, in Tolkien's words, "squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes". The enemy is the Dark Lord and he lives in the Black Land. The heroic hobbits and elves are, by contrast, ?ber-Aryan and ethnically pure. Ideals of "blood" and its purity are always sloshing around his narrative. For example, the Men of Gondor—"the high men"—are descendants of the Numenorians, the greatest of all warriors. Over the centuries, they have become "degraded" because of breeding with inferior races. When their bloodline is pure, as in Aragorn's descendants, the strength of the original Lords of the West is retained. [?]

Some elements of the US and Israeli far-right have tried to use The Lord of the Rings to promote their "West vs The Rest" world-view. [?]

Tolkien presents us with an absolute enemy who must simply be destroyed: purely evil and incapable of feeling. Of course, no such war can ever happen; it is a pernicious Tolkienian myth.

NEXT: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part XXVIII

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. …what the hell???

  2. I always thought we were more likely to see denunciations of TLOTR from the neo-nazi right: this mongrel cross-species alliance of elves, dwarves, men, hobbits, giant eagles, and intelligent trees, after all…

  3. I thought hobbits were brown skinned.

  4. Vote for Rowling!

  5. Oh, but Brad, don’t you know that the elves love and respect nature, and the hobbits were living in idyllic, pastoral bliss until the nasty orcs came along and tore down all those trees?! And the unholy alliance of Sauron (who crafts aweful objects of great power, no less) and Saruman, directing the whole business….Hell, the trees talk and feel, for crying out loud! Don’t you see that LOTR is a Luddite screed against the technical progress of man and the destruction of nature? It’s enough to make me cry!!!! 🙁

    I think one can read anything one wants to into LOTR, and that reflects on the reader, not the author.

  6. Stop, you’ll have Senator Santorum thinking that we may progress to man on elf or man on orc sex to maintain political correctness!

  7. I read the LOTR trilogy recently, and I did notice the racial aspects, especially the ideas about “good blood lines”. Among men, those who were tall were morally superior (shorter races can have fine members, but they’re basically different species). And in the context of the stories, you can tell a lot about the moral quality of a person by his ancestry. Maybe I’m just senstive to this sort of racism, since it’s precisely the kind of racism Ayn Rand railed against in her essay on racism in TVOS. For the most part, I see Tolkein’s “racism” as some English sense of aristocracy, where royalty really deserved their wealth and power.

    In the movies, if not the books, everybody’s white except the orcs, who are evil and brutal and black-skinned.

    Just wanted to mention that I too see this stuff in these stories.

  8. I’ve had the same reaction almost every time I’ve heard this sort of deconstructionist reasoning.

    “Sure. You’re probably right. So what?”

    Americans, and Westerners in general, are gettting very sophisticated at drawing meaningful analogies from any pop-culture event and applying them to the cause-du-jour. So much so that the impact of such analogies are so deadened that I just can’t bring myself to care anymore.

    LOTR is also very environmentalist and anti-technologist (The Dwarves delved too deeply at Moria! Saruman created fowl trans-genic orcs!).

    Yawn. LOTR is fun. Beyond that, I pretty much let it go.

  9. “The heroic hobbits and elves are, by contrast, ?ber-Aryan and ethnically pure.”

    Little people with hairy feet are “uber-Aryan”? Well, as the old saw stated: The perfect Aryan master is as svelte as Goering, as stout and manly as Goebbels, and as blond as Hitler.

  10. I had to teach The Hobbit as literature to a class of college-bound twelfth-graders, and I talked about the anti-industrial aspects of the book (especially the phrase “when the world had less noise and more green”). Some of my students did mention a few of the more pro-aristocracy elements, especially the evil, democratically elected guy who tries to overthrow the virtuous, aristocratic warlord, but I pointed out that it wasn’t until the eighties or nineties that literature started to make a conscious effort to be “inclusive” and celebrate “diversity.” A person could just as easily claim that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books were prejudiced against Muslims; the evil Calormenes were obviously meant to symbolize Arabs. But so what? You can’t judge past literature by present standards; if you do, you get people who try to outlaw Mark Twain’s anti-slavery opus “Huckleberry Finn” on the grounds that the book is racist. Can anyone think of a single piece of literature, pre-1980, that couldn’t be considered offensive by someone determined to be offended? Even Ayn Rand had a tendency to give her heroes blond hair; I am no fan of Ms. Rand but only a fool would seriously claim she promoted a racist ideology.

  11. This argument pops up every time one of these films is about to be released.

    I actually see LOTR as more of a anti-industrialist, agrarian utopia fantasy.

    Don’t they remember the message of Saruman and his “war machine” he built? He was a BAD GUY.

    Sorry, but I have to go buy me some prescioussss ticketsesss.

    😉

  12. I prefer to view the LOTR series through a libertarian lense. Here we have different individuals from all walks of life coming together to fight against pure evil and in the name of freedom. Some are strong warriors and others small, physically-weak hobbits; ultimately they are all willing to sacrifice their lives for their freedom and the freedom of those that they love. Sounds kind of like the Revolution that founded this country.
    You can view the movies many different ways. As a freedom-loving libertarian, this is the point of view I enjoy watching them with best.

  13. I think Dave-o-rama nails it. It needs to be taken in context. Everyone wants to have their unique “surprise, did you know…” take on any and all things that I’m just tired of it. Boy who cried wolf. I’m sure there are myriad feminist, post-modern, pre-post-half-caf-decaf-capitalist interpretations of what a dwarf represents in the context of patriarchal hegemonic military-industrialist Zionist proto-colonial society. I don’t care.

  14. It has long been obvious to me that there is an implied genocidal message in the books. Tolkien imagined evil with a capital E, and he has whole races of intelligent beings – orcs, trolls – completely malign, always worth killing. As such, this reflects our night mind, our fears. In daylight decent people realize that no such races of intelligent beings exist, and all men should be thought of as bearing rights, not a propensity for evil stoppable only by mass slaughter. Fortunately, few people draw these morals – or any morals whatsoever – from the book. And there are good morals in the books, too. The central concern, after all, is foreswearing absolute power. And that moral nicely offsets (if incompletely) the racist genocidal theme. Unfortunately, a lot of people dismiss this theme and take, instead, only a cathartic comfort from the books. This may allow them to emulate Denethor rather than Frodo: attempt to take absolute power to fight an imagined greater evil than the twisted self one can become. Alas, in this world, such men do not die mad. They get special dispensation from the Supreme Court to assume the Presidency of the United States, and wage a perpetual war for an always-receding horizon of security. Denethor lives. Frodo is dead. And the Nazgul run the neocon wing of the Republican Party.

  15. The radical relativists who pioneered this kind of deconstructive BS are finally reaping what they have sown – if its all relative, and meaning is infinitely plastic, then who gives a rats ass what some superannuated post-grad who can’t write has to say?

  16. Mark A.,

    You wrote –
    “I think one can read anything one wants to into LOTR, and that reflects on the reader, not the author.”

    Are you saying that Tolkein was not a luddite ?
    Good luck trying to prove that.
    One can disagree with the notion that old books have to live up to contemporary ethical standards & still find it a bit odd when people go in the opposite direction claiming that dead authors didn’t hold the positions they did becuase said opinions are embarrasing in light of current views.
    I am thinking of authors like Kipling and John Buchan & E.R Burroughs. Who cares what their “real” opinions were.

  17. It’s pretty clear that a number of the people involved in this movie (see Andy Serkis giving the big thumbs up to protesters at the Oscars) would sooner have a colonoscopy than participate in “neocon propaganda.”

  18. Since middle-earth is a rip off of germanic myth, with a little bit of Atlantis, the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Frankish battles against the Moors, it’s not surpriseing that it seems like it’s a bit racist. To complain about it though is like calling Native American legends too PC for focusing only on a minority group.

  19. R.C. Dean shows a staple conservative reaction to unpleasant analysis: blame it on “relativism.” Well, what’s relativistic about noticing that Tolkien imagined whole races of intelligent beings as wholly malign, and then pointing out that no such races exist? Neither is it relativistic to note that humanity has a strong proclivity to treat out-groups of human beings as completely non-human, and worth killing.

    Relativists would note these things and say “well, that’s all right for them, in their societies.” It is the strain of moral universalism that best reveals the particularisms in the old myths and in the new. And, in this case, with Tolkien, that’s what we see.

    Tolkien wasn’t especially concerned with racial issues. He didn’t notice what came welling up out of his mind. As a decent man, he probably would have revolted against a proposed genocide, say, of Orientals by Occidentals. But that doesn’t mean that his fiction doesn’t fit uncomfortably well with that kind of agenda.

    This is not to say the his books are not great. (I think his story “Leaf by Niggle” is better, though, and probalby his most successful work of art.) Nor is it to say that they should be dismissed as immoral. But we should be careful about what we love and admire. We should not mistake a backwards-looking romanticism and concocted mythology for a complete image of the Truth, or Beauty, or Goodness.

    In any case, the charge of relativism is a red herring. Conservative-leaning folk should think twice before trotting it out. Usually they haven’t a clue of what they are talking about.

  20. I read the LOTR trilogy recently, and I did notice the racial aspects, especially the ideas about “good blood lines”. Among men, those who were tall were morally superior (shorter races can have fine members, but they’re basically different species).

    The only “bad human” that we actually get to know in the books is Wormtongue. One data point isn’t much to go on. There are a number of “corrupted” humans guilty of moral failing, but they’re mostly from noble bloodlines — Theoden, Denethor, Boromir.

    The Numenorians are never portrayed, in any of Tolkien’s books, as morally superior to humans. They’re taller, longer-lived, and physically superior, because they have Elf blood and elves are taller, longer-lived, and physically superior. All of them are subject to corruption, however.

    Indeed, the most moral and strongest-willed folk in the books are the hobbits — physically weak, thinly-disguised English peasants with no great bloodlines and no great history.

    And in the context of the stories, you can tell a lot about the moral quality of a person by his ancestry.

    You can’t tell anything about the moral quality of a person by his ancestry. Look at Faramir and Denethor, for example. Two radically different people, but father and son. Galadriel, who has the purest blood of all, will not take the ring because she knows she would give into it. Aragorn, who has the best ancestry of any “human” alive, is also afraid to take the ring.

    On a final note, it’s also worth noting that Aragorn *looks* like a bad guy. 🙂

  21. If your going to draw analogies you should at least try to observe the obvious…

    The ‘good’ peoples are singled out by the evil eye because of their race and are being attacked as a racial group that refuses to submit as an identifiable culture. You are blaming the victims. The Elves, Dwarves and Men are not trying to make the other people’s like them and this is demonstrated by the facts that the ‘evil’ peoples include men and are most certainly trying to impose control.

    These ‘good’ peoples fight off the attacks and then destroy the ‘ring’ which breaks the ‘collective’ capability of those that seek to impose darkness. That’s hardly genocidal… it’s tragically idealistic.

    Or to point out in rebuttal… once the collectivist evil is exposed the Leftists are allowed to crawl back into their holes.

  22. What utter horseshit. First of all nobody should mistake Orcs for human beings, as they 1) imaginary creatures and 2) In Tolkiens world, Orcs are not human but utterly corrupted slaves. Without Sauron’s will they lack consciousness or intellegence, which makes them automations more than anything else. 3) Tolkien describes humans in debth and makes clear that they are not the same as orcs.

    You also seem to forget that most of the Numenoreans (the “highest” humans) fell into deepest evil and were destroyed by God, while the Woses (the “Wild Men” of Druadan forest, who certainly would not represent “civilized” Europeans) were among the most wise and resistant to evil of all peoples (as well as having a complex culture and many skills other Men lacked).
    On the black/white issu you also overlook the ghastly white corpse-light of Minas Morgul and the White Hand of Saruman are portredy as negative and evil.

    As for specific claims that Tolkien linked skin color to good and evil, there are simply too many exceptions for that to hold up. Light skinned characters who did evil things include Saruman, Grima, Gollum, Boromir, Denethor, and the Numenoreans as mentioned above. And it is notable that Tolkien described Forlong’s people of Gondor and even the men of Bree as “swarthy”, the same term he used for example of the Southrons who were ambushed by Faramir. For that matter, Sam’s flash of empathy for the fallen Southron he saw during the ambush indicates that many of Sauron’s soldiers were likely unwilling slaves, not evil at heart or his insight that war between human beings (Men vs. Men) was “truly terrible.”

    Hobbits as having “high blood lines”? Sam, the greatest hero in the stories, is the son of a Gaffer! And they are not tall and blond!

    Tolkien himself that the books are not reflections of current events and should not be seen that way. Sayin that they are the domain of the “Far Right” is simply incorrect as well, as many on the Left (e.g. Greens) are also inspired by Tolkiens works for their particualar causes.

    You may diagree with the author’s worldview or athestically dislike the books, but the specific examples cited are crap. (personally I think it IS the worldview they have a problem with. Tolkien believed in Evil. And Leftists don’t believe in Evil because everyone is good if it wasn’t for capitalism, racism, etc.)

  23. Hmm, environmentalism, imperialism, and racism have a long inter-twined past together; especially in the British and French empires.

    R.C. Dean,

    Having read a great deal of post-modernist works, I’m curious which authors you are talking about specifically. I often run into these comments from people who have heard about these issues, without actually taking the time research or think about them.

    And if critical exegesis (which is all that deconstructionism really is) piss you off, then you must hate Aristotle’s analysis of Plato’s Republic!

  24. R.C. Dean shows a staple conservative reaction to unpleasant analysis: blame it on “relativism.” Well, what’s relativistic about noticing that Tolkien imagined whole races of intelligent beings as wholly malign, and then pointing out that no such races exist? Neither is it relativistic to note that humanity has a strong proclivity to treat out-groups of human beings as completely non-human, and worth killing – and that this kind of particularism is, well, bad.

    Relativists might note these things and then say “well, that’s all right for them, in their societies.” Instead of relativism, it is moral universalism that best reveals the particularisms in the old myths and in the new. And, in this case, with Tolkien, that’s what we see.

    Tolkien wasn’t especially concerned with racial issues. He didn’t notice what came welling up out of his mind. As a decent man, he probably would have revolted against a proposed genocide, say, of Orientals by Occidentals. But that doesn’t mean that his fiction doesn’t fit uncomfortably well with that kind of agenda.

    This is not to say the his books are not great. (I think his story “Leaf by Niggle” is better, though, and probalby his most successful work of art.) Nor is it to say that they should be dismissed as immoral. But we should be careful about what we love and admire. We should not mistake a backwards-looking romanticism and concocted mythology for a complete image of the Truth, or Beauty, or Goodness.

    In any case, the charge of relativism is a red herring. Conservative-leaning folk should think twice before trotting it out. Usually they haven’t a clue of what they are talking about.

  25. Tolkien’s characterizations are black and white but it is his Ludditism that grates most; in “The Hobbit,” for example, machines are associated with the evil goblins “for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them, and also not working with their own hands,” an easy thing for an Oxford don to say. You go along with it anyway, accepting it as you would a fairy tale, if for nothing else but the scenery and the hiking. Tolkien, as a novelist and as a children’s author, is over- and underappreciated respectively, and enjoying him (and he is certainly enjoyable) must be done in a Harry Potter frame of mind only. The problem is that too many people take him seriously.

  26. Re: environmentalism – it has been well established that modern environmentalism had its genesis in the empires of Britain and France; one book of note on this subject is Green Imperialism.

    Wirkman,

    “Relativism” for conservatives appears to be a trope they use to explain all the evils of the world; it has to do with “reality,” than what they imagine reality to be. I mean they shocked, shocked to discovery that a text might have multiple meanings; even meanings that the author didn’t even appear to notice!!!!!!

    *LOL*

  27. There are way too many people who have to justify their salary/time/title/ability to consume oxygen by looking for such things in pop culture. What’s wrong with saying, “Hey, it’s just a good story, or movie, or book, or painting.”

    On the other hand, if you want to see a truly overtly racist flick, watch John Ford’s “The Searchers”. I just caught it again after not seeing it since the 60s, and wanted to take a shower afterward.

  28. I’ll just point out that Orcs are not a race of intelligent beings as such. They are created from nothing by Sauron as an evil slave army. After the ring is destroyed, the armies of Gondor don’t march south to destroy the Soutrons’ women and children. Sauron isn’t even pursuing genocide, just the enslavment of everyone else. The Lord of the Rings says nothing about genocide.

  29. Dan — What about Bill Ferny??!! If my memory serves, he was also described as “swarthy” …

  30. My ring can take those crappy rings any day of the week & in darkest night.

  31. Tom From Tejas,

    What’s especially humorous is that movie critics view it as a movie about “tolerance”; which in a strange way it is. They do take the daughter back in, etc.

    There is nothing wrong about thinking deeply about art; in fact, it seems wrong not to.

  32. DANEgerous clearly hasn’t read “Mein Kampf.” Exterminationists ALWAYS describe their victims as the aggressors and their own actions as defensive.

    “You can’t judge past literature by present standards; if you do, you get people who try to outlaw Mark Twain’s anti-slavery opus “Huckleberry Finn” on the grounds that the book is racist.” Wow, deep, man. A theory can’t be true, because someone, somewhere might use that theory for political activity I disagree with. Are you, by any chance, a former Marxist?

    RC, you keep using that word “deconstructionist.” How exactly does finding meaning a book qualify as asserting that there isn’t any meaning in a “text?” You keep using that word, but I don’t think you know what it means.

    yelowd, please notice that he wasn’t standing over an orc during that monologue. Only a man’s motivation for evil needs to be examined. Lesser races act that way because it’s their nature.

    And how deluded is Rod Dreher’s comment that the forces of good are fighing “the enemy in their midst” in the movies? No, moron, they’re fighting people from other countries, who can be identified as the enemy with nary a glance.

  33. Orcs are a corrupted version of Elves created by Morgoth/Melkor. So you could make a case for Tolkein being against genetic engineering too. 🙂

  34. So, JDM, the “enemy race” in the book is not intelligent, were created to be slaves, don’t have souls, and should be killed with impunity when their actions endanger the political order.

    Wow, you really disproved any racist overtones with that comment.

  35. One more point: the people asserting that there can’t be racist overtones in a text that idealizes the environment have clearly never read a press release from FAIR, and have never attended a public hearing on an affordable housing development in the suburbs.

  36. joe: Orcs are NOT human beings, which Tolkien makes quite clear.

    But yet somehow when YOU see pointy teeth, mindless cruelty, excessive body hair and (said by the author explicitly) something non-human, YOU automatically think “black person.”

    Who is the racist, joe?

  37. Joe, don’t be ridiculous. Again, it is a myth. To be a myth Evil has to be obvious, hence orcs embodying all of the images of evil in our collective imagination. At the same time there is evil through pride, corruption, etc evident in men. And it certainly is even more nonracist to include such a point after one race of man kills another race of man. It’s utter nonsense to try and say that a whole other creature or species represents some race of man. Clearly there are different races and species of men. Some good, some not so good. There are also different creatures. There is NOTHING currently comparible to this. Until aliens descend upon us, there are no other species that are as sophisticated as man.

  38. JB,

    I agree that one should think deeply about art, which then leads us to the debate about just what exactly is art, and does it include mass-market films that are made primarily to enrich studio shareholders. This is something about which I go round and round with my film professor brother.

    Re The Searchers, Ethan may indeed have his moment on the Road to Damascus when he rescues Debbie, but the film is unsettling in ways that have nothing to do with The Duke’s character: White women captured by the Indians are invariably raped into insanity; we are asked to mourn the deaths of white women, but not that of Jeffrey Hunter’s “squaw”, killed by the U.S. Cavalry for no apparent reason other than her band did not want to be forced onto a reservation, etc. Granted, these were Hollywood western conventions of the times, but Ford indeed lays it on a bit thick. Cheyenne Autumn a decade later almost seems like an atonement.

    Whatever “racism” found in Tolkien is inferred by the viewer or reader. That’s a long way from hatred and fear of the Big Red Buck with designs on fair Debbie’s maidenhead.

  39. You too can be a deconstructionist critic in 5 minutes or less!

    Step 1: Note the tendency for the author to not side with a party who is trying to enslave the world, and call him a cultural imperialist.

    Step 2: When the author dares to suggest that force of arms is a reasonable option to prevent one from being forced into shackles, call him an actual imperialist – don’t forget to point out that wars have harmed minorities.

    Step 3: When the evolved association of darkness with mystery and/or evil is used, be sure to note that Africans are also dark and call the author a racist.

    Helpful hints:

    1) Any historical aspect of culture is corrupt beyond hope once practiced by white people, but ONLY when practiced by white people. When discussing the divine right of Henry V, an author should mock, but when discussing the divine right of an African tribal shaman, one should respect differences.

    2) Any activity historically practiced on the continent of Europe, or in the US or UK, is defined by its worst aspect. There is nothing appealing about chivalry, for example.

    With this quick guide, you can spew to your heart’s content and appear to say Meaningful Things with a Social Conscience, just like a real deconstructionist!

  40. “Orcs are NOT human beings, which Tolkien makes quite clear.”

    And Africans are not human beings, as numerous Klan and Aryan Nations make quite clear. Dehumanizing your enemy is pretty common, especially when there is a racial divide. Get it?
    Did you not notice that the word for these different beings in the book is “race” not “species?”

    And call me crazy, but I don’t think you have to be David Duke to find racist meaning in the description, by an Englishmen, of people being “squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes”. Slant-eyes, for chrissakes!

    Not that I think that Tolkein wrote the book to advance a racist ideology, or any ideology at all. But for upper class white people born in the 19th century, racism and eugenics were background noise.

  41. Damn, I must be wrong on this one; I find that I agree with Joe. I’ll think more about it and come back with my revised opinion later.

  42. I agree with the myth comment, yelowd, which is why I have no problem with the incredibly simplistic good/evil distinction in the book. Horrific monsters evil. Stout hearted humans and near humans good. Got it.

    What draws my attention is that there traits used to signify evil track suspiciously close to those commonly attributed by people of Tolkein’s nation, class, race, and time to the “lower races.” That and his explicit and repeated use of the word, um, RACE to designate the different groups.

  43. Someone wants to know if I’m a former Marxist because I said you can’t judge past literature by present standards. I don’t get the connection, but let me give an example explaining my position:

    Suppose I write a sappy sentimental story about a lovable pet-store owner who goes to the orphanage every Christmas and give puppies and kittens to the orphans. This story somehow becomes “literature,” and long after I’m dead high-school students have to study it.

    Meanwhile, the extreme animal-rights activists become more influential, and by the year 2200 the idea of owning an animal pet is considered as morally repugnant as the idea of owning a human slave. Should future students learn that my pet-store owner is an evil man? Or should they learn that in the year 2003 pet ownership was socially acceptable, and giving pets to orphans was considered a moral thing to do?

  44. “And Africans are not human beings…”

    But THEY ARE HUMAN joe! And Tolkien makes it clear that so are the Men of Bree, Gondor, Rohan, Dundland, Southrons, Easterlings.

    And Tolkin makes it clear that Orcs are NOT human beings.

    Yes, I know that “A is not A” and so actually quoting the text is not evidence in your relativist eyes.

  45. “Wow, you really disproved any racist overtones with that comment.”

    Wow! You must be deconstructing my comment to find my attempts to disprove any racist overtones in Lord of the Rings, since I merely pointed out that it doesn’t say anything about genocide. I just don’t understand the process, but I’ll give it a try:

    “But for upper class white people born in the 19th century, racism and eugenics were background noise.”

    Way to point out that if Toleien were alive today, he’d be a member of the Klan.

    (How’s that?)

  46. I know whenever I see a chimp or monkey cast in any film, I think “how racist for the director to cast an african-american in that role!”

    Racism is alive and well.

  47. ‘”And Africans are not human beings…”

    But THEY ARE HUMAN joe!’

    OK, here’s the point…the writer of the text PRESENTS them as being un-human in both cases. Tolkein describes the orcs the way the writer of a Klan pamphlet describes black people, or the writer of “The Song of Roland” describes Moors.

    JDM, if Tolkein were alive today (he’d be clawing at his coffin-ha!) he’d be the sensive, smart, kind, responsible, conservative-by-disposition person he was during his lifetime. Meaning, he almost certainly would not subscribe to the racism and eugenics that were a part of his culture back then.

  48. Basically, I’m making the same point as Jennifer A in her kitten analogy. The people before us had cultural and intellectual baggage that we consider barbaric. Just as we undoubtedly have cultural and intellectual baggage that our descendants will find barbaric. That doesn’t make us, or Tolkein, horrible people. Just humans, with all our foibles and limitations.

    Intellectually honest, forward thinking people try to learn from the foibles and limitations of those who came before. What’s wrong with that?

  49. Joe: You are saying that:

    Describing a non-human as non-human = Describing a human as non-human.

    This is a contradiction and nessarily false.

  50. Tom from Tejas,

    Maidenhead – are you reading the Gawain poet?

  51. Jason Ligon,

    That is at best a poorly constructed parody of deconstructionism.

  52. It’s usually best to ignore pathetic trolls who can’t articulate their positions and rely on insults, but there’s an important point here:

    ‘I know whenever I see a chimp or monkey cast in any film, I think “how racist for the director to cast an african-american in that role!”‘

    That’s not the right analogy. A more accurate one would involve having the monkey carry a banjo, avoid work, leer at white women, and say “Yes’m” – that is, the character is loaded down with characteristics that are understood by the viewer to be “how black people are,” according to the beliefs of the day. Once again, the characteristics Tolkein, the upper class white Englishman, gives to the orcs are “squat, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant-eyes”. Oh, and in another passage, he mentions that they “hate working with their own hands.”

    Did he MEAN to make the orcs stand for certain races? Almost certainly not; he just gave them characteristics of low, despicable people – characteristics that just happened to be those commonly attributed to “lower races” by people of his background.

  53. BTW, did I mention that I’m a big fan of the books and the movies? As Jennifer points out, you can’t dismiss the artistic value of a work just because it contains unfortunate cultural baggage. But the flip side of that is, you shouldn’t ignore or try to justify the cultural baggage just because of the artistic merit.

  54. joe,

    So you’re saying you weren’t saying what I said you were? Interesting.

  55. Snoop – I think the problem is in the varying definitions of the word “human.” As in many myths and related works of art, creatures other than homo sapiens serve as stand ins for humans, to symbolize certain types of people, or certain traits that abide within all people. When Tolkein distinguishes between orcs and humans, I read that as referring to the “race of men” in his works.

  56. And I thought my 11 year old was a dork on this stuff…

  57. having never read a word of tolkien nor seen a minute of mr. jackson’s latest films (dead alive is another story, however) it does seem to be a testament to all of their storytelling skills that so much can be drawn from discussions about these texts, including both serious and mock political standpoints and a lot of anger directed at imaginary grad students. bravo!

  58. JDM, I read your comment “I’ll just point out that Orcs are not a race of intelligent beings as such. They are created from nothing by Sauron as an evil slave army.” as an argument that the description of the orcs cannot be racist, because the orcs are identified, through their description and the method of their creation, as less-than-human. Was that not your point in writing the above?

  59. The LOTR books are not PC by today’s standards, but neither are they racist (not to say Tolkien was a perfect egalitarian, mind you). Tolkien used broad physical and character traits to help readers differentiate a complex set of fictional beings.

    For example, Hobbits = short, hairy feet, sturdy, curly dark hair, homebodies, stout of heart.

    Supposedly-PC Star Trek does the same thing with prosthetic ears and forehead-wrinkles.

    As others have noted:
    1) Most, if not all, “races” described in the books have at least one major character who is either evil or corrupted. (Who’s fault is it anyway that evil still exists in Middle Earth?)
    2) The Hobbits are short, with ruddy to brown complexion. Or so wrote Tolkien.
    3) The good guys are protecting themselves; they don’t go to Mordor to disrupt a peaceful Sauron.
    4) The “all-evil, all-the-time” Orcs and Uruk-Hai are products of an evil power’s will — akin to a mortal class of demons. Orcs were thought to be corrupted Elves from the Ancient Times, reinforcing the idea of Elves as angels, Orcs as fallen angels/demons. While not a strict allegory, LOTR is a fable that employs some of the imagery of Christianity, which — gasp — does buy into the idea that there IS such a thing as evil. You may not believe it, but it’s hardly racist.

  60. Hmm, environmentalism, imperialism, and racism have a long inter-twined past together; especially in the British and French empires.

    Excellent point. Defenses of slavery by both U.S. and U.K. commentators also frequently used the argument of the agrarian ideal. (Ironically, however, believers in aristocracy were often more opposed to slavery than what Dr. J called “your levellers.”)

    On the other hand, if you want to see a truly overtly racist flick, watch John Ford’s “The Searchers”. I just caught it again after not seeing it since the 60s, and wanted to take a shower afterward.

    You might feel a little cleaner if you flip the whole thing around, and consider that Ford may have intended you to get that creepy feeling. I’m not usually a fan of that critical manner-“Don’t you understand: the author intended for that book to be really dull and moronic and offensive, but ironically!” However, in the case of The Searchers, I believe there is some evidence and behind-the-camera chitchat indicating that Ford encouraged The Duke to give rein to his most assholish tendencies in order to make him seem more of a racist psycho. I’m not sure I fully buy the theory of The Searchers as the first deconstructionist western (mostly because the actor who plays Chief Scar looks about as Indian as Macauly Culkin), but it did come at the beginning of Ford’s demythologizing phase, and the argument has been made, by people who are better at this kind of thing than I am.

  61. joe: Tolkien makes it very clear than Men are human beings (i.e. home sapians) and Orcs are not Men. Perhaps you should brush up on your reading comprehension.

  62. Am I the only one who felt a mixture of surprise, relief, and disappointment that the LOTR movies made no effort to shoehorn in a couple actors “of color” in lead roles? When I did the screening of the first movie, it really jumped out at me. Having really dug the books way back when, I had to acknowledge that the Nordicity of it accurately reflected Tolkien, but it was still jarring. Nobody is troubled when black actors play Danes in Hamlet or Scots in Macbeth. Was anybody else expecting to see Denzel as Aragorn?

  63. Half-answering Tim’s question, I think that the ultimate & totally impressive triumph of the LOTR movies is that the characters look exactly as I pictured them, which has never happened in my lifetime, certainly not to a trilogy I read more than 20 times as a pre-pubescent.

  64. I was saying that the book has nothing to do with genocide, which someone seemed to be certain of. Since orcs are not actual beings, or even animals (are there any female orcs?) but merely contraptions built by Sauron, drawing parallels to real world wars that can be solved by genocide is absurd.

    The more I think about it the more absurd an exercise it becomes. Is anyone propounding that Tolkein has proven that genocide is a good idea? What good could come of making stuff up and then saying: “if someone said this, they’d be in big trouble, because I can prove they are wrong and evil!”

  65. Dan — What about Bill Ferny??!! If my memory serves, he was also described as “swarthy”

    Wasn’t Ferny one of Saruman’s half-orcs?

  66. JDM: The whole idea of “genocide” is bunk to begin with. The book is explicit that Aragorn spares the slaves of Sauron, letting them return mindlessly to their holes. In fact, Tolkien would say that our myths of goblins are based on Orcs suriving beyond the Third Age.

    Tim: would you have felt disspointed or relieved if a black actor played Saruman or Wormtongue or some other villian?

  67. And Africans are not human beings, as numerous Klan and Aryan Nations make quite clear.

    Congrats, you’ve set a new record for Stupidest Fuckin’ Thing You’ve Ever Said.

    Blacks were not created by the KKK and the Aryan nations. Orcs, on the other hand, WERE created by Tolkien. He is, therefore, something of an authority on what they are.

    Imagine if Bill Gates said “Windows XP is not capable of human reasoning” and some fuckwit replied “oh yeah? the KKK said the same thing about blacks!” He’d sound almost as stupid as you do right now… not *quite* as stupid, though, as Windows XP at least actually exists.

  68. All of this means a hill of beans. So maybe Tolkien has same undeveloped racist tendencies. So maybe he was opposed to modernity, instead loved the monarchy and hierarchy of old English society. The books and the movies are damned entertaining and I doubt anyone is malignly influenced in the least by them. I say this standing left of center, against the war (Iraq, not Middle Earth). Sometimes we need to kick back, turn off our over-educated, hyper-metaphoring, brains and enjoy some pop-cinema. Shakespeare it aint. See you folks at the movies.

  69. Tim,

    The Searchers is an interesting bridge between Ford’s Cavalry trilogy and Liberty Valance, and I’ve also read about him urging Wayne to let rip as Ethan (then again, with Wayne you wonder how much of it was really acting).

    Going to the other extreme, I got turned off by Dances With Wolves’ PC tone of gentle pastoralists being oppressed by evil whitey. But at least in the expanded edition you see the warriors come back from slaughtering the buffalo hunters proudly bearing their scalps and in one case some poor skinner’s hand. Odd that this bit of ethnic savagery was left out of the general release version (gentle pastoralists do this kind of thing?).

    What is most interesting about Tolkien is how many Christians have taken the story to heart for its supposed “religious” message. I remember SF author/editor Lin Carter remarking back in the 70s that Tolkien’s work is remarkably lacking in the trappings of religion; name a genuine ancient or medieval-style culture like Middle Earth that was not dripping with icons, idols, priests, monks, temples, shrines, vestal virgins, tithes, sacrifices, etc. The depiction of good-vs-evil may be seen by some as “religious” with Frodo as a Christ figure, but in my eye Middle Earth is one deistic place.

  70. Well, Tolkien was adamant that LOTR was not an allegory per se (no one character was to “represent” Christ, for example), but he did write this in 1953:

    “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion,’ to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”

  71. I always took the LOTR as a an extrapolation of Christian ideology of good vs. evil. I am just so simple sometimes.

  72. “Congrats, you’ve set a new record for Stupidest Fuckin’ Thing You’ve Ever Said”

    Actually, paco, congrats on surpassing Joe’s record for The Stupidest Fucking Thing Said In This Thread.

    Tolkien is writing from the perspective of an Aryan; were he in the world of Middle-Earth, he would be closely identified with those of the Master Races. He’s dehumanizing the projected enemies of his projected demographic and that’s why Joe’s comparison is passably apt despite being fatuous (it’s just a fucking story). We’re discussing mental constructs, not things-as-they-exist-out-there (for if we were, “good” and “evil” don’t exist, period), which is why your Windows XP comparison is malapropos.

    And the trilogy is a blendure of Christianity and Scandanavian mythology. Tolkien and Lewis were bigs fans of Icelandic epics and it shows in the way they portray self-sacrificial heroism and courage. Great. Very exciting stuff.

    And as an aside, was that Chomsky thing a joke? A quote: “You view the conflict as being primarily about pipe-weed, do you not?” (apparently he does!)

    LOL.

  73. As for The Searchers, selected scenes make me uncomfortable, but Ford’s intention, if flawed in execution, was to paint racism as ugly and corrupting.

    As for John Wayne, Tom seems to imply that Wayne would not have to stretch much to play a racist, but in fact Wayne, while certainly conservative, was not racist. To quote Roger Ebert on The Searchers:

    “Did they know how vile Ethan’s attitudes were? I would argue that they did, because Wayne was in his personal life notably free of racial prejudice, and because Ford made films with more sympathetic views of Indians.”

  74. In the real world, Tolkien hated and rejected the greatest racist evil of his time, Hitler’s Germany. Tolkien refused a request by the Nazis to certify that he had no Jewish blood so that the Hobbit could be published there. He had nothing but contempt for Nazi theories of racial purity. Those who allege Tolkien’s works reflect his own racist views can’t — unlike Tolkien — distinguish between fantasy and reality.

    Here’s a good article on that point:
    http://www.frontpagemag.com/articles/Printable.asp?ID=4127

  75. Hmmm. I was raised Catholic in the waning days of the Latin Mass, a decade or so after Kari’s Tolkien quote. Catholicism at that time WAS cults (Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus, etc.) and statuary, icons, relics, holy days, stained glass windows, and magic formulae in a dead language that changed tasteless little bread wafers into a man’s flesh and wine into his blood. Those were the things that the Protestant kids insulted us about. It’s interesting that Tolkien was able to find in Catholicism a message that was totally subsumed in ritual and rite during his time.

    I always enjoyed the speculation about what pipeweed really was, on the other hand.

  76. t??the most justifiable reason for talking about the (obviously disputable) genocidal element in Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” is to tweak readers who over-estimate the work’s literary value or its moral import. There’s so much human experience left out of LotR that I always wonder about its more monomaniacal fans. (My friends!) The work contains few women and no institutional religion to speak of, to name just two. . . .

    But all this talk does not address what is to me the books’ (and the movies’) greatest appeal: the sense of living and wandering upon the remnants of a very old civilization, a civilization nearly dead but with living themes and issues that can still be important even to the “lowliest” of the world’s people. The prime romance in the book is that sense of oldness, of the ancient.

    That’s the books’ chief charm. And I also regard it as something of a pagan charm, too. I’m always surprised by the number of Christians who love the work. Yes, I know: they get a Satan-figure (Sauron) and a quasi-Christ-figure (Gandalf) and Pilates and Davids and a whole host of familiar characters, in new (and often better) literary garb. But they also get Tom Bombadil, who comes off as an Epicurean god. You get sentient eagles, elves and dwarves and … no angels, no Law, no priestcraft. Magic, instead. Not prayer. The whole thing seems an interesting glorification of non-Christian enticements. No, “glorification” is wrong. Tolkien revelled (I think that’s right) in all this non-Christian, pagan stuff. I don’t know how as a Catholic he squared that with his religion – I don’t remember; it’s been years since I’ve read Humphrey Carter’s work. But whatever ideas he used to tame his wild imaginings, I doubt if those ideas hold much water. The work is better than any self-justification.

    But it is not necessarily better than a half dozen other fantasies of the “high” or “mythic” sort (as opposed to horror and sf, for instance). There are a dozen (at least) short stories by Lord Dunsany (“The Sword of Welleran”) that outmatch even “Leaf by Niggle,” Tolkien’s most impressive bit of writing. James Branch Cabell’s “The Cream of the Jest,” “The Music from Behind the Moon,” and “The High Place” are brilliant comedies as well as deeply impressive and moving fantasies. “The Last Unicorn” by Peter Beagle is exquisite and unforgettable. But though each of these works has elements of that romance of the ancient that Tolkien so excels in, none perhaps so consistently conjures it, page after page. Only Mervyn Peake’s “Gormenghast” books comes close to Tolkien’s reach and grasp, and without any magic or supernaturalism.

    Maybe the reason so many people tend to love Tolkien’s work more than its grand competition is because his books allow us to look at the world as wanderers upon it, and still enable us to feel attached to it, and capable of committing to it even when we find much of it utterly mysterious and alien and awesome and even cruel.

    So, along with the anti-absolute power theme (the central focus of the book, after all), this gives us a good reason to admire the books, even if Tolkien’s prose sometimes underwhelms us, or his poetry appears as risible, or his grasp of human experience sometimes seems very narrow. Few other books elicit a sense of wonder at the ancient marvels of the past. They may be entirely made up, but we know that our civilization is a truly strange thing, and very old, and not a thing of which we can say “this is wholly ours”; it is, instead, that of others, many long dead.

    Isn’t this a nice trendy as well as wholesome message to counter the lingering weirdness that some of us feel regarding a reified evil – and whole races of beings given over to that evil?

    Tolkien’s books may not be as great as some think, but they are very, very good. And their appeal understandable. It’s a pity about the limiting elements. And the counter-realism of wholly evil beings. But nothing is perfect.

  77. I don’t claim Tolkien wrote LOTR or invent Middle Earth with some kind of evangelistic or even apologistic goal in mind. He set out to invent a complex mythology, complete with new languages and beings and intertwined stories, but on the foundation of (others might say limitations of) his worldview. But he really just wanted to entertain. The Hobbit originated as stories for his own children.

  78. “Did they know how vile Ethan’s attitudes were? I would argue that they did, because Wayne was in his personal life notably free of racial prejudice, and because Ford made films with more sympathetic views of Indians.”

    On the other hand, he also made Sergeant Rutledge (1960), one of the most incompetent “anti-racist” westerns ever made. It has a civil rights theme, sticking up for a black man wronged by whites — but is filled with reflexively racist and one-dimensional portrayals of Indians. It reminds me of that scene in There’s Something About Mary where Matt Dillon tries to express compassion for the retarded but keeps using words like “retard” in the process.

    That said, I agree with Tim’s interpretation of The Searchers — Wayne’s character is an antihero and his racial views were intended to be as repellant as they sound.

    Me, I always preferred Hawks to Ford. And “Leaf by Niggle” to The Lord of the Rings.

  79. Bradley from Salubria,

    That hardly clears Tolkein. People are a lot more complex than that. Witness Mencken’s fairly complicated relationship with racism and anti-semitism.

    Let me analogize to Chaucer, one of England’s greatest poets, spies, tax-collectors, bureaucrats, etc. He had some fairly dim views regarding Jews (and Muslims); in fact, one of his tales contains a classic piece of blood-libel. Now, how are we to deal with issue, Chaucer’s anti-semetism (which was no worse than European anti-semeitism at the time)? Are we to take Chaucer’s ouvre and toss it into the sea, or are we to read it, appreciate it, analyze it, criticize it, deconstruct it, etc.? I take the latter approach. And I do the same with Tolkein’s works. Clearly there is some measure of prejudice in them, a prejudice highly informed by the society he grew up in, and one we find unacceptable today. But the fact that such exists in his work should give us a degree of pause, and we should rationally look at it and criticise or otherwise analyse it.

  80. Wirkman,
    Well, I for one can’t tell satire from actual literary criticism. I’m still not sure if you’re saying you were only kidding.

  81. Matt Welch,

    The movie version of Snow Falling on Cedars was close as I have seen.

  82. Evil, wicked, tricksy bloggers lies! They lies to us, yes, they do my precious!

    Professor Tolkien is a nice Master. He makes us, he gives us precious, yes, he does! Professor Tolkien made the precious and let us find it for our birthday present. Cruel Deagol tried to takes it from us, but we made him pay! And kind Professor Tolkien found us a shelter under the mountains, a nice cave with fish and goblins to eat, far away from the nasty yellow face in the sky that burns us!

    Yes, wicked hobbits, evil BAGGINS comes and take it, and we would have died for loss of the precious if Professor Tolkien hadn’t kept us alive. Yes, nice Professor Tolkien. We were captured by Mordor, but Professor Tolkien got us out safe to find the precious. We will keep the precious safe, His Eye will not find us! Lord Gollum we will be with the precious, and the Eye will crawl and cry before it withers away, and Lord Gollum will eat fish three times a day.

    Professor Tolkien showed us how to find the wicked Baggins, and the fat stupid hobbit following him. Now, as they lie sleeping, we’ll take back the precious…

  83. Speaking of racist westerns, did anyone pick up any racial overtones in Blazing Saddles? Or, did I just read too much into the story line?

  84. Tolkien is writing from the perspective of an Aryan

    What a load of ignorant horseshit.

    He’s writing from the point of view of an Englishman; the English aren’t Aryans. This is why the hobbits — Tolkien’s heroes — are short, fat farmers with dark curly hair and provincial attitudes, and not tall, proud, blonde warriors.

    The Orcs are corrupted Elves. They aren’t humans at all, let alone sub-humans. They’re a corrupted version of an another (but by NO means inherently good or admirable — witness the fact that they basically leave Middle Earth to its fate in LotR) species. They are an inherently evil form of life. In real life there are no inherently-evil forms of life. This is one of many reasons why it is mind-numbingly stupid to compare the behavior of fictional humans towards pure, unredeemable evil, to the behavior of real-world humans towards other humans.

    You can keep snivelling that “Tolkien was racist!” all you want. All I can say is that Orcs eat humans and truly do, each and every one of them, want to rape, kill, and enslave everyone that they can. If it’s a “simplistic conservative black-and-white few of the world” to think that it’s a good idea to war against people who want to rape, enslave, and/or kill and eat me, well, then I guess that label fits.

    Maybe someday you can write the Sensitive Communications Major Lord of the Rings, where the Orcs are deeply conflicted creatures who only rape, kill, and eat people because Sauron never showed them enough affection when they were kids, and because the evil white men won’t let them live in peace. If nothing else, it’d probably be good for a Ph.D thesis at a number of American universities.

  85. Jean Bart,

    If you have any evidence that Tolkien expressed real-life racist attitudes toward actual humans (as opposed to imaginary beings), let’s hear it.

    Analogizing Mencken and Chaucer’s prejudices such as anti-Semitism with Tolkien’s attitudes is particularly wrongheaded because Tolkien explicitly opposed the anti-Semitism of the orcs of the 1930s.

  86. You can keep snivelling that “Tolkien was racist!” all you want. All I can say is that Orcs eat humans and truly do, each and every one of them, want to rape, kill, and enslave everyone that they can. If it’s a “simplistic conservative black-and-white few of the world” to think that it’s a good idea to war against people who want to rape, enslave, and/or kill and eat me, well, then I guess that label fits.

    The argument is that it’s racist to create a story in which a race is wholly evil — especially if that race is then given “swarthy” characteristics associated with certain human ethnic groups.

    The fact that the story is Tolkien’s fictional invention is not a counter-argument; it’s part of the original point. (And the fact that orcs aren’t human is a red herring. They’re degenerated elves — so what?)

    I don’t necessarily buy the Tolkien-is-a-racist theory, but the inability of certain people here to even understand what they’re arguing against is extremely aggravating.

  87. I have two questions. In literature, good is usually depicted as being ‘white’ while evil is depicted as being ‘black’. So because of this dichotomy, are hundreds of years of literature racist?

    If LOTR is racist for dehumanizing the Orcs (not that they are even humans, but anyway) then is Buffy the Vampire Slayer racist for dehumanizing vampires? In both pieces the situation the characters find themselves in is total war: kill or be killed.

  88. I am instantly reminded of Jonah Goldberg’s column on this subject. It is a great metaphor for this nonsense of a post.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg010303.asp

    Money quote: “One is tempted to ask who is the real racist here? On the one hand we have people ? like me ? who see horrific, flesh-eating, dull-witted creatures with jagged feral teeth, venomous mouths, pointed devilish ears, and reptilian skin, and say, “Cool, Orcs!” On the other hand we have people, like Mr. Yatt, who see the same repugnant creatures and righteously exclaim “black people!” Maybe he should spend less time vetting movies for signs of racism and more time vetting himself if, that is, he free-associates black people with these subhuman monsters. “

  89. Bradley from Salubria,

    “If you have any evidence that Tolkien expressed real-life racist attitudes toward actual humans (as opposed to imaginary beings), let’s hear it.”

    You certainly are dense. As I said, telling me that he did not favor the Nazis does not tell me that he was not a racist; it does not tell me that he did not like the Nazis, and did not buy into their particular theories regarding human development, etc. In other words, its not as good a proxy for the claim that you are trying to make as you thought it was.

    “Analogizing Mencken and Chaucer’s prejudices such as anti-Semitism with Tolkien’s attitudes is particularly wrongheaded because Tolkien explicitly opposed the anti-Semitism of the orcs of the 1930s.”

    First of all, I didn’t analogize to Mencken’s anti-semitism; I analogized to Mencken’s complex and often ambivalent notions about race, etc. Why did I do this? Not to say that Tolkein was indeed an anti-semite, but to say that people are complex and more interesting than the one data point that you brought to the table. Like I said, you are dense.

    When did Tolkein claim that the Orcs were the Nazis; or are you reading that into the book?

    Regarding Chaucer, I don’t know if he was an anti-semite; certain of his tales point in that direction of course. But again, I did not analogize to Chaucer’s anti-semitism; I analogized to the fact that we still find merit in Chaucer’s work, anti-semetic or not. Just as we find merit in Tolkein’s work; even if much of the way his characters are drawn seem to draw upon the racist stereotypes of his day. Again, you are a very dense fellow.

  90. I should point out that the Goldberg Column is commenting on a article by John Yatt says in the British newspaper, the Guardian and not this particular post.

    Same point though

  91. Shorter Nearly-Everyone-Else:

    “Don’t be silly, fictional concepts in novels never represent anything other than what they are on the surface.”

    –Kynn

  92. You’re all ass-holes. It’s just a fairy-tale… myth. I wasted 5 minutes scrolling through your mental muck. Love it. Hate it. It and (your opinions) really don’t matter- LOTR are ripping good yarns. Read your Jung, Rank or Campbell.

  93. If the Elves are supposed to represent Aryan or Nordic ethnicities and the Orcs are a nasty strain of Elf, then it seems logical that, in this context, the Orcs would be the Nazis.

  94. Tolkien’s academic specialty was Old Norse language and mythology. I suspect he drew the orcs from Norse depictions of trolls, who looked unblond, untall — in short, unNorse. He may also have been thinking of the Mongol hordes: His description of orcs suggests Asians, not Africans. The Southrons, who are human, are the Africans in the story.

    As others have said, Tolkien loved his Hobbits the best. The Hobbits appear to be a cross between rural Englishmen and Winnie the Pooh.

  95. P. Ingemi,

    In other words, he attacks the person and not the argument. *chuckle*

    infamouse,

    Actually, that’s one the neat and interesting things about “Buffy”; not all vampires are, well, demonized, and well, demons are a lot more complex in both “Buffy” and “Angel.”

    And, in fact, even the “kill or be killed” argument doesn’t work in LOTR – after all, they don’t treat Gollum/Smeagol that way.

  96. P. Ingemi,

    Yes, same point; attack the person and not the argument.

    infamouse,

    “If the Elves are supposed to represent Aryan or Nordic ethnicities and the Orcs are a nasty strain of Elf, then it seems logical that, in this context, the Orcs would be the Nazis.”

    Would you stop all that analogizing and taking apart of the text and historicizing it! My goodness!

  97. Holy crap you are all a bunch of idiots who clearly know nothing about Tolkein. He clearly stated in the introduction to his own books that this story was not meant to be alegorical or representative in any way. It is just a story!

    It’s a tribute to his brilliance that you can get people on all sides of the political spectrum stating that Tolkein supports their views.

  98. The basic premise is if a person is looking for a problem they will bend anything to find it.

    It is no different than the banning of the Play to Kill a Mockingbird because of the use of a particular word.

    Nonsense

  99. Yes, but Gollum is a weak, shriveled old man-thing. He’s not exactly physically threatening or weilding a club/sword, not like an Orc.

    Regarding Buffy, yes, the ‘demons’ are more nuanced, but at the end of the day, when or if the vampires lose their souls/chips, they need to be killed or they will kill you. When Oz is a werewolf, you can’t go near him or you’ll be dead. LOTR features many different species who are not human/man and yet are nuanced, so does Buffy. This however does not negate the fact that vampires are absolute evil and, unless they are not a threat (neutered by souls and chips), they have to be killed. In fact, it’s arguable that souls and chips are a form of unrelenting torture for the vampires so it would be better to put them out of their misery.

  100. Tolkein Fan,

    It doesn’t really matter what he stated. The fact is that meaning he did not consciously mean to be there, exists in his books; and the fact also remains that he did not write his books in a bloody vacuum (as you seem to be implying) but in the historical, cultural, personal, etc. surrouding that he existed in. Your argument is a kin to claiming that works of say Aristotle or Montaigne or Thoreau do not indeed reflect, even if they transcend, the times (cultural, historical, personal, etc. variables included) that they were written in. That doesn’t of course mean that an author does not have a personal stamp on their work; it does mean that the author does not have total control over the nature of his work.

  101. Minor defense against a minor point:

    I think the “he used race instead of species” argument way up the thread is a bit of a canard. The modern synthesis and with it the biological species concept (which draws the clear divide between the two terms as we now understand them) would not have been part of Tolkien’s education.

  102. “What? You’re still here? It’s over! Go home.” — Ferris Bueller

  103. P. Ingemi,

    No the basic premise is to attack the person and not their argument; its a good way to deflect the conversation away from the argument itself. Make excuses all that you want for Goldbergh, but this is a classic logical fallacy.

    infamouse,

    “Yes, but Gollum is a weak, shriveled old man-thing. He’s not exactly physically threatening or weilding a club/sword, not like an Orc.”

    Yeah, that’s why it takes large numbers of people to tackle his ass; shit, he nearly killed two hobbits with his bare hands.

    And the fact is that Wormtongue is also driven out without being killed.

    “Regarding Buffy, yes, the ‘demons’ are more nuanced, but at the end of the day, when or if the vampires lose their souls/chips, they need to be killed or they will kill you. When Oz is a werewolf, you can’t go near him or you’ll be dead.”

    In other words, your claim doesn’t measure up to the reality of the show; I’ll take that as admitting your error.

    “LOTR features many different species who are not human/man and yet are nuanced, so does Buffy. This however does not negate the fact that vampires are absolute evil and, unless they are not a threat (neutered by souls and chips), they have to be killed.”

    Actually, lots of vampires without souls/chips are spared; Cordelia’s friend is spared; so is the vampire who turned Angel; so is the insane vampire that Angel turned; etc. In fact, they are being merciful to vampires all the time on those shows; especially if the vampire has more than a few lines.

  104. “The argument is that it’s racist to create a story in which a race is wholly evil — especially if that race is then given “swarthy” characteristics associated with certain human ethnic groups.”

    Setting aside the second part of that, why is it racist to create a wholly evil race. Or what is wrong with that kind of “racism.” Seems to me that real-life racism is bad because one hates certain people because of some imagined negative trait(s). If there really was a race of wholly evil people in the world, why would I be wrong in hating it?

  105. Re-reading my last post, could someone teach me the proper usage of the question mark?

  106. You people have _way_ too much time on your hands.

  107. “It’s only a model.”

  108. If vampires are spared, it’s because Buffy’s a crappy slayer. The premise of the show seems to be that Buffy’s supposed to hunt and kill vampires, not let them get away.

    I still don’t see any error though. If the orcs had souls and stopped killing, stopped working for evil, etc, then I doubt any of the Fellowship would want to kill them.

  109. What JRRT actually said in his intro was that while the story was not meant to be allegorical, it was certainly ‘applicable” – a little wordplay there. He was a linguist after all.

    Technically, the LOTR is considered a theological romance, at least by those who categorize these things for living. The theological elements are quite clear: good vs evil, the Christ figure of Gandalf – including his death and rebirth, and the Satanic figure of Sauron. The romance aspects include the heroes, heroines and the quest.

    JRRT fought in WWI and his son fought in WWII. Clearly, those events influenced his thoughts and understanding of the world and hence, the stories he wrote. Note the epic battles, the carnage and almost genocidal levels of death, the scorched-earth destruction he depicts, the alliances of disparate societies and cultures coming together to face a common enemy.

    Clearly, I think, he pines for simpler times and elevates the simple pleasures of quiet country life. He also lived through the worst of the industrial revolution, and just as clearly he wasn’t impressed. I think he probably was a bit of a luddite. What have we gained and what have we lost, he asks. What have we wrought? I sympathize with those questions, to be honest. I don’t want a return to feudalism, but I think modern society is lacking in community, in family and human closeness, and is too materialistic and stressful.

    I also agree that there are xenophobic, if not outright racist images portrayed. The more ‘Southern’ races are darker, dumber and seemingly inherently evil. Just an impression I got from the reading. Xenophobia in itself is understandable; we all suffer from it. We’re all tribal to some degree. Racism is just xenophobic tribalism writ large. It exists the world over and contrary to popular (mis)conception, is LEAST acceptable and LEAST practiced in the western nations, since 1950 or so.

    For all its flaws, it’s still an epic, often beautiful, moving, highly imaginative, richly textured and sweeping adventure.

    Cheers.

  110. infamouse,

    Well, point is that the “Buffyverse” is not constructed like Tolkein’s universe; indeed, the “Buffyverse” is a lot more realistic, complicated, and nuanced than the Tolkein universe. It has nothing to do with whether Buffy is a good slayer or not. Which is of course why your rather lame attempt to analogize the two falls flat on its face.

  111. You are right – we should burn the books and make sure that kids cannot read them anymore!!! Also burn the following:

    All of Jayne Austin’s books
    All of Sherlock Holmes
    All books written before say.. 1991?

    At least that will free up some space in the library for more sensitive texts.

  112. Jean Bart, couldn’t resist being an asshole, eh?

    I would suggest that Tolkien’s little universe is just as nuanced. Everyone in both universes is just as corruptible.

  113. I don’t care if they burn the books of Jayne Austin just so long as they don’t burn the books of Jane Austen.

  114. According to Jean Bart, what I have written here has no meaning, the only meaning is your perception of it.

    So what have I written here?

    If you said “According to Jean Bart, what I have written here has no meaning, the only meaning is your perception of it” you are WRONG and dense and a typical conservative blockhead.

    That is not what I wrote, what I really wrote was your peception of it. And if your perception was that I wrote: “According to Jean Bart, what I have written here has no meaning, the only meaning is your perception of it” you are WRONG..etc etc.

  115. Oh good God. Well, I’m as big a geek as any of you so I’ll throw in my two cents…

    Orcs are like sharks or tigers, or army ants. Predators. Orcs are unusually smart ones. That’s all. I guess it’s up to you if you think that a creature’s behavior is “evil” when it is according to their nature. I don’t think sharks are evil–I suppose I don’t think Orcs are either.

    I think it is just pure horseshit–a word not used nearly enough on this thread–to say that NONHUMAN creatures with evil characteristics must be stand-ins for people of color in a racist screed. It is true that Orcs are described as “slant-eyed”. They are also described as having fangs, of being less than four feet tall (most of them), of having claws and keen smell and the ability to see in the dark. To say they represent ANY sort of human being is just horseshit. There are already non-white people in the LOTR. Most often they are described as captives held by evil rulers, whether Sauron or his stooges.

    One thing I have noticed in Tolkein’s work is, that true evil comes from an evil act with good intentions behind it, but that evil acts done from evil intentions tend to negate themselves. (I haven’t time to list examples but anyone familiar with the Silmarillion and the Lord of the Rings can think of dozens.) The Orcs and Sauron rarely accomplish anything lasting, it seems. If you happen to like cooking up big batches of horseshit I guess you could say that having a “race”–I would prefer “species”–dedicated to pure evil is a form of racism. But Tolkein’s real moral opprobrium is reserved for those who have the capactiy to do good, and choose to do evil, deluding themselves that they are serving the good by doing so. The true villians are Sauron, a fallen angel, Saruman, the most learned and intelligent wizard, and Gollum, once a hobbit like the others but deformed by obsession. All of the other villians are mainly pawns or slaves.

    Orcs do the things they do–well, so do tigers and sharks. I don’t see anything racist about it. Neither do I celebrate their differences and allow them to eat people. Anyone ever read “The Legacy of Heorot”? It was a book about an extraterrestrial colony struggling to fight off predators called grendels. Grendels were clearly smart (though not as smart as Orcs). Or suppose it were an invasion of tigers? I think we’d still here cries of “racism” anyway, if written by a dead white male.

  116. Michael Hiteshew: The Southern races are darker, dumber and seemingly inherently evil? Odd that Tolkien never gives any hint of that through his characters, other than Sam thinking he felt sorry for them.

    You sure that isn’t just YOUR opinions seeping through?

  117. LOTR: Do you have the courage and self-respect to fight for your way of life? GWB: yes. Left: No.

  118. I am glad your worlds are so free of evil that you have time to seriously debate such light works of fiction.

    My world has so much evil, I don’t worry about evil in books. For example, the Caucasian genocide in Haiti still haunts me.

    Joel

  119. Gabe,

    I think the cry would be “Speciesism!” or however the hell PETA spells it. I’m sure the concept of a species that is totally/mostly bad or evil is offensive to some souls out there.

    Honestly, for its time LOTR was quite groundbreaking. Decades later, with so much quality fantasy/SF written since, I find that it doesn’t read qauite as stirringly (and is even a bit stilted in parts).

    I remain a fan of the two greatest fantasy writers of all time – Rider Haggard and Robert E. Howard (anyone looking for real pulp-era racism? Read Conan and other Howard stories in their original Weird Tales form.)

  120. What I find amazing is that the movie versions have had spectacular success worldwide, including many non-western countries.

    As ususal, the only ones seeing racism are the usual bunch of self-hating anti-Western Westerners (or Wormtongues as I like to call them!)

  121. If one is determined to find racism one can find it anywhere even in shreadded wheat (shreadded wheat that suggest flogging!)

    Tolken wrote a lot of stuff, he did a ton of writing in the 20th century and was a noted professor for decades, this business of Tolken as a Nazi/ etc only seemed to come up when the movies came out.

    This would suggest that for decades millions of readers of all political persuasions failed to notice said racism in his works and in his life.(devout Catholic, he is fameous for the coversion of C.S. Lewis using reason. )

    The failure of a culture which has turned race into an obsession to notice this suggests either #1 it is not a serious arguement, or #2 that all the previous people who read Tolken were blind rasist idiots.

    I plead guilty. I believe there are some arguements that are so foolish or misinformed on their face that they are worth ridicule.

    If one suggested for example that BLAZING SADDLES , or the movie GLORY (the story of the 54th Black Regement in the civil war) or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD are racist because the word “Nigger” is constantly used in all. Then the person making that suggestion didn’t see the films or read the book which are clearly attacks on racism. This would suggest that the person in question is looking for a reason to make issues.

    In fact such a person would call me racist for using the above word to make the example.

    Frankly this is much too many word about a topic that doesn’t deserve it, this is a free internet, if you choose to believe this feel free to do so. If you TRULY believe that this is the case then you have a positive obliguation to speak it loudly to the mainstream press and anyone who will listen.

    However if the most pressing issue concerning race is Tolken we must be doing something right

  122. Jean Bart, you show all the signs of a troll – lots of insults but no facts.

    “When did Tolkein claim that the Orcs were the Nazis; or are you reading that into the book?”

    I never wrote that Tolkien made any such comment. That was an aside, written in my own voice.

    And of course, you still show no evidence that Tolkien harbored any racist attitudes. But since you obviously can’t, do what you do best and go back to being a troll.

  123. My understanding of the books was that the Southern and Eastern races never had a chance to be other than what they were. They’d always lived in subjection to Sauron, because Sauron had been there as long as they had. The books never say anything about them being “dumber” or more evil or whatever. (Boromir does say that they have always been ready to serve Sauron–but that is Boromir talking and Aragorn views them with pity, and does not punish the ones who served unwillingly.) The books DO make it clear that these nations have always served Sauron, because Sauron found them first. An analogy: Stalin was an evil tyrant, and Russians fought for him and conquered large chunks of Eastern Europe for him. Was it evil to be a Russian soldier in the Second World War? I would have to say that judgement must be passed on each soldier; that circumstances and motivation would make the difference. I think the same case can be made for Tolkein’s Easterlings and Southrons.

  124. Joel,

    Re Haiti, Are you talking about the slaughter of whites and mulattos by blacks, the slaughter of blacks by whites and mulattos, the slaughter of mulattos by whites and blacks, the slaughter of blacks and mulattos by whites, the slaughter of blacks and whites by mullatos, or the slaughter of whites by blacks and mullatos? Wow, talk about your Ven diagrams…

    Off LOTR and on Haiti, just finished Lost White Tribes by Riccardo Orizio. Has a chapter about white (well, whitish) Poles descended from Polish soldiers who fought for Napoleon in Haiti before defecting to the black side. They were given a special dispensation to live on the island after black rule commenced and all other whites were banished or killed.

    Also has a chapter on the Blancs Matignon of Guadeloupe, Frenchies who live in the island’s boonies and who have stooped to incest to keep their blood lines pure. Ever hear about them over in France, JB?

  125. P Ingemi, I’ve been at a university now, for far too many years, and I can assure you that I have ALWAYS heard arguments that Tolkein is racist and you can find things written on that subject going back decades.

  126. “the fact also remains that he did not write his books in a bloody vacuum (as you seem to be implying) but in the historical, cultural, personal, etc. surrouding that he existed in.”
    There’s that post-modernism that people were complaining about. I hope you realise that looking at authors in their ‘historical context’ is just one in a long line of lit crit fads. In other words, just asserting it doesn’t persuade me that it is important.

    “Well, point is that the “Buffyverse” is not constructed like Tolkein’s universe; indeed, the “Buffyverse” is a lot more realistic, complicated, and nuanced than the Tolkein universe.”
    LOL
    The Buffyverse is a piece of inconsistent, commercially driven drek with some snappy dialouge and pretty actors. It repeatedly resorted to the reset button, almost always avoided confronting the consequences of its characters choices, and relentlessly refused to consider the implications of its mythos.

  127. Gabriel:

    I have not heard this myself, but if that is the case then I stand corrected.

    Tell me what was Tolken’s reply he only died in the 70’s if I’m not mistaken, or is this something that suddenly showed up in the 80’s?

  128. I read National Lampoon’s “Bored of the Rings” before I ever heard of LOTR, and I have not been able to generate the slightest interest in Mr. Tolken’s screed since. Goodgulf the wizard, Frito, Dildo, Spam McGee, the Nozdrul and the Ballhog are more real to me than their Tolkenesque counterparts. Tim Benzedrine has a special place in my heart because I knew so many people exactly like him. Thankfully, they are all dead now.

    I don’t find the LOTR movies to be particularly hawky. Quite the opposite. The movies glorify violence in true Hollywood fashion, but when the chips are down it’s not the sword that saves the day. Someone pulls a bag of tricks and blasts the enemy to perdition. The main characters are quite ineffectual.

    GTC

  129. TO: All
    RE: Oh My God…

    ….they’ve got a blog troll.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  130. I admire both LOTR and Bored of the Rings immensely. I wore out two copies of BOTR, but thanks to the Web it’s here for all to enjoy:

    http://whatsinaname14.tripod.com/EBook.BoredoftheRings.pdf

    Of course, this must be violating some copyright. Serutan is probably talking to Sorhed right now about a lawsuit.

  131. Normally I wouldn’t get out of bed for a fantasy movie even if it was being filmed in my back yard. However I have seen the first two parts of LOTR at the theater and have DVD’s of both. Now I know what’s drawing me, the subliminal racist theme and my secret desire to live in a racially pure, Aryan world. Thanks for helping me get in touch with my inner self Matt. I’m not even going to wait for the lineups to thin out before I go to Return of the King.

  132. Michael Hiteshew,

    Well struck. Well struck indeed.

  133. So many words written about nothing…

    The ring does not discriminate. It corrupted humans the same and non-humans. Actually, humans were more corruptable than the “lowly” Hobbit.

    Sarumon was a White Wizard before Gandalf ever was. Sarumon’s symbol was the WHITE hand.

    Let’s face it. There are a great many people that WANT the world to be racist if for nothing more than to make themselves seem more righteous. After all, aren’t the self-righteous, elitist assholes the ones who always come up with this crap? God forbid a story should just be a story. No pseudo-intellectual, shit-stirring, cause-jumper would have anything to pat himself on the back about in that case.

    It is a good story. Like so much literature, it brings to the surface what is already in one’s heart.

  134. Jean Bart queries:

    When did Tolkein claim that the Orcs were the Nazis; or are you reading that into the book?

    But, when someone responds, chastises:

    Would you stop all that analogizing and taking apart of the text and historicizing it! My goodness!

    I think I smell the foul stench of hypocricy. Whatsmore, Jean Bart’s demand that we ignore the historical context is a little, well, strange. The entire f***ing series was written from 1936 through 1949. Oh, gee, what was the major set of political/social events shaping thinking over that period? And in light of the OVERWHELMING themes of the stories regarding the need to stand up to evil, should we consider the historical context irrelevent.

  135. infamouse,

    If you don’t like the fact that I eviscerated your ill-conceived analogy, that’s not my fault.

    Post-Modern Abyss,

    Language is slippery; get used to it. Where is the abyss in this, BTW? In fact that language carries uncertainties, and that a text can spin out multiple meanings that even the author did not assume were there? Is the abyss in the freedom that this allows/augurs? Wow, freedom; let’s be afraid of that.

    Bradley from Salubria,

    “Jean Bart, you show all the signs of a troll – lots of insults but no facts.”

    I provided you with lots of facts; at least regarding the claims that I made. Which are as follows: (1) Humans are more complex than one mere data point about their thoughts – especially when it comes to a social phenomenon as rich and varied as racism and anti-semitism; (2) even if Tolkein’s works are at least partly racist in nature (and I think the internal evidence is clear on this – but we can disagree as to that, because it is after all literature) – notice the difference here Tolkein’s “works” – that does not mean we should condemn them, just as I would not condemn Chaucer’s works.

    “And of course, you still show no evidence that Tolkien harbored any racist attitudes. But since you obviously can’t, do what you do best and go back to being a troll.”

    Well, I never claimed that he did, so why would I have to prove this I can’t say? Your problem is that you’ve got poor reading comprehension skills. I’m not going to walk you through my statements again, however; either your too damn dense to understand what I wrote, or you are being wilfully obtuse.

    Tom From Texas,

    “Also has a chapter on the Blancs Matignon of Guadeloupe, Frenchies who live in the island’s boonies and who have stooped to incest to keep their blood lines pure. Ever hear about them over in France, JB?”

    I am intimately familiar with the history of the French Caribbean, and the Caribbean in general; and yes I have heard of them. Other than they are bunch of wackos, what else can I say? 🙂

    BTW, blancs during colonial times in the Caribbean – British, Dutch, French, Denmark, etc. – when slavery was still practiced all had problems maintaining enough women to replace the white population. That the islands tended to be as much of a graveyard for whites as for blacks didn’t help matters either. You are likely aware that without massive inputs of new slaves on a yearly basis, that colonies like St. Domingue (Haiti) would have quickly had a demographic collapse due to disease, overwork, and horriblly undernourishing diets.

    George,

    “There’s that post-modernism that people were complaining about. I hope you realise that looking at authors in their ‘historical context’ is just one in a long line of lit crit fads. In other words, just asserting it doesn’t persuade me that it is important.”

    Hmm, looking at a text in its historical context wasn’t invented by lit-crit crowds; in fact, as I recall, Tacitus, along with other classical authors, were quite fond of its use. As to whether its use is convincing, I would suspect that you would decide that issue on a case by case basis. If you’ve got some novel reason for debasing this method en toto, do tell me; however, I suspect that entire point of contention was merely that its part of “lit-crit.”

    “The Buffyverse is a piece of inconsistent, commercially driven drek with some snappy dialouge and pretty actors.”

    Hmm, so I guess the commercially driven nature of various Renaissance painters pisses you off, eh? And calling it inconsistent is hardly an insult; as much as it is simply stating the nature of humanity.

    “It repeatedly resorted to the reset button, almost always avoided confronting the consequences of its characters choices, and relentlessly refused to consider the implications of its mythos.”

    Hmm, well, if Angel is part of the Buffyverse, as it is IMHO, then I would say that you are at least wrong regarding Faith going to prison and Angel’s entire life. Not to mention Xander’s ex dying in the good fight; Willow facing up to herself becoming evil, etc.

    You would have to explain to me what you think its mythos is, before I could comment on that portion of your statement.

    P. Ingemi,

    People have been discussing race and like issues in Tolkein’s books for quite some time; since the 1960s as I recall. Since single data points appear to be so useful in these discussions, I have one: my wife, a bio-chemist, who does not work in academia noticed the division of the “races” and their “qualities” when she first read the series about twenty years ago. Its not as if this is some sort fantastical stretch of the imagination, and my wife did not go “looking for it” either. Of course that you imply that anyone who sees this in his work must be “looking for it” illustrates that you’ve dropped back down to the level of attacking the person again, as opposed to the argument. *chuckle*

  136. Bill,

    More like the foul smell of sarcasm. Or at least that was my meaning. Of course you illustrate my point about multiple meanings nicely, and I thank you kindly. 🙂

  137. it’s all bush-cheney-haliburton’s fault

  138. Just to expand on what Matt alluded to, the Normans were, in fact, descended from the Vikings. See The Vikings in Normandy.

  139. I’m putting all of Arda on notice: In this War on Sauron you’re either with us or against us. Evil-doers attacked Helm’s Deep once, but they’ll never succeed at it again.

  140. OK, let’s get something straight once and for all: Not all Easterlings and Southrons are terrorists, but all terrorists are Easterlings or Southrons. We should invade Rhun, obliterate Khand, subdue the Hardrim, and forcibly convert them to the worship of the Valar!

    Liberals, of course, claim that they want a policy of “constructive engagement” with Far Harad. You see, in liberal-speak that’s code for “Haradrim soldiers on elephants patrolling the streets of Minas Tirith while Rohirrim maidens are sacrificed to Morgoth.”

    Of course, there is one battle that the liberals are actually interested in fighting: They all unanimously agree that Galadriel must be tried as a war criminal for the destruction of Dol Guldur. To liberals, southern Mirkwood is a model society. If a man of Gondor left even one tenth as much pollution in his forests they’d be screaming about how this is an affront to the Holy Yavanna (funny how the only Vala they’ll worship is the one who opposes economic growth as being “anti-environment”), but when Sauron does it that’s just peachy. Score one for Saruman’s appeasement policy.

    While we’re on the subject of Saruman, isn’t it funny how for more than a thousand years his industrial developments were just fine? That’s because he was the leading voice for appeasement on the White Council. Liberals couldn’t muster any outrage for his environmental degradations until he was finally revealed as an open traitor. Pollution is fine, as long as you don’t bring any embarassment to the editors of the New Osgiliath Times. The only traitors they oppose are the ones who get caught.

    Anyway, I predict that within a month liberals will be demanding awnings, tunnel access, and windowless rooms in all public buildings so that trolls can collect welfare checks without turning to stone in the sunlight. They’re already demanding affirmative action for Orcs…um, I mean, “ethically-challenged Elves”. Liberals can cry a river for the suffering the Orcs endured at the hands of Melkor thousands of years ago, but they have no pity for all of the good Elves and Dunedain who have since been killed by Orcs.

  141. So everybody is bent out of shape over whether JRRT was a racist or not but nobody cares that he was a bona-fide 24 carat luddite ? What happened to all the extropians ?

  142. You people are completely missing the point. The orcs had issues and just wanted to be understood, Saruman was beaten by his father as a child, and Sauron had a small penis. They were all just trying to be themselves until the coalition of the willing cmae knocking at their door, blasting away at the innocents, wreaking all mannner of havoc in a hasty, ill-justified pre-emptive war. If the hobbits, elves, dwarves and humans had just taken the time to understand the culture of Mordor and maybe even have built some schools all would’ve been well. The arrogance of those bastards!

  143. Jean Bart (and others) —

    Fer the luvva Eru, would you please just say it, and stop the madness:

    “Tolkein Good. He used some loaded descriptions. Maybe he absorbed some dumb thinking from his time. Maybe he’s no angel? But not evil, either. Tolkein’s still o.k., gosh darnit.”

    Sincerely,
    Xander Smalley.

  144. …and the Gauls were Celts, the Franks were Teutons, and the Brits were Angles and Saxons and Normans, and the Hungarians were Urgo and Lett, and the Finns were Lett as well as Norse, which of course the Russians were also, in part (the word Rus is western Norse for the equivalent of Vik, meaning bay, and Viking is not a person ie, the Norsemen went a Viking, you know plundering and pillaging and raping). Back then nobody had the time to worry about these civilized concerns like racism, everyone was out to keep his ass (and hers and the kiddies’ by extension) safe and fed. Sound to me like you folks have much too much time on your hands. By the by, those who can create, those who can’t are critics.

  145. It is true that people dehumanize others they want to MURDER. That’s exactly what’s happening with abortionist, exactly as the nazis would “scientifically” concluded that Jews weren’t human beings, aborcionists try to use science (such a whore, has science be down the time) to negate the human value of little babies in their mothers’ wombs. I feel like puke…..

  146. And when are you Nords going to invent your own word for Aryan ? That is an indo-iranian term which did not exist in the caucasian lexicon until the 18 century or so. It’s tough keeping the untouchables under control as it is !

  147. My god, people (assuming I can utter GOD in here.)

    Get a grip.

    The Orcs are just as likely machines as anything else. They are created by evil men and set out destroying the environment. Not that any of this matters.

  148. I rather enjoyed Tolkien’s preface in one of the later editions of LOTR, where he explicitly disclaims any allegorical meaning and grudgingly expects that people will try to find it anyway.

  149. Stop, you’ll have Senator Santorum thinking that we may progress to man on elf or man on orc sex to maintain political correctness!

    Considering that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, attending Mass daily, he most likely would have agreed with Rick Santorum. (Incidentally, I’ve yet to see an explanation as to why his legal analysis was mistaken.)

  150. Some people just have too much time on their hands, and not nearly enough common sense.

  151. I shall never fail to be amazed at “litterary criticism”. It is the height of arrogance to presume to know the intentions behind a writer with out so much as a declaritive statement by said writer to go by.
    And the whole “he may not have consciously to put it there, but that just means that he subconsciously felt those things” bit reminds me the old “refigerator mother syndrom” where the accused was guilty either by admission, or by denial because denial was seen as proof.
    It’s utterly insane.
    Look at the volumes of text “analyzing” Shakespear’s works. Call me a cynic, but as great as Shakespear was, I seriously have trouble believing that he meant on any level to put all of the stuff people have pulled out of it into it.
    Truly the criticsims of the critic speak more to the critic’s nature than to the work of the author being “analyzed”.

  152. Those who have not read by pathbreaking _Manufacturing Consent_ need only read this thread to grasp in its essentials the power of the modern total media-terror imperialist-capitalist state. Three questions should be enough–for those with the wit to think:

    (1) Why is there no mention of the giant “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging behind Galadriel in the trees of Caras Galadhon after the “liberation” of Dol Guldur? Why is there no mention of the “Combat Operations Finished!” banners splashed across the website http://www.queen.lothlorien.wc?

    (2) Why have so many people fallen for the lie that orcs are not born–lack souls–are totally evil? Tolkien himself states completely plainly that orcs are elves, descended from the first elves who woke beside the waters at the dawn of time, just like all other elves. Is it that imperialists hope to profit somehow from the denial of the fact that orcs, like all beings–ents, hobbits, dwarves, humans, eagles, orcs, elves, maiar, valar–are good and evil mixed, and that only the structures of imperalism amplify and should be blamed for evil? How, exactly, does Halliburton plan to profit from the orcish holocaust about to be perpetrated, now that the War of the Ring has reached its “victorious” conclusion?

    (3) Are we really supposed to believe that it is a coincidence that Saruman’s prime contractor in the destruction of Fangorn Forest was… Halliburton?

  153. >>Considering that Tolkien was a devout Catholic, attending Mass daily, he most likely would have agreed with Rick Santorum.

  154. Matt, descending to this level to troll for comments? LOTR? Funny, in the 60s we thought Tolkien a touchstone for hard left ideology. Now Tolkien’s a nazi. Amazing. Now let’s apply our PC to Shakespeare…to Fitzgerald, Hemingway. No one in history is as sensitive, as exquisitely attuned to latent meanings as we are today. And we’re right, of course. (Reason? I had no idea that it had become Democratic Underground! And Matt? A few months at Reason and he’s no longer an anti-idiotarian? Cripes. I remember Matt when this garbage wouldn’t be posted, but mocked.)

    Please, dear reader, go to the original site (Harry’s) and read civilized (well, comparatively so) discourse on the topic.

    Anyone at Reason, any Reason readers (though obviously no Reason commentators) with education in Literature?
    I think not. Before lugubrious commentary on Lit, try reading a little criticism. I’d recommend Wimsatt’s ‘Verbal Icon’ to start. Every fallacy in this book is employed in the comments…add to that juvenile politics and you’ve got some powerful dumb here.

  155. anony-mouse and Colin are correct. Most all allegorical meaning found in LOTR exsist only in the wrighter’s head.

    Tolkien would still be a force today in Literature due to his work on old english tests like Beowulf. In fact one can see the influence of such texts and his strong Catholic beliefs throughout LTOR.

    Ignorance of the facts seems to be a prerequisite for those who cast charges of bigotry etc., so freely against others.

  156. Is the abyss in the freedom that this allows/augurs? Wow, freedom; let’s be afraid of that.

    Perhaps you can encourage France to ban all interpretations outside of authorial intent. Then we’ll all be safe. Can’t have ostentatious criticism, after all.

  157. We have firm intelligence indicating that Sauron is in league with Osama Bin Laden, and that he was involved with the attacks on the Two Trees. We further know that he is in possession of at least twelve rings of power. Defectors have testified that all nine of the Nazgul, his elite undead guard, are in possession of rings of power. Three more were seized from dwarf lords. We knew about those rings eighty years ago when he was driven out of Dol Guldur by coalition forces. We found the aluminum tubes they were kept in.

    Now he is seeking an even more potent Ring of Mass Destruction. If he gets it, he could give it to Al Qaeda, and wreak destruction even worse than Melkor’s murder of Finwe and destruction of the Two Trees.

    If the White Council will not authorize a pre-emptive invasion of Mordor then we will act alone. The security of Arda is at stake.

  158. The way the Orc guerrillas and the remnants of the Nazgul attack us just shows their desperation. We are gaining control of Mordor, and we will stay as long as it takes to make sure that the people of Mordor can live in peace under a representative government.

    Reporter: Sir, what about efforts to find the Ring of Power?

    Mordor is the size of California. We can’t search every volcano and palace overnight. We have accurate intelligence indicating that there were Ring of Power programs in place before the war. Sauron simply hid them. But we will find evidence of these programs.

    Reporter #2: Sir, some people are questioning whether this invasion can be called a success when Sauron remains at large.

    Bush: Sauron will be found. He will be brought to bay, and he will be taken to Numenor. In Numenor Sauron will be kept prisoner under my direct supervision.

    Reporter #3: Sir, in the 1990’s Sauron had contracts with firms headed by current members of your cabinet. Those firms collapsed when he advised them to attack Valinor. How will you prevent him from once again bringing about a catastrophe?

    Bush: I’m nothing like Ar-Pharazon. I’ve restored honor and dignity to Numenor. In my administration nobody says “There’s no controlling legal authority.” We don’t ask “Is this popular”, we ask “is this right?”

  159. Well, don’t worry, maybe in another 30 years we will have advanced to the point where all literature and programming is vetted by political commissars. We’re nearly there already.

    Huh? So it’s impossible to criticize a book withou wanting to censor it?

    In fact, nobody here has called for anything like that, while several people who criticized Tolkien have added that, despite their criticisms, they admire and recommend his books.

    And what’s with all the references to “relativism” and “deconstruction”? Those words aren’t really relevent to what’s going on here. This sort of literary interpretation is much older than deconstructionism, and it has nothing to do with relativism at all.

    I think the post Welch linked to is dumb. But some of the attacks on it here are even dumber. The best summary of their position is Kynne’s: “Don’t be silly, fictional concepts in novels never represent anything other than what they are on the surface.”

  160. Wirkman is simply wrong when he states that there is no trace of angels, Law or prayer in LOTR. The Elves pray to Elbereth more than once in the series, beseeching her guidance and protection as well as giving homage to her status as demiurge.

    It’s worth saying once in this thread that the genesis of LOTR is two-fold:

    First, in Tolkein’s status as a scholar of comparative linguistics. He was a well-regarded linguist (both Oxford and Cambridge) who had a role in the reconstruction of ancient language layers. His own specialty was the Indo-European languages, specifically the Nordic and Celtic ones. He himself says that the LOTR stories originally grew out of an attempt to construct new languages along similar patterns.

    An important insight that emerges from comparative and historical linguistics is the way in which the physical culture and worldview of a people are encoded in their language. This is used to great effect in LOTR.

    But note that Tolkein uses motifs that go well beyond the “germanic”. He consciously modelled much of the death fears/cult of the “high men” on stories current in his day which spoke of ancient Egyptian pharoahs and priests (another death fear/cult culture) as the remnants of a sunken Atlantis, which had overreached itself and then fallen into despair and destruction. In this story Tolkein finds a strong echo of the basic Christian account of the Fall.

    Which leads to the second point, namely that Tolkien was deliberately and consciously addressing theological issues through the history he created behind the LOTR. As a good Catholic, for instance, he is comfortable with the idea of demiurges who act on the One’s vision and with the One’s delegated authority to mold and govern middle earth. This aspect of the Valar, including both their own shortcomings and the promise that the One’s plan will correct even those tragedies, is central to Tolkein’s thought, as he himself said in more than one interview. And there is more than a little echo of the theology of sacrifice in Gandalf’s incarnation in middle earth as a wizard (the order of wizards were minor Valar), in his self-sacrifice on the bride at Khazad-Dhum, his fall into the firey pit while fighting the demon Balrog (another corrupted minor Valar who followed the original Satan, i.e. Morgoth, to middle earth in rebellion against the plans of the One) and in Gandalf’s eventual resurrection (he wandered outside of time and space but was sent back ….)

    To talk about potential racial stereotypes without addressing these CENTRAL themes and influences on his work is simply lousy scholarship.

    And yes, I’ve read Derrida et al very carefully. I acknowledge some validity in deconstructionism, but find it often mistakes its own nominalizations for realityh. WRT a book like LOTR, Derrida’s insights are simply irrelevant **until one has first acknowledged and given central place to the large and conscious thrust of the books**.

  161. So… I’m curious.

    I didn’t have the time to look through all the comments, but I’m always a bit surprised that no one knows about or comments on JRR’s strong Christian faith and his long friendship with CS Lewis (one of the more influential Christian writers of the century) and how those elements are woven into his stories. Yes, I know he was not one for allegory (and I understand did not like Lewis’s Narnia Chronicals for exactly that reason), but the fact that there is deep Christian Theology woven into his stories is always overlooked.

    I just find it interesting….

  162. And Matt? A few months at Reason and he’s no longer an anti-idiotarian? Cripes. I remember Matt when this garbage wouldn’t be posted, but mocked….

    Anyone at Reason, any Reason readers (though obviously no Reason commentators) with education in Literature?
    I think not.

    Actually, Nick has a Ph.D. in it.

    As for Matt, if you didn’t recognize that he was mocking the post when he linked to it, you might want to brush up on your lit-crit skills as well.

  163. holy crap. If there wasn’t a foot of snow on the ground, I wouldn’t have bothered reading all of this.

    The LOTR is a myth. As for pulling things from Tolkien’s life and experiences. Sure he did. Anti-industrialism as an example. Also, the notion that the people to the east and the south were slaves to saramon isn’t that foreign. This may seem racist, but really, who can argue that the east, and south haven’t been fairly barbaric to a westerner? We have certain values, they don’t and so we see them as slaves to some other power. They see us as barbaric as well. Perfect example- Russia. They’re white so I’m not being racist. There were 3 groups they could live under Novgorod-fairly democratic, Muscovite- autocratic, and Kiev( I believe)- aristocratic. The muscovite princes won (ie. ivan the terrible and his predecessors) and that nation and its culture have been consistently friendly to autocrats. Even Putin now isn’t a shining beacon of democratic hope.

    As for the black and white issue. Is it possible that white is seen as good because it is bright and happy. It has all of the colors of the spectrum and therefore naturally appeals to people. Black on the other hand is void. It is nothingness akin to the hell of neoplatonism. I may be wrong, but didn’t the aztecs get all excited about Cortez on his horse because he was WHITE and one of their gods was WHITE? Funny, a group of brownish tinted people who have never had contact (and don’t tell me it’s because they met vikings) with whites create a white god.

    Also, the points on Christian getting excited about LOTR is a great point. The fact that they bashed harry potter for evil spells and wizards is quite humorous. I chalk it up their notion that Tolkien was a Christian ( the focus on the family type rarely mention Catholic) As a Christian I can say that I find harry potter to be more little kid friendly than LOTR. notions of good, evil, honesty, betrayal are much easier to see and comprehend and not nearly as terrifying as Orcs and Uri-khai. The difference between the cave trolls is a perfect example.

  164. I have gotten very tired of “Intelligent” people making up things to complain about. Get a life people. The series is for entertainment and has nothing to do with real life. As for reading and being tainted in my worldview…if I am a thinking person instead of a parrot, I will not be “tainted”.

  165. As a thought experiment, please give an example of a popular movie, book, or television program that cannot be represented as racist or oppresive bu a determined critic.

    Two pop to mind that would at least be difficult to attack: Star Trek and the Matrix.

  166. My goodness, how time flies when we’re having fun! Can it really be forty years since the Communists concocted their “Third world as proletariat” notion? It’s been so long,now, that two whole generations have grown up with that mental wallpaper. It was not always thus. However, in the early 1960’s, it became apparent that either Marx was wrong, and the American working class was never going to start a revolution, or, alternatively, the evil and very devious capitalists had bought us off with goodies. Whatever, Russian power was not going to be riding that particular wave of the future. So, they began to come on to the third world. Castro’s Cuba rather landed in their laps. Fidel was not a Communist, although his brother, Raul, was. But, Fidel was crossways with the US, and that was good enough. The Soviets worked for all the strategic advantage their brown=proletarian line could give them, and really pushed the US into a corner, such that we were siding with South Africa just as we were dismantling sixty years of our own brand of apartheid, to give just one of many ridiculous examples. And, yes, American Communists were among the earliest defenders of Black Americans. They saw them as the most exploited, when not many other people, besides Pentecostal Christians, were very interested in the plight of “Negroes”. The Communist didn’t really understand much about the real problems of real African Americans, but the early work of some Communists came in rather handy, later.
    Now, when someone says that the war in Iraq is another example of imperialist/racist hegemony, for people who are accustomed to thinking that way, as I was for twenty five or thirty years, it all makes perfect sense. But, for people who see a more complex sort of world, that theory is not very useful. Of course, seeing LotR, right now, as an allegory for a conflict no one imagined when the trilogy was written, is intuitively right. It just doesn’t match up with many observable facts. When Tolkien was a young man, racism was a progressive idea, a companion of eugenics. When the “progressive element” instituted segregation in many American cities, old fogies resisted, because it just wasn’t nice. And businesses balked, for example, streetcar companies, who didn’t want to mess with separate seating, nor alienate a whole class of good customers. For Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, that kind of “progress” was detestable. They mighht describe someone coming from a good family, or a horse or dog with a good pedigree. Rural people, black and white, think in such terms, today. But systematic denigration of whole ethnic groups was something that they regarded, and Lewis described, as a misuse of science.
    I’d like to say one more thing, lest I offend someone whose heart is in the right place, even if I disagree with his head. The “brown/prole” idea is not to be dismissed because it is simple. I held it for most of my adult life. I hope that my Ocham’s razor is as sharp as ever, and I thus believe that the simple explanation is uusually the correct one. Rather, for me, the theory has encountered too many exceptions, surprises, contradictions. I can’t continue to believe it because it has, in effect, become too complicated. There are so many conflicts between third world people, or even between and among darker skinned people in the US, that seem to benefit no white person, but that are sufficient to explain a good deal of the suffering we see, and hope to ameliorate. These, too, are not the whole story, they just put the rest of the story into a larger frame of reference. Thus, although Tolkien’s myth of a battle between good and evil may seem too simplistic for some of us, he did not not have any good races and bad races, or dumber and smarter. He had heroicly good people, from many races, and surprisingly courageous ones from a race not known for such an attribute. He was a Christian, and Christian thought, over two millenia, has generally held that group membership was irrelevannt, and personal choices were what mattered.

  167. LOTR is about good vs. evil, and the courage it takes to fight evil when all hope seems lost.

    Everything else is just dramatic artifice.

    Get over it.

  168. If it’s rightwing warhawk propaganda, that’s fine with me. As for the “racism” stuff, this word has become almost completely useless by now, the secular equivalent of “sin”. It scares some people into stopping the blood flow to their brains and it pumps up a lot of others with indignant faux-moral righteousness.

  169. Gabriel Hanna:
    _____________________
    Orcs….. are also described as having fangs, of being less than four feet tall (most of them), of having claws and keen smell and the ability to see in the dark. To say they represent ANY sort of human being is just horseshit.
    ______________________________

    Of course it is! Any potential critic should realize that an author creates characters for his own purpose, or for no purpose. And sometimes a story writes itself. I understand that Tolken’s bedtime stories for his daughter were the beginning of LOTR. Good literature can sometimes defy analysis. If Tolken were so transparent as to espouse racism and warmongering he’d have landed in the dustbin long ago.

    GTC

  170. Ummmm….
    Do Luddites give filmed interviews or radio interviews?

    Kal

  171. This is all very interesting, really. But I wonder when any of you pathetic wankers had a date with a live human woman, or man for that matter? It’s hardly a feat of great discernment to deconstruct anything to mean whatever you want it to. So put down the cheeseburgers go outside and get your hands dirty doing something, hell anything before somebody has to cart your fat shut in ass to the emergency room in wheel barrow.

  172. For crying out loud, IT’S JUST A FANTASY!!!

    Just freaking children’s books, obscure until rediscovered by pot-heads in the 70’s. The story lines only make sense when you’re stoned. (Tolken…token’…get it?)

    Try living in the real world for once, you pathetic losers!!!

  173. Dr Stephen Shapiro explains: “Tolkien was not a Nazi but he was a Nordicist in that his works hark back to England’s original culture before the Norman invasion.”

    Nordicist?

    Uh, Dr. Shapiro, about those Normans…

  174. While one could make the argument that the easterners and southrons are a racist portrayal of Africans and Asians it is important to take the context into account.

    Tolkien never went into any detail about these lands. The story was about a european like land being invaded by those who meant to conquer and enslave the people.

    One can suppose that there had been ‘good’ easterners and southrons who fought against Sauron and lost and their lands were conquered and enslaved. When he drew upon these lands for armies to invade the west the defends predictably looked upon these invaders as evil that needed to be destroyed. When the battle was won however, Aragorn let them return to their homes without slaughtering them all and made no attempt to conquer them in turn.

  175. Colin — At the eternal risk of explaining the joke, I posted this, and without commentary, because I had a hunch that it would generate comments and debate. Of added interest was that I was an enormous LOTR fan as a child, that the new movie’s out soon, and that Johann Hari is an interesting political writer (whose pro-war stance probably qualifies him for whatever the phrase “anti-idiotarian” connotes anymore). My concept of blogging includes posting without passing judgment beyond “I bet you’ll find this interesting to argue about!”; and for what little relevance it has to these ends, I retain my fondness for artists like Hemingway, John Lennon, Mencken, and even Tolkein, regardless of whatever assholery they certainly committed as human beings.

  176. As a thought experiment, please give an example of a popular movie, book, or television program that cannot be represented as racist or oppresive bu a determined critic.
    Two pop to mind that would at least be difficult to attack: Star Trek and the Matrix.

    Posted by Michael Duff at December 13, 2003 11:53 PM

    I’m not really giving this much thought, but since it is my favorite show, I’m thinking the X-Files might be able to pass this test, and if it can’t it would be pretty interesting to see why.

  177. pssst. it’s just a movie. and before that, it was just a book. the point of “art” is that it’s subject to interpretation by the viewer, regardless of what the creator had or had not intended. give it a rest people.

  178. Is it way too late (and too obvious) to give the obligatory “YHBT, HAND”?

  179. Why has no one mentioned that, by Professor Tolkien’s own admission (I’d provide a quote if I was with my books), Middle-Earth is supposed to be pre-historic *Earth*? Run a search on google for “Tolkien middle-earth “prehistoric europe”” and you should find enough to convince you of that fact.

    Kind of puts the lie to “It’s just fantasy, quit looking so hard at it!” Tolkien WANTS us to think of this place as Europe. That’s the whole point.

    With that being said, anyone who thinks these books are racist in any meaningful sense is wrong. Even Orcs are presented as more nuanced than they’re being given credit for in this forum. Remember the two orcs from The Two Towers that Sam overhears talking? (Again, away from books…can’t remember the names) Those Orcs say they don’t want to fight and just want to go away someplace where the bosses can’t make them fight.

    Tolkien was careful NOT to espouse any kind of genocidal feeling. Aragorn & Co don’t even go out of their way to kill Orcs; Sauron brings the fight to them. As someone noted above, there’s a clear distinction between the mindless sadism of the Orcs (who, sarcastic comments of some of our more insensitive commentators aside, really didn’t get enough love as children, and really are tortured and corrupted souls), and a Saruman or an Isilidur, enlightened and educated souls who recognize the difference between good and evil and nonetheless choose the evil.

    “Many races” and “aristocracy”–which are fantasy tropes to begin with that you’d EXPECT to find in a novel like this–don’t link up to anything in our own world. There aren’t any Dunedain or orcs running around. There isn’t a giant mountain of fire or a ring of power from which all evil springs. There aren’t mindless forces of pure malice out there out to destroy the uniformly good, never-hurt-anybody, pacifistic people of the Shire. For that matter, there aren’t Black Riders out to get us or intelligent Eagles in the sky to save us from harm.

    Anyone–and I’m looking at some of you Iraq hawks here, you know who you are–who takes the Lord of the Rings seriously as a guide for our nation’s foreign policy is *far* crazier than the person who argues that a novel of the early 20th century is going to reflect in some way the judgments (yes, even the racial judgments) of the early 20th century.

  180. Great Troll! (pun intended)
    The evil that had to be destroyed was the concentration of power, not some other race.

  181. I’m not quite sure who is more foolish, you jackasses with your pointless mental diarrhea, or I, who has spent valuable time reading this garbage.

  182. For fuck’s sake, people: It’s FANTASY. Orcs don’t exist. They are monsters, a creation of the imagination found in the literature of all cultures. Get over yourselves.

  183. I pointed out way up near the beginning of this thread that “I think one can read anything one wants to into LOTR, and that reflects on the reader, not the author.”

    I feel vindicated

  184. Reading conservatives analyzing literature has allowed me to empathize with how you must feel when you read leftist discussing economics.

    Gollum 7:36 on Dec 12:

    No, we HATES the Tolkeinseseses! They made the thief Baggins steal our precious! They made poor Gollum be tortured by the nasty orcses! And fall into nasty burning mountain! Hates them we does!

  185. Heh…hope I’m not dregging up any old stuff but I just saw the 3rd movie and, although you can explain it away, I would say that there are most definitely racist overtones.
    However, and this is a big however, it’s really easy to sit here and say that Tolkien was racist and whatever, but the truth is that our thoughts usually reflect the popular opinion of our time. So seeing as how Tolkien doesn’t seem to focus completely on race being the key factor in determining good and bad, I would say that any racist overtones and themes are just incidental.
    It’s similar to how if you had been raised on a plantation as the son of a slave owner in 1855, you’d most likely not find slavery all that wrong. Sure, you could claim that there’s no way you’d be in favor of it, but the truth is that you’re judging people based on your modern set of morals, completely ignoring that had you been raised in those same situations, 99 times out of 100 you would NOT have the ability to go against popular opinion and make different decisions.
    Assuming that you’d have done differently is probably assuming way too much. Pretty much all the soldiers of Nazi Germany running the death camps just did their job and fired the kilns and ran the gas chambers, and I’d say that pretty much all the posters here would have done the exact same thing had they lived the life of that soldier and been under the same influences that soldier had been under. Yes there were probably a few hesitant soldiers, but how many people would really go against a direct military order, against the wishes of their fuhrer, considering the consequences?
    And so, although some of the racist overtones in LOTR do annoy me(particularly when the evil men show up in the 3rd movie and they all appear to be caricaratures of certain minorities) a great deal, I don’t believe that Tolkien was uber-racist or anything, just that he was probably influenced by the popular belief of his time. In fact, I’d be surprised if he DID NOT have any racist overtones because that would mean that he ignored all those beliefs.

  186. Well, if anyone has managed to make it this far….

    I SciFi and Fantasy, alternate races are used to represent “what would a human be without human characteristic X.” What would a human be without emotion? A Vulcan. In older fairy tales, kobolds, goblins and orcs were the things you convinced your children would come and eat them if they did not eat their brocolli. Of course, if you grew up on Disnified fairy tales, you would never have heard about them.

    Reading racism into Tolkein is an excercise in mental masturbation.

  187. Tolkien clearly did color his characters in an “our side” and “their side” manner. Some of the characters from our side were not good, but all of the good characters were from our side. Is it fair to say that Tolkien was racist because of this coloring of the characters? Tolkien certainly did mean for our side to represent Europeans, and the maps of Middle Earth show Mordor to be the Middle East. Europe suffered under multiple Muslim assaults for centuries. Please note this quote that google turns up when searching for Ottoman and Vienna.

    …Mustafa aimed directly at Vienna, convinced that after its fall “all the Christians would obey the Ottomans”.

    Prior to the Crusades, the Muslim forces were following the teachings of Muhammad and attempting to conquer the world and forcibly convert it to Islam. Islam’s western front was Europe. All of North Africa had been taken and even Spain had been largely taken for a period of centuries. Albania and much of Eastern Europe had been taken. The Ottoman Empire fully expected to take the remainder of Europe in due time. While some of the conquered and converted European Muslims were white, obviously most Muslims of Tolkien’s time had black hair and at least brown skin. Tolkien created Middle Earth based on the history of the Muslim attempts to conquer and forcibly convert the Europeans.

  188. Did anyone notice that in the movie all the Orcs have BRITISH accents?

  189. i love reading the comments of our politically-correct-pseudo-intellectual-thought-police. despite this, we can thank our enlightened, socially concious pundits for protecting us from any form of media that could possibly show someone with blue eyes and blonde hair in any positive manner whatsoever. that racist peter jackson was obviously in league with tolkien (who by the way is being kept alive in cyrogenic stasis until the alien takeover). the overlying theme in tolkien’s work is that the “white” heroes won over the “black” orcs solely based on sarumon’s practice of military hiring using affirmative action. thus, tolkien’s belief that affirmative action made for an inferior army easily shows his evil racist views. also, notice how large portions of tolkien novel are written in “english”, which also happens to be the language used by slave-owning whites in colonial america. are we really supposed to believe this is somehow a coincidence? if you see anyone using words like “and” and “the”, please denounce them for the racist they are!!

    not to get off topic but anyone watch that racist movie x-files? did you note that one of the main characters was white? see! and in that movie the “black oil” was part of the villans’ plot. just another example of how the white man is afraid of being tainted by anything “black”! racist conspiracies abound!!

    anyone ever notice how ghosts are racist? being all *pale* and translucent and trying to scare me into conforming with their obviously racist agenda with incomprehensible, yet obviously racist groaning at all hours of the night (which is also black, especially when i close my eyes). it just screams that the afterlife is obviously run by racists conspiring to turn all people of color into pasty spirits when they die!! so, support your local ghostbusters in their fight for racial equality in the afterlife!

    anyone ever notice how winter is obviously a racist conspiracy? anyyone “dreaming of a white christmas” is obviously inciting racial violence and/or profiling. notice how we got more snow since bush took office? notice how people build snowmen (sexist as well, curses) with white snow, being sure to stay away from the “diverse” yellow snow or that black snow in the gutter along the road (another allusion to where the white man wants to keep black and yellow people). you can be sure that tolkien’s cryogenic chamber (the patented race-o-freeze) is being kept cold with racially “pure” white snow!! everyone be sure to eat the yellow snow as it is “diverse” with vitamins and nutrients!!

    truly, it would be hysterically funny if it weren’t so sad that people are so desperate to find racism in, well, pretty much anything and everything. we should all be *very* upset that a piece of literature, drawing heavily on european (and particularly nordic) mythology, didn’t include enough *positive* representations of minorities. As nordic mythology is *obviously* riddled with many accounts of heroic african americans, this must have been a gross oversight by the *obviously* racist tolkien in order to push his white supremacist agenda. thanks for doing your part in making a dent in the nordic-mythology-racist-movement.

  190. Well, personally, I’ve always thought the Easterlings are the Indo-Europeans (Persians, Medes, Kurds, Scythians, Hindus etc) and Altaics put threw a blender, so to speak. If this is the case, it explains a lot. None of the nomadic tribes of the steppes were very popular with anyone, mainly because they enjoyed mass slaughter a little _too_ much. (I’m talking about my own ancestors here, being Iranian-American and all…)

  191. EMAIL: draime_2000@yahoo.com
    IP: 62.213.67.122
    URL: http://www.pills-for-penis.com
    DATE: 01/25/2004 05:08:53
    Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.