Tolkien, a racist?

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Zsinj, Aug 22, 2004.

  1. Zsinj

    Zsinj Registered User

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    I have read on the internet that some people in the past have accused J.R.R. Tolkien of being a racist through what they saw in his LOTR Saga. My question is, what is the basis for this accusation? Where's the proof?
     
  2. Priestvyrce

    Priestvyrce Registered as What?

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    I think that it has something to do with the men that fought for Sauron.
     
  3. saintjon

    saintjon Illustrious Gambler

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    Yeah what he said. As for the guy being racist, it's quite possible. Politically Correct didn't exist back then.
     
  4. Zsinj

    Zsinj Registered User

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    Priestvyrce, are you referring to the Black Numenoreans?
     
  5. Priestvyrce

    Priestvyrce Registered as What?

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    The guys with the "Oliphants" and the guys from the ships, who came from the south. A few people have pointed out how all the bad guys aren't white and/or that they are from foreign shores. Personally, people trying to pin a racist attitude on Ol' J R R are barking up the wrong tree. Making the enemies more "exotic" added to their menace and nothing more. Tolkein was telling a grand old story and trying to make it more than that, is just arrogance on our part.
     
  6. Jamza1986

    Jamza1986 Under construction

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    There wasn't any intentional rascism in it. I doubt anyone would have even suggested it before the last 20 years or so.
     
  7. saintjon

    saintjon Illustrious Gambler

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    Umm, before the 20 years or so ago wasn't there a lot of unchallenged racism in society though?

    I still say Tolkien probably was. the only thing I know about him that suggests he wasn't was that living when he did he wasnt' from North America.

    I dunno Guy Kay's stories are loaded with elitism but I still enjoy them.
     
  8. Jamza1986

    Jamza1986 Under construction

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    Yes there probably was lots of unchallenged rascim 20 years ago. Just making an impartial observation that I don't think people would have accused Tolkien of rascism 20 years. I suppose whether or not he was depends on your opinion.

    I don't believe he was, personally. He wrote it in the 40s and 50s. Although the Civil Rights movement was growing in the US at that time, I don't think we had a similar social action movement here in England back then. Also, even in the 40s/50s, Tolkien belonged to the previous generation of thinkers.

    I'll admit that by today's standards, hinting that Saurons allies correspond to maybe, Asians = Easterlings, and Africans = Rhun (sp) does seem questionable. I think it is tackless at worse though, and I agree that the intention is just to make Middle Earth a bit more exotic. I think if you were to accuse Tolkien of being rascist he wouldn't even comprehend what you meant. I'm sure he didn't have an agenda of prejudice.

    Another, final point; Tolkien shouldn't have had rascist intentions because he was a Christian and therefore should have regarded all peoples as equal. Then again, I suppose the church hasn't got a spotless record on that one. Still, maybe Tolkien lived up to the ideal. As I said, any claim of rascism looks fairly weak when that little, minor point about the evil humans is taken in context of the huge world of Middle Earth. Look at it from the other way, if Tolkien intended to be rascist, he didn't do a good job of it!
     
  9. Beleg

    Beleg Registered User

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    'From a Letter to Forest J. Ackerman, June 1958',

    The 'Haradrim' came from Harad and Far-Harad located near the gridle of Arda. [Equator] The area is thickly forested with deserts and wasteland lying betwixt. This should account for the swarthiness of Haradrim.

    The map of Arda is a loose caricature of our Earth with Harad equating to Africa and Rhun and East-lying areas making up Asia. [It is intresting to note that Men and Elves supposedly originated in the east]

    Is this indicative of racism on Tolkien's part? That's tricky. Not conciously perhaps?. I believe this to be an effort on Tolkien's part to adhere loosely to our Earth's political and racial divisions; to be more in sync with it since Tolkien's original [and lingering] intention was to 'create a mythology of England' which would have needed a loose earth map to put it in context and from his [Europeon and Germanic] prespective Easterlings and Haradrim would be viewed as barbaric, uncouth and evil.

    'From a Letter to Stanley Unwin, 25th July 1938',

    Tolkien's German Publishers wrote to ask him whether he was of 'aryan' origin


    'From Letter No. 29 to Christopher Tolkien',

     
  10. milamber_reborn

    milamber_reborn Barcelona!

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    Sounds like symbolism to me, but there's only one person who knows/knew for sure.
     
  11. Eventine

    Eventine Uh, Staff Member

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    And what would that be a symbol of?
     
  12. saintjon

    saintjon Illustrious Gambler

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    RE: Letter to Christopher

    I never meant to say he had any bad intention, but I think many people back then would have been unintentionally racist. However, after reading that letter to his son I'm glad that it doesn't seem like that was the case.
     
  13. BeardofPants

    BeardofPants Questing

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    Tolkien is NOT, or should I say, WAS not, a racist. This question has been broached, and refuted countless times on the tolkien forums. For some good refutations, try and track down Michael Martinez' arguments on the matter.

    Aha, here it is.

    Martinez's article dealing with racism in Tolkien's works.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2004
  14. Beleg

    Beleg Registered User

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    Erm, BOP, are you also a member of entmoot?
     
  15. BeardofPants

    BeardofPants Questing

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    Uh yes, yes I am. What's your s/n over there?
     
  16. Literbug

    Literbug New Member

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    Think link crashed my Internet Explorer :eek:. I'll try again later.

    I don't read J.R.R. Tolkien's use of light and dark in The Lord of the Rings as indicative of any racism. Instead, I believe they are used as universal symbols - good, defined as the elemental white or light, set against the forces of evil, defined as the chaotic black or dark. Light is a transcendent symbol for cosmic goodness, life, intellect, enlightenment, and truth.

    I have J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey waiting to read. Apparently it has an excellent exploration of Tolkien's concepts of evil and persuasive refutation of much of the criticism levelled at Tolkien. Should be an interesting read :).
     
  17. Beleg

    Beleg Registered User

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    BelegS, but I seldom post there. About 50 odd posts in 1 and half years. I think I have exchanged PM's with you though. You are on the aSoFaI board too? :D
     
  18. Richardb

    Richardb I like what I like...

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    What a strange topic... trying to assess whether a man now dead was a racist based on his fantasy writing.
    Keep in mind something simple: Middle Earth topology... the lands to the south of Mordor are hot desert lands. Hot desert lands are home to peoples of dark skin. Sauron had to look south because the lands in the north were under the dominion of Gondor and its kings (loosely at least).
    Was Tolkein a racist... not even fair to ask. No one should have that word thrown at them over something like this... Now, if he gave a speach where he denegrated a racial group, or has notes doing the same, then that is one thing... but to assume it or even guess at it over the context of his fantasy writing... that's just wrong. Really wrong. It is a serious thing to call someone a racist.
     
  19. Sir Stephen

    Sir Stephen Registered Knight

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    Im with you Richardb.

    This thread is a bit of a disgrace. I dont think you can read much into this. like Richarb said the lands to the south are hot deserts, and in the book Sauron is described as having dominion over the easterlings, ie - they are not inherently evil as orcs are, they just have a really bad leader (Sauron).

    anyone who honestly reads an issue of racism here is probably a racist.
     
  20. SubZero61992

    SubZero61992 Registered User

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    I know this thread is old but if I'm not mistaken did he really describe skin colors in his books?
    OR are you just reffering to movieS?

    I know their is some color but nothing in it to me signals racism.