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  1. #1
    Registered User Zsinj's Avatar
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    Tolkien, a racist?

    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. #2
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    I think that it has something to do with the men that fought for Sauron.

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    Illustrious Gambler saintjon's Avatar
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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.

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    Registered User Zsinj's Avatar
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    Priestvyrce, are you referring to the Black Numenoreans?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zsinj
    Priestvyrce, are you referring to the Black Numenoreans?
    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. #6
    Under construction Jamza1986's Avatar
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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. #7
    Illustrious Gambler saintjon's Avatar
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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. #8
    Under construction Jamza1986's Avatar
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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. #9
    'From a Letter to Forest J. Ackerman, June 1958',

    Why does Z put beaks and feathers on Orcs!? (Orcs is not a form of Auks.) The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.
    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

    I must say the enclosed letter from Rütten and Loening is a bit stiff. Do I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of 'arisch' origin from all persons of all countries?
    Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestätigung1 (although it happens that I can), and let a German translation go hang. In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print. I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine.

    'From Letter No. 29 to Christopher Tolkien',

    As for what you say or hint of ‘local’ conditions: I knew of them. I don't think they have much changed (even for the worse). I used to hear them discussed by my mother; and have ever since taken a special interest in that part of the world. The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort. not many retain that generous sentiment for long.

  10. #10
    Barcelona! milamber_reborn's Avatar
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    A few people have pointed out how all the bad guys aren't white and/or that they are from foreign shores
    Sounds like symbolism to me, but there's only one person who knows/knew for sure.

  11. #11
    Uh, Moderator
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    And what would that be a symbol of?

  12. #12
    Illustrious Gambler saintjon's Avatar
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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. #13
    Questing BeardofPants's Avatar
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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 by BeardofPants; September 5th, 2004 at 03:14 AM.

  14. #14
    Erm, BOP, are you also a member of entmoot?

  15. #15
    Questing BeardofPants's Avatar
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    Uh yes, yes I am. What's your s/n over there?

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