The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-01-2019, 09:44 AM   #1
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
You think you've read drivel? You haven't read drivel until you've read this

https://daily.jstor.org/the-question...ce-in-beowulf/
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2019, 10:41 AM   #2
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,512
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Oh boy.

For my own entertainment as much as anything, my thoughts and comments:

Quote:
Most readers of Beowulf understand it as a white, male hero story
Sooo, Beowulf is indeed a white, male hero. Does that mean people look at the story and go 'ah yes, this is the essence of whiteness'? Convince me, Dorothy Kim.

Quote:
Crucially, Grendel is never clearly described, but is named [...] a part of “Cain’s clan.”
The drawing out of this connection of Grendel with Cain is worrying, because I know some religions (coughMormonismcough) have historically associated dark skin with the Mark of Cain. Hmm.

Quote:
Indeed, Beowulf is a story about monsters, race, and political violence.
I still remain to be convinced. Political violence? Maybe internally in the court (I can't remember), but Grendel and his mother are malevolent forces outside of politics.

Quote:
Yet critics have always read it through the white gaze and a preserve of white English heritage.
I don't even know what that second part means. I'm not sure on the first part, either - Beowulf isn't a historical account, it's an epic poem written by a Scandinavian. To read it without 'the white gaze' can certainly make for interesting speculation, but requires projecting something the actual writer didn't intend.

Quote:
Yes, before and while writing The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was an Oxford medieval professor who interpreted Beowulf for a white English audience.
Was 'The Monsters and the Critics' really that popular? I figured it was a fairly minor piece of scholarship only made famous by it being Tolkien.

Quote:
Yet it is in fact written in a language that after many centuries has still essential kinship with our own, it was made in this land, and moves in our northern world beneath our northern sky, and for those who are native to that tongue and land, it must ever call with a profound appeal—until the dragon comes.
She quoted Tolkien, so I get to. He has a lovely sense of drama and rhythm. ^_^

Quote:
Thus Tolkien’s view on which bodies, fluent in this “native” English tongue [Old English], can read Beowulf, also offers a window into the politics of who gets to and how to read and write about the medieval past.
Errr. The Tolkien quote says that when read in its original language, or by people close to its original setting, the poem has a strong draw and power. That doesn't mean that nobody else can read it, or write about it - just that to experience what the writer intended, you should be close in mindset to the writer. As an Anglo-Saxonist, Tolkien was probably closer than almost anyone else to that mindset.

Quote:
Tolkien’s investment in whiteness does not just apply to his ideal readers of medieval literature.
Ms. Kim has doubled-down on her overinterpretation of the quote here.

Quote:
It also extends to the ideal medieval literature scholars. At the 2018 Belle da Costa Greene conference, Kathy Lavezzo highlighted Tolkien’s role in shutting the Jamaican-born, Black British academic Stuart Hall out of medieval studies. [...] “But when I tried to apply contemporary literary criticism to these texts, my ascetic South African language professor told me in a pained tone that this was not the point of the exercise.”
It's unclear whether Hall actually names Tolkien - the article throws in an aside to say that he was an English professor at Oxford when Hall was there. But assuming it was... surely the professor is allowed to determine the point of the exercise? Whatever the exercise was, it did not involve the application of contemporary literary criticism to Beowulf. I note that presumably-Tolkien was acting as a language professor, not a literature one in this instance. There isn't anything in this paragraph to indicate that Hall being black had anything to do with it, or that a white medieval-obsessive would have had any better luck.

Quote:
This clashes with Tolkien’s friendlier image that has permeated popular culture, thanks to The Lord of the Rings.
Personally I've never figured on Tolkien being particularly friendly in person; he always seemed like a bit of a grump.

Quote:
Through Tolkien’s white critical gaze, Beowulf as an epic for white English people has formed the backbone of the poem’s scholarship. To this day, there have only been a few black scholars of Anglo-Saxon studies to publish on Beowulf.
That latter fact is terrible. I think there should be analysis of Beowulf from many perspectives, including modern literary criticism. That doesn't mean it's appropriate in every assignment involving Beowulf, which seems to be the argument here.

The statement that Tolkien is responsible goes back to the question of how influential 'The Monsters & the Critics' was. I still don't know.

Quote:
Mary Rambaran-Olm has reported on the many instances of black and non-white scholars being shut out of medieval studies.
She has (there's a link). Tolkien's name isn't in there.

Quote:
Ironically, Tolkien’s advocacy for a Northern, “native,” and white ideal readership contrasts with his own personal and familial histories. He was born and raised in South Africa. Though Tolkien’s biographers have claimed that his African upbringing scarcely influenced him
He was! To an English couple who'd only just moved there. He left when he was three. This is disingenuous in the extreme.

Quote:
scholarly critics have pointed out the structural racism in his creative work, particularly in The Lord of the Rings.
Have they. Have they indeed. Oh look, it's a link to an article called 'Beyond Black and White: Race and Postmodernism in The Lord of the Rings films'.

Tolkien didn't write the films.

Quote:
Additionally, he wrote an entire philological series, “Sigelwara Land” and “Sigelwara Land (continued),” on the Old English word for “Ethiopia.” In this series, he explicates the connections between Sigelwara Land and monsters by flattening the categories of black Ethiopians, devils, and dragons. He writes:

"The learned placed dragons and marvelous gems in Ethiopia, and credited the people with strange habits, and strange foods, not to mention contiguity with the Anthropophagi. As it has come down to us the word is used in translation (the accuracy of which cannot be determined) of Ethiopia, as a vaguely conceived geographical term, or else in passages descriptive of devils, the details of which may owe something to vulgar tradition, but are not necessarily in any case old. They are of a mediaeval kind, and paralleled elsewhere. Ethiopia was hot and its people black. That Hell was similar in both respect would occur to many."
Er... what Tolkien seems to be saying is that the same word is used to describe Ethiopia and devils. He then speculates on a reason people in the past would have done this. He's not... he's not actually saying they're the same thing.

Quote:
Tolkien’s work of empirical philology is a form of racialized confirmation bias that strips Ethiopia of any kind of connection to the marvels of the East, gems, or even his own fixation on dragons. He highlights Sigelwara as a term related to black skin and its connections to devils and hell, framing Ethiopians within the same category as “monsters.”
Uggggh I'm going to have to read Tolkien's etymology aren't I?

Okay: this appears to be broadly correct. Tolkien's argument is that, because Sigelwara means both Ethiopia and Hell, it must mean 'black people living in a hot region', and therefore the unknown elements that make it up must form that meaning. He goes to great lengths to draw a link to 'sigel' as a word for the sun.

Quote:
He has no qualms about consistently connecting the Ethiopians to the “sons of Ham,” and thus the biblical descendants of Cain, linking medieval Ethiopia with the justification for chattel black slavery. In fact, no part of the etymology (nor any part of medieval discussions of Ethiopia) discusses slavery.
There is precisely one reference to this idea that I can see across both Sigelwara documents, saying 'If this guess is worth considering we perceive rather the sons of Muspell than of Ham'. Tolkien is clearly poeticising, and using an actual Biblical way of doing so: Egypt is described as 'the land of Ham' no less than four times in the Bible.

The connection from Ham to Cain is, uh, I'm gonna go with 'unsupported at this time'. I think I've heard it occasionally, but assuming that Tolkien thought it is a huge leap. Assuming that Tolkien even thought about the ways Americans had justified their virulent racism is an even bigger one (slavery had been outlawed in Britain a long time earlier).

I... have no idea why the etymology not mentioning slavery is relevant. It also doesn't mention the purported presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia. (Weren't slaves mostly taken from the west coast of Africa, rather than Ethiopia in the east?)

Quote:
Tolkien would have read Beowulf’s Grendel, who is linked to Cain, as a black man:

"Grendel was that grim creature called, the ill-famed haunter of the marches of the land, who kept the moors, the fastness of the fens, and, unhappy one, inhabited long while the troll-kind’s home; for the Maker had proscribed him with the race of Cain."
Nope: that's Cain, not Ham. The Sons of Ham are African, those of Japheth are European, those of Shem Asian & Semitic. That's the Medieval worldview Tolkien would have known; Cain doesn't enter into it.

Quote:
Tolkien’s articles on Ethiopia and on Beowulf, all published in the 1930s, reveal that Tolkien likely interpreted Grendel as a black man connected to a biblical justification for transatlantic chattel slavery. Thus, Grendel was raced within the logics of Tolkien’s white racist gazer.
None of these assertions are strongly supported by the article. They can certainly be assumed, but that's all it is: an assumption. I can equally assume that Tolkien's obsession with monsters is because he hung out with a dragon on weekends, and provide just as much support.

Quote:
His interest in solidifying white Englishness and English identity—as a chain of links from the premodern medieval past to contemporary racial identities—is a project that extended into multiple scholarly areas.
Now this is true. Tolkien very clearly believed that English culture and identity was special.

Quote:
He may have abhorred fascism and antisemitism, but he upheld the English empire’s white supremacy. He held racialized beliefs against Africans and other members of the English black diaspora.
This is given no support in the text. I think the second sentence is just a restatement of the assumptions above; there's no evidence at all given to show that Tolkien felt English culture was more special than others. In fact, I recall something in 'Letters' where he complained about the prospect of global culture becoming homogenised - hardly a White Supremacist!

There follow a few paragraphs discussing Toni Morrison's essay as a keystone in black discussion of Beowulf. There's no Tolkien so I'm not commenting. ^_^ Then we get this:

Quote:
Morrison’s Beowulf interpretation highlights what other critics, following Tolkien’s lead, have deemed marginal. She decenters the white male hero, focusing instead on the racialized, politicized, and gendered figures of Grendel and his mother, who in Tolkien’s read would have been black. In his article “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” his white male gaze concentrates on what these two “monsters” can do for Beowulf’s development as the white male hero of Germanic epic. Morrison, on the other hand, is interested in Grendel and his mother as raced and marginal figures with interiority, psyche, context, and emotion.
Which (unsupported assertions about Tolkien seeing Cain and thinking Black aside) sounds like an interesting exercise! But... not one that will tell you much about the poem written by an Old English-speaking bard who wanted to praise Beowulf's heroism and show off a nice battle to the death. Grendel and his mother were not creatures with 'psyche and emotion' - they were fictional monsters brought in for Beowulf to kill.

Or at least, that is a valid stance to take in discussing the poem. It seems Ms. Morrison has a different stance, which she develops in her essay, and that's fantastic! But Ms. Kim does not explain that stance: she just asserts that Tolkien was wrong to not take it, and implies that it's the only correct stance to take.

---

In conclusion? Painting Tolkien as racist fails here as it has so many other times, and in particular, the pile of assumptions and leaps that have to be taken to get there is extraordinary. But I'm very pleased that Toni Morrison has found a new angle to consider Beowulf under - I just hope she hasn't built her article around the concept that Tolkien Must Be Wrong.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2019, 02:09 PM   #3
Zigûr
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Zigûr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 759
Zigûr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Zigûr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The article isn't terribly well-supported, as Huinseron has said, and I think it's couched in rather sensationalist terms, but I don't think the point it makes is entirely unreasonable – or rather, to again agree with Huinseron, whatever Morrison is saying in the essay about which this article was written sounds rather more substantial than this article itself.

I do think the implication that "The Monsters and the Critics" still dominates Beowulf isn't right, though; I haven't studied it for a long time, but I consistently get the impression that most contemporary scholars of Beowulf consider Professor Tolkien's reading to be very idiosyncratic and rather outdated. There have been decades and decades of scholarship since "The Monsters and the Critics" came out. In my university studies it was only read as one among many interpretations, and not one which was afforded much attention in particular.
__________________
"Since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."
"On foot?" cried Éomer.
Zigûr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-04-2019, 01:21 PM   #4
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Tolkien’s articles on Ethiopia and on Beowulf, all published in the 1930s, reveal that Tolkien likely interpreted Grendel as a black man connected to a biblical justification for transatlantic chattel slavery. Thus, Grendel was raced within the logics of Tolkien’s white racist gazer.
That has got to be one of the stupidest things I have ever read in print.

(Just for anyone who isn't conversant with one of the fundamental cultural texts of Western civilization, the Book of Genesis, here's what it says about Cain (after he murdered his brother and was exiled):

Quote:
16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. 19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. 21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. 22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
That's it. That's all there is. Nothing about blackness, Africa or slavery at all. Nor monsters, either; it was a medieval mythos, derived from the Talmud, which made Cain the ancestor of monsters and demons. (The attentive will note that this is, more or less, an abbreviated version of the Ch 5 genealogy from Seth to Lamech- Noah's father in that version! Let's hear it for J-E intershuffling.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-04-2019, 03:15 PM   #5
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,842
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
That's it. That's all there is. Nothing about blackness, Africa or slavery at all. Nor monsters, either; it was a medieval mythos, derived from the Talmud, which made Cain the ancestor of monsters and demons. (The attentive will note that this is, more or less, an abbreviated version of the Ch 5 genealogy from Seth to Lamech- Noah's father in that version! Let's hear it for J-E intershuffling.
I really dislike "commentaries" like the JSTOR piece, picking apart old literature, songs, and poetry for the purpose of holding them up to a modern interpretation that allows them to sneer derisively at the "unenlightened" of long ago.

It seems pretty obvious that one bent on seeing hidden meanings and colorings in anything will tend to find them, regardless of whether they are actually there.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-04-2019, 03:41 PM   #6
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
I really dislike "commentaries" like the JSTOR piece, picking apart old literature, songs, and poetry for the purpose of holding them up to a modern interpretation that allows them to sneer derisively at the "unenlightened" of long ago.
Lewis had a great term for it: "chronological snobbery." And he was referring to that sort of thing when it had some whiff of actual merit, not counterfactual codswallop like this piece.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 08:38 AM   #7
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
Spectre of Decay
 
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Bar-en-Danwedh
Posts: 2,206
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is a guest at the Prancing Pony.The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Send a message via AIM to The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
This piece, though in my opinion mainly written as a lure for clicks, is symptomatic of a disturbing and all-engulfing trend towards tribalistic identity politics that seems to have infected everything. Tolkien and Beowulf have drawn the basilisk's gaze because they are well-known and therefore provide a good soapbox from which to screech this hate-filled nonsense to the world. This is why comics, Hollywood, computer games and other mainstream cultural outlets are targeted for infiltration by these harpies. Their interest in literature and art is not cultural, it is political; and its primary motive is self-aggrandisement.

Hence you will see in this sort of article a lot of unsubstantiated assertions and no small number of half-truths, which when followed to their ultimate sources prove to be based on more of the same. The house is founded not on sand, but on its own roof. The worm eats its tail, or disappears into its own fundament. An endless wheel of circular argumentation. It is like arguing with a Puritan: every disagreement is heresy; all dissent is sin.

What, I would like to ask Miss Kim, is wrong with being English or white? Or a man? Would she, I wonder, be surprised to know that recently a group of pranksters took passages from Mein Kampf, substituted 'men' for 'jews' and got it accepted for publication by a supposedly peer-reviewed feminist journal? Well, a peer is only an equal; and some things are equal to zero.

So what if Tolkien wouldn't let one of his students engage in lit crit where he was supposed to be translating? Keeping people on topic was part of his job, and if they wouldn't keep to the discipline of learning the sources and their languages they didn't belong in medieval studies in the first place. Perhaps this is what Kim and her ilk are truly enraged about: entry into medieval studies still requires a modicum of learning and a little sanity. The cards won't play. It is not enough to be resentful, hectoring and iconoclastic: one must actually know something that is difficult and laborious to learn. Perhaps they should confine themselves to friendlier, less factually demanding places, like the Flat Earth society or a crystal healing clinic. There is still a big market for Bermuda Triangle literature, which has much the same degree of academic merit.
__________________
Man kenuva métim' andúne?
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 01:14 PM   #8
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,512
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh View Post
What, I would like to ask Miss Kim, is wrong with being English or white? Or a man?
... well.

(I say this as the person who commented up the original article, so envisage the appropriate shades of grey in my reactions to both this and that.)

As someone who is all three, my understanding is that it has nothing to do with there being 'something wrong' with those things; rather, the problem is with the vast number of people - indeed, the vast swathes of society and culture - which implicitly or explicitly insist that those things are a) better, b) more normal, or c) more important.

So you have cars being crash-tested using dummies designed to model the average human male, making them actively dangerous for shorter women with different average weight distribution. You have facial recognition technology going into wide release when it has a vastly lower accuracy with non-white faces. You have sports divided into 'football' and 'women's football' (which one do they show down the pub?). You have diseases being dismissed as not significant because the tens of thousands of people they're killing are only in China, or Africa, or India - not here, not in the countries that matter.

I could go on, probably for years. These things are an embedded problem in our society, and I like to think we're working on them, improving on them. One way we do that is by deliberately highlighting other perspectives, other people who are neglected by the historic view of 'normal' - and when, for example, a white, male, Anglo-Saxon academic gets in a huff because his students aren't treating white-male-Anglo-Saxonism as the standard baseline for opinions that his culture has taught him it Should Be, it's a step - only a small one, but a step - in the wrong direction.

(As I said at the first: the article provides no evidence that Tolkien did anything of the sort. But soooooo many people do.)

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 03:19 PM   #9
Zigûr
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Zigûr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 759
Zigûr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Zigûr is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
One way we do that is by deliberately highlighting other perspectives, other people who are neglected by the historic view of 'normal' - and when, for example, a white, male, Anglo-Saxon academic gets in a huff because his students aren't treating white-male-Anglo-Saxonism as the standard baseline for opinions that his culture has taught him it Should Be, it's a step - only a small one, but a step - in the wrong direction.
I quite agree. And I similarly don't think we can assume that the author of the original article has some kind of insidious political motive just because the argument strikes as controversial, deliberately or otherwise. But I also think for me to get into that any further would be contrary to this forum's very sensible no-politics rule.
__________________
"Since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."
"On foot?" cried Éomer.
Zigûr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 04:01 PM   #10
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
You have sports divided into 'football' and 'women's football' (which one do they show down the pub?)
That, at least, is an easy one: when it comes to competitive athletics, certainly soccer and the like, men are better at them. Fact of biology, and Nature doesn't care that it's not fair. They have women's football because women couldn't make the men's teams; and the latter is shown down t'pub because it's a higher caliber of sport on display.

Fun fact: the womens' Olympic records across the track and field events wouldn't quailfy in the top 50- of US high school boys' results. The reason why the huge controversy over letting biological males with lipstick compete as "women."
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 04:41 PM   #11
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,512
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
That, at least, is an easy one: when it comes to competitive athletics, certainly soccer and the like, men are better at them. Fact of biology, and Nature doesn't care that it's not fair. They have women's football because women couldn't make the men's teams; and the latter is shown down t'pub because it's a higher caliber of sport on display.
(In the interests of harmony I will not respond to your closing remark.)

To avoid getting tangled up in my own answers, I hope you won't mind me turning them into a list? It's not any kind of structured response, just an attempt not to Too Many Paragraphs at you.
  • I totally get why they separate the two, but I didn't make that clear, so thank you.
  • 'Higher caliber of sport' is an interesting phrase here. I'm pretty sure having external gonads doesn't increase your tactical or technical skill, so what I think you're really saying is that it's more energetic. And sure, I can accept that - but why is that the only factor that counts in making it a 'higher caliber'? Could it be because that's the attribute men outperform in...?
  • Setting that aside: think of a field where women generally outperform men. Is it split into 'thing' and 'men's thing'? Or is it 'women's thing' and 'men's thing'? What the language around football etc does is establish being a man as the norm, on a planet where actually, there's a slight majority of women.

And yes, both of these are very minor things in the scheme of things. But they're minor things that lean in exactly the same direction as countless other minor things - malewards.

In a community like the Downs, it's okay to have a lean or explicit bias: we all angle Tolkienwards here, and that's fine because people can just not join if they don't like that. But when the community is a country, that option isn't there.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-04-2020, 05:35 PM   #12
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
Spectre of Decay
 
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Bar-en-Danwedh
Posts: 2,206
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is a guest at the Prancing Pony.The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Send a message via AIM to The Squatter of Amon Rûdh
Pipe

In all fairness, the presence of football is not what I look for in a pub.

I don't see how it's possible to address a highly racially charged article (which in my view is deeply and intentionally racist) without engaging with the politics that seem to lie at the very core of its being. This obsession with identity has largely driven me from the internet, because it insists on reducing every individual person to inborn characteristics over which they have no control; every relationship to an inevitable clash of those identities in abusive power dynamics. I've seen it before, from the opposite direction. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

Tolkien was very much opposed to literary criticism in his subject and was a champion of the linguistic approach. I'm sure that the lit side of the English School would have welcomed with open arms the modern critical techniques approach, but it was not Tolkien's way. If you want to make it about race you have to earn it. You have to prove that Tolkien didn't want to hear a black man's perspective and that it had nothing to do with his well-documented distaste for contemporary critical theory. Throwing in all those references to Tolkien being South African, which are intended to dredge up memories of Apartheid, is blatantly disingenuous. Tolkien wrote a letter to CRT (Letters #61) in which he explicitly condemns that system, saying "...the treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort[unately] not many retain that generous sentiment for long."

That, however, wouldn't suit the author's purposes. Her story is the racist famous academic holding back the Jamaican-born Rhodes scholar. Because those are the only grounds on which anybody can judge anyone, apparently. I prefer the provable story of a language specialist trying to hold back the ever-encroaching tide of literary criticism in English schools. Odd, since Tolkien champions in his essay the treatment of Beowulf as literature rather than a mine for information. It was a bitter struggle, though, and hard fought. I'm sure that such injustices were committed by both sides of it.

Writers of articles like these are professional activists. They make a living by declaring prejudice to exist, and arguing against them is considered proof of prejudice that invalidates opinion. You might as well debate theology with Matthew Hopkins as get involved in their game.
__________________
Man kenuva métim' andúne?
The Squatter of Amon Rûdh is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-05-2020, 12:15 PM   #13
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Squatter of Amon Rûdh View Post
In all fairness, the presence of football is not what I look for in a pub.

I don't see how it's possible to address a highly racially charged article (which in my view is deeply and intentionally racist) without engaging with the politics that seem to lie at the very core of its being. This obsession with identity has largely driven me from the internet, because it insists on reducing every individual person to inborn characteristics over which they have no control; every relationship to an inevitable clash of those identities in abusive power dynamics. I've seen it before, from the opposite direction. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now.

Tolkien was very much opposed to literary criticism in his subject and was a champion of the linguistic approach. I'm sure that the lit side of the English School would have welcomed with open arms the modern critical techniques approach, but it was not Tolkien's way. If you want to make it about race you have to earn it. You have to prove that Tolkien didn't want to hear a black man's perspective and that it had nothing to do with his well-documented distaste for contemporary critical theory. Throwing in all those references to Tolkien being South African, which are intended to dredge up memories of Apartheid, is blatantly disingenuous. Tolkien wrote a letter to CRT (Letters #61) in which he explicitly condemns that system, saying "...the treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort[unately] not many retain that generous sentiment for long."

That, however, wouldn't suit the author's purposes. Her story is the racist famous academic holding back the Jamaican-born Rhodes scholar. Because those are the only grounds on which anybody can judge anyone, apparently. I prefer the provable story of a language specialist trying to hold back the ever-encroaching tide of literary criticism in English schools. Odd, since Tolkien champions in his essay the treatment of Beowulf as literature rather than a mine for information. It was a bitter struggle, though, and hard fought. I'm sure that such injustices were committed by both sides of it.

Writers of articles like these are professional activists. They make a living by declaring prejudice to exist, and arguing against them is considered proof of prejudice that invalidates opinion. You might as well debate theology with Matthew Hopkins as get involved in their game.

Well said. Kim's paper is nothing more or less than race-based trolling: factually incorrect and intellectually dishonest.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-05-2020, 12:21 PM   #14
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
'Higher caliber of sport' is an interesting phrase here. I'm pretty sure having external gonads doesn't increase your tactical or technical skill, so what I think you're really saying is that it's more energetic. And sure, I can accept that - but why is that the only factor that counts in making it a 'higher caliber'? Could it be because that's the attribute men outperform in...?
Strength and speed. Men have greater muscle density and mass both, have longer legs proportionally and have pelvises better adapted to running, jumping and kicking. If we extend the discussion to basketball, add height: women's basketball is dull (and flopped on American television) because it's played (slowly) below the rim.

And there's no question that networks choose to broadcast the highest level of competition available. Which match is Sky or ITV going to air: Liverpool vs Man City, or Colchester vs Sutton Walden? Over here, TV networks broadcast major-league baseball, not minor-league.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2020, 10:13 PM   #15
Rhun charioteer
Wight
 
Rhun charioteer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 113
Rhun charioteer has just left Hobbiton.
The original audience of Beuowulf would not have associated Grendel or his mother with africans, the sons of Ham, or anything of the kind. At best the author is assuming Tolkien or the English scholars would have imposed some sort of 19th century Racial nous on the text-which...maybe happened? Tolkien wasn't however interested in...what did 19th century race theorists or 17th century writers who would have said things like, "the sons of Ham have been cursed into subjection" thought about the text(also it wasn't rediscovered until the 18th century so).


But then again, this is the sort of "scholarship" that is why academia by and large is a useless waste of time.

On that note-the idea of "marginalized" voices is just stupid. It permeates critical theory and modern academic discourse. Essentially it comes down to a Foucaltian idea of the world, those with unjust privilege speak and those who are oppressed can't. Which is not the sort of view the ancient anglo Saxons would have had and is definitely something Tolkien would have found nonsensical.

Last edited by Rhun charioteer; 05-23-2020 at 10:16 PM. Reason: Add material
Rhun charioteer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-24-2020, 10:03 AM   #16
Morthoron
Curmudgeonly Wordwraith
 
Morthoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Ensconced in curmudgeonly pursuits
Posts: 2,407
Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Historical negationism. I find the whole decades-long rush to revisionism a distasteful aspect of academia. One should discount anyone imparting a modern worldview on people(s) in the past, even in a relatively short 50-100 year time period.
__________________
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
Morthoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-24-2020, 10:41 AM   #17
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,842
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Historical negationism. I find the whole decades-long rush to revisionism a distasteful aspect of academia. One should discount anyone imparting a modern worldview on people(s) in the past, even in a relatively short 50-100 year time period.
Sadly, it's a popular pursuit these days. The Holier Than Thou-Moral High Ground approach seems to me just a means for some in Academia to flaunt their "progressive" credentials.
It's doubly disgusting to me when applied to Tolkien. The man was by no means perfect, but his works clearly exhibit a respect and compassion for those of many races and creeds.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-24-2020, 05:21 PM   #18
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
Historical negationism. I find the whole decades-long rush to revisionism a distasteful aspect of academia. One should discount anyone imparting a modern worldview on people(s) in the past, even in a relatively short 50-100 year time period.
The wonderful term I've heard for the movement - which goes far beyond academia, although it originated there - is disintegrationism. Basically weaponized Adorno.

Not that Prof. Gibberish linked above has ever read Adorno-- or the Book of Genesis, either. Cain is not Ham, ya maroon!
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-24-2020, 10:39 PM   #19
Morthoron
Curmudgeonly Wordwraith
 
Morthoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Ensconced in curmudgeonly pursuits
Posts: 2,407
Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Did anyone notice the editor's emendation at the end of the article:

Quote:
Editors’ note: This essay has been updated to reflect the fact that while Tolkien may be considered South African by measure of his birthplace, he moved to England as a toddler.
This quite literally shows the author did not do her research and based her diatribe on a false presentiment of Tolkien's view of his citizenship. He was British as a toddler living in South Africa, and he remained British for the rest of his life. His parents were British and only moved to South Africa based on his father's bank promotion. He did not consider himself any more a South African than he did a German based on his Prussian heritage. Therefore, the comment by Stuart Hall:

Quote:
“But when I tried to apply contemporary literary criticism to these texts, my ascetic South African language professor told me in a pained tone that this was not the point of the exercise.”
Would be impertinent at best, and a wholesale fabrication at worst, because I have never read anywhere that Tolkien referred to himself at anytime as South African. This would be particularly egregious because the quote allegedly was made in the 1950s. I could not imagine Tolkien himself or any of his students referring to him as "South African".
__________________
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
Morthoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-25-2020, 06:37 AM   #20
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
1) If we really want to be picky, Tolkien was never "South African", because the Union of South Africa wasn't created until 18 years after his birth. He was born in the Orange Free State, which was an independent Boer republic.

2) Given that Tolkien's remit was English Language, it would hardly be surprising that applying "contemporary literary criticism" completely missed the point of his lectures.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-30-2020, 11:26 PM   #21
obloquy
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
obloquy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: WA
Posts: 935
obloquy has just left Hobbiton.
Send a message via AIM to obloquy
The topic of race is one on which only rank dishonesty is allowed, whether in the form of elaborate false narratives, or very delicately-crafted evasions of obvious fact. Both are present in this thread. It's a shame, really, to see the most honest people automatically put on the defensive because the deck is stacked and they don't even realize it. Thomas Dalrymple has a really wonderful quote about the tyrannical utility of forcing everyone to lie all the time (it's well-enough known that I'm not going to provide it verbatim). He was talking about communist tactics, and Adorno and the whole academic milieu he represents are downstream of the Bolsheviks. It's almost like Christ was speaking to these exact people when he said "you are of your father the devil...for he is a liar and the father thereof."

Oh well, argument is obsolete now. One of my other favorite quotes is: "Inigo? I hope we win."
obloquy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-31-2020, 04:54 PM   #22
Morthoron
Curmudgeonly Wordwraith
 
Morthoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Ensconced in curmudgeonly pursuits
Posts: 2,407
Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Morthoron is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Quote:
Originally Posted by obloquy View Post
The topic of race is one on which only rank dishonesty is allowed, whether in the form of elaborate false narratives, or very delicately-crafted evasions of obvious fact. Both are present in this thread. It's a shame, really, to see the most honest people automatically put on the defensive because the deck is stacked and they don't even realize it.
I'm sorry, but can you please elaborate? To whom in this thread are you referencing regarding "rank dishonesty", "elaborate false narratives", and "evasions of obvious fact." I ask because you made the statement that these things "are present in this thread".
__________________
And your little sister's immaculate virginity wings away on the bony shoulders of a young horse named George who stole surreptitiously into her geography revision.
Morthoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-01-2020, 05:56 AM   #23
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,842
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morthoron View Post
I'm sorry, but can you please elaborate? To whom in this thread are you referencing regarding "rank dishonesty", "elaborate false narratives", and "evasions of obvious fact." I ask because you made the statement that these things "are present in this thread".
Glad I'm not the only one trying to figure that out.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-01-2020, 07:06 AM   #24
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,512
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Getting somewhat tangential, but still on the Tolkien/racism/Bible theme... I mentioned earlier the Medieval split of the world into the descendants of Japheth (Europe), Ham (Egypt & Africa), & Shem (Semitic & Asia). It's probably a coincidence, but Tolkien had a strong tendency to split his fictional races into three. He then, with incredibly consistency, called out one group as pale, and another as not:
  • The Edain: The House of Hador are a bunch of blonds, but the other two houses are not. Tolkien actually says (in HoME XII, 'Of Dwarves and Men') that 'many were less fair of skin, some indeed being swarthy'.
  • The Elves: The Vanyar are notably fair-haired, and indeed are called the Fair Elves. In contrast, the Noldor looked at Aredhel and went 'you're so pale we're going to nickname you The White', which doesn't exactly suggest they're alabaster-skinned themselves. Plus, the House of Beor is explicitly said to be 'most like to the Noldor' on the end of their own description.
  • The Hobbits: Did you know 'Fallohide' literally means 'pale skin'? Meanwhile the Harfoots are highlighted as browner of skin.
  • The Dwarves: Arguable, but the three Houses which appear in the Legendarium are the Longbeards, Broadbeams, and Firebeards. If the last indicates red hair, and if red hair goes with pale skin as it does among humans, we have an implied 'paler sub-race' here too.

(The Teleri and Stoors go somewhat undescribed, while the relation of the Haladin to the other Edain was in a bit of flux.)

That's a large enough sample that we can actually compare how Tolkien treats them, and again he shows remarkable consistency. The pale Vanyar, Fallohides, and Hadorians are highlighted as the noblest/holiest (the Vanyar) part of their race (note that the Hadorians lived alongside the High King, while the Beorians and Haladin hid in the woods); if the idea that 'Broadbeam and Firebeard, Nogrod and Belegost' means that the Firebeards lived in Belegost, they're also far and away the nicest Dwarven house.

But... they're also the least interesting, to Tolkien as well as us. The Vanyar vanish from the stories very quickly. The Hadorians we pay most attention to are half-Beorian (and in Turin's case has Beorian colouring; not sure on Tuor). Tolkien himself described Sam - the only non-Fallohide in the Fellowship - as the 'chief hero'. And it's the Longbeards, not the Firebeards, who gave us Thorin and company. In fact, in Beleriand, it's specifically the houses called out as darker - Beorians and the Noldor - who get all the attention, and Sam the Harfoot falls into the same category.

What does all this mean for Tolkien and racism? It certainly shows he thought about it more than I'd assumed, to the point that he had a consistent position. Is the fact that the Goodest Good Guys were the palest ones indicative of bias? Arguably yes - but if so, it's one Tolkien seems to have been using deliberately. Notably, he neither dug in to defend it by making his white characters heroic (Frodo et al aside), nor tried to blunt it by adding a Token Brown Hero. Instead, he shoved his white nobles off to the side and let the more interesting 'swarthy' Beorians and Noldor become the heroes.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-01-2020, 01:05 PM   #25
Inziladun
Gruesome Spectre
 
Inziladun's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Heaven's doorstep
Posts: 7,842
Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.Inziladun is a guest of Galadriel in Lothlórien.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
Is the fact that the Goodest Good Guys were the palest ones indicative of bias? Arguably yes - but if so, it's one Tolkien seems to have been using deliberately. Notably, he neither dug in to defend it by making his white characters heroic (Frodo et al aside), nor tried to blunt it by adding a Token Brown Hero. Instead, he shoved his white nobles off to the side and let the more interesting 'swarthy' Beorians and Noldor become the heroes.
There are also certainly instances where the gold-heads don't behave very nobly.

Hador showed a remarkable lack of wisdom when, upon being released by Morgoth, he went to the area of Gondolin knowing he was being watched.

King Helm of Rohan fanned the flames of war with the dark-haired Dunlendings by first insulting, then murdering Freca, one of their lords. All Freca did was ask if his son could marry Helm's daughter.
That led to dark times for Rohan, with Freca's son eventually capturing Edoras itself.
__________________
Music alone proves the existence of God.
Inziladun is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-01-2020, 01:49 PM   #26
Boromir88
Laconic Loreman
 
Boromir88's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 7,323
Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.
Send a message via AIM to Boromir88 Send a message via MSN to Boromir88
Quote:
Originally Posted by Inziladun View Post
There are also certainly instances where the gold-heads don't behave very nobly.

Hador showed a remarkable lack of wisdom when, upon being released by Morgoth, he went to the area of Gondolin knowing he was being watched.

King Helm of Rohan fanned the flames of war with the dark-haired Dunlendings by first insulting, then murdering Freca, one of their lords. All Freca did was ask if his son could marry Helm's daughter.
That led to dark times for Rohan, with Freca's son eventually capturing Edoras itself.
I think a lot of those instances of the gold-heads not behaving nobly comes down to how Tolkien defined ofermod

In an essay, Exploring Theme and Vision in JRR Tolkien's Middle-earth, by Rico Marcel Abrahamsen. A part of the essay discusses Heroism, and "Ofermod as Tragic Motif"

Quote:
Apparently, Tolkien was preoccupied also with defining the limitations of heroism. His translation of ofermod clearly implies a distinction between the bold and the foolhardy, high spirit and excessive spirit.
How Tolkien translated ofermod, distinguishes between this "good pride" (heroic) and "negative pride" (foolish).

Bold/high spirit = positive
Foolhardy/excessive = negative

And I think most of Tolkien's heroes, whether gold-hair and fair skinned or swarthier and darker hair, fall because of ofermod. We see it in the decisions that Inzil points out and many others (I think of Oropher's foolish charge during the Last Alliance which got his people slaughtered). I'm not sure if this says anything about Tolkien's racial biases or not, I usually don't engage in these topics, because nothing has stood out as being racist intent.

I think were the critics looking for racism in The Lord of the Rings stumble is they think the theme is about good vs. evil. "All these fair-skinned westerners are good guys" the "black-robed Ringwraiths, swarthy Easterlings are bad guys" must mean Tolkien's racist. The central theme has always been, to me, Hope vs. Despair. The heroes who hold on to hope, even if it's just a fool's hope. And the villains (despair) who efforts to destroy hope (Saruman and Denethor come to mind as 2 who fall to despair). But also reminded of Galadriel's words about "fighting the long defeat."
__________________
Normalizing "changing your opinion, when presented with new information" one post at a time.
Fenris Penguin
Boromir88 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 10:37 AM   #27
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
In contrast, the Noldor looked at Aredhel and went 'you're so pale we're going to nickname you The White', which doesn't exactly suggest they're alabaster-skinned themselves.
Not so. Aredhel (formerly Isfin) was tagged "The White Lady" because she always wore white. Her hair was black, like nearly all Noldor; and the Noldor and the Sindar/Teleri both, according to Tolkien, were "fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin." And the House of Beor similarly was dark-haired but fair-skinned with grey eyes, as was the half-Beorian Turin (Adanedhel, "Man-elf.") Not to mention Luthien and her doppelgangerin Arwen. And Aragorn himself. and Boromir.

In other words, coloration akin to the "black Irish" of the real world, not a Mediterranean type.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 12:38 PM   #28
mindil
Animated Skeleton
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 47
mindil has just left Hobbiton.
The thing to remember is that in the pre-1960s, no one thought they had a capacity or responsibility to influence society to be less racist. Tolkien has his famous philo-semitic letter to show that he wasn't antisemitic, and if he could rise above that most endemic of European racisms, it's likely his attitude toward people of color was also liberal for his time.
But even if he condemned racism, he would have thought, along with all whites (I can't vouch for non-whites) that there was nothing he could do to change others' attitudes. There was no notion of symbolism in the arts influencing people's attitudes one way of the other. Realism, of course, was influential. Uncle Tom's Cabin could improve things. Pygmalion could improve things between the classes. Robinson Crusoe was thought to be enlightened. I suppose there were racist stories that haven't stood the test of time that were thought to be detrimental.
But if you didn't want to be directly polemical, your words were understood to be inert socially and politically. So White and Black as the most ancient of symbols for Good and Evil was "known" to have no implications whatsoever for real world whites and blacks.
Coming from a mindset where casting white and black that way had no chance of reinforcing racism in others allowed non-racists like Tolkien to use that trope with no conflict of conscience. Real swarthy people were as good or bad as his liberal mind chose to think them, and swarthy Haradrim were as good or evil as his creative imagination chose to fashion them. And that's it. No crossover.
Crossover, lit-crit thinking has taught people to find influences in every symbol, which may have made us more susceptible to those symbols. And maybe we were always susceptible to them. But using them, in Tolkien's era, was only a sign of classical imagery, not racist ideology.
As an aside, I suspect that Tolkien did not envision many people of color reading his legendarium. The UK was less diverse in his time, the US didn't interest him much, English speakers elsewhere were white or English was their second language. And his story was meant to be a mythology for England, after all. He probably just didn't think about how dark-skinned readers might feel reading about the white good guys vs the swarthy bad guys. If the whites could enjoy the story without being made more racist, then why not go with the classic white/black dichotomy?
mindil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 12:42 PM   #29
mindil
Animated Skeleton
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 47
mindil has just left Hobbiton.
The thing to remember is that in the pre-1960s, no one thought they had a capacity or responsibility to influence society to be less racist. Tolkien has his famous philo-semitic letter to show that he wasn't antisemitic, and if he could rise above that most endemic of European racisms, it's likely his attitude toward people of color was also liberal for his time.

But even if he condemned racism, he would have thought, along with all whites (I can't vouch for non-whites) that there was nothing he could do to change others' attitudes. There was no notion of symbolism in the arts influencing people's attitudes one way of the other. Realism, of course, was influential. Uncle Tom's Cabin could improve things. Pygmalion could improve things between the classes. Robinson Crusoe was thought to be enlightened. I suppose there were racist stories that haven't stood the test of time that were thought to be detrimental.

But if you didn't want to be directly polemical, your words were understood to be inert socially and politically. So White and Black as the most ancient of symbols for Good and Evil was "known" to have no implications whatsoever for real world whites and blacks.

Coming from a mindset where casting white and black that way had no chance of reinforcing racism in others allowed non-racists like Tolkien to use that trope with no conflict of conscience. Real swarthy people were as good or bad as his liberal mind chose to think them, and swarthy Haradrim were as good or evil as his creative imagination chose to fashion them. And that's it. No crossover.

Crossover, lit-crit thinking has taught people to find influences in every symbol, which may have made us more susceptible to those symbols. And maybe we were always susceptible to them. But using them, in Tolkien's era, was only a sign of classical imagery, not racist ideology.

As an aside, I suspect that Tolkien did not envision many people of color reading his legendarium. The UK was less diverse in his time, the US didn't interest him much, English speakers elsewhere were white or English was their second language. And his story was meant to be a mythology for England, after all. He probably just didn't think about how dark-skinned readers might feel reading about the white good guys vs the swarthy bad guys. If the whites could enjoy the story without being made more racist, then why not go with the classic white/black dichotomy?
mindil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 12:44 PM   #30
mindil
Animated Skeleton
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 47
mindil has just left Hobbiton.
Sorry guys, I couldn't figure out how to edit the post to put in lines between paragraphs, so I reposted. I won't do that again.
mindil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 12:52 PM   #31
Boromir88
Laconic Loreman
 
Boromir88's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: USA
Posts: 7,323
Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.Boromir88 has passed beneath the Argonath.
Send a message via AIM to Boromir88 Send a message via MSN to Boromir88
Quote:
Originally Posted by mindil View Post
Sorry guys, I couldn't figure out how to edit the post to put in lines between paragraphs, so I reposted. I won't do that again.
Bottom right corner of the post you like to delete there is an edit button.

When you click Edit there will also be an option to delete the post.

Welcome to the Forum! Enjoy death with the rest of us :-)
__________________
Normalizing "changing your opinion, when presented with new information" one post at a time.
Fenris Penguin
Boromir88 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 01:25 PM   #32
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 8,878
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
I very much agree with Mindil (and welcome to the Downs!). The Haradrim and Easterlings are not bad or evil or immoral, they are unknown people who by chance of fortune not known to us ended up fighting on the side of Sauron. This is in contrast to the Black Numenorians who settled in those lands, who clearly knew better and yet chose corruption over kindness. So if Tolkien were to be condemning a real world phenomenon, it would be the colonization of unknown cultures and countries, not the races themselves. But that is all unintentional extrapolation; Tolkien never had in mind to convince anyone for or against some racial view or colonization debate, his purpose was entirely elsewhere.
__________________
"Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?" - Gandalf
She's Cobbling from beyond the DeadThread! That's next-level cobbling. ~hS, TIG CXV
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 01:42 PM   #33
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,512
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Not so. Aredhel (formerly Isfin) was tagged "The White Lady" because she always wore white. Her hair was black, like nearly all Noldor; and the Noldor and the Sindar/Teleri both, according to Tolkien, were "fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin." And the House of Beor similarly was dark-haired but fair-skinned with grey eyes, as was the half-Beorian Turin (Adanedhel, "Man-elf.") Not to mention Luthien and her doppelgangerin Arwen. And Aragorn himself. and Boromir.

In other words, coloration akin to the "black Irish" of the real world, not a Mediterranean type.
Objection, yerhonour!

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Silmarillion
Ar-Feiniel she was called, the White Lady of the Noldor, for she was pale though her hair was dark, and she was never arrayed but in silver and white.
Quote:
Originally Posted by HoME XII
There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Bëor, but most of them had brown hair (going usually with brown eyes), and many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy.
Good catch on the Appendix F quote; I'd missed that one. Read literally, it actually applies far more broadly than 'Noldor and Teleri':

Quote:
Originally Posted by Appendix F
_Elves_ has been used to translate both _Quendi_, 'the speakers', the High-elven name of all their kind, and _Eldar_, the name of the Three Kindreds that sought for the Undying Realm and came there at the beginning of Days (save the _Sindar_ only). This old word was indeed the only one available, and was once fitted to apply to such memories of this people as Men preserved, or to the making of Men's minds not wholly dissimilar. But it has been diminished, and to many it may now suggest fancies either pretty or silly, as unlike to the Quendi of old as are butterflies to the swift falcon - not that any of the Quendi ever possessed wings of the body, as unnatural to them as to Men. They were a race high and beautiful the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the People of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Fin[arfin]; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that now is heard. They were valiant, but the history of those that returned to Middle-earth in exile was grievous; and though it was in far-off days crossed by the fate of the Fathers, their fate is not that of Men. Their dominion passed long ago, and they dwell now beyond the circles of the world, and do not return.
The text clearly says that the House of Finarfin were the only light-haired Eldar, meaning Celeborn, Thingol, Idril, and every single Vanya must be members of that same house, right?

But yes, that does swing the needle back towards 'light-skinned elves', though as with seemingly everything else, Tolkien's view seems to have shifted from time to time. That's the fun of Middle-earth - you can find texts to support anything you want.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 04:45 PM   #34
Pitchwife
Wight of the Old Forest
 
Pitchwife's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Unattended on the railway station, in the litter at the dancehall
Posts: 3,147
Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
The thing is, whether any given group of people in Tolkien's work is described as pale or swarthy or what-have-you-got, ascribing certain qualities or character traits to somebody based on their hair and skin colour is a racist mode of thinking either way, positive or negative; and explaining that away by saying that e.g. the Vanyar just happened by coincidence to be both the most fair-skinned and the most holy/noble of the Elven kindreds is IMHO opinion just a cop-out. He chose to write it that way, nobody forced him to.

When Sam is described as brownish-skinned (and I remember, off the top of my head, a passage about the light of Galadriel's phial in his brown hobbit-hand, somewhere in the Cirith Ungol chapters, that I can't be bothered to look up right now), I read that as the natural tan of the gardener used to working outside all day, as opposed to the pale, posh Bagginses sitting in their studies poring over their books and letters. Nothing to do with race.

But whenever people of clearly non-European racial phenotype show up in Tolkien, be it Hunnic Easterlings or Moorish Haradrim, they're presented as faceless mooks of the Enemy, little better than Orcs. There is, of course, Sam's one moment in Ithilien, a glimpse of the enemy as a human being who perhaps would rather not have fought in this war if he had a choice, which I suspect may be an echo of Tolkien's WWI experience, reflections that may have occurred to him at the sight of a dead Boche; but before and after that, the Haradrim exist only to be slaughtered by our heroes in a just war. Of course this is rationalised in the legendarium by presenting those peoples, by the sheer bad luck of their geographical position, as far removed from the enlightening influence of the Valar, Eldar and Númenóreans, and thus long steeped in the corrupting influence of Morgoth and Sauron, to the extent of worshipping them as God-Kings; whence the need to send the Ithryn Luin to them as missionaries. I find it hard not to see a colonialist discourse at work here.

Now I think mindil has it right that Tolkien, like most white people of his time, thought nothing of these matters and saw no evil in writing what he wrote (which I suppose you could say is part of the problem). But we don't read LotR in the 1950s, we read it today, and I think if we wilfully blind ourselves to the parts of it which might be problematic in this respect we become part of the problem.

(Note that this is no longer about Beowulf and Tolkien's interpretation thereof, which I'm in no way qualified to comment on, unlike other posters on this thread like WCH and Squatter. But I'd like to note that I found the knee-jerk hostility at the suggestion that there might be anything the matter about Tolkien and race earlier in this thread rather disturbing.

Also, Adorno rocks. Pity he wasn't more relaxed about movies and jazz, but he totally rocks, and let nobody tell you otherwise.)
__________________
The 21st century is when everything changes, you've got to be ready.
Pitchwife is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 04:53 PM   #35
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
But whenever people of clearly non-European racial phenotype show up in Tolkien, be it Hunnic Easterlings or Moorish Haradrim, they're presented as faceless mooks of the Enemy, little better than Orcs.
Woses.

Quote:
Also, Adorno rocks. Pity he wasn't more relaxed about movies and jazz, but he totally rocks, and let nobody tell you otherwise.
Adorno was one of the great intellectual villains of the 20th Century. May he burn for all eternity in whichever circle of Hell is reserved for Marxist academics.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 05:13 PM   #36
Pitchwife
Wight of the Old Forest
 
Pitchwife's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Unattended on the railway station, in the litter at the dancehall
Posts: 3,147
Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Pitchwife is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Woses.
Good point. I suppose you could say they're portrayed as savages, but at least they're OUR savages. Anyway, they're portrayed with a lot of sympathy, especially taking in account material like The Faithful Stone in UT.
See, I'm not trying to make a case to condemn Tolkien as a racist. I am suggesting that elements of racism are present in Tolkien's work, as are elements of non-racism, and we need to discuss both and not pretend that either isn't there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Adorno was one of the great intellectual villains of the 20th Century. May he burn for all eternity in whichever circle of Hell is reserved for Marxist academics.
Well, I've always felt that Down Under is the place with the more interesting company. (no offense to Australians intended)
__________________
The 21st century is when everything changes, you've got to be ready.
Pitchwife is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 06:06 PM   #37
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,957
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Well, I've always felt that Down Under is the place with the more interesting company.
Fair point. What's Hades and demons when you can have crocodiles, sharks, stingrays, snakes, spiders, octopi, jellyfish, toads, Tasmanian devils, dingos, kangaroos, drop-bears, enraged koalas, predatory wombats and highly aggressive lawn grasses ALL trying to kill you?
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-02-2020, 06:58 PM   #38
Mithalwen
Pilgrim Soul
 
Mithalwen's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: watching the wonga-wonga birds circle...
Posts: 9,884
Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.Mithalwen is lost in the dark paths of Moria.
It is the emus that I had trouble with. Liable to get up close and very personal.was happily feeding adorable wallabies when an intrusive beak made me squeak.
__________________
“But Finrod walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar.”

Christopher Tolkien, Requiescat in pace
Mithalwen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 12:17 AM   #39
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 8,878
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
The thing is, whether any given group of people in Tolkien's work is described as pale or swarthy or what-have-you-got, ascribing certain qualities or character traits to somebody based on their hair and skin colour is a racist mode of thinking either way, positive or negative; and explaining that away by saying that e.g. the Vanyar just happened by coincidence to be both the most fair-skinned and the most holy/noble of the Elven kindreds is IMHO opinion just a cop-out. He chose to write it that way, nobody forced him to.

When Sam is described as brownish-skinned (and I remember, off the top of my head, a passage about the light of Galadriel's phial in his brown hobbit-hand, somewhere in the Cirith Ungol chapters, that I can't be bothered to look up right now), I read that as the natural tan of the gardener used to working outside all day, as opposed to the pale, posh Bagginses sitting in their studies poring over their books and letters. Nothing to do with race.

But whenever people of clearly non-European racial phenotype show up in Tolkien, be it Hunnic Easterlings or Moorish Haradrim, they're presented as faceless mooks of the Enemy, little better than Orcs. There is, of course, Sam's one moment in Ithilien, a glimpse of the enemy as a human being who perhaps would rather not have fought in this war if he had a choice, which I suspect may be an echo of Tolkien's WWI experience, reflections that may have occurred to him at the sight of a dead Boche; but before and after that, the Haradrim exist only to be slaughtered by our heroes in a just war. Of course this is rationalised in the legendarium by presenting those peoples, by the sheer bad luck of their geographical position, as far removed from the enlightening influence of the Valar, Eldar and Númenóreans, and thus long steeped in the corrupting influence of Morgoth and Sauron, to the extent of worshipping them as God-Kings; whence the need to send the Ithryn Luin to them as missionaries. I find it hard not to see a colonialist discourse at work here.

Now I think mindil has it right that Tolkien, like most white people of his time, thought nothing of these matters and saw no evil in writing what he wrote (which I suppose you could say is part of the problem). But we don't read LotR in the 1950s, we read it today, and I think if we wilfully blind ourselves to the parts of it which might be problematic in this respect we become part of the problem.

(Note that this is no longer about Beowulf and Tolkien's interpretation thereof, which I'm in no way qualified to comment on, unlike other posters on this thread like WCH and Squatter. But I'd like to note that I found the knee-jerk hostility at the suggestion that there might be anything the matter about Tolkien and race earlier in this thread rather disturbing.
I agree with a lot of points here, and yet I disagree with the overall impression. I would have agreed in my early years of Tolkiening. However, in my last couple LOTR rereads, and especially in my recent Sil reread, I saw the matter very differently. Going through things one at a time, to start with the Haradrim and Easterlings of LOTR. Yes, we have Sam's glimpse, but we also have other elements that give a vague outline of shape in their character. For instance, when the battle at the Black Gates is lost and everyone knows it, unlike the orcs, they actually close ranks and fight to the bitter end. They stand despite the lack of Sauron's driving will and in the face of sure defeat. It's a courageous act, comparable to Hurin and Huor's stand at the Nirnaeth, regardless of what motive drives it (and that we do not know, because of perspective). If something doesn't sit right with me in the LOTR race issue, it's not that the racial geographical distribution parallels the real world, but that Aragorn is given so much credit as a great and merciful king for making peace with them. It doesn't impress me that he made treaties with them after defeating all their strength; I would be much more impressed with how he manages the politics with these countries when Gondor has military superiority and a lot of cultural and economic influence, but doesn't succumb to the typical Numenorian egotism and convert their culture to the "Numenorian type but lesser by blood". Will they be allowed to maintain their customs (aside from raiding Lebannon and Belfalas)? Will they be allowed to maintain their leaders and social structure, even if it is one that seems weird to Gondor? Will they be given a cultural protection even half as good as the Shire? It's the glorifying of tolerance which costs nothing that bothers me and makes me, in fact, more interested in the fate of Harad and the rest of the lands. So if we talk purely about the high horsed "fair" people, I have no quarrel there. But I do not think that the East and South are necessarily put down racially. More that there is a strong sense of collonialism where the colonizers strongly believe in the superiority of their culture - and are, in fact, supported in that opinion by Tolkien himself (see Noldor, early Numenor). Yes, the newcomers have a lot of knowledge to share, but my gut feeling is with the proud Thingol who declares that he and his people will stand independently of the so skillful and wise Noldor, and judge and accept all their wisdom on its own merit rather than in blind trust of their implied superiority in skill. The Noldor could have learned a trick or two from the Sindar too, had they been less superior-like. And same for the Numenorians, who came to be seen as kind gods and later destructive gods by the people of Middle-earth. The early Numenorians looked at other people as deeply inferior, and taught them how to live more Numenor-like. This seems to be a good deed according to Tolkien, and in this I see again an echo of the honest belief of history that Europe was bringing civilization to distant places. However, later Numenorians which exploit the "lesser races" rather than teach are clearly condemned, and in this I see an echo of crossing the line, where colonization becomes exploitation and subjugation. So to conclude this ramble, is it really that the Haradrim are worse people, or that the Edain become benevolent colonizers, and geography trumps race here in the reason why they are seen as misguided (ie by virtue of being on the receiving end of colonization)? Is it different to say that Europeans are more civilized vs white people are more civilized, when historically that often came to be synonymous? The main difference to me is that the "others" in the first case are inferior by virtue of race, while in the second by geography, with colour being a secondary, not necessary, and possibly coincidental feature. So while I see colonial echoes - which evolved just as much as the ideas of race in the last couple centuries - I don't necessarily see subconscious racism, at least in a form that is detached from the colonial connecition.

With regards to Vanyar, I disagree based on the fact that no Elf that I can think of was ever described as swarthy, and "dark" Elves just had dark hair/personalities rather than skin. All Elves have fair skin, and having fairer skin than most may be more a consequence of aesthetic and personal taste. Paleness was attractive because it indicated non-working status, as much as a tan is attractive because it indicates good health through outdoor activity, and every person has their own preference for paleness or tan that they prefer aesthetically or associate with certain archetypes. That's not on a level of race by skin colour. Besides, Tolkien might have agreed with the Vanyar with his head but his heart was clearly with the Noldor. Therefore I don't think that being super pale vs simply pale is an indicator of racial preference per se.

The point I do concede is the squint eyed Isengarders / Ruffians, who do seem to be evil by definition and for whom appearance seems to be synonymous with character. It's not clear to me whether they are of one race (related to Dunlendings? Corrupted by Saruman? Bred by Saruman? Interbred with orcs?) or various scoundrels who fell on the same path from different starting points and flocked to Saruman when the smell of profit was in the air. But regardless, that is a good point.

And the other point I would add is the remarkable coincidence of pale people being able to put aside their differences and join forces, while the swarthy people of LOTR inevitably end up as the enemy of these forces. Now this I do not see as a reflection of racial influence in Harad, but rather in Dunland, which sort of sticks out amid fair-coloured people around it. Why are the local enemies swarthy too? Though admittedly Rohirrim are migrants from the North and Gondorians are ultimately descendants of Hador and Beor, so who knows what the "natural" melanin levels were on Dunlending lattitudes - but that would be rationalizing a decision that most likely did not involve any such considerations. Within the scope of the legendarium, it's natural that such endlessly warring nations as the Dunlendings and Rohirrim have hostile feelings towards each other and pick out whatever features stand out most to them (the Eorlings are called Strawheads too, they get their share of racial stereotyping and exaggeration of physical differences). There needed to be differences to highlight between the two peoples, and anyone except the Vanyar () would be dark compared to the exaggeratedly Saxonesque Rohirrim. But it was not really necessary. Was there a subconscious thought or a passive reflection of society's thoughts that evil or enmity is related to colour? In these two instances, possibly.

That is not to say that all enemies were dark skinned (I have tried and failed to imagine a dark skinned Variag, for instance). Moreover, there are enough shady characters among the "good guys". In trying to rebuttle my own point, I also came up with Bor the swarthy Easterling who countered the actions of Ulfang the other swarthy Easterling, so at least in The Sil the split can be called even.

I second that I am not one to comment on Beowulf, but in that case the issue of racism falls short on the nature of the material. A case might be made for the legendarium on the grounds of being all in the hands and imagination of the writer. A translation, however, is by definition not in the authors hands. So I cannot comment on any specifics, not beong familiar with the material in the slightest, but would caution against mistaking Anglo-Saxon legends for Tolkien's beliefs.

I think the reason many of us find ourselves in a knee jerk defensive reaction when loud accusations are thrown against Tolkien is that they are thrown so often with the intent to look clever but without the proper thought behind them. You find yourself in a defensive position against an unreasonable argument so often that you anticipate them. There are the legit question once but seriously if you pay attention you won't need to ask. Like, have you ever felt the urge to take the next person to think they outsmarted the Professor by suggesting the Eagles fly into Mordor and lock them up in Orthanc until they read all the core legendarium books thoroughly? Or the downright no idea what theu are talking about - ever wanted to bash the people who comment "LOTR is nice but a rip off from Harry Potter" on the head with the full trilogy in one volume? Not to mention the other popular exclamations, "Tolkien was a misogynist" and "Frodo and Sam are gay". Furthermore, in this thread specifically, the talk started with discussing a particular article, which opens with "J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal scholarship on*Beowulf centers a white male gaze.*" - as opposed to what, the other Beowulf who was a Black Asian woman who just magically appeared among the Saxons? I think you might be judging this thread a little too harshly, given this context. I do not believe Tolkien himself was racist, in the sense that all I know about him would suggest that his respect for a person would not diminish if it was a non-Caucasian person. Does his writing reflect a tiny portion of the racism norm of his time? That is a whole different question, and for me personally, elicits a very different reaction. Which is, I suppose, why I am actually responding to your post and putting thought into it at very late hours.




I apologize for the initial ramble, which I realize is not very well formulated. I also realize that I am biased by not sharing JRRT's essential moral of The Sil, that ultimately the cure must be divine. I slightly resent the worshipful status the Eldar have among the Edain, especially the House of Hador. I am instead sympathetic towards the Haladin and Thingol, who choose to live by their own decisions. I feel that if I was one of the Men meeting the Eldar, yes I would be fascinated by their advanced skill but I would resist adopting it as my ideal; the better skill is that which I can master and rely on. They may know a lot, but I have my own head to make decisions and judge my beliefs of the world. Yes, the Valar may be upholding the light in this world and may be the ultimate deliverance, but in the abscence of their influence on my world I won't count on them for anything and will count on myself to get things done. Unlike LOTR, which is a lot more subtle in philosophy, the blind... conversion, almost - of the Edain clashes with basic critical thinking. This makes me more akin to the non-Edain and non-Numenorians, whom I do not fault for not being infatuated with the Eldar, which probably skews my view in their favour in terms of portrayal. So as a consequence of a more religious disagreement, my view of the LOTR enemy races shifted in the last few years from evil by definition to cultural unknowns who deserve respect for certain things.

With that said, I do not have much sleep left, and shall respectfully retire.
__________________
"Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?" - Gandalf
She's Cobbling from beyond the DeadThread! That's next-level cobbling. ~hS, TIG CXV
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 12:54 AM   #40
Rhun charioteer
Wight
 
Rhun charioteer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 113
Rhun charioteer has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pitchwife View Post
The thing is, whether any given group of people in Tolkien's work is described as pale or swarthy or what-have-you-got, ascribing certain qualities or character traits to somebody based on their hair and skin colour is a racist mode of thinking either way, positive or negative; and explaining that away by saying that e.g. the Vanyar just happened by coincidence to be both the most fair-skinned and the most holy/noble of the Elven kindreds is IMHO opinion just a cop-out. He chose to write it that way, nobody forced him to.

When Sam is described as brownish-skinned (and I remember, off the top of my head, a passage about the light of Galadriel's phial in his brown hobbit-hand, somewhere in the Cirith Ungol chapters, that I can't be bothered to look up right now), I read that as the natural tan of the gardener used to working outside all day, as opposed to the pale, posh Bagginses sitting in their studies poring over their books and letters. Nothing to do with race.

But whenever people of clearly non-European racial phenotype show up in Tolkien, be it Hunnic Easterlings or Moorish Haradrim, they're presented as faceless mooks of the Enemy, little better than Orcs. There is, of course, Sam's one moment in Ithilien, a glimpse of the enemy as a human being who perhaps would rather not have fought in this war if he had a choice, which I suspect may be an echo of Tolkien's WWI experience, reflections that may have occurred to him at the sight of a dead Boche; but before and after that, the Haradrim exist only to be slaughtered by our heroes in a just war. Of course this is rationalised in the legendarium by presenting those peoples, by the sheer bad luck of their geographical position, as far removed from the enlightening influence of the Valar, Eldar and Númenóreans, and thus long steeped in the corrupting influence of Morgoth and Sauron, to the extent of worshipping them as God-Kings; whence the need to send the Ithryn Luin to them as missionaries. I find it hard not to see a colonialist discourse at work here.

Now I think mindil has it right that Tolkien, like most white people of his time, thought nothing of these matters and saw no evil in writing what he wrote (which I suppose you could say is part of the problem). But we don't read LotR in the 1950s, we read it today, and I think if we wilfully blind ourselves to the parts of it which might be problematic in this respect we become part of the problem.

(Note that this is no longer about Beowulf and Tolkien's interpretation thereof, which I'm in no way qualified to comment on, unlike other posters on this thread like WCH and Squatter. But I'd like to note that I found the knee-jerk hostility at the suggestion that there might be anything the matter about Tolkien and race earlier in this thread rather disturbing.

Also, Adorno rocks. Pity he wasn't more relaxed about movies and jazz, but he totally rocks, and let nobody tell you otherwise.)
I'm not seeing the issue here? Christians would say the same for people in China, the Americas, or Australia. Those in the dark due to their location and lack of contact with grace and the truth.

Its a very Christian discourse. Gondor doesn't go to Rhun spreading the light Valarian civilization to the swarthy savages. The numenorians are pale white ubermensch and engender the animosity of these peoples due to their cruelty and slaving. They aren't heroes of virtue bringing reason and goodness to the savages.

Tolkien was very much an anti imperialist.

The idea of those "benighted in darkness" who are separate from the truth has arguably existed since...35 AD.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Woses.



Adorno was one of the great intellectual villains of the 20th Century. May he burn for all eternity in whichever circle of Hell is reserved for Marxist academics.
Alongside Fanon, Foucalt, and the rest of those disgusting Academic deconstructionists. Their ideas are responsible for a lot of the rot and degeneracy in the world today.

Last edited by Rhun charioteer; 06-03-2020 at 01:00 AM. Reason: Add material
Rhun charioteer is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 10:04 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.