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Old 01-25-2002, 01:53 AM   #1
SlinkerStinker
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Sting Are Tolkien Books Racist?

This is a sidebar to the thread "Are Tolkien books sexist?"

I'm throwing this out there for opinion sakes. Don't flame me like poor Eve please [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

While I will admit my ignorance of much of JRRT's writings (I've read LOTR 4 times and am halfway through the Sil), I have so far found that the only dark skinned humanfolk in ME live so far south that not only do their stories and history not qualify to be written about, but that they don't even get a place on the map???

Also in LOTR, all the dark folks are lumped into the "inherently evil" group as they are only recorded as being aligned with Sauron, with a slight meantioning that they once traded with Rohan.

I'm not trying to say that Tolkien was racist, but in creating his Middle Earth, where are the heros from the Southrons and Haridrim clans, and where are there stories?

(forgive the spelling I am going from memory)
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Old 01-25-2002, 03:15 AM   #2
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i suppose if you WANT to find racism you can find racism in everything. Authors write about what they have been exposed to the most. That does not make them racist.
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Old 01-25-2002, 04:47 AM   #3
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Well, he did put quite a lot of focus on "evil dark skinned people" and "purity of blood", maybe too much for comfort. But I see that more as the byproduct of an era than as the evil personality of a man. If Tolkien was racist, he wasn't significantly more racist than other personalities of his time.
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Old 01-25-2002, 09:36 AM   #4
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I think he had an excellent grasp on the concept of good and evil, and he wrote about about it. When it came to the LOTR, I don't think he was racist or non-racist. I don't think Tolkien was motivated by Political Correction. I think he just didn't care about whether there were enough "dark" good guys and enough "white" bad guys. He used dark colors to describe evil people because from the beginning of time evil has been described by dark things, and good desribed by light things.
I am not angry when I say this, but I feel discussions like this are futile and a waste of time. JRRT was a man that loved many cultures, many languages, and many peoples. If he had written about enough dark heroes, people would wonder why he didn't write about yellow skinned heroes, or why there weren't any people with down syndrome in his works.

I don't even see the "purity of blood" thing as a by-product of an era. It's just a common sense way of describing and defining royalty.

If I wrote a story about the people in my building who are all caucasion, would that mean that I am racist? Hardly.

Remember too, that tolkien considered himself a discoverer of ME not a creator. In response to this inquiry he would likely respond, "Hey, Lluvitar created them, not me."

[ January 25, 2002: Message edited by: Rhudladion ]
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Old 01-25-2002, 11:15 AM   #5
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The point could be made that, in orcs, Tolkein carried on the tradition of creating a race that was evil by its nature, and not by choice. This can border on racism of a form, and its the only thing I don't care for about the Tolkein universe.

However, the case could be made that they are fallen forms of other races, and that it is by choice that they become orcs, but I don't really see that.
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Old 01-25-2002, 11:17 AM   #6
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As for Tolkein as the conveyer, and Iluvatar as the creator, Tolkein still remains as the filter for iluvatar's story. Not to take away from JRR, just pointing out that, while the writer might not consciously create all the things that take place in their works, they are responsible for the form it takes.
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Old 01-25-2002, 11:31 AM   #7
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In his works, Tolkien was deliberately trying to create a mythology for England, so he intentionally set his tales in a land reminiscent of northern Europe, featuring Caucasian humans. And although the non-European humans get short schrift in LOTR, he does make a point of showing in the Silmarillion that they are not all evil; several Easterling tribes (Bor and his sons) become allies of the elves. But I can certainly see why some readers (in our more PC times) might be uncomfortable with his work.
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Old 01-25-2002, 12:18 PM   #8
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I agree with Ithilwen. I think that it is more of a matter of where the tales were supposedly focused (Western Europe) than JRRT being a racist.
I remember in the Two Towers when Sam is looking at the dead Haradrim he's wondering if maybe the man had been lied to or forced to march against the West and if the man would rather have stayed home. A rather sympathetic thought for one of the few times we ever deal with the Haradrim up close and personal.
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Old 01-25-2002, 12:40 PM   #9
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Welcome to the Barrow-Downs, Ithilwen! Great first post.

A few comments. First, as Ithiwen stated, the "heroes" of LoTR were Northern European in origin, making it difficult to weave in non-caucasian protagonists. This notwithstanding, JRRT employs a multi-racial array of primary characters, albeit fictional ones, i.e. Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and men, and is both overtly and impliedly critical of hatred based solely upon race (Elves-Dwarves, Sam's sympathy towards the fallen man of Harad, etc.). Not all non-caucasians are evil (the people of Bor). Those that are were corrupted or deceived by Sauron rather than inherently evil. Witness the prisoners amazement after the battle before the gate that they are not put to death but rather put to work correcting the damage done and then released. JRRT in Letters expressly states that no one, not even the orcs, are irredeemable or fated to be evil.

LoTR was written over fifty years ago during times when modern views of tolerance (I do not use the term "politically correct" because racial, ethnic and religious tolerance are a moral necessity not a political viewpoint) had not yet developed. Even so, JRRT's work incorporates themes of tolerance. In the late 1930s, the Hobbit was being considered for publication in Germany and JRRT received correspondence from German authorities regarding his "racial purity". In his reponse, Tolkien is highly critical of Germany's "racial purity" programs and concludes, and I paraphrase to the best of my memory, that under the circumstances he would "proudly" consider himself to be jewish (even though he was not of course). Tolkien was not a racist and his work could only be viewed as such through the skewed use of the narrow lens of present day political correctness which is, as I said, neither applicable to his time nor a truly accurate view of his writings.
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Old 01-25-2002, 12:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Fell Shade:
<STRONG>The point could be made that, in orcs, Tolkein carried on the tradition of creating a race that was evil by its nature, and not by choice. This can border on racism of a form, and its the only thing I don't care for about the Tolkein universe.</STRONG>
Fell Shade,
Why do you not casre for this part of Tolkien's world? What's wrong with characters who are evil in nature?

I just find it interesting that you don't like this piece of Tolkien's world, since Melkor was evil by nature (or at least I took him to be so).

Just curious.


Mithadan:

I agree with you. good post. But I would like you to explain a little further what you mean when you say that "racial, ethnic and religious tolerance are a moral necessity", if you think it would add to the discussion.

[ January 25, 2002: Message edited by: Rhudladion ]
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:12 PM   #11
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Rhudladion,
Something you said made me curious. Do you think that Melkor was made evil by Eru or if he was created good and fell through bad choices? I'm more of a "free will" person myself, but I'd like to hear your opinion, since you mentioned it.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:21 PM   #12
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Excellent question.

To be honest I am not sure. I am not as learned in lore as others here. The question you ask is also very difficult, in that it could also be asked about Satan/Lucifer. I'm sure you know that Melkor sang a song of discord against that of the other Ainur (it is Ainur right?), and this would indicate to me that he chose to weave a song different from the others. And in this choosing I think he fell.

But...how/why would he have chosen evil if he had not been predisposed in the first place?

I LOVE talking "free will"; it makes my face hurt in that special way, you know?? Like trying when you've been working on a math problem so long you can't remember what you are supposed to be solving for.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:26 PM   #13
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This is technically off-topic. All right then. "Politically correct", at least to me, connotes politically in vogue, i.e. a position maintained due to its socio-political popularity rather than its actual "correctness". Ethnic, racial and religious tolerance are morally necessary in order for a "civilized" society to exist. In the absence of such tolerance, a society is morally bankrupt, chaotic and inclined to violence, thus not "civilized". I, of course, refer to hatred of a group merely for what they are rather than what they do. I somehow feel that this sidebar to the main topic here is, for some reason, potentially inflamatory and urge caution in following up on it.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:34 PM   #14
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As Mithadan sort of implied, the Melkor good/evil topic probably deserves it's own thread anyway, rather than straying off on a tangent here. This thread has a fairly in depth topic itself. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:36 PM   #15
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Thank you Mithadan. I wanted you to be more explicit so that I could conlude some things about you previous post; no other reason.

I won't follow-up. Good Haunting Spirit, promises nice Moderator. Nice Master. We promises on the precious. yessss.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:42 PM   #16
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While dark skinned heroes are thin on the ground there are quite a few European-type baddies. Notably Ar-Pharazon, the Mouth of Sauron, the Lord of the Nazgul and Wormtongue.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:44 PM   #17
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I think it would be wise to remember though, that an entry may not include a comment directly about the specified topic, and yet still be on-topic. If, for instance, it is decided that the inherent nature of a Tolkien's characters are important in determining whether or not he was racist, it would be justifiable to make entries on this "sub-topic".

Not saying I think that is the case here, altough it might be.
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Old 01-25-2002, 01:55 PM   #18
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I am not saying to not follow up on anything which I or anyone else has said, whether on a tangent or even to an extent off-topic (the topic is Tolkien, not necessarily the topic of the first post). I am suggesting that an extended discussion of the philosphical or moral apsects of tolerance or discrimination may create some "bad blood". Therefore some sensitivity is needed if we venture down that road. I am not suggesting that such a discussion should not take place, but "bad blood" is prohibited. This discussion has been perfectly civil and appropriate thus far. I just somehow "have a bad feeling about this". Therefore my cautionary note...
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Old 01-25-2002, 02:02 PM   #19
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OK.

I was just worried: I've had threads closed on me before, when I felt that the discussion/argument still held topical water.
But that's another story, and I appreciate all of the moderators' efforts.

I was just kidding with the Smeagol thing.
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Old 01-25-2002, 05:10 PM   #20
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Mithadan & Ithilwen - you guys rock!!! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
Please forgive me if I misspelled your names.
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Old 01-26-2002, 12:55 AM   #21
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I understand, Mith. Sometimes you open Pandora's Box and realize - too late! - and no attempt to steer the conversation can recover it.
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