21660Re: Are Hobbits white?
- Dec 9, 2010Yeah, I wasn't sure whether you were being Tolkien-specific or not. The shared love of "northernness" was one of the things that connected Lewis & Tolkien... I've not read the Wells "Outline of History" (eeek!) and I'm very aware that, just as we can look at Tolkien and his chronological contemporaries and see evidence of an assortment of "isms", future generations will look at us and do the same thing *and probably in areas we of which we're completely oblivious.* I fear it's an inescapable part of the human condition, at least on this earth.
I'm sure you know LOTS more than I do about the Byzantine empire - it would be interesting to pick your brain some day. :)
-- Lynn --
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Darrell A. Martin" <darrellm@...> wrote:
> On 12/8/2010 7:43 PM, lynnmaudlin wrote:
> > Darrell, I think it's a bit unfair to say, "What do you think when,
> > in an author's original, the "ethnicities that are represented" *are*
> > all villains?" IF you're speaking of LOTR, the issue of PEOPLES
> > really ought to be seen as dominant over the issue of the color of
> > men.
> > So there are Elves, primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are dwarves,
> > primarily 'good' in LOTR; there are hobbits, primarily ignorant in
> > LOTR; there are wizards, a VERY mixed lot; there are orcs, creatures
> > debased and bred to be evil; there are men, another VERY mixed lot.
> > There are tensions between all these different peoples. To break it
> > down further and say, "within the humans, the good ones are 'light'
> > and the bad ones are 'dark' and that is a political statement" is
> > imho simplistic.
> > It's rather like looking back at the aggressive violent spread of
> > Islam up into Europe in the first millennium and characterizing it as
> > a race war. In fact, arguably it wasn't even a religious war (like
> > Northern Ireland: while being cast as Catholic versus Protestant, it
> > wasn't a religious battle but a political one; the religious labels
> > were simply the identifiers used) but rather one of imperialism and
> > encroachment by people who happened to be Muslims against people who
> > happened to be Christian. Yes, the impetus for Islam is the charge to
> > convert the world, by force if need be, but it's the "by force" part
> > that bothered the Austrians and Italians and Spaniards and French,
> > *not* the religion per se.
> > -- Lynn --
> My question was intended to be somewhat hypothetical, to elicit a
> response from Alana. I was not referring to Tolkien in particular, at
> least "not yet", although he obviously comes to mind. Regardless, both
> she and I used the term "ethnicities", not "races".
> As someone who has delved, just a bit, into the world of Eastern Roman >
> Byzantine history and politics, especially vis a vis the Huns and Goths,
> I am aware that equating physical race with either political
> organization or cultural identity must be done with care -- when it can
> be done at all. Nevertheless there is evidence that Tolkien did make
> such connections, not rarely, and that he went farther by attaching
> moral value to race.
> There is also evidence that Tolkien wrestled with the implications of
> his tendency to equate racially tall, light-skinned peoples with light
> colored eyes, with "the good side"; and to see shorter, dark-skinned
> peoples as "on the bad side". The equation is not, as you said,
> simplistic. Among the worst peoples -- or at very least the most morally
> ambiguous -- were the tall, grey-eyed, light-skinned Numenoreans under
> Ar-Pharazon; among the best were the decidedly short, mostly brown-eyed
> Hobbits, whose skin color was, without moral overtones, explicitly
> variable (within a range that is the current topic of conversation).
> The blunt fact is, Tolkien had a "deep response to legends ... that have
> what I would call the North-western temper and temperature. In any case
> if you want to write a tale of this sort you must consult your roots,
> and a man of the North-west of the Old World will set his heart and the
> action of his tale in an imaginary world of that air, and that situation
> ..." as he wrote to W.H. Auden in 1955. It is an equally blunt fact that
> the "North-west of the Old World" is the ancestral home of people with
> distinguishing physical characteristics. They are part of "that air, and
> that situation" and Tolkien consciously identifies himself with them. He
> is proud of them when they behave admirably and pained by them when they
> do not. And, rather than apologize for the identification, he affirms
> it, and is angered by those such as Hitler who sully his people's
> In the context of his times, Tolkien's racial opinions pale in
> comparison with some others. H.G. Wells in his "Outline of History"
> (editions from 1920 to 1949), discusses at length the races of mankind
> and their relative development. He describes races as advanced, lower,
> higher, and degraded. He is also quite judgmental in some cases,
> although like Tolkien he is no blind advocate of "our" superiority. He
> is particularly harsh on the Romans, delightedly mentioning the
> discussion among Greeks whether the Romans of the Empire were "barbaroi"
> (the consensus seems to be they were). He openly admires the Indian king
> By the way, Wells's "Outline" shows "dark whites" settling in western
> Ireland and southern Wales. This is pertinent to the discussion of
> racial variations in the British Isles, and thus to the question of Hobbits.
> I am very positively disposed toward those who refuse to make value
> judgments based on skin color. However, our current refusal to evaluate
> *behavioral* differences is intellectually questionable, and may be from
> a sociological standpoint cultural suicide. Humans connect with those
> they call "us" and prefer "our" behavior. When someone does not know who
> "we" are, or do not see "us" as admirable, it is every bit as
> dysfunctional as the stereotypical family of that ilk. I wonder whether
> Science Fiction and Medieval High Fantasy serve as surrogates for
> mainstream culture for many people of European ancestry, when so much of
> what Tolkien called the "air of the North-west of the Old World" is
> under attack among the intellectual elite of urban North America. In
> popular culture, Tolkien *IS* Medieval High Fantasy. Consciously or
> otherwise, I think Peter Jackson and the "Game of Thrones" people know
> which side of their bread is buttered, and the appearance of "people of
> color" in leading positive roles is to that extent unlikely.
> My opinions of Islam would best be left for a different forum and a more
> propitious time of day for writing cautiously (it now being 3:45 a.m.
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