22920Orcs as stereotypes ( was: Re: [mythsoc] Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.)
- Jan 31, 2012I wrote, in part:
It triggered a question in me, not yet formed into an opinion, whether
J.R.R. Tolkien's Orcs may be an intentional stereotype. That is, they
are deliberately limited in their depth, are seldom seen as individuals,
and have racial characteristics which are unrelentingly negative. Even
when an uncommon Orc appears with a name and a physical description, he
is an exaggerated version *of* the stereotype, not a variation *from* it.
In response, scribbler@... wrote, in part:
> Heh. Okay, first, "Scribbler" = "She". I forgot that all that's showing upSarah:
> is my email. The "she" would be Sarah Beach. :D
> But onward to Orcs -- Darrell, I would really disagree with Tolkien
> treating all the orcs as stereotypes, at least the way most people use
> that term, to indicate a lack of individuality and scope. It seems to me
> that orcs are "by nature" rather shallow creatures, greedy, self-serving
> if given a chance, fairly easily cowed if something or someone more
> powerful is nearby. But the orcs that fight over Merry& Pipping in Rohan
> are distinct individuals, the orcs in the tower at the top of the pass
> seemed individualistic and not stereotyped. Even among the orcs, Tolkien
> gave the characters personality and scope. Limited, yes, but not flat.
I am revisiting this paragraph simply to explore the idea of a
stereotype. Perhaps I should have said, in more detail, that Orcs may be
deliberately stereotyped human beings of the historical group "Central
Asian barbarian invaders of Europe". Their physical description agrees,
"degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely
Mongol-types." [Letters, #210, to Forrest J. Ackerman]
In a description of a group of people, it is no contradiction to say
both that the group is stereotyped, and that it includes distinct
individuals. The question is whether those individuals ever "rise above
their station". I do not believe any Orc does. Although Shagrat and
Ugluk are individuals, they are only differentiated *among* Orcs, not
*from* other Orcs; they are exemplars, not exceptions. Tolkien admitted
he made a slip when he had William the troll call Bilbo, "poor little
blighter". No such mistake happens with Orcs!
In fact, it strikes me how faithful Orcs are to their pattern. Elves may
be testy, Hobbits may act high-falutin', and a Dwarf may become
astonishingly sentimental. Orcs are consistent in their orcishness,
rivaling the faithfulness of elephants in "Horton Hears a Who".
Is there any contrary evidence?
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