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Orcs as stereotypes ( was: Re: [mythsoc] Types, Stereotypes and Archetypes.)

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  • Darrell A. Martin
    ... 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
    Message 1 of 33 , Jan 31, 2012
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      I 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 up
      > 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?

    • Margaret Dean
      I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they d shipped mine! :) It s been backordered for ... a while now. --Margaret Dean margdean56@gmail.com On
      Message 33 of 33 , Feb 13, 2012
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        I just got an email from Kent State Press saying they'd shipped mine!  :)  It's been backordered for ... a while now.
        --Margaret Dean
        On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM, Doug Kane <dougkane@...> wrote:

        It has come to my attention that Verlyn Flieger's new book, Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien is now available for purchase, both directly from the publisher, Kent State University Press, and from Amazon and other retailers.  This book was originally due to be published last August, but was delayed by the publisher.  It doesn't seem to have been well publicized that the book is now available, so I thought I would spread the word.  I obviously don't need to emphasize how perceptive Verlyn's observations about Tolkien are.  Most of you are well aware of that fact!

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