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From the pages of idiocy

August 21, 2009

From a continuing discussion of racism in the Lord of the Rings (a valid discussion topic; that book has its issues), come to us this wonderful claim:

“Tolkien clearly does not sanction interracial marriage. When a white Gondorian marries a white elf, it is praised with songs and poems; when a Gondorian marries a Haradrim – a people with darker skin, it is called “mingling with the lesser race”.”

Okay. Nevermind that the claim is factually wrong (the “mingling with lesser race” in question is Numenorean/Northmen, the Northmen (allegedly “lesser”) being a people with pale skin and blond hair), did these people even bother to read that part of the story?

Because, as I recall (and I recall right, according to my copy), the nobles who are horrified at this “mingling with lesser races” (per them) are pretty unequivocally presented as the bad guys. Their leader, in the space of two sentence, gets called “haughty”, “ungenerous” and “cruel”; the next line it is revealed that he ordered prisoners executed, and the next one after that that he deliberately ordered a Nankin rape style operation. Then two paragraphs later Tolkien goes out of his way to point out that the remnants of those noble who escaped retribution for their crimes went on to become the Corsairs of Umbar. Now correct me if I’m wrong (and I’m not), but I,m pretty sure the Corsairs of Umbar are depicted as allies of Sauron throughout the book. Somehow, I don’t think they’re supposed to be sympathetic characters, here!

So yeah. There are issues with the Lord and racism. (such as, I dunno, the fact that the servants of Sauron are skin-colored for easy identification, Orcs included. And an Always Chaotic Evil specie/race (aka Orcs) has unfortunate implications that concerned Tolkien a good deal in his later years, though the implications have been overplayed. You could make a good case that the lack of Haradhrim/Numenorean marriages isn’t exactly a point in the book’s favor, for that matter. And that’s not an exhaustive list).

But if you want to make points about them, please make sure you pay attention to what you’re criticizing. Seriously.

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