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Roose Boltons Pet Leech

Tolkien 2.0

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5 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

How about judging Tolkien by what he himself actually says, and not about his religious beliefs? There is not a shred of evidence that Tolkien was anti-semitic (rather the reverse), at a time when no-one would have batted an eyelid if he had been.

As for what would have happened had Edith been Jewish - he was clearly head over heels in love with her, despite her being an older Protestant woman. He loved her for who she was as a person, not because of religious criteria.

The point being there is that Anti-Judaism is basically an ingrained part of Christianity, most visible in conservative Catholicism as well as in present-day Protestant movements (not to mention Martin Luther). I mean, Christianity is basically the bad fan fiction sequel to Judaism, having the audacity to declare that the people who wrote the original holy texts the Christians stole had no idea what they were talking about.

As a Catholic you can accept the adherents of other religions since the Second Vatican Council as fellow human beings who are also searching for the truth, but you still have it, and you are still superior even to your fellow Christians of other denominations who don't believe as you do. Prior to that, though, the Jews were collectively guilty of rejecting the truth of Christianity, and condemned unless they saw the light before they died.

Here is the old prayer:

'Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. [pause for silent prayer] Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.'

And of course Edith had to convert to Tolkien's faith when they married. One doubts that this whole thing would have worked out had she been as invested in her faith/convictions as he was.

But this is just a side track, really. Tolkien shows a lot of latent racism in his stories, with the Númenóreans being the people bringing proper culture to Middle-earth (it is certainly wrong to enslave them, as the later Númenóreans did but that doesn't change the fact that the Númenóreans were vastly superior to the peoples of Middle-earth).

The same goes for the general setting - Easterlings and Southrons being evil/treacherous (back during the Nirnaeth) and/or stupid/corrupted (in LotR), and Orcs actually being described as degenerate Mongol-types: 

'The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.'

We've got a very homogenous white society set against racially different people (Easterlings, Southrons, Orcs), and when you actually breed with those 'the enemy' (as Saruman's people do) you are essentially practicing racial defilement which is not actually encouraged by our heroes (nobody wants to marry an Orc, or hang out with some half-orc - whatever that may be, an actual biological term or rather an insult to ugly-looking people? The enemy is not really described as being human, at least not in the same sense as your own people are.

In a symbolic sense this is even worse in light of the fact that the few Orcs we actually meet in the story are actually not animals. They are just dehumanized by their enemies. 

One can also interpret the original segregation of the Elvish tribes in a manner resembling the split between Christians and Jews. The Eldar saw the light of the truth and followed the Angel of the Lord to Aman (or at least tried to do that) and the Avari did not, out of fear, confusion, and spite. Thus they are set eternally apart from the other elves, and are not called to Aman when they die, destined to become mean ghosts after they fade away.

13 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

So basically, you don't like Catholics.

According to their own rules, I'm still one, so that is clearly wrong ;-).

Unlike the average Catholic I actually read a lot of Church fathers in my spare time, and am quite aware of the blatant Anti-Judaism in those writings. One can expect from an educated person like Tolkien (who was not only interested in the middle ages but also in the antiquity) that he, too, was aware of a lot of that stuff.

That certainly isn't exactly the same as modern Antisemitism but it is clearly its parent, because nobody in the modern world would have had any prejudices against the Jews if there hadn't been centuries of mainly religious prejudices against them. And even in the middle ages those prejudices certainly weren't only a matter of religion - the Spanish Inquisition and Martin Luther weren't very inclined to even believe they changed their evil ways after they got their forced baptism, and the whole scheme of the evil money-lending Jew also goes back quite some time.

19 hours ago, Jo498 said:

There is actually a woman in Treasure Island: Jim Hawkins' mother who is capable (she runs the Inn with Jim after becoming a widow) and indirectly responsible for the discovery of the treasure map because she is so stubborn in not wanting to take more money from the deceased Billy Bones's sea chest than he owed that she and Jim leave the Inn only at the last moment before the pirates in search of Bones' stuff enter and Jim grabs the bundle that contains the map as additional compensation.

Yeah, I remember her. But she isn't exactly a key character to the entire story. We should also keep in mind that stuff like 'Treasure Island' and 'Robinson Crusoe' and the like didn't exactly begin as children's books. They are classics that are today mostly given to children, just as fairy-tales became stories for children. But they were never intended as such, originally.

19 hours ago, Jo498 said:

But to have almost no women in war or expedition settings like Treasure Island or most of LotR is not denying them personhood (how should this follow?) or ignore that they exist but only to acknowledge that there are very few of them in such settings. I am not sure which great books there are about women only settings but in such a case a lack of male characters would also be not problematic at all.

The idea is that women aren't really living, breathing characters like the male characters in movies or stories if they mainly (or only) fulfill a certain purpose for the male character. A lot of female characters work in fiction work that fashion. If we take Tolkien as an example then Arwen and Galadriel are perfect examples (the former is Aragorn's prize and the latter just fulfills a minor role as an advisor to the actual heroes while also representing the type/cliché of holy woman in white rather than actually being a character in her own right, and that she is supposed to have powers of her own is never realized in the story).

Basically, a real female character is a character who has her own story, desires, agenda, wishes, motivations, etc. Not just a character whose main purpose it is to fall in love with the hero, help him to overcome his fears, and so on.

19 hours ago, Jo498 said:

Guilt by association with openly racist material is not a helpful move but of course there cannot be hard and fast rules how far the principle of charity to engage a book on its on terms should be extended. I could only go by examples where I have the impression that external demands informed by modern sensibilities seem to impede people's appreciation and understanding of certain books. A blatant example is "Huckleberry Finn". Of course this contains some racism, how could it be different in a book set in the mid-19th century American South and written only a few decades later? But overall and especially for its time it is anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment and abolitionist, so the occurence of the N-word and the sympathetic but sometimes condescending depiction of the adult Jim who nevertheless is not as smart as the young teenager Huck would blind people for the qualities and the deeper message of that book.

That certainly is true. Mark Twain was remarkably progressive for his day and age, especially considering the society he lived in. Still, tastes change, and I'd find it rather difficult to discuss such a book with class of youngster if they are likely to focus a lot of attention on the n-word. If it was fine to use it back then why is not fine to use it now? What does the teacher want to teach us by reading such a book with us?

That doesn't mean you have to ban or rewrite such a book, but it might make more sense to use different books in school.

But I must say it has been a long time since I've read Mark Twain. I should go back and take another look on him.

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6 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

Lovecraft also had that one poem I can't say the name of without getting banned.

That is true, but that is a very old poem, written at the age of 22. He had a very secluded upbringing, and was apparently fed a lot of those idea by his family and whatever friends they had at this age. Despite being a pretty intelligent and well-educated person, and being able to shed a lot of his other biases later in life, he could never let go of the racism thing.

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31 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

The point being there is that Anti-Judaism is basically an ingrained part of Christianity, most visible in conservative Catholicism as well as in present-day Protestant movements (not to mention Martin Luther). I mean, Christianity is basically the bad fan fiction sequel to Judaism, having the audacity to declare that the people who wrote the original holy texts the Christians stole had no idea what they were talking about.

As a Catholic you can accept the adherents of other religions since the Second Vatican Council as fellow human beings who are also searching for the truth, but you still have it, and you are still superior even to your fellow Christians of other denominations who don't believe as you do. Prior to that, though, the Jews were collectively guilty of rejecting the truth of Christianity, and condemned unless they saw the light before they died.

Here is the old prayer:

'Let us pray also for the faithless Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. [pause for silent prayer] Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.'

And of course Edith had to convert to Tolkien's faith when they married. One doubts that this whole thing would have worked out had she been as invested in her faith/convictions as he was.

But this is just a side track, really. Tolkien shows a lot of latent racism in his stories, with the Númenóreans being the people bringing proper culture to Middle-earth (it is certainly wrong to enslave them, as the later Númenóreans did but that doesn't change the fact that the Númenóreans were vastly superior to the peoples of Middle-earth).

The same goes for the general setting - Easterlings and Southrons being evil/treacherous (back during the Nirnaeth) and/or stupid/corrupted (in LotR), and Orcs actually being described as degenerate Mongol-types: 

'The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes: in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.'

We've got a very homogenous white society set against racially different people (Easterlings, Southrons, Orcs), and when you actually breed with those 'the enemy' (as Saruman's people do) you are essentially practicing racial defilement which is not actually encouraged by our heroes (nobody wants to marry an Orc, or hang out with some half-orc - whatever that may be, an actual biological term or rather an insult to ugly-looking people? The enemy is not really described as being human, at least not in the same sense as your own people are.

In a symbolic sense this is even worse in light of the fact that the few Orcs we actually meet in the story are actually not animals. They are just dehumanized by their enemies. 

One can also interpret the original segregation of the Elvish tribes in a manner resembling the split between Christians and Jews. The Eldar saw the light of the truth and followed the Angel of the Lord to Aman (or at least tried to do that) and the Avari did not, out of fear, confusion, and spite. Thus they are set eternally apart from the other elves, and are not called to Aman when they die, destined to become mean ghosts after they fade away.

1. Catholicism up until Vatican II held that no non-Catholic could be saved. By that reasoning, Tolkien would have to believe in the damnation of not just his own father, but Edith's entire family. Did he believe this himself? No idea - but unless there is actual evidence on the point, it is thoroughly disingenuous to claim that he did.

You are essentially claiming "Catholicism in Tolkien's era was anti-semitic, Tolkien was a Catholic, therefore Tolkien was anti-semitic." Which is making some pretty crazy assumptions about the attitudes of individual Catholics, not least because Tolkien really seems to have felt victimised by religious prejudice generally - he was all-too aware of being outside the social norm. And, of course, there is the actual letter I already quoted - if you are going to ignore that on the basis that "he was pre-Vatican II Catholic and therefore anti-semitic", I'm not sure what I can do for you. We know what Tolkien's views of Jews were - they're in his own words. 

(Seeing as my own mother was raised as a Catholic prior to Vatican II - she can still remember the change from Latin - should I ask her whether she harbours any anti-semitic ideas?).

2. On the Númenorean front, you are confusing technological superiority with moral superiority.

3. Those Easterlings and Haradrim? They've been on the receiving end of thousands of years of Númenorean imperialism (those Gondorian Kings calling themselves East Conqueror and South Conqueror were not doing it for fun). Same with the Dunlendings and the Woses - the former ally with Saruman because they've been promised their lands back, and the latter only agree to help the Rohirrim when they promise to stop victimising them. What you see as latent racism is actually a quite vicious critique of Númenorean history, as millennia of chickens come home to roost. Aragorn's policy? He *makes peace with Harad*. He *gifts the forest to the Woses*. He makes amends for some very real grievances. 

4. Tolkien wasn't saying that the Orcs were Mongols. He was drawing comparisons about beauty from an explicitly subjective viewpoint ('to Europeans'). Yes, he'd probably get bashed for it today, but it's hardly even approaching Lovecraft.

5. The Woses are brown, and most certainly good. Saruman and Wormtongue are, well, white.  

6. The inter-breeding you describe isn't Lovecraftian-style "racial defilement". Saruman is literally taking Dunlending women, and having them raped by Orcs to produce half-Orc children (presumably without actually telling the Dunlendings what is happening). Come on, it isn't that hard to read between the lines about what Isengard is doing.

7. The Eldar and Avari as Christians and Jews? You are stretching things to breaking point. Not least because the Avari are not sundered from other Elves at death - basically, it's a matter of the individual Elven spirit whether it passes to Mandos or not (normally they do, but Morgoth's Ring deals with the dodgier scenario, which has nothing to do with belonging to the Avari).

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The idea is that women aren't really living, breathing characters like the male characters in movies or stories if they mainly (or only) fulfill a certain purpose for the male character. A lot of female characters work in fiction work that fashion. If we take Tolkien as an example then Arwen and Galadriel are perfect examples (the former is Aragorn's prize and the latter just fulfills a minor role as an advisor to the actual heroes while also representing the type/cliché of holy woman in white rather than actually being a character in her own right, and that she is supposed to have powers of her own is never realized in the story).

But it is also true of Tom Bombadil, Elrond and a bunch of other characters that they are only in the story because they fulfil a purpose for the fellowship. (And it is not true of Eowyn.) Because they are not the main characters of the story. This is exactly what I mean with taking a story on its own terms. It is a story about Frodo getting the Ring to Mount Doom. Why do you keep insisting that unless there is a certain amount of important and fleshed out female characters this is somehow sexist? How does the story demand such characters? I don't see how it does.

As for racism: As I pointed out far above: Is it racism to show the Elves and Numeoreans as better (in some sense) if they really are better (so it is not a prejudice)? Or is the very idea of a setting where the Numenoreans are really better because of their partly Elvish heritage and special gifts from the gods or whatever, already racist?

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6 minutes ago, Jo498 said:

But it is also true of Tom Bombadil, Elrond and a bunch of other characters that they are only in the story because they fulfil a purpose for the fellowship. (And it is not true of Eowyn.) Because they are not the main characters of the story. This is exactly what I mean with taking a story on its own terms. It is a story about Frodo getting the Ring to Mount Doom. Why do you keep insisting that unless there is a certain amount of important and fleshed out female characters this is somehow sexist? How does the story demand such characters? I don't see how it does.

Going a step further, by Lord Varys' reasoning, everyone other than Frodo, Sam, Gollum, and Sauron are not meaningful characters. Gandalf's just there to advise the heroes (the same dismissal given to Galadriel), and Aragorn's just a distraction for Frodo.

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I don't know, I find it weird that literature could be meaningfully valued through ideology - though maybe there is a case to be made when the ideology overwhelmingly controls the writing and makes it totally one-dimensional and wooden (say as in Ayn Rand). I wonder could this political approach be used to poetry too. I love Yeats and well know that his poetry is severely lacking in non-idealized or non-stereotyped female characters but that's surely not a very fruitful way to see Yeats, one of the literary wonders of the Western world.

Or, what the hell, take Beowulf itself: oh, what a mighty lack of modern liberal sensibility and values...

Edited by hwyl

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16 hours ago, hwyl said:

I don't know, I find it weird that literature could be meaningfully valued through ideology - though maybe there is a case to be made when the ideology overwhelmingly controls the writing and makes it totally one-dimensional and wooden (say as in Ayn Rand). I wonder could this political approach be used to poetry too. I love Yeats and well know that his poetry is severely lacking in non-idealized or non-stereotyped female characters but that's surely not a very fruitful way to see Yeats, one of the literary wonders of the Western world.

Or, what the hell, take Beowulf itself: oh, what a mighty lack of modern liberal sensibility and values...

I couldn't agree more.   Unless the author is actually bashing me over the head with his or her opinions (Ayn Rand being a case in point) I don't see how their political or religious opinions have any bearing on the merit of their works. Would LOTR be a better book if Tolkien had been a secular socialist, rather than a conservative Catholic?  I've no reason to believe so.

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23 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

 

6. The inter-breeding you describe isn't Lovecraftian-style "racial defilement". Saruman is literally taking Dunlending women, and having them raped by Orcs to produce half-Orc children (presumably without actually telling the Dunlendings what is happening). Come on, it isn't that hard to read between the lines about what Isengard is doing.

 

The text relates that Saruman kept slaves, and humans don't willingly mate with orcs, so it's not hard to infer what was taking place (and why it arouses such disgust). 

It's quite possible that Saruman bought captives, or levied a tribute of slaves from the Dunlendings, in return for his help in regaining their lost lands.

As well as a fortress and industrial centre, Isengard was a  concentration camp.

Edit;  When I first read LOTR, Orc-human rape didn't occur to me (I was 12).  I thought that Saruman was carrying out loathsome medical experiments on captives, like the ones in Auschwitz or Manchuria.

Edited by SeanF

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I always found Tolkien extremely discreet in LotR. When I read it for the first time I was surprised about the lack of an official religion in ME. If one reads more thoroughly one finds a few hints, like the invocation of Elbereth's name, the White Tree (although this seems more tradition than religion), the brief "prayer" of Faramir and his crew before the meal that makes the hobbits feel uncultured and a few more. Of course, one will find more with close analysis and background reading but overall the catholic background is rather subtle. Not only compared to extremely unsubtle books like Narnia but also to the cynic nihilism of e.g. Abercrombie (back to the mud!) that seems unlikely to be so dominant in cultures like those of the the First Law world (the Gurkish are supposedly different but we don't get a pov from their perspective).

Edited by Jo498

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On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

1. Catholicism up until Vatican II held that no non-Catholic could be saved. By that reasoning, Tolkien would have to believe in the damnation of not just his own father, but Edith's entire family. Did he believe this himself? No idea - but unless there is actual evidence on the point, it is thoroughly disingenuous to claim that he did.

You are essentially claiming "Catholicism in Tolkien's era was anti-semitic, Tolkien was a Catholic, therefore Tolkien was anti-semitic." Which is making some pretty crazy assumptions about the attitudes of individual Catholics, not least because Tolkien really seems to have felt victimised by religious prejudice generally - he was all-too aware of being outside the social norm. And, of course, there is the actual letter I already quoted - if you are going to ignore that on the basis that "he was pre-Vatican II Catholic and therefore anti-semitic", I'm not sure what I can do for you. We know what Tolkien's views of Jews were - they're in his own words. 

(Seeing as my own mother was raised as a Catholic prior to Vatican II - she can still remember the change from Latin - should I ask her whether she harbours any anti-semitic ideas?).

We can really drop that. That is not really important. I just wanted to point out the official view of the Church in those days. Not every person being a member does have to actually have those opinions in everyday conversation but the more educated you are on the matter (and Tolkien was very educated both in the doctrine and the history of the Church) the more likely is that you okay with those part of the doctrine.

If I were still Catholic I'd expect any outsider to assume that I actually share the views of the institution I'm a member of. Don't you? That also extends to political parties and other organizations, of course. I'd not be an official member of such an institution if I'd not agree with pretty much all of their goals and creeds.

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

2. On the Númenorean front, you are confusing technological superiority with moral superiority.

I don't think I do. In the beginning they had just ships, unlike the Edain in Middle-earth. Their long lifespan, tall height, and so on clearly sets them apart from 'common men' as a superior race.

I'm with you that purity of blood isn't the only criterion for this whole thing (e.g. the Kin-strife) but it is still a criterion. Only people of a Númenórean get special long-life treatment. The Rohirrim and other can be as good as they want they will never get that.

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

3. Those Easterlings and Haradrim? They've been on the receiving end of thousands of years of Númenorean imperialism (those Gondorian Kings calling themselves East Conqueror and South Conqueror were not doing it for fun). Same with the Dunlendings and the Woses - the former ally with Saruman because they've been promised their lands back, and the latter only agree to help the Rohirrim when they promise to stop victimising them. What you see as latent racism is actually a quite vicious critique of Númenorean history, as millennia of chickens come home to roost. Aragorn's policy? He *makes peace with Harad*. He *gifts the forest to the Woses*. He makes amends for some very real grievances. 

Sure, but we have most of the wars Gondor and Arnor were fighting as Sauron secretly putting other peoples against Gondor. They weren't innocent people conquered by an aggressive Gondor.

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

4. Tolkien wasn't saying that the Orcs were Mongols. He was drawing comparisons about beauty from an explicitly subjective viewpoint ('to Europeans'). Yes, he'd probably get bashed for it today, but it's hardly even approaching Lovecraft.

I never said that Tolkien is as blatantly racist as Lovecraft in some of his letters (and stories). I'm saying you can see a lot of subtle racism in his writing if you look for it. It might have been unconscious. I'd also not call Tolkien a misogynist yet there are a lot of hints in his writings that he still considers women second class people. 

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

5. The Woses are brown, and most certainly good. Saruman and Wormtongue are, well, white.  

Gríma completely fits the profile of the villain being identifiable as a villain because of his bad looks, slimy demeanor, etc. The same also goes for those evil people in Bree and, of course, for the Orcs and the Dark Lords themselves. They have to be ugly because they are evil.

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

6. The inter-breeding you describe isn't Lovecraftian-style "racial defilement". Saruman is literally taking Dunlending women, and having them raped by Orcs to produce half-Orc children (presumably without actually telling the Dunlendings what is happening). Come on, it isn't that hard to read between the lines about what Isengard is doing.

I actually don't know what Saruman was doing there. Was it Dunlending men having sex with Orc women (who are never mentioned, by the way) or male Orcs with Dunlending women? We don't know. That aside, I did not speak about what happened there but how the narrator/good guys refer to these 'half-orc people' when they are facing them in battle. They are basically dehumanized.

This doesn't change the fact that Saruman and Sauron are not also using them as their pawns. But one has great difficulty imagining the Rohirrim living together with such 'evil men' on good terms. The same goes for the Orcs.

On 14.2.2017 at 1:37 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

7. The Eldar and Avari as Christians and Jews? You are stretching things to breaking point. Not least because the Avari are not sundered from other Elves at death - basically, it's a matter of the individual Elven spirit whether it passes to Mandos or not (normally they do, but Morgoth's Ring deals with the dodgier scenario, which has nothing to do with belonging to the Avari).

Isn't it established somewhere that the Avari are never called to Mandos, unlike the Eldar who die in Middle-earth? Could be that I'm misremembering something there.

22 hours ago, Jo498 said:

But it is also true of Tom Bombadil, Elrond and a bunch of other characters that they are only in the story because they fulfil a purpose for the fellowship. (And it is not true of Eowyn.) Because they are not the main characters of the story. This is exactly what I mean with taking a story on its own terms. It is a story about Frodo getting the Ring to Mount Doom. Why do you keep insisting that unless there is a certain amount of important and fleshed out female characters this is somehow sexist? How does the story demand such characters? I don't see how it does.

It is somewhat more difficult to use this kind of criterion on a (long) novel. It is more something to do be done with a movie where things are much more stereotypical than in a well-written novel.

But you can certainly find this kind of thing there, too.

And of course - not all male characters are main characters. But there are no female main characters in LotR, no? And those characters we get don't have much of a story on their own. Perhaps Éowyn has one, perhaps not. One can say that everything she does she does because of Aragorn.

22 hours ago, Jo498 said:

As for racism: As I pointed out far above: Is it racism to show the Elves and Numeoreans as better (in some sense) if they really are better (so it is not a prejudice)? Or is the very idea of a setting where the Numenoreans are really better because of their partly Elvish heritage and special gifts from the gods or whatever, already racist?

You can answer that question all by yourself: Imagine you meet somebody who claims he descends from special line of people in our world who have special powers (healing hands, extraordinary long life, etc.) and it turns out that this is the case because they are descended from angels and elves. One could call it easily enough racist if such people demanded, received, or were offered positions of power/privileges just because of their 'special blood'.

22 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

Going a step further, by Lord Varys' reasoning, everyone other than Frodo, Sam, Gollum, and Sauron are not meaningful characters. Gandalf's just there to advise the heroes (the same dismissal given to Galadriel), and Aragorn's just a distraction for Frodo.

Gandalf and Aragorn are indeed not all that well flashed out characters. What do we know about their feelings, desires, and goals? 

3 hours ago, SeanF said:

The text relates that Saruman kept slaves, and humans don't willingly mate with orcs, so it's not hard to infer what was taking place (and why it arouses such disgust). 

It's quite possible that Saruman bought captives, or levied a tribute of slaves from the Dunlendings, in return for his help in regaining their lost lands.

As well as a fortress and industrial centre, Isengard was a  concentration camp.

Edit;  When I first read LOTR, Orc-human rape didn't occur to me (I was 12).  I thought that Saruman was carrying out loathsome medical experiments on captives, like the ones in Auschwitz or Manchuria.

We know too little to reach such conclusions. If Isengard was a concentration camp then why the hell did the people not revolt? The exploited people were both the Orcs and the Dunlendings. Did Saruman's not-so-magical-voice keep them all enthralled?

And how the hell did Saruman actually hire his first Orcs? He began assembling an army long before he actually actively conspired with Barad-dûr. And even thereafter it would have been rather difficult for Sauron to actually provide Saruman with Mordor Orcs. They could not cross Ithilien, the Anduin, and Rohan with impunity in the early 3000s TA.

One assumes that however he created his army there were a lot of people volunteering for this. The Dunlendings for sure, and the Orc raw material would have come from the Misty Mountains, one assumes.

3 hours ago, Jo498 said:

I always found Tolkien extremely discreet in LotR. When I read it for the first time I was surprised about the lack of official religion. If one reads more thoroughly one finds a few hints, like the invocation of Elbereth's name, the White Tree (although this seems more tradition than religion), the brief "prayer" of Faramir and his crew before the meal that makes the hobbits feel uncultured and a few more. Of course, one will find more with close analysis and background reading but overall the catholic background is rather subtle. Not only compared to extremely unsubtle books like Narnia but also to the cynic nihilism of e.g. Abercrombie (back to the mud!) that seems unlikely to be so dominant in culture's like the First Law ones.

Yeah, things are pretty subtle. You really have to dig into the stuff. I think a huge part as to why the book is successful and appealing to so many readers is because the world and the setting is much more important than the actual characters. As a reader you actually are traveling Middle-earth with the gang, both in 'The Hobbit' and in LotR.

If you compare how much words Tolkien uses to describe places and landscapes in comparison to people (and their inner lives and desires) then this becomes pretty obvious.

In any other setting both Frodo and Bilbo would be either closeted homosexuals or asexual/repressed weirdos. But you only begin to ask why the hell Frodo and Bilbo never marry, whether the Istari have any sex drive (and if so, what they do about it), and so on after you are done with the books. If you do it at all, that is.

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3 hours ago, Jo498 said:

I

11 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

 

I actually don't know what Saruman was doing there. Was it Dunlending men having sex with Orc women (who are never mentioned, by the way) or male Orcs with Dunlending women? We don't know. That aside, I did not speak about what happened there but how the narrator/good guys refer to these 'half-orc people' when they are facing them in battle. They are basically dehumanized.

This doesn't change the fact that Saruman and Sauron are not also using them as their pawns. But one has great difficulty imagining the Rohirrim living together with such 'evil men' on good terms. The same goes for the Orcs.

 

 

If you prefer, we can call Isengard a police state.  The text states that Saruman has quarters for his slaves, and that slaves till the land around Isengard.  In all likelihood, some slaves are humans, some are orcs (less fierce orcs are frequently called Snaga by the Uruks). Tolkien says that Saruman emulated the experiments that Morgoth carried out to breed orcs, so we can assume that something very nasty was going on. If enslavement and torture were taking place, rape must also be likely.  

But, all tyrants have to give some people the chance to profit from serving them voluntarily.  For the Dunlendings, it's the chance to recover their lost lands.  For the stronger orcs, the chance to give free reign to their desires (eating man-flesh, for example).

You're right that many of the Rohirrim absolutely detest  Dunlendings, orcs and half orcs, and no doubt would cheerfully exterminate them on the spot.  That's the nature of total war. It's also clear that people who are truly morally good shouldn't behave like that. Aragorn offers the Uruk Hai the chance to escape, and Erkenbrand gives mercy to the Dunlendish captives.

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5 hours ago, SeanF said:

If you prefer, we can call Isengard a police state.  The text states that Saruman has quarters for his slaves, and that slaves till the land around Isengard.  In all likelihood, some slaves are humans, some are orcs (less fierce orcs are frequently called Snaga by the Uruks). Tolkien says that Saruman emulated the experiments that Morgoth carried out to breed orcs, so we can assume that something very nasty was going on. If enslavement and torture were taking place, rape must also be likely.

Well, it is still sort of odd to assume the humans were the victims there. Saruman began with literally nothing when he built up his military strength. What was the foundation of that? Where did he get his original Orcs? Did he begin with Orcs or rather with the Dunlendings? We don't really know that.

And by the way, on a biologically level Elves, Men, and Orcs all must be the same species because they can produce viable and fertile offspring. That basically means that 'Orcs' are simply dehumanized (or deelvinized) Men or Orcs. That is clearly racist. Orcs are essentially treated as vermin that have to be eradicated.

5 hours ago, SeanF said:

But, all tyrants have to give some people the chance to profit from serving them voluntarily.  For the Dunlendings, it's the chance to recover their lost lands.  For the stronger orcs, the chance to give free reign to their desires (eating man-flesh, for example).

Sure, I'm not saying culture under Saruman was great.

5 hours ago, SeanF said:

You're right that many of the Rohirrim absolutely detest  Dunlendings, orcs and half orcs, and no doubt would cheerfully exterminate them on the spot.  That's the nature of total war. It's also clear that people who are truly morally good shouldn't behave like that. Aragorn offers the Uruk Hai the chance to escape, and Erkenbrand gives mercy to the Dunlendish captives.

It wasn't total war, though. That was the movies.

But there is some kind of total war rhetoric in the books. The other side is dehumanized as 'the enemy' who needs to be eradicated, and Sauron is effectively demonized (he might be a demon, sure, but nobody does ever try to understand his point of view, or the point of view of the people who believe in his cause).

And, as I've already said above, the villains/evil people are usually visible as such because they are ugly/look evil. Only the very powerful villains can make themselves look fair, and that only for a time (and this is seen as especially wicked, it seems).

The subtle racism can be seen in sentences like this:

Quote

He [the Witch-king] now was destroyed; but Gothmog the lieutenant of Morgul had flung them into the fray; Easterlings with axes, and Variags of Khand, Southrons in scarlet, and out of Far Harad black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues.

It is not that bad but it is pretty explicit.

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13 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

We can really drop that. That is not really important. I just wanted to point out the official view of the Church in those days. Not every person being a member does have to actually have those opinions in everyday conversation but the more educated you are on the matter (and Tolkien was very educated both in the doctrine and the history of the Church) the more likely is that you okay with those part of the doctrine.

If I were still Catholic I'd expect any outsider to assume that I actually share the views of the institution I'm a member of. Don't you? That also extends to political parties and other organizations, of course. I'd not be an official member of such an institution if I'd not agree with pretty much all of their goals and creeds.

I don't think I do. In the beginning they had just ships, unlike the Edain in Middle-earth. Their long lifespan, tall height, and so on clearly sets them apart from 'common men' as a superior race.

I'm with you that purity of blood isn't the only criterion for this whole thing (e.g. the Kin-strife) but it is still a criterion. Only people of a Númenórean get special long-life treatment. The Rohirrim and other can be as good as they want they will never get that.

Sure, but we have most of the wars Gondor and Arnor were fighting as Sauron secretly putting other peoples against Gondor. They weren't innocent people conquered by an aggressive Gondor.

I never said that Tolkien is as blatantly racist as Lovecraft in some of his letters (and stories). I'm saying you can see a lot of subtle racism in his writing if you look for it. It might have been unconscious. I'd also not call Tolkien a misogynist yet there are a lot of hints in his writings that he still considers women second class people. 

Gríma completely fits the profile of the villain being identifiable as a villain because of his bad looks, slimy demeanor, etc. The same also goes for those evil people in Bree and, of course, for the Orcs and the Dark Lords themselves. They have to be ugly because they are evil.

I actually don't know what Saruman was doing there. Was it Dunlending men having sex with Orc women (who are never mentioned, by the way) or male Orcs with Dunlending women? We don't know. That aside, I did not speak about what happened there but how the narrator/good guys refer to these 'half-orc people' when they are facing them in battle. They are basically dehumanized.

This doesn't change the fact that Saruman and Sauron are not also using them as their pawns. But one has great difficulty imagining the Rohirrim living together with such 'evil men' on good terms. The same goes for the Orcs.

Isn't it established somewhere that the Avari are never called to Mandos, unlike the Eldar who die in Middle-earth? Could be that I'm misremembering something there.

It is somewhat more difficult to use this kind of criterion on a (long) novel. It is more something to do be done with a movie where things are much more stereotypical than in a well-written novel.

But you can certainly find this kind of thing there, too.

And of course - not all male characters are main characters. But there are no female main characters in LotR, no? And those characters we get don't have much of a story on their own. Perhaps Éowyn has one, perhaps not. One can say that everything she does she does because of Aragorn.

You can answer that question all by yourself: Imagine you meet somebody who claims he descends from special line of people in our world who have special powers (healing hands, extraordinary long life, etc.) and it turns out that this is the case because they are descended from angels and elves. One could call it easily enough racist if such people demanded, received, or were offered positions of power/privileges just because of their 'special blood'.

Gandalf and Aragorn are indeed not all that well flashed out characters. What do we know about their feelings, desires, and goals? 

We know too little to reach such conclusions. If Isengard was a concentration camp then why the hell did the people not revolt? The exploited people were both the Orcs and the Dunlendings. Did Saruman's not-so-magical-voice keep them all enthralled?

And how the hell did Saruman actually hire his first Orcs? He began assembling an army long before he actually actively conspired with Barad-dûr. And even thereafter it would have been rather difficult for Sauron to actually provide Saruman with Mordor Orcs. They could not cross Ithilien, the Anduin, and Rohan with impunity in the early 3000s TA.

1. Aforementioned superior race were brutal colonialists, who wound up sacrificing people to Melkor. Being long-lived just ended up giving them longer to mull about their fear of Death.

(Incidentally, the Druedain went to Numenor too. They began leaving after they saw where things were headed - later corrupt Numenor was whiter than early pious Numenor).

2. Sauron was in no position to do anything for a very long time after the Last Alliance - yet we see the first East Conquerer a mere five centuries after it. Moreover, the ancestors of the Rohirrim attacked Gondor too - are you suggesting they were in bed with Sauron?

What clearly happened is that Sauron aided and organised the later attacks (I'd take the Great Plague of T.A. 1636 as the cut-off), but he was just taking advantage of a hostility that was already there. If you are the outpost of an imperial power (which Gondor was, the settlements predating the Downfall), you are going to get push-back. As for the Dunlendings, they are unquestionably victims with real grievances.

3. Book-Grima is described as having a "pale, wise face," and "heavy-lidded eyes". That's it. Other than that, he probably looks like any other man of Rohan - probably having blond hair too.

As for appearance and goodness, note that Aragorn looks like a vagabond - hence the "look fair, feel foul and look foul, feel fair" thing.

4. Why on earth would the Orcs revolt? They get to rape and pillage, and do Orkish things. Saruman's genetic experiments wouldn't hurt them at all. The victims would be Dunlendings and captured Rohirrim - and in terms of forced mating, it'd be easier for Saruman to have his Orcs rape the human women, rather than have human men mate with Orkish women.

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19 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

You can answer that question all by yourself: Imagine you meet somebody who claims he descends from special line of people in our world who have special powers (healing hands, extraordinary long life, etc.) and it turns out that this is the case because they are descended from angels and elves. One could call it easily enough racist if such people demanded, received, or were offered positions of power/privileges just because of their 'special blood'.

You are apparently misreading on purpose (because you are too smart to not understand this difference). The reason for the "privilege" is not they they have special blood but that they are stronger, smarter, have healing hands etc. (the heritage is only the ultimate cause of their superior capabilities). You are changing the presuppositions of the setting. It is precisely not a spurious claim to privilege but real superiority in abilities (that is ultimately grounded in heritage). It is not because of racism that 11/12 of the players of the 2016 US Olympic basketball team were black. They were not picked because they are black or because of a racial prejudice that "white guys can't jump" but because they are the best players.

If there was a ME All Stars basketball (with our rules and measures) team there would be no hobbits or dwarves in it, I guess. The very construction of the hobbits makes them physically inferior to humans in many ways. The hobbits are not only underdogs as characters but as a race (and therefore overlooked) and this is not a minor point in the narrative.

Of course one can find the very idea of racial differences racist. But I think that this is a shift in meaning and in any case the differences in ME are not prejudices but real in the setting (and it is made very clear in LotR that the differences do not justify maltreatment or enslavement). If hobbits are on average less than 4 ft. tall they are objectively and obviously quite different from humans, this is not a prejudice, but simply a fact.

19 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

In any other setting both Frodo and Bilbo would be either closeted homosexuals or asexual/repressed weirdos. But you only begin to ask why the hell Frodo and Bilbo never marry, whether the Istari have any sex drive (and if so, what they do about it), and so on after you are done with the books. If you do it at all, that is.

Not in any other setting (and why should we even care about other settings?) This very clearly marks you as someone coming of age in the late 20th century who despite being well read seems to be unable to try a different (historical) mindset. Because this is probably the first time in history when any bachelor would be suspected a closeted homosexual and any same-sex friendship of homoerotic undertones. There are dozens of bachelors in older literature without such an implication; in many historical societies a fair percentage of the populace were celibate monks, nuns, priests, hermits etc. Why should we even care whether the Istari have any sex drive (very probably not, why should they (it does not seem helpful for their mission) and how does it matter in any way for the story)?

Again, the key is that there is a specific story to be told (and it happens to contain very little romance), not a complete history of either the protagonists or of middle earth or inspiration for perverse fan fiction or an RPG manual. If "The Hobbit" had remained a stand-alone book noone would care whether Bilbo had married later on or not, it is simply not a question that arises in the context.

In context I think the implication that the Ring prevents him from seeking romance and marriage is plausible. This would be both a parallel to Wagner (to gain the Rhinegold and forge the Ring Alberich has to forsake and curse love) and fit well with a core of Catholicism (cf. Aquinas and Dante) that "misdirected love" (usually love of earthly things instead of God) is the main problem of humans. The Ring is a paradigmatic object of misdirected love because it makes the bearer desire its possession above anything else and corrupts him. Bilbo and Frodo were more resistant than many others would have been because they were comparably free of character faults (especially pride and desire for power) that would lead to easy corruption but they were not immune. So while I am pretty sure that Tolkien would not have wanted to imply that a bachelor generally is a repressed weirdo, Bilbo maybe became to some extent a repressed weirdo because of the Ring.

Edited by Jo498

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15 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

 

It wasn't total war, though. That was the movies.

But there is some kind of total war rhetoric in the books. The other side is dehumanized as 'the enemy' who needs to be eradicated, and Sauron is effectively demonized (he might be a demon, sure, but nobody does ever try to understand his point of view, or the point of view of the people who believe in his cause).

And, as I've already said above, the villains/evil people are usually visible as such because they are ugly/look evil. Only the very powerful villains can make themselves look fair, and that only for a time (and this is seen as especially wicked, it seems).

 

The war is as total as say, the War in the Pacific.  People who get taken captive by the soldiers of Sauron and Saruman are killed outright (if they're lucky) enslaved and/or tortured (if they aren't.)

The free peoples certainly have committed bad deeds.  RBPL has commented on Numenorean imperialism, and driving the Dunlendings from their lands. The Rohirrim hunt the Woses for sport. The war of the Orcs and Dwarves was genocidal on both sides.

But, the Gondoreans and Rohirrim at least sometimes take prisoners (eg the Dunlendings at Helms Deep).  Aragorn warns the Uruk Hai to flee, at Helms Deep.  The Silvan Elves of Mirkwood are "reasonably well-behaved even towards their worst enemies" (this comes back to bite them when they allow Gollum some leeway). Gandalf, Frodo, and Bilbo all show pity and mercy towards their enemies, and this is shown as being good thing.  Aragorn takes no reprisals against Harad, after the War is over, and gives Mordor to Sauron's slaves. No doubt, there were also cases of massacres and cruelty on the part of Sauron's opponents, but it's pity and mercy, not genocide, that's applauded in the story.

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8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

1. Aforementioned superior race were brutal colonialists, who wound up sacrificing people to Melkor. Being long-lived just ended up giving them longer to mull about their fear of Death.

(Incidentally, the Druedain went to Numenor too. They began leaving after they saw where things were headed - later corrupt Numenor was whiter than early pious Numenor).

I know that, but that just doesn't change the fact that the Númenóreans are better human beings, objectively, insofar as life-expectancy and physical strength are concerned. 

8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

2. Sauron was in no position to do anything for a very long time after the Last Alliance - yet we see the first East Conquerer a mere five centuries after it. Moreover, the ancestors of the Rohirrim attacked Gondor too - are you suggesting they were in bed with Sauron?

Weren't the Rohirrim good friends of Gondor while they were still living in the Rhonvanion region? And wasn't Eldacar the son one of that people?

I don't see that the story/narrator condemns the expansionist Gonorian kings. In fact, Atanatar Alcarin is criticized because he did nothing to enlarge/secure the territorial gains of his predecessors.

I just checked the time line - the wars with the East begin in 490 with the first invasion of the Easterlings. Romendacil I drove them back and thus presumable waged a 'just war', not one of aggression.

And the Ship-kings eventually subduing Umbar seems to be connected to the rivalry/enmity between the Faithful and Black Númenóreans, from which the conflicts with the Haradrim ensued which led to the eventual conquest of Harad by the Gondorians.

And around the year TA 1050 you have Sauron in Dol Guldur, and one can assume he was subtly directing things. I don't think he had anything to do with Kin-strife later on but whatever outside threats the Dúnedain kingdoms faced from then onwards would have been connected to him (very obvious in the case of Angmar, of course). The best evidence for this is that essentially nothing important happened on the political during the four centuries of the Watchful Peace while Sauron was away in the East.

8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

As for the Dunlendings, they are unquestionably victims with real grievances.

No doubt about that. But they are still not described as nice people. Tolkien never describes the enemy as having (m)any nice tendencies. That even extends to Elves - just look at Maeglin, Eöl, or Saeros.

8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

3. Book-Grima is described as having a "pale, wise face," and "heavy-lidded eyes". That's it. Other than that, he probably looks like any other man of Rohan - probably having blond hair too.

Oh, I'm pretty sure Gríma was fair-haired. Anything else would make the thing very over the top. But you can understand why he was portrayed the way he is in most adaptations - because Tolkien indicates that his physical appearance sets him apart from the good guys. When he later is only 'Worm' we see this even more strongly.

8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

As for appearance and goodness, note that Aragorn looks like a vagabond - hence the "look fair, feel foul and look foul, feel fair" thing.

Yeah, but in his case that's just a plot device. He is ragged and all, but not ugly/suspicious the way Bill Ferny and the squint-eyed Southerner in Bree are. Usually people who look bad are bad in LotR. That even goes for Sauron the Great who is 'a Dark Lord' and has a 'black hand', and so on. We don't really know what that means because Sauron never shows up, but it certainly could also mean that Sauron actually took on the shape of a man with black skin. I actually don't think this is the case but it is rather difficult to imaging how one should imagine Sauron's body.

8 hours ago, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

4. Why on earth would the Orcs revolt? They get to rape and pillage, and do Orkish things. Saruman's genetic experiments wouldn't hurt them at all. The victims would be Dunlendings and captured Rohirrim - and in terms of forced mating, it'd be easier for Saruman to have his Orcs rape the human women, rather than have human men mate with Orkish women.

I really don't know about all of that. And we honestly don't know whether the Orcs really like to rape all that much.

The racist element there clearly is that with all our information in mind (not necessarily with only the stuff we know from LotR itself) suggests that Tolkien saw the Orcs as corrupted elves or men. They are basically treated as subhuman vermin that have to be exterminated. Those are the politics of the good guys through the ages (including the armies of the Valar). If they were monsters/demons that could be a sensible approach but since they can actually produce viable offspring with 'normal humans' treating them the way the good guys is essentially genocide.

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