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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

I think Tolkien found the idea as fascinating as it was repellent. He actually addresses it in his non-fiction too (http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Ofermod)

The borderline between such courage (Theoden) and outright despair (Denethor) also gets considered via Eowyn.

 

I wonder what people would have thought of Eowyn if she hadn't killed the witch king.

Would the Rohirrim have viewed her as a heroine, or as someone who deserted her own duty (to rule Rohan) for basically selfish reasons.

Edit:  I've just read about the Soviet sniper Rosa Shanina, who reminds me of Eowyn.  She was certainly a heroine, but after the death of her boyfriend in battle, her last diary entries indicate that she was seeking a soldier's suicide, and she was duly killed in the battle for East Prussia in 1945.  

Edited by SeanF

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Posted (edited)
On 3/11/2019 at 1:29 AM, Lord Varys said:

As for Númenor - if this is supposed to be an adaptation done as close to JRRT's vision as possible then the island should be an ethnically homogeneous paradise, i.e. predominantly dark-haired whites.

 

On 3/12/2019 at 9:22 AM, Ran said:

The Edain of Beleriand who went on to Númenor were all white in Tolkien's conception.

If I may proffer a few of my own thoughts here:

For the human populations it is important to remember something: we know that the Edain arrived in Beleriand in the First Age from somewhere in the Far East of Middle-Earth called Hildórien (beyond the Orocarni mountains of Rhun) which apparently had shores on the Eastern Sea, so whilst later Edain by the Third Age living in Arnor and northern provinces of Gondor are thought of as all being caucasian apart from the south-dwelling 'swarthy' Gondorians of Lebennin (having dwelt in these less humid climes for millennia by that time), that doesn't apply to the earlier generations of the Atani/Edain, such as those who populated Númenor.

After all, the immediate ancestors of the first generation of settlers at the beginning of the Second Age hailed from Far Eastern Hildórien (from which all the human populations everywhere in Middle-Earth whether Haradrim or Easterlings or Edain, hailed from) only a number of generations back - literally a couple of centuries by my reckoning (and Hildórien is further East than even Rhun, it would be akin to Japan perhaps), whilst Númenor itself is positioned much further south than any land we have ever seen depicted before in Middle-Earth - it is on the same latitude as Far Harad, really far south and lies on the equator (Girdle of Arda).

Neither Númenor itself, nor the houses of the Edain that were its primary overseas settlers in the early Second Age, are described by Tolkien as ethnically homogeneous in phenotype or skin colour.  

The High Elves of Valinor and Eriador were described by Tolkien as "fair of skin" (which is sometimes a descriptor for colouring) so whilst one would perhaps expect Galadriel and Gil-galad to be white-skinned as Noldor, the Númenóreans certainly exhibited racial diversity, at least so far as Tolkien described them.

While the majority of the population of Númenor were both white and caucasian-looking in phenotype, from HoME we learn: "There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Bëor, but...many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy." (Peoples, p. 307–8).

Compare how the Southron Haradrim where described in Two Towers:

Quote

 

For a moment he caught a glimpse of swarthy men in red running down the slope some way off with green-clad warriors leaping after them, hewing them down as they fled...His scarlet robes were tattered, his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword.

The Two Towers - Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit

 

The Bëorians were Erendis's people, from Andustar (the Westlands) of Númenor who were closest in kinship to the Eldar. They were one of the tribes of Edain to settle Númenor and had darker-skinned people in their midst & even some 'swarthy' ones (exact same word Tolkien uses for Haradrim, Easterlings, Lebennin Gondorians etc. the darker-skinned, south-dwelling peoples of Middle-Earth).

There was also an ethnic minority of Drúedain living in Númenor (who are decidedly not caucasian in phenotype but for whom no skin colour is given) and whom Jackson had planned to portray using Maori actors (and they too were of the 'Edain').

Undoubtedly, the majority of the populace were descended from the House of Hador and so if one were striving for faithfulness to Tolkien in this regard, they should predominantly exhibit the blond-hair (although some Hadorians also had dark hair), fair skin and blue-grey eyes of their kindred i.e.
 

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“For the most part they were tall people, with flaxen or golden hair and blue-grey eyes, but there were not a few among them that had dark hair, though all were fair-skinned.”

The History of Middle-Earth: The Peoples of Middle-Earth,“Of Dwarves and Men”

 

 

 

We know that this would have been the conventional 'look' for many Númenóreans outside Andustar (the Westlands) because Erendis, of Bëorian stock from the West of the Isle, was considered to be of exceptional beauty and arresting physicality specifically owing to the fact that she did not conform with this 'fair-haired, fair-skinned, light-eyed' phenotype that was so commonplace in the Mittalmar and other inland regions of Númenor:

 

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"There Almarian the Queen observed her beauty, of a kind seldom seen in Númenor; for Beregar came of the House of Bëor by ancient descent, though not of the royal line of Elros, and Erendis was dark-haired and of slender grace.”

Unfinished Tales, “Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife”

 

Erendis' ethnic profile was of a kind of "exotic" beauty "seldom seen in Númenor" because she was of Bëorian rather than Hadorian heritage, and thus stood out. 

That being said, we also can't deny that substantial numbers of the Númenórean Edain (albeit the minority) belonged to the houses of Bëor and Haleth, which included many people with dark hair and less fair and even 'swarthy' skin tones. 

Now, this word "swarthy" and its meaning are important to one's interpretation of the racial homogeneity or heterogeneity of Númenórean society. For certain readers, there is an assumption made that Tolkien is using the word in a loose, almost colloquial sense that could be applied to people who are technically white but have a rather tanned or olive hue, like southern Europeans. 

While I could see this as a possibility, I don't think it's a very strong argument and we have evidence that strongly undermines this line of thought. 

Consider, for example, the usage of 'swarthy' as a descriptor in the Second Age story of Tal-Elmar in the Peoples of Middle Earth (HoME XII):

Quote

They were indeed much as Hazad himself had been in the days of his youth: broad, swarthy, short, tough...Save one only, Tal-elmar. He was yet but eighteen years of age, and lived with his father, and the two of his brothers next elder. He was tall, and white-skinned... For Tal-elmar might seem, among that swart sturdy folk...

Here we have a tall, caucasian-looking white person standing out amongst a tribe of dark-skinned people living in the south of Middle-Earth. They have a clearly defined racial phenotype (broad, dark skinned. sturdy) as does Tal-Elmar (tall, white-skinned) because he has heritage from people akin to the fair-skinned contingent of the Edain. 

Later in the story, we learn that Tal-Elmar's grandmother was "white" in a discussion where her swarthy-skinned husband condemns her white-skinned people for conquering his people's native lands:

 

Quote

 

"For our lands are ours from of old, which they would wrest from us with their bitter blades. White skins and bright eyes are no warrant for such deeds.'

'Are they not?' said she. 'Then neither are thick legs and wide shoulders."

 

 

This should make it perfectly clear to readers that Tolkien, at least in this instance, used "swarthy" in its accurate philological sense as meaning "dark skinned" and not merely tanned or sun-kissed white skin. And this is important for our understanding of the identity of the "swarthy" Númenóreans among the Beorians and Haladin, because these 'swarthy' native Middle-Earthers in Tal-Elmar who are expressly contrasted with the 'white-skinned' Elmar are not Haradrim or living in Tolkien's rough geographic analogue to our real life Africa but were surmised by Christopher Tolkien to be situated around the Mouth of the River Anduin or the Langstrand area, that is the Bay of Belfalas near Gondor's southery region of Lebennin (where similar "swarthy" people lived in the Third Age, who were later descendants of these Second Age natives interbred with Númenóreans) but north of Harad. 

Given that these people are not 'white', we know that properly dark-skinned, non-white peoples inhabited regions outside Harad. 

I don't think it likely at all that Tolkien - a linguist noted for archaisms in his writing - would have used it with any contemporary/colloquial parlance in mind.

LoTR (and the mythos more generally) was not written with modern, early-to-mid 20th century sensibilities in mind but with inspiration from the mythic/folkloric epics (i.e. Finnish Kalevala, Norse Eddas, Beowulf, Old Testament etc.) and medieval linguistics.

As a young student, Tolkien read and translated Old Norse (i.e. the Volsunga Saga) and this is reflected in a number of names in his legendarium, as well as characters (Olórin/Gandalf influenced by Odin in his Wanderer incarnation as an old man with white beard, hat and staff) and events. He was really, really deeply indebted to the Norse Prose Eddas (along with the Finnish Kalevala).

Both in the original Norse and in English translation, swarthy was a frequently used word - for instance the svartálfr - literally the "black/dark Elves" of Svartálfaheimr would have been one of Tolkien's first literary sources for his widespread use of this word in his own works.

For example, he used swart in places as an interchangeable term with swarthy (even using it in the Silmarillion as a more precise word to define just what he meant by "Swarthy Men from the East" settling Beleriand). 'Swart' is an expressly archaic word (the Norse svart as in the black Elves I just mentioned) with no currency in modern usage in the 20th century or today.

Here is its history of usage in English...

 

Quote

8.11 swart 'black'. OE sweart. The word survived in poetic employment until the nineteenth century but was superseded by 'black' in prose before the English Renaissance.

 

This term is both undeniably archaic (i.e. not modern parlance) and means very dark, as evidenced by the fact that it was superseded in English prose by the word black before the 15th-17th centuries.

So we know that some 'swarthy' men in Tolkien's legendarium were dark enough to be swart (almost or effectively black, even if not as dark-skinned as, say, a sub-Saharan African), whereas others are described as dark brown (i.e. the dead Haradrim soldier Samwise encounters and describes both as swarthy and as having "brown hands") and thus would look like South Asians (i.e. Indians) or perhaps at a stretch Arabs/Middle-Easterners.

In Tal-Elmar he expressly, as noted before, contrasts the "white" skinned Elmar with the "swarthy" Hazad - clearly meaning here, therefore, that 'swarthy' is not a darker shade of white or tanned skin because Elmar is distinguished amongst the natives as the only person in their midst having white-skin.

Also see the Tolkien English Glossary which says in relation to Tolkien's use of swarthy and swart:

http://tolkienenglishglossary.com/index.html

 

Quote

 

swart

Page 1st used: 326

Meaning as used in The Lord of the Rings : Of a swart or blackish in color or hue, dark colored esp. as in skin, complexion.

Context of use, sentence used in His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear.

swarthy

Page 1st used: 166

Meaning as used in The Lord of the Rings: Of a swart or blackish in color or hue, dark colored esp. as in skin, complexion.

Context of use, sentence used in: You must have noticed him among the company: a swarthy sneering fellow.

 

 

Also, Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary By Peter Gilliver ( lexicographer and Associate Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary), Jeremy Marshall (Tolkien scholar), Edmund Weiner (Professor of Old English, Middle English and English linguistic history at Christ Church, Oxford).

They note as follows regarding the Common Speech term Swarthy Men and the Hobbits' cognate Swertmen:

 

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=bszM-uwEQOkC&pg=PA199&dq=tolkien+dark+skin+swart&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj1vI-S4ezjAhVXVBUIHUHZB-UQ6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q=tolkien dark skin swart&f=false

 

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"The word is clearly derived from swart (Old English sweart), which means 'dark in colour', especially with reference to people's skin colour. This word appears, for example, in The Lord of the Rings, describing some dead goblin soldiers (LR III.i)...The related term Swartmen is used...for the Easterlings..."

The etymology of 'swarthy' came to Old English as sweart "black" from the same Proto-Germanic source that gave Dutch zwart and German its schwarz "black", from which Yiddish gets its shvarts (which refers expressly to a black person of African descent). The Proto-Indo-European root of this word is swordo- "black".

Tolkien was a philologist and so I think he knew perfectly well what he was doing in applying it as a technical term for many different kinds of non-white peoples. He was precise in every word he used, being an expert in linguistics.

The Harad is Tolkien's rough analogue to Africa & it had "swarthy-skinned" peoples as well as others described as decidedly 'black' from Far Harad (sub-saharan Africa?). 

I, therefore, personally view Númenor as an island-continent comprised of settlers from a range of Edainic peoples of Hildórien descent, with the vast majority being white but with a sizeable minority of dark-skinned/non-white/non-caucasian peoples (primarily the swarthy Beorians, the less than white Beorians and the Drúedain (who are undeniably non-caucasion in physiognomy even though their skin colour is left undefined as such, and they could perhaps be compared to Native Americans or aboriginals in cultural origins, a distinct ethnic group)).

Edited by Krishtotter

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Posted (edited)
On 3/11/2019 at 2:54 PM, Lord Varys said:

Type-casting them as non-whites actually would non-white roles in this show thing reduce to the roles of 'wild folk', inadvertently reinforcing racist stereotypes. Unless one would actually have some Drúedain among the king's council in Armenelos

There is no evidence that the Drúedain residing in Númenor lived as 'wild men' - like their kindred in the forests surrounding Ras Morthil in Middle-Earth - or for that matter any differently from your average urban-dwelling or rural Númenórean of the other Three Houses.

Indeed, the evidence from Unfinished Tales would suggest otherwise - we learn, for example, that Drúedain actually belonged to the household of Tar-Aldarion, the Sixth King of Númenor, and tried to 'counsel' him to cease his proto-imperial voyages in Middle-Earth, or risk bringing a shadow over Númenor:

Quote

 

In the annals of Númenor it is said that this remnant [of Drúedain] was permitted to sail over sea with the Atani, and in the peace of the new land throve and increased again, but took no more part in war, for they dreaded the sea. What happened to them later is only recorded in one of the few legends that survived the Downfall, the story of the first sailings of the Númenóreans back to Middle-earth, known as The Mariner's Wife. In a copy of this written and preserved in Gondor there is a note by the scribe on a passage in which the Drúedain in the household of King Aldarion the Mariner are mentioned: it relates that the Drúedain, who were ever noted for their strange foresight, were disturbed to hear of his voyages, foreboding that evil would come of them, and begged him to go no more. But they did not succeed, since neither his father nor his wife could prevail on him to change his courses

(Of Dwarves and Men, published in History of Middle-earth 12)

 

Given they were of his 'household' and in a close enough capacity or status to viably try to impress upon his father (the former King Tar-Meneldur who had abdicated the sceptre) and his wife Erendis to 'prevail' upon him, those particular Drúedain must have occupied a rather high status. 

They were simply a fourth Edainic tribe/house that settled in Númenor in Tolkien's later conception, albeit with very pronounced racial/ethnic differences in physiognomy from your average Númenórean.   

Edited by Krishtotter

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Posted (edited)
On 7/15/2019 at 3:51 AM, Lord Varys said:

It is far too cursory to provide more than a background for a tantalizing story involving living, breathing characters. I guess one can do something with the idea that Celebrimbor is/was in love with Galadriel, but aside from that I really don't see interesting character content there that could be used as basis for a good TV show.

While the Second Age material is certainly very limited in scope, and in other respects unfinished or incomplete (outside the broad narrative arcs), I would have to disagree with you here that it suffers (if we are talking here about all the SA material whether in LoTR itself, Appendices A, B & F, Unfinished Tales and HoME XII & IV) from a lack of 'tantalizing story' or 'interesting character' content. Quality should not be synonymized with absence of quantity. 

The Preface of the 2nd edition of The Silmarillion, page xii, quotes a Letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to Milton Waldman, 1951:
 

Quote

"I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic, to the level of romantic fairy-story... I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama."

 

The Second Age is the exemplar of this par excellence and I feel that it provides the perfect fodder for a creative team with a desire to keep their story grounded within certain defined narrative parameters/plot-points straight from Tolkien, whilst also having a relatively free-hand to come up with their own material that doesn't contradict the canonical outline. 

To my mind, there is a lot of compelling stuff in there practically waiting to be further embellished by some skilled dramatists. We have potential for the show - in addition to Númenórean court intrigue, as for instance between Ancalime and her rival cousin-claimant to the throne Soronto, for which reason (to cement her accession to the throne) she has a political marriage with Hallacar which proves disastrous - to explore intra-Elvish politics in Eregion, in the form of the rebellion and coup by Celebrimbor's Mírdain (Brotherhood of Jewel Smiths), as outlined in plot-points in Unfinished Tales:

Tolkien writes:

Quote

"Before long Sauron had the Gwaith-i-Mirdain under his influence, for at first they had great profit from his instruction in the secret matters of their craft. So great became his hold on the Mirdain that at length he persuaded them to revolt against Galadriel and Celeborn to seize power in Eregion; and that was at some time between 1350 and 1400 of the Second Age. Galadriel thereupon left Eregion and passed through Khazad-dum to Lorinand, taking with her Amroth and Celebrian."

 

If they decided to follow the UT outline in The History of Galadriel and Celeborn that you alluded to in the above, then they'd have the chance to further develop and explore the past relationship 'hints' that are woven throughout the following dialogue (which could be adapted pretty much verbatim):

 

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Long ago, ere Sauron deluded the smiths of Eregion, Galadriel came there, and she said to Celebrimbor, the chief of the Elven-smiths: "I am grieved in Middle-earth, for leaves fall and flowers fade that I have loved, so that the land of my dwelling is filled with regret that no Spring can redress."

"How otherwise can it be for the Eldar, if they cling to Middle-earth?" said Celebrimbor. "Will you then pass over Sea?"

"Nay," she said. "Angrod is gone, and Aegnor is gone, and Felagund is no more. Of Finarfin's children I am the last. But my heart is still proud. What wrong did the golden house of Finarfin do that I should ask the pardon of the Valar, or be content with an isle in the sea whose native land was Aman the Blessed? Here I am mightier."

"What would you then?" said Celebrimbor.

"I would have trees and grass about me that do not die – here in the land that is mine," she answered. "What has become of the skill of the Eldar?"

And Celebrimbor said: "Where now is the Stone of Eärendil? And Enerdhil who made it is gone."

"They have passed over Sea," said Galadriel, "with almost all fair things else. But must then Middle-earth fade and perish for ever?"

"That is its fate, I deem," said Celebrimbor. "But you know that I love you (though you turned to Celeborn of the Trees), and for that love I will do what I can, if haply by my art your grief can be lessened."

But he did not say to Galadriel that be himself was of Gondolin long ago. Therefore he took thought, and began a long delicate labour, and so for Galadriel he made the greatest of his works (save the Three Rings only).

And it is said that more subtle and clear was the green gem that he made than that of Enerdhil, but yet its light had less power. For whereas that of Enerdhil was lit by the Sun in its youth, already many years had passed ere Celebrimbor began his work, and nowhere in Middle-earth was the light as clear as it had been, for though Morgoth had been thrust out into the Void and could not enter again, his far shadow lay upon it.

Radiant nonetheless was the Elessar of Celebrimbor; and he set it within a great brooch of silver in the likeness of an eagle rising upon outspread wings. Wielding the Elessar all things grew fair about Galadriel, until the coming of the Shadow to the Forest. But afterwards when Nenya, chief of the Three was sent to her by Celebrimbor, she needed it (as she thought) no more, and she gave it to Celebrían her daughter, and so it came to Arwen and to Aragorn who was called Elessar.

 

 

Likewise, they can further explore Tolkien's idea that Rings of Power were originally a utopian solution intended to rectify the marring of Arda in the preceding wars against Morgoth in the First Age, which had left much of the continent scarred, desolate and a shadow of its former bliss.

Tolkien has explained that Sauron's "frightful evil arose from a good root, the desire to benefit the world and others – speedily and according to the benefactor’s own plans" (Tolkien, Letter to Milton Waldman in 1951).

The Elves become his (unwitting) accomplices, due to the fact that his arguments strike a chord with their deepest yearnings: namely, the perception (partly justified) that the Valar were neglecting Middle-Earth and Annatar's own compelling, radical vision of a perfected world no longer subject to decay (as in Aman), where the exiled Eldar could escape their own nature (bound to fade as the natural order ages).

But like most utopias, in practice the grim reality never quite measures up to the beautiful theory. I am reminded here of the sad words French Revolutionary Camille Desmoulins wrote to his wife on April 10, 1792, just before his death by guillotine: “I dreamt of a republic that the world would have adored; I could never have believed that men could be so ferocious and so unjust." Instead of his longed for republic of justice and universal fraternity, the reality was closer to a pyramid of severed heads and broken lives.

This is how I imagine Celebrimbor is likely to have felt before his torture-death at the hands of Sauron, as he reflected upon the grave and terrible evil that the weapons he created have unleashed upon the world.

And in this respect, the Akallabeth has some excellent lines of dialogue where Sauron (in the guise of Annatar) makes his pitch to the Noldor of Eregion,  which I particularly love:

 

Quote

 

And Sauron said to them [the Elves]: "Alas, for the weakness of the great! For a mighty king is Gil-galad, and wise in all lore is Master Elrond, and yet they will not aid me in my labours. Can it be that they do not desire to see other lands become as blissful as their own?

But wherefore should Middle-earth remain for ever desolate and dark, whereas the Elves could make it as fair as Eressëa, nay even as Valinor? And since you have not returned thither, as you might, I perceive that you love this Middle-earth, as do I. Is it not then our task to labour together for its enrichment, and for the raising of all the Elven kindreds that wander here untaught to the height of that power and knowledge which those have who are beyond the Sea?'

(p.138)

 

Aldarion and Erendis has plenty of potential for expansion. 

It is already, in its unfinished form, a very character-driven domestic, court drama with the shadow of a supernatural evil in the distance/background beyond the undisturbed peace of Númenor. 

As one scholar I've read explains, it relays the tale of how the island kingdom "first became involved in the affairs of mainland Middle-earth through the exploratory voyages of Aldarion" setting in motion a corrosive "pattern of pride and desire for conquest in the actions of Aldarion that will lead to Númenor’s downfall thousands of years later" and where the focus is overwhelmingly prefixed around the "moral corruption of the colonizer". 

This is achieved by investigating these themes through the literary device of a failed marriage: "by taking opposing positions towards imperialism, [Aldarion and Erendis] present a debate in the form of a lover’s quarrel [in which] Erendis challenges Aldarion’s explorations and land annexations as a morally sound expression of patriotism". 

Aldarion and Erendis is not only a literary gem amid Tolkien's wider legendarium, in light of the mature themes it explores and it's strong female lead, but it is also important to the subsequent narrative course of the Second Age. 

In Aldarion's story, we have the first case of Numenorian expansionism, naval voyages and deforestation, along with the first rumours from Gil-galad of a "shadow" creeping over the men of Middle-Earth. All of this is simply more pronounced by the time of the Eregion war under Tar-Minastir but it begins in this tale. 

And that's long before one gets to Downfall period, where the Akallabeth has some very long and poignant monologue discussions between Amandil and his son Elendil, which are given even more meat in the Númenórean Chapters of The Lost Road in which Elendil wrestles philosophically with his son Herendil (Isildur), as Christopher Tolkien explains:

 

Quote

 

"From Elendil's words at the end of The Lost Road there emerges a sinister picture: the withdrawal of the besotted and aging king [Ar-Pharazon] from the public view, the unexplained disappearance of people unpopular with the 'government', informers, prisons, torture, secrecy, fear of the night; propaganda in the form of the 'rewriting of history' (...); the multiplication of weapons of war, the purpose of which is concealed but guessed at; and behind all the dreadful figure of Sauron, the real power, surveying the whole land from the Mountain of Numenor. 

"The teaching of Sauron has led to the invention of ships of metal that traverse the seas without sails, but which are hideous in the eyes of those who have not abandoned or forgotten Tol-Eressea; to the building of grim fortresses and unlovely towers; and to missiles that pass with a noise like thunder to strike their targets many miles away. 

"Moreover, Numenor is seen by the young as overpopulous, boring, 'over-known': "every tree and grass-blade is counted", in Herendil's words; and this cause of discontent is used, it seems, by Sauron to further the policy of "imperial" expansion and ambition that he presses on the king. 

"When at this time my father reached back to the world of the first man to bear the name "Elf- friend" he found there an image of what he most condemned and feared in his own."

The History of Middle Earth volume 5 - edited by Christopher Tolkien - The Lost Road. 1987. Paperback edition - page 77.


 

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"Two chapters from the final part of the voyage were written in full, the story of Elendil the father and his son Herendil in Númenor whilst Sauron is steadily gaining power on the island and persecuting the Faithful and spurring on the king to act against the Valar. 

The description of Elendil’s villa by the sea is enchanting: JRRT wishes to recreate a distant world, perhaps a piece of the Roman Empire where pagan decadence and the first thrilled, untamed Christians meet and struggle grimly.  The son does not understand his father’s ideas and wavers between his affection for him and the corrupt seductiveness of Sauron.

The work was written in 1937 and the horrifying totalitarian state of Númenor under Ar-Pharazon which is about to bring war to Tol Eressea (and the rest) drew on contemporary events: the Third Reich and the imminent war in Europe."

- The History of Middle-Earth (12 Volumes), reviewed by Franco Manni-(TV)

 

That's a ton of potentially rich plot-points, dialogue, themes and more to expand upon...

If, of course, they have access to more than the Appendices (as seems highly probable for Unfinished Tales at the very least). 

Edited by Krishtotter

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Posted (edited)

Just to add, on the Edainic or Númenórean race/skin colour point...

With the early Edain not long migrated out of Hildórien in the Far East, we are dealing with 'skin colour' differences that are physically observable enough to distinguish them from other Edain i.e. Tolkien's 1960s essay ‘Of Dwarves and Men’ from HoME XII The Peoples of Middle-Earth ( II. The Atani and their Languages):

 

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"Men  entered  Beleriand  late  in  the First  Age. Those  with whom we  are  here  concerned  and  of  whose  languages   some  records later were preserved  belonged mostly  to three  peoples, differing in speech and in race, but known in common to  the Eldar as the Atani...

The Atani were three peoples, independent in organisation and leadership, each of which differed in speech and also in form and bodily features from the others - though all of them showed traces of mingling in the past with Men of other kinds...

Though the time might well have been less, and change quickened by a mingling of peoples; for the language of Hador was apparently less changed and more uniform in style, whereas the language of Beor contained many elements that were alien in character. This contrast in speech was probably connected with the observable physical differences between the two peoples. There were fair-haired men and women among the Folk of Beor, but most of them had brown hair (going usually with brown eyes), and many were less fair in skin, some indeed being swarthy. Men as tall as the Folk of Hador were rare among them, and most were broader and more heavy in build."

 

Note: he actually describes the Edain here as comprised of different "races". How more explicit could he be?

Such differences in language (the Beorian words referred to as 'alien' sounding to the Hadorians), physique, eye colour and culture are exactly the same differences that are used to distinguish the natives of Tal-Elmar from Elmar himself and his white northern people of origin/white Númenórean raiding party.

The descriptions are consist with ethnic/racial differences.

We are dealing here with a very heterogeneous group of early humans (albeit somewhat admixed with different races from their origin place in the Far East, in Hildórien). 

When you have language barriers, skin colour differences, evidence of heavy admixture with "Men of other kinds" in the past in the Far East, independent tribal government structures, distinguishable bodily features, cultural distinctions.......What more evidence does one need of these being distinct ethnic groups/races that are mingling with one another?

This racially diverse group of people, with the majority seemingly being white-skinned but some having dark-skin and a lesser minority (Drúedain) being markedly different in phenotype from all the others, all settled Númenor in the Second Age. 

Edited by Krishtotter

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The Dunlendings are "swarthy", are definitely not black, are suggested to be akin to the Haladin through common ancestry. "Swarthy" really isn't black, but just "dark", with a wide range of what that may be. In Tolkien's day was a term pretty often applied to, among other groups, Spaniards and Italians and other Mediterranean Caucasians. I also don't read the "Tal-Elmar" story to be saying anything about whether they're "black" or not, but this is clearly an area where opinions differ. What I will say, in any case, is that the group of people being discussed there were not of the Edain.

Tolkien, being a philologist specializing in Germanic languages, especially Anglo-Saxon, no doubt liked "swart" not in little part because it's rife through the Icelandic sagas with various Norsemen being dubbed "the Swarthy"... I think Egil's Saga has at least three of them.

So, yeah. I don't think the Numenoreans were ethnically homogenous, because of the Three Tribes of Men, but "racially" they were all "white".

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Hold on just one doggone minute... 

"That is its fate, I deem," said Celebrimbor. "But you know that I love you (though you turned to Celeborn of the Trees)

 

Celebrimbor is Galadriel's first cousin once removed.  Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww...

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11 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Hold on just one doggone minute... 

 

 

 

Celebrimbor is Galadriel's first cousin once removed.  Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww...

Well, it's hardly unusual for royalty to marry first cousins once removed (or closer relatives) even if they don't go as far as Ptolmies or Targaryens.

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Why in the world are people obsessed over 'whiteness' in LOTR?

Because, whatever he wrote, even writing out of predominately 'white' world view when not thinking about it as he was, Tolkien himself wasn't really concerned with that.  He didn't give a real damn about the color of people's skins.  If he were writing today, he'd probably have a lot more diversity -- and hopefully bigger roles with women in them.

He wasn't setting up a fantasy dream world that white supremacist.  That. Just. Wasn't. Tolkien.

So why the eff are so many of his readers obsessed with 'proving' Middle Earth is WHITE.  Feh.

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9 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Hold on just one doggone minute... 

 

 

 

Celebrimbor is Galadriel's first cousin once removed.  Eeeeeeeewwwwwwww...

Haha, yeah. 

Tolkien toyed with the idea of Galadriel having been an unrequited love interest of Celebrimbor's and this is stated twice in Unfinished Tales accounts in the History of Galadriel and Celeborn

The other reference:

Quote

 

"...The second Elessar was made also by Celebrimbor in Eregion at the request of the Lady Galadriel, whom he loved, and it was not under the One, being made before Sauron rose again..."

The History of Galadriel and Celeborn, Unfinished Tales


 

But poor Celebrimbor.....incestuous or not (by Elvish standards, the Silmarillion suggests in the Maeglin chapter that High Elves did not marry close kin, considering it illicit) rather than someone of her high class and royal lineage, Galadriel chose to marry a more lowly Sindarin Elf over one of her fellow Noldor. 

Guy just couldn't catch a break, could he?

What with the whole duped by "Annatar" into forging the Rings of Power shenaginan, spurned by the Morning Star of the Elves herself the Lady Galadriel and then tortured for information by Sauron, executed and having his corpse hung from a pole to be used as a battle standard...

Rough.

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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Zorral said:

Why in the world are people obsessed over 'whiteness' in LOTR?

Because, whatever he wrote, even writing out of predominately 'white' world view when not thinking about it as he was, Tolkien himself wasn't really concerned with that. 

Did he really not think about these things? Hmm.... What's this?

Letters #210:

Quote

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.

By today's standards, that's pretty racist, and clearly is giving some thought to race as it applies to Middle-earth. It was for him just an aesthetic judgment, but one that clearly implicates views on race. 

 

Quote

He wasn't setting up a fantasy dream world that white supremacist.  That. Just. Wasn't. Tolkien.

I actually agree with this. He was not a white supremacist. He was refreshingly opposed to anti-semitism, he had fond (though, admittedly, colonial) recollections of his early life in South Africa, and seemed a kind man who took to heart his Catholic upbringing in regards to Christ's teaching.

But he was a product of his time, and his vision of the world he created was predominantly a white one. Attempting some sort of historical revisionism by denying this is absurd. Most of Middle-earth would explicitly become Europe (except those eastern and southern bits that  become Asia, the Middle East and Africa), and its Men, particularly the Faithful, are ur-Europeans in a prior Age. 

I think one has to accept an author's creation warts and all when adapting it, rather than convincing oneself that they couldn't really have seen things as they appear to have done. In the context of his time, Tolkien was reasonably progressive (for a hardline monarchist Tory, anyways), and he certainly didn't think of himself as racist. But then, his earliest beginnings with the whole project was to create a national myth that had something of the Northern (European) spirit... 

Personally, I'd also find it much more interesting to have narratives of race in this Second Age story be part of Numenorean colonialism (as I suggested earlier) rather than having racial divisions among native Numenoreans when Tolkien clearly didn't envision them as having them. 

Edited by Ran

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1 hour ago, Ran said:

Did he really not think about these things? Hmm.... What's this?

Letters #210:

By today's standards, that's pretty rasist, and clearly is giving some thought to race as it applies to Middle-earth. It was for him just an aesthetic judgment, but one that clearly implicates views on race. 

 

I actually agree with this. He was not a white supremacist. He was refreshingly opposed to anti-semitism, he had fond (though, admittedly, colonial) recollections of his early life in South Africa, and seemed a kind man who took to heart his Catholic upbringing in regards to Christ's teaching.

But he was a product of his time, and his vision of the world he created was predominantly a white one. Attempting some sort of historical revisionism by denying this is absurd. Most of Middle-earth would explicitly become Europe (except those eastern and southern bits that  become Asia, the Middle East and Africa), and its Men, particularly the Faithful, are ur-Europeans in a prior Age. 

I think one has to accept an author's creation warts and all when adapting it, rather than convincing oneself that they couldn't really have seen things as they appear to have done. In the context of his time, Tolkien was reasonably progressive (for a hardline monarchist Tory, anyways), and he certainly didn't think of himself as racist. But then, his earliest beginnings with the whole project was to create a national myth that had something of the Northern (European) spirit... 

Personally, I'd also find it much more interesting to have narratives of race in this Second Age story be part of Numenorean colonialism (as I suggested earlier) rather than having racial divisions among native Numenoreans when Tolkien clearly didn't envision them as having them. 

I think Tolkien is hard to pin down politically.  He was a very conservative Catholic, who supported Franco, but he detested colonialism.

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2 minutes ago, SeanF said:

I think Tolkien is hard to pin down politically.  He was a very conservative Catholic, who supported Franco, but he detested colonialism.

Exactly! If the Second Age Amazon show reaches to the point of Numenor going the colonialist path, depicting this as a negative and ultimately disastrous thing would be very much in the spirit of Tolkien.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Ran said:

By today's standards, that's pretty racist

The operative phrase, of course, being "by today's standards...

My grandfather is 90 years old and courtesy of his generational biases, I cringe whenever he refers to Chinese people as 'coolies' and many others turns of phrase that today would rightly be condemned as absolutely unacceptable. But he doesn't deem himself to be racist and in fact he harbours absolutely no prejudice towards people of other races (his own family includes mixed race individuals), it is simply the way his generation spoke, as horrid as it sounds to a millennial like me. 

The counterpoint to the mongol quotation you referenced above (and indeed the worse statement in LoTR about "half-trolls" from Far Harad) are the following from Tolkien's personal letters, which evidence his private views on race and one could describe them as progressive for a man born in 1892 in South Africa (as you also note above).

Consider Tolkien's own words to his son stationed in South Africa (where Tolkien was born) as a soldier during WW2:

Quote

"As for what you say or hint of ‘local’ conditions: I knew of them. I used to hear them discussed by my mother...The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa." (Letter 29)

Quote

"I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White." (Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford, 1959)

Quote

“I know nothing about British or American imperialism in the Far East that does not fill me with regret and disgust.” (Letter 100 – May 1945).

Quote

 

"I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine."

(No. 30: Letter to Stanley Unwin (25 July, 1938))

 

 

At a time in history, the 1930s, when anti-Semitism was rife in Britain and throughout Europe and pseudo-scientific racial theory had widespread currency, Tolkien labelled it a pernicious myth.

At a time in history when black people suffered segregation, Jim Crow laws and apartheid in the United States, South Africa and other regions of the world, Tolkien condemned the 'treatment of colour' in such countries as horrific to civilised sensibility.

At a time when the British Empire was still in its heyday and most Brits proudly celebrated 'Empire Day', and the US had colonies in the Philippines and Guam, Tolkien took the highly unusual (and to many, unpatriotic) stance of avowedly expressing his "disgust" at both British and American imperialism in the Far East.  

Even as a much younger man, during WW1 when imperial nostalgia was high, Tolkien (again uncharacteristically for an Englishman) expressed in a letter dated 6 November 1914, his support for autonomy or home rule for Ireland 'as an ambition . . .' (Boas and Herford (eds.), The Year's Work in English Studies, 1925, 59–60).  John Garth's, Tolkien and the Great War p.22 and 230 (indeed, on p.51 of the book, notes: "To Tolkien, the nation's greatest goal was cultural self-realisation; not power over others...By his own admission, Tolkien was both an English patriot and a supporter of Home Rule for the Irish"

At a time in history when, following German genocide against other ethnic groups and war crimes, many people in Britain regarded them as akin to an eternally cursed people and thus defended the mass aerial bombing of German civilians, Tolkien (again uncharacteristically) denounced this: “The Germans have just as much a right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable...as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done” (Tolkien 1981, p. 93). 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

But then, his earliest beginnings with the whole project was to create a national myth that had something of the Northern (European) spirit.

While he initially started out with the intention of creating a mythology for England, Tolkien was an opponent of nordicism and reacted with cold fury to any nordicist readings of his work. 

If Tolkien was obsessed with anything, it was the idea of "the West...". 

The far 'north' in his legendarium, Thangorodrim, was the seat of the devil incarnate - Morgoth. The greatest kingdom of man, by contrast, Númenor, was located further south even than most of Far Harad (Sub-Saharan Africa) and lay on the equator (Girdle of Arda), while its successor realm of Gondor was identified by Tolkien as having a capital (Osgiliath) analogous in latitude to Rome or Constantinople, Southern Europe/Asia Minor. 

If he had an obsession with the 'northern spirit', then one has to explain why Southern Europe (a crossroads between Europe to the north and Africa/Middle-East, as reflected in the 'swarthy' Gondorians to the south of Minas Tirith (Florence) and Osgiliath (Rome/Constantinople) who are akin to North Africans) was for him the pinnacle of human civilization, while the 'West' was the location of the Blessed Realm. Pelargir and the Mouths of Anduin are situated analogous to 'Troy', that is Asia Minor/Turkey/Anatolia (the Near East). 

Thus, Tolkien wrote in Letter 294 is a reply to an interview done for the Daily Telegraph Magazine, which was run in 1968:
 

Quote

 

Claim: Middle-earth .... corresponds spiritually to Nordic Europe.


"Not Nordic, please! A word I personally dislike; it is associated, though of French origin, with racialist theories...Examination will show that even this is inapplicable (geographically or spiritually) to 'Middle-earth'. This is an old word, not invented by me, as reference to a dictionary such as the Shorter Oxford will show. It meant the habitable lands of our world, set amid the surrounding Ocean.

The action of the story takes place in the North-west of 'Middle-earth', equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean...If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is at about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy.

Auden has asserted that for me 'the North is a sacred direction'. That is not true... I have, for instance, a particular love for the Latin language, and among its descendants for Spanish. That it is untrue for my story, a mere reading of the synopses should show. The North was the seat of the fortresses of the Devil. The progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome than anything that would be devised by a 'Nordic'.” (The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, p. 376).

 

 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

Tolkien was reasonably progressive (for a hardline monarchist Tory, anyways),

Yes, he is again eclectic politically. 

He was a monarchist Tory who sympathised with anarchism and whose cosy idyll (the Shire) was basically a libertarian, agrarian republic (until it becomes a Free Province of Aragorn's Reunited Kingdom) with an elected official in the Mayor of Michel Delving i.e. 

Quote

 

"My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) … the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity."

Letter to his son Christopher Tolkien (29 November, 1943)

 

Anarchism had a certain popularity among left-leaning but orthodox Catholics of Tolkien's generation - as one can see from Dorothy Day in America (a contemporary of Tolkien and a devout Catholic). 

He also exhibited uncommon environmental instincts that could be described as ahead of his time. His entire legendarium is based around the myth of the Two Trees of Valinor and then the White Tree (Nimloth) of Númenor and its sapling in Gondor. 

In Tolkien's works, people who harm trees or fell them are always on the wrong side. In Aldarion and Erendis, for example, we are meant to sympathise with Erendis initially over Aldarion because she is so fond of trees and can't bear to see them cut down, whereas Aldarion is a mass-tree-feller and therefore the prototype of an imperialist-in-the-making (foreshadowing Númenor's downfall, which begins with mass deforestation of the Minhiriath and Enedwaith, decimating the natural habit of the native peoples).  As he wrote in a letter late in his life, “In all my works I take the part of trees as against all their enemies”. He even once described The Lord of the Rings as “my own internal Tree”. 

This too, of course, has roots in the nature-loving side of Catholic tradition - St. Francis of Assisi and his hymn to creation. 

With Tolkien, nothing is simple. 

1 hour ago, Ran said:

Personally, I'd also find it much more interesting to have narratives of race in this Second Age story be part of Numenorean colonialism (as I suggested earlier) rather than having racial divisions among native Numenoreans when Tolkien clearly didn't envision them as having them. 

But that, surely, is reading modern sensibilities into a narrative that is supposed to imitate the genre of an ancient epic. I am not aware of 'colour' being a decisive factor in Númenórean assessments in the Second Age of other peoples and decisions to levy heavy tribute from them/enslave or later sacrifice them.

The Númenórean imperial regime and its social stratification was not 'racial' in the sense of being predominantly based upon human skin colour, like the transatlantic slave trade of the 15th-19th century.

The Roman Empire was an ancient slave state but did not enslave people of one skin colour or exhibit characteristics of modern racism or racial theory, based on colour or physiognomy.

Númenórean xenophobia and ranking of "lesser" men (as they deemed others) had far more to do with their inherited long-life, wisdom, perceived civilisational, technical superiority and descent from the Edain. It could thus be described as 'genetic' in the sense of their being a strong heritable dimension to the prejudice, but skin 'colour' is not the focus here.

Tolkien would appear to have had the ancient Roman, Egyptian etc. examples of imperialism in mind, chiefly, given the antiquity of Númenor i.e. in one of his letters, Tolkien confesses that he belongs ideological to the losers' side and talks about his dislike of the Roman Empire:

Quote

 

"However it's always been going on in different terms, and you and I belong to the ever-defeated never altogether subdued side. I should have hated the Roman Empire in its day (as I do), and remained a patriotic Roman citizen, while preferring a free Gaul and seeing good in Carthaginians."

Tolkien & Carpenter, Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, 89

 

That principle - sympathising with the Gauls, or natives like those throughout Middle-Earth, oppressed by the Númenóreans/Romans - is not prefixed upon the skin 'colour' of the oppressors and the oppressed.

Edited by Krishtotter

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I already addressed that he was opposed to anti-semitism, and very rousingly so, and yet I am being lectured about it. Why? You're not the only person who owns the HoME, or Letters, you know! Folks are perfectly capable of forming informed opinions that disagree with one another on matters that are, ultimately, about interpretation.

In any case, yes, the Numenoreans saw "lesser" men not in terms of race... but as it happens, the "lesser" men who end up being most contrasted with the Numenoreans, and whom end up falling under evil sway, mostly tend to be darker as a leading distinguisher. Hmm! And when a descendant of Numenor like Faramir feel a fondness for the Rohirrim, it's a fondness predicated on the notion that they remind them of the Edain when the world was young. Hmm!

To me, this is just a feature of Tolkien's preconceptions when he entered the project. If Middle-earth is the ancient untold history of Europe in another Age, then its inhabitants are proto-Europeans, and so are generally "white", and others who are not "white" end up having to be in some other place... and gosh, that other place just happens to fall under the regime of the Dark Lord. Shame for them, and Tolkien even explicitly addresses this in Samwise's lovely elegaic on the dead soldier from Harad, but still that is the situation that Tolkien's vision of history "forced" him to, a kind of Manichean vision of "us" vs. "them" (and if the "them" are enslaved, or tricked, or driven by threats, still, they are "them" until liberated). To say that he opposed colonialism is not precisely the same as saying that he had not the slightest racial preconception and that it didn't reflect in his work.

He wrote what he knew. Tolkien is a 20th century author, raised in the midst of the British Empire, not an ancient Roman. Whatever his thoughts and his intentions, I don't think he can be said to have fully succeeded in presenting a narrative where ethnicity or race are not signifiers of cultural value.

I really do think fewer walls of text are needed. I am a huge fan of Tolkien. LotR is my favorite series. I also think he was a virtuous and genuinely good, well-meaning man. This doesn't mean he wasn't without faults, some of which he recognized and some which he didn't. 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Ran said:

You're not the only person who owns the HoME, or Letters, you know! 

With all due respect, I never once so much as implied or stated that I was.

I am obviously aware that many of us here are familiar with all these texts, hence why I am debating their meaning with you at all in the first place.

And I will note that, frequently throughout my above post, I said things like '...as you noted before me...as you said above and I agree...'

It seems you may have missed these remarks on my part and have formed the unfounded assumption that I am "lecturing" you when, in fact, I am merely giving my opinion (as you are and everyone else on this forum is) and nothing more.

My opinion is my right to hold based upon my understanding of the source material Tolkien was inspired by (philology, historic etc.) as is your own obviously very informed but different reading. And I fully respect that.

I'm not setting myself up as some kind of authority! (To try and evidence any opinion, after all, a person has to show their working and reference points, and that's all I'm doing.)

To be clear, I'm not saying that your interpretation is 'wrong', merely explaining why I don't personally read things in the same way.

Edited by Krishtotter

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In some ways, Tolkien's views remind me of my grandmother's.  She largely assumed that it was right that the world was ruled by Europeans, but detested apartheid and Jim Crow.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, SeanF said:

In some ways, Tolkien's views remind me of my grandmother's.  She largely assumed that it was right that the world was ruled by Europeans, but detested apartheid and Jim Crow.

To me, a lot of it -- even the framing of colonialism in Tolkien -- is that Tolkien opposed morally bad things because they were morally bad for the perpetrator, and that this was first and foremost in his mind if the perpetrator was otherwise a "good" person (evil people had other, larger problems which made him more immediately concerned for their victims rather than for them). Attanar really did have a genuine turn to good... but then began to think that if he ran things, it would all be better, and the urge to dominate grew out of that. Galadriel's rejection of the One Ring when Frodo offered it was a personal rejection of vanity and hubris. Feanor's greatness was also his downfall, because of his hubris. 

So in colonialism, yes, it was bad for the men of Middle-earth that the Númenóreans went from desiring to help the men of Middle-earth to wanting to dominate them,.. but it was really bad for the Númenóreans to become so prideful and desirious of domination.

It's like Tolkien's remark on social hierarchy, that it "may" be "damn bad" for you to tip your cap to the squire... but it "is damn good" for you to do so; the squire may end up letting it get to their head, may take mistaken pride in an accident of birth (but then again, maybe they won't, and will understand and respect the gesture), but knowing your place and being humble is always good. Tolkien's vision of moral action was generally very personal. Societies did not do good or ill, but rather individuals do, and the societies are shaped by how men treat one another.

Edited by Ran

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Ran,

Tolkien's vision of moral action was generally very personal. Societies did not do good or ill, but rather individuals do, and the societies are shaped by how men treat one another.

I think that rather nicely sums up my view of the world.  We are conglomeration of individual actions.  If we change the hearts and minds of enough individuals the world is a better place.  Sadly, the reverse is also true.

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