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  1. #376
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rinlul View Post
    *gestures wildly at human history on Earth* Like yeah people never travel huge distances through great peril. And there have never been powerful rulers who have been trying to play people against each other!
    Flail about all you like, this isn't real history and doesn't have the complexity of the real thing, it's a fantasy scenario and you can't just ignore things that make it different. Did you seriously just try to downplay Sauron's dominion, as if him being both king and god to both the east and south of Middle-earth was no big deal?

    Also I thought Harad was ruled by Gondor at some points (and of course the Numenorians enslaved them), there were Easterlings who allied with the elves, and we don't actually know the opinions or character of the average person in either realm?
    I already said that Gondor could be taken to be relatively diverse because they'd used to hold territory in Harad and because the way Tolkien describes the locals who lived along the coast of Gondor made them sound like more Mediterranean types/ On the other hand the Dunedain had mostly kept themselves to themselves which was one reason why their numbers had dwindled. As for Easterlings allying with Elves, that was with the Sons of Feanor back in the First Age, and that didn't work out so well. Also, those Easterlings weren't the exact same guys as the ones from the Third Age, thousand of years later. In the Third Age the Easterlings were hostile because Sauron had encouraged them to be, with peoples like the Balchoth and the Wain-riders having caused mayhem in the past. Much like real-life ancient times, with fierce warrior peoples coming out of the east and wreaking havoc except here we've got a demonic fallen Maia pulling strings behind the scenes.

    As for the Numenoreans becoming evil and starting enslaving people back in the Second Age, they did that all over the place, northern parts of Middle-earth included, to cut down trees, mine and build stuff for them. It was the Numenoreans who'd clear-felled most of the forests.

  2. #377
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rinlul View Post
    How many dark-skinned heroes are there in LOTR? How many dark-skinned people do the heroes fight (orcs, haradrim, easterlings, etc)? We all have a pretty clear idea of Tolkien and his intentions and recognize he wasn't trying to be racist in writing the books, and in real life he was pretty actively against racism. But we've learned a lot about racism over the last many decades and the ways some aspects of it creep into the psyche of people with good intentions.
    Who says there have to be any? A great many fantasies don't, it's not some kind of requirement. And you can't assume all the Easterlings had dark skin. There should be an equivalent to Slavic peoples as well as Turkic peoples and the like; then there's the Variags (another name for the real-life Varangians), who might be Northmen who'd gone native in the East and appear as fierce, bearded axe-wielding warriors. In any case, it's a proxy Europe so the sort of people who attack it should sound familiar. People from North Africa attacked parts of Europe in real life so that's only the sort of thing the Haradrim are doing, like Hannibal fighting the Romans (famously bringing elephants with him, hint hint) and the Moors conquering Spain and having a go at France as well. And the Corsairs of Umbar sound very much like the Barbary Corsairs, who used to raid the European coastline and take people as slaves. Also, both Sauron and Saruman have evil white guys working for them. Orcs aren't human and don't represent anyone in particular, they were inspired by the way war can brutalise soldiers and leave them cruel and inhumane, something Tolkien saw for himself in the First World War (he said "We were all Orcs in the Great War.") Just think of the way old wartime propaganda posters often represented enemy soldiers as inhuman, bestial brutes - that's more or less what Orcs are, made literal.

    Was Tolkien a product of his time? Yes, of course. But he was pretty damn enlightened for his time, and it's made clear in the book that a lot of the Easterlings and Haradrim weren't there because they wanted to be. The really evil guys were the fanatics who chose to go down fighting.

    As for the rest, don't try to talk politics here, we're not allowed to do that and you'll only get the thread locked if you persist.

  3. #378
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rinlul View Post
    How many dark-skinned heroes are there in LOTR? How many dark-skinned people do the heroes fight (orcs, haradrim, easterlings, etc)? We all have a pretty clear idea of Tolkien and his intentions and recognize he wasn't trying to be racist in writing the books, and in real life he was pretty actively against racism. But we've learned a lot about racism over the last many decades and the ways some aspects of it creep into the psyche of people with good intentions.
    There aren't actually too many dark skinned villains either. Tolkien took great care to never make evil a simple thing. He was a veteran of war and knew as well as anyone that his side did some pretty horrible things as well, that good and evil exists in all of us, it just takes the right, or perhaps wrong, circumstances to bring it out. None of the people of Middle-earth were truly evil, remember Sam's thoughts as he looked at a recently slain Southron, "He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would rather have stayed there in peace.” Only the orcs represented true evil, and they weren't even human, that was Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil.


    Quote Originally Posted by Rinlul View Post
    Look at mainstream media in the US and Europe in general. Even though both places have a huge diversity of skin tones and cultures, statistically the vast majority of media depicts white people from the dominant culture. Did most of the producers and directors think "I hate people who aren't white!"? Nope. Maybe some unfortunately, but because white people *statistically* hold more power in these countries (financial, decision-making, etc), they are gonna end up making the stories and casting the actors that feel "normal" to them.

    There's certainly a lot of authors who wrote books as rich and epic as LOTR that never got published, never got the acclaim, never go the massive franchising, or never even got written because they weren't white and had to deal with systemic racism every step of the way. I'm sure Tolkien would lament that. Since we all know he was against racism, if he were alive today it's very likely he'd be trying to get those stories out there. He'd probably also be adding to his own work to include more stories of people he didn't represent as heroic in his original books.

    Racism isn't something that's just a bunch of yokels in the South saying "I hate Black people", it's a pretty complicated system that his been built up over the last 500+ years. If it was as easy as saying you think everyone should be treated equally, then we wouldn't have absolutely massive racial disparities in our wages, prison population, school funding, killings by police, air and water quality, etc.

    I won't try to argue with most of what you've written there, your commentary on the complicated nature of racism is true, but also fairly obvious, so enough said.
    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
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  4. #379
    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    Only the orcs represented true evil, and they weren't even human, that was Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil.
    I don't believe this to be correct. Regardless of which version of Orc origin one chooses to pick as canon. If you are willing to logic yourself through this quoted sentence, I'll be all too happy to rebut it line for line and its relationship to the real topic of this thread.
    "That what is explicitly two, can at the same time be implicitly one."

    Alan Watts

  5. #380
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rinlul View Post
    How many dark-skinned heroes are there in LOTR? How many dark-skinned people do the heroes fight (orcs, haradrim, easterlings, etc)? We all have a pretty clear idea of Tolkien and his intentions and recognize he wasn't trying to be racist in writing the books, and in real life he was pretty actively against racism. But we've learned a lot about racism over the last many decades and the ways some aspects of it creep into the psyche of people with good intentions.

    Look at mainstream media in the US and Europe in general. Even though both places have a huge diversity of skin tones and cultures, statistically the vast majority of media depicts white people from the dominant culture. Did most of the producers and directors think "I hate people who aren't white!"? Nope. Maybe some unfortunately, but because white people *statistically* hold more power in these countries (financial, decision-making, etc), they are gonna end up making the stories and casting the actors that feel "normal" to them.

    There's certainly a lot of authors who wrote books as rich and epic as LOTR that never got published, never got the acclaim, never go the massive franchising, or never even got written because they weren't white and had to deal with systemic racism every step of the way. I'm sure Tolkien would lament that. Since we all know he was against racism, if he were alive today it's very likely he'd be trying to get those stories out there. He'd probably also be adding to his own work to include more stories of people he didn't represent as heroic in his original books.

    Racism isn't something that's just a bunch of yokels in the South saying "I hate Black people", it's a pretty complicated system that his been built up over the last 500+ years. If it was as easy as saying you think everyone should be treated equally, then we wouldn't have absolutely massive racial disparities in our wages, prison population, school funding, killings by police, air and water quality, etc.
    This is nothing but another "white people hold all the cards" rant.
    "Grandchildren are God's reward for not killing your children when you wanted to."

  6. #381
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapienze View Post
    I don't believe this to be correct. Regardless of which version of Orc origin one chooses to pick as canon. If you are willing to logic yourself through this quoted sentence, I'll be all too happy to rebut it line for line and its relationship to the real topic of this thread.
    The sentence says three things at once, that orcs are pure evil, that they're not human, and that Tolkien used them as a way of not having to brand any particular race as having those qualities. Which part are you disputing?
    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
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  7. #382
    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    ”Only the orcs represented true evil, and they weren't even human, that was Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil.
    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    The sentence says three things at once, that orcs are pure evil, that they're not human, and that Tolkien used them as a way of not having to brand any particular race as having those qualities. Which part are you disputing?
    All of it.


    Is this a repositioning of your view?

    "Only the orcs represented true evil," "that orcs are pure evil,"


    Have you any source material that supports this opinion?

    "Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil."



    Details matter.
    "That what is explicitly two, can at the same time be implicitly one."

    Alan Watts

  8. #383
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapienze View Post
    Have you any source material that supports this opinion?

    "Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil."

    Details matter.
    I'm not aware of a source that would substantiate that but it doesn't signify: Orcs are a literal representation of how war makes monsters out of men, not stand-ins for anyone in particular.

  9. #384
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapienze View Post
    All of it.


    Is this a repositioning of your view?

    "Only the orcs represented true evil," "that orcs are pure evil,"


    Have you any source material that supports this opinion?

    "Tolkien's way of avoiding branding any particular race as having any special predilection for evil."



    Details matter.

    There's no "repositioning of my view", it is simply my opinion that Tolkien invented orcs as a way of representing evil without having to "pin it onto anybody". You don't have to look very far, in fact no farther than this very thread, to see how quick people are to jump on any line written by Tolkien and turn his words into something they are not. So you can imagine how people would react if Tolkien had his dark skinned Haradrim, committing all sorts of unspeakable atrocities. I believed he created the orcs as a simple, almost irredeemably evil creature, in part, as a fall guy.

    The example of Shagrat and Gorbag is a good one, in fact I used it in a similar conversation on these forums three years ago to explain why I think Tolkien had all but written off orcs as being capable of normal human emotion. Here is the text of a conversation that takes place in the Two Towers.

    `You should try being up here with Shelob for company,' said Shagrat.
    'I'd like to try somewhere where there's none of 'em. But the war's on now, and when that's over things may be easier.'
    `It's going well, they say.'
    'They would.' grunted Gorbag. `We'll see. But anyway, if it does go well, there should be a lot more room. What d'you say? - if we get a chance, you and me'll slip off and set up somewhere on our own with a few trusty lads, somewhere where there's good loot nice and handy, and no big bosses.'
    'Ah! ' said Shagrat. `Like old times.' JRR Tolkien, The Choices of Master Samwise

    We can see from that brief conversation that even when Orcs talk of "settling down", it usually involves violence of some kind. It's also pertinent to remember that a short time after that conversation took place, Shagrat and Gorbag were at each other's throats in a battle to the death. So much for loyalty.

    I think authors like Tolkien, who had experienced the horrors of war first hand, sometimes found it difficult to discuss evil in simple terms. He knew that, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, anyone was capable of committing acts that could be described as evil. I remember somewhere reading about a theory that men like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who had lived through war, wrote "war stories" in a fantasy setting so they could feel free to divorce themselves from the subject to a degree.

    I don't know how true (or otherwise) this is, but I do believe that it's no coincidence that Tolkien made many of his most evil protagonists non-human.
    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
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  10. #385
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    There's no "repositioning of my view", it is simply my opinion that Tolkien invented orcs as a way of representing evil without having to "pin it onto anybody". You don't have to look very far, in fact no farther than this very thread, to see how quick people are to jump on any line written by Tolkien and turn his words into something they are not. So you can imagine how people would react if Tolkien had his dark skinned Haradrim, committing all sorts of unspeakable atrocities. I believed he created the orcs as a simple, almost irredeemably evil creature, in part, as a fall guy.
    Since Tolkien had had the idea of Orcs at least as far back as 1917, long before any of this (they were in the original version of The Fall of Gondolin, described simply as 'goblins of hatred'), I don't think we could say they were invented for such a specific purpose. I'd agree that as far as LOTR goes they did allow Tolkien to do what you describe, but I think the original purpose they played was simply as a foil for the Elves in his tales of the Elder Days.

  11. #386
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Since Tolkien had had the idea of Orcs at least as far back as 1917, long before any of this (they were in the original version of The Fall of Gondolin, described simply as 'goblins of hatred'), I don't think we could say they were invented for such a specific purpose. I'd agree that as far as LOTR goes they did allow Tolkien to do what you describe, but I think the original purpose they played was simply as a foil for the Elves in his tales of the Elder Days.

    I'm well aware of the story of how Tolkien wrote his original account of The Fall of Gondolin, while recuperating from injuries and illness suffered in the trenches of the Somme, on the back of a sheet of military marching music. The thought of the horrors he would have witnessed on the front line a very short time before he wrote that story strengthen my theory, not weaken it, in my opinion.
    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
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  12. #387
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    I'm well aware of the story of how Tolkien wrote his original account of The Fall of Gondolin, while recuperating from injuries and illness suffered in the trenches of the Somme, on the back of a sheet of military marching music. The thought of the horrors he would have witnessed on the front line a very short time before he wrote that story strengthen my theory, not weaken it, in my opinion.
    Sorry, but how so when it'd be decades before it chanced to become relevant? It only matters that they're not people, just monsters who don't have complex motivations to worry about and can be killed in droves without having their slaughter make the good guys look bad. It's not as if Tolkien originally needed to have any real concern who the bad guys were in his tales of the Elder Days - the Easterlings from back then weren't being presented in a context that implied some of them might be dark-skinned, they're the only Men we see apart from the Edain, and Bor decides to side with the Elves (although it was with the Sons of Feanor, so that wasn't a wholly good thing).

    Move on several decades and with LOTR, where the context is very clearly 'Europeans' on one side and everyone else on the other, and Tolkien evidently felt he should stress that he wasn't implying everyone else was evil. Orcs remain largely as cannon fodder whom the protagonists and their allies can merrily carve their way through in a way that would seem grotesque if it were always Men they were killing, not so much to shield actual people from being seen to be Obviously Evil but so when (for example) Legolas and Gimli play their little game of who can score the most kills it seems like boyish fun. When it's participants in a real war keeping score, that comes across as something much darker. By the same token, Sam is far more bothered to see Men fighting and someone who's been killed than he was after fighting Orcs and killing one himself. That only works if Orcs are there to be disposable and people could kill them without batting an eyelid, or getting the shakes afterwards. (Unless Sam is supposed to be a stone cold killer behind that stolid exterior...?)

  13. #388
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Sorry, but how so when it'd be decades before it chanced to become relevant? It only matters that they're not people, just monsters who don't have complex motivations to worry about and can be killed in droves without having their slaughter make the good guys look bad. It's not as if Tolkien originally needed to have any real concern who the bad guys were in his tales of the Elder Days - the Easterlings from back then weren't being presented in a context that implied some of them might be dark-skinned, they're the only Men we see apart from the Edain, and Bor decides to side with the Elves (although it was with the Sons of Feanor, so that wasn't a wholly good thing).

    Move on several decades and with LOTR, where the context is very clearly 'Europeans' on one side and everyone else on the other, and Tolkien evidently felt he should stress that he wasn't implying everyone else was evil. Orcs remain largely as cannon fodder whom the protagonists and their allies can merrily carve their way through in a way that would seem grotesque if it were always Men they were killing, not so much to shield actual people from being seen to be Obviously Evil but so when (for example) Legolas and Gimli play their little game of who can score the most kills it seems like boyish fun. When it's participants in a real war keeping score, that comes across as something much darker. By the same token, Sam is far more bothered to see Men fighting and someone who's been killed than he was after fighting Orcs and killing one himself. That only works if Orcs are there to be disposable and people could kill them without batting an eyelid, or getting the shakes afterwards. (Unless Sam is supposed to be a stone cold killer behind that stolid exterior...?)

    You seem to have completely misread my take on Tolkien's motivation for using orcs rather than real people as the majority of the enemy forces. It's not so much that 'we' can kill 'them' with reckless abandon, it's more the other way around. Tolkien's First Age orcs are every bit as cruel and merciless as his Third Age variety, he needed an enemy that was just plain bad, and orcs suited that purpose perfectly. Obviously it goes both ways, and orcs were also slaughtered wholesale in those epic First Age battles. Later on orcs also became ideal fall guys for things like that which you describe above.

    Almost every time Tolkien talks about the enemies' human soldiers, there is a certain respect for the fact that they were either just men doing a job, or people who were brainwashed by the likes of Sauron and Saruman to hate and fear their enemy. The obvious exception were guys like Gríma Wormtongue and the Mouth of Sauron, who were just plain evil, much as guys like Vlad the Impaler and Josef Mengele were in real life.
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  14. #389
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    You seem to have completely misread my take on Tolkien's motivation for using orcs rather than real people as the majority of the enemy forces. It's not so much that 'we' can kill 'them' with reckless abandon, it's more the other way around. Tolkien's First Age orcs are every bit as cruel and merciless as his Third Age variety, he needed an enemy that was just plain bad, and orcs suited that purpose perfectly. Obviously it goes both ways, and orcs were also slaughtered wholesale in those epic First Age battles. Later on orcs also became ideal fall guys for things like that which you describe above.

    Almost every time Tolkien talks about the enemies' human soldiers, there is a certain respect for the fact that they were either just men doing a job, or people who were brainwashed by the likes of Sauron and Saruman to hate and fear their enemy. The obvious exception were guys like Gríma Wormtongue and the Mouth of Sauron, who were just plain evil, much as guys like Vlad the Impaler and Josef Mengele were in real life.
    Hang on, you did say that it was so you could have Orcs doing atrocities without that being pinned on 'real' people. As in Orcs could be as sadistic as you liked, avoiding having to make, say, Haradrim look like they were all evil but that's only an issue in LOTR. All I was getting at is that that's not the sole purpose they serve, another one is as disposable minions who spawn in droves and can be killed in droves, and there are always more of them as they seem to breed like rabbits when there's a Dark Lord around. And because they're monstrous, it seems killing them is no big deal. (Also, Orcs come in handy smaller sizes so that even hobbits get to beat them up).

    It is interesting, though, to contrast how careful Tolkien was being compared to his friend C.S.Lewis. I don't know if you've ever read Lewis' 1954 Narnia novel The Horse and His Boy, but it's mostly set in Calormen (a proxy Middle Eastern land, with all the usual tropes) where the locals are emphatically Not Nice, typically being rather cruel and villainous, keeping slaves and worshipping a very nasty demonic fire god called Tash. (I'm not someone who throws words like 'problematic' around, but let's just say it's more than a bit much). Much the same set of tropes that we get with the Haradrim, then, with the key difference that as Tolkien implies it, the Haradrim probably aren't that bad on the whole and have been misled by their evil leaders over the course of generations. That's how Sauron appears to do things, once he has his sort of people in charge they then make the rest follow through all the usual means. I wouldn't call it brainwashing because human nature being what it is, it's not that hard in any society to find people who'll all too happily play right along with a cruel and despotic regime as long as it gives them wealth and power. (And Saruman wouldn't have had to do much to encourage the Dunlendings either as they hated the Rohirrim already, probably only needing to be given some better weapons and armour and promises that they could reclaim the lands they believed the Rohirrim had stolen from them).

  15. #390
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    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    Hang on, you did say that it was so you could have Orcs doing atrocities without that being pinned on 'real' people. As in Orcs could be as sadistic as you liked, avoiding having to make, say, Haradrim look like they were all evil but that's only an issue in LOTR. All I was getting at is that that's not the sole purpose they serve, another one is as disposable minions who spawn in droves and can be killed in droves, and there are always more of them as they seem to breed like rabbits when there's a Dark Lord around. And because they're monstrous, it seems killing them is no big deal. (Also, Orcs come in handy smaller sizes so that even hobbits get to beat them up).
    The orcs, as well as Tolkien's other non-human villains, do serve many purposes, it's true. Perhaps it would have been more accurate if I'd said "one of the reasons for inventing orcs".


    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    It is interesting, though, to contrast how careful Tolkien was being compared to his friend C.S.Lewis. I don't know if you've ever read Lewis' 1954 Narnia novel The Horse and His Boy, but it's mostly set in Calormen (a proxy Middle Eastern land, with all the usual tropes) where the locals are emphatically Not Nice, typically being rather cruel and villainous, keeping slaves and worshipping a very nasty demonic fire god called Tash. (I'm not someone who throws words like 'problematic' around, but let's just say it's more than a bit much). Much the same set of tropes that we get with the Haradrim, then, with the key difference that as Tolkien implies it, the Haradrim probably aren't that bad on the whole and have been misled by their evil leaders over the course of generations. That's how Sauron appears to do things, once he has his sort of people in charge they then make the rest follow through all the usual means. I wouldn't call it brainwashing because human nature being what it is, it's not that hard in any society to find people who'll all too happily play right along with a cruel and despotic regime as long as it gives them wealth and power. (And Saruman wouldn't have had to do much to encourage the Dunlendings either as they hated the Rohirrim already, probably only needing to be given some better weapons and armour and promises that they could reclaim the lands they believed the Rohirrim had stolen from them).
    I've never read anything by C. S. Lewis, but from what I gather he definitely didn't share his friend Tolkien's dislike for allegory
    “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”
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