Is Tolkien's portrayal of goblins/orcs antisemitic and racist?

Discussion in 'The Hall of Fire' started by Laegolas, Jun 14, 2019.

  1. Laegolas

    Laegolas Vocabjuggler

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    I came across a Twitter thread, and the general idea is the goblins and orcs in Tolkien's works are based off racism and antisemitism. I'm from Malaysia, English is my second language, and I can't relate to the points made in the thread because I have limited knowledge of dark-skinned orcs being a racist caricature of Africans. I have read the trilogy many times, and not once has it ever crossed my mind to associate orcs with Africans. I don't even see Africans as ape-like or anything that is mentioned in the thread. Are they really based off racism and antisemitism? Please help. Thank you in advance.
     
  2. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    Oh my, nowadays everything is rascism, anti this, anti that. Sorry but society has gone berserk!
    Like you I never ever thought of these things while reading Tolkien, now that these 'theories' are outed I still do not see it that way.
    To me Tolkien 'just' wrote about love, live, good and evil, no less no more.
    I do not understand why these people like to stain everything that in their eyes is out of the ordinary...

    I can think of quite a few other books and ideas that are full of hatred etc. ...
     
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  3. Fëanor_7

    Fëanor_7 Oathbound Noldo

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    I certainly doubt it is the sort of 'calculated racism' that the writer of that twitter thread seems to think it is.

    The only argument for it being racist or offensive in my eyes is that it was a sort of subconscious thing, just based on people's views at the time, and even that doesn't seem likely (to me at least), particularly since Tolkien seemed so obsessed with creating 'his own' world, rather than one designed to reflect reality.
     
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  4. Laegolas

    Laegolas Vocabjuggler

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    Same here, my view and understanding of the books have not changed. In fact, now the thread seems ridiculous to me because I really can't remember any of the characters who are not orcs ever saying anything racist or downgrading towards orcs. They really are nasty in the books, it's not like they are misunderstood and hated for their skin color.


    I feel like the tweeter does not understand how complex the creation of Middle Earth is, because she/he mentioned in another tweet that 'I'm still not over the fact that Tolkien is applauded as this master of fantasy when all he did was take preexisting mythology concepts and make them racist.' Because I can't seem to match Tolkien's world with ours - race is not an issue in his story. Evil characters are evil, and they don't necessarily have dark skin color.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2019
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  5. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    Wow what a shocking statement, appauling!
     
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  6. Fëanor_7

    Fëanor_7 Oathbound Noldo

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    I know right, it's completely not possible that even one of the stories he took inspiration from could've been racist to begin with either.

    Definitely no sarcasm in here, no no.
     
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  7. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    I do not understand this reaction sorry, elaborate pleaz
    I tried to read the thread, and all I can say is that the ts is one of poor mind...
     
  8. Laegolas

    Laegolas Vocabjuggler

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    I have to say I'm offended that he/she wrote p*ss on Tolkien. I also tried reading on the Cornish's goblins - I can't find similarities. Their goblins are greedy, Tolkien's are not. It doesn't make sense. Feels like stuff someone write without having understood either Cornish belief or Tolkien.
     
  9. Merroe

    Merroe Active Member

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    Me too, I agree with the previous contributors. I sometimes get the impression that some extreme anti-racists are in for frequent, silly witch-hunting at the most impossible occasions or moments.

    An example, if I may. I can't remember where, but some time ago I came across a similar racist slur on Tolkien, regarding the sentence Aragorn spoke to Éomer at the day of Faramir's betrothal to Éowyn:

    ‘No niggard are you, Éomer,’ said Aragorn, ‘to give thus to Gondor the fairest thing in your realm!’

    Shame and scandal: the "N-word"! It's enough to open a dictionary to understand that Aragorn's words are civilized and gentle but if these extremists are really determined to see only the evil in others then they will have their silly fun.

    [BTW Laegolas, welcome to this forum!]
     
  10. Fëanor_7

    Fëanor_7 Oathbound Noldo

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    I was merely making fun of the way they said that Tolkien took existing stories and 'made them racist' which even if it were true is rather foolish, since the same tweeter claims that Cornish folklore contained racist stereotypes, so he wouldn't be 'adding racism', because the stories they claim he is 'making racist' are also from their point of view already racist.

    I will admit I all too frequently make my jokes too obscure, such that only I could ever find them funny.
     
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  11. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    so true!

    Kewl :) Obscurity is ok!! :)

    Exactly, the more they can shout, kick and offend the better they feel themselves... pity.
     
  12. CirdanLinweilin

    CirdanLinweilin The Wandering Wastrel

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    If he's white, male, and or Catholic, one way or another, he's going to be called racist, for the silliest of reasons. As all three, and expecting it as a High Fantasy writer, I'm prepared for it.


    Just my .2.


    CL
     
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  13. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    Yeah right, here we have a saying that when you put your head above ground level, it gets chopped off ...
     
  14. Pat

    Pat New Member

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    I would say that the presentation of orcs, goblins, Easterlings and Haradrim could be viewed as "racist", as well as the stereotypical presentation of the "east" and "south" as being savage compared to a civilized "west", but these I would argue were not intentional on the part of Tolkien. The mindset was largley a product of the time he wrote them.
     
  15. Peter86

    Peter86 New Member

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    Orcs are alledgedly supposed to be twisted elves, and that's about it, really.
    Personally I always imagined orcs to look like savage elves, which is slightly different from how they are portrayed in some other sources.

    Basically, imagine Fëanor when he is really freaking aggressive and warlike and has fought in the wild for a long time and lost his fancy royal clothes for whatever reason, and that's what an orc looks like to me.
     
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  16. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    I do not agree... in those days everything outside your own space was considered odd, maybe suspicious, people had no tv or internet, there was a period where the whole world was your own, due to the internet, nowadays we're going back in time being calvinistic about a whole lot of things and yes even considering other people outside our own little world as evil, odd and suspicious even evil again!
    History works like the sea, in waves ...
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
  17. Miguel

    Miguel Well-Known Member

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    We all tend to see ourselves as "The good side", if not we'll just say "That's how it is" or just be openly/passively Good & Evil. I've seen evil and savagery in the East as i saw evil and savagery in the West, and i continue to see.

    Some quotes:
    We can see something similar happening later in Númenor.
     
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  18. Belthil

    Belthil Active Member

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    We're humans... :)
     
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