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Old 05-23-2020, 10:33 AM
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Quoth Mijin:

Interesting that the OP picked Hobbits as the master race. I would have thought the Elves are the more obvious one. They are all whiter than white (perhaps there was a black elf extra in the movies, but I don't recall any), with long, fine hair and are holier than thou.
No elf is ever described in Tolkien's works as having dark skin, but then, I don't think any elf was ever described as having light skin, either. He may well have implicitly assumed that they were light-skinned, since a person of his upbringing would have regarded light skin as the default, but he never made it explicit.

He was, however, explicit about hair colors, in at least some places (perhaps because hair colors in England are varied enough that no one hair color could be considered "default"). And the greatest and most knowledgeable (neither of which, of course, necessarily carries any moral judgement) of the Elves in Middle-Earth were the Noldor, and they're stated to almost all have dark hair (Galadriel being a very rare exception).

He also explicitly specified skin color for at least some humans, and even had examples of characters making racist assumptions about others, based at least in part on their skin color. And then proceeded to have the wiser characters correct those racist assumptions. The Rohirrim are known to be pale, and the Druedain are known to be dark-skinned, but he's quite explicit that the Druedain are just as intelligent, just as overall good, and just as human as the Rohirrim.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:56 AM
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I bow to your superior LOTR knowledge. I was basing the elves being white on their depiction in the movies. I haven't read the book.

Incidentally, while I'm posting, I want to be clear I was not criticizing Tolkien. I was just saying that the fact that it's a fictional universe doesn't automatically mean there's no racial subtext there. But I haven't seen anything to say it's actually racist, let alone "fantastically".
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Old 05-23-2020, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Ulfreida View Post
I doubt very much whether Tolkien spent a lot of time working out biological plausibilities. Besides the three times humans and elves married in the thousand years they both inhabited Middle Earth, each time between the very greatest of both races, there were also sentient, ambulatory talking trees, horses that could run hundreds of miles at top speed without tiring, and gigantic eagles of superhuman wisdom sent by the gods. Among many other things. He was writing mythology.
Well, yes and no. In parts of The Silmarillion, at least, he was writing mythology; but elsewhere he was writing "history"óthe history of Middle Earth.

The reason he didn't spend a lot of time working out biological plausibilities (as I understand it) is because he wasn't particularly interested or trained in biology. He did spend a lot of time working out liguistic plausibilities.
  #54  
Old 05-23-2020, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Mijin View Post
I bow to your superior LOTR knowledge. I was basing the elves being white on their depiction in the movies. I haven't read the book.

Incidentally, while I'm posting, I want to be clear I was not criticizing Tolkien. I was just saying that the fact that it's a fictional universe doesn't automatically mean there's no racial subtext there. But I haven't seen anything to say it's actually racist, let alone "fantastically".
Which is odd, because the thread was started about something that was pretty clearly not authored by Tolkien, and while it clearly drew inspiration from his works, Iím not sure what Tolkien's views of or expressions of racism have to do with the..."joke" itself. Itís almost as if this is more like a thread in cafe society entitled "Was Tolkien Racist?" rather than in IMHO and titled "is this...." honestly, I canít even repeat the thread title because I cringe at the pun.
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Old 05-23-2020, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ASL v2.0 View Post
Tolkien and Lewis both were fine enough authors, but mediocre philosophers, perhaps too saddled with theology.
I'd have said "too saddled with romanticism". In their defense they were perhaps reacting to the prevalence of "scientism" which in their day was advocating Brave New World- levels of reductionism.
  #56  
Old 05-23-2020, 04:03 PM
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Not sure if you mean that he was personally unaware of the (by that time well established) biological notion of species, or simply that he didn't require his fictional "races" to be consistent with it.
What I meant was that Tolkien was not concerned with the biological concept of species in defining his different "races." However, the biological species concept was not "well established" at the time Tolkein was writing. Tolkien wrote LOTR between 1937 and 1949. Ernst Mayr first defined the Biological Species Concept in 1942, but it wouldn't be fully established as the prevailing concept for some years after that. And there's no reason that Tolkien, as a professor of English, would be familiar with the fine points of evolutionary biology.

Tolkien's "races" were not biological entities, and didn't have to obey biological rules, any more than talking trees or eagles or shape-shifting bear-men had to.
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Old 05-23-2020, 04:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Colibri View Post
What I meant was that Tolkien was not concerned with the biological concept of species in defining his different "races." However, the biological species concept was not "well established" at the time Tolkein was writing. Tolkien wrote LOTR between 1937 and 1949. Ernst Mayr first defined the Biological Species Concept in 1942, but it wouldn't be fully established as the prevailing concept for some years after that. And there's no reason that Tolkien, as a professor of English, would be familiar with the fine points of evolutionary biology.
Yes, I wasn't trying to claim that Tolkien was using any modern biological criteria for determining "species", a term that I don't think he ever applies to any "race" or type of creature in his Middle-Earth writings. However, the notion of "species" as a biological category distinguishing types of living beings in some way had been around for over a century by Tolkien's time, and ISTM he would certainly have been aware of it.

When I initially responded to monstro's question about the taxonomy of Middle-earth "races" and their belonging to the same "species" according to their interbreeding capacity, I didn't mean to imply that that's how Tolkien himself interpreted their biological relationships. I was using Tolkien's canonical pronouncement on the "relatedness" of different races and trying to extrapolate from that how we might classify them. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
Tolkien's "races" were not biological entities, and didn't have to obey biological rules, any more than talking trees or eagles or shape-shifting bear-men had to.
I concur, if by "biological entities" you mean "categories consistent with the taxonomy of modern biological science".
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