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Old 05-22-2020, 08:54 AM
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Is this fantastically racist?


You don't have to be some sort of white wizard to see that hobbits have a higher EQ than either dwarves or men.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:21 AM
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EQ = IQ?

If so, I would probably argue the opposite. Which doesn't change your argument, I don't think. No, I don't think it's racists to have fictional species that differ in mental attributes. Unless, of course, they are intended to be analogous to different groups of real world people.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:59 AM
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It's not nearly as clever as you think.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:53 AM
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History is written by the victors.

The Hobbits won the war of the rings. Therefore, they get to look the smartest.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:19 AM
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In all honesty, there are speculative fiction books I can't read because they are so "X race is like Y"; at best, it's lazy writing. At worst, a fig leaf for normalizing racism. I wouldn't put LOTR in that category, because while there is a lot of broad stereotyping, the characters feel like characters, not like incarnations of a stereotype.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:26 AM
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In all honesty, there are speculative fiction books I can't read because they are so "X race is like Y"; at best, it's lazy writing. At worst, a fig leaf for normalizing racism. I wouldn't put LOTR in that category, because while there is a lot of broad stereotyping, the characters feel like characters, not like incarnations of a stereotype.
Does that include the swarthy men of the south who fought for Sauron?
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:37 AM
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"EQ" means "emotional intelligence," I believe.

And, in my opinion, yes, Tolkien's world does heavily incorporate the idea of "X race has Y attributes," so it fully embraces what I consider racist notions.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:39 AM
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EQ = IQ?

If so, I would probably argue the opposite. Which doesn't change your argument, I don't think. No, I don't think it's racists to have fictional species that differ in mental attributes. Unless, of course, they are intended to be analogous to different groups of real world people.
Or emotional intelligence. Because Frodo and Sam had better resistance to the greed induced by the ring. In RPGs, this often translates to halflings having a higher constitution.
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Does that include the swarthy men of the south who fought for Sauron?
As I recall, after the ring was destroyed the orcs went mad, and eventually went extinct, because they're an always evil race. The Haradrim and Dunlendings and all them surrendered peacefully, as they were not evil by nature.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:42 AM
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And of course, don't look for completely enlightened attitudes in a book written decades ago, but Tolkien hated Nazis before it was cool.
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Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject ó which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.

Your enquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (as it has not) any bearing whatsoever on the merits of my work or its sustainability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my Abstammung.

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remain yours faithfully,

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Old 05-22-2020, 11:53 AM
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Are hobbits, dwarves, and men different races of the same species? Or are they different species?

I'm a speciest. I think mosquitoes (at least adults) are evil bastards. I don't hate snakes; I just think they're better off sticking to their own kind. Bats are cool, but they carry dangerous cooties that can kill you. So stay away from them.

I think racism is fundamentally wrong because it pits individuals of the same species (humans) against each other. But specism is fair game, IMHO.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:25 PM
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Re:Tolkien's letter above.....That is how you properly tell someone to go fuck themselves.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by monstro
Are hobbits, dwarves, and men different races of the same species? Or are they different species?
Tolkien says (LoTR Prologue p. 2):
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It is plain indeed that inspite of later estrangement Hobbits are relatives of ours: far nearer to us than Elves, or even than Dwarves.
Given that Dwarves are an exceptionally long-lived unique people specially formed by Aule in an act of creation separate from the origins of the other "speaking-peoples", that's quite a claim.

And given that even Men and (literally immortal) Elves are demonstrably capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring, I think it has to be inferred that Hobbits, Men, Dwarves and Elves are all at least theoretically what we would call the same species, in terms of reproductive potential.

I don't think it's racist to acknowledge the differences between widely divergent fictional "races" that were deliberately written with clearly marked differences. Whether it's intrinsically racist to write fictional "races" in such an essentializing way in the first place is a different question.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:51 PM
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But now I'm wondering if the OP was asking instead about the expression "some kind of white wizard". Yeah, there are arguably racist overtones in a historically white-supremacist culture to making the category "white" an indicator of some kind of general superiority, even if it's expressed in symbolism (e.g., hat color) rather than skin tone.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:54 PM
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Are hobbits, dwarves, and men different races of the same species? Or are they different species?

I'm a speciest. I think mosquitoes (at least adults) are evil bastards. I don't hate snakes; I just think they're better off sticking to their own kind. Bats are cool, but they carry dangerous cooties that can kill you. So stay away from them.

I think racism is fundamentally wrong because it pits individuals of the same species (humans) against each other. But specism is fair game, IMHO.
In LOTR: Hobbits are related to humans. Dwarves are pretty much convergent evolution. Elves too, though they can at least interbreed with humans, but including some strong technicalities that make it rare.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:55 PM
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Are hobbits, dwarves, and men different races of the same species? Or are they different species?
I can't find it right now, but I seem to recall someone here on the SDMB (?) pointing out recently that "race" can have more than one meaning. Whether you call them "races" or "species," the humans, hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, etc. of Middle Earth are different in a more fundamental way than the different "races" of human beings in our reality.

And this is hardly unique to Tolkien. Lots of fantasy and science fiction has characters of different races (or species) that have different characteristics based on their race (or species). That's not inherently racist; but I've sometimes wondered if it could encourage racist attitudes in the "real world."

And what about stories of anthropomorohic animals, where certain animals are Good or Evil (or clever, or savage, or treacherous, or whatever) based on what species they are a member ofódo such stories encourage us to think of different races or nationalities of people the same way?

And what about the notion that different breeds of dogs are smarter, or more savage, or more neurotic, or more trainable, than others? They're all the same species. If you think of different breeds of dogs as having different inherent qualities, isn't it a short step to thinking of different "breeds" of humans the same way?
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:03 PM
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If these groups being discussed can't readily reproduce with each other, then I'm going to deem them separate species. IMHO, it is OK to make generalizations at the species level and compare species to each other, as long as the generalizations and comparisons aren't too broad or value-laden.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:05 PM
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Does that include the swarthy men of the south who fought for Sauron?
The Druedain were described as having brown to black skin, yet were vigorous opponents of first Morgoth and later Sauron. They were considered to be one of the Houses of the Edain, most noble of men.

In addition, JRRT describes the First house of the Edain (descendants of Beor, such as Beren) as having skin ranging from "fair to swarthy", in The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages".

So it seems all skin hues of mortal folk could be found on both sides of the conflict.

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Old 05-22-2020, 01:35 PM
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I seem to recall that Tolkien was later troubled by the implication in his earlier writings that goblins/orcs were irredeemably evil. Of course none of the peoples of Middle Earth get a free pass: humans of course (and apparently Hobbits) are subject to original sin and thus fallible; elves are capable of flights of passion that lead them to grievous wrongdoing; dwarves can be stubborn, hidebound and prideful.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:47 PM
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Kimtsu, I was thinking about Tolkien's essentializing and not so much the ranking of wizards. OTOH, now that I've raised this spectre, it's easier to see Gandalf's distaste for Saruman the Many-Colored in a less flattering light.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:18 PM
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But now I'm wondering if the OP was asking instead about the expression "some kind of white wizard". Yeah, there are arguably racist overtones in a historically white-supremacist culture to making the category "white" an indicator of some kind of general superiority, even if it's expressed in symbolism (e.g., hat color) rather than skin tone.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:20 PM
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Kimtsu, I was thinking about Tolkien's essentializing and not so much the ranking of wizards. OTOH, now that I've raised this spectre, it's easier to see Gandalf's distaste for Saruman the Many-Colored in a less flattering light.
Although I really doubt that in Tolkien's case, the role of "white" in wizard identities was consciously meant to stand for any kind of intrinsic personal superiority, racial or otherwise. Saruman was the original "white" wizard, after all, and he ended up as Bad Guy Number Two.

(My impression of Saruman's "rainbowness" was that it was meant not to represent the inferiority of non-white colors, but rather to symbolize his deceitfulness and unreliability. His robes still superficially looked the same plain white color as before but it was just a trick to disguise his rejection of his old identity and his greedy appropriation of all the colors.)
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:10 PM
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Dwarves are pretty much convergent evolution.
Nope. Intelligent design.
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:15 PM
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"And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Tell that to Isaac Newton...
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:26 PM
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Ability to interbreed is not a very precise test for sharing a species. There are many well established species that can interbreed under the right circumstances. Lions and tigers, for example. Or horses and donkeys. I don't know if that is germane to the OP, but it seems to be an assumption made in some of these posts.
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:39 PM
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"And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Tell that to Isaac Newton...
Tolkein's contempt for science & technology shines through the books pretty clearly.
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:46 PM
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The swarthy humans in the LOTR universe stop being considered evil once they submit to the clean bloodlines of their superiors.
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Old 05-22-2020, 03:51 PM
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You don't have to be some sort of white wizard to see that hobbits have a higher EQ than either dwarves or men.
Was your use of "white wizard" as opposed to just "wizard" necessary? Because it sure seems like signaling something there. And are you trying to say this as if to "jokingly" open the door to advance ideas that maybe similar relationships exist between IQ and... other social constructs?

Because, yeah, it is kind of racist. Bonus points for the "fantastically" double entendre, as in it both very racist and also makes reference to fantasy.

Thatís my humble opinion. You asked for it.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:14 PM
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Ability to interbreed is not a very precise test for sharing a species. There are many well established species that can interbreed under the right circumstances. Lions and tigers, for example. Or horses and donkeys. I don't know if that is germane to the OP, but it seems to be an assumption made in some of these posts.
That's why I use the "readily reproduce" in my definition. If there isn't natural genetic exchange between the groups, whether it be because they don't coexist in the same location or they have mating practices or anatomical differences that act as a barrier, then I consider them different species. The existence of the rare hybrid doesn't change that.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:39 PM
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Nope. Intelligent design.
Sounds a little Protestanty.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:43 PM
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The use of "white" vs. "black" as meaning good vs. evil isn't necessarily connected to race (though I don't dispute that it's on occasion been coŲpted for that purpose). I suspect that it has more to do with the fact that we're, all of us, a diurnal species. A person wearing black and going out at night is difficult to see, which is conducive to evil or at least antisocial activities like theft. White, meanwhile, is associated with light, and that which is not hidden.

As for the races of Middle-Earth, orcs are not fundamentally evil. They're fundamentally elves, who have been corrupted by the Dark Lord (originally Melkor, later Sauron and Saruman). I think that, if an orc were to be redeemed (which would be difficult but not impossible), that being would no longer be an orc, but would thenceforth be an elf (possibly a physically ugly elf, but an elf).

And Tolkien is quite clear that the Southrons in Sauron's army were no more nor less inherently evil than any other humans, and differed from the men of the "good" nations only in that their leaders were evil. Doubtless there were some evil men among them, but then, there were evil men of Gondor and Rohan, as well.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:46 PM
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Nope. Intelligent design.
This.

AulŽ (one of the Valar) had seen the "Children of Illuvatar" (Elves and Men) who had been created during the "Music of the Ainur" (the creation of the world). As AulŽ was the Valar of crafts, he was inspired, by seeing Elves and Men, to create people of his own, and thus he created the original Dwarves.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:50 PM
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The use of "white" vs. "black" as meaning good vs. evil isn't necessarily connected to race (though I don't dispute that it's on occasion been coŲpted for that purpose). I suspect that it has more to do with the fact that we're, all of us, a diurnal species. A person wearing black and going out at night is difficult to see, which is conducive to evil or at least antisocial activities like theft. White, meanwhile, is associated with light, and that which is not hidden.
True enough. And yet, as I said upthread, I canít help but wonder why the OP specifically identified a "white wizard" as opposed to just "wizard." Yes,I am aware that there are brown, gray, white, and blue wizards in the Tolkienverse. Itís almost like the joke in the opening post was specifically constructed with racist undertones in mind, set just low enough to slip under the threshold.

I mean, Iíd call it subtext, but itís pretty darn clear in the overt text and in the thread title whatís going on here.
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Old 05-22-2020, 04:57 PM
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That's why I use the "readily reproduce" in my definition. If there isn't natural genetic exchange between the groups, whether it be because they don't coexist in the same location or they have mating practices or anatomical differences that act as a barrier, then I consider them different species. The existence of the rare hybrid doesn't change that.
I also have this position. In reality, our DNA (well, the DNA of those of us with ancestry outside of sub-Saharan Africa) shows that we did exchange DNA with two other species of hominid: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. Regardless, Neanderthal, Denisovan, and Sapiens are considered separate species because while they could interbreed apparently they seldom did so.

Likewise, I always had the impression that even if they could interbreed the Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, and Men of Tolkein's universe were nonetheless separate species because even if they could they very seldom did. Unlike the sub-divisions of H. sapiens which seem to intermingle at the drop of a hat. In TLofR universe I'm not sure if the obstacles are cultural, anatomical, divine fiat, or a mix of all three, but there do seem to be higher barriers between the various races than exist between the divisions of H. sapiens.
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Old 05-22-2020, 05:27 PM
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Isn't whether they can breed or not sort of beside the point? Throughout various fantasy properties humans, elves, orcs, hobbits, goblins, fairies, dragons, and all sorts of other species/races are explicitly defined as having varying physical and magical abilities and proclivities - it's explicitly built into the mechanics of D&D, for example. And this remains true even if you can crossbreed - half-elves have their own distinct set of physical and magical abilities and proclivities, after all. (As do half-dragons, in some properties, and don't ask me how that works out.)

Fantasy 'races' always make problematic analogues for human races for this reason; human racism is when imaginary distinctions are drawn between groups and and then acted upon, but when it comes to fantasy 'races' often the distinctions are physical reality within the universe. Nowadays fantasy dwarves are all short, sturdy, and strong by definition - and are also often craftsmen, alcoholic, hairy, and greedy by definition. Since that's the way they're literally defined in universe it's not in any real way racist to recognize and acknowledge it - but if the implication is to analogize them with some human race that you think carries those traits, that's racist as fuck.

So sure, maybe hobbits as a race are markedly more resistant to the corrupting influence of the one ring, and maybe dragons are more resistant to being burned by fire or killed by non-black arrows. That's fine. But if the intention is to imply that, say, pastoral rural englishmen are more morally upright than the readily-corruptible city folk, then that is a problem.

Last edited by begbert2; 05-22-2020 at 05:29 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 05-22-2020, 05:47 PM
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Regardless, Neanderthal, Denisovan, and Sapiens are considered separate species because while they could interbreed apparently they seldom did so.
[/I].
Does that mean that prior to 1492, Native Americans and Europeans were different species?
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:19 PM
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The swarthy humans in the LOTR universe stop being considered evil once they submit to the clean bloodlines of their superiors.
Got a cite for that? I've already shown where JRRT had swarthy folks being the good guys from the First Age.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:27 PM
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Does that mean that prior to 1492, Native Americans and Europeans were different species?
Nope. Because as soon as those two groups met up intermingling commenced. Sometimes voluntary, sometimes not (unfortunately) but it started pretty much immediately and immediately started producing viable, fertile crosses between the two groups.

This is in contrast to H. neanderthal and H. sapiens which co-existed in Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years with very little co-mingling of DNA.

I specifically did NOT mention geography in my list of possible reasons not to interbreed. If Sapiens and Neanderthal didn't produce many offspring it was due to reasons other than whether or not they were in the same area.

Likewise, in Middle Earth all those races were in close proximity to each other, but seldom produced offspring. Therefore, the lack of crosses was not due to geographic factors.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:40 PM
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Got a cite for that? I've already shown where JRRT had swarthy folks being the good guys from the First Age.
Yes, as long as they knew their place and to been the knee wrt the master breed of humans they were considered good. Following a strict bloodline of power was quite important to JRR.
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:12 PM
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True enough. And yet, as I said upthread, I can’t help but wonder why the OP specifically identified a "white wizard" as opposed to just "wizard." Yes,I am aware that there are brown, gray, white, and blue wizards in the Tolkienverse. It’s almost like the joke in the opening post was specifically constructed with racist undertones in mind, set just low enough to slip under the threshold.

I mean, I’d call it subtext, but it’s pretty darn clear in the overt text and in the thread title what’s going on here.
Yes, it is obvious, but not in the way you state. The white wizards were generally treated as most intelligent and powerful. Gandalf in particular upgraded from gray to white to show he was now better.

And it is obvious these color were not racial references because the colors do not match races. They were inferred to all be white.

Furthermore, someone who is concerned about possible racism doesn't tend to include racist jabs in their post.

So it's clear he was saying that you don't have to be one of the smartest people in Middle Earth to see the potential issue, and was not slipping in some white supremecist ideology.

Last edited by BigT; 05-22-2020 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:23 PM
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Yes, it is obvious, but not in the way you state. The white wizards were generally treated as most intelligent and powerful. Gandalf in particular upgraded from gray to white to show he was now better.

And it is obvious these color were not racial references because the colors do not match races. They were inferred to all be white.
And yet we are not reading this joke from our hobbit holes in Middle Earth, we are reading from more conventional (probably) dwellings on Actual Earth where races are, unfortunately, considered to be a thing and that when someone shoehorns a reference to color like that into a joke, there might just be a reason for it other than just good clean fun or remaining true to the source material.

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Furthermore, someone who is concerned about possible racism doesn't tend to include racist jabs in their post.
Where do you get the impression that the OP is "concerned about possible racism"? The post seems to lean more to the "racism is totally funny, but doubly so when I can slip it in implicitly" side. Which is my humble opinion, and 100% on topic related to the question asked, and I feel I must say that because I am aware that accusing someone of making a racist post (note: I said the post, not the poster! ) can put the accuser in a somewhat precarious position.

Quote:
So it's clear he was saying that you don't have to be one of the smartest people in Middle Earth to see the potential issue, and was not slipping in some white supremecist ideology.
It’s clear to me that he wanted to get this "joke" out there, and apparently prefacing it with a question somehow makes it "totally not racist" even though it clearly draws parallels to more explicitly racist jokes and concepts that exist in the real world, if not Middle Earth.

Last edited by ASL v2.0; 05-22-2020 at 08:24 PM.
  #41  
Old 05-22-2020, 09:01 PM
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Tolkein's contempt for science & technology shines through the books pretty clearly.
And C.S. Lewis regarded science almost as evil, little more than the pursuit of power and control.
  #42  
Old 05-22-2020, 09:05 PM
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Tolkien and Lewis both were fine enough authors, but mediocre philosophers, perhaps too saddled with theology.
  #43  
Old 05-22-2020, 10:58 PM
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The white wizards were generally treated as most intelligent and powerful. Gandalf in particular upgraded from gray to white to show he was now better.
"Upgraded"? Nah. There was originally one "white wizard", namely Saruman. He was definitely regarded as the most intelligent and powerful, at least to a superficial perception, and his color identification was reflected in the name of the "White Council" that he led.

But AFAICT there was not supposed to be any implication that Saruman was the best wizard because he was the "white" one. Rather, the color white was associated with leadership and intelligence and power simply because it was Saruman's color, and Saruman was the intelligent powerful leader.

Then when Saruman's intelligent powerful leadership degenerated into treachery and malign greed, Gandalf took over being "the White" in the sense of taking over and reclaiming Saruman's own identity. As Gandalf remarked, "Indeed I am Saruman, one might almost say, Saruman as he should have been".

But it wasn't getting the "White" designation that made Gandalf "better". It was becoming the "new and improved Saruman", with the responsibility and official leadership role and wizardly dominance that Saruman used to have.
  #44  
Old 05-22-2020, 11:18 PM
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ASL v2.0, I wanted to recruit you most of all.
  #45  
Old 05-22-2020, 11:40 PM
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And, in my opinion, yes, Tolkien's world does heavily incorporate the idea of "X race has Y attributes," so it fully embraces what I consider racist notions.
Yeah, pretty much this. Although it's a fictional universe, it seems inspired by a particular way of looking at the real world, and many people, particularly back then, thought humans were divided into separate races as different as the races in LOTR are.

-----------------------------------------------------

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.
They also live in a beautiful city, are dignified and handsome/pretty, and, at least in LOTR, are not the aggressors.
This is exactly how white supremecists see the white race, and what the world would be like if we got rid of all the other races. It would be the peaceful paradise that Europe was prior to the age of exploration.
  #46  
Old 05-22-2020, 11:57 PM
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And given that even Men and (literally immortal) Elves are demonstrably capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring, I think it has to be inferred that Hobbits, Men, Dwarves and Elves are all at least theoretically what we would call the same species, in terms of reproductive potential.
Tolkien of course had no idea of biological species when he was defining the "races" of Middle Earth. Elves and Men are of completely different creation, yet they can interbreed. Although Hobbits are described as being a variety of Men, we are never shown a hybrid or mixed pair, even in Bree, where they co-exist. Dwarves are an entirely separate creation; there is no reason to think they can interbreed with any other "race" of Middle Earth. It would be even less likely that a human-Ent hybrid.
  #47  
Old 05-23-2020, 12:12 AM
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Tolkien of course had no idea of biological species when he was defining the "races" of Middle Earth.
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.

The latter I would definitely agree with. In fact, one of the things I've always thought quite ambitious and successful about Tolkien's world-building is the way he faithfully reproduces traditional limitations in the thinking of ancient and medieval people whose "folklore" he purported to be writing in the Middle-earth literature.
  #48  
Old 05-23-2020, 02:38 AM
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ASL v2.0, I wanted to recruit you most of all.
Million dollar question: who came up with the ďjokeĒ?
  #49  
Old 05-23-2020, 06:11 AM
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There's no evidence from the life stories of either Tolkien or Lewis that they believed in racism. I give a link below to a discussion of Lewis's view of science. And, of course, both Lewis and Tolkien knew when they were writing fiction. Just because you can strain hard enough to find something in their fiction to imply racism doesn't mean that they actually believed in it:

https://www.lewissociety.org/scientism/
  #50  
Old 05-23-2020, 10:03 AM
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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.

Was he biased toward tall pale-skinned Nordic types? You betcha. He was also born in 1892. Cut him some slack.
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