The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum


Visit The *EVEN NEWER* Barrow-Downs Photo Page

Go Back   The Barrow-Downs Discussion Forum > Middle-Earth Discussions > The Books
User Name
Password
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 06-03-2020, 07:03 AM   #41
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,933
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
The point I do concede is the squint eyed Isengarders / Ruffians, who do seem to be evil by definition and for whom appearance seems to be synonymous with character. It's not clear to me whether they are of one race (related to Dunlendings? Corrupted by Saruman? Bred by Saruman? Interbred with orcs?) or various scoundrels who fell on the same path from different starting points and flocked to Saruman when the smell of profit was in the air. But regardless, that is a good point.
That passage, in particular, reflects Churchill's quip about "separated by a common language." Comments about the racial implications of the "squint-eyed-Southerner" at Bree invariably come from Americans who are unfamiliar with British English- because in the UK, a "squint" means that the individual is cross-eyed; it has nothing to do with eyes pressed nearly closed, much less caricatures of Asians. (Also, naturally, it applies to that particular spy, not to Saruman's breeding experiments generally).

Quote:
And the other point I would add is the remarkable coincidence of pale people being able to put aside their differences and join forces, while the swarthy people of LOTR inevitably end up as the enemy of these forces. Now this I do not see as a reflection of racial influence in Harad, but rather in Dunland, which sort of sticks out amid fair-coloured people around it. Why are the local enemies swarthy too?
Where does Tolkien ever describe the Dunlendings as "swarthy?" At most he says that they are darker-complected than the ultrablonde Rohirrim; to me, anyway, the Dunlendings are calqued upon the Britons/Welsh, still resentful of being driven out of their lands by the Saxons. And the Welsh are "darker" than Nordic types, but certainly not African or even Mediterranean.

Now, one 'race' Tolkien regards as being do definitionally swarthy as to carry it as a name, with Capital Letters, are the Swarthy Men of the First Age. And the people of Ulfang and Uldor do turn out to be rat-bastards; but on the other hand those of Bor are noble and go down fighting against the traitors.
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli

Last edited by William Cloud Hicklin; 06-03-2020 at 07:06 AM.
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 07:43 AM   #42
Galadriel55
Blossom of Dwimordene
 
Galadriel55's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: The realm of forgotten words
Posts: 8,836
Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.Galadriel55 is wading through snowdrifts on Redhorn.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
That passage, in particular, reflects Churchill's quip about "separated by a common language." Comments about the racial implications of the "squint-eyed-Southerner" at Bree invariably come from Americans who are unfamiliar with British English- because in the UK, a "squint" means that the individual is cross-eyed; it has nothing to do with eyes pressed nearly closed, much less caricatures of Asians. (Also, naturally, it applies to that particular spy, not to Saruman's breeding experiments generally).
I beg to differ:

Quote:
But in the village of Bywater all the houses and holes were shut, and no one greeted them. They wondered at this, but they soon discovered the reason of it. When they reached The Green Dragon, the last house on the Hobbiton side, now lifeless and with broken windows, they were disturbed to see half a dozen large ill-favoured Men lounging against the inn-wall; they were squint-eyed and sallow-faced.

‘Like that friend of Bill Ferny’s at Bree,’ said Sam.

‘Like many that I saw at Isengard,’ muttered Merry.
Thanks for pointing out the other meaning of squint-eyed. But it wasn't just the one Southener at Bree, he was just the first of Saruman's lot that we see of that physical description.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Where does Tolkien ever describe the Dunlendings as "swarthy?" At most he says that they are darker-complected than the ultrablonde Rohirrim; to me, anyway, the Dunlendings are calqued upon the Britons/Welsh, still resentful of being driven out of their lands by the Saxons. And the Welsh are "darker" than Nordic types, but certainly not African or even Mediterranean.
I was using the word liberally, as it's used in, say, Gondor, to indicate darker-complected regions. But you're right - it seems they were never called that, and maybe the description is not suitable for their actual appearance. I think this is a good point and a good parallel.
__________________
"Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?" - Gandalf
She's Cobbling from beyond the DeadThread! That's next-level cobbling. ~hS, TIG CXV
Galadriel55 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 08:22 AM   #43
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,476
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Galadriel55 View Post
Thanks for pointing out the other meaning of squint-eyed. But it wasn't just the one Southener at Bree, he was just the first of Saruman's lot that we see of that physical description.
'Sallow', for what it's worth, is defined in the OED as 'Having a sickly yellow or brownish yellow colour'. They include one reference to 'the sallow Tartar', so it was sometimes applies to Asian people, but mostly it's a sickly tone when used of white people.

Lord Byron (the very same) manages to hit the Tolkien Racism Trifecta in his OED quote, from 'Corsair': "That man..Whose name appals..And tints each swarthy cheek with sallower hue."

And then, of course, there's the other 'sallow' race:

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 201
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.
You know, since we're discussing Tolkien on racism.

The view I get from all of these quotes is that when he bothered to think about it, Tolkien was pretty good on racism. He specifically qualifies his Orc description as 'degraded and repulsive' - ie, this isn't what actual 'Mongol-types' are like - and throws in a 'to Europeans' on his 'least lovely', which seems to me an acknowledgement that it's the Europeans who are at fault in making that judgement. There hasn't been anything which jumps out as Tolkien thinking deeply about something and then making it unabashedly racist.

But, when he doesn't think deeply - when he writes about the generic Elvish appearance, or makes everyone from the South and East into The Enemy - he mirrors the racist attitudes of the time, with white-to-olive Goodies and brown-to-black Baddies.

To come back to Beowulf: yes, Tolkien probably did view the poem through a white, male gaze, and may have had difficulty pulling back from that. But what I've seen no evidence of is the notion that he insisted everyone else had to see things the same way he did, and that (to my memory) is what the article baselessly asserted.

hS
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 12:25 PM   #44
Rhun charioteer
Wight
 
Rhun charioteer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 113
Rhun charioteer has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Huinesoron View Post
'Sallow', for what it's worth, is defined in the OED as 'Having a sickly yellow or brownish yellow colour'. They include one reference to 'the sallow Tartar', so it was sometimes applies to Asian people, but mostly it's a sickly tone when used of white people.

Lord Byron (the very same) manages to hit the Tolkien Racism Trifecta in his OED quote, from 'Corsair': "That man..Whose name appals..And tints each swarthy cheek with sallower hue."

And then, of course, there's the other 'sallow' race:



You know, since we're discussing Tolkien on racism.

The view I get from all of these quotes is that when he bothered to think about it, Tolkien was pretty good on racism. He specifically qualifies his Orc description as 'degraded and repulsive' - ie, this isn't what actual 'Mongol-types' are like - and throws in a 'to Europeans' on his 'least lovely', which seems to me an acknowledgement that it's the Europeans who are at fault in making that judgement. There hasn't been anything which jumps out as Tolkien thinking deeply about something and then making it unabashedly racist.

But, when he doesn't think deeply - when he writes about the generic Elvish appearance, or makes everyone from the South and East into The Enemy - he mirrors the racist attitudes of the time, with white-to-olive Goodies and brown-to-black Baddies.

To come back to Beowulf: yes, Tolkien probably did view the poem through a white, male gaze, and may have had difficulty pulling back from that. But what I've seen no evidence of is the notion that he insisted everyone else had to see things the same way he did, and that (to my memory) is what the article baselessly asserted.

hS
To be entirely frank, I don't see the problem here. Its a European piece of literature centered around a male(and white) hero. If it were say Mulan, or Oroonoko that deal primarily with non Europeans, then sure you can read that in the context of their culture.

Beowulf isn't intended to be understood from Grendel's perspective or his mother's perspective.

The very idea that "marginalized" voices must be given center stage is one of the most pernicious aspects of critical theory and postmodern "thinking" in general.
Rhun charioteer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 02:39 PM   #45
Huinesoron
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
Huinesoron's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: The north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea
Posts: 2,476
Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Huinesoron is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhun charioteer View Post
To be entirely frank, I don't see the problem here. Its a European piece of literature centered around a male(and white) hero. If it were say Mulan, or Oroonoko that deal primarily with non Europeans, then sure you can read that in the context of their culture.

Beowulf isn't intended to be understood from Grendel's perspective or his mother's perspective.

The very idea that "marginalized" voices must be given center stage is one of the most pernicious aspects of critical theory and postmodern "thinking" in general.
I think this is pretty much what I said when I first responded, so yeah.

There's nothing wrong with reading and analysing Beowulf from a perspective close to that of its protagonist. What would be wrong would be if Tolkien had insisted that there was no other way to read it. Of course there are other ways! What does it tell us about the Geats' attitude towards strangers that their big story is about monsters? What does it tell us about the Saxons that their big story is about Geats? What can we speculate might be the Geats' attitude towards women, or disabled persons, based on the information contained in Beowulf (and the information not contained in it - if there are no women in prominent roles, for instance, that tells us something about both the mythic society, and the society of the people who preserved it). There's a dozen dozen ways of looking at it.

But one of those ways, and the one that should be the foundation of study, is the question of what the writer thought about what they were writing about. And that, as far as we know*, was indeed a white, male gaze.

hS

*I think? Wikipedia talks about monks, so... I guess male. Almost certainly white.**

**The question here is 'would a woman or an ethnic outsider have composed a poem about a big burly man killing an ethnic outsider and a woman?'
Huinesoron is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 05:49 PM   #46
William Cloud Hicklin
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
 
William Cloud Hicklin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 1,933
William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.William Cloud Hicklin is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
Quote:
But, when he doesn't think deeply - when he ... makes everyone from the South and East into The Enemy - he mirrors the racist attitudes of the time,
Middle-earth was calqued upon western Europe, in fact is feigned to have been a prehistoric western Europe... where, historically, the invaders and ravagers always came from the south and the east.

Quote:
The question here is 'would a woman or an ethnic outsider have composed a poem about a big burly man killing an ethnic outsider and a woman?'
Um, less "ethnic outsider" than "supernatural monster." Do we class Cthulhu as an "ethnic outsider"?
__________________
“It is good to be both loved and feared; but if one cannot be both, it is better to be feared than loved" --Machiavelli
William Cloud Hicklin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 06-03-2020, 11:06 PM   #47
Rhun charioteer
Wight
 
Rhun charioteer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 113
Rhun charioteer has just left Hobbiton.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William Cloud Hicklin View Post
Middle-earth was calqued upon western Europe, in fact is feigned to have been a prehistoric western Europe... where, historically, the invaders and ravagers always came from the south and the east.



Um, less "ethnic outsider" than "supernatural monster." Do we class Cthulhu as an "ethnic outsider"?
People actually have, as nonsensical as it is.
Rhun charioteer is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 08:42 AM.



Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.