Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tolkien Was A Racist?

Based on the evidence, we’ve got a writer creating villains, colored black, who oppose the pure-hearted white heroes, right?  Well, let’s just ignore for now the fact that most of the people who play that bullshit race card with Tolkien also claim that the Elves are supposed to represent Oriental Asians and the Hobbits represent the English, and explore the notion that perhaps he was going back to age-old idea that black represents evil while white represents good.  Going back to what many of these “Tolkien was a racist” enthusiast propagate, if I was determining what group of humanity Tolkien preferred based on The Lord of the Rings, I’d say it wasn’t his own people.  But these are the same people who say that The Lord of the Rings is a metaphor for either World War I, World War II, or Christianity in general—all of which Tolkien himself dismissed.  But what doesn’t authorial intent mean?  Nothing, apparently.
So was Tolkien a racist?  I don’t know, nor do I care.  He was a brilliant man who wrote a classic piece of fantasy.  Based on the evidence taken from that classic though, I’d say no.  Anyone who disagrees with me doesn’t fully understand literature or symbolism when dealing with color.  Like it or hate it, black is a symbol throughout literature for evil.  Tolkien wasn’t exactly a rebel when it came to literature.  He preferred the works that came before him and took much influence from them, especially Medieval literature.  If we read a Medieval “history” (read: fantasy) dealing with black invaders, we would assume the color was a symbol for evil, simply because most Medieval authors I’ve read, when referring to Africans or Arabs, called them either dark skinned or brown.  This is easily explained by saying, they are dark skinned or brown.  The fact that we call them “black” doesn’t change the fact that they are not, in fact, black.
Let me just finish by saying, I’m white (though, in actuality, my skin is more of a pinkish color), and I didn’t assume Tolkien thought I was a part of some master race simply because Aragorn was the same color as me.