Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Heretical Tolkien Post

I hesitated, at first, to create this post. I know for a fact that if I somehow misrepresented the literature of J.R.R. Tolkien my comment system would be attacked as if by a pack of rabid wargs. Allow me to explain myself.

First of all, let me explain where I'm coming from. In my seventh year, disillusioned with the plastic adventures of brother and sister bear and - quite frankly - scared of the surreal world of Dr. Seuss (we made up later) I demanded that my mother find something else to read me before bed. My mother chose the ominously titled "Lord of the Rings." At first I was confused, the only Lord I knew lived on a puffy white cloud and yelled in a booming voice at naughty children. This new Lord must be one of those false gods or maybe God also had some very important rings he was Lord over. The Lord of the Rings? I imagined, in my heretical six-year-old mind, the white bearded God sporting large hoop earrings.

After quickly explaining the meaning of the book's title to her outraged son, my mom began reading the books. I loved them almost immediately and became enthralled with Tolkien's world. Later, for Christmas, I received the books as a gift and read them voraciously. All this to say I am not a Tolkien-hater.

The reason I am creating this post is to address an important, and often ignored, aspect of Tolkien's writing. J.R.R. Tolkien sought to create a mythology for the English such as the other nations had. Tolkien wrote at a time when the British Empire was in the final stages of its dramatic collapse and Tolkien was very much an Imperialist.

"Hold on!" you're protesting, "how can you say these things without actually having researched the genius we know as J.R.R. Tolkien?"

Well, I must admit I'm just conjecturing from what I've read in Tolkien's books -

"A little bit irresponsible of a History student, is it not?" you glare at me.

Ok, sure, but I'm just trying to explain . . .

"Conjecture," you spit.

Conjecture, that J.R.R. Tolkien, being an Imperialist, was somewhat, um,

"Somewhat, um, what, you tongue-tied ignoramus?" you snarl.

Do you mind? As a firm believer in British Imperialism, I conjecture that J.R.R. Tolkien was a racist.

"Don't you have it backwards, you slathering slack-jawed salamander? Didn't you conjecture that Tolkien was a racist from his book and, therefore, an imperialist? Get you conjecture straight, you blockheaded blunderbuss!" you bellow ferociously.

Easy, ok, yes that is how it worked, I just wanted to break it to you easily.


Apparently, it didn't work.

"Ok, so how was Tolkein a racist?" you ask after an uncomfortable silence.

Ah, so now you're curious. As you know, J.R.R. Tolkien drew maps of his world. If you examine all of his maps you will see that J.R.R. Tolkien has divided to world quite handily. The Shire corresponds with England (and the hobbits are very English), Gondor and Rohan are European and Mordor, the realm of evil, corresponds roughly with the Middle East. Now, if you examine the maps further and delve deeper you'll see that Harad, the land of the black Haradrim who allied with the dark lord Sauron, corresponds with modern Africa. To the East, beyond Mordor, lie the Variags who allied their evil asian pirate selves to Sauron. Near the end of the Return of the King, Aragorn sees it as his duty to lead the men of the world, like a good British Imperialist, into the new age.

"Is that it?" you mutter.

No, there's more. The orcs are described as ugly, dark creatures with slanted eyes. Any of the men in Tolkien's world who display evil characteristics have these slanted eyes. Smeagal begins his life as a white river-hobbit but when he is twisted he turns black. Evil is always associated with black and good is always associated with white. The elves are good and are called "fair" while the goblins and orcs are described as "dark" and "black." Saruman is Saruman the white until he turns evil and he adopts a cloak of many colours. Does Tolkien have something against all the colours getting along? Why does Saruman cloak of many colours have to signify evil?

"You're reaching."

Okay, maybe I am.

No comments:

Who deh?