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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Middle-earth TV Series Discussion:
Will there be non-white people in the Amazon series?
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Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 11, 12:14pm

Post #26 of 129 (575 views)
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I would disagree [In reply to] Can't Post

Having read a LOT of British lit from Tolkien's generation and well before: "swarthy" is almost always found in reference to Spaniards and the like (and occasionally, veddy Briddish villains of the black-mustachio'd sort); non-Europeans were "blacks," and that included Indians and Arabs as well as sub-Saharan Africans. Rather famously, Shakespeare's Moor of Venice was repeatedly called "black."


Tolkien did specify that his theater of operations was a fictional ancient Europe: "the north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea." Note also the "Swarthy Men" of the First Age, who entered Beleriand from the West


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 11, 1:38pm

Post #27 of 129 (558 views)
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I find that questionable [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Having read a LOT of British lit from Tolkien's generation and well before: "swarthy" is almost always found in reference to Spaniards and the like (and occasionally, veddy Briddish villains of the black-mustachio'd sort); non-Europeans were "blacks," and that included Indians and Arabs as well as sub-Saharan Africans. Rather famously, Shakespeare's Moor of Venice was repeatedly called "black."


Tolkien did specify that his theater of operations was a fictional ancient Europe: "the north-west of the Old World, east of the Sea." Note also the "Swarthy Men" of the First Age, who entered Beleriand from the West


The Renaissance era Brits at times used "Moors", to describe sub-Saharan Africans, as well, but if they had to make a distinction, a "Moor" would then be a brown-skinned, North African or Middle-Eastern type, and "Blackamoors", sub-Saharan Africans. Although I have seen many historical English sources calling native inhabitants of almost any part of the globe "Indians", I can think of very few sources that would attribute the word "black" for Arabic or Asian ethnicities.

Tolkien, himself, repeatedly described his Haradrim as "the swarthy men" and even "Swertings", meanwhile, not even the most tanned Hobbit is ever given such description, not even the explicitly brown-skinned Harfoots. Hell, the index of the LotR-trilogy makes Swarthy Men and Haradrim synonyms.

I would also love to see which quote you mean from the Silmarillion. The only thing west of Beleriand is the Great Sea. The Easterlings came over the Blue Mountains, which are, unsurprisingly, in the East.


(This post was edited by Lightice on Apr 11, 1:40pm)


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 11, 2:23pm

Post #28 of 129 (547 views)
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To 19th century Britons [In reply to] Can't Post

at least of less-enlightened stripe, (Asian) Indians were nearly always "blacks," "natives," or that uglier word starting with N.

Do you remember "Little Black Sambo"? It depends on how old you are, since that children's book has been memory-holed for some time now. But "black" Sambo's adventures involved tigers- he plainly wasn't African!


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 11, 3:25pm

Post #29 of 129 (535 views)
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We are derailing a bit from the topic [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you remember "Little Black Sambo"? It depends on how old you are, since that children's book has been memory-holed for some time now. But "black" Sambo's adventures involved tigers- he plainly wasn't African!

This getting a bit far from Tolkien, but I have to point out that the 19th century Europeans and Americans weren't very well versed with zoology of the distant lands. Edgar Rice Burroughs puts tigers in his Tarzan books until he was told that they didn't live in Africa. Many authors less intent on even attempting authenticity didn't care. Plenty of children's books even in the mid-20th century featured geographically displaced lions and tigers.


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 11, 5:43pm

Post #30 of 129 (515 views)
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Then [In reply to] Can't Post

here's a quote (LBS is out there on the web):


Quote
Once upon a time there was an English lady in India,
where black children abound and tigers are everyday affairs,[/.quote]


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 11, 7:08pm

Post #31 of 129 (512 views)
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I believe you [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
here's a quote (LBS is out there on the web):

Quote
Once upon a time there was an English lady in India,
where black children abound and tigers are everyday affairs,[/.quote]

I believe you. I just don't think that particular turn of phrase is as common as you make it out to be. And in any case, that is not how Tolkien writes. In Lord of the Rings, "Swarthy Men" describes primarily the Haradrim, and that should be the main consideration when interpreting how it is used of other people.

I went through an e-book of the LotR-trilogy searching for the word "swarthy", and found that besides Haradrim, it is used to describe the Dunlendings, the half-orc spy in Bree and the men in Gondor from who this debate got started. Contextually, it is pretty clear that in all cases it indicates foreign, non-mainstream European populations in Tolkien's works. Notably, it is never even applied to the Bree-men, who are supposed to be related to the Dunlendings. Perhaps they got less dark by mixing with the Northmen and the Dúnedain of Arnor?


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 11, 7:48pm

Post #32 of 129 (504 views)
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Well, [In reply to] Can't Post

The one Haradian we get something like a close description of, the dead one Sam looks at, seems both physically and in attire to be something like a Persian: a black-haired, olive-skinned Caucasoid.

(I originally included "or Turk," but the Turks are as mixed-up a nation of mutts as Americans are).

The only people indubitably described by Tolkien as "black" (in a rather un-PC description) are said to be from "Far Harad"

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

Numenor: the late, corrupt Numenoreans certainly took and owned slaves, and the bulk of their mainland colonies were in the South (Pelargir and Umbar were the northernmost of them)- but how many if any slaves did Elendil take onto his ships? For that matter, would the Faithful have owned slaves, or regarded the practice with horror?

NB: Vinyalonde wasn't really a colony so much as it was a military outpost


kzer_za
Lorien

Apr 11, 9:22pm

Post #33 of 129 (477 views)
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"Swarthy" is also used to describe some men of the House of Beor [In reply to] Can't Post

In Peoples of Middle Earth. Possibly a deliberate revision on Tolkien's part, as he generally grows more self-critical in some of his later writing? Then there are the "brown-skinned" Harfoots.

But as we can see from this topic, these terms are open to interpretation. I'm content saying it can be reasonably read as a less monowhite than is usually depicted without making a definitive reading. This is a minor point, but FWIW Tolkien approved of Cor Blok's art, which is pretty ethnically ambiguous in a highly stylized way with the characters' skin tones shifting from painting to painting.


(This post was edited by kzer_za on Apr 11, 9:33pm)


balbo biggins
Rohan


Apr 15, 12:42am

Post #34 of 129 (376 views)
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On the flip side [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
There are no black people on Game of Thrones’: why is fantasy TV so white? https://www.theguardian.com/...-fantasy-tv-so-whiteIt has been debated on this site re LotR and The Hobbit so I assume it will crop up again.


On the flip side, Would we really have wanted a middle aged white English man writing about black characters and their experiences. I don't think that would have worked Out quite aswell as writing what you know.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 15, 12:22pm

Post #35 of 129 (347 views)
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Writers and Characters [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
On the flip side, Would we really have wanted a middle aged white English man writing about black characters and their experiences. I don't think that would have worked Out quite aswell as writing what you know.


Does a writer have to be a Renaissance woman to write about Renaissance-era women? Does a writer need to be Asian to create and write about an Asian character? Does a writer need to be an extraterrestrial in order to write about extraterrestrials?

It's called 'doing the research'.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own." - Adam Savage


skyofcoffeebeans
Rivendell

Apr 15, 12:48pm

Post #36 of 129 (348 views)
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Here's the thing [In reply to] Can't Post

You don't have to agree with an argument someone makes to refute it. But you do have to understand it before you can make a successful rebuttal.

I would be excited to see a successful counterargument to what the Guardian put forth.


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Apr 15, 1:09pm

Post #37 of 129 (341 views)
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The article. [In reply to] Can't Post

I doesn't help when the article starts out with a quote in its headline that is factually incorrect. But, yeah, a lack of diversity in heroic fantasy has been a problem for a long time; a great example would be the Syfy Channel's adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, a literary work that was intentionally written to be ethnically diverse. The television adaptation? Not so much. Then there was the low-budget Dungeons & Dragons movie that had a black character who spoke in modern urban slang. Frown

"I reject your reality and substitute my own." - Adam Savage

(This post was edited by Otaku-sempai on Apr 15, 1:10pm)


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 15, 1:39pm

Post #38 of 129 (336 views)
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That [In reply to] Can't Post

implies that one takes something published by The Guardian seriously in the first place.


skyofcoffeebeans
Rivendell

Apr 15, 2:34pm

Post #39 of 129 (332 views)
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Not really [In reply to] Can't Post

You can still discredit an argument published by a source you don't take seriously, so long as you do a careful reading and write a credible, rhetorical argument against it.

Sideswiping and posting nonsense babble is, of course, much easier.


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 15, 6:03pm

Post #40 of 129 (307 views)
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All right [In reply to] Can't Post

Then I disagree with its premise, which appears to be, "It's fantasy, so anything goes- so what's GoTs excuse for not putting what I want in?" * But subcreation, as Tolkien termed it, doesn't work that way. Anything does *not* go; the subcreated world has to be internally consistent if it's going to create a successful illusion of reality.

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

The fact that this was from The Guardian does remain relevant, in that this is exactly the sort of half-baked right-on campus-PC level 'logic' one has come to expect. While The Grauniad has always leaned left, it used to be written by and for adult leftists.




*Along with the unspoken but obvious premise "All popular culture must be subject to diversity quotas."


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 15, 6:38pm

Post #41 of 129 (309 views)
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The world is a diverese place [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
*Along with the unspoken but obvious premise "All popular culture must be subject to diversity quotas."

To not show diversity in a story set across the world in multitude locations and cultures is patently absurd. Contrary to the claims peddled by certain political movements, people have always been moving from one place to another for trade, war, religion or simple exploration, and multicultural empires have been the norm more often than not.

It is presumptuous, indeed, to assume whiteness as some sort of inherent default state in fantasy narratives. There's an entire world worth of nuances between the extremes "anything goes" and "there's only one way do do things" that you seem to hold as the sole options, here.


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 15, 7:14pm

Post #42 of 129 (305 views)
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It is, [In reply to] Can't Post

however, the default state for Tolkien's fantasy universe, which he explicitly setr in "the north-west of the Old World."

That doesn't mean that there isn't room for POCs in Harad etc; but the idea that suddenly Eriador and Numenor age supposed to look like a Benetton ad is a form of anachronistic force-feeding.

And again, I have to ask the question: why is this so damn important to soime people?


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 15, 7:50pm

Post #43 of 129 (299 views)
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You need to ask? [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
however, the default state for Tolkien's fantasy universe, which he explicitly setr in "the north-west of the Old World."

That doesn't mean that there isn't room for POCs in Harad etc; but the idea that suddenly Eriador and Numenor age supposed to look like a Benetton ad is a form of anachronistic force-feeding.

And again, I have to ask the question: why is this so damn important to soime people?


Non-white people have been marginalised and disregarded in Western media for decades on end, and you wonder why someone might be upset about it? It is important because it's not only insulting to disregard people based on their skin colour, but also quite unrealistic -- even during the most sedentary Medieval period, Europe was home to many minority populations, such as the Jews, the Basques, the Roma, the Sami, etc.

And how can you be "anachronistic" about a fictional world, anyhow? The Lord of the Rings is not set in any specific time period, and even the northwest of Middle-Earth is more ethnically varied than you give it credit. But the Númenorean explorers were not limited to that tiny corner of the world; how on earth would you feature Umbar and limit yourself to an all-white cast, exactly?

Plus, look at the earlier post where myself and others already explained why it would make sense to make the Númenoreans themselves less Anglo-Saxon and more Mediterranean, with their own, internal ethnic variance.


Chen G.
Rohan

Apr 15, 8:05pm

Post #44 of 129 (289 views)
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We don't need ethnic equalization in the movies [In reply to] Can't Post

If you can find narrativelly-plausible ways to introduce people of other ethnicities into your movie, good on ya'.

But the western idea of equality is predicated upon individualism: not upon belonging to some identity group, marginalized or otherwise. You're a person, not a white, or a black, or an asian.


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 15, 8:54pm

Post #45 of 129 (280 views)
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As I said [In reply to] Can't Post

above, Harad ought to be populated by darker-skinned people of Arab/Persian/Indian mein. What I object to is the willy-nilly introduction of the kaleidoscope into Eriador --OR Numenor, which despite its relatively southern location was populated by the Edain- peoples whom Tolkien described pretty well.

"It is important because it's not only insulting to disregard people based on their skin colour, but also quite unrealistic -- even during the most sedentary Medieval period, Europe was home to many minority populations, such as the Jews, the Basques, the Roma, the Sami, etc."

All of whom were Caucasian; and each of whom save the Basques (who were very much a regional population) were manifestly and aggressively kept separate from the majority population and subject to a raft of legal discrimination.. Now, if you want to portray the Numenoreans as racists practicing apartheid, go ahead; I think it would be less ugly if that were avoided.


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 16, 5:26am

Post #46 of 129 (255 views)
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This has been discussed before [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
above, Harad ought to be populated by darker-skinned people of Arab/Persian/Indian mein. What I object to is the willy-nilly introduction of the kaleidoscope into Eriador --OR Numenor, which despite its relatively southern location was populated by the Edain- peoples whom Tolkien described pretty well.


As noted many times above, the exact ethnic background of the Edain is not set in stone. Only the house of Hador is explicitly white; the Beörians can, as noted before, be interpreted as more Mediterranean, and the Haladin are related to the "swarthy" Dunlendings. And in any case, Tolkien, himself, was not above retconning the ethnic structures of Númenor, as the case of the Druedain shows.


In Reply To
All of whom were Caucasian; and each of whom save the Basques (who were very much a regional population) were manifestly and aggressively kept separate from the majority population and subject to a raft of legal discrimination.. Now, if you want to portray the Numenoreans as racists practicing apartheid, go ahead; I think it would be less ugly if that were avoided.


Why do you bring up this Caucasian thing so much? Middle-Eastern people are quite Caucasian, but that doesn't prevent them from being subject to racism in the West. Why is it relevant, here?

And the thing is, if no legal or cultural discrimination exists in the setting, then there is no reason for any ethnic group to be "pure". If there is no apartheid and people can come and go, marry and have children as they please, then not having ethnically mixed population would be absurd, no matter the setting. People don't just happen to be all marrying into one ethnic group by chance. The Númenoreans sailed across the world and founded colonies all over the place. The only reason they would not have mixed with the local groups would be racism.

Ethnic variation or racist discrimination, you have to pick and choose one or the other, if you want the setting to be believable and consistent.


Ataahua
Superuser


Apr 16, 9:16am

Post #47 of 129 (228 views)
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A reminder to please stay within the Terms of Service when taking part in discussions. [In reply to] Can't Post

Particularly this rule:

3. Posts containing racial, ethnic, religious, political, sexual or other slurs, personal attacks (on a TORn user or other person) intentional attempts to drive posters away or make them feel unwelcome, or posts made with the purpose of criticizing or insulting another poster will be edited or removed.

Some posts have skated along the line and one has been removed for breaching this rule. Let's keep the discussion fair-handed and within the TOS - discuss the topic, not the people taking part in it.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them on Feedback or send a private message to an admin. And if you want a quick refresher of the TOS, here's the link:
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Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauron’s master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


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Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 16, 1:36pm

Post #48 of 129 (187 views)
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Tolkien [In reply to] Can't Post

described the Beorians along the same lines as (most of) the Noldor and Sindar: pale skin, black hair, grey eyes. Makes sense given that they were explicitly akin to the Hadorians. The Haladin were related to both the Dunlendings and the Men of Bree, and therefore also to the peoples of the White Mountains and southern coastlands, the later indigenous component of Gondor's population: i.e. Generic West Middle-earth Man. It's noted that when Numenorean explorers first reached Eriador, they observed that the locals were physically and linguistically similar to the (rather small) Halethian-derived population in Numenor, and attempted speech with them on that basis.

However, Tolkien also observed that the majority of Numenor's founding population was Hadorian, because the folk of the other two houses had been nearly wiped out.
------------------------------------------

Britain, like Numenor, was an island maritime power with a world-spanning empire. Yet intermarriage was very seldom practiced, nor before the 1950s would one find people from the Empire in England except as the occasional servant. Rather famously, most English people had never before seen a black man in person when black GIs first showed up during the War.

Now, was this due to racism? Of course. Were the Numenoreans similarly racist? Given that their descendants 3000 years later could still complain about "mingling their blood with that of lesser Men," it's a pretty good bet. Note also that the late Numenoreans were slavers, and slave states almost always distinguish the Other as the ones subject to servitude. Even the Muslims prohibited the enslavement of fellow Muslims.


Lightice
Lorien

Apr 16, 2:28pm

Post #49 of 129 (179 views)
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I am not fond of switching goalposts [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Now, was this due to racism? Of course. Were the Numenoreans similarly racist? Given that their descendants 3000 years later could still complain about "mingling their blood with that of lesser Men," it's a pretty good bet. Note also that the late Numenoreans were slavers, and slave states almost always distinguish the Other as the ones subject to servitude. Even the Muslims prohibited the enslavement of fellow Muslims.


First you argue against the inclusion of people of colour citing that it would require depiction of racism, which you would rather avoid, but as soon a I explained why that is self-defeating, you switch gears and begin to argue how the Númenoreans clearly were racist, after all, and the show should be true to that, instead. Anything to avoid PoC's in the narrative, it seems. Now, you miss the fact that the culture of Númenor last for 3,000 years and is not static by any stretch during this time. The clashing of internal values is one of the key points of the nation's story, in fact. Racist beliefs in Númenorean supremacy were typical to the King's Men and their ideological successors -- though that didn't keep the Black Númenoreans from mixing with the people of Harad later down the line -- but although many of the Faithful still probably considered themselves a higher stock than common people of Middle-Earth, nowhere has it been noted that they would have actively tried to prevent intermarriage at any cost.

You have also forgotten that the arguments against mixing blood were specifically made in case of the royal family, not commoners, and that common people of the Dúnedain did mix with native populations quite often, and most people of Gondor are not remotely "pure" Númenorean stock by the Third Age. This has already been brought up, hasn't it?


Quote
They were reckoned men of Gondor, yet their blood was mingled, and there were short and swarthy folk among them whose sires came more from the forgotten men who housed in the shadow of the hills in the Dark Years ere the coming of the kings.

- The Return of the King, Book 5, Chapter 1

And as for the Beörians, kzer_za brought up earlier that Tolkien had begun attributing the "swarthy" adjective to them, as well, in his later writings, presumably having realised the unintended implications of white supremacy and trying to erase them in small ways.

You said it yourself, before, "the subcreated world has to be internally consistent if it's going to create a successful illusion of reality". I fully agree with this, but you seem to be arguing cross purpose with your own principle, here.


Solicitr
Lorien

Apr 16, 2:39pm

Post #50 of 129 (176 views)
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I am saying [In reply to] Can't Post

that the objective should be to recreate Tolkien's world as he wrote it, not to superimpose anachronistic viewpoints from half a century later and justify them by pettifogging.

Jackson and Boyens for different reasons also thought they could "improve" Tolkien, and look where that got them.

============================

As to Numenor's population: if this series begins, as seems likely, in Aldarion's time, Numenor will have had no contact with M-E for the better part of a millennium.

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