Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves in Lord of the Rings: Depictions of Race in Popular Fantasy

Consider the hallmark characteristics of each of the races described in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and explore the epistemic basis for racial characterization in modern fantasy novels and film. To what degree of accuracy does Tolkien’s distinction between good and bad races (i.e. elves and orcs, men and haradrim, dwarves and goblins) describe racial conflicts in the western world? How does Tolkien’s attempt to moralize race? What are the implications of attaching an inherent evil to a race?

  • I think this topic is absolutely fascinating and I love the way you put it "What are the implications of attaching an inherent evil to a race?" Because it's so true, Tolkein does not try to make a grey area when it comes to orcs. There are no good orcs nor orcs who show any capacity to do something altruistic. Why are they only allowed to be portrayed in one way while other races like humans (Borimir), elves (Gladriel) and wizards (Saruman) all transition from good to bad and vice versa? Why are the depictions of these characters white while orcs are dark skinned, is it a racial undertone? – Slaidey 9 years ago
  • This should definitely explore the use of colors as a means of representing racial tension. "Gandalf the White" or the darkness and black colors that is often associated with "evil" and the implications of this. – Jemarc Axinto 9 years ago
  • I agree, a very interesting topic. Similarly you can find such tension in C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy, in which the Calormenes bear very strong resemblance to Arabs and, one could argue, Muslims. You could argue that these depictions stem from religious tensions in addition to racial ones. – Matthias13 9 years ago
  • I love this topic. I think another thing that might be important is the idea of nature vs. nurture. Are the races in Tolkien's book(s) born evil, or are they made that way? Similarly, where does racial tension begin in the world today? Is it learned at home/school/work, etc. or are humans naturally curious about or uncomfortable around who/what they deem is different. – Jaye Freeland 8 years ago
  • This is fascinating, especially in light of the fact that people of color auditioning for the roles of extras (I think I read something about an Indian woman trying out to be a hobbit) were rejected. And it's a bit ridiculous considering that you have this high fantasy magical land but it's elves or hobbits of color that push it into unrealistic. – Tiffany 8 years ago

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