Calling All Tolkien/Racism Related Posts, Essays, Etc!
So, my Racism in Middle Earth series is drawing to a close, and part of the conclusion is (what I hope will be) a diverse and thorough list of other people’s writings on the same subject. But my google-fu can only get me so far, so I’m asking for anyone and everyone to send me links to anything (whether it be a blog post, an article, an essay, whatever) written by yourself or others that covers any of the following topics:
- Tolkien and racism (this can include historical/societal context, etc)
- Racism in Middle Earth
- Racism among Middle Earth’s fans (for example, how many white supremacist groups are apparently huge fans of the books)
- Racial/ethnic representation in the books or the movies
- The entire issue of dwarves and Jewish people (or, rather, anti-semitic stereotypes)
- Or really anything that falls under the general “Racism and Middle Earth” title.
All perspectives and arguments are welcomed, since basically the point of this list is to offer readers a way to explore the topic more, and specifically to balance out my own perspective (on that note, anything written by POC authors is especially welcomed.)
If you have any questions/comments/etc, please feel free to message me (or, if you’d prefer, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) And please reblog/signal boost this - the more people see this, the longer my list of references will be!
The elves are very equal! Idril is Turgon's heir, Findis didn't become a queen because she stayed behind in Aman, Galadriel is Galadriel, and then there's all of "Laws and Customs".
Okay, lets talk. :)
There they received the pardon of the Valar, and Finarfin was set to rule the remnant of the Noldor in the Blessed Realm. - Of the Flight of the Noldor
Findis was made by combining the names of her parents. Litt is said of her in The Silmarillion. She did not go into exile, but went with her mother after the slaying of Finwë and they abode among the Vanyar in grief until such time as it seemed good to Manwë to restore Finwë to life. - The Shibboleth of Fëanor
"set" means "to put in a specified position. So Finarfin "was put" into the position of kingship because he repented - it sounds like that was done by the Valar. Also, Indis and Findis had already returned to the Vanyar at that point, which seems like an unofficial abdication.
I don’t see any mention in the Silm about Maeglin having a house - Tolkien Gateway says it’s only in Lost Tales 2? The Silm does say,
Socially there’s a lot that suggests the elves had a pretty equal society (especially many of the things written in Laws and Customs.) But as far as female leaders go, I think there was a lot of room for improvement:
- Idril is said to be “the only heir of the King of Gondolin”, true, but there’s no sense that Idril was ever actually given any power. While both Maeglin and Tuor are made lords of two of the houses of the kingdom, Idril is (as far as we know) given no such responsibilities. Beyond that, when Turgon rode to war in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Maeglin was offered the position of regent - not Idril. So I’m really not convinced that Idril would have become leader of Gondolin after Turgon. (More on determining Turgon’s political heir in this post.)
- Findis was actually Finwe’s second oldest child - older than both Fingolfin and Finarfin. And she did, in fact, remain in Aman/Valinor when most of her family left for Middle Earth. But the fact that Finarfin becomes the new king of the Noldor in Valinor instead of Findis becoming queen tells us that the elves did not discount gender when it came to choosing leaders. Meanwhile, Findis’s sister Irime did travel to Middle Earth. Like Aredhel, Irime decided to live within the kingdom of her brother, and so never takes on a political title of her own. (More on Findis and Indis in this post.)
- Galadriel is, I’ll admit, a category all her own. Honestly, no matter which side of the argument you’re on, Galadriel’s just like this wild card, lol.
Now, these are all Noldorin elves. For all we know, it could be that the Sindar were more welcoming of female leaders (Tolkien just wrote much less about the Sindar, and there have historically been less Sindarin leaders in general, so there’s a ton of room for interpretation/speculation there.) But as far as the Noldor goes, it doesn’t look like their society had any room for female political leaders.
SOURCES: The Silmarillion, The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 10 (“Laws and Customs Among the Eldar”), vol. 12 (“The Shibboleth of Feanor”)
[cut] Maeglin would not remain in Gondolin as regent of the King, but went to the war and fought beside Turgon, and proved fell and fearless in battle. - Of Maeglin
I don’t really have an explaination for this - Turgon thought Maeglin would do a good job during the tense time? Also, Idril is his only child - she has a house. Surely she had duties helping the people, as the only child of the king. Why make her rule over a faction of them when she will someday rule over all? After all, promoting your favorite nobles by giving them titles or stations is something we’ve seen throughout history. We haven’t really seen anyone do that with their heir in history.
Galadriel is awesome. Enough said. :)
Okay, sorry for the delay, but continuing our conversation:
Every ruler is “set” in their position, because no matter the type of government there must be some level of acceptance from the governed (even tyrants achieve this, though generally through fear and violence.) So whether Finarfin was set to rule by the Valar or his own people is up to interpretation - although it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Valar were part of this decision. “Laws and Customs Among the Eldar” shows us that the majority of the Noldor’s cultural ideals and norms were either directly handed to them by the Valar, or at least were heavily influenced by the Valar, so they’re certainly part of this discussion either way. Though I’d question their decision to “reward” Finarfin for his repentance while ignoring Findis, who never strayed in the first place.
As for Findis abdicating - as she’s hardly mentioned in any of the texts at all it’s hard to say what exactly she was doing at this time. But I don’t think her leaving for the Vanyar with Indis has anything to do with her ability to rule the Noldor. Tolkien says they left after Finwe’s death - not after Feanor led the others into exile, but before. And at this time, Fingolfin was still leader of the Noldor in Tirion (having stepped in for his father while Finwe joined Feanor in Formenos - again bypassing the older Findis.) All in all, I have to say that everything in the (admittedly little) information we have on Findis suggests that, though she was older, there was never any possibility of her leading the Noldor.
And as for Maeglin and Idril. Yes, Maeglin had his own house. The houses of Gondolin aren’t really described in The Silmarillion, but in The Book of Lost Tales we learn that there were twelve noble houses, and that Maeglin, Tuor, and Turgon (despite being king of the city overall, he also had his own house, negating any argument that Idril, as “heir”, wouldn’t have had one), as well as several others, were lords of. I can’t think of any reason Idril wasn’t given a house other than her gender. Even Tuor, a “mere mortal” who didn’t arrive in Gondolin until centuries after its inception, is made a lord of his own house. But Idril receives no such responsibilities, or honors.
tumblr user boromirs wrote a very interesting thing and i also think people are seeing too much things that don't exist there reading too much between the lines also i kinda agree with boromirs
Tumblr user boromirs, could you please come to the front office? We’ve got some fanmail for you. :)
(and for those interested, boromirs’s three poster-related posts can be found here, here, and here.)
What's your thoughts on the new banner that came out on Monday? Sorry, can't link it, but it's all over movie sites.
I am… underwhelmed. (Everything that follows is basically just my own opinion, so of course feel free to disagree, etc etc)
First of all, I think the “let’s shove seven different posters together and call it a ‘tapestry’” thing is hilariously symbolic of the almost painfully under-edited movies themselves. It’s not my favorite look. So, since it just makes more sense, I’ll be talking about the “tapestry” as if it were actually seven separate posters. Most of them are cool. You know, action movie posters, about what you’d expect. I especially liked the Smaug/Bard one. Very epic.
But a couple of them sort of stood out to me. And not in a good way. If you’ve been anywhere near Tumblr’s Hobbit fandom today, you probably already know what I’m getting at, but here are the posters in question:
Ah, yes, our leading ladies. On the left we have Galadriel, the most powerful woman in Middle Earth (and, depending on which books you’re citing, arguably the most powerful elf in history, and contender for the position of most powerful person in Middle Earth overall.) And on the right we have Tauriel, captain of the guard, whose bad-ass cred PJ spent half of the last movie establishing. And for some reason, neither of them seem to be capable of standing on their own two feet.
Now, if you’re feeling argumentative, you’ll probably point out that Gandalf too is feeling a little upright-challenged right now. But his “moment of weakness” is redeemed in the far right of the full “tapestry” (this site has a great close-up version of the whole image) standing fully upright and holding trusty Glamdring. So his image is balanced out. You might also argue that there’s no shame in falling down sometimes, and that the greatest heroes are in fact known for their ability to pick themselves up again. Also true. I’ve no problem with Tauriel and Galadriel having their more vulnerable moments in the film itself. But this tapestry isn’t a movie. It’s a split-second representation of the movie that not only reveals how the movie-makers feel about their characters, but also shapes the preconceptions of the viewers before they ever see the movie.
I’ll be honest, I was hoping for a lot more from Peter Jackson and company. Seeing them succumb to Hollywood’s tired and sexist tactic of emphasizing the vulnerability of female characters, while literally surrounding them with confident and strong males is… disappointing. A picture’s worth a thousand words, but today I only feel like giving this one 424.
Why does Gimili sale to valinor?
So he can stay with Legolas (and also see Galadriel again.)
Such a cutie.
In the Silmarillion I remember that it said something about elves expecting that Aredhel would marry one of the sons of Feanor, but she never did. But they were half cousins. Was that considered acceptable for some reason? As opposed to full cousins
I think you probably just misinterpreted this quote, which is our introduction to Aredhel in the Silmarillion:
She was younger in the years of the Eldar than her brothers; and when she was grown to full stature and beauty she was tall and strong, and loved much to ride and hunt in the forests. There she was often in the company of the sons of Feanor, her kin; but to none was her heart’s love given.
Basically just Tolkien saying that Aredhel spent a lot of time with the sons of Feanor, and wasn’t in love with anybody. I think the part that trips readers up is the use of “but" to connect those two thoughts - it’s sometimes taken to imply that her time with the sons of Feanor had something to do with her romantic life, which it did not (Tolkien never makes a distinction between cousins and "half-cousins", so presumably all the same rules in elvish society about incest still apply.)
An earlier version of this passage is included in The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11, where Tolkien says that Aredhel “loved much to ride on horse and to hunt in the forests, and there was often in the company of her kinsmen, the sons of Feanor.” Much clearer, I think. Personally, my take on the use of “but" in the published version is that it’s sort of Tolkien dismissing Aredhel as a character because she doesn’t have any romantic sub-plot going for her (it’s unfortunately rare - especially among the elves - to find a female character with no romantic involvement.)
SOURCES: The Silmarillion, The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11 (“Maeglin”)
Can you explain the entire history of middle earth (including Morgoth) thanks!
…Well, that’s pretty much what the books do, and even all 2,951(!) posts on this blog can’t tell the entire story (and certainly not as well as the books can.)
But if you meant more of a timeline of major events type of thing, then I’d recommend taking a look at this post, or this one.
In your post about mithril, you forget to add that Gimli discovered veins of mithril in the glittering caves. This means that Gandalf wasn't wrong when he said it was only found in Moria because he wouldn't have known about the deposits of it that Gimli discovered elsewhere.
I’ve double-checked my research, but found nothing to suggest there was mithril in the Glittering Caves… could you let me know where you found this?
Week 86 Roundup
Happy Week 86 to all 8,700+ of you! It’s been another great week on the blog, and hopefully a great week for all of you in the “real world.”
Just a reminder that I’m house-sitting for the remainder of September, so there’s a possibility that things are a little slower on some days (either house-sitting responsibilities getting in the way, or loosing control of an unfamiliar wifi, etc.) On that note, the next segment of the Racism Series is going to be just a little bit delayed, because I left one of my books at home and won’t be able to pick it up until Monday or Tuesday…
Also, this week on the Silmarillion Read-Along we’re reading about Beren and Luthien (very exciting!) So definitely come join in the fun!
Finally, a huge thanks to all of you for just being generally awesome all the time.
Where Was Mithril Found?
Ah, mithril. Middle Earth’s rarest - and therefore priciest - metal. Here’s what Gandalf has to say on the matter while the fellowship was in Moria:
Here alone in the world was found Moria-silver, or true-silver as some have called it: mithril is the Elvish name.
Now, I suppose he could be wrong (but Tolkien doesn’t usually write his characters that way, so I think we’re safe trusting Gandalf on this one.) Mithril could only be found in Moria. Which is how Moria rose to such wealth and power, and why the price of mithril skyrocketed after Moria was emptied.
Of course, though mithril was only mined in Moria, through trade it would have come to many different places in Middle Earth (thus many of the mithril objects we see in Lord of the Rings.) Though it’s scarcity in the late Third Age means that we almost never see a lot of it in once place, which calls into question the gates Gimli and his countrymen built for Minas Tirith in the Fourth Age, which were “of mithril and steel." Unless the "of mithril" part was only the barest detail, it suggests that Gimli somehow had access to a good amount of mithril. Where did it come from? A preposterously generous gift from Erebor? Doubtful. I think the likeliest (though still sort of unlikely) explanation is that it came from Mordor. Gandalf mentioned once that Sauron coveted mithril, and its believed that by his downfall he had quite a hoard of it in Moria - perhaps that somehow came into Gondor’s hands after Sauron’s defeat?
Finally, there’s one other mention of mithril that doesn’t really fit into the Moria-Only rule that Gandalf describes. In Bilbo’s song about Earendil, he mentions that the Valar-improved ship was built “of mithril and of elven-glass,” and since there was no way at the time for mithril to get from Moria to Valinor (and since it’s also suggested that mithril wasn’t even discovered in Moria until the Second Age), some readers propose that mithril was also found in Valinor, and that Gandalf’s “in the world" was referring specifically to Middle Earth (since Valinor, by this point, has been removed from the circles of the world.) Or it could just be that Bilbo took some poetic license with the description of the ship, lol.
(Oh, and as to your other question: the assumption is that there were dwarf mines wherever there were dwarves, which would include Moria, Erebor, the Iron Hills, the Grey Mountains, the Blue Mountains, and wherever the eastern dwarves lived - likely the Orocarni Mountains.)
SOURCES: LOTR, LOTR Appendices