Discussion Masterpieces to Touch the Heart, Stir the Soul - Tolkien-centered Thread

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by WarmNyota_SweetAyesha, Jul 6, 2014.

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  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    Hello, I have to thank Mira_Jade and NYCitygurl for their approbation for this amazing brainchild of mine.

    @};-

    I have re-discovered a love that was never lost, thanks to some amazing Tolkien works. So I wanted to have discussions and perhaps mini-writing challenges.

    [face_batting]

    The first topic is like in the Ask Anything in SW Resource,

    What was your first immersement in the beautiful Tolkien 'verse?

    Mine was in high school. "The Hobbit" was on the reading list. I geeked out over Gandalf LOL and have been a fan ever since.

    :D
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    [Reserved]
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  3. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    I am so, so happy to see this thread up and going. Thank-you so much for volunteering for this and getting this off the ground. [:D][face_dancing]

    As for the topic, my first exposure to Tolkien was in middle-school. Peter Jackson had just come out with his version of FoTR, and while I enjoyed the movie, Star Wars swallowed my life at that time, and I had interest for little else. :p So, it took my school-mate to force the books on me. She started me on 'The Tale of Arwen and Aragorn', just to give me a taste of Tolkien's work as a whole. The mingled beauty and tragedy of that tale just snared me - hook, line, and sinker. I devoured the Lord of The Rings and the Hobbit in mere months, and as I grew older I took the plunge into the world of the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle-earth. I didn't appreciate the latter until after my high-school days, when I was old enough to appreciate the breath-taking majesty and scope of his world, and yet, I have yet to find a 'verse that I enjoy more as a whole since then. Tolkien's awesome world-building, epic scope of story-telling, and heartfelt views on life, love, and mythology . . . there is just nothing better. His world just speaks to my soul, it seems, and I enjoy exploring the tales he did not have the time to tell himself with my own humble offerings more than anything I have yet to write on the fanfiction scene. [face_love]
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Jul 24, 2014
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  4. NYCitygurl Manager Emeritus

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    I'm going to echo Mira and say how thrilled I am to see this! I love the Tolkien love around these parts, and I can't wait to see more :D

    Like Mira, my first exposure to Tolkien was in middle school when FOTR was released. My friends and I obsessed about it, and a couple of them read the books and even learned Elvish -- but also like Mira, SW was my main love then. I got copies of the books and decided to read them after the movies all came out. I finally got around to them in senior year of high school. I didn't love them, but I still have them and intend to read them again someday (and I got a copy of the Hobbit to read after the last movie comes out).
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  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    Hi there. :D I love the books because I am not just in love with the epicness of the stories, the compelling nature of the characters, which I am sure can be echoed by all Tolkien fans, but literally am just blown away by Tolkien's poetic beauty of narrative. All the senses are engaged. =D= :cool:
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  6. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    :D My first pull was Gandalf Then Galadriel - [face_love] The depth of past experiences and the sheer courage of these two. They were stewards of Rings without being sucked in and overcome like Smeagol and, apparently, Durin. :p

    Even Frodo -- :) had the strength not to lose his innate self.

    What are your thoughts, and also on Valinor, before and after the Era of the Trees? This latter I will comment on later in reply to further comments. Suffice it to say that Valinor touches something soul-deep and awoke an inner truth for me. :D :D
  7. Viridian-Maiden Jedi Knight

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    I'll geek out to this Nyota!

    The first exposure I had to Tolkein was when I checked a copy of The Hobbit out of my elementary school library. I must have been around the third or fourth grade. I remembered my dad saying something about it once, and my library had this cool illustrated copy. I read that, and then I picked up The Lord of the Rings at about age 11. I basically got through the whole thing, but I skipped a lot of the battle scenes because I found them hard to wrap my head around at that point. I even did a book report about The Fellowship of the Ring in 7th grade. I tend to reread LotR every few years, but now I make it through the battle scenes. :)

    This is so true. I've had moments when I was reading about the black riders or the mines of Moria in the middle of a sunny day and I found the terror palpable even there in my own room. Minutes later, they're arrived in Lothlorien or Rivendell. The cloud passes and we're all safe, for the time being.

    Also, I'm an Aragorn-girl to the max and I think Viggo Mortenson's portrayal is probably the closest they could have gotten to how I imagine him looking and being.

    I was recently talking with a friend of mine who's learning English and is very interested in English Lit. She reads exceptionally well, but comes from a culture that just doesn't have a lot of exposure to science fiction or fantasy other than through the big-budget superhero kind of movies. And she doesn't really like those because she says she doesn't really like stories that are just action. I set her straight about the genre generally.

    And then I told her that I consider The Lord of the Rings to be one of the most amazing and classic novels ever written in English.
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  8. Cael-Fenton Jedi Master

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    Great thread!

    I first read the The Hobbit when I was eight or so. I fell head over heels in love with Gandalf. I think he's the first fictitious *book* character I ever had a crush on :p but the first ever, that would have to be Qui-Gon, when I saw TPM just a few months earlier.

    I read Lord of the Rings (and the appendices) when I was ten/eleven. We had the Hobbit and LotR books at home, and when I was twelve I borrowed The Silmarillion from a friend and ploughed through it (received a copy years later as a gift from my mum). I didn't get round to watching the PJ movies until years after they came out, when my parents got the videos cheap. Of course, as a teen I was fairly awestruck by the movies, but I still preferred the books, and I have to confess, I like the films less as time goes on, which is why I didn't see The Hobbit ones.

    Naturally, as a Gandalf fangirl, I cried after Moria, and memorised pages and pages of Gandalf's best scenes. I absolutely love 'The Shadow of the Past', especially his little soliloquy about Pity and mercy, so you can imagine how I went to pieces when I later read that as Olórin he was Nienna's pupil. I also wrote terrible fanfic and made a total nuisance of myself by reciting things like Bilbo's Song of Earendil and the Rohirrim's Lament of the Pelennor Fields ad nauseam to my family. There was a particularly obnoxious period when I'd greet friends with Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo. Yeah I was a total dweeb :-Bprobably still am LOL.
    Last edited by Cael-Fenton, Jul 23, 2014
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    Welcome @Viridian-Maiden and @Cael-Fenton

    :)

    I love your responses and LOL on the Qui reference. Oh, I could tell you about my Trek crush, which is still ongoing. Duh! [face_love] [face_love]

    Would love to read your stuff, Cael, based on your terrific insights in Mira's threads. [face_batting]

    Aragorn is amazing. He's definitely and positively a hero type without being over or under confident. And the Arwen element just puts it over the top. :D
    Last edited by Nyota's Heart, Jul 24, 2014
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  10. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    I have to agree about the Aragorn and Gandalf fangirling - Aragorn was my first taste of Tolkien's world, and I loved him for being the epitome of patience, perseverance, and unwavering determination - I was completely and utterly in love with his character from the first. His and Arwen's tale still moves me to tears whenever I read it, and I love the masterful way their story weaves together a great many threads in Tolkien's work. It is just too beautiful for words. [face_love]

    And Gandalf is just . . . Gandalf. I love how everyone thinks of Gandalf as their own Yoda-esque figure, in a way. His power is mingled with compassion - which is a rare combination without that power corrupting, as we have seen many times in these stories. :p Really, he plays the role of the mentor in these stories just perfectly. Also, I love, love, love that he was the only one of the Istari who asked Manwë to send someone else in his place, humbly seeing himself as unworthy of his role. I liked his character before that, but with that he catapulted to the top in my ranks. [face_love]

    I have mingled thoughts on Valinor. On one hand, I love Tolkien's take on 'light' and good vs. evil. The idea of a beautiful 'after' awaiting you following either death or the time you spent in a 'marred world' before sailing West is something I find touching on a personal, spiritual level. The idea of seeing loved ones reborn once more is a chord I think that strikes with most readers, and I love that aspect of this world. On the other hand, I am curious to the fates after death for all of the races - not just the Elves. Men partaking in death is supposed to be a 'Gift', and those like Aragorn and Elros gave up their lives willingly to partake of that gift. The idea of death being natural for mortal-kind intrigued me, and I would have loved to see that more fleshed out in his work. Finrod and Andreth's debate is just excellent for that. [face_love]

    Now, what I do not like about Valinor is how its brilliance sometimes overshadows the beauty that can be found in Middle-earth. The Elves who would rather stay in Middle-earth for love of that land were viewed as lesser by their kin from Aman, and souls who refused to answer Námo's call in favor of lingering to haunt the places they had known and loved in life were viewed as unnatural and blasphemous, to a point. Even the Valar letting the Dark Lords have (relatively) free reign in Middle-earth so long as the West was untouched was something that long sat ill with me - even where I think it reflects real life and Tolkien's views on religion to some extent. But that is a whole other conversation entirely! [face_laugh]8-}[face_love]
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Jul 24, 2014
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  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    Those are really interesting points. I agree that those who elected to stay behind should be denigrated for their choice but I could understand the thought: We have known little but suffering here and the Land West is a reward and a restoration of that which was lost and of a past literal Golden Age. [face_thinking]

    The idea of different Fates for the different races - and the rationale behind them would be an interesting puzzle to unravel I think. :cool: Especially for spouses of different Races. The divergent outcomes would lead to difficult choices or partings.
  12. Viridian-Maiden Jedi Knight

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    For me, it's actually the dichotomy I see in Aragorn and I think, at least when I was younger, it was a variation on the bad boy thing.

    On the outside, he's a scraggly, wild, and dangerous rebel. But through his veins runs the blood of a king.
  13. Cael-Fenton Jedi Master

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    I have mixed feelings about Valinor.

    As 'Heaven', the Blessed Realm, the Undying Lands, the Uttermost West, etc, it's obviously an object of desire. The idea that there exists a place which is physically within our world where what is beloved or beautiful does not fade or pass away...obviously, it's the very embodiment of our deepest longings. 'Faerie', as Tolkien generically refers to it, always awaits us in our dreams and waking fantasies, from the earliest time in childhood when we first understand the imperfection or transience of the world and its non-conformity with our wish to cling to the objects of our desires (which doesn't necessarily involve death, in our first experiences of this transience), until we're old and painfully well-acquainted with loss.

    But Tolkien's mythology isn't about wish-fulfilment escapism. He makes it clear not only that it is something mortals can never have within the 'circles of the world', but that any attempt to attain it is inherently disordered from the beginning, and doomed to ultimately turn evil. Not only are mortals precluded from seeking deathlessness, even immortals' attempts to grant it to mortal things, or to prolong our span of days by Power or 'magic' machinations, is wrong.

    For mortals, Valinor would be as much a confinement as Middle-earth is, because it's still within the world, and as Finrod suggests to Andreth, we're made for something else. Death is a blessing, a gift. The Gift. "Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory."

    I love the Athrabeth. I was in tears when I first read it. Something about it moved me even more deeply than Aragorn's death scene. But I think Tolkien quite rightly thought that such specifically Christian ideas shouldn't be explicitly made part of the 'canonical' mythos. (Although personally I have no problem with those ideas, and the Hope spoken of in the Athrabeth is definitely part of my headcanon.)

    I think that was intentional. I don't think he intends to portray the Valar as always doing the right thing. I definitely think that retreating to a sanctuary secluded from the rest of Arda, and then subsequently attempting to get the Elves to relocate there, was supposed to be understood as a mistake on their part. That was the impression I always got, anyway.

    The Children were made for the world (or vice versa, actually). Arda in all its wide wonder is meant to be their home. To remove them to a protected little corner of it would be to disinherit them. I feel sure that Tolkien was aware of this, and in this sense Valinor isn't meant to be a good thing.

    The immediate objection that might arise is that Arda had been marred from the beginning. From the time it came into existence, it bore some of Melkor's taint; it was his Ring. And the Valar were not strong enough to entirely defeat him; nor could they remove his stain, which was part of the very fabric of the world. How could Eru have intended this flawed place to nurture his Children? I'm sure the Valar were thinking along those lines. And I think Tolkien intends this to be understood as a mistake, not only for the reason I gave above, but also because this line of thought shows lack of faith in Eru. The Valar failed to trust in Eru's declaration that even Melkor's rebellion would form part of the Music, and increase Its beauty (I'm overseas and don't have access to The Silmarillion, so that's off the top of my head as best I can remember the Ainulindalë).

    @Mira_Jade may I ask how you think it reflects Tolkien's religious views? I think my interpretation in the immediately preceding paragraph is consonant with his thoughts on the problem of evil, but it seems we have different perspectives on whether the Valar's actions best accorded with Eru's Will on this point, so I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about Tolkien's portrayal of Valinor and his religious views, if you'd care to elaborate :)

    ps: As for Gandalf, what I love to bits about him (besides the obvious, like having courage and integrity) is that he's so human in his impatience and quick temper (swift in anger / quick to laugh); yet he is the character who most deeply understands pity, forgiveness, and if I may say it, Grace. The idea that everyone should have mercy shown them even when everything they have done merits condemnation.
    Last edited by Cael-Fenton, Jul 25, 2014
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  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    Dare I say it? Fascinating points Cael. I believe the timing is very interesting as to when the free will and the avarice for power and worship took hold of Morgoth versus Satan. [face_thinking] Depending on when it occurred in the creative process, the world would indeed be tainted. That is why I think or ponder if Death for mortals was the original intent or was the offshoot of all that subsequently occurred and in the eventual remaking of the world, would the Destinies of the Races become one and the same? :cool:

    If Morgoth's influence could have been totally vanquished or curtailed to a degree, would not the glory of Valinor spread across the Sea? Rivendell and Gondolin and Lothlorien reflect some of the innate serenity and loveliness of the Eldar's first home. :) :D
    Last edited by Nyota's Heart, Jul 25, 2014
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  15. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    @Cael-Fenton - Can I take a moment to just say thank-you for the wonderful, thought provoking post? I was just nodding my head and agreeing through the entire thing. =D=[:D]

    Exactly. I know that Andreth blamed death itself on Morgoth's taint (I am pretty sure, at least? It's been a while, and my copy is in a box right now. I'm going to have to go and uncover it this week. [face_thinking]), but there are passages in the Silmarillion where death was said to be natural and unfeared before Morgoth reached those firstborn Men before they had any contact with the 'light', and taught them to fear death and long for the 'immortality' that was 'denied' to them by the powers in the West. I do like the idea of learning to feel comfortable with your own allotment from nature, and still find joy and contentment in that assignment. Each race had a 'doom' and hardships of their own to bear, and, like Deb said, I do find the idea of a universal fate for all of the races beyond the reforging of the world to be something interesting to think on, indeed. [face_love]
    I agree with that completely. And with your thoughts on Valinor. Arda belongs to more than just Elven-kind, and yet, they were the only ones who could partake of that 'sanctuary' in the West. Then again, they were the only ones who had to bear through immortal days in such a marred world, while mortal-kind lived and fell away to experience a 'gift' beyond death . . . so, maybe it isn't at first obvious which one has the better allotment. ;) Once again, each race has its burdens to bear, and trying to change or alter that fate only leads to bad ends (*cough* Ar-Pharazon */cough*) - even in cases like Lúthien, which brought as much heartache as it did bittersweet happiness,

    I also like what you said about the Valar holding absolute faith in Eru eventually setting things to rights. They had to have believed that he would not leave his Children to toil in such a world, and trusted him to deal with Melkor's taint as they could not themselves. So, what may look like inaction to us could simply be called a different understanding of time and the universe itself in the eyes of the Valar. [face_thinking] Especially since Melkor's taint was planned by Eru, and his pouring so much of his essence into Arda was supposed to make the world all the more beautiful. Melkor was created to be chaos - but in a good sense - and he was the one who took and distorted his original purpose into something evil. And that fascinates me, Tolkien's ideas on Melkor's fall - for there are few cases of 'true' evil in Tolkien's work, not even with Sauron - who seriously thought that he was doing the best thing for Arda before he corrupted himself with his arrogance in thinking that he knew better than the One.

    Perhaps not Tolkien's views on religion himself, but you can say that his writing does reflect some religious ideas as a whole. The way it struck me - and, feel free to disagree with me! :p - for those who believe in a God, it can appear as if He has taken a step back from the world he created and left that creation in the hands of 'Satan'-esque creatures who were once fair during the time of creation. And yet, the idea that God still cares, and has a hand in our lives where we cannot fully see or understand - and promises us a new world to come for our hardships in this one, in that sense I can see vaguely Christian concepts in his work. At least, that is always something that has struck a personal chord with me. :)
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Jul 25, 2014
  16. Viridian-Maiden Jedi Knight

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    As one who has skimmed through parts of, but not really delved that deeply into some of his more esoteric/mythological works, I can't really add much to this discussion.

    But I do want to ask something. You see, I frequently deal with a circle of people who are not members of, but very familiar with, a certain group of world cultures. (It's irrelevant which.) And more than once I've had discussions where LotR/Tolkein's work more generally is criticized for being racist in the way he not only depicts the men from the South (didn't he say they were dark-skinned? Honestly I can't remember now.) But more than that, in the way particular species/races are inherently either good or evil.

    I wondered what you think?

    Personally, I just don't really see it that way. When it comes to the men from the South who join Sauron's forces, first of all, we know so little about them as to be able to make that many assumptions. I suppose I always assumed they were men who, just like the men of any city in the series, could choose to join with either side and I guess I figured we couldn't really know exactly why they sided with Sauron. They're very similar to the Calormenes in Narnia in a certain sense, and while I do agree that the Calormenes seem to bear resemblance to so-called "Oriental" cultures, and while they're painted sortof as opposed to Narnia, we get to see in The Horse and His Boy (which I don't think I've read since I was about 10, so correct me if my memory is off) that they're also just like other people in the sense of having both good and bad tendencies. And at least in the case of the Calormenes, Lewis essentially absolves them in the end anyway with an ecumenical message about good people worshipping Tash being the same thing as serving Aslan.

    When it comes to races like the orcs though...I think I recall something about them possibly once having been elves. So aren't they actually in that sense proof that all races had the capability to become corrupted? And maybe then the point actually isn't what those people say it is -- which is that LotR suggests that specific races are either good or bad from the get-go, but is instead the exact opposite: they any race, presumably created good, can become corrupted, and even to the point where they no longer resemble in any recognizable way the original creations they were meant to be.

    Men certainly clearly go both ways in the books, both as a people and on an individual level too. And while the elves as a people (I'm sure individuals are another matter) do generally have more qualities that we would ascribe to virtue or goodness, I don't recall reading anything that said they were incapable of evil.
    Last edited by Viridian-Maiden, Jul 25, 2014
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

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    @Viridian-Maiden -- I agree and do not think LoTR was making any kind of racial statements, one way or another, but if it was, more along the lines you suggested, that there are good and bad in any species/race. Any member can be corrupted or change their stance. That's why I like the friendship of Legolas and Gimli. They were kind of chary of each other but through striving together, gained a true respect and liking of one another and Gimli certainly became a staunch defender of Galadriel. [face_love]
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  18. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    Ooh, that is a great question and a wonderful point for debate! =D= (And something I actually wrote a paper on back in the day, geek that I am. :p) I am leaving early this morning, so I will leave a most thorough reply to that later. [face_thinking]
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  19. Cael-Fenton Jedi Master

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    In Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth, Tolkien makes it clear that evil has power only over particular individuals. Evil could not corrupt entire races or peoples. I think that's in-universe evidence that he wasn't racist. I'm not all that familiar with his non-fictional personal writings, letters, etc, but I'm sure I also read somewhere that he also admired the proto-Aryan (ie, Dravidian, from South Asia) people, culture and language.
    I think you're right that the point was the converse. In fact it's a recurring theme throughout the mythos that even the "Dark Lords" were not evil originally.
    In fact I'd say that the Oath of Feanor in The Silmarillion led the Elves to dark deeds that were far worse than anything Men are ever shown to do in canon, except perhaps for the human-sacrificing Morgoth-worship urged by Sauron in Númenor. And even then, what the Elves did may have been worse because they did it freely, not under the influence of an external evil spirit.
    Last edited by Cael-Fenton, Jul 26, 2014
  20. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

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    Personally, I have always seen opposite of racial divides in Tolkien's work. Each race in Tolkien's world was created equal, and the capability for evil came after their creation - as Finrod's words were quoted above [face_love] - with true evil only entering the world through Melkor/Morgoth's taint and influence.

    A lot of this argument stems from the lands of Harad and Rhun roughly corresponding with Asia and Africa according to Tolkien's geography. It is hard to attribute his races to any real race living, though, and I do not think that he meant for that interpretation to happen. (Really, the only other races you can compare with names we know are Númenor with Atlantis, and the Dwarves with the Jews, as I will mention later.) Tolkien was British, and he wanted to create a mythology for his home that included his vast learnings in Anglo-Saxon lore and languages. I do not think that he intended for any other race to be pin-pointed in his world-view from there.

    Even while being portrayed as a race on the wrong side of the War of the Ring - and many of other confrontations throughout the Ages - the men of Harad and Rhun were not inherently evil. Like most other 'evil' things in Tolkien's world, they were the Men who were first approached by Melkor before meeting any of the 'good' powers from the West, and worshiped Melkor out of fear and not knowing anything else. They refused to follow the Three 'faithful' houses of Men over the mountains for that first contact and 'enlightment' through friendship with the Elves, and thus so, their society and way of life ever followed that taint when they settled the lands to the south and the east in Middle-earth.

    Yet, in the War of the Ring, I always saw the 'evil' Men as rather enslaved and exploited by Sauron to some extent or the other. There is even a passage in TTT where Sam sees a dead warrior of Harad and wonders if he was truly evil - or instead deceived or coerced to go to war, with his heart still pure at the core. Melkor, and later Sauron, were not kind masters to these Men, and I think that fear had a lot to do with their continuing aiding them in their wars, rather than any true 'evil' at their hearts. And yet, even the 'good' Men in Tolkien's world had their fair share of evil - as was mentioned with Númenor and their human sacrifices underneath Sauron's command. [face_worried] Even the Dunlendings (who were described as 'white') were pushed by Saruman to fight against Rohan, and had ancient wounds that smarted against those who were friendly to the survivors of Númenor in the form of Gondor. Once again, there were no truly evil motives within them, rather, they were filled with old wounds and grudges that the Dark Lords and their servants liked to stick their fingers in and exploit. :(

    Tolkien never mentioned the physical features of the Easterlings in LoTR, but they were described as being sallow or swarthy in the Silmarillion. And the Haradrim in LoTR were described by Gollum as being tall, dark, fierce and nasty. The only time something or someone is described as black in his work is to indicate the nature of their heart as in 'light or dark' as we saw with the Black Numereans (who were 'white' as far as can be told). Another example were the Dark Elves - it had nothing to do with their appearance, rather, they simply never saw the light of the Trees in Aman. Celeborn was a Dark Elf, for example. And, many of Tolkien's villians were white, at that. Saruman and Grima were white, as we can assume his more villainous Elves were pale in complexion - like Fëanor (as Noldor) and Eöl (who never saw the light of the sun). Tolkien did say that he saw a bit of the Jews in his Dwarves - as the sons of Durin were a great people oppressed and pushed from their homes by evil forces. Tolkien spent a good portion of his childhood in South Africa, and the events of WWII left a sour taste in his mouth that he frequently wrote about when it comes to the racial divisions that started that war. For instance, these are the quotes from his letters that I refound thanks to the internet:

    "I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White."

    "As for what you say or hint of ‘local’ conditions: I knew of them. I don't think they have much changed (even for the worse). I used to hear them discussed by my mother; and have ever since taken a special interest in that part of the world. The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort[unately], not many retain that generous sentiment for long."

    Personally, I think that Tolkien's work portrays the opposite POV when it comes to racial division and 'white superiority'. There is a great emphasis on friendships between all of his fictional races, and many are the examples of the great sorrows that can result from dissention between those races. The Dwarves and Elves have grudges between them where neither is exactly in the right or in the wrong. Gondor almost tore itself apart through kin-strife when they tried to keep their line 'pure' of taint from other lines of Men. And yet, on the opposite end of that, Gimli and Legolas are a wonderful example of 'inner-racial' friendship at it's best - like Deb said - where learning to understand one another leads to healing those racial divides. Even Gimli and Galadriel were a great example of that, with Gimli 'looking into the heart of an enemy, to find love and understanding.' There can only be a positive message found there. [face_love]

    Can Tolkien's work use more characters of colour? Absolutely! And yet, that is a flaw you can find in most classic literature. Once again, his work was supposed to be a mythology for his home, while intermixed with the old Norse lore that he made his life's work studying. I think that his character diversity is found through his fictitious races, and it is unfair to look for, and find fault in that. :)

    Oh, the whole Silmarillion can pretty much be renamed 'Elves Behaving Badly'. [face_laugh] I'd agree with @Cael-Fenton for Fëanor's Oath and the Noldor Elves slaying their kinsman being just as evil as anything Mankind ever did. But, once again, Fëanor was moved to that end through Melkor playing off of the fears/weaknesses in his mind - so we can argue the no-inheritantly-evil stance once again. With the Orcs, I do subscribe to the idea that Melkor took the first Elves and twisted them in his pursuit to destroy his sibling's fair creation. And, in that, I find that I feel mostly pity for their corruption, and hope that they find a healing of their own beyond the breaking of the World. [face_love]

    At least, those are my thoughts on the matter! :)
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Jul 26, 2014
  21. Cael-Fenton Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2006
    star 2
    Great post, Mira_Jade!

    Yes, that is an important point, and it always frustrates me when people miss it. Tolkien was creating a mythology for his beloved home islands, which is not necessarily a work that accurately reflects his own views about race, much less the modern-day consciousness of diversity forced upon us in a globalised post-colonial age. To expect non-white characters to have any more than a peripheral role is like expecting white people to have more than bit parts in, say, Romance of the Three Kingdoms or The Ramayana (and I say that as someone of pretty mixed Southeast Asian heritage, none of which is white).


    Those are great quotes, thanks!

    One of the things that used to make me uncomfortable, and perhaps a factor that contributes to people's feelings that LotR is racist, is the emphasis on bloodline, especially amongst the Dúnedain. The whole division between the "Númenorean race", the "Middle-men" (like the Rohirrim) and then the rest (Dunlendings, Bree-folk, Easterlings, Southrons etc), and the repeated mentions of how Dúnedain blood, especially in Gondor, became "diluted" and "mingled with that of lesser Men". It's redolent of Nazi eugenics.

    But my perspective changed after I read The Silmarillion, and its chilling portrayals of bloody conflict between different races of Elves, some of which considered themselves superior to others, as well as between Elves and Dwarves. I realised that Tolkien was completely opposed to that stupidity. Re-reading LotR in light of The Silmarillion, I saw that although the Dúnedain are generally the "good guys", on the point of blood purity and racial heritage, Tolkien intends them to be seen as having gone terribly astray. The passages in the Appendices where he comments on the Númenorean obsession with past lineage rather than with children (there's a fantastic line about them reckoning the names of their ancestors with greater pride than those of their sons, but I can't remember it verbatim), funerary rites, embalming and preserving forever their honoured dead, all took on a new significance, as being critical of such a culture that emphasised racial purity. Even the depiction of the peace of Rath Dínen in 'The Pyre of Denethor' , I began to see as deliberately being somewhat off-kilter. And I began to appreciate the juxtaposition of those scenes against 'The Houses of Healing', where a Númenorean man of (relatively) old nobility is courting a lady of the "middle races", whom some Gondorian aristocrats would no doubt have felt was "beneath" him in terms of bloodline.

    Generally, I think that those who read racism into Tolkien's work are maybe attributing the characters' views to the author, who was perhaps too subtle in his criticism of such views.
  22. Viridian-Maiden Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 14, 2013
    star 1
    This is all very interesting. I agree that it is far too simple to just assume, particularly within the genres of speculative fiction that the presence of a particular attitude, problem, or practice indicates anything about the author's belief on that point. To me, both reading and writing fiction are an exercise in exploration, and there are many times one might like to explore an idea without necessarily agreeing with it in principle.

    I myself have been sortof peripherally working on an original urban fantasy. It's meant to be something of an "ensemble drama" with a group of characters each with their own complicated flaws dealing together with a similar problem. I've worried a little bit about how to portray one specific character who begins as an antagonist, because he's from a specific racial/cultural group and I see that I could easily be criticized for following stereotypes and being racist. The problem is that he's not actually meant to be an antagonist in the end. He's not a villain - he's only one in the beginning because he misunderstands the nature of his abilities, viewing them as inherently a gift for evil rather than the gift for good as the other characters. He only needs to realize it and choose his own orientation rather than assuming that his gift is itself a reflection on his internal nature. (This would be something like Rogue coming to grips with the fact that she's always hurting people.)

    Some of the other characters are something the opposite. One in particular is exactly the opposite in the sense that he's fighting for the right side, but his large internal flaws twist the way he see his own abilities. He's also not a villain, but he does hurt a lot of people in the end.

    But my worry is that the readers will jump to an easy conclusion -- that I've given in to stereotypes -- rather than being patient enough to come to see the character as I see him and as he comes to see himself, which is quite the opposite from how he is in the beginning of the story.

    Have you ever thought about or dealt with a problem like this while writing? I've considered changing the character so he is not from that cultural group. The fact that he comes from that background is quite irrelevant to the story. But he's so vivid in my mind already...and I see the other possibility, which would be to play into the stereotype so much that it's almost obvious that I'm not serious about it. But that was not my intention either. Mostly, I just think that culture is kindof cool and I wanted one of my characters to come from it, and it just happened that in my mind it ended up being the guy who starts out on the other side.

    I've moved the conversation away from Tolkein now. But I'd be curious to hear what you think.
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

    Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    @Viridian-Maiden -- I think your tale sounds extremely psychologically complex and thusly a worth-the-read. I think you could be describing a lot of SW Jedi LOL Kyp and Anakin Skywalker for two examples. They are twisted by their circumstances, besides external influences, but mostly by their insecurities and fears; both become and do horrific things but are redeemed in the end. :) Mara is another example. [face_love] She works for the most dastardly Sith ever and remakes herself into something we all love LOL

    Personal-growth and change stories are always fascinating.

    Which I can tie back to Tolkien ;) What do y'all think of Smeagol/Gollum's character? :p
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  24. Mira_Jade The NSWFF Manager With The Cape

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2004
    star 4
    @Viridian-Maiden - That is an excellent question! (And, actually, I think that you just helped me with the next subject for the NSWFF Writer's Support Group, which I will be switching over on the first There are a few great writers there who would love to chime in on this subject. :)) Basically, the way I see it, some stereotypes - or clichés - are such for a reason, and can still be enjoyable when done right. Personally, I like journeys in a 'grey' characters like you were describing for your subject, and I think that you can trust an audience to stick in there to see the changes you work into your character. If someone wants to pinpoint a part of your work and not see it for its whole, well, that is the fault of the reader, and not the writer. In the end, I think that you just have to write what appeals to you, and what grips your imagination. The rest will fall into place from there. [face_love]

    And very briefly I had to mention . . .

    This is why I love threads like these - I never thought of Faramir and Eowyn's relationship that way, and that just added another layer to the tale for me. So I thank-you! [:D]

    And then, for Deb . . .

    Gollum is an interesting creature, that's for sure. Even before the ring, Sméagol was a bit of - while not a bad character - a strange sort, even to his own people. He was curious and mischievous, always obsessed with roots and digging to find out what was underneath things, FoTR said. And yet, I do not think he was by any means 'evil' until he donned the Ring, and the Ring grasped onto whatever darker qualities he had and exploited them - which is a fate that would befall any holding the ring. Even Gandafl/Galadriel/Elrond would not don the Ring for fear they would do much the same. His murder of Deagol was certainly an evil act , and that was done before he had the Ring. And yet, can we even perhaps chalk that up to the Ring calling to him, perhaps? The Ring was always trying to move to a carrier who would bring it closer to its Lord, and if it saw something in Sméagol's heart it could latch onto, it would do so, I think you can theorize. Gandalf said something interesting in FoTR when he told Frodo that Gollum was haunted by his murdering his friend. He said that it 'gnawed on his bones' until he invented another story in his mind - that it was a 'birthday present from his grandmother' and whispered it over and over again until he believed it. And that was while he wore the Ring - there was still that small spot of good left within him, even with that great evil weighing on his spirit. That small spot of good was something that his evil parts hated, and that spot could not overcome the whole of his being for his so long wearing the Ring, or so Gandalf went on to say in that same passage.

    Yet, before they entered Shelob's lair, there is an interesting quote that has always struck me when I tried to deign my own opinion of Gollum, and it's the one I cannot shake when I think of him as an 'evil' being:

    Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo's knee - but almost the touch was a carees. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.

    Sméagol's character while wearing the Ring darkened and twisted into Gollum, and yet, when he was separated from the Ring, parts of what were good in him tried to come through and even aid Frodo - which was interestingly portrayed with his two warring halves. I find only pity for Gollum for his inner struggle, and his overall downfall. And yet, I think that he is another example of what 'curiosity' placed in the wrong areas will do for ill, for that is the same way Tolkien described Saruman's fall, and even Sauron's to an extent. Some things are better left alone, and dabbling in the slightest way can lead to more and more until who you were is left behind completely.

    Even Bilbo, or Frodo himself, would have born Gollum's fate if they wore the Ring for longer than they did. If it wasn't for Gollum's greed, there is a good chance that Sauron would have reclaimed his Ring then and there with Frodo unable to destroy it. So, good or evil or misunderstood, I am just glad that he was there, and remember him as tragic in his wake.
    Last edited by Mira_Jade, Jul 28, 2014
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  25. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha FanFic Best Reviewer

    Game Winner
    Member Since:
    Aug 31, 2004
    star 7
    I shouldn't be surprised that Mira's commentary is eloquent and insightful =D= [face_love]

    I agree with the thoughts on the intermixing of good versus evil and the inner struggle. Part of Tolkien's timeless and universal appeal I think is the ability to give us echoes of our own world and the complexity of Human nature all in a setting of such panoramic and riveting depths, on an individual and societal scale. :cool:
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