A long time ago, in a faraway galaxy, a world possessed exactly the same pronunciation snobbery as ours…

You can tell plenty about (yousa) Jar Jar Binks and Bilbo Baggins from their accents

For those who live on another planet, and especially for those who wish they did, the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy based on the works of Tolkien has been recently complemented by a ‘prequel’ called The Hobbit. Most see the Lord of the Rings as a highlight in the sci-fi and fantasy genres of film and there are many reasons to agree.

One thing that might attract us to the genres resides in their unnerving contradiction. The more fantastical a movie attempts to be; the more accurately it portrays the social relations of our world. The converse also applies. Gritty TV dramas attempting to portray reality are often quite fantastical. If you want to understand America of the 1950s, watch The Forbidden Planet before you see Mr Ed the Talking Horse.

For insight into the 1960s, watch Star Trek. In its context, it was quite progressive, with women and dark skinned people on board the Starship Enterprise. Yet, being led by a white American man extending a pax Americana across the universe it was a great analogy for America as a world power in the 1960s.

We can find out more about the decade from watching this program than if we watch 1-Adam-12.

In Star Wars in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Yoda’s accent was like the spiel of our cute immigrant grandparents. Though actually very intelligent he won’t directly change the world. Darth Vader and Obi-Wan were apparently Oxbridge educated, degrees deferred to fight over the fate of the universe. (Later, Jar Jar Binks would ruin both Jamaica and Star Wars with his accent.)

It is thus as understandable as it is predictable that the The Lord of the Rings is tinged by the class and race hierarchies of the inter-war years when Tolkien wrote. Generally, the highest and best characters are white, having posh accents; the bad characters are dark-skinned, speaking with regional or working class pronunciation.

In other words, an author’s imagination is shaped by their personality and society and can unintentionally reflect social values and prejudices. In the inter-war years class and education were closely correlated, but that situation does not transfer to the present.

Unfortunately, the movies derived from Tolkien’s work do not take the opportunity to reinterpret the books without the implicit class and race values.

The snobbery reflected by the accent and pronunciation of the characters continues to reflect inappropriate assumptions about language, refinement, and sophistication.

Got a posh English accent? You must be a wise character. The Wizard Gandalf, a human, cannot speak with a Southern “y’all”; nor can the Kings and men of noble descent. In the same vein it is obvious that the way upper class people speak is superior to that of the country folk and the workers; and, it seems, they are mostly of a taller, more elegant build.

A cute provincial accent indicates an about-normal intelligence. Shorter and stockier, the ordinary Hobbits have what might be called a regional accent (from Gloucestershire in England’s West Country). 

Hence, in the parlance of the Hobbits, “eleventyone” represents “111”. Another Hobbit, Gaffer (aka Ham Gamgee), uses double negatives (“there isn’t no call” instead of “there isn’t any call”) and non-standard subject-verb agreement (“I says” instead of “I say”).  Otherwise Pippin, a brave but silly Hobbit, speaks with a mild Scottish accent.

Shorter and stockier still, the dwarves are assigned a strong Scottish accent.

Further down the status hierarchy and we get the Orcs…demonlike goblins. Ugly, grey-brown, mostly bald. RP (received pronunciation) English won’t do for them. Far better they use a Cockney accent.

The educated elite of each race however, do speak RP, so Frodo and Bilbo Baggins get a “nice” accent. 

For all Tolkien’s delicious detail, we don’t get the Mark Twain / Rudyard Kipling / Steinbeck attention to detail with pronunciation in his books. So, the accent snobbery of the movies is not pardonable on grounds of diligent fidelity to the books.

With so many film roles to characterise, appealing to language stereotypes is a quick and easy solution. At the same time, several factors militate against it.

Over the past decades the BBC has gradually included non-white people to present the news. Subsequently, announcers were no longer forced to speak with RP and could use their own regional accents. As far as I can tell the product has not been adversely affected.

Tolkien was brilliant, possibly even a genius. Moreover, in his context, he was probably more socially advanced than many of us could claim to be - displaying concern about the treatment of some in the colonies and about the rise Hitler and National Socialism. If his books understandably showed some prejudices of his time and background, the movies presented an opportunity to continue his progressive legacy.

In a way, being cognisant of Tolkien’s progressive social attitudes could have paved the way for the film to reinterpret skin colour and accent hierarchies of the books. There is much to praise in the book, and the movies would be even more enjoyable without interwar assumptions about hierarchies of class, race, and pronunciation.

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    • TimB says:

      05:24am | 04/01/13

      It might just be me, but I would think that ridiculously over-analysing accents in fantasy movies is pretty damn snobby.

      Also I find it interesting that you automatically conclude things like ‘A cute provincial accent indicates an about-normal intelligence.’

      Looks like you’re applying a few real-world prejudices of your own here.

    • Wayne says:

      06:59am | 04/01/13

      Agreed TimB, the author sounds like a film critic picking on something abstract to support his thesis!

      Also, “...an author’s imagination is shaped by their personality and society and can unintentionally reflect social values and prejudices.”  Really?  No kidding!  The books were written in the 1930’s, and the films tried to tell the story in the way the author meant it. 

      Language, and levels of refinement are “usually” good indicators of a better education, implying intelligence and wisdom (I know, not always in real life, but you get the drift).  In the fantasy genre, the bad guys used to be good, their henchmen/flunkies were always evil and uneducated, and the good guys have to do some learning to save the day. 

      The use of language and accents helps us keep track of who is who.

    • Sickemrex says:

      07:24am | 04/01/13

      +1 TimB.

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      08:07am | 04/01/13

      Further to what TimB says;  Why reinterpret?  I like things the way they are written and presented the way the author wanted to present them. For Example; God (if he exists) is not a woman, Jesus (if he existed) was not black. I’m tired of things having to be changed just so people can feel better about themsleves or to appease minorities.

      Did anybody see the article yesterday about the 10 year old kid in the UK that put on black make up and had a photo taken with his black football hero?  Shouts of racism were hurled at the kid which just shows how precious society seems to be getting and waiting in the wings to be offended.

    • Chris L says:

      08:36am | 04/01/13

      I have to agree. Who’s to say one accent is “nice” compared to another anyway? I know I have my favourites, but other people I know tend to differ.

      I rewatched Dragonslayer recently (1981 Disney movie) and found the hero’s Californian accent out of place, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the film.

    • Meph says:

      08:42am | 04/01/13

      Methinks the original author missed rather a lot of the inside joke. Keep in mind that the Hobbit was written (arguably) as a memoir of Bilbo’s adventure to the lonely mountain, and the lord of the rings was supposedly largely written by Frodo.

      Both characters were indicated as the closest thing to wealthy, titled nobility that existed in the Shire, so much of the attitude you are latching on to exists as an extension of how both of the characters viewed the people they interacted with.

      Mind you, for my money, I’m also going with “way too over analyzed” for the win.

    • Upnorff - wiff no accent. says:

      09:11am | 04/01/13

      Nicholas, Such a pity you’ve written this for wages when you surely could have recieved a handsome stipend to write this as a paper for one of the more prestigious tertiary education facilities. I smell a PHD thesis in the offing! In fact, not too many years ago a government such as Dunstan’s would have given you a grant! And you’ve wasted this whole concept on several paragraphs for wages. C’est la guere.

    • Johan says:

      10:24am | 04/01/13

      In reply to WayneJesus was not a Arian either

    • Traxster says:

      10:54am | 04/01/13

      You’re not wrong, TimB…..

    • Wayne Kerr says:

      12:05pm | 04/01/13

      personally I never imagined JC as blonde haired and blue eyed Johan.  It was just an example (perhaps a bad one) on how things are rewriiten, reimagined or reinterpreted to appease minorities or to not offend someone’s sensibilities.

    • Audra Blue says:

      04:44pm | 04/01/13

      Chris L, I agree with you.  I have a girlfriend who absolutely love men with South African accents.  Personally, I can’t stand them.  They are very grating to my ears and I don’t get why she loves them so much.

      Each to their own.

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      07:16am | 04/01/13

      Pippin has a Scottish accent because the actor, Billy Boyd, is Scottish. There is a background story in the books that the Tooks’ (Pippin’s family) invented golf, and as the Scots invented gold, they felt it was in keeping that Pippin could be Scottish.

      And didn’t orcs usually just, like, growl and yell?

      Bottom line, you are putting way too much thought into this!

    • Tubesteak says:

      07:38am | 04/01/13

      We all noticed in LOTR how the Orcs and Uruk-hai had Australian accents. Pretty obvious ocker accents, at that, too. We will not forget that! Nor forgive!

    • Cobbler says:

      08:32am | 04/01/13

      Huh…....... they were Cockney accents.

      Maybe one of the Urukai might have sounded like a Kiwi, since they were all played by Mouris, but they barely said a word through the 1st 2 movies.

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:56am | 04/01/13

      When Merry and Pip were being carried by the Uruk-hai the Orcs accompanying them clearly had Australian accents (“why can’t we have some meat?”). When the Uruk-hai said “they are not for eating” that was also and Australian accent. Not cockney

    • Mouse says:

      07:54am | 04/01/13

      This is what you walked away with after watching Lord of the Rings and Star Wars?  What a sad little person you must be!

    • LJ Dots says:

      12:22pm | 04/01/13

      Mouse, did we watch the same movie? There is a lot more to LOTR than meets the eye. The movie is rife with unrequited male urges, same sex relationships and the subjugation of woman.

      Of course it begins with Sam (dear Sam) and Frodo who are inseparable from chapter one. Smeagol, their jealous companion who can think only about is his precious ring. Let me tell you, it’s not that precious honey.

      Meanwhile - the Ents, these guys have lost their Ent wives and there are no woman to be found anywhere. Of course the obvious thing to do is search far and wide which would imply a scattering of the Ents. But no, all the male Ents hang out together in a tiny section of symbolically named Fangorn forest. It’s almost like they don’t ‘want’ to find the Entwives.

      And don’t get me started on the Dwarven woman. Gimli, who I suspect is an authority on the topic mentions that Dwarven woman have beards *taps nose* Ok Gimli, I don’t mind what consenting dwarves get up to, but the euphemisms must stop. Similarly, the Uruk Hai with their propensity for leather gear and lust for manflesh show a stereotypical portrayal of another lifestyle.

      Then there is Aragorn spurning Eowyn, like that would happen in real life. She was throwing herself at him, yet instead, he chooses to travel with Legolas and a dwarf, whose motives we have already uncovered.

      Eowyn, now wrathful from the rejection, abandons her feminine side (the result of a mans actions) and resolves to assert her masculine side to slay the overpowering Nazgul, symbolising the death of the partricarchy.

      Of course this can only be done with a hobbits help - the sub text is even a mighty woman warrior still needs the patriarchs help to achieve her goals and even the smallest man or hobbit is deemed sufficient.

      So the film ends with Arwen, rebelling against her father who tries to impose his will upon her. Arwen gives up her family, identity and eternal life to become the domesticated goddess, raising the Kings sons and throwing away (in the very literal sense), her lifelong career just to please her man and raise his progeny.

      Accents? pfft. There is much more to LOTR than accents. I think a grant is in order to further develop these themes.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      01:35pm | 04/01/13

      @LJ trying to work out whether you are trolling/being sarcastic or being serious, I am hoping for the trolling/being sarcastic.

    • LJ Dots says:

      04:04pm | 04/01/13

      PsychoHyena, I’d go for none of the above.

      I was trying to demonstrate how any book/movie etc can be contorted to support whatever ideological barrow one wishes to push. Nothing more than that.

    • Levi says:

      08:01am | 04/01/13

      Tolkien was most certainly not a progressive. He lamented the industrialisation of his hometown and yearned for the times when things were simpler. He even disliked motor vehicles. He was also a committed Christian.

      As for the accents, Tolkien himself wrote that the language of the elves was the most beautiful and detailed in middle-earth, and one of the hardest to master. The elves took pride in their language and shaped it to reflect the beauty of the world around them.

      Mannish and Dwarvish languages were far more utilitarian and therefore they didn’t spend the same effort on embellishing and preserving more formal or noble methods of speech. It therefore makes sense that the elves speak a more “posh” accent, along with those few Men and Hobbits who had dealings with the elves and were educated by them i.e. Bilbo, Aragorn and other Dunedain.

      The orcs had no language of their own. They stole, borrowed and bastardised words from the Common Tongue (Westron, a Human language) along with some of the nastier words from the Black Language that Sauron invented. It therefore makes sense that their language would be as a whole quite unlovely, full of curses and malapropisms.

      I don’t see how you have a problem with this. The film makers are only reflecting what was in the book.

      Now we get into skin colour, oh god…..Did it not strike you that the main antagonist from the first hobbit film, Azog, was rather white? Gollum is white, as are the trolls (or greyish I can’t remember). The Goblins in the underground city are also white for the most part.

      The only “baddies” from the books that are actually black are the men from Far Harad, which by their description have African features. The men from Near Harad are more like Arabs in Tolkien’s description.

      Other baddies like the Nazgul, Dunlendings, Easterlings are decidedly white. So don’t pull the racism lefty PC card. There is absolutely no reason to “reinterpret” skin colour in Tolkiens works as you say. The books are what they are. You ruin things with your affirmative action approach to storytelling, just like they ruined “Bah Bah Black Sheep” by calling it “Bah Bah Rainbow Sheep”. If people get offended by the lack of ethnicity in entertainment they should just harden up and stop whingeing.

      Prime example is Merlin, how the Queen is decidedly dark looking. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure you would have been very hard pressed to find a person with even remotely dark skin in England circa 600AD.

    • An Appalled Reader says:

      09:59am | 04/01/13

      It is hard to conceive that the author of this blog is actually a Lecturer in Anthropology at La Trobe University, perhaps even he wrote with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek?

      You’d think that anyone with a passing knowledge of Anthropology would know about the history behind Tolkien’s work. However it occurs to me, that given Mr Herriman’s progressive inclinations, he may not consider Western culture meritorious enough for his interest.

    • Question says:

      10:21am | 04/01/13

      @ Levi - that last paragraph; that has been really irking me as well! What is it with all these medieval and period pieces done by the English recently and putting non-caucasian characters in prominent roles? Im sorry if that comes across as rascist (and its really not meant to be but I expect to cop a flaming for this), but for the sake of historical accuracy im pretty sure if a black guy started throwing his weight around a bunch of white people in England anytime before the mid-1900s some not-very-nice things would have happened to him.

    • lostinperth says:

      10:57am | 04/01/13

      +1 Levi

      The whole article reeked of a person who chooses to get offended on behalf of others and wants our culture homogonised to the point of becoming grey sludge that neither offends nor celebrates anyone or anything.

    • Mayday says:

      08:03am | 04/01/13

      James Nesbitt plays the part of Bofur, a dwarf.  He has an Irish accent which is music to my ears.

      I could not recognise him physically but I knew his voice immediately, he has starred in many British TV series, drama and rom-coms and has a wonderful sense of humour.

      I loved the Hobbit as with the Lord of the Rings and your dissection based on class and accent simply reflects your own sensitivity and lack of imagination. 

      What a load of piffle!

    • Audra Blue says:

      04:52pm | 04/01/13

      +1 for this!

      James Nesbitt rules!  Check him out in Jekyll.  You’ll be in love with him forever, I guarantee it!

    • Philip says:

      08:36am | 04/01/13

      I now need your interpretation of the accents in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

    • An Appalled Reader says:

      08:40am | 04/01/13

      “Unfortunately, the movies derived from Tolkien’s work do not take the opportunity to reinterpret the books without the implicit class and race values.”

      Oh. My. God.

      Lord, spare us from a progressively politically correct rendition of The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings.

      If the commentator had his way, Frodo and Samwise would be in a same-sex relationship, Aragorn and Galadrial would be from Africa, Elrond would be bi-sexual, Gandalf would be Japanese, the dwarves Chinese, and Sauron would be a white American Christian male etc.

      In other words, it would be an utter travesty - a horrendous blight upon our cultural heritage - and Tolkien would be rolling in his grave.

      Why can’t you Progressives keep your grubby mitts off our heritage! It is my understanding that Tolkien, when writing the Lord of the Rings (and associated books), was trying to create a mythology for England. I read once that Tolkien bemoaned the fact that Anglo Saxon mythology had been for the most part lost due to the invasion of Britain by the Norman French (the Arthurian legend is at heart a Medieval French Romance) and he wanted to redress that loss.

      If the author of this blog had any sensitivity to Western culture, he’d understand that Tolkien drew inspiration from the Anglo Saxon and Norse poetry and sagas - lands that were ethnically white skinned.

      Bilbo (with his upper class accent) is rightly personified as part of the country gentry - in the stories, the Baggins were Hobbit gentry.

      Progressives like to think themselves as sensitive to the feelings of others - however that sensitivity evidently does not extend to preserving Western culture in traditional ways.

      http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      09:19am | 04/01/13

      @An Appalled Reader

      Wait… Sam and Frodo *weren’t* gay in the movie??

    • An Appalled Reader says:

      10:03am | 04/01/13

      In the offchance that you were being serious, let me give you a serious reply. My understanding is that Frodo and Sam had a very close platonic friendship - an almost brotherly affection towards each other.

      p.s. Did you entirely miss Sam getting married to Rosie at the end of ‘Return of the King’?

    • Jim Moriarty says:

      10:47am | 04/01/13

      @Appalled

      I was just kidding.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      01:49pm | 04/01/13

      @Appalled, I can understand your disgust with the author, but by Gandalf’s beard don’t lump him amongst progressives as if being progressive is a bad thing. Industrialisation was a result of progressive attitudes, many of the things we enjoy today was the result of progressive attitudes.

      What is interesting is that by making their article about race and class the author actually displays their personal prejudices and while most people would have been caught up in the storyline the author was trying to be offended.

      What’s next? Romper Stomper should have been about a black skinhead beating up whites? Schindler’s List should have been about the Italians rescuing Japanese from the American prison camps? Or how about just to totally avoid any racial or class issue we just make everything where there are no humans involved just animals and those animals are voice-acted using monotone and there is no representation of any kind of hierarchical structure at all.

      Although I must admit I would almost pay to see a movie wherein the Elves were trailer-trash or cashed up bogans.

    • Fed Up says:

      08:46am | 04/01/13

      Funny!
      How did i miss all of this?
      Ahhh…that’s right i slept through 99% of the movie.
      Let the villagers rejoice!

    • Tork says:

      09:03am | 04/01/13

      Oi.. i’m blardy well losing me aussie accent, so I gotta use it whenever I can so i don’t lose it mate..

      Maybe we need a sci-fi Aussie made movie?

    • Chris L says:

      10:09am | 04/01/13

      There was Time Guardian, but it sucked. Carrie Fisher was in it though.

    • wolf says:

      12:00pm | 04/01/13

      Pitch Black? That’s the best movie I can think of that was shot here with a fair chunk of local actors (even though it was a US production).
      There was also the TV series Farscape.

    • rickster says:

      09:03am | 04/01/13

      No so the evil wizard Saruman also spoke with a posh tone, anyway take a look around thats just the way things are,most of the villans are usually uneducated.

    • Rad-Aghast says:

      09:46am | 04/01/13

      Utter twaddle and tantamount to heresy, dear Nicholas. Reinterpret the accents? Are you nuts? Do you not know that J.R.R Tolkien was a linguist by profession and he left detailed notes on correct pronunciation of the languages he invented for Middle Earth? It was his reason for writing the books in the first place! The Hobbit was written with children in mind and was so popular LOTR followed after 12 years labour.  Sheesh, mate, do some proper research before spouting your revisionist claptrap.

    • Alicia says:

      09:50am | 04/01/13

      I just watch the movies, I don’t overanalyse accents.

    • Matt says:

      10:08am | 04/01/13

      Oh come on.  As an Australian with London East End/Romanian Gypsy heritage, should I feel offended and oppressed because the Orcs had cockney accents and the fighting Uruk-hai had aussie accents and (OMG!!!) had dark skin?  My Dad spoke in a pronounced cockney accent yet was one of the most intelligent and well educated men I’ve ever known.  Now that I think about it though, I just remembered Darth Vader was in black armour (and voiced by a black actor, who BTW, was a joy to listen to when interviewed on last night’s 730) yet his minions - the Imperial Storm-troopers - are dressed in white armour.  The confusion in logic is causing my mind to implode.  Could it possibly be a pointless self-defeating argument, much the same as this article???
      I can see the point Nicholas is trying to make but really, they’re just movies; they mean nothing beyond joyful escapism and entertainment.  There is no sinister class/race oppression agenda with malice aforethought. They distract us from having to think too much about ridiculous premise.
      P.s. my Romanian Gypsy Grandmother did not sound like Yoda.  Of much childhood entertainment robbed, I feel.

    • Question says:

      10:26am | 04/01/13

      If the Hobbit has upset you this much, you would have a freaking field day with the characters and background created by Games Workshop…..

    • TimB says:

      12:28pm | 04/01/13

      Hahaha. I was thinking that too.

      Look at those stupid orks! They can’t even spell. raspberry

      MORE DAKKA

      I think you’d probably have to blame Relic moreso than GW though, at least on accents. Have there been any other 40K games with voice acting besides DoW and Space Marine?

    • John says:

      10:55am | 04/01/13

      Look at the way Jack Thompson talks in everyday life then notice how his on screen movies are definitely Ocker.One accent to make money the other posh to the first degree IMHO of course..

    • Sundress In Sydney says:

      12:59pm | 04/01/13

      Reminds me of that other chap, Hugh Laurie.  Interviewed he has a very proper and posh British accent, then watch him in his various roles (House comes to mind).  Nothing sinister there, just adjusting the accent to suit the scene/environment.  Also as pointed out before, Tolkien did clearly set out pronounciations so the actors were simply being faithful to that.  Why does the world have to be a celebration of mediocrity?  Why can’t we just delight in difference and have fun without some politically correct tosser leaping from the barracks of the Fun Police?

    • Slothy says:

      11:32am | 04/01/13

      Oh, LotR racism/classism debates! My favourite! Can we argue over whether Balrogs have wings and the shape of Elvish ears next?

      Okay, serious now. I love Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales, and The History of Middle Earth and and and) and I love Tolkien. But as many here would’ve figured out, I am also pretty socially progressive (some would pronounce that ‘bleeding heart femmo’) and painfully aware of some of the more problematic aspects of Tolkien’s work.

      And there are problematic aspects. I can, reluctantly, overlook a lot of the ‘lack of female characters’ issue because I will (and have, at length) fervently argue that Eowyn is a great feminist role model, from kicking arse on the battle field, to realising that it is possible to find fulfilment and renown in roles that are not traditionally male dominated. (Many of my fellow feminists will legitimately disagree with my interpretation of this one, but I have a battered paperback with underlined quotes and I’m not afraid to use it.)

      The race thing is a bit tougher. The argument that this is supposed to be a mythology for Britain and therefore there shouldn’t be any characters of colour is one thing, but there were people of colour running around various parts of medieval Britain. The bigger issue is the unfortunate implications of the ‘white = good, dark = bad’ race break-down. That said, there are parts where this is subverted – Sam’s inner monologue looking at the dead soldier from Harad is probably the strongest example, but we also get a taste of the thoughts of some of the orcs, which aren’t so much about DEATH TORTURE PAIN, but ‘man, these bosses are cocks, lets bugger off to the country.’

      What bothers me more is the importance of blood in Tolkien’s work. Aragorn’s major claim to the throne is that he is Isildur’s Heir. Sure, his branch of the family has been living wild in the north for countless generations, but pff, he’s got the right blood! The purest heroes of men are all described as characters where the blood of Numenor runs almost true. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth is supposedly so great because he has some Elvish blood in him. The same is theorised of Frodo.  Rule of the major kingdoms is almost universally hereditary, and Bad Things happen when that is upset. The decline of Gondor is put down to intermingling with lesser humans. About the only example of the merit principle for leadership I can think of is Sam becoming mayor of Hobbiton.

      The class aspect doesn’t bother me so much. Yes, there is an overload of Tall! Noble! Heroes!, but it is lower-class Samwise Gamgee who takes on a giant spider, secretly writes songs and poetry, and is the only one to resist the call of the ring in the middle of Mordor, where its power is at its greatest. (Although his worshipful master-servant relationship with Frodo reads a little weirdly these days.) Sam’s father (grandfather?) the Gaffer is provincial in speech and manner, but he’s shown to be quite shrewd, as are other hobbits, like Farmer Maggot. The Drúedain may be the wild men of the forest, with broken speech (when using the common tongue at least) but they are clearly intelligent, refuse to be patronised, and are integral to saving the great city of men. And while we’re at it, the ‘silly hobbit’ (who is mainly silly because he’s still a teenager) Pippin, with his Scottish (in the films at least) accent, is Peregrin Took, heir of one of the leading Hobbit families and more or less Hobbit nobility. And ‘human’ wizard Gandalf is uh, a demi-god. I think it’s okay for his speech to be a little archaic.

      Frankly, if we want to get cranky about race (and gender, oh Eru, gender) in fantasy, I’d be putting George R. R. Martin up against the wall long before I got to Tolkien. Ultimately, I am quite comfortable acknowledging the problematic aspects of something I love, and acknowledging I love it despite that.

      That said, I think the most egregious form of discrimination in Tolkien’s work is his racism against people who can’t sing. This is more apparent when you go into the Silmarillion and the story of Beren and Luthien, but Sam’s song to rescue Frodo from the tower, the songs of the Rohirrim, Legolas’s story of Nimrodel etc etc etc – there’s a definite link between singing and goodness. So what, just ‘cause a sister can’t even belt out a couple of verses of ‘Black Velvet’ at karaoke, she’s evil? Bastard.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      02:59pm | 04/01/13

      @Slothy, on the race thing, let’s not forget that Saruman is white and evil in LotR. Black in white culture has always represented evil true, however in black cultures white has always represented evil. Personally I think that’s the main reason why there’s so many issues.

      Even Arwen is an example of a strong feminist, Galadriel too. In fact one thing that can be said is that while Tolkien had very few female characters those he did have were quite strong-willed.

      I don’t personally see many issues regarding sexism in Tolkien’s work, as back then and even now, men are typically viewed by society as being the world’s protectors. This is where a lot of the identity issues come in for men these days, they are told that women are their equals but that men must also protect women from all harm.

      Sorry massive family discussion over the holidays around how sexism has become more of an individual perception rather than a group perception. E.g. holding a door open for a woman could be construed as sexism by that woman as they may assume the door is being held open because they are a woman, while another woman may complain because men never hold the door open for them.

    • Diogenes says:

      01:00pm | 04/01/13

      Reminds me of the old joke that involves an oxford prof , who has half his brain removed, and starts speaking with a summerzet accent, then half of what of left removed and starts speaking with a cockney accent, and so on loosing half of what is left a few times going through welsh, scottish, bostonian , texan, australian and ending up waking up chanting the “haka”

    • Carolyn says:

      03:09pm | 04/01/13

      Listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak. Then straight after that, listen to Obi-Wan. So similar it’s eerie!

      Then go and watch The Wizard of Oz with the volume down whilst listening to Dark Side of the Moon.

      Don’t forget the ‘green fairy’ to assist you on your way…..

    • qwerty says:

      04:28pm | 04/01/13

      I actually quite enjoyed this article - it made me think about it all in any case.

 

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