deliriante asked: This is completely unrelated to Dresden Codak, but regarding an ask about Tolkien to Gingerhaze you called Aragorn and the Dúnedain "Middle Eastern". Is this based on how Aragorn is described as "dark", or on something else? I've never really considered the skin colours of the people of Arda so I'm really curious.

dresdencodak:

In his letters and also in Lost Tales/Unfinished Tales/Etc., Tolkien connects the crown of Numenor historically with the crown of Egypt. This was inspired by Plato’s idea that Egypt, etc. were founded as colonies of Atlantis. (This is likely why the Numenorean language has semitic roots). Tolkien explicitly made Numenor his version of Atlantis, and it’s no coincidence that the kingdom of Gondor roughly corresponds geographically with a Mediterranean/North African colony. Given the thousands of years involved, Gondor had to have been multiracial by the time of Lord of the Rings, but Aragorn, being of a direct line of Numenoreans and all but explicitly stated to be the ancestor of Egyptian royalty, would be what we would call Middle Eastern.

What’s fun is if we go further back, even the Numenoreans are multiracial in origin, comprising at least three distinct races of human (the Edain), none of whom were intended to directly correlate with or represent Anglo-Saxons or other groups of people historically associated with Northern Europe. Their adventures took place on a continent that sank and has no geographic analogue in the real world (in fact, they all originated somewhere “far East” just a few centuries prior). And, like I said before, they are collectively meant to be the ancestors of what would become essentially Egyptians and, possibly, all Middle Easterners. It’s actually one of the very few times where we can connect an ethnic group in the real world to one of Tolkien’s fictional groups of people. In general, the different races of people are kind of random, and rarely stand-ins for or ancestors of historical groups of people. Their physical and cultural descriptions rarely correspond with any real-world geography and racial groups.

Tolkien had some racist issues to be sure (his depiction of what might be black people is, at best, dismissive), but it’s a lot more complicated that what’s often assumed. To associate him with Wagner-esque Aryan wankery is way off the mark, when he openly derided that philosophy more than once (including when he told off some Nazis). The fact of the matter is, the cultures and races in the books rarely line up with anything in the real world. And when they sort of do, it’s not what people often think. What he called “Easterlings,” for example, would have corresponded with Slavic people, if anything, not East Asian people (who would be on a different continent, if you tried to make the maps line up with the real world). In any case, it’s dangerous to make those assumptions, as we’re talking about tens of thousands of years of human migration in between “when” Tolkien’s history occurred and “when” real human history started. Also, the geography and even continents are pretty different. Looking at the maps and trying to point out what each race/culture is “supposed to be” isn’t going to bear much fruit.

Sorry that this is such a long reply, but I feel like it’s important to point out that putting a bunch of white people in the starring roles of these adaptations says more about the people adapting them than Tolkien. With some creativity we can make these stories much more inclusive than they normally seem to be (and I intend to use this to include more genders and people of color in my adaptation of the Silmarillion).

Was Tolkien racist about some things? Absolutely, but he also deliberately left a LOT to the imagination, because he knew better than to spell it out. At the end of the day, it’s mythology, and that’s open to interpretation.

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