Lord of the Rings: war propaganda?

Einde O'Callaghan einde.ocallaghan at planet-interkom.de
Mon Dec 16 08:26:58 MST 2002

LouPaulsen wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Danielle Ni Dhighe" <danielle at irsm.org>
> To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
> Sent: Sunday, December 15, 2002 6:21 PM
> Subject: Re: Lord of the Rings: war propaganda?
> > At 07:32 AM 12/15/2002, LouPaulsen wrote:
> >  >Unfortunately it is much more correct to charge Tolkien
> >  >with racism and sexism.  "Black men" and "swarthy men"
> >  >are always on the enemy side.
> >
> > I don't think it's necessarily true that his intent was racist if one
> > understands the mythologies he patterned his novels after.  The light/dark
> > contrast comes from those mythologies and it wasn't about what we would
> > understand as "race".
> I didn't say anything about his intent.  But unfortunately I think that much
> of the content comes not only from mythology but from his consciousness
> being determined by the being of contemporary British imperialism.  This
> isn't from Norse legend:
> "'More Men going to Mordor,' he said in a low voice.  'Dark faces.  We have
> not seen men like these before, no, Sméagol has not.  They are fierce.  They
> have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears; yes,
> lots of beautiful gold.  And some have red paint on their cheeks, and red
> cloaks; and the flags are red, and the tips of their spears; and they have
> round shields, yellow and black with big spikes.  Not nice; very cruel
> wicked Men they look.  Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger.  Sméagol
> thinks they have come out of the South beyond the Great River's end; they
> came up that road."  That is, they're from Africa, although of course the
> coastlines have been much changed since that time.  Of course Tolkien
> doesn't believe the hobbits should go there and colonize them; he believes
> they should stay in their own land and leave them alone.  That's his
> pre-capitalism for you.
So very much a man of his time and class - but nevertheless an opponent
(or critic) of much of the politics of his class - hence his admiration
for backward medievalist ideas.

But this reaction was also the origin of many people who developed in a
socialist direction e.g. William Morris, who started off with a
medievalist critique of capitalism but developed into one of the first
British Marxists and became a close comrade-in-arms of Eleanor Marx. and
the Guild Socialists, who provided several theoreticians for the early

Einde O'Callaghan

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