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Thread: Racism in Middle-earth

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Does anyone of you know good examples for racism in Middle-earth? i am thinking about examples like the Elves and the Dwarves but the question is: is that already racism? Are Hobbits just suspicious towards outlandish folk or is this racism, as well? Are the wizards a race on their own or "just" Maiar? Are Orcs treating Wargs like racists because they use them for their purpose? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Hm, an interesting thought for sure. After really thinking about it, I think the best example would be elves and dwarves. Not very dissimilar to, say, America and Iran. Not every American hates Iranians, and vice versa. However there is still a degree of racism among the many who do, simply because we are American or they are Iranian. They never "directly" harmed the US, yet many think they are untrustworthy.

And just how the two have had their crisis back in the 70s, elves/dwarves had theirs with Thingol's attack. Relations weren't COMPLETELY sundered, and they still did the occasional trade, though it was never the same. I believe I read somewhere the new dwarven caravans were heavily armored thereafter.

So, is this so different? The US still gets oil from Iran, though most think they are the bad guy....and vice versa. I only use the two as an example of real world racism that was never directly influenced by violence.

However, I really can't think of many other examples outside of assuming all orcs are evil monsters but....that seems to be pretty...official. I'm not sure I understand your orc/warg comparison, as it's not much different from humans and horses. Perhaps wargs were slightly smarter than most creatures, as they seemed to know who to attack and when, whereas a horse might just run off or stand there, but they were still just that...creatures. So they are not a comparable race as they are a completely different species. Now animal rights in ME is a different story.

I don't doubt for a second many of Thingols people were resentful they stayed in ME. And then after the Kinslaying, many probably thought they would've done better or they were superior to those killers. This is the difference between Noldori and Sindari, which I guess could be considered different races?? This of course is just wild speculation but, if our real life human behavior has any indication, it's really not that unlikely.

 

I think when the Elves used to hunt the Petty-Dwarves for sport and then stopped when they decided it was wrong is racism almost genocide.  

Interesting. I don't consider that Men,Dwarves and Elves are races, they are totally different people's.

I think an actual example of racism is between the Weatern Men and the Rohan vs the Southrons and The Hill Men who have, thanks to Sauron hated each other for centuries.

I think when the Elves used to hunt the Petty-Dwarves for sport and then stopped when they decided it was wrong is racism almost genocide.

Your description here might give the wrong impression, I think. The Petty-Dwarves attacked the Eldar for example, and the more detailed scenario reads (JRR Tolkien, The War of The Jewels):

'The Eldar did not at first recognize these [Petty-Dwarves] as Incarnates, for they seldom caught sight of them in clear light. They only became aware of their existence indeed when they [the Petty-Dwarves] attacked the Eldar by stealth at night, or if they caught them alone in wild places.'

'The Eldar therefore thought that they were a kind of cunning two-legged animal living in caves, and they called them Levain tad-dail, or simply Tad-dail, and they hunted them. But after the Eldar had made the acquaintance of the Naugrim, the Tad-dail were recognized as a variety of Dwarves and were left alone.'

In The Children of Hurin, Saeros's motives for offending Turin can be partially, if not wholly, interpreted as racist - he even refers to Morwen as "clad only with her hair", evoking an association of her being a wild animal.

I will give you the quotation which sounds to me particularly racist :

 

Saeros then plied him with questions, concerning the news from the borders, and his deeds in the
wild; but though his words seemed fair, the mockery in his voice could not be mistaken. Then
Túrin became weary, and he looked about him, and knew the bitterness of exile; and for all the
light and laughter of the Elven-halls his thought turned to Beleg and their life in the woods, and
thence far away, to Morwen in Dor-lómin in the house of his father; and he frowned, because of
the darkness of his thoughts, and made no answer to Saeros. At this, believing the frown aimed at
himself, Saeros restrained his anger no longer; and he took out a golden comb, and cast it on the
board before Túrin, crying: 'Doubtless, Man of Hithlum, you came in haste to this table, and may
be excused your ragged cloak; but there is no need to leave your head untended as a thicket of
brambles. And maybe if your ears were uncovered you would heed better what is said to you.'
Túrin said nothing, but turned his eyes upon Saeros, and there was a glint in their darkness. But
Saeros did not heed the warning, and returned the gaze with scorn, saying for all to hear: 'If the
Men of Hithlum are so wild and fell, of what sort are the women of that land? Do they run like
the deer clad only in their hair?'

To explain my warg/orc example:

In The Hobbit the wargs have the ability to speak to humans, though only Gandalf understands their language.

And in the battle of the five armies they are counted as one of these five armies.

They seem to have their own history of battles with other races, so i would go as far as say, that Tolkien was trying to tell us, that even animal-alike creatures are counted as own race in Middle-earth.

Indeed however these are all different species, not races. Perhaps this thread should read "peopleism or Breedism" of which there is plenty of examples in ME.

I find it very interesting Lilia you consider wargs to be a race equal to elves/humans/dwarves. I had never considered this. Interesting point, however I'd have to disagree. In your analogy some other races of ME would include dragons, balrogs, eagles and I'm sure a few more.

So is it speech that defines what a race is compared to a species? Or is it classification? I've read a few stories that include an army of wolves that are referred to as such...does this mean wolves are their own race? Or no because they don't speak a language known to humans? Also if Gandalf is the only one to understand them, how is that different from, say, dogs or cats? They love to talk to us, even though nobody really knows what they're saying. Yet I assume you do not consider them another race among humans?

In our world races include Africans, Caucasians, Asians, Indians, Natives etc etc. Humans who just look different. I just find it interesting you'd consider what I'd always considered a slightly smarter/larger wolf as a race in and of itself. Not necessarily saying you're wrong, because I suppose depending on your reasons I could see how that conclusion could be made, just an interesting perspective.

Interesting. I don't consider that Men,Dwarves and Elves are races, they are totally different people's.

I think an actual example of racism is between the Weatern Men and the Rohan vs the Southrons and The Hill Men who have, thanks to Sauron hated each other for centuries.

I see it in a similar way. When it comes to Elves/Dwarves I think it's rather based on different cultures than on a racist level. Those races were interested in so different things (and also they were developed so differently) that they just couldn't get along together too well.

When it comes to Dwarves I also see the element of them being brought to life by Aule without Eru's consent at first. I could see it would affecting their history.

In The Children of Hurin, Saeros's motives for offending Turin can be partially, if not wholly, interpreted as racist - he even refers to Morwen as "clad only with her hair", evoking an association of her being a wild animal.

Oh, I remember that part - thanks for putting the quote here.

Wow! I have never once not considered elves/humans/dwarves/hobbits to be separate races. In fact, I'm pretty sure they are referred to as such,"the races of Middle Earth," in some way or another somewhere in the multiple Tolkien works I've read...and that's not even all of them.

Sorry guys, I do not see wargs as a race anymore than wolves or parrots. They are a separate species with a completely different genetic makeup. Race is determined within a species, not the other way around, and THEN that race is given a societal culture. We homosapiens all came from the same place. The same spawning point. Then we split apart, our pigmentation changed on our location, and we developed lifestyles as such. So obviously they have different cultures, but they look very different from each other. Rohan and Gondor are a separation of culture. Minas Tirith and Rivendell are a separation of race. Other creatures evolved elsewhere and lead their own journey of survival. Wargs were not created by corrupting elves or humans into a wolf creature. Thus, on the basis of science, I cannot consider them a race equal to the "same race" elves/humans/dwarves. And aside from extremely basic speech, I also don't consider them to be intelligent animals. At least no more intelligent than a smart dog.

Ok that's the last I'll say on it. Just my opinion and I'm fascinated by all of yours!

 

I see them as all different races in a diverse world and how they treat each other and their relationship with the Valar tends to make or break their future. I expect more from the Elves which is why I posted earlier (rather bluntly) I feel the Elves mistreated the Petty-Dwarves. They are a good example of racism I my opinion because Tolkien says even the term Petty-Dwarves was a derogatory one perhaps a racial slur.   

Even the Dwarves gave heed to the reasons why the Elves hunted the Petty-dwarves. Tolkien explained (The War of the Jewels):

'The great Dwarves despised the Petty-dwarves, who were (it is said) the descendants of Dwarves who had left or been driven our from the Communities, being deformed or undersized, or slothful and rebellious. But they still acknowledged their kinship and resented any injuries done to them. Indeed it was one of their grievances against the Eldar that they had hunted and slain their lesser kin, who had settled in Beleriand before the Elves came there.'

'This grievance was set aside, when treaties were made between the Dwarves and the Sindar, in consideration of the plea that the Petty-dwarves had never declared themselves to the Eldar, nor presented any claims to land or habitations, but had at once attacked the newcomers in darkness and ambush. But the grievance still smouldered, as was later seen in the case of Mîm, the only Petty-dwarf who played a memorable part in the Annals of Beleriand.'

JRRT, Quendi And Eldar

The Sindar also used Nogotheg 'Dwarflet'. 'Petty' in English did not originally have a disparaging meaning, hailing from a phonemic spelling of Old French petit 'small' ('petty officer' has an interesting history, for example), but that said, Quendi And Eldar does say elsewhere:

'... and later they were called Noegyth Nibin or Petty-Dwarves, for they had become smaller than the norm of their kind, and filled with hate for all other creatures.'

So this certainly seems to refer to height, and if it also refers to nature, well, in my opinion it seems rather on the mark to me, and descriptive: beings filled with hate for all other creatures get negative names because they are negative beings.

In Sindarin anyway, we might have a sense of 'small and frail here', as in a late text Tolkien refers to a Sindarin name of the fifth finger as niben, concerning which the editors of Vinyar Tengwar note (VT 48 note 15):

'S. niben, play-name of the fifth finger, has no cognate in the Quenya and Telerin forms. It is no doubt the same as the adjecive niben 'petty' seen in Nogoth niben 'Petty Dwarf' pl. Noegyth Nibin. The list of roots meaning 'large' and 'small' found in 'Quenya C' (...) provides the probable etymological source; the section pertaining to 'small' reads (...)

NIP nipa, nimpi. Usually with connotations of weakness.

[full section edited by me]

'The root NIP 'small', said to usually have a 'connotation of weakness' (the words 'or worthless' were added above the end of this gloss, then struck out), must be the source of S. niben 'petty', probably via primitive *nipina [with long a]. This is further supported by the translation of S. nimp, which was first written as 'small and frail or small, petty' with 'petty' subsequently struck out. 

The pejorative sense 'small and frail' certainly applies to the Noegyth Nibin, who were not only 'smaller than the norm of their kind' (...) but also weaker in terms of their diminished smith-craft, furtive existence, and dwindling numbers. Since the play-names portray the fingers as members of an imaginary family, S. niben as a name for the 'baby' is probably intended as *'the small (and frail) one'.

Vinyar Tengwar 48,  Eldarin Hands, Fingers And Numerals and Related Writings, Part Two, note 15 [from the editor]

Interesting [to me anyway], also with respect to what Tolkien crossed out here.

They are a good example of racism I my opinion because Tolkien says even the term Petty-Dwarves was a derogatory one perhaps a racial slur.

Can you provide this statement please? I'm not saying it doesn't exist but I did some measure of digging myself and have not [yet] stumbled across something this specific.

 

“The name Noegyth Nibin is a Grey Elven name and not all together polite”

From of Turin Turambar

The Silmarillion first Edition 1977

That sounds like an insult to me differently not a compliment and in plain English Petty-Dwarves sounds like a slight. From the first time I read the Sil I felt sympathy for Mîm and his sons. So the question is were the Noegyth Nibin bad little Dwarves because they were ostracized or where they naturally bad seeds? But truly a group of people that is driven out from the main part of their society because of their appearance is the definition of racism which is my point in this thread. In my opinion there are many examples of racism in Tolkien’s world no doubt put there on purpose to add to the complexity of the relationships between the many different races. But the War of the Jewels is now top on my wish list from Amazon passing Morgoth’s Ring 

“The name Noegyth Nibin is a Grey Elven name and not all together polite” From of Turin Turambar, The Silmarillion first Edition 1977

According to my first edition Silmarillion this name occurs once in the text, and the line is:

'... but afterwards they let them alone, and they were called Noegyth Nibin, the Petty-Dwarves, in the Sindarin tongue. The loved none but themselves...'

If there is another reference, can you be more specific with respect to where in this chapter? 

But truly a group of people that is driven out from the main part of their society because of their appearance is the definition of racism which is my point in this thread.

In any case they were not driven out from their own society by Elves, nor hunted by Elves because of their appearance, and I have been responding to those parts of your posts where it's at least [arguably] implied that the Elves were being racist towards these Dwarves -- who again, are said to have hated all others, and were 'despised' by the Dwarves themselves.

 

I deeply apologize I was on my phone and did not have the book in front of me so miss quoted the Silmarillion that line is from another book when I took a class on Tolkien in collage. But I never meant to imply I could quote Tolkien line and verse as you can Galin. But the question has been answered do the terms Noegyth Nibin and Petty-Dwarves have negative connotation.

“In any case they were not driven out from their own society by Elves, nor hunted by Elves because of their appearance”

This is not what I meant I was quoting your above post in which you said:

“The great Dwarves despised the Petty-dwarves, who were (it is said) the descendants of Dwarves who had left or been driven out from the Communities, being deformed or undersized, or slothful and rebellious.”

Interesting Slothful (lazy) Rebellious (defiant, difficult) these terms are eerily similar to the terms used to subjugate people on our Earth as well. I am done with this as it is starting to sound as if I am an advocate for the rights of Petty-Dwarves LOL but I have not made my point clear from the beginning.  

The whole of my opinion was formed when I Read about Mîm and his sons and it seemed to me at the time that they were the last of their kind hiding from everyone. And everything I’ve posted on Planet Tolkien has been only my opinion. Opinion for discussion, discussion for entertainment. 

No problem Ainulindale. I wasn't wholly sure that there wasn't another reference, and in any event the discussion happily brought me to the 'niben note' in VT, which I hadn't read yet [I haven't read all of VT 48 yet! So thanks also to Hisweloke for leading me to note 15 incidentally].

Anyway thanks for clearing things up Smile Smilie