Thread: Tolkien's races, who in our history were they derived from?
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Tolkien’s countless numbers of racial groups all seem as if they are a cross over into real world history, for example, Hobbits follow quite traditional 18th/19th Century upper class English ways (i.e. they drink tea from tea cups and saucers and they have ceramic plates and dishes). Another example might include the Eorlingas people of Rohan, they look a lot like we know Scandinavian Viking/Norsemen to have looked like. I’m pretty sure a lot of Tolkien’s racial groups source from world history, i.e. he didn’t necessarily make them all up himself, he got inspiration from what had already been. What are your thoughts, and after reading the books, based on Tolkien’s descriptions and your own imaginations, how did you see the peoples of Middle Earth?
Hobbits though, weren't really "Upper Class" Brits; they were supposed to be more like country middle class folk with comfy lifestyles but no pretensions, and more than a bit parochial , and a love of gardening.
Anglo Saxons on horses?
Trees woken up! Are they not merely themselves?
Tom Bombadil and Goldberry? They were the First (I'm not sure about that, though, it's tricky question as we all know!
I'm not absolutely sure the Elves are who you say thay are, GB.
Dwarves? Scots? Only in Movies, surely!
Perhaps its because I'm Scottish but the elves have always reminded me of the Dalreida, who overcame/overthrew (no-one knows) the picts and were essentially the first Scots. They, like the Elves, were influenced by faerie (the faerie flag of the Macleods can still be seen today, part of a love story between an immortal and a mortal, I'm sure Tolkien would have known it) and the Dalreida, like elves, seemed to have been better at just about everything than anyone else. And they came from over the sea, from the west. (Granted it was only from Ireland and not that far, bit still).
My vision of Middle-earth has always been tinted, for better or worse, by medievalism (with the exception of the Shire). I can certainly see similarities to older cultures in Gondor, but in other ways I have a hard time imagining Gondorians like that. Medieval/Rennaisance Venice is a nice comparison though.
It seems a bit out of place amongst the rest of Middle-earth, but the Shire was consciously based by Tolkien off of the late 19th-century English countryside. There are obviously some major technological advancements that Hobbits [i:1v7koelx]don't[/i:1v7koelx] have, but on the other hand they do have clocks and the like, which seem a bit out-of-place in other Middle-earth cultures.
[quote:1v7koelx]Anglo Saxons on horses? [/quote:1v7koelx]
I can easily imagine the Rohirrim as this. Tolkien even used Anglo-Saxon as a substitute for Rohirric in the books (much as he used English as a substitute for Westron - the common speech).
[quote:1v7koelx]Trees woken up! Are they not merely themselves?[/quote:1v7koelx]
I think the Ents are spirits given physical form that bear some resemblances to trees, not trees that have developed some extra features and abilities. I don't really like the image of Ents in the movie of "talking trees".
Um... I thought Ents [i:12vhdr9l]were [/i:12vhdr9l] talking trees? Ones those pesky inquisitive Elves woke up!
Mmm... Elves waking up trees sounds more Hobbitish than LotRish come to think of it! And, you know, I do think LotR was best when it was at it's most Hobbitish... maybe the movie makers should note this and Hobbitize their Hobbit movies. Makes sense to me. I wonder why no one has thought of it 'til now! Curiouser and curiouser!
Stone Giants! What race do they derive from?
NB How do you do 'quotes' so that they're in those neat little boxes you guys have in your posts. My 'quotes' do have an unprofessional look!
The Ents were created either by or for Yavanna after she petitioned for their creation for she feared the Trees destruction when she discovered her husband Aule had secretly created Dwarves. I don't really see them as either more "Hobbitish" or "LotRish", but for all intents and purposes they ARE basically Talking Trees with advanced mobility. Some Trees were awakened by the Elves, such as those in Fangorn and Old Man Willow etc. Those Trees could "walk" when necessary, as when they went to Helm's Deep to mop up Saruman's forces.
Or the second button for us non-moderator types. Alternatively, you can type the quote tags out yourself, like this:
Which gives you:
The Silmarillion, "Aule and Yavanna" mentions (as GB alludes to) "spirits from afar" which are implied to have become Ents. (I don't want a repeat of the Bombadil thread so I'm not going to bother speculating what those spirits might have been. ) As for Legolas' statement: it may be that the Elves awakened the spirits that were already present, or that they mistakenly accredited the deed to themselves after the fact. Or there may simply be contradictory accounts, as there are in many mythologies.
Which chapter in the Sil refers to Ents as "spirits from afar" Eldo. I only remember that the Ents were Created after the Dwarves.
Ah... that's how you do it!
No it's not... Try again....
Ah.... this time?
I just realized what Race I'm descended from: the Neanderthals!
What race were the goblins descended from? Were they ALL broken Elves?
[quote="Eldorion":3ige5ha6](I don't want a repeat of the Bombadil thread so I'm not going to bother speculating what those spirits might have been. ) [/quote:3ige5ha6]
[color=#FF0000:3ige5ha6]Sorry! [/color:3ige5ha6]Just being silly now!
I just noticed this part of your post. The chapter is "Aule and Yavanna", and the fuller quote (the words of Eru to Manwe) reads: "Do then any of the Valar suppose that I did not hear all the Song, even the least sound of the least voice? Behold! When the Children awake, then the thought of Yavanna will awake also, and it will summon [b:3ih1qg8r]spirits from afar[/b:3ih1qg8r], and they will go among the [i:3ih1qg8r]kelvar[/i:3ih1qg8r] and the [i:3ih1qg8r]olvar[/i:3ih1qg8r], and some will dwell therein, and be held in reverence, and their just anger shall be feared. For a time: while the Firstborn are in their power, and while the Secondborn are young." (my bold emphasis)
In the version that Christopher Tolkien put into the 1977 [i:2hcurwrr]Silmarillion[/i:2hcurwrr]. The elder Tolkien never made up his mind one way or another, though; but he considered the idea of Orcs being at least partially descended from Men quite a bit.
Tolkien did change his mind back and forth regarding the origins of the Orcs it would seem.
The only sentient beings that could even possibly be valled Valarian subcreations are the Dwarves, but I think Eru had a hand in their sentience. The "Aule and Yavanna" chapter has always implied to me that the Dwarves were only capable of independent thought because Eru "had compassion upon Aule and his desire".
[i:2kumh2a8]"Elvish histories tell how, when Varda, Queen of the Heavens, rekindled the stars and the elves awoke, the Ents also awoke in the great forests of Arda. They came from the thoughts of Yavanna, queen of the earth, and were her shepherds of the trees. Shepherds and guardians they provide to be for, if roused in anger, Entish wrath was terrible and they could crush stone and steel with their hands alone. Justly they were feared, but they were also gentle and wise. They loved the trees and all the Olvar and guarded them from evil."[/i:2kumh2a8]
(my credits to David Day for making the encyclopedia thats quoted from )
So Aule wasent the only one that created sentient beings, Yavanna had a hand too.
Looking at the quote from Tolkien, as opposed to Mr. Day, the Ents came from spirits sent by Eru (of some unknown sort). The thought of Yavanna summoned said spirits, but she did not directly create the Ents.
Thinking about it, I have the latest copy of the Silmarillion to hand, I shall have a look...
Aside from Ents I think the Easterlings were supposed to be Mongolesque, Far Harad would either I think be African or Middle-eastern in likeness, I've never decided which is most likely.
The Corsairs being mariners could well be based loosely on Phonetians. (sorry don't think that's right spelling!)
Orcs are an interesting one. In Tolkiens world only Eru can create life. It follows from this that Eru created the orcs, but it seems unlikely Eru would have chosen to make beings so hostile and despicable.
I was always of the impression Morgoth bred the first Orcs, and this must have been breeding from existing created beings. So in origin orcs must have been either, human, elf, dwarf, hobbit, an unknown other race, or all of them. I see no problem with orcs actually deriving from a corruption of all of the other races, this in fact might explain the orcs diverse stature and how two hobbits could wear orc clothing and be so easily mistaken for orcs. (And I don't buy the excuse 'it was dark', they're orcs they can see well in the dark).
Trolls are another tricky one, I'm sure I read somewhere, but Eru alone knows where, that they were corruptions of Ents. But this seems unlikely to me as ents are so closely associated with wood and trolls with stone. Maybe its a dwarven secret, always suspected they had something to do with bringing trolls about.
I think the Rohirrim are another interesting bunch, generally they are assumed to be Norse like, with their blond hair and hall of Meduseld, with a dash of Anglo-Saxon thrown into their mix. But I've always rather thought of them as being partly Germanic, the very first early Celtic tribes (where blonde is also common). This is partly geographic, the Rohirrim originally come from around Mirkwood which if The Shire is England would be roughly mid-Europe. The early Rohirrim came from an area dominated by forest, as did the Germanic tribes. The other reason is linguistic, even today in Scots words like 'loch', you can hear the same sounds common in German, this is true of Irish, Welsh, Cornish and others and was always reminiscent to me of similarities Merry notices in forms of language between hobbits and Rohirrim. The comparison between what happened with language between Celtic and its later various forms seems closer to that of the spread of language between early Rohirrim, hobbit and northern men than does any Norse source. For me the Rohirrim are a composite race with many sources of inspiration.
Now Hobbits--being stand-ins for English country folk--would indeed notice a similarity between Rohirrim and Hobbitish, as Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, and English are all Germanic.
Btw Eldo I really agree with you about Gondorians sourcing from Mediterranean countries around 16th/17th century, they are undoubtedly a European-derived race with a mid European culture. They kinda remind me of 16th/17th Italian/Greek/Spanish soldiers you see in historic enactments and history books, with their beautifully crafted helmets into which intricate patterns have been engraved and their silk tunics which have been emblazoned with an iconic hand-sewn insignia across the breast. They also really remind me of the Telmarines of which are in C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, they also have links to Spanish history. The Mediterranean military image of the 1500/1600s is a really impressive one.
I also agree with GB who commented on page one about slipping into making unconscious racist comments on this thread, it's likely Tolkien's colonial views had influences on how the book was written, Orcs and Uruk Hai paint and splatter their shields and banners with crude looking logos, sadly I can think of specific cultures in the past that used crude icons like these to march into battle with. I can also think of origins for the Har’drim that might be considered a bit racist today .
P.S. Thanks for the 'culture-map' GB.
Images from the recent film adaptations of which followed the book descriptions.
I hadn't though of the Corsairs as Phonecian, in part because of an interesting article I read a while back pointing out how the Corsairs are said to have dromunds (aka dromon(d)s) in RotK, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The dromunds are the only named type of ship in the passage, and presumably refers to the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dromond:1dzd3pvw]Byzantine warship[/url:1dzd3pvw]. Thinking about it, this is evidence for the Gondorian-Byzantine hypothesis (the Corsairs being Gondorian exiles).
[quote:1dzd3pvw]Orcs are an interesting one. In Tolkiens world only Eru can create life. It follows from this that Eru created the orcs, but it seems unlikely Eru would have chosen to make beings so hostile and despicable.[/quote:1dzd3pvw]
I think that it Morgoth probably corrupted Orcs from one or more sources. That makes the most sense out of the possible answers (the others being Morgoth created them - impossible under the widely accepted notion that evil cannot create - and that Eru created Orcs as is - which seems unlikely). What the source is, however, we don't and can't know.
[quote:1dzd3pvw]I see no problem with orcs actually deriving from a corruption of all of the other races, this in fact might explain the orcs diverse stature and how two hobbits could wear orc clothing and be so easily mistaken for orcs. (And I don't buy the excuse 'it was dark', they're orcs they can see well in the dark).[/quote:1dzd3pvw]
This makes a good deal of sense.
Tolkien based Quenya on Finnish and Sindarin on Welsh, though he made his own changes to them and tried to show an internal evolution of the language from the older Quenya to the Sindarin derivatives. The Rohirrim game from a separate linguistic heritage: the Edainic people of the ancient Eriador and Wilderland. Also included in this language was (if I recall correctly) the precursor to Adunaic, the language of the Numenoreans, which was in turn the precursor to Westron, the common tongue.
Both Westron and Adunaic had Elvish influences, however, while Rohirric remained more distinct since the Rohirrim had little to no contact with the Elves. This difference is reflected in the use of English to substitute for Westron and Anglo-Saxon to substitute for the older but related Rohirric. Interestingly, this means that the Rohirric language we read in the book is not what they would have "actually" been saying, since the Rohirrim didn't "actually" speak Anglo-Saxon. Therefore, Eomer's "real" name was not actually Eomer at all.
Also, the Hobbit names in the books are all Anglicizations. Unlike the Rohirrim, Appendix F does give us some information about their "real" Westron names. For example, the name of Meriadoc Brandybuck in Westron was actually [i:2g8l2730]Kalimac Brandagamba[/i:2g8l2730]. I think that's enough rambling for now, though. It's all there in Appendix F, II, On Translation for those who want to read it.
BTW, thank you for the fascinating language chart.
Thanks for starting this very interesting and thought-provoking thread.
[quote:2ccx0xtc]They kinda remind me of 16th/17th Italian/Greek/Spanish soldiers you see in historic enactments and history books, with their beautifully crafted helmets into which intricate patterns have been engraved and their silk tunics which have been emblazoned with an iconic hand-sewn insignia across the breast. They also really remind me of the Telmarines of which are in C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, they also have links to Spanish history. The Mediterranean military image of the 1500/1600s is a really impressive one. [/quote:2ccx0xtc]
This isn't really a topic that I know much about, but from what you've said here I can definitely see the similarities. Also, the Gondorians being Rennaisance Mediterraneans would be a good parallel to the earlier Numenoreans being Ancient Egyptian Mediterraneans.
[quote:2ccx0xtc]I also agree with GB who commented on page one about slipping into making unconscious racist comments on this thread, it's likely Tolkien's colonial views had influences on how the book was written[/quote:2ccx0xtc]
Given the time and culture that Tolkien was raised in I wouldn't be surprised, sadly, though if there is any racism present I don't think it is very pronounced. The "bad" humans come from Asian- African- and Middle-Eastern-esque cultures, but this is largely due to geography since the "good" humans were living in an area roughly corresponding to Europe (since Tolkien was inspired by European mythology). That said, Tolkien was able to humanize the other humans, especially in Sam's famous consideration of the soldier of Harad in The Two Towers (given to Faramir in the film). Also, some Hobbits (including Sam) were brown-skinned.
[quote:2ccx0xtc]Images from the recent film adaptations of which followed the book descriptions.[/quote:2ccx0xtc]
I don't know about the Narnia one, but PJ's design team took a number of liberties with the Gondorians, most notably in giving them all plate armour. They, and just about everyone else in Middle-earth, wore maille.
Tolkien was a big fan of Homer, so that is quite plausible.
Though Tolkien never intended the comparison, I do think it is "applicable", particularly as it relates to Spiritual Practices and Ancient History. I've often thought Elven Warriors would be similar to the Shaolin Warrior Monks, highly trained in deadly Martial Arts, Super-Stealth, and yet a reverence for life that brought them sorrow when it became necessary to use their Arts to defend others.
Then there is the near Ancestor Reverence of the Elves which echoes the Ancestor Worship of Chinese familial life. And a stormy History that sundered clans and joined states into a great Nation of peoples. The Zen Art that captures an image and a mood with a few flowing lines. The Captivating and epic Geography of the land itself that seems too fantastic to be Real. The Mountain Hermit Monks like great Wizards, Wise and Magical. The Eastern Values that lean towards communal efforts.
Obviously some of the comparisons are based a bit on stereotypes that have been presented through popular culture. Chinese people are just like all others, complex and varied and individual. But nonetheless, some of the broader characteristics could be applied to Elf-kind.
Ah, yes, Hobbits. Very interesting. Obviously as [b:1k7yjwn4]GB[/b:1k7yjwn4] and I were speaking about in another topic, Hobbits were obviously mainly derived from Brits! However, many of my relatives are Italian, and I have visited Italy quite frequently, where some relatives still reside. Every time I see my relatives, they tell me how I must eat more, and how I'm too skinny, which really, I'm not [i:1k7yjwn4]all that skinny[/i:1k7yjwn4]. Point is, they really know how to eat like Hobbits, and when I visit, it is always because of a large family reunion. Many of my relatives are gifted with the ability to play instruments, and there is much merriment in this, while they sing songs in Italian and play catchy tunes, while I merely smile and try to sing along at the chorus . To me, this reminds me greatly of Hobbits, but perhaps these are just my relatives!
Also briefly gone over in another topic, I do believe Elves and the Chinese [i:1k7yjwn4]and[/i:1k7yjwn4] the Japanese have a great similarity. These days, Modern-China has absolutely no similarities to Elvish culture in Middle Earth, but, I do think we can definitely see some in Ancient China! The Chinese is the oldest civilization still around today, and they have definitely been observers for the most part, minding to their own (they've had many too civil wars to bother much with other nations ). I see it as, the Chinese are for the most part peaceful towards other nations, yet as displayed in WWI and WWII, they will take stomp all over you when necessary, just like Elves.
The Chinese are very loyal to their allies, as are the Elves. The Chinese display their loyalty in Vietnam War, and the Elves display theirs to Men in the Last Stand against Sauron. Though, also, the Elves and Chinese do not have blind allegiance to their allies, and will leave away from them when they see necessary. Speaking of which, both the Chinese and Elves know when their Golden Ages have come and gone. I don't think I need to explain the ways of the Elves, but the Chinese, when the Huns begin over-riding their power, they meekly "submit" to this power, and build what we call the Great Wall of China. Though, soon after, they come right back and defend themselves from the Huns, driving them out of China and pushing them back into Mongolia.
[b:1k7yjwn4]Men of The East[/b:1k7yjwn4]
The Men of The East, I see as the Indians and The Ottoman Empire. They remind me of the Indians in the way they are feared for their Elephants (Mumakil), and their ceremonial war-armor also describes that of the Indians. Also, these Men of The East seem to be simply wandering bands of men who are brought together under one flag, sort of like the Ottoman Empire. Not much more to say on the Men of The East, though I am sure much more could be said.
Ale. Beards. Taverns. Food.
Strangely enough, Rohan reminds me greatly of the Huns. The Huns are known for their expertise in Cavalry, trampling their enemies underfoot(hoof?). There are many sketches of the Hun, and whenever I see the Rohirrim, the first thing that comes to mind is The Huns. They seem like a group of renegade cavalry, but are in actuality well disciplined horsemen who use both bow and spear, this is true for both the Huns and the Rohirrim.
Gondor reminds me greatly of Rome. Their high walls, their beautiful structures, their use of catapults, their corruption of government, all so wonderful!
Their centurions also bring to mind, well, Roman centurions. Hmmm.
Well, I think that's about it .
Hope I didn't bore everyone to death, and my post makes some actual sense in the morning, and not only to be at what is now 3:26 A.M. .
As such, Hobbits seem to represent the small town middle-class demographic, and to varying degrees a high percentage of people in Western countries self-identify to that demographic even when they are on the lower end of that economic rung. So large bustling close-knit families in insular communities all have Hobbitish tendencies. So that can certainly apply Universally to Italian families too .
PS: 1:15 AM as i finish this post
PS: But you're still wrong .
I've always viewed the Wainriders as more Hun/Turk/Mongol equivalents than the Rohirrim. The Rohirrim aren't renegades (whatever nasty rumours about paying tribute to Mordor might have been spread), and keep their alliance with Gondor admirably. The Wainriders, mentioned briefly in Appendix A and at greater length in UT (that chapter, Cirion and Eorl, is my all-time favourite Tolkien writing btw ), served Sauron indirectly, invaded the kingdoms in the west, but were eventually repulsed.
I'm not sure if there is a historical western horse-culture that the Rohirrim would be equivalent to, though.
[quote:1la7gj6c]Gondor reminds me greatly of Rome. Their high walls, their beautiful structures, their use of catapults, their corruption of government, all so wonderful!
Their centurions also bring to mind, well, Roman centurions. Hmmm.[/quote:1la7gj6c]
A very interesting post, Durin, as is usual for you lately. It is all the more impressive that you wrote it so late (early).
"[i:1f386kv0]Middle-earth....corresponds spiritually to Nordic Europe.[/i:1f386kv0]
Not [i:1f386kv0]Nordic[/i:1f386kv0],please! A word I personally dislike; it is associated, though of French origin, with racialist theories. Geographically [i:1f386kv0]Northern[/i:1f386kv0] is usually better. But examination will show that even this is inapplicable(geographically or spiritually) to 'Middle-Earth'. This is an old word, not invented by me....It meant the habitable lands of our world, set amid the surrounding ocean. The action of the story takes place in the North-West of Middle-Earth, equivalent in latitude to the coastlands of Europe and the north shores of the Mediterranean. But this is not a purely 'Nordic' area in any sense. If Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken (as intended) to be at about the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles south, is about the latitude of Florence. The Mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are at about the latitude of ancient Troy."
"There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic extermination of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory; because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done.....You can't fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into the Enemy; but unfortunately Gandalf's wisdom seems long ago to have passed with him into the True West."
And there is this from a response to a letter from his son who was in S.Africa (Letter 61);
"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. not many retain that generous sentiment for long."
But the term Nordic isn't specifically attached to Aryan (not to be confused with Arian* ) Racism, it was a word that was in general usage up through the early 80's by scholars and lay-people alike. As you say, Tolkien was not a Racist of that sort. In fact, unlike CS Lewis, Tolkien rather disliked Wagner due to Wagner's uncomfortably close association with the more virulent strains of European Anti-Semitism (an association to which Lewis turned a blind eye). There can be no doubt though, that Tolkien (and Lewis) was at least what I call a "Culturalist", sharing a number of the misguided perceptions common to European Males of his time and place.
These were background assumptions though, and not an active or outright condemnation of other cultures (excepting perhaps the French , as noted by Humphrey Carpenter). Tolkien and Lewis were both quite taken with "Northerness", a sort of adulation of the shared Mythology and Culture of Northern Europe, which has been amply demonstrated by biographers, from Carpenter, to Wilson (I myself was smitten with the Northern Bug in High School after reading the available Tolkien works at the time).
* inside, inside joke related to having to explain the converse time and again when speaking of the early school of Christianity, Arianism--followers of Arius .
"Auden has asserted that for me 'the North is a sacred direction'. That is not true. The NW of Europe, where I (and most of my ancestors) have lived, has my affection, as a man's home should. I love its atmosphere, and know more of its histories and languages than I do other parts; but it is not 'sacred', nor does it exhaust my affections...That it is untrue for my story, a mere reading of the synopsis should show. The North was the seat of the fortress of the Devil. The progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome than anything that would be devised by a 'Nordic'.
Not having a personal copy of Tolkien's Letters these days, I have to rely on Google searches, and I don't always have time.
If there is any creedence in the above idea, perhaps hobbits are descended from the brownies of folklore.
They look more like bloomin' Orcs to me .
[i:2h9cjkru]"Tra la lally,
Let's fight in the valley,
The Dwarvers are smelly!
The orcses are gorgeous!
Our swordies are forgest!
In late June, ha ha!" [/i:2h9cjkru]
Sorry! Poetry is a bit like Tourettes with me!
Sam is said to have "brown hands" (TTT, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol); the Harfoots were "browner of skin" than the other Hobbits, though only the Fallohides were singled out as "fairer of skin, and also of hair" (Prologue); and Frodo is said to be "fairer than most" (FOTR, Strider), and while this is limited in helpfulness since we don't know exactly how fair of skin Frodo was, I think it can be reasonably assumed that most Hobbits had noticeably tanned skin.
Food for thought.
[quote:1ki84q1d]In fact I think Tolkien would have been appalled at the hideous Elves in the Rankin Bass productions:[/quote:1ki84q1d]
I know I am! And to think I had managed to scour them from my memory. Pass the lye, please....