Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Thursday, December 13, 2001

There is some great stuff out there today. Joanne Jacobs has a takedown of a Sydney Morning Herald article calling Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter racist. This is akin to the old Chris Rock routine on SNL, the Nat X show (a classic). Billiards is racist, because it is a where the White ball knocks all the Colored balls off the table!! It is really very funny, and outlines the same problem with simplistic readings and interpretation. The evil Dark Lord Sauron attacks the peoples of the West (the WWII allegory was always denied by Tolkien, but most believe it anyway), and the quest to destroy the One Ring coincides with the Great War to stave off his dominion. As Jacobs notes, the Fellowship of the Ring represents all of the peoples of Middle-Earth, and the armies of the Dark Lord include Men, Orcs, Trolls, and various evil spirits. The racism charge is a bit silly. It is a fantasy story, after all. It is true, however, that the Men who follow Sauron are described as "swarthy" usually, whereas the lordly men of the west are tall and fair. I think, however, that in the end Tolkien uses physical characteristics to separate the people of Middle-Earth not so much out of racism, but as an allegory to the very British notion of aristocracy and class. In any event, it is a ripping good yarn, as they say over there!!!