In message <news:k3t9s7pt4bn47mcun...@4ax.com
Paul S. Person <pspe...@ix.netscom.com.invalid> spoke these staves:
> On Tue, 29 May 2012 13:23:58 +0200, Troels Forchhammer
> <Tro...@ThisIsFake.invalid> wrote:
>> In message <news:trl4s7d2j56fj7c5m...@4ax.com
>> Paul S. Person <pspe...@ix.netscom.com.invalid> spoke these
>> Just out of curiosity -- based on what aspect of the earliest Orcs
>> (the Orqui, the Glamhoth, Melko's goblins) do you think was
>> modelled on Mongols?
> I don't have time to get into a detailed discussion.
Yeah, I'm sorry -- I didn't mean to argue so much in the previous post
as I was mainly just curious to investigate your position.
>> I think the only aspects of the Dwarves for which the Jews stood
>> model were the idea of speaking the tongue of the region in which
>> the lived with an accent because of their having a private 'inner'
>> tongue, and then of course the modelling of Khuzdul upon the
>> Semitic language of the Jews. As for any other possible
>> derivation we have, in my opinion, far more likely sources for the
>> Dwarves (mainly the Dwarves of Old Norse legend).
> Consider the Petty-Dwarf that plays a large role: his son dies.
Actually the petty-dwarves and this whole story didn't exist prior to
writing /The Lord of the Rings/, but the characteristics that you
mention also apply to all the Dwarves in the early Silmarillion
tradition -- the only began to change a little after Tolkien had
written /The Hobbit/ and the main change to the Silmarillion stories
came after /LotR/ had forced the good Dwarves into the Silmarillion.
In the early versions, in particular in /The Book of Lost Tales/, the
Dwarves are generally siding with Morgoth against the Elves.
> He is avaricious, secretive, and unremittingly vengeful. These are
> all Jewish stereotypes.
They are, however, also strongly associated with the Dwarves of Old
Norse mythology, who are also great craftsmen -- in particular as
smiths and masons. Since we already know that Tolkien's Dwarves are
heavily informed by the Dwarves of Old Norse legend, the suggestion
that these traits, which are characteristic of the Norse Dwarves,
should come from elsewhere is superfluous.
It is, of course, unfortunate that this set of stereotypes should also
apply to the Jews upon whom Tolkien modeled some linguistic details of
the Dwarves, but I think there is more or less the same set of
stereotypes going around for Scots, Sicilians, Jutes and many other
peoples as well -- certainly the first two fit the stereotype of the
Swiss quite well and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they are
also thought to be vindictive -- in many ways these three (avarice,
secretiveness and vindictiveness) seem to go together as stereotypes
> What I am saying is that, sitting up in bed convalescing and
> writing his "Matter of Britain" in pencil in notebooks, JRRT used
> common stereotypes of Jews and Mongols to characterize Dwarves and
> Orcs (respectively).
The problem is that this doesn't match the available evidence. We
/know/ that Tolkien got his Orcs/Goblins and his Dwarves from
elsewhere, and lo and behold: this elsewhere can also sufficiently
explain the traits that you list. This is what I meant when I said
that 'for any other possible derivation we have, in my opinion, far
more likely sources for the Dwarves'.
> This is why people who read even /LOTR/ end up asking if Dwarves
> are modeled on Jews -- because they still retain characteristics
> which match, not the reality, but the stereotypes of Jews.
Well, by the time of /LotR/ there actually is such a connection since
the linguistic situation of the Dwarves is, by then, partially modeled
on the Jewish people in Europe.
But what people ask is a matter of applicability -- and though we might
wish that Tolkien had been more conscious about what people might
think, I should say that we have plenty of evidence that he often
overlooked what others found obvious (Teleporno, indeed . . .). Lewis'
character Ransome is ostentatiously based on Tolkien, and there's a
nice description of him sudden realizing that his name actually means
something in ordinary English, which at least prof. Corey Olsen
believes is closely modeled on Tolkien (again, think Teleporno, Tuna
and many other cases).
Just because we might think something is obvious, that doesn't mean
that Tolkien saw it at all -- when dealing particularly with linguistic
matters he seems to have been able to blind himself to other
interpretations, and I think that is what happened in the case of the
Dwarves: he never realized that they had some other characteristics
that fit a popular stereotype of the Jews when he made a strictly
>> This description of mouths that are agape and hideous ears is also
>> some of the earliest details of Orkish appearance that I recall --
>> details that, if derived from some image of 'degraded and
>> repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely
>> Mongol-types,' would suggest an horrible level of racial
>> stereotyping that I would be hesitant to attribute to Tolkien.
> People are the products of their time. JRRT grew up in the 1900s &
> 1910s in a class-based society which was governed by stereotypes.
> Stereotypes were a shorthand used to govern how members of various
> groups were treated.
I'm sorry, but I've seen this 'product of their time' argument too much
lately, and I don't buy it -- it is as much a stereotype of people of a
century ago as the 'Jews are avaricious, secretive and vindictive' --
and, I'd think, no more true. That we are all 'a product of our time'
is incontrovertible, but /not/ in the sense that this is usually used:
that because we are born in a certain place in time and space, we
/must/ necessarily subscribe to, or even know about, some set of
beliefs that posterity decides were popular in our time.
Why is it that we are so bent on portraying the peoples of earlier
times as raving bigots? Is it because it makes us feel better about our
own bigotry? Let's at least allow our ancestors the same level of
intelligence and intellectual freedom as we allow ourselves -- every
age has its more popular stereotypes, but that does not mean that any
stereotype is universally believed, nor even believed by a majority of
the population, and it doesn't even mean that everybody know /about/
Tolkien has elsewhere shown that he was remarkably free of some of the
unpleasant stereotypes that were perhaps popular in his age: he
defended Germans in general during WWII (while forcefully rejecting the
Nazi doctrines), he defended Jews in the face of an opportunity for
very welcome economic gain (the Tolkien family wasn't exactly wealthy
in the years up to WWII) and so on.
The evidence points to Tolkien being less influenced by such bigotry or
stereotypes than most people, and while this, of course, doesn't mean
that he was unaware of the existence of such stereotypes and as such
might nonetheless have used them for literary effect, I do think that
it makes such a scenario a lot less likely.
This doesn't mean that Tolkien didn't use popular stereotypes in the
creation of his legendarium -- of course he did, but in general they
were the stereotypes of a thousand years ago, not of a mere hundred
years ago: stereotypes about Dwarves, Elves, warriors, dragons,
merchants and other matters of myth and legend figure prominently in
>>> An investigation of Oriental stereotypes in England before and
>>> during the Great War (Sax Rohm, The Yellow Peril, Fu Manchu, and
>>> so on) might be relevant here.
>> That would indeed be interesting -- even if, as I suspect, it
>> would turn out to be inconclusive with respect to the present
>> discussion :)
> It might support the theory that JRRT based his Orcs on those
> stereotypes, initially, just to save some time.
Obviously I doubt that very much ;-)
However, without further enquiries into other possible sources it
would, in terms of this particular discussion, contribute nothing
regardless of what it might show. In order to be useful for this
particular discussion, we would have to investigate not only Oriental
stereotypes in England, but also a lot of other possible sources,
including, of course, the Anglo-Saxon /Orc/ and English folktales about
/goblins/. In order to make a case in support of your theory, you
would have to be able to show that the early Orcs had characteristics
that could not come from the Orcs and goblins that gave them their
names, and which would, as a group, be more likely to come from
Oriental stereotypes than from any other set of stereotypes. Since
there is actually so little known about the early (pre-Hobbit) Orcs
(the vast majority of which fits the Orc/goblin derivation), I think
such an endeavour to be extremely unlikely to succeed.
Valid e-mail is <troelsfo(a)gmail.com
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