"I'm Not Racist, I'm Just Mad Amazon is Destroying Tolkien's Middle Earth with Black Hobbits"Roundup
tags: literature, medieval history, J.R.R. Tolkien, popular culture, Fantasy Literature
Dr. Mary Rambaran-Olm is a scholar of Old and Middle English language and literature, specializing in the history of the early medieval English period, race & apocrypha. Her forthcoming book co-edited with Dr. Erik Wade entitled Race in Early Medieval England will be out in 2023. You can find MRO on twitter: @isasaxonists and Medium
Dear Amazon Prime,*
As a loyal customer I’m appalled at your latest WOKE stunt and have some questions for you before I cut to the chase.
I’ve been watching the new Rings of Power series based on the works of Professor JRR Tolkien who was a medievalist, philologist, and fantasy author of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and other works. Let me explain why your casting choices in this latest series are WRONG.
I’m an amateur historian, well-versed in the Middle-earthian universe, and I believe that these works are based on European folklore. This folklore is rooted in European history, and we all know that Europe has always been white. Sirs, I am a patriot. Why are you changing history and including Black hobbits in this fantasy story that I have loved and imagined as presumptively all-white since I first read these works in 1979? You are literally destroying my childhood.
As far as I know, Tolkien never had any good non-white characters in his books. You have Brown-washed a beloved fantasy that I have mistaken to be part of my “culture” and heritage. I am exhausted. I rage-tweeted about Black hobbits for 12 solid hours and found it hard to get up for work the next morning. And I’ll do it again for as long as it takes—even if I end up with an ulcer and it makes my carpal tunnel syndrome worse.
There is too much Black- and Brown-washing for a fantasy world based on ancient European history. You’ve ruined Middle-earth by adding things that don’t belong! Where does Tolkien ever say that hobbits are white or Brown? Look, I’ve read these works for decades, and I would know if Tolkien ever wrote** something like the following about a hobbit such as Sam Gamgee—or even the largest group of Hobbits, the Harfoots:
“Sam sat propped against the stone, his head dropping sideways and his breathing heavy. In his lap lay Frodo’s head, drowned deep in sleep; upon his white forehead lay one of Sam’s brown hands, and the other lay softly upon his master’s breast.” [Twin Towers: The Stairs of Cirith Ungol]
“Sam drew out the elven-glass of Galadriel again. As if to do honor to his hardihood, and to grace with splendor his faithful brown hobbit-hand that had done such deeds, the phial blazed forth suddenly, so that all the shadowy court was lit with a dazzling radiance like lightning.” [Return of the King: The Tower of Cirith Ungol]
“The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless…” [Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue]
Any reference to “brown hands” and such was because gardeners were out in the sun! Ever heard of a TAN? Surely Tolkien couldn’t be drawing on his misunderstanding of Old English translations of melanin-rich folks as “sun-burned.” The notion of “othering” in his fantasy works being consistent with how he explained the dark hue of Black people in his academic work is RIDICULOUS! GET A GRIP!
*As a scholar of Old English literature and early medieval history with an academic pedigree that links my training directly back to Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, I often come across laypeople who overlook subtleties about his fantasy works that are more evident to medievalists. Some angry Lord of the Rings fans are very sour about Tolkien’s fantasy world being depicted in more diverse (read as less white) ways than they want, and this is often connected to their misunderstandings of how diverse the European Middle Ages was. Given that some angry laypeople’s proof is mostly vibes and not facts, I’ve written a template with linked evidence that they can use to send to Amazon.