Mr. Toad

Is Lord of the Rings Racist?

This is based on an answer I posted on in 2022.

Given his situation and character, I think Tolkien, like a great many other whites in 1940s Britain, never thought much one way or the other about non-whites. They just weren't on his radar. He was a white writer, writing in a massively white country, for a white audience.

BUT, if you want to know how Tolkien felt about racism, there are two things to know:

There's that letter he gave his publisher to forward, if they chose, to a German publisher (in the Nazi era, just before WWII) that asked if he was arisch ("Aryan," a word which Tolkien well knew the technical meaning of, before the Nazis took it over.) In the stuffiest, stiffest British manner possible, he replied:

Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

Now, let's look at race relations depcited in the story and the implied judgments passed on them:

So Tolkien shows by example, within his setting, that inclusion is the way to go.

I suspect that the people who don't see the anti-racist message miss it because these aren't their races, or, if not their own races, the races they are mainly concerned with. Which betrays a certain lack of imagination, I think.

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