The Tolkien Society has announced that the theme of its 2021 Summer Seminar, held July 3 – 4, will be “Tolkien and Diversity.”
Established in 1969, the Society describes itself as an educational charity and literary organization founded to promote the work of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Hobbit author, J.R.R. Tolkien. It claims hundreds of members in 22 countries and “received the blessing of Tolkien himself when he agreed to become the Society’s president.”
But the Inkling bard might be less inclined to serve today were he aware of the organization’s latest seminar.
“While interest in the topic of diversity has steadily grown within Tolkien research,” the Society says, “it is now receiving more critical attention than ever before. Spurred by recent interpretations of Tolkien’s creations and the cast list of the upcoming Amazon show ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ it is crucial we discuss the theme of diversity in relation to Tolkien.”
Among the speakers and topics to be discussed at the seminar are:
- Cordeliah Logsdon – Gondor in Transition: A Brief Introduction to Transgender Realities in The Lord of the Rings
- Christopher Vaccaro – Pardoning Saruman?: The Queer in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
- Sultana Raza – Projecting Indian Myths, Culture and History onto Tolkien’s Worlds
- Nicholas Birns – The Lossoth: Indigeneity, Identity, and Antiracism
- Sara Brown – The Invisible Other: Tolkien’s Dwarf-Women and the ‘Feminine Lack’
- Robin Reid – Queer Atheists, Agnostics, and Animists, Oh, My!
- Danna Petersen-Deeprose – “Something Mighty Queer”: Destabilizing Cishetero Amatonormativity in the Works of Tolkien
Accusing Tolkien of racism has been a frequent pastime of the Left, which claims his villainous Orc characters represent black and Asian people. The Society’s reference to “more critical attention” could indicate the seminar was planned as a response to such complaints.
A January Wired story, for instance, quotes Helen Young, author of “Race and Popular Fantasy Literature,” saying, “In [Tolkien’s work] pretty much all of their own evil races — and even evil individuals, for the most part — are based on anti-black, anti-Semitic or Orientalist stereotypes.” And two weeks ago, a Hollywood Insider article claimed ‘The Lord of the Rings’ “[places] people of color in very problematic and stereotypical villainous roles.”
“For example,” writes Jordan Qin, “the protagonists of both ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ were white men … The biggest racial problem we see in ‘Lord of the Rings’ is with the Uruk-Hai, which is completely Tolkien’s fault …Tolkien’s ethnocentrism geography of Middle-Earth describes a good and sophisticated West versus an evil and scheming East. Obviously, this creates a disparity between two groups of people, one who happen to be people of color and the other who happen to be white men.”
In a deep dive into Tolkien lore, fantasy author and painter Jeff LaSala defended the Oxford author, writing on fantasy publisher Tor’s website, “We can accuse the good guys in The Lord of the Rings of racism against Orcs (if we want), but even the “evil Men” — those manipulated by Sauron — are not objectively demonic in nature.” LaSala concludes, “[Tolkien] saw Orcs not in terms of race or ethnicity but in the loathsome moral behavior of anyone, be they human or mythical monster-men.”
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.