The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power by Amazon has stirred up a lot of discussions and debates, mostly around the casting choices and narrative decisions for its plot and settings. Many see it as a slap in the face to not only the fans LotR but to Tolkien himself, while others are saying that the angry mob is not able to understand what Tolkien had left behind. At first, I wanted to steer very clear from this battlefield, however, after days of listening to both sides, I decided to throw my hat on it and share my thoughts on the matter!
From what I have observed, there are three forces at war right now, the hardcore lord of the rings fans who are capable of speaking the fictitious language in that world, the casual yet vocal fans who are hellbent on supporting the direction that Amazon is taking The Rings of Power, and the anti-SJW group who…well they do what they do bets, feed the hate and racists with tantalizing hate-baiting videos! So let’s look at what we’re dealing with here!
The Addition of Darkskinned Elves
This is one, if not the most controversial and heated debate about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. And that is the inclusion of Black elves. In any other fiction, Black elves have always been a thing. No one has had an issue with the existence of Black elves (for the most part), however when it comes to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, things are a little different. If there’s anything you can say about Tolkien and his work, it’s that he is a fanatic for the details. It is that tenacity for world-building that fans grew to love the series. So, given that statement, Tolkien has described elves in his books in numerous ways. However, one word does persist in all versions, and that is the word “fair“! There has yet to be an account where Tolkien recognized an elf that was dark in complexion. On all accounts, whether it be Tolkien himself or the characters in the world, the elves have always been regarded as fair! Wondrous fair! Fair Folk! You name it, it’s got “fair” in it! So that makes bringing in a Dark, brown-skinned elf in a Tolkien world difficult to pull off! He never outright said “There can never be an elf with brown skin” but there’s not enough evidence to support one that even the hardcore fans would agree on. So, it breaks canon!
I’ll give you an example, elves are described as not having beards by Tolkien, yet Cirdan an elf in his story was told to have had a beard himself. Now whether Tolkien wrote it in the perspective of the mortal in his world never seeing an elf with a beard or he himself choosing to ignore his own rule remains to be seen but that is an example of what was said, yet did not hold true. But these are examples but ones that people for a brown-skinned elf would use to justify the inclusion. As much as we would like to be inclusive, we have to respect the world that an author has created. And it is undeniable that Tolkien had Northern Europeans in mind. He may have loosened it in the later years of his life, but it was not enough to break the law of his world. I hate to break it to you but it is not inherently wrong to have white characters at the center of a fictional story. The argument that it is fantasy is not a strong enough argument when in fact been fantasy would allow for a world where no other skin type exists! One could simply say “In my fantasy fiction world, there are no black characters”, and close the chapter! End of discussion. When a writer is creating a world, he or she creates the rules and framework of the world, and you as the reader or adapter of that story are forced to follow the rules unless it is stated otherwise.
For example, you would call Stan Lee a racist, as he has made it clear that Peter Parker from the main Marvel universe, must always remain a straight white boy from Brooklyn or New York? No! It’s his character, his rule! The same is true for Tolkien and his world! Times may have changed but an author’s vision once captured in the books does not.
But given that the directors have already decided to take liberty into their own hands, we’ll just have to wait and see how the narrative will be handled.
For many people, it may feel like the addition of anything Black people-related is always political, and want to fight that idea but it’s more nuanced than that!
Tolkien never said there aren’t other skin complexions in his world, but he gave a specific characterization of each of the races in his world that we get to see. Yes, there are racists who hate the existence of Black people in anything (whether it be original content or established Ip), so I won’t be including their options on the matter! As I acknowledged that already and I am aware that there are mixing themselves in with the fans who may not hold their beliefs. nevertheless, criticizing a change when it involves Black people is not racist. Hollywood are using Black people as a shield to make lazy changes to work for diversity bonus, and Black people are paying the price for it, unfairly too!
In regards to the Black Dwarves, well for the lore of the dwarves, they were crafted by their respective gods, so you could make an argument for them. However, as I said, I doubt that Tolkien, whose original goal for Lord of The Rings to be a mythology for the Anglo-Saxon would have made the dwarves black, Asian, or anything like that. And one that has no beards it well, breaking canon again. Then there is the elf Galadriel who has never sported armor in any canon but is seen to be wearing one and leading an army, also breaking canon to some extent according to the fans. The point is that there are a lot of canon-breaking things in Rings of Power which is well, the cause for all of the debates that have been muddled with talks about Black elves and whatnot.
Honestly, I talked about this in a previous blog, about how Black people and people who call themselves “allies”, need to speak up when corporations are making decisions like this, because all it those is open up Black people and any other minority to attacks online. This is not and shall never be the right way to create true diversity, this will only sour people’s opinion of movies that feature Black people or any other minority in the future.
In conclusion, fans have a right to voice their frustration and they also have a right to not purchase the work they feel does not represent the books that they grew up in.