DnD addresses racism.

Thaluikhain

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
647
231
48
-If it was intentional, it seems unlikely, because the work has an anti-prejudical message that includes Nazi references. The work would simultaniously be attacking Nazi stand-ins, while also sattarizing the very people the Nazis tried to exterminate.
A people they tried to exterminate. It's quite possible to grasp "Nazi = bad" and still hate at least some of the same people they hated. For example, the way Allied nations treated black and/or LGBT people during WW2. Not Nazi death camp bad, but the underlying sentiments weren't a million miles apart.

That is not to say I'm calling Rowling a Nazi, just that making the bad guys in your story Nazis doesn't mean you can't also be anti-semitic to a greater or lesser extent.
 

Saint of M

Regular Member
Apr 27, 2020
88
17
13
Country
United States
A people they tried to exterminate. It's quite possible to grasp "Nazi = bad" and still hate at least some of the same people they hated. For example, the way Allied nations treated black and/or LGBT people during WW2. Not Nazi death camp bad, but the underlying sentiments weren't a million miles apart.

That is not to say I'm calling Rowling a Nazi, just that making the bad guys in your story Nazis doesn't mean you can't also be anti-semitic to a greater or lesser extent.
That seems to be the case in real life. Mel Gibson's dad proudly fought for the allies in WW2, but he's still the reason Mel has his nanners crazy pants ideas like ati semitism.
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
937
283
68
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
A people they tried to exterminate. It's quite possible to grasp "Nazi = bad" and still hate at least some of the same people they hated. For example, the way Allied nations treated black and/or LGBT people during WW2. Not Nazi death camp bad, but the underlying sentiments weren't a million miles apart.

That is not to say I'm calling Rowling a Nazi, just that making the bad guys in your story Nazis doesn't mean you can't also be anti-semitic to a greater or lesser extent.
If the Death Eaters existed without mudbloods, I could buy the idea that Rowling is simultaniously claiming "Nazis are bad" while also claiming that "Jews are evil bankers." Except the Jew stand-in within the series ARE mudbloods. I mean, this isn't subtle.

Look, maybe Rowling really does hate Jews, and the whole mudblood/Death Eater thing is an attempt to make her look non-anti-semitic, while actually being anti-semitic, but I personally find that a stretch, even for someone who's conveniently introduced 'facts' to the series that made it seem more woke than it was. And if you want to argue that the goblins are subconcious anti-semitism, that's an easier hill to climb, but I can't help but disagree. As I've stated, there's too many similarities between the goblins of HP and the goblins of folklore for me to consider that the more likely option.
 

Thaluikhain

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
647
231
48
If the Death Eaters existed without mudbloods, I could buy the idea that Rowling is simultaniously claiming "Nazis are bad" while also claiming that "Jews are evil bankers." Except the Jew stand-in within the series ARE mudbloods. I mean, this isn't subtle.

Look, maybe Rowling really does hate Jews, and the whole mudblood/Death Eater thing is an attempt to make her look non-anti-semitic, while actually being anti-semitic, but I personally find that a stretch, even for someone who's conveniently introduced 'facts' to the series that made it seem more woke than it was. And if you want to argue that the goblins are subconcious anti-semitism, that's an easier hill to climb, but I can't help but disagree. As I've stated, there's too many similarities between the goblins of HP and the goblins of folklore for me to consider that the more likely option.
I wasn't saying that Rowling was anti-semitic, or that the goblins were anti-semitic (intentionally or not), just that someone could write an anti-Nazi story and put anti-semitic elements in. If Rowling did, I'd say that was an oopsie, rather than on purpose.

(By comparison, the X-Men films occasionally use Nazi imagery in their story about an evil inhuman Jew trying to destroy society. I'm guessing that didn't click with anyone. The thing about LGBT analogies whilst the characters were much straighter than the cast (and Ellen Page being hassled for being a lesbian) likewise)
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
937
283
68
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
(By comparison, the X-Men films occasionally use Nazi imagery in their story about an evil inhuman Jew trying to destroy society. I'm guessing that didn't click with anyone. The thing about LGBT analogies whilst the characters were much straighter than the cast (and Ellen Page being hassled for being a lesbian) likewise)
I've actually wondered about that. It could certainly be taken the wrong way. On the other, at least in the films, Magneto's actions clearly stem from his experiences in the Holocaust. Like, people harm him, so now he's harming other people in turn, using his own form of racial ideology (mutants being a successor species to humans).
 

Thaluikhain

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
647
231
48
I've actually wondered about that. It could certainly be taken the wrong way. On the other, at least in the films, Magneto's actions clearly stem from his experiences in the Holocaust. Like, people harm him, so now he's harming other people in turn, using his own form of racial ideology (mutants being a successor species to humans).
Oh sure, that's what they were going for, it's just that, for whatever reason, they ended up in a not great place going there. In X-Men: Apocalypse, at least for a time, you've got an all white team of heroes fighting a mixed race group of villains (until people change sides). Very unlikely to be intentional, but it's something a lot of films (presumably accidentally) end up doing. And not ideal when you're talking about Nazis.

Not film-ruining, IMHO, but would have been better if an editor had spotted it in advance.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
To the first, maybe. To the second, also maybe, but I saw the Shire section as being more representative of the experience of soldiers returning home. Like, Frodo and co. come home, find everything's changed. Of course, the changes are due to Saruman, but that's the subtext I took from it.
There's no "maybe" to it. He laid out the whole-ass case to Christopher in Letter 73, a rare character break for a man that decried allegory and symbolism in practically each and every other case. At least, such as it's understood in the oft-decontextualized quote from Letter 181, after which Tolkien is quick to remit his belief fairy tale and epic still are influenced by and reflect truth of the human condition and society, albeit in their own way divorced from simple commentary or allegory.

Flowing from that, the true evil in Tolkien's work was technology, industrialization, and the will to power. Sauron, Morgoth, and the "forces" of evil were a vehicle for it, and the world is teleological in the sense corruption is unavoidable and revivalism is not possible; the best one can hope for, is temporary palliation. It's telling Sauron's act of "original sin" (at least in the context of LotR rather than later works which filled gaps in Tolkien's legendarium) is an act of deceit and mass production; expanded in later work to identify Sauron as originally a servant of the Aule the Smith (the other noteworthy servant of Aule being Saruman).

That'd be the same Aule who taught Feanor, who would go on to create the Silmarils and Palantiri, and who created the dwarves. The through-line I'd like to point out being, Tolkien adapts a highly Boethian argument for creation and teleology; the act of creation itself being inherently corruptive, insomuch as a creation reflects the will of its creator and can only be less "perfect" than who created it -- or who appropriated it for their own use.

So, the question is: regardless of what real-world cultural archetypes Tolkien drew upon when writing the dwarves (Norse mythology as befitting a lifelong study of Germanic mythology, not Judaism), are they presented as necessarily or inherently evil, or a flawed creation?

And if you want to argue that the goblins are subconcious anti-semitism, that's an easier hill to climb, but I can't help but disagree. As I've stated, there's too many similarities between the goblins of HP and the goblins of folklore for me to consider that the more likely option.
How exactly does the wizarding world at large treat goblins, again? Even "progressive" wizards who advocate for "magical creatures" welfare tend to not think twice about goblins. In that light are goblins really a conspiratorial cabal of bad actors straight from the pages of Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or are they defending their communities by using the societal role forced onto them, and the leverage available to them?

I mean, you can talk about Nazism all day. Nazis invented neither ghettos nor pales of settlement, nor did they invent blood libel, ban Jews from labor organization, or exempt Jews from lending and tax collection because those were perceived to be "sinful" trades. That was medieval Christianity.
 

Schadrach

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 25, 2020
115
35
33
Country
US
House elves are clearly intelligent. They can speak and perform complex tasks and do things that, in our world, only humans can do. The fact that they're not human is a technicality at best, even if we leave aside the fact that extremely similar arguments have been used to justify the enslavement of people who actually were humans.
House elves are pretty obviously primarily based on brownies. The biggest differences are that they don't seem to require offerings of cream (that we'd seen) and won't leave if insulted or mistreated.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
House elves are pretty obviously primarily based on brownies. The biggest differences are that they don't seem to require offerings of cream (that we'd seen) and won't leave if insulted or mistreated.
I mean wasn't there that whole side plot in Goblet of Fire where Hermione went full Becky and took it upon herself to free the Hogwarts elves, managed to piss them off to the point they refused to clean the Gryffindor dorms, and eventually the Weasleys had to have a sit-down with her to tell her to stop forcing her values on them?

And, wasn't the whole joke with Dobby he only comprehended "freedom" in terms of choosing who to serve, took the job at Hogwart's to continue doing house elf stuff, negotiated his own pay and time off down and largely against Dumbledore's better sense, and then proceeded to spend his pay and time off doing house elf stuff anyways?
 
Last edited:

Buyetyen

Elite Member
May 11, 2020
1,191
586
118
Country
USA
I mean wasn't there that whole side plot in Goblet of Fire where Hermione went full Becky and took it upon herself to free the elves, managed to piss them off to the point they refused to clean the Gryffindor dorms, and eventually the Weasleys had to have a sit-down with her to tell her to stop forcing her values on them?
Yeah. That aged like milk.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
Yeah. That aged like milk.
Or, the more important (but promptly-ignored by readers) lesson was Hermione needed to accept that other creatures simply had different cultures and values, and that while she was free to advocate for their welfare, what she oughtn't do is force her own values on them especially when unwelcome. Which is how, by the epilogue she had reached a mediated, synthetic position of advocating for the ethical treatment of magical creatures while remaining respectful of their own cultures and traditions.

Reading more into it, based on an Leaky Cauldron interview with Rowling, indeed they were based on brownies and other local/regional myths and legends about fae creatures that would perform chores in exchange for tokens of gratitude, but would leave or turn mischievous if offered money or clothing from perceived insult. And apparently, the entire reason there were so many at Hogwarts was because no matter how many times wizards turned them away they kept coming back, so Helga Hufflepuff brought them to Hogwarts to have a place to stay and work in decent conditions.

I want to say it was in one of her writing notes, side works, or somesuch (Fantastic Beast maybe?) that pointed out house elves could actually be a nuisance, moving in with wizards unbidden and/or annoying them to take them in? I vaguely remember one of the side plots from Chamber of Azkaban being Dobby trying to serve Harry and generally pestering him. There was a thing about Ron bemoaning his family not being wealthy enough to attract a house elf, too.

I want to say too it was in there one point of contention about the Statute of Secrecy was whether house elves had the good sense to not "invade" muggle households and endanger the wizarding world, but I could be mistaken.
 

Buyetyen

Elite Member
May 11, 2020
1,191
586
118
Country
USA
Or, the more important (but promptly-ignored by readers) lesson was Hermione needed to accept that other creatures simply had different cultures and values, and that while she was free to advocate for their welfare, what she oughtn't do is force her own values on them especially when unwelcome. Which is how, by the epilogue she had reached a mediated, synthetic position of advocating for the ethical treatment of magical creatures while remaining respectful of their own cultures and traditions.
I don't disagree. As I have said before, the Harry Potter lore in general is a mess and a lot of ideas in it, while generally benign, just don't hold up the longer you think about them. And in light of certain current events, their delivery can come off as awkward. Which is not a value judgment in and of itself, it's just a thing that happens.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
I don't disagree. As I have said before, the Harry Potter lore in general is a mess and a lot of ideas in it, while generally benign, just don't hold up the longer you think about them. And in light of certain current events, their delivery can come off as awkward. Which is not a value judgment in and of itself, it's just a thing that happens.
The highlighted qualifier the key phrase, in my opinion. Dovetailing back into my earlier statements with regards to complaint about D&D, there's quite significant overlap in the people criticizing Rowling now and those who defended her against issues with her work and political activities not six months ago. See, her wishy-washy approach to Dumbledore and Grindelwald, her own dodgy statements about black Hermione, and the incessant hand-waving the rape-y implications of love potions and in particular the details of Voldemort's birth.

Prior to speaking her mind about Maya Forstater, Rowling was quite the Schrodinger's activist indeed. Or at least, it seems to be the case of her Johnny-come-lately critics. Yet, in that span of time not one word of her body of work actually changed; strange it is, only now is her work being examined with the finest-toothed of combs and procedurally problematized before our very eyes.
 

Hawki

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
937
283
68
Country
Australia
Gender
Male
So, the question is: regardless of what real-world cultural archetypes Tolkien drew upon when writing the dwarves (Norse mythology as befitting a lifelong study of Germanic mythology, not Judaism), are they presented as necessarily or inherently evil, or a flawed creation?
Neither?

The thing about the dwarves in LotR is that they clearly got less development than elves and humans. They're certainly not inherently evil, as it's outright stated in the appendicies that few dwarves have ever served "the Enemy" by choice. But of course they're flawed in a sense.

If I was to take anything from the interaction between Aule and Illuvatar, it's sort of a "you can create things but honour God" sort of message. Like, Illuvatar is willing to let the dwarves exist, once he sees their humanity, even knowing that strife will occur between Aule's 'children' and 'his' (the elves). Hence, allowing the dwarves to exist in the world, but after the elves awaken, and the dwarves don't have any special afterlife like elves or humans. That said, it struck me as a very humanistic take on a deity.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
If I was to take anything from the interaction between Aule and Illuvatar, it's sort of a "you can create things but honour God" sort of message. Like, Illuvatar is willing to let the dwarves exist, once he sees their humanity, even knowing that strife will occur between Aule's 'children' and 'his' (the elves). Hence, allowing the dwarves to exist in the world, but after the elves awaken, and the dwarves don't have any special afterlife like elves or humans. That said, it struck me as a very humanistic take on a deity.
That's where things get interesting to me, in respect to the dwarves. Aule was able to grant them neither free will nor souls; as he created them they were little more than automatons, Iluvatar was who gave them both. So, the Boethian argument pops back up: dwarves as Aule's creation were made by his perspective, values, and ideals, but despite being uplifted by Iluvatar still a product of the Smith, and gifted with his foibles.

So, I don't think that alone is enough to disqualify them from being referred to as flawed, so long as you use the term without the negative connotation in mind. They are who they are, and whether you believe their shared traits and values are a positive or a negative largely depend on your own perspective. Whatever traits one might attribute to them as a negative, are met with positive traits and often enough the two are the same.

Compare that to the sole race unambiguously created by Melkor: dragons. Cunning, greedy, long-lived, unarguably the most powerful individually of any created race, but bred and possessed of a will only to dominate and destroy. Because that was Melkor's will, and he like any other Valar could not create something to surpass his will...and it deserves to be said the Maiar in his service met the same fate, devolving into balrogs. Except Sauron, who preferred bling to fire.

Dwarves do have an afterlife, at least a proposed one in the legendarium which is born out by comparison: they pass through the Halls of Mandos to join Aule at his forge. Because only men and hobbits have the Gift and every other race is said to be bound in spirit to Arda, we're left to assume the dwarves' own beliefs are correct and the elves' are not (least of all for the fact elves are dicks).
 

Agema

Ph'nglui mglw'nafn Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
1,917
1,330
118
Compare that to the sole race unambiguously created by Melkor: dragons. Cunning, greedy, long-lived, unarguably the most powerful individually of any created race, but bred and possessed of a will only to dominate and destroy. Because that was Melkor's will, and he like any other Valar could not create something to surpass his will...and it deserves to be said the Maiar in his service met the same fate, devolving into balrogs. Except Sauron, who preferred bling to fire.
Although it's not clear exactly how the dragons are made by Melkor in the same way that the origin of the orcs are explained, I've always thought the implication is that they were bred - twisted and empowered from natural beings a little like the Orcs were - rather than constructed de novo as the Dwarves were by Aule. The other argument is they were perhaps corrupted Maiar, as the balrogs were.
 

Saint of M

Regular Member
Apr 27, 2020
88
17
13
Country
United States
Although it's not clear exactly how the dragons are made by Melkor in the same way that the origin of the orcs are explained, I've always thought the implication is that they were bred - twisted and empowered from natural beings a little like the Orcs were - rather than constructed de novo as the Dwarves were by Aule. The other argument is they were perhaps corrupted Maiar, as the balrogs were.
I kinda got the same feeling. Tolkien and several writers after him have had in their world pure evil cannot create, only warp what others have made into their own image. So Trolls come from Ents, Goblins (and by extention the orcs, or large goblins) from elves and so on.

The
 

Thaluikhain

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
647
231
48
I kinda got the same feeling. Tolkien and several writers after him have had in their world pure evil cannot create, only warp what others have made into their own image. So Trolls come from Ents, Goblins (and by extention the orcs, or large goblins) from elves and so on.
While that's not wrong, I think he was consciously drawing on earlier mythology there. Bats are teh devil's bird, wolves are dogs, flies are bees etc.
 

Eacaraxe

Elite Member
Legacy
May 28, 2020
541
430
68
Country
United States
Although it's not clear exactly how the dragons are made by Melkor in the same way that the origin of the orcs are explained, I've always thought the implication is that they were bred - twisted and empowered from natural beings a little like the Orcs were - rather than constructed de novo as the Dwarves were by Aule. The other argument is they were perhaps corrupted Maiar, as the balrogs were.
This again goes back to Tolkien's Boethian take on the subject matter, that creation and corruption are inherently and unavoidably reductive (and inversive). We can by process of elimination at least figure out what Tolkien might have intended with dragons. With trolls, there's a clear connectivity to their creation with that of orcs in LotR appendix F; that connectivity implies they were ents corrupted and bred into a new form, just as orcs had been corrupted and bred from elves (and fell beasts being weakly implied to be similarly-corrupted Eagles of Manwe).

There's no creature in the entire legendarium described or implied to have existed, from which dragons might have originated. To create dragons from any precursors listed in the legendarium would have been an additive process, not possible nor ever described to be possible within Tolkien's metaphysics. If dragons, or at least Glaurung, were Maiar, Tolkien almost certainly would have said so given his predilection towards discussing and describing the existence and activities of Maiar within Arda.

There's precedent for Maiar becoming bound to their fana, and ealar and umaiar bound to rhoar, foregoing the ability to reincorporate and even reproducing -- one doesn't need to look further than the Istari and Melian* for that. Both Gandalf and Saruman had existed in their fana long enough to become bound to them; in the former's case it took intervention from Iluvatar himself to return to Middle-Earth, and in the latter's he was exiled from Valinor and condemned to wander as a powerless spirit. That's made separate and distinct from Children of Iluvatar (and the adopted) who are all described as possessing fear, not ealar, and the deliberate exclusion of the Great Eagles from that category in Morgoth's Ring.

But the elephant in the room is Tolkien described Glaurung as a fell spirit, that description has specific connotation within Tolkien's metaphysics (see earlier commentary about fell beasts). That gets into hazy canonicity territory due to being derived from Silmarillion and Children of Hurin, but the implication is Glaurung was either an Umaiar bound to a hroa by Melkor, or a hroa imparted with a fraction of Melkor's power and will. Either way Melkor still had to have created the hroa.

[* Luthien's description and characterization as a full-blooded elf despite being the child of a union between elf and Maiar, being further support for the argument on Tolkien's boethianism. Although it is odd a Maia which chose for herself an elven fana would not be able to reincorporate, as elves were able to.]
 
Last edited:

Agema

Ph'nglui mglw'nafn Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
1,917
1,330
118
There's no creature in the entire legendarium described or implied to have existed, from which dragons might have originated. To create dragons from any precursors listed in the legendarium would have been an additive process, not possible nor ever described to be possible within Tolkien's metaphysics. If dragons, or at least Glaurung, were Maiar, Tolkien almost certainly would have said so given his predilection towards discussing and describing the existence and activities of Maiar within Arda.
Whilst possible, this amounts to employing an absence of evidence as evidence of absence, and is thus never going to be logically compelling.

Tolkein is unambiguous that no-one could create life but Illuvatar. Melkor could thus only change or corrupt life that already was.

No specific beasts may be mentioned, but the existence of Ungoliant already establishes the idea of primordial, intelligent monsters that could breed with lesser beasts: there is no reason another one might not be out there. Maiar were known to take form, and could mate with other creatures (at least elves), so it is not impossible they could create offspring, even perhaps with a beast. Dragons evidently bred. Melkor may in any of these cases use his power to direct their development across generations.

The suggestion that Melkor invested them with his will and power seems unsatisfactory, because this would mean he would need to empower every dragon; at the point he was cast out from the world and being unable to do so, any (new) dragon would necessarily be a dumb beast. It would also be a drain of his power to parcel himself out in such a way, as it would diminish him. It is therefore I think a more likely assumption that dragons got their will inherently, suggesting some sort of maiar or other intelligent forebear creature.