Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Chapter 3

In the third chapter of The Two Towers, I AM SO FULL OF FEELINGS!!!!! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Lord of the Rings.


Pippin lay


Pippin lay in a dark and troubled dream: it seemed that he could hear his own small voice echoing in black tunnels, calling Frodo, Frodo!


Beside him Merry lay, white-faced, with a dirty rag bound across his brows.


All about them sat or stood a great company of Orcs.

Oh, okay. Well, there went my excitement. I thought all the Orcs were slain, though?

Slowly in Pippin’s aching head memory pieced itself together and became separated from dream-shadows. Of course: he and Merry had run off into the woods. What had come over them?

Oh, sweet summer child, THIS IS A FLASHBACK. OH MY GOD!!!! I can’t. I can’t deal with this. TOLKIEN, YOU ARE A GENIUS. This is such a brilliant narrative choice, both because it provides the reader with a detailed look at what happened to Merry and Pippin, and because it gives an insight into the culture of the Orcs. But beyond being fascinated, this chapter truly succeeds at being tense and depressing. We start off with Pippin witnessing the death of Boromir, though at the time he doesn’t know what ultimately happens to him. CHRIST, thanks for reminding me, Tolkien. Oh, but that’s not enough for me to deal with? You’re going to give me a distraught Pippin, too?

‘I wish Gandalf had never persuaded Elrond to let us come,’ he thought.

‘What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage. And now I have been stolen and I am just a piece of luggage for the Orcs.’

Heart broken forever. This sort of despair feels so guttural to me, a deep and vicious emotion on the part of Pippin. It’s interesting to me to see how Pippin’s hopeless situation is contrasted with the previous two chapters. In many ways, the danger he and Merry face is far more present and dangerous, yet I don’t find things to be as dejected. I think part of that comes from yet another clever use of suspense as a narrative technique. Instead of confirming to us that the two hobbits survived their kidnapping, Tolkien takes us back to just after they were captured. The tension is derived from not knowing how this is going to pan out. Will they survive? Will they be inadvertently burned to death or killed by the Riders?

With that hanging over the story, I found myself most fascinated by the chance to see the orcs much closer, which I clearly did not expect to ever get in this book. I’ll admit to being distracted by the knowledge that Tolkien based the Orcs off of a racist characterization of “Mongol-types.” You can see things here in this chapter that pretty much support this idea, specifically the comment about how ugly and gross their natural language sounds. It’s made even worse because there are no redeeming factors for the Orcs. They are evil, their souls are evil, they hate everyone and everything (including each other), they can’t get along, they’re constantly fighting one another for power, and they take great joy in causing pain and misery. If I was able to separate the racist imagery from this, I think there is something interesting to find in a culture that’s so violent and hateful. I don’t need villains to have depth or goodness in them, though I do like it when they do. But Orc culture is always going to be stained this way for me, and that makes it harder for me to separate the two.

It’s immensely problematic, sure, but that doesn’t mean I dislike this chapter, the Orcs, or the book. On the contrary, I acknowledge how fucked up and disappointing this is, and I’m also immensely entertained by the plot that Tolkien has written here. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking something that has its problems, as long as you’re willing to engage these things and make sure not to convince others who dislike it for this reason that they’re wrong. It is unfortunate that this characterization exists, but that doesn’t ruin it for me.

Aside from the tension, chapter three just constantly surprised me. I didn’t know Orcs could speak the Common Speech at all, and it makes for a fascinating glimpse into how Orcs communicate with one another. Like most creatures in Middle-earth, speech is an important part of culture, and Orcs are constantly talking to one another. Even more significant, it’s very difficult for them to agree. I’m sure that’s probably Tolkien’s commentary on the culture he stole this whole idea from, as it’s a common racist trope. Portray the villains as people with dark skin and funny facial features because they all have non-white customs that are totally weird and foreign oh my god!1!!!!!1!1!

Still, I was surprised that any sort of depth was given to the Orcs, and I do appreciate this chapter on a general level. Of course, narrating it all from Pippin’s point of view helps. He listens in horror as a group of Orcs discuss whether or not to kill the hobbits on the spot, or obey their orders and keep them alive for Saruman. It’s here that Tolkien confirms there are multiple tribes of Orcs from different parts of Middle-earth, and this crucial difference provides a lot of conflict on the part of the Orcs. It’s one of the main reasons why they can’t get along. That is the reason they’re so easily annihilated by the Riders, too. Without the ability to unite together, they are split up and destroyed.

We’ll get there in a bit. We meet an actual named Orc, Uglúk, who constantly fights with Grishnákh, an Orc that’s not associated with Saruman. (He’s from the Mines of Moria, yes? You can answer this, since he’s dead by the end of the chapter and I’m sure we won’t see more of him again.) The two clash violently; Grishnákh refuses to obey Uglúk, and that causes him to make a whole host of bad decisions. Not only that, but we see that Orcs are quick to kill one another, too. Like, behead each other over a disagreement. Again, I can’t ignore the racist undertones to it, but HOLY SHIT WHAT IS GOING ON.

It’s when I started doubting that Pippin and Merry might make it out of this alive. There are tiny hints at the possibility, like when Pippin takes the chance to cut the knot on the rope binding his hands with the knife of a dead Orc. But Tolkien is clever here because he doesn’t write Pippin’s escape as any sort of immediate thing. He continues to make me doubt any positive outcome by constantly delaying any chance for Pippin to set Merry free either.

Truthfully, though, it’s all nothing compared to when Uglúk forces Merry and Pippin to run along with the Orcs so they can make good time and get far away from the oncoming Riders. That is the most awful thing in this entire chapter. It just seems painful to me; even if the Orcs healed Merry, I can’t imagine that having to run while surrounded by these creatures is at all pleasant.

Tolkien also gives us a scene that confirms Aragorn’s theory about why Pippin’s cloak was off the trail in the plains. It’s neat to see how it happens, but it gave me absolutely no hint to whether it would ultimately keep him alive. The journey is just so terrible: constant running, and constant licks from a whip whenever they try to slow down. The pain becomes constant and oppressive, and it’s one of the least-pleasant things I’ve had to read in a long time. On top of that, I started to get nervous, especially when it was clear that the fight that Éomer mentioned to Aragorn was about to happen. We know the outcome, but how do Merry and Pippin factor into that?

It doesn’t take long for the Riders to begin their siege on the Orcs, and it’s seriously my favorite action scene in the novel. It’s narrated with a sense of urgency and doom, and the fact that we know all the Orcs are killed somehow makes it better. When Pippin and Merry are left under the guard of a few guards, this chapter just becomes a waiting game. Will the Riders kill the hobbits? Did Éomer lie about not seeing any hobbits? HOW IS THIS GOING TO END?

Pippin – that brilliant little hobbit – is the one who finally decides that just waiting around is not going to going to go in their favor. He completely and totally trolls Grishnákh by using his own desire against him.

It’s truly a risky endeavor, though, and I believe it could have backfired against Pippin, but that’s why I respect him so much. He lies to the Orc, hinting that he has the Ring and will give it to him if he cuts the binds from his and Merry’s legs. For a second, I thought it didn’t work, but Grishnákh’s greed and anger gets the best of him. It’s timed so perfectly, but just before he’s about to strike down the two hobbits, he is struck by an arrow, and then SPEAR’D. YES. YES.

But even that wasn’t enough to assure me that the two got away. They lay hiding on the ground for a while, but cleverly use the distraction provided by their disappearance to crawl away from the Orcs. My god, what a terrifying idea. They can’t just stand up and run. They have to crawl to safety, a slow and horrific choice. AHHH MY HEART HURTS.

I admit to not breathing once for like ten pages, I swear. But when Pippin stands up, inviting Merry to as well, I knew that this was how the Riders never found the hobbits. They were so concerned with destroying and discarding the bodies of the Orcs that Pippin and Merry had slipped away unnoticed. But there’s something inherently damning about the fact that the two of them were within sight of Éomer at one point, but they had no idea he would soon meet the rest of the Company. For now, though, Merry and Pippin, very much alive, head for Fangorn Forest. Oh god, that’s where the Company is going too, isn’t it? PLEASE LET THERE BE A REUNION SOON.

This fucking book, I swear.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

740 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Two Towers’: Chapter 3

  1. Tiffany says:

    Oh my god a new post! Thank goodness!!!

    • Tiffany says:

      Ok, now that I've read it… You're totally right about Merry & Pippin's situation being depressing. If there's one thing Tolkien does well, it's describe terror (another of his abilities is being able to write rather lengthy songs).

      Also, LOL at what happened to Grishnákh. I know I shouldn't laugh because death is no laughing matter, but LOL. LOLOLOLOL. Oh the sweetness of literary justice.

      • flootzavut says:

        Emotions Tolkien is specially good at: terror, tension, nostalgia, sadness, melancholy, fear, hopelessness, helplessness… bless 'im!

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      hahahaha oh my god. this is the best first comment ever.

  2. atheistsisters says:

    Yay, Merry and Pippin survived! For now… Why are they going into the forest? Anyway, yay, such a relief! The crawling escape always freaks me out. I get very jumpy and nervous reading it even though I know it so well.

  3. threerings13 says:

    Cyrnfr pna jr gryy Znex nobhg gur bevtva bs gur bepf? Vg qbrfa'g gnxr njnl gur enpvfg biregbarf bs gurve culfvpny qrfpevcgvba, ohg vg qbrf uryc jvgu gurve punenpgrevmngvba.

    This is an exciting and horrifying chapter. The horror of the hobbits being force-fed whatever that drink is, being made to run…it just sticks in my mind so much. It's like the Worst Gym Class Ever.

    I was so excited about being in Rohan yesterday that I got the Rohan theme from the movies stuck in my head, then I had to watch the movie. Or start it, at least. I'm going to have rewatched these movies so many times by the time Mark Reads LOTR is over.

    • Tiffany says:

      I don't see the origins of the Orcs as spoilery either, but I'm not familiar with the rules and I really don't wanna ruin anything for him. Anyhow, if he doesn't catch it here he'll catch it in the film so I guess it'll all be ok (with a little patience and pixie dust)! 😀

      V jbaqre jura ur'yy svther bhg gung Sebqb naq Fnz ner bss gb Zbeqbe ba gurve bja, naq gung Zreel naq Cvccva ner gur bayl barf jub tbg xvqanccrq.

      Fcrnxvat bs Sebqb & Fnz, V pna'g jnvg sbe gur svany fprar va SBGE. "V qba'g zrna gb. V qba'g zrna gb." Nj Fnz. ORFG SEVRAQ RIRE, L/L?

    • redheadedgirl says:

      I am resisting the urge to rewatch them until the liveblogs.


      • threerings13 says:

        Oh, no. I ALREADY watched all three movies (EE). Then I watched parts of FOTR as we got to them. Then I watched FOTR with commentary (director and writers). Now I'm watching TTT AGAIN. This is just SAD.

        • flootzavut says:

          I have watched all 3 TEs, 1 & 3 of the EEs (someone has my TTT EE), and all of the extras… EE and TE versions LOL

          I made treat myself to a watch with commentary. And I really must get my TTT EE back, there are too many things missing from the TE (Rbjla!).

      • banabou says:

        I had a ton of hand-sewing to do last weekend and needed some TV to keep me company. I just couldn't resist! I watched all three extended editions back to back. I'm still starry-eyed about it~ so beautiful and magical. ^.^

        • redheadedgirl says:

          Last spring, after my finals were all over, I spent a week on the couch and watched all three- and then some portion of commentary, and then a bunch of special features- even stuff I didn't really care about, because it was much easier to just hit "play" on the remote than to get up and change the disc.

          Law school finals are SERIOUS BUSINESS. I hate to think what I'm going to have to do to recover from the bar exam.

          • jenesaispas21 says:

            heh…yeah… after the bar exam my immediate reaction was 'yay!celebrate'…and after that I didn't want to MOVE. For like, days. It was horrible yet awesome all at once…

            • redheadedgirl says:

              My mother and I are planning a trip to Sweden after I take the bar, and we were looking at the calendar, and she asked when the bar was over, and I said July 26th, but I wanted at least a week before we left so I don't spent the entire trip asleep.

        • flootzavut says:

          I was watching them while sewing just recently, too – now certain scenes remind me of the particular things I was sewing while I watched them!

          • thimbledore says:

            Ooh, maybe it'll work the other way around, too! 😀 Every time I put on this winter coat (once it's done), I'll be like, "Ahhhhh, Rohan <snuggle>."

            • flootzavut says:

              Well, it might work 😀 – I tend to have a very associative memory, so if I work on something that I last worked while watching something specific, it will bring back memories that way.

      • SecretGirl127 says:

        I just rewatched them new year's weekend. Couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year!

    • AmandaNekesa says:

      Or start it, at least. I'm going to have rewatched these movies so many times by the time Mark Reads LOTR is over.

      Hahaha…yeah same here too. I've already watched them 3 times so far since Mark started The Hobbit, two rounds through the EEs and another through the TEs. After all the talk about whether Mark should watch the EEs or the TEs I decided to watch each of them, to really see the differences. I'm now trying to resist watching them any more, until the liveblogs. In their place, I've been listening to the soundtracks a few hundred times.

      • threerings13 says:

        Yeah, I just got rid of my TE dvds. I was kinda reluctant, but my husband pointed out we hadn't watched them since the EE were released. And I bought myself the blu-ray EE set for Xmas. Which actually has noticeably better picture quality, which I wasn't sure was possible. But yeah, right there with you.

        • AmandaNekesa says:

          So jealous! I would like to get the bluray EEs sometime, since I don't actually have a copy of the movies for myself. I usually steal borrow my parents' movies. I'm thinking, with the liveblogs in the somewhat near future, I might use a bit of my tax return money to get the bluray EEs. It sounds like a perfectly good use of a tax return to me! 🙂

          Yeah, I hadn't watched the TEs for at least 3 or 4 years. While they will always be my first experience of LotR, and I still believe that as a whole they are best for newbies to LotR, I can't watch them the same as before, having seen the EEs. I always think, wait, where's that scene?? Bar bs zl snibevgr cnegf bs gur RRf vf ubj SbgE fgnegf, jvgu Ovyob gnyxvat nobhg uboovgf. V zhpu cersre gung ortvaavat gb gur GRf, juvpu frrzf fb fubeg, va pbzcnevfba.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          I heard the EE BluRays had some weird colour distortion, especially FOTR – apparently the scenes at Caradhras had a green tinge, and stuff like that…

          Is that still true, or was that just a faulty batch of the first BluRays of the EEs?

          • Jenny_M says:

            I just recently had the money to buy mine, and I haven't noticed any odd colorization. Might have been corrected!

            • Tauriel_ says:

              That's good to hear. I own the EEs on DVD, but I'll be getting a new TV and a home cinema with BluRay player for my new flat and I'm thinking about buying the EE BluRays and selling the DVDs… 🙂

    • flootzavut says:

      V pna erzrzore srryvat ernyyl onq sbe Zreel naq Cvccva pbzr gur zbivrf, gbb. Cvccva'f srne – Zreel orvat n jerpx… 🙁

      • AmandaNekesa says:

        Htu, lrf, naq jura gur Hehx-unv cbhe gur bep-qenhtug qbja Zreel'f guebng…naq Cvccva'f yvxr "lbh'er uheg!" naq Zreel cebprrqf gb gnyx nobhg vg orvat na npg, "Qba'g jbeel nobhg zr, Cvc"…. :'(

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      i genuinely think the LOTR fandom will break the comment records on Mark Watches that day.

  4. cait0716 says:

    I can never quite get over how much the orcs are basically just cannon-fodder for Saruman and Sauron. I mean, you always read about these hordes of orcs and there's hundreds of them. And then Boromir takes out scores of them all by himself, which, okay he's a hero. Then we get 200+ orcs against 100 Rohirrim and the orcs are just annihilated while Eomer loses 15 men. It seems so unbalanced. For such a war-happy culture, they sure aren't effective in battle. At least not individually. It's only their numbers that make them a real threat and even then they seem to need incredible numbers to make much of an impact. Maybe this is due to all their infighting, as Mark pointed out. I'm just not entirely sure what to make of it.

    "You seem to be doing well, Master Took," said Merry. "You will get almost a chapter in old Bilbo's book, if I ever get a chance to report to him."

    I laughed at this bit of meta-commentary. Is it possible I just read that chapter, Tolkien?

    • monkeybutter says:

      You stole my comment. I laughed, too. Are you leaning on the fourth wall, Merry?

    • Zoli says:

      To be fair, Eomer's forces are cavalry, which ARE very effective against foot soldiers, especially foot soldiers who don't have a single leader and are very disorganized. I think orcs are probably fierce fighters, but they don't have a lot of discipline and they're not trained to fight mounted foes.

    • msw188 says:

      Haha, the terrible part is Ugluk even acknowledges this, knowing that "there's more than enough of them to wipe our lot on the flat." That said, I'll say it's not really that unbelievable here. Mainly because the Rohirrim are on horseback. When a skilled cavalry faces an infantry (tired from running for DAYS) like this, I have no problem believing they wiped them out. Especially given that they had no other objective, like say, securing a position or something. Nah, they're just here to kill. And the description of their attack is pretty menacing. I can't imagine resting in the "pleasant darkness", and then the sun rises and all of a sudden the horns are blowing NONSTOP and the horsemen charge from the East (sun at their backs) and they're all singing and shit. If I was an orc at that point, I'd probably just give up and die.

      • cait0716 says:

        Oh I didn't mean to imply that it's unbelievable. And the Rohirrim are certainly smart about their attack, attacking and then melting back into shadows through the night and sowing discord and terror among the orcs. It just makes the orcs a little less fearsome that they seem to be so easily defeated by everyone. But I suppose Sauron has the Nazgul to keep me frightened.

    • flootzavut says:

      Bwahahahaha, I never thought of it that would but definitely, we just read that chapter! LOL thanks for that… 😀

    • eregyrn says:

      I think that the infighting was certainly key. The orcs just have no unit cohesion. For one thing, you've got the competing groups. But for another, isn't it also pretty clear that any given orc does not have a great deal of loyalty towards any other given orc, even one from the same "tribe"?

      What strikes me here is that Tolkien *was* a veteran of WWI, and while that deals with a modern army, it's a war that still had cavalry (even if it's also the war that demonstrated why we will no longer use cavalry). But, most of my perspective comes from having read many of the Sharpe books, which deal extensively with military strategy and how an infantry can beat a cavalry. The key is always discipline and not panicking. If there isn't any discipline and if the infantry panics, then the point is made over and over again that the cavalry will cut the infantry to ribbons.

      I'm guessing that since Tolkien was writing from a time and experience closer to the time period in which those military considerations were much more present, he was kind of using the orcs here as an example of the Worst Case Infantry Scenario.

  5. Aris Katsaris says:

    "We’ll get there in a bit. We meet an actual named Orc, Uglúk, who constantly fights with Grishnákh, an Orc that’s not associated with Saruman. (He’s from the Mines of Moria, yes? You can answer this, "

    No, Grishnakh is a Mordor-orc, subservient to Sauron.

    • Erik says:

      There were three factions – Saruman’s White Hand Uruks led by Uglúk, Red Eye orcs from Lugbúrz led by Grishnákh, and the disorganized Moria orcs out looking for revenge, and no group trusted the others.

      No wonder there was so much infighting and they were so ineffective in battle.

  6. atheistsisters says:

    LOL, I was on YT yesterday watching parts myself.

  7. Jenny_M says:

    Pippin is my favorite! He's just…well, he's the youngest hobbit, and he's being brave and smart and I just love him.

    I also love Merry's sassmouthing the minute he's awake. Gandalf's trolling ways live on in the Fellowship!

    • flootzavut says:

      Pippin <3

    • JustMalyn says:

      Sebz gur zbivr, Cvccva'f Fbat. <3 Fb nqbenoyr naq ornhgvshy naq V jnag gb ubyq uvz. Nyfb, UBJ QBRF QRARGUBE ZNXR RNGVAT FB IREL HANGGENPGVIR?!?

      • Eefje says:

        Bu Tbq, Qrargube rngvat vf ubeevoyr. Dhvpxyl! guvax nobhg Jnygre rngvat ba Sevatr!

      • blossomingpeach says:

        Gung'f bar bs zl irel snibevgr zbzragf va nyy guerr zbivrf. "Jr unir ab fbatf sbe terng unyyf naq rivy gvzrf." Ornhgvshy fbat, fnq fnq Cvccva, gentvp Snenzve, naq perrcl rngvat. V zrna frevbhfyl, jub rngf n pureel gbzngb yvxr gung?

      • Becky_J_ says:

        CVCCVA'F FBAT <3

        Gurer vf ab zber ornhgvshy zbzrag va gur zbivr. Guvf bar fbat pbairlf uhaqerqf bs lrnef bs fhssrevat, bs ybff, bs zrzbel, naq gur uvfgbel bs Zvqqyr Rnegu. V oryvrir vg gryyf gur ragver fgbel bs YBGE va whfg n srj zvahgrf. <3 <3

  8. flootzavut says:


  9. Tauriel_ says:

    Tauriel's Linguistic Corner

    In this chapter we branch out a bit – no Elvish here, but quite a bit of Orkish or Black Speech as it's also referred to. There's not much of a corpus – the only two bits that we have is the inscription on the ring (which I analysed way back in "The Council of Elrond") and now the curse uttered by the nameless Mordor Orc (I think he's not named, correct me if I'm wrong):

    Uglúk u bagronk sha pushdug Saruman-glob búbhosh skai!

    Tolkien gives the translation in one of his notes that were later published (once again, thanks to Ardalambion for all the info):

    "Uglúk to the cesspool, sha! the dungfilth; the great Saruman-fool, skai!"

    From this we can deduce that sha! and skai! are general Orkish swearwords and are not translated.

    A few more words:

    Lugbúrz – "The Dark Tower". Orkish name for Barad-dûr, Sauron's fortress in Mordor. Lug is "tower", búrz is "dark" (compare with burzum-ishi from the One Ring inscription); so the literal translation is "Towerdark" (it would appear that the Orcs put their adjectives after their nouns).
    Uruk-hai – a name of a variety of large Orcs. The word uruk was probably borrowed from ancient Elvish by Sauron (it does seem related to orch, the Sindarin word for Orc). And hai means simply "folk", "people". Could be a hint to how Saruman created them, by crossbreeding Orcs and Men?
    Snaga – "slave".

    • cait0716 says:

      For some unfathomable reason I just tried to rot-13 the Orkish. I need more sleep.

      As always, thanks for taking the time to put together the linguistic corner. I love learning about all of this.

    • flootzavut says:

      I love that the Orkish word for fool is "blob"… 😀

      • Tauriel_ says:

        It makes a wonderfully silly-sounding insult: "You blobbing blob!" 😀

        • flootzavut says:

          Yes 😀 I do love insults that sound really silly.

          Just because it made me think of it – when I was at uni we all found it very amusing (in a totally puerile way) that the word for hat in Russian looks like this: шапка <— handwritten, the shapes (п especially) are softened so it becomes yet more unfortunate, something like шаnка

          To this day my mum will occasionally refer to someone as a hat, because she would never ever say w*****r ( really dislike it as a word, I can't bring myself to leave it spelled out…) and I think she rather likes being able to say it without saying it…

          I may have an unhealthy obsession with language, you know…

    • John Small Berries says:

      "And hai means simply 'folk', 'people'. "

      For some reason, I'd interpreted "uruk-hai" as "High Orcs". I suppose, in retrospect, it would be silly to assume that "high" and "hai" would be cognates, but I guess the similarity between "orc" and "uruk" led me down that path.

      • notemily says:

        It is possible Tolkien chose that word (as opposed to another word meaning "people") BECAUSE it gave that impression. A lot of his names and words have double-meanings, which is why he had to write a billion pages of notes for translators.

    • notemily says:

      OHHHH I had no idea Lugburz was Barad-dur. ALL IS CLEAR TO ME NOW.

    • Steve Morrison says:

      Isn’t Orkish different from the Black Speech, though? Appendix F says that by the time of the story, only Sauron and his top henchbeings still used the Black Speech, and Orkish was a catch-all term for numerous mutually unintelligible dialects used by the Orcs; that was why the mixed group in this chapter had to use the Common Speech to communicate.

  10. @LarrikJ says:

    Whoa whoa whoa. The Orcs aren't based on "Mongol-types", he just used that description to explain how they looked. Which is unfortunate (though keep in mind that during that time period western Europe had a habit of going to war with Asia, and at that point Tolkien was getting to be a stubborn old man).

    The creatures themselves are rooted in English fairy tales (goblins and such).

    • @LarrikJ says:

      Nsgre nyy, gurer'f cyragl bs biregyl enpvfgf fghss yngre…

      • enigmaticagentscully says:

        Bu tbq, ynfg gvzr V ernq gur obbxf V jvaprq fb uneq jura V tbg gb pregnva cnegf…V'ir tbggra hfrq gb vg ol abj, ohg whfg ernyvfvat Znex vf tbaan unir gb ernq gung fghss…

        Ubyl hapbzsbegnoyr fhogrkg Ongzna!

    • stormwreath says:

      In fact, in his letters, Tolkien often used words like "Orc-like" or "modern-day Orcs" to describe…. racists. Or Nazis (literal Nazis, given that he was writing during the Second World War). Or white English people with authoritarian or hate-filled mindsets. He made an especial point that people who act like Orcs can be found in any country, regardless of race.

      It's true that he said (in reply to a question from a fan) that Orcs look like an uglier version of real-life East Asians, which does betray an unfortunate level of unconscious racist assumptions: but to say that Orcs were "based on a racist characterisation" seems to me to be the opposite of the truth. They were based on goblins from Anglo-Saxon myth and English fairy tales, mixed in with the reaction of a conservative English Christian against the excesses of early-20th century fascism and modernism.

      • rubyjoo says:

        This is a difficult one because we shouldn't expect someone growing up in the early 20th century to have the same sensibilities as we have now. My mother, who would be pretty ancient if she were alive now, would say things like "There's good and bad in every race" and was considered to be a very liberal and open-minded person. But she also used the word "coloured" which is considered offensive nowadays but which was used by her generation in the politest possible way to describe "people of colour". She found the word "black" very offensive. Everything I've read about Tolkien suggests that he was not a racist, particularly in the context of his own times. He wanted to create a group that was evil and had no redeeming features so that we could be appalled and frightened by their actions and permit ourselves to cheer when they were killed and not feel guilty about it. He was basing his Orcs on a non-human/sub-human species that actually doesn't exist in our own world and I'm sure he was thinking of legendary goblins or demons from hell.

        When I first read LotR a long time ago (before my "consciousness" was raised about race etc) I just thought of the Orcs as being an imaginary creation and I definitely didn't compare them with the Mongol hordes or Asians of any description. I've just checked with my husband and his reaction was the same. As far as he was/is concerned, he just saw them as a made-up species that had no relationship to people of our own world. Just don't let it upset you.

      • lise says:

        His exact wording (according to TVtropes, anyway) was "…degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

        So, not so much "they were hideous and looked like Mongolian people" and more "They looked like how a European might view Mongols, but twisted and scarier than any real person is".
        Still pretty questionable, but not -as- bad as it might seem at first…

    • Shannon says:

      Yes yes yes! I was going to make this same comment. And even his description of them physically as "Mongol-types" is rather arbitrary. I mean, he very, very rarely describes the orcs physically in any meaningful way, and his description outside the text should not be counted as a Word of God in this case, since the lack of description is a conscious and common literary technique when characterizing something at an extreme, either beautiful or horrifying. Moreover, since it was a technique in old bard songs and folk tales with which he was familiar (including Gawain and the Green Knight, iirc, which he actually translated from the Middle English), the idea being that the reader, being told that a character is horrifying or astoundingly beautiful, would unconsciously substitute in those qualities that appeal to his or her taste and opinions and avoid the whole question of the reader disagreeing with or being underwhelmed by a given description. I mean, maybe to scholarly old men from England at that time, Mongols were a horrifying idea, but that hardly pertains to the text.

      • Mauve_Avenger says:

        " I mean, he very, very rarely describes the orcs physically in any meaningful way…"

        Except that he does describe them physically in this chapter, and he calls them "swart" and "slant-eyed." The southerner in Bree who Sam said was ugly enough to be part-orc was also described as slant-eyed (though sallow) as well. EDIT: It was Frodo, not Sam.

        He even threw in a few instances of Ugluk calling the men of Rohan "Whiteskins" as a sort of epithet, which only makes sense as a way of reinforcing the idea that Ugluk and his people are dark-skinned.

    • ARITHMANCER says:

      Yeah, I wanted to make this point when I reached that comment, too. Tolkien referred to their physical description as unattractive Mongol types (problematic enough in itself, no argument!), but did not claim to have based their culture on Mongol culture, on Asian culture more broadly, or on any other extant culture in our world.__And it seems to be pretty clear, anyway, that he did not. His Orcs are nothing like the Mongol armies, lightly armored archers sweeping rapidly across the broad steppes of Asia on their horses. (The least I figure a person of his background and education would know of the Mongols). __

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I basically agree with Mark that Tolkien is using racist tropes in his description of the Orcs. Rather than continually saying the same thing on the many threads about this, these are my thoughts, in another thread:

    • Dru says:

      And this: specifically the comment about how ugly and gross their natural language sounds.

      For years, I thought the language in question was meant to be like German, not any East Asian language (or maybe that's because of the number of old novels I've read in which German characters' accents and voices are described as brutal or guttural**)

      **which is funny, because in the time I spent with actual German people, their accents always sounded on the softer side to me, not at all the guttural brutality I was expecting from the novels!

      • I absolutely thought there was some slight wartime German hating going on with the orcs! I mean I know Tolkien hated analogy but yeah…

        Yes, "guttural" is so commonly used to describe it. Strange!

      • t09yavosaur says:

        Native/long-time german speakers can make it flow beautifully. In my experience I have only heard German as "guttural" from non-native speakers or those who were just learning, myself included. I remember when I was learning, the only way to figure out (aka the way we were taught) some of the words and accent was to emphasize the sounds in the back of the throat. My accent hasn't really softened but both my sister and my best friend who have lived in Germany sound much gentler.

      • hassibah says:

        Hey, I am reading these books along with the blog for the first time. My first impressions were the language looked very similar to Turkish, and Turkic languages are spoken around central Asia ie Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and I believe that includes the Uighur part of China and Mongolia as well.
        But yeah, back when the Orcs were said to be using scimitars (the curved swords) my first thought, not having done any other research, that this was Ottoman related, cause so many European books from this period seem love to have reference to Turks, and usually not in a very positive light, but that's just me.

        Uruk is also an ancient (not Turkish at all) city, I don't really know if that was intentional.

    • flootzavut says:

      ^ THIS.

  11. Tauriel_ says:

    Merry and Pippin are alive!! 😀 And there was much rejoicing. <3

    Poor Pippin, though, he seems so dispirited at the beginning:

    What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage. And now I have been stolen and I am just a piece of luggage for the Orcs. I hope Strider or someone will come and claim us!

    You're not a nuisance, Pippin! *hugs* <3 <3 <3 Even though you're sometimes a fool of a Took. 😉 We still love you. <3

    I think Mark got his wish in this chapter – he wanted to know more about the Orcs, whether they're named, etc. So yeah, here we got a taste, and it's NOT PLEASANT. It seems so far that one simply needs to consider the Orcs being evil as a fact of Middle-earth – we haven't met any good, or at least ambiguous, character who is an Orc.

    Aragorn's deductions from the previous chapter are confirmed – there has been a quarrel between the various parties of Orcs about what to do with the hobbits and which course to take. But Uglúk seems to have everything under control.


    • Tauriel_ says:

      And we see that hobbits can be really clever and resourceful when they're pressed or in need – we've seen this with Bilbo in The Hobbit, and with Sam two chapters ago – and now we see it with Pippin, too:

      He pushed the dead Orc to one side, then hardly daring to breathe, he drew the knot of the wrist-cord up and down against the blade of the knife. It was sharp and the dead hand held it fast. The cord was cut! Quickly Pippin took it in his fingers and knotted it again into a loose bracelet of two loops and slipped it over his hands. Then he lay very still.


      ‘No hope of escape!’ thought Pippin. ‘But there is a hope that I have left some of my own marks unspoilt on the wet ground.’ He groped with his two tied hands at his throat, and unclasped the brooch of his cloak. Just as long arms and hard claws seized him. he let it fall.

      Fool Genius of a Took! 😀 😀 *applauds* Well done, Pippin, that was very smart and thoughtful! Now Aragorn knows you're alive.


    • Tauriel_ says:

      At last the Riders of Rohan catch up with the Orc party and encircle them at the borders of the Fangorn Forest. And as they're waiting for the morning, a scene that's SO CREEPY happens between the hobbits and Grishnákh – where Pippin essentially impersonates Gollum and pretends to talk about the Ring, trying to make Grishnákh nervous. Which is a very bold thing to do – but also probably very dangerous, given that Grishnákh soon grabs them both and runs for it – luckily he's killed by a Rohirrim spear before he gets too far, and the hobbits' Elvish cloaks make them almost invisible to the eys of the Rohirrim.

      And so Merry and Pippin escape to Fangorn Forest. I love how they compliment each other and calling one another "Master Took" and "Master Brandybuck" – it's such a nice little way to show appreciation and respect even though they're old friends and on first-name terms anyway. 🙂

      Out of the shadows the hobbits peeped, gazing back down the slope: little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn.

      Elf-children! <3 Why haven't we seen elf-children anywhere yet? Not in Rivendell, not in Thranduil's palace in Mirkwood, not in Lothlórien. I DEMAND TO SEE AN ELF-CHILD AND JUDGE HIS/HER CUTENESS! <3

      • stormwreath says:

        V guvax gur snpg gung ab arj rys-puvyqera ner orvat obea vf xvaq bs n cybg cbvag, npghnyyl. Gurl'er n qrpyvavat, snqvat enpr.

        Va snpg, V'z fher V 'ir frra vg vzcyvrq gung Nejra, 'gur Rirafgne bs ure crbcyr' jnf va snpg gur ynfg rire Abyqb gb or obea va Zvqqyr-Rnegu – naq gung jnf gubhfnaqf bs lrne ntb.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Lbh npghnyyl znl or evtug… B.B Gung'f cerggl fpnel, npghnyyl…

          • flootzavut says:

            V frrz gb erzrzore nyfb gung sbe Ryirf, cebperngvba vf n cerggl uhtr qrny. Fb V thrff gurl ner yrff yvxryl gb whfg unir xvqf orpnhfr vg'f gur guvat gb qb… gurl qb vg irel vagragvbanyyl. Fb vs gurl ner qlvat bhg/yrnivat Neqn gura vg jbhyq znxr ab frafr gb tb ba univat xvqf V guvax?? Zl xabjyrqtr bs gur zlgubybtl vf cerggl fxrgpul gubhtu!

        • stefb4 says:

          Nf gurer ner bgure enprf bs Ryirf va Zvqqyr-Rnegu orfvqrf gur Abyqbe, V jbhyq vzntvar gung gurl ner fgvyy univat puvyqera, cnegvphyneyl gur Ryirf bs Zvexjbbq, jub ner pbafgnagyl svtugvat gb qrsraq gurve ubzr. Abg gung gurl'er univat znal puvyqera, ohg V svther n srj urer naq gurer jbhyq or obea. Vg'f gurbevmrq Yrtbynf vf engure lbhat sbe na rys (rfgvzngrq 500-700 lrnef). Ur qbrfa'g srry byq hagvy ur fcraqf uvf gvzr va gur pbzcnal bs zbegnyf. Gur Ryirf bs Zvexjbbq, jub unir arire orra gb Inyvabe be unir npprff gb gur frn, ner yrff yvxryl gb unir gur frn-ybatvat sbe n ybat juvyr. Guenaqhvy fgnlrq sbe n ybbbbat gvzr nsgrejneqf, nsgre nyy.

          Nejra, ubjrire, VF gur ynfg qrfpraqnag bs gur Abyqbe va Zvqqyr-Rnegu, nygubhtu V'z fher gurer ner zber orvat obea va Inyvabe.

          That's what I think anyway.

      • stefb4 says:

        Ahem, as I have recommended her before, I suggest reading daw the minstrel's stories at 🙂 She writes young Legolas and writes elf-children exceptionally well (and SO ADORABLE OH GOD–and believable, as she is a mother). Also her depiction of Thranduil is my faaaaavorite gahh I love him. Everything she writes is basically canon for me.

    • Skyweir says:

      It is very hard, if not impossible, to consider any kind of sentient being completely evil. Indeed, Elrond himself says: " Nothing is evil from the beginning, even Sauron was not so" in The Council of Elrond. Tolkien, from what I recall, struggled a lot with this problem in his later letters.

      The Orcs depicted here are rather nasty to each other and to their captives, true enough. Still, this is war, not a tea party. The Orcs are fighting for survival, and the Riders of Rohan kill them all even though they no nothing of their captives or their purpose. They are killed simply by being Orcs and in Rohan, if they were out picking flowers it would not have mattered.

      Vaqrrq, Gur Jne bs gur Evat vf va rssrpg n jne bs fheiviny sbe gur Bepvfu enpr. Nyy bgure enprf ner cerggl zhpu trabpvqny gbjneqf gurz, naq vs gurl ybfr gur jne jrer jbhyq gurl yvir? Abg va Zbeqbe, pyrneyl, naq abg va Zbevn vs gur Qjneirf gnxr vg onpx.

      Bs pbhefr, gur Bepf gurzfryirf jbhyq abg or xvaqre vs gurl jva gur Jne. Fgvyy, vs n enpr bs orvatf ner perngrq ol gbegher naq qnex negf, naq yvir gurve yvirf nf fynirf (gurl ner abg vapyhqrq va gur Serr Crbcyr, rira gubhtu gurl unir serr jvyy naq ner fragvrag), jung pna gurl orpbzr ohg na natel naq ivbyrag crbcyr? Bar jbhyq guvax Tnaqnyi, jub gnyxf nobhg cvgl nyy gur gvzr, jbhyq fcner fbzr sbe gur infg zhygvghqrf bs Bepf arire tvira nal pubvpr ohg gb freir gur Qnex Gbjre.

      • stormwreath says:

        V guvax gur svany pbapyhfvba Gbyxvra pnzr gb jnf gung Bepf qb abg, va snpg, unir serr jvyy. Gurl'er zbgvingrq bayl ol gur cbjre bs gurve znfgre – Zbetbgu, naq yngre Fnheba – naq vs gurl'er bsgra gernpurebhf, gung'f na varivgnoyr pbafrdhrapr bs gur Qnex Ybeq'f bja jvyy orvat gjvfgrq naq rivy naq svyyrq jvgu ungerq.

        Bapr Fnheba vf qrfgeblrq, gur Bepf orpbzr zrer navznyf: "Nf jura qrngu fzvgrf gur fjbyyra oebbqvat guvat gung vaunovgf gurve penjyvat uvyy naq ubyqf gurz nyy va fjnl, nagf jvyy jnaqre jvgyrff naq checbfryrff naq gura srroyl qvr, fb gur perngherf bs Fnheba, bep be gebyy be ornfg fcryy-rafynirq, ena uvgure naq guvgure zvaqyrff."

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Lbh orng zr gb vg. Jungrire gur bevtva bs Bepf (jurgure gurl'er pbeehcgrq Ryirf, be pbeehcgrq Zra, be "genvarq" uhznabvq-funcrq ornfgf, be n cebqhpg bs vagreoerrqvat orgjrra nyy bs gur nobir), V qb oryvrir gung Zbetbgu'f npgvbaf erfhygrq va gur Bepf' pbzcyrgr ybff bs serr jvyy. Gurl fvzcyl <v>pna'g</v> abg or rivy. Rira vs gurl jnagrq. Vg'f abg gurve snhyg, vg'f Zbetbgu'f snhyg, ohg gurer lbh unir vg.

          Vg'f npghnyyl cerggl gentvp, jura lbh guvax bs gung – orvat qbbzrq jvgubhg nal ubcr sbe fnyingvba, naq vg'f abg rira lbhe snhyg.

          • flootzavut says:

            Tvirf n jubyr arj pbzcyrkvba gb gurz qbrfa'g vg.

          • stormwreath says:

            "Guvf vg znl or jnf gur ivyrfg qrrq bs Zryxbe, naq gur zbfg ungrshy gb Vyúingne."

            • Skyweir says:

              Uzz, V erzrzore gung yvar sebz gur obbxf, ohg V gnxr vg nf zber bs na vyyhfgengvba bs gur punbf unccravat jura Fnheba'f jvyy vf erzbirq. Juvyr V qb abg qbhog gung gur Bepf ner vzcryyrq ol gur jvyy bs Fnheba, gung qbrf abg artngr gurve serr jvyy. Vg vf pyrne gb zr, ng yrnfg, gung Bepf ner pncnoyr bs znxvat pubvprf gb gur qrgevzrag bs Fnheba'f pnhfr naq gb gel gb gnxr gur Evat, sbe vafgnapr. Fb gurl ner abg zrer qebarf, zber yvxr vaqbpgevangrq fynirf.

              Gur jvyy bs Fnheba (naq Zbetbgu) unatf bire gur Bepf naq vzcryyrq gurz gb natre naq ungr, creuncf, ohg vs gurer jnf ab fhpu cbjre, V qb abg guvax gurl jbhyq orpbzr nf navznyf, abe qb V nterr gung gur grkg fhccbeg guvf ivrj.

              Naljnl, rira vs gurl qb abg unir pbzcyrgr serr jvyy, gurl ner fragvrag. Gurl ner (eryngviryl) engvbany, naq gurl srry srne, cnva naq rira unccvarff. Nf fhpu, gurer ner fgvyy rguvpny ceboyrzf jvgu gur jnl gur Serr Crbcyr qrny jvgu gurz, rfcrpvnyyl nsgre gurl ner ab ybatre n gerng.

  12. Becky_J_ says:

    There's really only one thing to say about this chapter, and it's this: POOR MERRY AND PIPPIN, but YAY FOR THEIR ESCAPE!!!

    I mean, okay, to be fair, all of the Fellowship has had a poor lot of luck (SORRY BOROMIR YOU WIN THIS CATEGORY), but at this very moment, Merry and Pippin have it rough. They are held captive in a large group of feuding Orcs, they are being brutalized (though not tortured or killed, thank god), and on top of it all, THE ORCS ARE MAKING THEM RUN. Soooo awful. Next they're gonna be forced to do stretches or intense cardio or PUSH UPS OR SOMETHING.

    Okay, I'm obviously getting carried away here. I'll get back to the story. *ahem*

    "Alive and as captured; no spoiling. That's my orders."
    LOOK YOU GUYS THEY HAVE THE SAME ORDERS WE DO, NO SPOILING!!! Now if people would just LISTEN to their orders……

    "….but he bore a brown scar to the end of his days."
    Okay, look, I don't care what anyone tells me, I am going to take this as a sign that Merry lives to a ripe old age of 254! Fine, maybe not THAT long, but he has to live at least long enough for a scar to form! Right? Right?!

    "Hullo, Pippin!", he said. "So you've come on this little expedition, too? Where do we get bed and breakfast?"
    Great hobbit on earth, I love you so much Merry. You are in the hands of Orcs, who are likely going to kill you, and you still find the courage to be a little sass-muffin. YOU ARE SECOND ONLY TO SAMWISE GAMGEE IN MY BOOK.

    And then the Riders show up and Merry and Pippin escape and get free and eat some lembas and then…. AND THEN…. as if NOTHING has happened, they start discussing the past couple days, as if they are discussing the weather over second breakfast and a nice cup of tea!

    Like, "LOL, Merry, I don't know if you had as bad a day as I did, it was pretty awful. But, did you see that bluebird that flew overhead? And MY, wasn't it a beautiful day for a run through the countryside! I sure hope that we get a good second breakfast, cause I am FAMISHED."
    "Yes, Pippin, my dear old friend, it was quite the adventure, eh? Although, you are correct, it was a great, sunny day! And did you see how green the grass was? Almost carpet! Have you ever seen the likes of it before? And I saw a flower on our light jog that I'll have to tell Sam about when we next see him… perhaps he can get it to grow in the Shire!"

    Like, YOU GUYS. You were captured by ORCS. Are you not the least bit traumatized by that?! Also, don't go in the forest there's a creepy vanishing old man there

    And now for a picture of Merry and Pippin in HAPPIER times, so that we don't get lost in all of the sadness:
    <img src=""&gt;
    Can we just discuss how great this picture is? Pippin's just like "Ah, this is the good life" and Merry is like "BEER. IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER THAN BEER. Look at this thing, Pippin! Do you see it?! IT'S HEAVEN IN A PINT MUG. Into my mouth, heaven!!!"

    YOU GUYS. I HAVE SO MUCH FREAKING LOVE FOR MERRY AND PIPPIN. Can we have a Merry and Pippin celebration day, with gifs and cake and keysmashes??????? PLEASSSSSEEEEE??????

  13. enigmaticagentscully says:

    I love how just last chapter you said there would probably never be an Orc with a name, and then in this chapter we get a bunch of them.

    And, to quote the lovely Cleolinda Jones, they all have names like a random handful of Scrabble tiles.

    • Katarina says:

      I had half forgotten this chapter, but as soon as I read it, I could perfectly recall my fourth-grade classmate saying Orc names with evident pleasure.

  14. Mandy says:

    Billy Boyd is like one of my favorite persons in the world! I just keep watching behind the scenes videos, and he's really amazing.
    And Pippin ♥
    I really love this chapter so much!

    • Juliana Moreli says:

      The behind the scenes without him and Dom wouldn't be soo funny!

    • flootzavut says:

      Favourite extra from RotK – if you haven't seen them yet, don't decypher yet because you really should see it first time unspoiled because it's brilliant!

      Gur jubyr fgbel bs jura gurl jrer svyzvat Fnz naq Ebfvr'f jrqqvat xvff, naq Ivttb tenoorq Ovyyl naq xvffrq uvz. Ab znggre ubj bsgra V jngpu gung, vg vf fbbbbb uvynevbhf, Ovyyl gnyxvat nobhg vg, Qbz'f ernpgvba (fbbbb cevpryrff gung gurl tbg gung ba svyz naq ur qvqa'g xabj!) vg'f whfg fb shaal naq vg whfg fcrnxf gb gubfr sevraqfuvcf oruvaq gur fprarf, gbb.

      In short: <3 <3 <3

    • Billy Boyd's …. EVERYTHING can make me smile no matter how low I'm feeling. Billy & Dom shenanigans are just SDKJFHSLDKJFSHDKFJS SO MUCH HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can not wait for Mark to see extras and listen to commentaries etc CAN NOT WAIT.

  15. @MeagenImage says:

    I remember feeling pretty depressed and miserable when I read about Pippin and Merry being forced to come along with the orcs. But then it was over and they started just *chatting* about it like it was no big deal, so I just sort of assumed it really wasn't. And then I ended up approaching most of the rest of LotR with that same sort of hobbit-resilience. I honestly didn't remember any of it being overwhelmingly scary or sad.

  16. I panicked for a minute when this post didn't go up.

    Yeah, Tolkien's portrayal of the Orcs is a bit problematic… I don't know if this redeems him a bit, but apparently he later became really uncomfortable with how he'd written them and spent quite a while trying to find an explanation for their origins that he was okay with. I don't think he ever got there, but I'll give him credit for trying.

    That said, vs lbh guvax gur bepf unir ab qrcgu urer, vg'f rira jbefr va gur zbivr. Gurl pna'g rira ubyq n pburerag pbairefngvba. V jvyy tevcr nobhg guvf gvyy gur raq bs gvzr, vg whfg ernyyl naablf zr.

    And right about here is where we get to see that Pippin, for all the things he tells himself, is far more than just luggage, as he tries to escape, is able to leave a sign for Aragorn, screws with Grishnakh (as a side-note, how great of a villain name is that? It just sounds so wonderfully evil… I love it) and helps both himself and Merry get out.


  17. Dragonsong12 says:

    I think I read somewhere once that later in his life, Tolkien deeply regretted making that comparison for the orcs. I can't remember where I saw it, and I have no source to back it up, and it still doesn't undo the fact that it was said, but I remember being a bit grateful that at least he did acknowledge that it was a terrible thing to do.

    Of course, as I said, I may be remembering all wrong. Do any of you true Tolkien fans recall this?

    • Ryan Lohner says:

      His major regret was that he portrayed them as an irredeemably evil race, when his strict Catholic upbringing taught him that everyone has the potential for good. He spent the rest of his life trying to come up with an explanation that would clear up that dissonance, and never quite succeeded.

    • Seumas the Red says:

      Although, the thing is, he didn't say "I based the orcs on Mongol types"; but what he DOES say is worded to mean that he was comparing the behaviour and culture and appearance TO the racial stereotype. If I wanted to be racist(which I do not), I could pick a group of people who share traits with each other that I do not share, and I could call them all ugly. Tolkien points to this kind of thing and uses that as description of the reaction Orcs get in Middle-Earth. Unfortunately, as soon as you say that kind of thing it gets muddled very quickly, and the meaning is distorted and Tolkien becomes someone who is being racist.

      I don't believe he was really being racist.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        okay being racist and being a racist are two different things and y'all need to stop confusing the two.

        I'm saying that reference in one of his letters is a racist connotation. Nowhere did I say that Tolkien is a burning, flaming racist. Please stop confusing those terms.

        • maccyAkaMatthew says:

          EDIT: In everything below I'm talking about the chapter and (a bit) the book in general and not specifically about what Tolkien said in that letter. I was doing the traditional "new criticism" thing of reading the text independently of any biographical information.

          The letter itself is pretty horrible, I think, although it's plausible that Tolkien didn't entirely realise this – that he's a not very aware conduit for the racism of his time. It's definitely, and specifically, a racist connotation and, I think, sheds some light on the way that Tolkien probably saw the world, despite his professed anti-racism.


          And I think in this instance it's worth maybe drawing a distinction between being specifically racist and generally racist. Tolkien is describing Orcs, who obviously don't exist in reality – so this isn't a direct description of an ethnic group. However, is it an allegorical one? Are the Orcs meant to stand for a particular ethnicity? On present evidence, I'd say maybe, but there's no clear or explicit connection made. Without giving too much away, I find it hard to map the Orcs onto any ethnicity directly, within the context of Middle Earth as we are shown it and how that might apply to our reality. Tolkien, of course, denied that any of the story had allegorical meaning, but that's only his opinion and authors are often the worst judges of how their readers see the books. It seems to me that all fiction has to be in some way about the world we live, otherwise it is meaningless.

          Still, I'm with Tolkien in the sense that I find it hard to see the Orcs as an allegorical satirical portrait of any one ethnic group. However, on the general level, Tolkien is using the tools of racist myth-making to tell this part of his story. This is hardly surprising, given that he was a colonial child (born in South Africa) who spent most of his life in England before widespread immigration, when it was still the centre of an empire (with the excpetion of India, the post-colonial phase of history didn't really get going until after The Lord of the Rings was publish and post-colonialism doesn't start to make its way into academia until after Tolkien's death). The works of H Rider Haggard and John Buchan, that Tolkien clearly drew on for the "adventure story" elements of his work, are steeped in a deeply racist and colonialist mindset, that was arguably the norm in British culture until at least the 1970s and probably later.

          The generalised racism, then, is associating looks, skin colour and "lack of civilisation" (or savagery, if you like) with evil. The orcs look and sound different and are separate, savage and other – in pretty much the same way as African tribes of cannibals or Chinese gangs of Tongs are in Edwardian adventure fiction. So Tolkien is just repeating racist tropes in a fantasy setting. Now, on an intellectual level, you can maybe resist that reading, but I'd suggest its hard to do on an emotional and experiential level especially (I would guess, I don't know) if you're a person of colour used to being characterised in those terms in other fictions.

          Also, even if you steadfastly read the Orcs as non-racist – the way they exist in the books is spectacular failure of imagination, real sentient beings are not that one-dimensional. It would just be more interesting if Tolkien had imagined them in the complex way that human societies exist – and I can't help but be brought back to the fact that these types of simplistic, stereotyping portrayals are only used in the real world to demonise and belittle certain ethnic groups.

          Which lead me to conclude: yes this is just a fantasy, all made up – but it's fantasy in which racists turn out to correct, where it's OK to be racist against Orcs because all the stereotypes about them are true. Given the pernicious nature of racist mythology, I find that disappointing and I'd rather Tolkien had imagined his world differently.

          It is worth saying that Tolkien despised racism, in all the correspondence in which it is mentioned, and particularly hated the way that the mythological sources that he used were perverted (via Wagner) by the Nazis.

          However, as Mark is no doubt tired of explaining, it's much easier to be consciously anti-racist than to deal with the unconsciously racist culture that we all swim around in and which we reach for when we write fiction. What I've found useful, in the comments that have been made about this (going back to Doctor Who) is that this stuff usually isn't unconscious for people of colour since it directly reflects the racism they experience on a day-to-day basis. So if you're white and a person of colour tells you something is racist, it's worth taking the time to listen and to try and understand where they're coming from. In general it's white people who have the most to learn about their own culture and the effect it has on people who aren't white.

          I'm a little nervous about venturing into the other comments, now, I hope people get the idea and it doesn't get too heated…

          • Tauriel_ says:

            I just want to point out that Tolkien very much disliked allegory and disliked when people interpreted his works as allegorical.

            • maccyAkaMatthew says:

              I know, but Tolkien's opinion doesn't really count for much. If it's in the work, it's in the work, if it isn't he has no business telling his readers how to read his books.

              The Lord of the Rings isn't a clear allegory in the way that Gulliver's Travels is – you can't map any part of his fantasy onto the real world directly. However, the fantasy stands in relation to reality and it is that relationship which makes it both comprehensible and interesting. It's not an entirely imagined world – it's a version of our world and Tolkien's choices about what to keep and what to throw out and how to change things are interesting and worthy of analysis.

              And, to repeat myself from the long post, a fantasy where racist stereotypes exist outside the minds of racists, is a disappointing one to me. I'd rather it was more sophisticated and nuanced, regardless of how allegorically I read it.

          • arctic_hare says:

            <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

            Deleting this for spoilers and because you're being an asshat.

            • maccyAkaMatthew says:

              I hadn't noticed the deletion, but thank you. When someone so completely misreads something you post you sometimes wonder if you've lost the ability to communicate.

              I'll let my reply stand. Although I find it slightly saddening that this stuff needs saying, let alone repeating.

              My liberal white person perspective is that there is so much shame attached to being racist that we find it hard look at things by degrees – everything becomes all or nothing and we'd rather deny racism than admit it and put it in its proper context.

              And, of course, trying to make it not an issue makes it a much bigger issue than it was in the first place.

              In short: it's a shame, let's all admit that and move on.

          • maccyAkaMatthew says:

            NB: I've Rot13'd my replies about stuff you've referred to that isn't in this book. I've also reported your post so that a mod can do the same when you've mentioned that stuff (as it's a spoiler). Go to to translate.

            I think you should disengage defensive fanboy mode and re-read what I said.

            I'm not accusing Tolkien of being racist, I'm saying he's using the same tropes that racist fiction uses about savage people to describe the evil orcs – which is problematic. Lots of writers can be problematic on race without being actively or entirely racist – it isn't an all or nothing thing. Equally, the racism in a text doesn't vanish via a strident argument about the author's intentions. Non-racism or anti-racism in one part of a story doesn't automatically exclude racism in another part.

            Nyfb, gur Fvyznevyyvba onpxfgbel vfa'g urer – guvf vf nyy jr unir gb tb ba ng cerfrag, ntnva lbh'er nethvat sbe vagragvbaf jura vg vf bhgpbzrf jr ner gnyxvat nobhg.

            I absolutely stand by my point about the nature of the fantasy. In the real world, we have artificially divided a single race (humanity) into several constructs of race, based on a few genetic markers (usually to do with skin, eye and hair colour) and some shared ethnicity. Racists take these divisions as a significant indicator of worth – and they brand certain groupings as uniformly inferior and evil on the basis of this. Luckily, reality is anti-racist, as racism has no basis in reality. So, for example, if you want to brand all Jews as evil, reality will prove you wrong.

            Orcs are an actual breed apart, characterised by physical differences that are similar to those that separate white from non-white in our artificially racist society. If you take against an Orc on the basis of its race, you will be absolutely correct – since they are irredeemably evil. That's a very attractive fantasy for a racist and a pretty dull one for anyone else. It's also, and I'll repeat it, very similar to the way that tribal societies the world over have been characterised.

            Does this absolutely ruin the book? Of course not. Does it make Tolkien a racist, actively and consciously, independent of his time? No at all. But it's still problematic and, I think, a weakness in the world.

            Gb chg vg nabgure jnl: jul qvqa'g Gbyxvra znxr gur Bepf rknpgyl yvxr gur Ryirf va nccrnenapr naq znaaref. Jul punatr gur jnl gurl ybbxrq naq orunirq, Rivy pna or (naq bsgra vf) irel pvivyvfrq – rdhngvat vg jvgu fnintrel naq gevonyvfz vf fbzrguvat gung enpvfgf graq gb qb.

            EDIT: I'm white so I'm not generally affected by this stuff, but Mark isn't so read his comments to get a sense of how he experiences the text. And, please, show him some more respect than you've shown me. Also, this comment for a PoC gives some context:

            • Nathan L says:

              You're right, and sorry for being unnecessarily confrontational.

              I would argue that intentions /are/ important, though. I'm sure most of us have said something or used a trope that could be considered racist in an unknowable future. But you're right, it doesn't make it any less existent.

              • notemily says:

                Whether or not intentions are important, I think, depends on context. If you're trying to decide where to place blame, sure, take intentions into account. But intentions have no effect on the harm that was done by racist words and tropes.

              • maccyAkaMatthew says:

                Thanks for the reply. This is difficult, emotional stuff for a lot of people and I think it's to your credit that you came back and apologised.

                Intentions are important, yes, and they do tend to show in the work as a whole. That's what I mean about "all or nothing" thinking not really helping us here. If The Lord of the Rings was an intentionally racist work (or even a work with a lot of racist tropes that were arguably unintended) then Mark would have stopped reading a long time ago. It's just this one element which he believed merited a mention, in a largely positive review.

                Tbvat sbejneq, V guvax vg'f tbvat gb or cbffvoyr gb yvir jvgu gur bepf nf pbaprcg orpnhfr gurl nera'g rkcyvpvgyl nffbpvngrq jvgu n enpvny tebhc. Bapr jr pbzr gb grezf jvgu gur vqrn gung gurl ner n cerggl bar-qvzrafvbany zbafgre enpr naq gurve qrsvavat punenpgrevfgvpf ner ebbgrq va enpvfg fgrerbglcrf, gur erfg bs gur fgbel vfa'g yvxryl gb znxr guvatf jbefr.

                Unintended racism is one of the hardest things for white people to come to terms with, it seems. The emotional stakes are pretty high when it comes to the idea of racism being present in yourself or people you admire, so the desire we have, it seems, is to try and justify and explain away something that's problematic. I've said it in another comment and I think this is down to a difference in experience. Many people of colour in the UK have pointed out that it's only white people who are surprised by instances of overt racism when they occur. That's simply because racism isn't part of our daily lives. In the same way, then, we tend to be oblivious to the subtle elements of racism that are still in our culture, working by implication, association and innuendo. We don't read racism in texts because the implied slurs wouldn't affect us even if we saw them. And we find it hard to accept that writers we admire can be equally unaware and repeat these cultural inheritances with no racist intent but with (to a degree) a racist result.

                What's difficult is when we take that perception and assume it has to apply universally, that racism can't be there if we don't see it. In fact it's a challenge to our idea of ourselves that we could read something and not spot its racism or even that we ourselves could be racist without realising it. In reality, we probably have been racist and probably will be again. If it's pointed out to us and we learn from it and don't do it again then no reasonable person is going to think less of us for that. It's if we argue the point from a position of denial that people of colour get reasonably annoyed since we're not just denying our own unconscious racism (or that in a text we admire) we're all denying the validity of the text.

                It's the way in which someone's racial and class background informs their view of the world even when they think they're speaking objectively that is, I think, the impetus for post-structuralism. The grand narratives of the enlightenment and of modernism and structuralism tend to pay no attention their own formation, to the social and political milieux in which they came to be written and the assumptions that go with those milieux. That's the point of deconstruction – to take a step back and see the complicating factors in an apparently objective statement. The difficulty, of course, is resisting the idea that everything can mean anything and nothing is fixed, but self-reflection is a useful tool. When someone, in a discussion asks you to check your privilege that's a reminder of the multiplicity of the world and the danger of assumptions.

                I'm an avowedly anti-racist person, but I've also written racist stuff in the past (a long time ago, but it happened*). It's very easy to reach for the tropes of your culture unthinkingly when you hit a moment of no inspiration, especially under pressure. It's not nice to realise what you've done but the only way forward is to admit and be vigilant in future.

                Tolkien, of course, would have had nobody pointing this stuff out to him. His peer group would have been all-white and there would likely have been very little access to the media for any people of colour to make their feelings know. And even if there had been, I suspect it has taken many years of people speaking out and theorising about racism and colonialism to give us the vocabulary we need to tackle these forms of writing. I suspect a person of colour would have found it hard, in the 1950s, to articulate what distressed them about the description of the orcs. The fact that we now have the public intellectual space to discuss these things is some progress, at least.

                *for anybody curious, it was a comedy arab written as part of a student pantomime. I haven't re-read it recently, but I know it's not good.

          • Wenelmada says:

            This is very well said. I think you did a really good job of analyzing the text and why it's problematic. People don't often like to admit the things(books, movie, etc.) they love could be deeply flawed in some ways. They think it reflects poorly on them. Which I don't think it does.

          • hassibah says:

            Without giving too much away, I find it hard to map the Orcs onto any ethnicity directly, within the context of Middle Earth as we are shown it and how that might apply to our reality.

            So I'm reading this book along with the blog for the first time and I haven't done any research beyond that, but I definitely the first thing I thought when I saw their language was "wow, this looks a lot like Turkish" and Turkic languages are spoken all over central Asia and in Mongolia as well I believe. Personally I didn't make a connection to Mongolia specifically, I thought it was more likely a reference to the East in general, which comes up in European lit a damn lot in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the form of references to the Ottomans and the Turks. The fact that they use scimitars definitely helped with this impression. When I saw Orcs (bad!) being represented as Turkic and Dwarves (good) had what sounded a lot like a semitic language, I just thought Tolkien had a bad case of Lawrence of Arabia syndrome. IE semites at this time are seen as allies of the West because they are victims of the empire, in the same way that say, Afghanistan and central asia was romanticized in Rambo 3 and other things cause of the Soviet Union. Which might be totally wrong but that fits with a lot of rhetoric-pop culture and otherwise-I see from this time.

            So yeah, I don't doubt that Tolkien didn't intend any specific allegory about any specific ethnic group, but I definitely thought that there was a lot generic orientalism going on here. I mean at this period of time I think that the English weren't that good at making distinctions between the Middle East and South Asia, I didn't really see Tolkien thinking about any single nationality but as taking a bunch of elements from different things, the "slant eyes," language, weapons, the name Uruk which would be one hell of a coincidence. I don't really think it matters though.

            Hi I know this is super late and you're probably sick of talking about this by now, but I just thought I'd share my impressions all the same.

  18. Juliana Moreli says:

    And you thought that orcs wouldn't even get a name lol!!!

    Mark, not wanting to be spoilery, but the depiction of orcs on the movies is not Mongol-like, so, I kind of never associated it with racism or anything like it, also …spoiler:Fnheba'f nezl nyfb unf juvgr crbcyr va, ohg abg nf znal nf znbevf…fb ntnva…abg Zbatby-yvxr…whfg qnex fxvaarq yvxr…

    Did anyone get that impression of racism in the books too?

    • @LarrikJ says:

      Oh yes, definitely.

      Rfcrpvnyyl jura lbh pbafvqre gung Zvqqyr-Rnegu vf onfrq ba Rhebcr, naq gur qrfpevcgvba bs jurer Fnheba'f zra pnzr sebz znqr vg irel pyrne gurl jrer Zvqqyr-Rnfgrea naq Abegu Nsevpna, rgp.

      • Juliana Moreli says:

        I'm just really naive…the only place where I've imagined something like that was in Avatar…with the asians being the fire nation and etc…

        • SweetVerda says:

          I figured Avatar was mostly Asians, with Fire Nation being WWII Japan, Earth Kingdom being a mix of WWII and post-WWII China, the Air Nomads being Tibetans, and the Water Tribe being Inuits with maybe some Oceanic cultures thrown in.

          Ohg YBGE qrsvavgryl unf n ceboyrz va gung pheeragyl gur uhznaf nyvtarq jvgu Fnheba orybat gb gur Nsevpn/Zvqqyr Rnfgrea ertvbaf. V guvax gung vg urycf gb unir ernq gur Fvzvyynevba naq xabj gung rirel crbcyr ba Zvqqyr Rnegu unf fperjrq hc, naq fb vg srryf yrff yvxr Gbyxvra vf cvpxvat ba n cnegvphyne tebhc. V zrna, gur Ahzrabernaf gung rirelbar vqbyvmrf va guvf gvzr gevrq gb vainqr Rys-urnira, naq gur Ryirf unir gung xva-fynlvat guvat…

      • Geolojazz says:

        Yeah, I concur.

        Vg'f jurer Fnz ivrjf na rnfgrea zna jub'f whfg orra xvyyrq, naq ur jbaqref nobhg uvz. V'z tengrshy gurl vapyhqrq gur grkg sebz gur dhbgr va gur zbivrf, rira vs gurl tvir vg gb Snenzve:

        "Lbh jbaqre jung uvf anzr vf, jurer ur pbzrf sebz, naq vs ur ernyyl jnf rivy ng urneg. Jung yvrf be guerngf yrq uvz ba guvf ybat znepu sebz ubzr, naq jbhyq ur abg engure unir fgnlrq gurer… va crnpr? Jne jvyy znxr pbecfrf bs hf nyy."

        • AmandaNekesa says:

          Yes! I love that line too. Jr trg guvf oevrs dhrfgvba nf gb jurgure gur "rivy" punenpgref ner npghnyyl cher rivy, nf gurl graq gb or cbegenlrq, be ner cbffvoyl crefhnqrq gb wbva Fnheba'f sbeprf, sbe gurve bja pnhfrf, be guebhtu znavchyngvba.

        • stormwreath says:

          Gbyxvra znxr n pyrne qvfgvapgvba orgjrra gur Bepf naq Gebyyf jub ner whfg cynva Rivy; naq gur uhznaf freivat Fnheba, jub ner fubja va n zhpu zber flzcngurgvp jnl, vzcylvat gung gurl'ir orra gevpxrq be pbreprq, be gurl unir trahvar tevrinaprf, be fb ba. (Gur Qhayraqvatf ungr gur Ebuveevz orpnhfr gurl fgbyr gurve ynaq, sbe rknzcyr.)

          • Tauriel_ says:


            Nyfb, ng gur raq bs EBGX, Nentbea sbetvirf gubfr Zra jub jrer gevpxrq ol Fnheba vagb wbvavat uvf nezvrf, naq nsgre uvf snyy ner "serr sebz uvf fcryy", naq nyybjf gurz gb erghea gb gurve ubzrf.

            Naq vg'f abg nyjnlf "juvgr thlf ner tbbq, pbybherq thlf ner onq" – whfg ybbx ng gur Aúzrabernaf, gurl jrer cerggl zhpu n fbeg bs "Horezrafpu" bs Zvqqyr-rnegu, naq rira gurl (zbfg bs gurz, naljnl) orpnzr rivy orpnhfr bs Fnheba'f znavchyngvba.

            V guvax hfvat gur grez "enpvfz" va eryngvba gb Gbyxvra'f jevgvatf vf n ovg gbb fgebat.

            • eregyrn says:

              Lrf. Vg'f hasbeghangr gung vg gnxrf n YBG zber xabjyrqtr bs Gbyxvra'f obql bs jbex, va beqre gb or noyr gb chg gur cbegenlny bs gur inevbhf enprf va YBGE vagb pbagrkg.

              V qb irel zhpu erzrzore gur frafr bs "gevpxrq be pbreprq ol Fnheba" guvat, nobhg gur uhznaf jub ner ba Zbeqbe'f fvqr. Naq gura… jryy, lbh pbhyq fnl, "nu, ohg gung'f enpvfg gb fhttrfg gung vg'f bayl gur qnexre crbcyrf jub pna or gevpxrq vagb qbvat rivy'f jbex, juvyr gur juvgre crbcyrf xabj vafgvapgviryl gb fgnaq hc ntnvafg rivy, ab znggre gur pbfg". Ohg vg'f gur Ahzrabernaf jub fubj gung abcr, juvgr sbyxf ner whfg nf fhfprcgvoyr gb orvat frqhprq ol rivy. Gur rzcunfvf ba gung, gubhtu, vfa'g va guvf obbx.

            • Raenef_the_5th says:

              Jung ner lbhe gubhtugf ba gur vqbyvmngvba bs oybaqr unve/snve fxva va YBGE?

              Guvf vf ubhef yngr ohg… Ybbx, hasbeghangr vzcyvpngvbaf ner whfg jung gurl ner: hasbeghangr. V xabj Gbyxvra vf abg n enpvfg! UBJRIRE, vg qbrfa'g zrna gur guvatf gung ner jevggra qba'g fubj n ovnf, rira vs vg'f havagragvbany. Havagragvbany, fher – pbzcyrgryl 100% serr bs vzcyvpngvbaf, vg vf abg!

      • ljrTR says:

        I never got any racist connotations from the books, and I don't think I'm especially naive. Looking at the geography of the books, it's definitely going to Northern European types as its heroes. Never implied to me that others were "bad". Whole areas of Middle Earth are left undescribed in the trilogy.

      • ljrTR says:

        I don't see that as racist – they were just the groups closest to Sauron's holdout in Mordor. When the Witch-King was ru;nning around up North he had allies who were Northern European typss

      • Menegil says:

        I most respectfully disagree.

        Fnheba unf uryq pnzcnvtaf va gur Rnfg naq Fbhgu sbe gur orggre cneg bs gur Guveq Ntr. Zhpu bs gur naabgngvbaf bs Gbyxvra nyyhqr gb gur snpg gung gur Rnfgreyvatf naq Fbhguebaf jrer gubebhtuyl pbeehcgrq, gurve xvatf nffnffvangrq be ghearq vagb gur Evatjenvguf (Nsgre nyy, gurl ner Avar Xvatf, naq gurl unq gb ehyr fbzrjurer), cbfg juvpu gurve phygher jnf jnecrq vagb Fnheba'f orarsvg.

        Jr frr gur fnzr fvta bs guvf jura jr ernq bs Aúzrabe naq gur sngr bs gur Ahzrabernaf haqre Ne-Cunenmôa, gur ynfg bs gur Ahzraberna xvatf. Lbh pna'g trg n zber vqrnyvmrq "juvgr" hgbcvn va Neqn guna Aúzrabe, jvgu rirelbar orvat gnyy naq juvgr naq oynpx-unverq naq fb ba, naq lrg gurl, gbb, jbhaq hc pbeehcgrq ol Fnheba.

        Fnheba ercerfragf Rivy, ebggra gb gur pber, gur jbez bs qrfver naq cbjre gung frrcf vagb gur urnegf bs nyy, Zna, Rys be Qjnes. Vg'f jul V svaq vg greevoyl hapnyyrq sbe gb anzr Gbyxvra'f jevgvatf nf vaureragyl enpvfg – pregnvayl vg pna or ernq gung jnl, lrg fhpu na vagrecergngvba pna bayl ubyq jngre bs bar qbrf abg gnxr vagb nppbhag gur pbagrkg bs gur jbeyq'f vagreany ybtvp, nf jryy nf gur znal bgure vafgnaprf va juvpu Gbyxvra qrfpevorf fbzr flzcngul sbe gur Rnfgreyvatf naq Fbhguebaf (Fnz, ng bar cbvag, qbrf pbzzrag ba gurfr zra va Gur Gjb Gbjref), nf jryy nf qrfpevcgvbaf bs jung gnxrf cynpr va gur Sbhegu Ntr (jura Nentbea'f fba naq Xvat bs Tbaqbe znxrf crnpr jvgu gur Fbhguebaf bs Hzone naq shegure).

        Gur hasbeghangr jbeqvat bs n cevingr yrggre ol ab nppbhag fubhyq gjvfg gur snpg gung, sbe n jbex bs snagnfl jevggra fb rneyl va gur 20gu Praghel, vg jnf zber cebterffvir, vapyhfvir naq bcra-zvaqrq guna zbfg bs jung jnf jevggra naq qvfphffrq va gur vagreangvbany fgntr.

        • blossomingpeach says:

          This is where my thinking tends to fall, too…

        • Dreamflower says:


          Anyone who reads all the Letters, and not just one unfortunate remark taken out of context, will notice JRRT's very progressive attitude towards other types of people, he totally rejects the "wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine", and he made it clear he did not wish in any way to be associated with such.

          It's true he was more conservative than most men of his day (not surprising considering his upbringing by a Roman Catholic priest) when it came to a lot of things. But he had no illusions about people in general, and was inclined to call much modern behavior "orcish"– including the behavior of his fellow British citizens.

          However, it cannot be denied that he did have a certain amount of prejudice against the Normans!

        • Tauriel_ says:

          THIS, THIS, THIS. <3 <3 <3

          Well said. And I think you can post the last paragraph unciphered, because it's not spoilery, but 100% true.

        • rubyjoo says:

          That was a truly excellent response, Menegil. I'm with you all the way there. It's a very complicated subject and you've explained it all really well.

        • flootzavut says:

          GREAT POST.

        • AmandaNekesa says:

          Well said!

        • Menegil says:

          Last paragraph uncyphered, as it is not spoilery at all, as was mentioned, with an important addendum;

          The unfortunate wording of a private letter by no account should twist the fact that, for a work of fantasy written so early in the 20th Century, it was more progressive, inclusive and open-minded than most of what was written and discussed in the international stage at the time of its writing.

          Thank you all!

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:

            Why are you all so desperate to take this opinion from me? Like, I literally said that I still enjoyed the chapter, I am still enjoying the book, and that it hasn't ruined anything for me, but none of you can just let me have my opinion that that letter has an unfortunate and problematic tone.

            like seriously being told that you've done something racist is not the end of the world. christ.

            • SweetVerda says:

              I think that the line that bothers us the most would be this:

              I’ll admit to being distracted by the knowledge that Tolkien based the Orcs off of a racist characterization of “Mongol-types.”

              We wish you weren't distracted, we are distraught that you are distracted, and we wish to un-distract you. Tolkien never based Orcs off of Mongols. You should not have been spoiled by that letter, and we all deeply regret today that you were. Mostly because the description in that letter gave you the wrong impression.

              The Orcs are based off of Farytale Monsters, goblins and such. Tolkien purposely does not describe them in the writing, because he wants the audience to choose what they find most ugly and frightening. They are not based off of a people or race found on Earth. The fact that you thought this, although it's perfectly fine for you to come to whatever conclusions you have with the evidence you were given, distresses us.


              • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                Okay, let's say that it gave me the wrong impression. How does that change anything?

                Tolkien used a racist trope. I have said, repeatedly the following things:

                1) That doesn't make him a super huge gross racist.
                2) I still like the chapter.
                3) I still like the book.
                4) I still like Tolkien.
                5) And one tiny thing is unfortunate, and that's that the Orcs have no real depth, which, "Mongol-type" comment completely aside, this is still true.


                I have gone to great lengths in the comments to try to explain and people are still like "Wow, I'm so upset." Like the dynamic at hand here is that people are MORE upset that a person of color spent a very brief amount of time diplomatically saying that this characterization is problematic, and not that a rich white European USED A RACIST TROPE IN A LETTER.

                Do you realize how upsetting that is to me? You are more willing to defend a white person's possible unfortunate act over a person of color. That's so disturbing to me.

                • SweetVerda says:

                  Part of the problem is that we are sitting on a pretty big spoilery factoid, and most of us wish that when you asked for a description of Orcs, you were told this, which gives Orcs depth, instead of the Mongol thing, extracted out of context from a private letter, which takes away the Orcs' depth. It's not that you aren't entitled to your opinion, or any outrage you might have felt, or your (zvfgnxra, tvira gung Bepf ner gbegherq, qvffbanag Ryirf) belief that this is a racist trope. Personally, I'm relieved that you still like the books, given the information you have received you would have been justified to feel angry towards the books or the Professor.

                  I guess we are each arguing two different things, and we both inherently agree with each other. Because I do completely agree with you, except about the racist trope thing, but I don't really have non-spoilery things to support that last one, so… I don't even know what I'm saying anymore, do I? Anyways, I love you and your reviews, keep it up, and I'm sorry that all us rabid fan-people disturbed you.

                  (Edit: Commas are like Orcs, they never get along with each other. 🙂 )

                • Menegil says:

                  It was never my personal intent to pressure you, Mark. My sincerest apologies, if you felt that way.

                  My only intent was to convey my own interpretation and argumentation in favour of it, not to challenge your own, which I do believe to be very much valid. I find it to be a very pertinent subject of debate and consideration in regards to Tolkien's work. Although I will grant it; the mere discussion of it would necessarily waken other subjects which are pertinent and necessary for the full comprehension of the issue at hand, subjects which naturally draw from sources you will not want to be spoiled on. Hence my brief thesis statement, which sums up, in the best way I can describe, my views on the matter without overtly spoiling Tolkien lore to you. Which also leads me to believe that this is a matter best left in peace from here on out, as it's no longer pertinent to discuss without violating Mark or anyone else's rights to the enjoyment of the story.

                  As for the reactionary comments regarding your opinion, Mark, (which, I admitted mid the rot13 text I published, can indeed be interpreted as racist), I believe it is drawn not from a specific bias to Tolkien as a person of white colour, but rather from modern sensibilities. I have found that to name something or someone as racist is, in this day and age and to the eyes of the educated, something that stirs a lot of grief. It can, I daresay, be just as jarring as the very nature of something as racist itself and its repercussions in the world, as it can associate a very dark concept of human civilization with something that either deserves not the moniker, thus rallying defenders against injustice, or wakens enough bile to fill the Sundering Seas with the repugnant produce of wicked hearts and closed-minded buffoons. It has become a very powerful word, one that clearly wakens a great deal of passion, for good or ill.

                  In short, I believe you put the proverbial finger on the proverbial festering sore.

                  Which is why I would urge that any further discussion on the matter be ceased and/or moved to other fora of discussion , lest it waken more distress than it already has.

                  • Menegil says:

                    A quick addendum, since I read down the comments and found a similar response to mine. From Mark;

                    "[…]So no, it's not a huge nasty, accusation. Stop saying that. "

                    Indeed it is not, yet, small as the matter is, I would posit that it will still waken distress. As was commented in this thread, Tolkien's work is something that receives a very great deal of emotional investment from many. And emotion is often anathema to logical discussion.

                    You aren't wrong by any stretch of logic or imagination, but people will be people, as it were.

                  • Menegil says:


                    "As for the reactionary comments regarding your opinion, Mark, (which, I admitted mid the rot13 text I published, can indeed be interpreted as racist)"

                    An error in writing. What is meant is;

                    As for the reactionary comments regarding your opinion, Mark, ([b]the subject matter of which[/b], I admitted mid the rot13 text I published, can indeed be interpreted as racist)

                    Teaches me to read before posting. >.>

            • Waffles says:

              Sorry Mark! (I've actually been thinking about this phenomenon, of groups of commenters apparently trying to change your opinion, recently and trying to figure it out, cause it seems to happen every so often on both sites. I hope you don't mind me offering my opinion on what might be happening.)

              I don't think most of us want to change your opinion of that letter (definitely has some unfortunate racist undertones imo), we are maybe over-reacting because LOtR is kind of our baby, and we don't want your whole experience of it altered by that one thing.

              IMO, it's that we are trying to get our perspective out there, but there are tons of us and it's not always worded as well as it could be, so it comes across like we are trying to change your mind, when most of us probably aren't. I think most people who come to this site understand that your opinions are your own, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the urge to voice our own interpretations and opinions, and unfortunately, when we do that en masse it can get blown way out of proportion.

              Another aspect is the rot13. I think that some of this is in response to more discussion that happens under the cipher that you can't see and isn’t even in direct response to you anymore, so the end bits of it that get posted unciphered are a bit out of context.

              All this seems to combine to blow some small comment up into a large discussion where similar perspectives are restated again and again in response to all the different threads that get started.

              I offer this opinion not to excuse our pressuring behavior, but because I think that if I am right about the causes of it (not just for this specific incident, but for other similar incidents as well), it will continue to happen. You have a wonderful site, and by the very nature of your reviews, you stir up discussion that can lead to situations like this.

              • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                Thank you!

                I mean, there ARE people actively saying I'm wrong, but the thing that's also weird is that all of you have the entire canon in your brains. If something else comes up that makes me change my mind, cool! But more than any other fandom I've dealt with before, LotR fans are just so QUICK to correct me. One day in a month or two, I'll have read all of this, but if the issue is that I'm MISSING something, then why comment at all? Just let me get there.

                I'm still disturbed by the dynamic though. A lot of the people who are defending Tolkien are white, and I can't ignore that. This is what happens time and time again when people of color try to talk about race. We're ganged up on, we're told that we're too sensitive, we're told that we don't understand context, etc. It's everything that's unfolded here, and it just sucks, you know?I don't want this stuff to happen to me, but this isn't the first time it's happened.

                I guess in the end, what bothers me the most is that I don't even think I said anything that needs someone to defend Tolkien. I just said his comment was unfortunate, I moved on, and I enjoyed the chapter a whole lot. If this whole review was about how much I didn't like chapter three, I might understand the vitriol. But it's two paragraphs out of like 1600 words!!

                • SweetVerda says:

                  I'm sorry you feel ganged up on. You are certainty not too sensitive, and since when has being sensitive been a bad thing?

                  Well, you really don't understand the context, but that's because you are a new reader who hasn't read all the books and all the published letters and taken five classes on Tolkien linguistics, not because you're, um, whatever race you are (I know you just posted pictures, but I'm really bad at faces, okay?). And, although I may be white, I do understand racism. I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic area and know how ugly people can be to someone who doesn't speak a language that they do, or has unfamiliar physical characteristics. I have the utmost sympathy and empathy for you.

                  And now that I understand you, I will defend you like a mama bear, and together we can gang up on everyone else. We will be the strongest couple in the Fire Nation! All shall love us and despair!

                  • Thinker says:

                    So, I guess that this post is getting a lot of views now, and everyone who views it keeps seeing things that I don't.

                    Where does she say that she does not speak Spanish, or that she's discriminated against, or she feels isolated and people are mean to her? Nowhere. That's all supplied by the reader.

                    In a later comment, she explained:
                    I speak Spanish. My best friend is Hispanic. I never said that I was discriminated against. What I meant was that I had seen what racism had done to the people I love around me.

                    I don't know what's with people.

                • Dru says:

                  Just a question, Mark: where did you find the Tolkien letter that linked the Orcs to "Mongol-types" without getting spoiled?

                  That was something I legitimately did not know till just now – the pitting of pale-skinned aristocrats (the Elves) against ugly, brutish dark Orcs certainly has Unfortunate Implications of the worst kind, but up until this comment thread I assumed the ugly, guttural Orc-language described in the books was based on German (or at least the descriptions of German language/accents by more than one English writer of the time, especially considering that this was written c. WWII) rather than any East Asian languages.

                  I still have a big ol' stinkface for the "Mongol-types" line though. I detest the idea of having to privilege authorial interpretations over that of the reader, but when the message is being telegraphed so loud and clear no one has any business to be telling you that your misgivings are wrong.

                  • Jenny_M says:

                    Someone posted the letter in a comment, I think, and Mark read the comment. I remember him replying at the time.

                    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                      Yep! It was also after I confirmed that ancillary information from Tolkien that wasn't in the appendices of the anniversary edition of LotR I'm reading is okay to discuss, since I'm saving the appendix stuff for posts after I'm done.

                  • stormwreath says:

                    If Tolkien based the Orc-speech on any real-world language – which is not proven, since he made no mention of that in his notes or letters – it was probably Ancient Hittite or Hurrian, the language spoken in Anatolia (modern Turkey) 4000 years ago.

                    • Dru says:

                      oh, that is interesting! Though I wonder how they'd have reconstructed the way those languages were spoken, if they were long dead…curious about linguistics now.

                    • stormwreath says:

                      Well, archaeologists have found clay tablets inscribed with the Hurrian language; and one king of the Hurrians wrote a letter to Pharaoh Amenhotep III of Egypt which was preserved in the Egyptian archives. But working out how the grammar worked took nearly half a century, and I imagine a lot of that is guesswork based on similar languages.

                      The first detailed and comprehensive grammar of the Hurrian language was actually published in 1941, and was presumably big news in the community of scholars of ancient languages (such as Tolkien himself, of course).

                • Erik says:

                  Simply, it’s because some people are VERY invested in this work. A friend of my wife’s calls it the closest thing in his life to a holy book.

                  And in modern society, racism is a huge, nasty accusation. In polite society, it can render the recipient a pariah, at least to some. Having that powerful stigma associated with a precious thing produces a sharp emotional response (and therefore copious commenting).

                  Personally, I accept the reality that while Tolkien was far from racist by the standards of his time, he did not fully transcend the underlying colonial racism of his society. Since you’re not letting that residue ruin your appreciation of the book, the rest is all about the commenters own issues and not about you, despite this being your site. 🙂

                  • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                    But I didn't accuse him or racism. I accused him of using a racist trope. Like, those two are so far from each other. So no, it's not a huge nasty, accusation. Stop saying that.

                    • Erik says:

                      I spoke poorly. I did NOT mean to say that YOU said he was racist, and I apologize for the confusion. I tried to say that the seriousness of racism today makes people very sensitive to any mention of it, and that sensitivity leads to the kind of overreations we’re seeing here.

                      As someone mentioned far below, many of these discussions have played themselves out repeatedly over the years, and you’re suffering the brunt of it.

                      I need to get an account so I can edit myself – by the time I finished writing there were dozens more posts, and I could already see that this was problematic… but it was too late to unpost.

        • OCTBernie says:

          Well said, and I agree completely.

    • flootzavut says:

      I got the impression that gur svyzznxref fgehttyrq jvgu 1) gelvat gb znxr guvatf evtug ol Gbyxvra'f qrfpevcgvbaf naq 2) gur tbbqvrf raqvat hc nyy orvat duvgr naq ng yrnfg fbzr bs gur onqqvrf qnex-fxvaarq. Uneq yvar gb jnyx :S

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Gb or snve, gurer jrer frireny qnex-fxvaarq Tbaqbevna fbyqvref, vs gung pbhagf sbe nalguvat…

        • flootzavut says:

          V pna ubarfgyl fnl V qvqa'g abgvpr, ohg V'z tynq sbe gung :$ Sbe zlfrys, V qba'g guvax Gbyxvra (be gur obbxf) ner enpvfg – urjnf nurnq bs uvf gvzr va fb znal jnlf – ohg V'z nyjnlf tynq gb frr nal rssbeg crbcyr znqr abg gb znxr uvz ybbx enpvfg, vs gung znxrf frafr? V'z guvaxvat nyfb bs gur thlf ba gur – V sbetrg gur cebcre fcryyvat bs rvgure bs gur Gbyxvravfu anzrf fb v'z whfg tbaan fnl "ovt ryrcunagf"!! V erzrzore gurz fnlvat gurl unq gurfr CBP ba gurve onpxf ba gur fvqr bs gur onqqvrf, naq jrer pbafpvbhf bs gelvat abg gb znxr vg ybbx yvxr, lrnu, rivy oynpx thlf.

    • notemily says:

      Abg "Zbatby-yvxr" va gur zbivrf, ab, ohg gur zbivrf ner pregnvayl abg jvgubhg ceboyrzf, va gung gur bayl oynpx crbcyr va gur pnfg cynl onq thlf.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I've made quite a long comment about racism and The Lord of the Rings in reply to the previous comment:

    • gallowsCalibrator says:

      Hi, just thought I'd make a slight correction!
      (This isn't a spoiler at all, just the nationality of a lot of actors in the movie)
      You used the word "Maoris" there in the rot13, which isn't the correct term. They have no 's' in the language, so the plural is just Maori.
      Sorry if I'm being pedantic here, but yeah! The More You Know!

    • Icarus says:

      No, I don't think so. The world Tolkien has created is too complex. To understand race in The Lord of the Rings one has to understand the history of Middle Earth, i.e., read The Silmarillion.

      For example, va gur Fvyznevyyvba, Gbyxvra znxrf ersreraprf gb gur ernfbaf sbe gur snyy bs Ahzrabe, naq bar bs gubfr ernfbaf vf gur Ahzrabernaf orpbzvat pbeehcg naq rafynivat gur Unenqevz (jub yngre wbva Fnheba va svtugvat Zvanf Gvevgu) jub ner pyrneyl qrcvpgrq nf qnex fxvaarq. Vg'f cerfragrq nf gur Unenqevz univat n yrtvgvzngr orrs jvgu Tbaqbe.

      The issue of race in Middle-earth is nuanced, fraught, and varied. Just look at the racial overtones of the issues between dwarves and elves.

  19. MidnightLurker says:

    At this point, Mark, I think that if you and preparedness made physical contact there would be a continent-shattering explosion.


  20. msw188 says:

    When I first read this as a child, I had no clue what happened with the cords on Pippin's wrists. He cuts them, then ties them back together loosely so that he can get free later? THIS HOBBIT IS BRILLIANT. Cousin Meriadoc better start that toe-brushing.

  21. PrefectSarah says:

    Yeah… remember when you said you wanted more Orc action and info? Have you changed your mind yet… ? Lol!

  22. Tauriel_ says:

    Portray the villains as people with dark skin and funny facial features because they all have non-white customs that are totally weird and foreign oh my god!1!!!!!1!1!

    Mark, I'll put it as gently as I can without spoiling you: It's not as simple as that. 🙂 Just sayin'.

    And like someone pointed out the first time the "Orcs – Mongoloid" similarity surfaced, Tolkien did say in that quote "… to a European". Meaning that standards of beauty or ugliness are culture-specific, which is, I think, acceptable.

    • blossomingpeach says:

      Yeah, it's an unfortunate comparison, but he is not saying he was imagining "Mongol-types" when he was creating the Orcs. The original quote:

      "…squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

      In addition to what you mentioned about saying they look that way to a European, he also says " degraded and repulsive versions of the…least lovely ." To me, this even further lessens the sting. He's not saying they look like the average "Mongol." I think he was just describing them in the best way he knew how. He could have done better, but it's not as bad as saying "Yeah, I based the Orcs on that race there and that's what they look like."

      V nyfb guvax gur bevtva bs gur bepf nyfb nqqf gb vg abg orvat dhvgr gung onq, evtug?

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Thank you for posting the whole quote. 🙂

      • stormwreath says:

        Just to add a little context to the quote: he's complaining about a proposed film adaptation (in 1958), which of course would mean for the first time that his Orcs would have to be depicted on screen instead of being left to the readers' imagination.

        "Why does Z put beaks and feathers on Orcs!? (Orcs is not a form of Auks.) The Orcs are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' form seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were)…" (the rest is the quote as you give it.)

      • Diddle-de-dum says:

        Yes it always seemed to me like Tolkien was more saying that a member of another species looking at orcs would have the kind of feeling one race of humans might feel looking at another when on a basic racist-not-used-to-seeing-humans-look-like-that level. Really I think that the quote could have used any race looking at another and not lost it's meaning much, except that in the context of the time he wrote it (and presumably who he was writing the letter to), it would have had less strength in its meaning.

        Also with regards to skin colour, creatures that live in the night and are burnt by the sun would probably be darker coloured in an animal sense because they can blend in better. All the better to sneak up on poor Hobbits.

        I wish we didn't have to rot13 stuff, too. I agree that gurve bevtva znxrf vg frrz rira yrff yvxryl!

        Tolkien is very, very capable of imagining fantasy creatures and I often feel like he's doing it for the pleasure of it, not to make some comment or parallel to things on our Earth. I would never in a million years have made a connection between orcs and a specific human race simply from reading the books, so much as a particular type of human character or aspect of our natures as a whole, perhaps.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        This genuinely doesn't help at all, and it's getting increasingly irritating that people are going above and beyond to convince me that my opinion is so totally wrong.

        I don't care that he used "degraded and repulsive versions" before going there. He made a statement that the Orcs, to him, are a version of an entire race that is not white.

        Again, and I am just shocked that I have to repeat this: I STILL LIKE THIS BOOK, I STILL LIKE THIS CHAPTER, AND I STILL LIKE TOLKIEN. It's a criticism, and it's a valid one, and it's really disappointing that so many people want to discount and take away my opinion.

        • blossomingpeach says:

          I truly am sorry–I really didn't mean it that way. I think a few of us just maybe misunderstood what you were saying and were trying to provide a whole context of the real quote in order to be helpful, not to say you or anyone else was wrong or uninformed. I apologize at least on behalf of myself that it came off that way, and I'll try to be more aware in the future!

          • xpanasonicyouthx says:

            Thank you for this lovely comment.

            i swear, i love this book and this genuinely doesn't change anything. that's why i went out of my way to make the point that we can all still love things that might be unfortunate. A possible racist action doesn't mean a person is a Big Bad Racist, and I just want people to understand that. I'm not making a single judgment on his character. I made a judgement on a sentence, that's all.

            • flootzavut says:

              I think – and I guess I can only speak for myself on this one – some of the conversation has genuinely been able to commenters themselves contextualising and commenting on the quotes, discussing is this bad, is that bad, how bad, what was Tolkien trying to say… etc.

              I can totally see how that could come across as "we will change your mind whether you like it or not" because it's your blog, and the comments are coming to you. For me at least, for what it's worth, many of these threads just become places to go "well do you think this? I wonder if this meant that… Oh, maybe what he was getting at was such and such, do you think?"

              It's easy to forget in the midst of this community that this is not a forum but your BLOG and I'm sorry that I for one often forget that when I am chatting, arguing, discussing and theorising on threads. Also with so many threads ending up discussing the same thing in different ways (and not always having noticed the other threads covering the same ground) I imagine it's like someone just dumped a forum load of this on you. I'm sorry about that, too – it could get overwhelming enough anyway if it WAS a forum!

              Though, as I've said elsewhere, I'm so glad that some of the unfortunate things you've come across in LOTR aren't putting you off the story.

          • @owldragon says:

            Yes, I haven't posted anything, but I have up-voted a few of the comments here. Mark, I want to apologize if the comments here have gone overboard, even if I didn't do more than click on a couple of them.

            I think people might have been worried that you would only be able to see orcs as the unfortunate racism. I think what people latched on to was the comment of "But Orc culture is always going to be stained this way for me." We don't want it to be stained for you! Also, I think people might have interpreted you saying "…that’s probably Tolkien’s commentary on the culture he stole this whole idea from" as an indication that you viewed this as a pervasive thing.

            Of course, you DID specifically say, "It is unfortunate that this characterization exists, but that doesn’t ruin it for me." I think some of us just wanted to make sure that actually held true. And some people got real defensive in response to racism comments because THIS IS MY FANDOM HOW DARE YOU NOT THINK IT IS PERFECT. I'm sorry if many of the posts have been veering towards that second category.

            In summary, "I'm not making a single judgment on his character. I made a judgement on a sentence, that's all." Is an excellent example of why I love this site.

        • Tauriel_ says:

          Mark, I don't think anyone here is trying to convince you that your opinion is "totally wrong". It's your opinion, and you are by all means entitled to it.

          We are just trying to provide more context to Tolkien's description of the Orcs. I hope you don't mind that. If you do, I apologise for my part.

        • Icarus says:

          I… I've kind of been enjoying the race discussion here, I hope you don't mind. On the Tolkien forums the issues of "Do Balrogs have wings?" and "Who's prettier, Legolas or Glorfindel?" have been beaten to death. The race discussion is fresh, and many commenters here are widely read in Tolkien's letters and the Silmarillion.

          But if you're sick of the race discussion, uh, who do you think is prettier, Legolas or Glorfindel?

      • MrsGillianO says:

        I think we need to remember that, fresh though the books are, they are seventy years old, we were at war with Japan when they were being written and some pretty horrific atrocities come out of that period. I don't condone the comparison but I can readily understand why it might occur to anyone of that generation at that period.

    • Dreamflower says:

      Also–and you really see this in his letters to his son: he attributes "orcish behavior" in Real Life to many groups of humans, not only the various enemies whom the British were fighting, but to the Allies as well. In Letter #96, written in 1945, he called his fellow Brits who were gloating over the idea of German refugees, an "orc-crowd".

      So, while the physical appearance may be culturally biased, on the behavior front, it is not.

      • MasterGhandalf says:

        I've also read a Tolkien quote that stood out to me about his own time as a soldier in WWI- "We were all orcs in the Great War". Ever since I first saw it, that's always shaped how I've seen them- where the WWI-era military was *metaphorically* dehumanizing, the orcs are soldiers who have *literally* been dehumanized.

    • ljrTR says:

      definitely not as simple as that

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I basically agree with Mark that Tolkien is using racist tropes in his description of the Orcs. Rather than continually saying the same thing on the many threads about this, these are my thoughts, in another thread:

  23. ljrTR says:

    Whenever I read these books, I don’t get any “Racist overtones”; I simply see Orcs as monsters. I’m sorry Mark sees racist connotations so much. Now, . I know Prof Tolkien wasn’t perfecct, and was a product of his times, etc., but I sure don’t find him to be an out and out racist. Yeah he was fascinated with Northen myths – not Chinese or Indonesian ones. Yeah, he lived in a non politically correct time, and that’s reflected in his work. But it’s a little more complex than that, I think. Heck, my father, a WWII vet used the “N” word but still treated everyone he met with the same dignity and respect. Ending Tangent Now.

    • Dragongon12 says:

      But no one's saying Tolkien is a racist, we're saying that he said something problematic that's racist. There's a difference. I'm a woman who is heavily into feminism, but I've still said misogynistic things, and I will probably do so again in the future. That doesn't make me a misogynist, it makes me a person who is a product of a misogynistic culture – as you say with Tolkien – but that doesn't mean I get a free pass when I say misogynistic things either. "A product of his time" doesn't mean we should just throw up our hands and say "well, then! I guess it's okay!"
      What Tolkien said is problematic. Period. End of sentence. That doesn't make him a terrible person, and no one's saying he is. But what he said is still harmful, and that needs to be acknowledged.

      • Aris Katsaris says:

        "But no one's saying Tolkien is a racist."

        Well, I'd be willing to say that he was racist. According to modern conception of "racism" I believe he placed a much greater role on heritability of traits and racial characteristics than is currently considered politically acceptable. He also made the vast majority of his characters be white. Consciously or unconsciously he associated fairness of skin with beauty. Etc.

        That this particular sentence of his is "racist" is what I do not accept. I can accept he was racist in *general*. Just not in this.

        "What Tolkien said is problematic. Period. End of sentence."

        I don't accept such attempts to shut down discussion. I don't find it problematic, and if it's "harmful", I'll have to be shown evidence that it actually harmed people or hurt people's feelings or anything — not that it merely "offends" white people that consider themselves anti-racist.

        • Dragongon12 says:

          But the fact that you personally don't find it problematic doesn't speak to the larger problem.
          I would think that the fact that Mark finds it offensive would be evidence enough.

          • Aris Katsaris says:

            "But the fact that you personally don't find it problematic doesn't speak to the larger problem."

            The "larger problem" needs be shown, not assumed.

            "I would think that the fact that Mark finds it offensive would be evidence enough."

            Mark is a product of his time, in which time people are atypically obsessed with the "connotations" of words, and with supposed symbolisms and hidden meanings and allegories — and in which a white person is typically not expected to discuss race, unless his every statement is obviously siding with anti-racism against racism. To even state "black people are physiologically better equipped against skin-cancer" or "Scandinavian types can handle cold better because of their long noses" or "West African ancestry seems to play a significant role to the abilities of the world's top sprinters" may themselves be considered "problematic statements" by some modern people. Even if these statements are absolutely true and thus should not be tarred with the stain of "racism".

            In *his* time, Tolkien was asked if the Orcs were supposed to be the Germans. It was the Fellowship that was clearly multi-cultural, while it was the Orcs that couldn't get along even with different subtypes of their own species, let alone with other species.

            • notemily says:

              If you think people like Mark are "atypically obsessed" with language, this site might not be for you. We take language very seriously here.

              • Aris Katsaris says:

                I think our current culture as a whole is atypically obsessed with connotations compared to other times and other cultures.

                And I obey the rules of the site, e.g. I don't use ableist language.

                If the phrase "product of one's time" isn't an acceptable phrase to apply to people, then let me know, and I won't use it ever again.

                • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                  No, it is an acceptable thing to me. I get it. I get that Tolkien was and, again, let me state for the record that I don't think Tolkien is a racist at all, which is what I said up in the review, but people are so desperate to defend him that they ignore this.

                  I think you are being disingenuous because humans have been obsessed with language and connotations since the beginning of time. Just because in modern times we discuss slurs does not mean that we are being atypical.

                  And let me just spell out what's wrong with that: I don't "atypically" obsess myself with connotations. I discuss and try to dissuade people from using SLURS. I am not just arbitrarily picking language out of thin air to talk about.

            • xpanasonicyouthx says:

              holy god could you please, please, please not ever pretend to know anything about my brain or my life. This is one of the creepiest comments I have ever seen on this site. Please do not discuss me in the third person as if I'm not around, and you must certainly should never try to pretend like you know what it's like to be who I am.

              jesus christ.

              • Aris Katsaris says:

                My apologies for hurting you/creeping you out. It was not my intent. My intent was only to discuss what the appropriate weight is to provide to the evidence of one man's subjective opinion.

                I am a regular in rationalist forums where opinions and their worth are to be weighed as dispassionately as any other piece of evidence. I understand now this wasn't an appropriate behaviour for this site thought.

                • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                  It's not even what you said, it's that you made this whole culture applicable to me only? I dunno, man, that's weird.

                  But thanks for this comment regardless. I appreciate it.

            • arctic_hare says:

              <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

              seriously what the fuck is this comment

              • Aris Katsaris says:

                In case you aren't making a purely rhetorical question:
                it was a misplaced/unfortunate/inappropriate attempt to figure out the appropriate weight as evidence to assign to one's subjective opinion, based on the cognitive biases prevalent in one's era.

        • Nathan L says:

          I'd point out that Lord of the Rings is a created mythology for Britain, where everybody historically /was/ white. So I don't really think it's whitewashing on the part of the author, it's just that the fictional cultures of Middle Earth are based on several real Earth cultures, who happened to be white.

          Professor Tolkien was just sad that England didn't really have that many large sweeping cultural myths or epics of its own, so he set out to create them himself, from what I've read.

      • ljrTR says:

        I'm not saying it's not problematic or giving him a pass. but I don't think it's bad enough to color someon'e's reading of the books.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I basically agree with Mark that Tolkien is using racist tropes in his description of the Orcs. Rather than continually saying the same thing on the many threads about this, these are my thoughts, in another thread:

  24. Rheinman says:

    Having worked as middle management in a large corporation, I have always felt a certain amount of sympathy for Ugluk and his personnel management issues:
    1)Orders from the top that no one likes but you have to enforce, because you are in charge.
    2)The stooge from corporate (Grishnakh) who will take credit for your hard work. In addition, not only is he spying on you, but he is also undercutting your authority with your own employees.
    3)A lazy bunch of union rules-lawyers who are so caught up with their own problems that they lose sight of the overall goal. (It’s not in our contract to work during daylight! We were promised man-flesh! Prisoner transport is not in our job description! We are supposed to get a 15 minute coffee break for every three hours of running and an hour lunch break after six!)

    I would have started busting heads and cutting throats, too.

    I don’t watch either iteration of “The Office” but I am sure someone clever can develop a LOTR parody based on Orc management best practices.

    • cait0716 says:

      And now you have me thinking that Grishnakh = Gabe and Ugluk = Andy and it's sort of perfect.

    • msw188 says:

      Haha, this is pretty awesome

    • Geolojazz says:

      V ybir guvf! Naq jura lbh chg vg guvf jnl, jvgu Vfratneq naq Zbeqbe bepf, lbh'er jbexvat jvgu gjb pbzcrgvat pbecbengr phygherf sebz gjb erpragyl zretrq pbzcnavrf, gurer ner obhaq gb or yvarf qenja!

    • blossomingpeach says:

      Ha ha, AWESOME comparison. I'll never look at Orcs the same way again.

    • Becky_J_ says:

      I also felt somewhat bad for Ugluk! I mean, I know he's an Orc, and that means he is actually not harming Pippin and Merry because he has to bring them to Sauruman, but I always got the impression that he kind of saved their lives at least a couple of times.

      • flootzavut says:

        Someone posted about the orcs on another thread (silm spoilers) gung gurl jrer rvgure oernq be znqr be gbegherq vagb n cynpr jurer gurl jrer haerqrrznoyr naq unq ab jvyy rkprcg gur rivy bs gur orvatf jub navzngrq gurz (V'z fher gurer'f n orggre jbeq ohg V pna'g guvax bs vg) – juvpu npghnyyl qbrf znxr zr srry trahvaryl fbeel sbe gur bepf…

    • JustMalyn says:


    • Icarus says:

      Me, too. When Ugluk is nasty to Merry to humor his unwilling followers, I felt for both Ugluk and Merry.

  25. AmandaNekesa says:

    I swear, every time I read this chapter I'm just spellbound by the suspense of it all. Between Tolkien's incredible talent for tension-building, and learning about all of the terrible things Merry & Pippin have to endure at the hands of the Orcs, I can never put the book down while reading this chapter. Also, I love that we get to see Pippin's perspective here, the brilliant hobbit! <3 <3 Pippin <3 <3

    I always find it so nerve-wracking that Merry clearly has a head injury, and is unconscious for a good portion of the chapter. When the orcs give Merry & Pippin their orc draught, and force them to walk, I always feel so parental, and want to shout at the orcs: "DON'T YOU LAY A HAND ON MY POOR HOBBITS!!" It's so unbearable even to read about any suffering of the hobbits.

    By the end of the chapter though, I'm always so relieved to see that they at least escaped the orcs and the battle with the Riders. I just love this passage, too:

    As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril, going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again.

    Wow, the hobbits really are incredible!! I'm sure I would have been a complete and utter mess if any of that had happened to me. <3 Merry & Pippin <3

    • rubyjoo says:

      I think he was possibly trying to show the British stiff upper lip and understatement that he witnessed in the trenches. My father fought through six years of WWII and was just an ordinary little man. When he spoke about his experiences, it was always in the form of humorous anecdotes that saw the funny side of what he had witnessed or gone through. You had to read between the lines to see the horror.

      • AmandaNekesa says:

        Oh yeah, I can definitely see Tolkien's war experiences come through the text with chapters like this one. It's not to say that Merry & Pippin aren't affected by what had happened to them; how could a person not be changed by something like that? Nf jr tb guebhtu gur fgbel jr qrsvavgryl frr ubj punatrq gurl ner, nf n erfhyg bs gurve greevslvat rkcrevraprf. Gurl'er obhaq gb or punatrq, ohg vg'f gurve vavgvny novyvgl gb xrrc gurzfryirf tebhaqrq va gurve uboovgl angher, gung vf nznmvat gb zr. Va n jnl, vg'f bar bs gur guvatf gurl unir gb ubyq ba gb, naq vg cebonoyl urycf gurz qrny jvgu gurve rkcrevraprf va n zber urnygul jnl guna gurl zvtug bgurejvfr unir qbar.

        • flootzavut says:

          Yes, totally. V guvax gurve jvyyvatarff gb or tebhaqrq naq abg gb qjryy ba vg vf cerggl njrfbzr. V srry yvxr vs V pbhyq ernpg zber yvxr gur uboovgf gb genhzngvp guvatf gura jryy V jbhyq cebonoyl or n ybg zber zragnyyl urnygul abj…

          Hobbits rock. I want one for a friend.

  26. Atrus says:

    *sigh* I'm so sorry you got to read that bit about the Orcs and Mongols because it's going to colour your reading in a way that Tolkien definitely never intended. In fact, if maps and chapter titles are spoilery, I would've definitely considered that a spoiler as well.

    I don't want to come off as the white guy explaining to the rest of the world why something isn't racist, but that letter was written in response to a horrible movie script adaptation he had been sent. So please just consider that it was 1. not part of LotR, 2. not supposed to be read by the general public at large, 3. written while considerably angry, and 4. in response to the script's portrayal of Orcs as beaked and feathered.

    It does not excuse what Tolkien wrote in that letter, and he definitely shared several prejudices of his time and his religion (Catholic born in English-dominated South Africa/Orange? Oh boy). But he did stand against other discriminations in his life, and strongly decried the idea that the enemies in LotR came from the East because they were Asians – he had simply used North, West and some of the South already in the then-unpublished Silmarillion.

    So… I may have lost my point a bit. I guess it's that there definitely are racial concerns in LotR, but Orcs=Asians was not one of them, at least not in the published text.

    (mods: feel free to ROT anything you deem necessary, but I think it's all necessary to prove the point and no more spoilery than letter 210)

    • ljrTR says:

      SO agree with your post – I wish Mark had never read that irrelevant comment by Tolkien. I'm glad you put it in context.

    • Aris Katsaris says:

      "It does not excuse what Tolkien wrote in that letter"

      What is there to excuse?

      The problem with giving Orcs beaks or feathers, it's that it would imply they're a form of animal given reason and intelligence – but in Tolkien's theological worldview EVIL cannot ennoble, it can only corrupt. So Orcs can't be an uplifted form of animal, they must be either demons given flesh, or a corrupted form of a fully-rational creature, their wills turned into evil.

      That's why Tolkien focused on them being like a grotesque/debased variation of some real human variant; and that's why beaks and feathers are a no-no.

    • flootzavut says:

      Thanks so much for giving us some context to that letter – I'm sure I'm not the only one whose only knowledge of it was the portion that's been oft quoted. It helps enormously to see this context.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      Beaked and Feathered? Okay, as much trouble as I have figuring out what Orcs look like from the text, I never gave them beaks.

      I always see them as having as many skin tones as people do, only in a grayscale instead of a brownscale. And always subtly (or not so subtly) distorted facial features. Have you ever seen a picture of someone which has had the eyes put in upside down? There's a wrongness to it that you can't miss, but is hard to pin down and describe.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      saying an action is problematic or racist


      i think a person is a big ol' stinkin racist

      it means their action was.

      The end.

      This is really disturbing to me that so many people are saying this.

      • mulewagon says:

        Well, that's true Mark, but you did jump too far from appearance to language and culture, and made assumptions that weren't justified from the text.

        Which is okay, we still love you!

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          No, I did not jump too far. That statement relies on a clear dichotomy, and that's the trope Tolkien used. Even if we accept that he wrote all of LOTR and the "Mongol-type" classification never entered his mind ONCE, there's still a problem: he is specifically relying on using a distant, brown-skinned culture to represent evil. That is the racist trope. It manifests itself in numerous ways, and this is one of them.

          It is unfortunate. Do I think he is a racist? No. He made an unfortunate implication. The end.

          • Icarus says:

            I believe the phrase "Mongol type" refers to the discredited pseudoscience of phrenology, not Mongolians or Asians in general. Phrenology postulated that physical features were connected to personality predispositions. A tendency toward anger, violence, aggression, etc., was associated with the mongol type: large forehead, narrow eyes, receding chin, yadda, yadda.

      • Atrus says:

        I'm sorry. As I said, I kind lost control of my comment towards the end. I tend to ramble.

        If it makes more sense, I was coming in defence of the Orcs rather than Tolkien as a person. What I meant is that I wish you could experience them from the text only, and not based on an imagery that comes from outside.

        • Mauve_Avenger says:

          Except that the problematic imagery is on the inside, as well. I only found out about the letter in question because I'd encountered what I considered textual evidence of racism re: orcs, and went online to see if I was *just being too oversensitive.*

          Basically, I got a little twitch of annoyance every time the obviously shifty southerner in Bree was described as "slant-eyed" or "squint-eyed" and then got an extra large twitch of *something's not quite right here* when he was also described as sallow-skinned and goblin-like. I ignored it, though, until I got to this chapter with its swart-skinned and slant-eyed orcs and its goblin refrain that Rohirrim=horrible "Whiteskins." And that's when I looked it up and found that my suspicion was confirmed by Tolkien himself.

          The letter might be non-canonical, but I don't think you necessarily even need to read it to notice the racial issues regarding Tolkien's orcs.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I basically agree with Mark that Tolkien is using racist tropes in his description of the Orcs. Rather than continually saying the same thing on the many threads about this, these are my thoughts, in another thread:

    • eregyrn says:

      Okay, I want to try to grapple with this, and perhaps this comment is the best to try to do it in reply to.

      The "debased Mongol-type" comment is problematic on its own terms, I think, and not only for the way it does or does not relate to the orcs, or to distinguishing them as human-like as opposed to bird-like (granted: wtf?).

      It's problematic because it takes as read that the writer and the reader both understand that Asian features (skin color, eye shape, skull shape, profile shape) are already "other" in a negative way. That he includes qualifiers to make clear that they're "like that only even UGLIER" doesn't negate that his comparison starts with choosing a race with physical characteristics that — yes, in the context of the time — were widely culturally considered (by Europeans) to be evil-looking in the first place. (Seriously, it is all over popular culture during the Victorian period.)

      And, sure… product of his time. Yet, at the same time, it was not a universal even in that time period that European men MUST think of Asians as ugly and evil-looking. Men and women of the time did overcome that cultural conditioning. Therefore, I don't think it can be treated as something that Tolkien just "couldn't help".

      It also has to be considered that in groping to come up with a way to talk about what orcs did look like, as opposed to what they did NOT look like, he didn't HAVE to resort to that racial comparison. He could have figured out another way to put it that would not have resorted to calling upon, yes, a racist trope (just because that racist trope would have been easily understood by his correspondent).

      He could have, for example, said that orcs were human-like, but humans as crossed with beasts, or with lizards, or with something else commonly understood to be unlovely, like toads. He could have simply said they were human-like but "twisted into an ugly caricature of humanity". The problematic racial part comes in the decision to specify traits of a particular race through a lens of negativity (slanted eyes, sallow skin). That was a choice that Tolkien made, and while we may examine his life and his culture to understand why he made it, it's still worth just pointing at it and saying, "hey, that was kind of racist".

      I should add that — like Mark, who has SAID THIS AND SAID THIS — none of these thoughts make me love these books less. And I have said before, I'm glad that all of this didn't make it into the text, and therefore it allowed me to imagine the orcs as "looking evil" in a way that made me comfortable.

      • Tauriel_ says:

        Well said! 🙂

      • t09yavosaur says:

        All these comments have got me thinking (and props to everyone as I have been trying to avoid that while my break lasts) (and this is only page one) and I have a tangentially related question: aka this isn't really about any racist connotations.

        Mind, I may not have the best grasp on this as it is pretty complicated and people have been using big words and very eloquent language and as I said I've been trying not to think but, Vs gur Bepf ner qrfpevorq nf qrtenqrq/erchyfvir Zbatby-glcrf naq Bepf ner nyfb gjvfgrq/qnzntrq Ryirf (evtug?) jbhyq gung abg ybtvpnyyl zrna gung Ryirf ybbx fvzvyne gb "Zbatby-glcrf" nf jryy?

  27. Aris Katsaris says:

    If Tolkien had a problem with "weird and foreign", he wouldn't have made the weird-and-foreign Elves and Dwarves into heroes.

    The problem Tolkien has with Orcs isn't that they're weird-and-foreign, it's their evilness. The *theological* implications of that would torture Tolkien himself in his later years, but not because there was some sort of analogy to *human* races — there was no such analogy.

    • ljrTR says:


    • flootzavut says:

      And Tolkien was known to thoroughly disapprove of anyone trying to make direct analogies or allegories of his work!

      In short – yes.

    • eyelessgame says:

      That said, he was a creature of his time… and if he eschewed analogy, he certainly wasn't opposed to applicability. Hobbits weren't an analogy to a specific human race, but were the "ideal" bucolic existence, from his perspective, and it's no coincidence they basically looked like the British countryside. Orcs showed, among other things, lack of breeding, and he showed this (including through people like Bill Ferny and his mysterious friend), among other ways, through "swarthiness".

      That said, as I say he was a creature of his time and it is unreasonable to measure him by the standards of ours. As my elderly mother still says, "We all thought that way back then."

      • Mart says:

        Even though I am willing to credit Tolkien with being not an active bigot, I do agree with Mark and some other posters that it is in fact entirely reasonable to measure him by our standards.

        If we do that, we may conclude that some attitudes in his work are problematic, and by no means acceptable today; the casual racism of the staunch colonialist belongs with that.

        After acknowledging that, we can move on. The attitudes were a product of his time, we acknowledge that we do not approve, but also that it does not influence the literary value of his output, and we can continue to enjoy his work.

        • stormwreath says:

          By the standards of his own time and place, Tolkien was pretty much an anti-racism activist. It's funny how things change. 🙂

          • eregyrn says:

            Good people can have racist thoughts, and say racist things. It happens all the time, because even good people who are trying, aren't perfect.

            Even when someone who says something problematic is someone we think is a good person, that doesn't mean we shouldn't say, "hey, that was still pretty problematic". Because any good person should realize that they're still working on it — working to overcome heavily ingrained cultural reflexes, and that is often a lifelong effort. There's really no magical day when you've conquered all the bigotry you could possibly have lurking within you.

            It doesn't make Tolkien a bad person. I tend to think he was probably quite a good person, because I like his work, even if I really strongly disagree with some things he believed, like his staunch Catholicism (says I, as an ex-Catholic).

            But even an anti-racism activist can have an off moment in which something unfortunate bubbles to the surface. Nobody, including Mark originally, is suggesting throwing out Tolkien's reputation or his works, on account of that bad moment.

        • eyelessgame says:

          Agreed, Mart, and you said it more clearly and better than I did. I meant "product of his time" not to excuse the problematic attitudes but to place them in context. And as said elsewhere in this thread, if someone dislikes the work on that basis, I will not quarrel with them.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      i don't care that i sound like a broken record:


      DOES NOT


      i swear to gandalf i cannot fucking stand another comment that repeats this awful, disgusting line of logic.

      • banabou says:

        This whole kerfuffle is taking me back to this Jay Smooth video on how to have discussions about racism.

        [youtube b0Ti-gkJiXc youtube]

        It's super easy for a discussion of a specific instance of racism to get derailed by people howling, "But noooo, [person] is not a racist!" I'm not criticizing anyone's opinions or the handling of this discussion; I just think it's interesting that today's discussion is unfolding in a way that's very much in line with Jay's observations.

      • Aris Katsaris says:

        You seem to be accusing me of accusing you of something I never actually accused you of.

        I didn't say that you thought he was an awful bigot.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      You can have positive harmful stereotypes as well, that what a lot of Orientalism is about.

      Honestly, I think your logic is pretty faulty here, a racist trope is a racist trope regardless of how other tropes are applied or descriptions are made. The evil Orcs are described in the same way that the evil savages in colonial fiction are, can you not see how that makes for uncomfortable reading?

      And I know I'm repeating myself through all these threads, but they do seem to be variants of each other, but I've gone on about this at much greater length over here:

  28. floppus says:

    The Spoiler-Free Map of Middle-Earth

    Normal version, blurred version.

    Today we see the hobbits covering the same ground that the Three Hunters covered in yesterday's chapter, but in this case we don't get to appreciate the scenery.

    • rabidsamfan says:

      Hm. I wonder if the Uruk-Hai went that way because they felt pushed by the Rohirrim, because it's not a straight line to Isengard and Saruman. Now I'll have to go reread.

      • floppus says:

        I think you're probably right. Didn't somebody in the previous chapter suggest that the Orcs would be trying to get away from Rohan as quickly as possible? (Abg gung V jbhyq rkcrpg Snatbea Sberfg gb or n zhpu fnsre cynpr gb geniry, vs lbh'er na Bep.)

        It might also be that there's no place south of the Forest where the Orcs could have crossed the Entwash; if there are any bridges, they're surely controlled by the Rohirrim.

  29. JustMalyn says:

    MERRY&PIPPIN. They are the original Fred&George, but even more adorable. I have so many favorite characters, but they definitely have a large place on the list. I LOVE that Merry is wonderful enough to say "Hullo, Pippin!", he said. "So you've come on this little expedition, too? Where do we get bed and breakfast?" SO MUCH HOBBIT LOVE. Also, fbba jr trg gb zrrg Ragf! V qrrcyl rawbl gurz nf jryy. Gurl'er fb puvyy.

    • stefb4 says:

      "Puvyy" vf na haqrefgngrzrag, yby!

    • flootzavut says:

      I LOVE that line from Merry. In the midst of all the crap, they still manage to be hobbits, if that makes sense.

      V nz fb ybbxvat sbejneqgb Znex zrrgvat Gerrorneq. Ur vf fb njrfbzr.

      "Qba'g or unfgl Znfgre Zrevnqbp" – pna'g sbe gur yvsr bs zr erpnyy vs gung jnf zbivr be obbx be obgu ohg V ybir gung yvar :Q

  30. Zoli says:

    We meet an actual named Orc, Uglúk, who constantly fights with Grishnákh, an Orc that’s not associated with Saruman. (He’s from the Mines of Moria, yes? You can answer this, since he’s dead by the end of the chapter and I’m sure we won’t see more of him again.)

    I don't have my book on me so I can't check for sure, but I believe Grishnakh was actually one of Sauron's orcs from Mordor? I believe in this chapter we have three groups of orcs that make up the 200 (hence all the fighting): Saruman's Uruk-hai from Isengard (who can withstand the sun), a group of orcs come down from Moria, and then a group of orcs from Mordor, led by Grishnakh. The Mordor aspect is supported by Grishnakh being able to guess about the Ring; I got the impression that Saruman specifically avoided mentioning anything about it. His orders to the Uruk-hai were just "bring me the hobbits." The rest of the orcs aren't even able to guess why he wants hobbits. They assume that hobbits must be especially fun to torture ("do they make good sport?") and that must be why they're wanted.

    • Dreamflower says:

      I've always wondered how an obviously low-level underling like Grishnákh comes to know about the Ring. His reactions to Pippin (rot.13'd in case my guesses might be considered spoilery)

      znxr zr jbaqre vs creuncf ur zvtug abg unir orra bar bs gur Bepf vaibyirq va gur gbegher bs Tbyyhz? Gurer'f abguvat ryfr gb vaqvpngr vg, ohg vg frrzf n cynhfvoyr rkcynangvba.

      • Zoli says:

        Pbhyq or. Gung be ur whfg unccrarq gb bireurne fbzrguvat, be Fnheba vf abg fhcre pbaprearq vs uvf haqreyvatf xabj jung ur'f nsgre, orpnhfr ur pna rnfvyl birecbjre gurz naq gnxr vg? V qba'g xabj.

      • flootzavut says:

        Do you think it's possible that gurl xabj ur'f nsgre n Evat ohg qba'g haqrefgnaq gur fvtavsvpnapr? I can't think, offhand, how widespread the knowledge of jung gur evatf ner vf fcernq, pbafvqrevat gung "Vg vf abg crezvggrq gb fcrnx bs gurz" naq, sbe rknzcyr, gur uboovgf pyrneyl qvqa'g unir gur snvagrfg vqrn nobhg gurz. Boivbhfyl gur bepf ner haqre Fnheba'fpbzznaq, fb gurl ner vagur guvpx bs gur npgvba, abg yvivat zvyrf njnl va gur Fuver, ohg vg'f n gubhtug gung bppheerq gb zr…?

        • Zoli says:

          I think that's reasonably possible. Grishnakh may know Sauron is looking for a ring, but not why it's important. I always thought that he wanted to find the Ring mostly so that he would get personally rewarded by Sauron for delivering it. I think that was also part of the reason for fighting. The Uruk-hai are supposed to report back to their master (Saruman) but the Mordor-orcs are arguing that if there's something valuable they should take it directly back to Mordor and Sauron. The Moria orcs seem to be around mostly because they want to kill and eat some people.

          • flootzavut says:

            I assume Sauron would have the sense not to tell the orcs why it's important.

            "The Moria orcs seem to be around mostly because they want to kill and eat some people."


            It's an interesting look at the power shifting between Saruman and Sauron… the Uruk Hai are the stronger bigger guys and loyal to Saruman, ohg Fnehzna vf fhccbfrq gb or yblny gb Fnheba fb lbh pna frr gur Zbeqbe thlf' nethzrag.

            …though I think whichever group won out it was good that neither of those plans came to pass…

      • eyelessgame says:

        V guvax vg'f n zvfgnxr gb pbafvqre Tevfuañxu n ybj-yriry Bep. Ur jnf va punetr bs na rkgenbeqvanevyl vzcbegnag zvffvba (nggnpxvat gur fznyy tebhc gung Fnheba unq ernfba gb oryvrir unq gur Evat); ur xarj gur Anmthy naq unq evqqra ba gurz; ur'q orra va Zvanf Zbethy, naq jnf (guvf vf gur xvpxre) yvxryl *yvgrengr*. Fvapr Fnheba (yvxr Fnehzna) gbyq uvf freinagf gung n unysyvat unq fbzrguvat ur jnagrq, vg jbhyq abg unir orra uneq sbe Tevfuañxu gb unir chg gur pyhrf gbtrgure. (Jung znxrf uvz fb greevslvat, zbfg bs nyy, vf gung Tevfuañxu jnf pyrneyl *irel* vagryyvtrag.)

        • Dreamflower says:

          Jryy, V zrnag "ybj-yriry" va gur frafr gung ur jnf abg bar bs gur Avar be gur Zbhgu bs Fnheba. Ur'f boivbhfyl va punetr bs gur zvffvba, ohg V nz fgvyy hafher gung ur'q unir orra ragehfgrq jvgu nf zhpu xabjyrqtr nf ur frrzf gb unir. Ur'f eryngviryl ybj-yriry gb Fnheba'f urvenepul. Naq uvf irel vagryyvtrapr jbhyq znxr uvz zber fhfprcgvoyr gb grzcgngvba.

          Jung znxrf zr jbaqre vf uvf erfcbafr gb gur "tbyyhz" abvfr Cvccva znxrf. Pyrneyl ur'f unq pbagnpg jvgu Tbyyhz. Vg znxrf zr jbaqre vs ur jrer abg bar bs Tbyyhz'f gbegheref, naq fb jbhyq unir orra cevil gb n yvggyr zber xabjyrqtr guna gur nirentr bep. Nabgure cbffvovyvgl znl unir orra gung ur jnf nzbat gur bepf jub yvorengrq Tbyyhz sebz gur Zvexjbbq Ryirf. Ohg V ernyyl guvax gur svefg fpranevb zber cebonoyr guna gur frpbaq.

  31. ljrTR says:

    Forgot to add "Where there's a whip there's a way"! [catoon movie reference]

  32. Hotaru_hime says:

    Haha, I was laughing yesterday when you said we'd never see Orcs up close! That theory died quickly.
    Orcs are… well, yeah, it's pretty racist. I never realized it the first time around, and then the second time around I'm like, "Hold up, where are the women? Wait… are Orcs Africans? Or Arabs? Or what?" Then it was a little unsettling and then I thought, "Ah, well, Tolkien was in early 20th century England and the book has basis in Norse mythology, so I'm gonna let it go."
    Pippin! Brave Pippin! Clever Pippin! Ur'f abg rira n shyy-tebja uboovg lrg! Bs pbhefr, ur fgbcf orvat pyrire ol tenoovat gung cnynagve yngre, ohg gung jbexf bhg orggre sbe Sebqb.

    • ljrTR says:

      sorry, still don't see racism in the orcs. yeah, maybe I'm overly protective of this story, but I've read overtly racist stuff from Tolkien's generation, and let me tell you, you'd know it.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I went on at some length about the Orcs in my first foray into these comments (it's nice to finally find one that isn't trying to deny that there are problems). My reading is that the Orcs don't specifically represent any group, but the way they are described borrows so heavily from the racist descriptions of colonial fiction (Africans in H Rider Haggard springs to mind) that it's easy to make the connection, in a general way.

      The long version (which I'm starting to feel like I'm spamming) is here, if you're interested:

      • Dreamflower says:

        Well, that may explain a lot. JRRT was greatly influenced by Haggard's stories in his youth.

        I suppose a lot of it may have to do with cultural tropes. Even the best intentioned person would absorb a lot of stereotypes– especially during a time when people were less introspective about things like that.

        I shudder to think what sorts of unconscious ideas we (as in people of here and now) have that future generations may find offensive or problematical in half-a-century.

    • ZeynepD says:

      Bepf ner Ryirf, "pbeehcgrq" (va bhe zbqrea grezf, cebonoyl "trargvpnyyl nygrerq") ol Fnheba. Gurer vf na vaurerag gentrql va gurve bevtva.

      Jr'yy trg rabhtu "hz, nobhg cbegenlvat crbcyr sebz pregnva ertvbaf bs gur jbeyq nf onq?" jura jr uvg gur Fbhguebaf naq gur Rnfgreyvatf, yngre ba. Naq rira gura, Gbyxvra jvyy uvg hf bire gur urnq jvgu fbzr gubhtugf guebhtu Sebqb'f cbvag-bs-ivrj.

  33. stellaaaaakris says:

    I love you, Pippin. You are my favorite hobbit ever. Sam's awesome and I'm not worthy of having a friend like him, but he's on the mushy side for me (see what I said about not being worthy?). Give me Pippin any day of the week. I love him so dearly and he is amazing and the best hobbit to ever be a hobbit. He's scared and doesn't know what's going to happen to him but what does he say to comfort himself? "Good old Merry." At least his BFF is there with him. And Pippin throws himself to the side and risks a beating to let Aragorn know he's still alive. And the Billy Boyd is pretty much my favorite thing about the movies half the time. I love his voice and I could sit and listen to it for days. Scottish accents are my absolute favorite which might be why I flipped out so much in that episode of Doctor Who when David Tennant uses his real accent.

    Pippin! And Merry's awesome too. I would like to be best friends with them. Just saying. So, Tolkien, just warning you – hands off the halflings.

    • JustMalyn says:

      Scottish accents are GORGEOUS. Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood) has my favorite, but Billy Boyd's is definitely up there 🙂

    • flootzavut says:

      I love Pippin and BB is fantastic. And I am so with you on Scottish (especially Glaswegian/West Coast) accents are one of my favourites ever.

      Tangent: I'd seen David Tennant in Casanova, and a couple of bits of Doctor Who, but had NO IDEA he was Scottish, then I saw his "Who do you think you are?" and he started talking in this gorgeous accent and <3 I about died. Could listen to him all day…

      A friend of mine, whose mum is Scottish, randomly started talking to me in a Scottish accent when I hadn't known he was able to do so – we're talking a guy who is very attractive anyway, when he started talking Scottish at me it was all I could do not to drool :$ 😀

      And I adore Pippin. So giving him a Scottish accent really… what's a girl to do??

      • stellaaaaakris says:

        Seriously. *swoon* I'm pretty much instantly attracted to guys who are tall, lean, and have dark hair, so falling for DT was pretty much going to happen in any case. And then he broke out the Scottish accent. No chance.

        And yes, Pippin was already my favorite hobbit when reading and then casting Billy Boyd? Wow, way not to give any other character a chance ever.

        • flootzavut says:

          Oh yeah I SO agree. We clearly have similar taste!

          The friend I mentioned? Tall, lean, dark hair – I have yet to work out a way of saying to him, "Will you quit it with that damn Scottish accent already because my heart cannot TAKE IT" without totally embarrassing him and making him run for the hills *sigh* lol.

          So yeah, I was the same with DT: Enormously attractive guy starts speaking in Glaswegian accent? *thud*

          BB is just so damn adorable as himself and as Pippin. Bless.

          You know, I've just had this thought – I am grateful Ivttb never (to my knowledge) pulled out a Glaswegian accent, that would be a dangerous combination… 😮

          (I own several audiobooks purely because David Tennant narrates them/acts in them. Ranging from Shakespeare and Doctor Who down to the How To Train Your Dragon series. Which, by the way, is brilliant and you should listen to. If you haven't heard David Tennant being a small Welsh viking girl, you haven't LIVED.)

    • arctic_hare says:

      Scottish accents are just lovely. <3 Billy Boyd and Karen Gillan just make me melt.

      • Jenny_M says:


        My mum is Scottish and my whole family is Scottish and I go to Scotland all the time and not only are they Scottish but they're Glaswegian and they all sound JUST LIKE BILLY.


        • flootzavut says:

          I has envy.

          I love Scotland and I love Scots and I love the Scottish accent, but I have no Scottish ancestry, heritage, or excuse to love Scotland at all except as an outsider. I have Welsh and Irish blood, and Jersey French, and Romany, so I am a mongrel of so many of the historical inhabitants of Britain but Scottish? Nuffin. Which has always been enormously disappointing to me as I always wanted the link…

          I love Glaswegian accents.

    • thimbledore says:

      Back in the day, the LotR movie website had embedded sound clips of the different actors welcoming you to the page. My friends and I would refresh over and over to hear everyone's clips. Because of Billy Boyd's damn adorable accent, I blushed every time his intro came up. I'm talking the full face and neck Wave of Dire Rosiness. If I ever go to Scotland and any human beings talk to me, I am going to embarrass myself to death.

      Also, Yvi Glyre'f jrypbzr jnf uvynevbhf orpnhfr ure ibvpr fbhaqrq fhcre, rkgen qnvagl. "Uryybbbb~" Tvey, Yvi'f fhccbfrq gb or qbvat gur vageb, abg Nejra. Lbh nva'g tbggn or va punenpgre evtug abj. (Rot13'd some bits because I… don't really know where we stand on casting spoilers anymore? Better safe than accidentally a jerk-butt.)

      • flootzavut says:

        I feel like I should apologise but this is hilarious to me that his sound clip made you blush.

        Re: the rot13, yeah I'm not certain about spoilers either, and confused as to what is and is not spoilery regarding casting. At least we no longer have to worry about the Boromir's casting being secret now!

        And I love the word jerk-butt…

        • AmandaNekesa says:

          In Mark's new FAQ about spoilers he says that he's okay with seeing character pictures from the movies, as long as it's not from something he hasn't read yet, or would be otherwise spoilery for the books. I think the casting of Boromir was considered the most spoilery because well, Sean Bean does love his death scenes. Other than that, I can't think of any other specific bit of casting that would be spoilery, for characters that are already introduced.

          • flootzavut says:

            I hate being knackered – I read stuff and it just falls out of my brain again! Hopefully second time round it'll stick??!

            By the time I posted today Billy had already been mentioned so many times I figured that game was up but have to say it'll be a relief not to worry SOOOO much. Though I do tend (when I remember) to ROT13 if in doubt!

            • AmandaNekesa says:

              Yeah, I agree it is nice to not worry as much about casting spoilers. I guess when you think about it, Mark seeing pictures of the hobbits from LotR isn't really that much different than him watching The Hobbit trailer or pictures of the cast, and he's seen quite a bit from that. There are a lot of things that I will stay away from posting, though.

              I know, sometimes I find myself going back and asking myself why I rot-13 certain comments, but I get so worried I'm going to let something slip…Pna'g or gbb pnershy! 😀

              • flootzavut says:

                Pnershyyl, uboovgfrf!

                It had to be said didn't it? 😀

                Yes, there are things that would be sooooo spoilery, but I think/hope most people care enough to avoid spoilers like that. And I'm glad it's because the spoiler policy has changed not because people were just not bothering *phew*

                I've still not worked out at all how to post pics into posts properly, so I'm fairly safe on that front 😉 but not having to be paranoid about forever ROT13'ing names is a Good Thing for my brain…

        • thimbledore says:

          Hee hee, don't apologize. It IS hilarious! I have long since come to terms with my blushy blushface givin' away all my secrets. ^_^

          HOH SHIT. I just went on youtube and found a video with all of the website intros.

          [youtube bDuHIghKH34 youtube]

          0:36, 0:36!!! Oh god. BLUSHING AT WORK. MY CAPILLARIES. PLZ SEND HELP.

          • flootzavut says:

            Bah it just ate my post – apparently trying to reply to two different posts on the same page Does Not Work.

            I have this image of you going to Scotland in winter and sitting in a pub enjoying all the accents while the locals warm their fingers in the glow from your face. I may need more sleep…

            Billy does have a fab accent. I'm generally speaking a sucker for Scottish accents and even more so for West Coast/Glaswegian accents, but there are some who I could just listen to forever, and Billy is one of 'em. (David Tennant is another :))

          • AmandaNekesa says:

            OMG Billy…his accent is sooo freaking amazing!! <3 <3 <3

            Now you're making me blush, thimbledore!

          • Becky_J_ says:

            Okay… look. At first I was giggling at thinking that a voice could make you blush…. AND THEN. I listened to this. HOLY SHIT I UNDERSTAND NOW. His voice came on and I started to squirm and giggle and GOODNESS I DIDN'T KNOW A VOICE COULD DO THAT.

            Also… the intense sound that accompanies each of their intros is CRACKING ME UP. Hello, drama!

            • thimbledore says:

              BWONNNNNNNNNNNG. This is Thimbledore. Welcome… to me being delighted that other people get all giggly and squirmy like I do. XD

          • sporkaganza93 says:

            I like Christopher Lee's intro. I love how much gravitas he can put into just saying "Welcome to!"

  34. Ryan Lohner says:

    Some neat movie stuff:

    Va gur fprar jurer gur Bepf fgneg svtugvat naq Zreel naq Cvccva rfpncr, nyy gur Bepf' ibvprf ner qhoorq ol Naql Frexvf. Nccneragyl whfg sbe gur uryy bs vg.

    Bar bs gur qrfvta grnz fnlf ba gur pbzzragnel gung ur ybirf gur yvar "Ybbxf yvxr zrng'f onpx ba gur zrah," fvapr vg vzcyvrf gung Bepf tb gb erfgnhenagf, vs gurl xabj jung n zrah vf.

    • cait0716 says:

      V org gur Naql Frexvf guvat fnirq gurz n ybg bs zbarl, gbb. Lbh unir gb cnl rkgenf zber vs gurl unir fcrnxvat yvarf, fb pebjqf naq fhpu ner hfhnyyl qhoorq ol fbzrbar nyernql ba gur cnlebyy gb fnir zbarl.

      V yvxr gur vqrn bs bepf tbvat naq fvggvat qbja va n erfgnhenag. Vg fbhaqf nofheq, yvxr fbzrguvat Tnel Ynefba jbhyq qenj.

      • Juliana Moreli says:

        Abj V whfg unir na vzntr bs na bep frngrq ng n gnoyr naq nfxvat sbe n ebnfgrq qhpx…yby

        Be znlor bepf whfg fcrnx serapu gbb…jub xabjf…

        • blossomingpeach says:

          Someone needs to do a cartoon of this stat!

        • Rheinman says:

          Yes, I'd like the horse-flesh medium rare with a basil mint pesto and asparagus tips in a burre-blanc sauce, and, if you skimp on the truffles, I'll cut your bloody head off

    • flootzavut says:

      Naql vf njrfbzr :Q

    • notemily says:


      • Lugija says:

        V unir zvkrq rzbgvbaf. Vg'f yvxr ur'f zbpxvat gur jnl gur ryirf naq zra fcrnx (V qrsvavgryl hfr ovt jbeqf va pbairefngvbaf whfg gb znxr gurz shaavre), ohg gung fgvyy qbrfa'g rkcynva ubj Htyúx (jub vf zl snibhevgr bep, ol gur jnl) xabjf gur jbeq.

      • flootzavut says:

        It's probably a terrible thing to admit, but all those lines that people hate just make me laugh. Naq V thrff gurl znxr zr ynhtu orpnhfr gurl ner nanpeubavfgvp, ohg V sbetvir gurz orpnhfr gurl znxr zr ynhtu. (I'm thinking that could be a movie expectation spoiler… of sorts…)

        I am a bad Tolkien fan *hangs head in shame*

        • notemily says:

          Haha, no, that doesn't make you a bad Tolkien fan! Everyone is going to have different reactions to the movies. Sometimes I think I'm a bad Tolkien fan because I loved the movies before I read the books, but we ALL love Tolkien and that's what matters.

          • flootzavut says:

            Hah yeah true!

            V guvax, orvat vagb ynathntr naq fghss, V nyjnlf srry yvxr V "fubhyq" or obgurerq ol guvatf, ohg V nz n fhpxre sbe shaal.

            (Juvpu vf cebonoyl jul V ybir Cvccva/Ovyyl Oblq na haurnygul nzbhag :p 🙂

  35. Eefje says:

    The adventures of Pippin and Merry in Fangorn Forrest! EXITE! I wonder what will almost eat them next…

  36. Leah-san says:

    A new day, a new review. This makes me very happy every time, you know that?

    Ahh, this chapter. It creeped me out as a child, only because I'm super bad at running and sports in general and had a sports phobia because of bullying, so the running and knowing that you can't stop, or else they kill you was just nerve-racking to me.

    • JustMalyn says:

      That mentality made me afraid of exercise FOR LIFE. I'm just starting to realize it doesn't have to be like that! Well, it does if you're captured by Orcs, but not if you just wanna do yoga 🙂

  37. Dreamflower says:

    I love this chapter too! THIS is the chapter where the youngest member of the Fellowship comes into his own! He's so quick and clever and able to take advantage of the situation– he's a total opportunist, in a good way!

    One of my favorite parts of this is what inspires him to trot off and drop his Lorien brooch: the image of Strider, tracking them! He shows a flash of clairvoyance here, and he follows through. I love also how he immediately feels guilty for hoping that someone's coming to rescue them, because of course he should be hoping they chose to go with Frodo. He's so sweet and large-hearted, even in this horrible situation!

    Oh, and Legolas? You were WRONG!!!! *grin* The hobbits escaped without any help from you!

  38. flootzavut says:

    Oh Pippin's anguish and thinking of himself as mere luggage :'( sadness forever.

    As others have said,things with the orcs are Not That Simple.

    The glee yesterday after your comment about probably not finding out what any of the orcs are called was considerable 😀

    And Pippin shows us all that he's not as much of a fool as he may seem at first *squee* <3

    • Dreamflower says:

      Naq cbbe Zreel unf gung yhttntr srryvat gbb, yngre ba, naq jvgu rira zber whfgvsvpngvba.

      V ybir gur jnl Cvccva pna'g uryc ubcvat gurl'yy or erfphrq, rira gubhtu ur guvaxf vg jbhyq or orggre sbe Sebqb vs gurl jrera'g!

      Naq lnl! sbe Gbbxvfu cerfpvrapr naq pyrirearff!

  39. knut_knut says:

    FIVE orcs with names!! Your wish has been granted, and then some! And you know at least 1 orc in Middle Earth has fangs! I was pretty upset when I first found out Tolkien described his orcs as mongoloid. I loved LoTR and looked up to Tolkien in a weird grandfatherly way, so it was upsetting to think that something about me was disgusting and inhumane to him, and if he looked at me, he’d think orc. I was a bit dramatic back then, and I know he didn’t mean Asians =Orcs, but that’s just how I reacted. I still love the books and Tolkien, though.

    I love how in the middle of a battle, Pippin and Merry are chowing down. It’s probably for the best that they did, but Tolkien made it sound like they were taking their time xD

    • ljrTR says:

      I still don't get the orcs/Asian when I read the books just from one throw-away comment by the author. I really don't. Something must be wrong with me because everyone else here seems to take this as canon.

      • ARITHMANCER says:

        I am pretty sure somewhere, possibly in a later chapter, an orc or orcs are described as having "fynagrq rlrf". Some are also described as "fjneguls". (rot13 as I have no idea at which point such descriptions occur, could be later!) So yes, physical descriptive words that Caucasian Europeans might use to describe Asians specifcially, and other races more generally, are used to describe the orcs. (So are traits no humans have, to be fair). Elves, Rohirrim, and the Gondorians/descendants of Numenoreans met to date, are all "fair" (light-skinned). The text is consistent with the objectionable language in the letter. It's going from there to suggest their culture is meant to be seen as similar to that of any specific group of humans, that I think is not supported (by either the text or the letter).

        • notemily says:

          No, those descriptions have already happened. The orcs have been described more than once as being slanty-eyed and "swart." And every time it comes up I cringe a bit inside because REALLY TOLKIEN WHAT ARE YOU DOING.

          • AmandaNekesa says:

            Yeah the whole "slant-eyed" thing always makes me cringe a bit.

          • arctic_hare says:


          • eregyrn says:

            Yeah, it's not just that letter.

            And it's not that I automatically think that a descriptor like "black" is meant to be racial: see Oynpx Ahzrabernaf.

            But certain descriptors of the orcs have more than a bit in common with the caricature of the "evil Asian", and… there it is. Dude, knock it off with the swarthiness!

    • SisterCoyote says:

      Oh God, I'm so sorry. D:

      Totally not weird that you looked up to him in a grandfatherly way. I definitely did! Though I was pretty weird too.

      Back when I was young and naive (older than when I read LotR, probably early teens), I used to look up to C. S. Lewis a lot. I overlooked the skeevier stuff he'd said, and did a lot of the "Product of his time, I swear" arguing with myself (and others). And then one day, during a really bad schizophrenic phase, I was looking for something to anchor with and found a quote of his that basically went "pity crazy people, they'll NEVER EVER BE NORMAL OR HAPPY." Totally broke the illusion. And then I met a lot of people who completely debunked the idea that it's okay to pretend subtext isn't there.

      …Anyway! Tolkien was a much cooler and less judgmental and bigoted dude than Lewis*. It's actually hard not to think of him as this cool, bookish grandfatherly type, who liked walking the countryside and telling stories and leisurely meals (with stories) and… yeah. You can look up to someone while acknowledging their flaws.

      *Lewis at least didn't stay sexist until the end of his days; he wound up meeting a woman who was wicked smart, and she basically challenged all of his ideas, all the time, and argued them with him better than anyone he'd met. And they fell in love, and then he wrote Til We Have Faces, which is among my favorite fiction books, because it is so full of real human emotion, and humility, and utterly sad. …anyway. Sorry to hijack you on a reply. I am terrible at commentatoring.

  40. hpfish13 says:

    I can now post the art from yesterday's chapter in my book. Silly Alan Lee, trying to spoil everyone.
    <img src=""&gt;

    I love the narrative shift in this chapter. It is such a relief to see Merry and Pippin in this chapter, but then the tension is brought right back in when you realize the peril they are in. Also, yay for Pippin for being resourceful!

  41. Katie says:

    Pbhyq V cyrnfr beqre fbzr onttntr sebz Zvqqyr Rnegu? Gur xvaq gung pna fgno n Jvgpu Xvat be fnir n fba sebz orvat ohearq nyvir ol n qrfcrengr sngure? Pnhfr V guvax gung'f njrfbzr xvaq bs onttntr :).

    • blossomingpeach says:

      V xabj! Nyfb, gur xvaq bs onttntr gung urycf bireguebj Fnehzna. Pna'g jnvg sbe Znex gb ernq ubj rira zber jbaqreshy Zreel naq Cvccva orpbzr. Naq gnyyre 🙂

    • flootzavut says:

      V'q or irel unccl gb svaq n Zreel be n Cvccva va zl yhttntr nal gvzr!

  42. Rheinman says:

    OK, now I want to do a Middle-Earth travelouge from an Orc perspective.

  43. Matt says:

    Tolkien meant that these orcs were nomadic, and not a unified force. Not that they were asian. I think you're taking the description a bit too seriously, as there can be other meanings to a descriptor besides the racist connotations.

  44. eyelessgame says:

    (He’s from the Mines of Moria, yes? You can answer this, since he’s dead by the end of the chapter and I’m sure we won’t see more of him again.)

    Hm, go re-read his conversations and the places he's familiar with? There are three groups of Orcs present, all arguing with each other.

  45. Theo says:

    Hopefully non-spoilery: To me, the orcs along with the hobbits are actually the characters that seem the most recognisably English, speaking as they do in a fairly modern English idiom. If anything the issues with their portrayal have to do with classism rather than racism.

    • blossomingpeach says:

      Rfcrpvnyyl pbafvqrevat va gur zbivr znal bs gurz unir fbeg bs Pbpxarl nppragf.

      • Rheinman says:

        Orcs vs. Morlocks, compare and contrast. HG Wells is another early 20th century Brittish author who has even more issues with class. But the upper class twit Eloi don't get much sympathy either, their just pretty and useless.

      • Albion19 says:

        Gung znxrf zr yby, nf n Ybaqbare. Yvxr V frrz gb erpnyy gung bar bs gur Bepf va EBGX fgvyy ybbxrq inthryl Ryivfu naq uvf ibvpr jnf n yvggyr ovg cbfure.

        • flootzavut says:

          I seem to recall that gur Hehx unv va gur zbivrf unq fyvtugyl cbvagrq rnef naq fghss, naq jrer gnyyre, juvpu tnir gurz n fyvtugyl ryira erfrzoyrapr?

          • Albion19 says:

            V'z guvaxvat bs n fcrpvsvp bar. Jura Nentba whzcf bss gur fuvc jvgu gur nezl bs gur qrnq ng uvf onpx. Guvf Bep unf irel yvtug oyhr rlrf.

            • Theo says:

              Gur bssvpre jvgu gur fxhyy perfg?

              Va gur GGG zbivr, Tevfuanxu unf cnyr oyhr rlrf nf jryy, naq Htyhx rira fcbegf oybaq-vfu unve.

            • flootzavut says:

              Buuuuu V qba'g erzrzore uvz ng nyy… abj lbh unir zr vagevthrq.

              • Albion19 says:

                It's this bit:

                Excuse the crappy quality, all I could find. Spoliers for ROTK.

                • flootzavut says:

                  Ahhh I see him. I think I had before, ohg gur rlr pbybhe arire ertvfgrerq.

                  V guvax gurl unq gb jnyx n cerggl svar yvar ba gur zbivrf orgjrra gelvat gb fgnl gehr gb jung jnf jevggra naq ernyyl abg jnagvat gb qb nalguvat enpvfg, V guvax… jryy gurl jrer zber fhpprffphy va fbzr cynprf guna bguref…

                  • Albion19 says:

                    V gubhtug vg jnf vagrerfgvat orpnhfr vg'f n erzvaqre gung gurl hfrq gb or Ryirf. Naq V guvax va guvf pnfr vgf nobhg pynffvfz. Jura Ryirf, jub fcrnx jvgu EC nppragf, ner pbeehcgrq gurl ghea pbpxarl…

    • ljrTR says:


    • ARITHMANCER says:

      I think it is not even really classism. Consider Sam Gamgee, definitely a working-class hero!

      I also got that vibe that Orcs are lower-class British folk in monster costume. It seemed to me a commentary on the (perceived, by Tolkien the hater of factories) dehumanizing effect of working on boring, unrewarding, grinding work with machines for companies.welathy owners in mass-production industries in hideous, filth,. noisy factories rather than for oneself with the hands as had been the case in happier times (as Tolkien would have it).

  46. Jeni says:

    Tolkien from that comment shows that was obviously not perfect, but he did later regret using that comparison, and well… let's just say that the history of the orcs (found in The Silmarillion) is a revelation that I feel does the depth of Tolkien's world justice. Sometimes, good and evil aren't simplistic black and white.
    But on the topic of Tolkien's racism, I'd like to share a letter he wrote to his publisher Unwin, regarding an inquiry he had received from Germany about whether he was of “arisch” extraction.

    "Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any confirmation… and let a German translation go hang. In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print. I do not regard the absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine."

    And in response to the German publisher himself?

    "Thank you for your letter… I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by “arisch.” I am not aware of any 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. . . I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war… I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride."


    • Ryan Lohner says:

      Unfortunately, the publisher's reply to him has been lost.

    • redheadedgirl says:

      What year was that letter written? I'm curious.

      • Jeni says:

        1938, I believe.

        • Rheinman says:

          Pre-war, there was a rather large segment of British who supported the Facists as a bulwark against godless Comunism. I believe Nazi sympathies and the Rudolf Hess plot were factors in shipping off the recently adbicated Eddie VII to Bermuda for the duration of the conflict.

          Nice to see Tolkien standing up to the Nazis before it was cool.

    • gonzoron says:

      I didn't think my esteem for Prof. Tolkien could get any higher. And now it has. Awesome quote.

    • flootzavut says:

      Tolkien proving he was as much of a bamf in his character as any of his heroes 😀

    • ljrTR says:

      I have read that letter before & am so glad you posted it here! Go Tolkien!!
      I know he was not perfect, but I feel, somehow, that he was an honorable man.

    • Dreamflower says:

      Yes, it's quite awesome! The Professor was a master of snark!

    • threerings13 says:

      Wow. That's…that's a truly EPIC burn.

      (Also, I never thought of Tolkien as a German name. Obvious in retrospect.)

    • Delta1212 says:

      This is what you get when one of the most eloquent figures in English literature decides to say “Fuck you, Nazis.”

    • ZeynepD says:

      I was hoping someone would find that quote and post it, because I would have to go home first to look it up in the book…. Thank you.

      (Seriously, what a beautiful, old-timer-English-don courteous way of saying "You are all wastes of oxygen and neurons for trying to set up such a system.")

    • misterbernie says:

      I love that response partly because it's a burn featuring LINGUISTICS FACTUALNESS.

  47. Shannon says:

    Va gur qrsrafr bs gur Unenquevz rgp, Tbaqbe qvq xvaq bs fperj gurz bire.

    • divAndRule says:

      Hi, long time lurker here. I have always wanted to post but everything I have ever wanted to say has always been said better by the other great posters here. 🙂 .V jnf vavgvnyyl naablrq jvgu gur cbegenlny bs gur Unenquevz, gur Rnfgreyvatf naq gur Fbhguebaf ohg V qba'g guvax Gbyxvra jnf orvat enpvfg. V nz erernqvat nybat jvgu Znex nsgre n ybat gvzr fb V nz cnencuenfvat sebz zrzbel , ohg Fnz'f qvnybthr va gur obbx (tvira gb Snenzve va gur zbivr) nobhg gur snyyra Fbhgueba naq jung yvrf jbhyq unir orra gbyq gb uvz gb trg uvz gb pbzr gb jne naq vs ur rira jnagrq gb or urer, fhttrfgf gung Gbyxvra qvq abg pbafvqre gurz na rivy enpr. Nyfb Vs V erzrzore pbeerpgyl gur Unenquevz pbagvahr gb svtug oeniryl rira nsgre Fnheba'f qrsrng naq gur bepf fpnggrevat fhttrfgvat gung gurl unq tevrinaprf jvgu gur Zra bs gur Jrfg orlbaq gurve nyyrtvnapr jvgu Fnheba. Nsgre ernqvat gur Fvyz vg orpbzrf pyrne gung gurl jrer whfgvsvrq va gurve ungerq bs gur Tbaqbevbaf naq gur Ahzrabernaf (gurl ner fhecevfrq ol Nentbeaf gerngvat gurz zrepvshyyl nsgre gur jne) fb gurl znl unir wbvarq jvgu Fnheba fvapr gur rarzl bs na rarzl vf n sevraq.

  48. Deimos says:

    Guys! Guys! Gerrorneq vf arkg! Fb rkpvgrq!

    Also Grishnakh, "He began to paw them and feel them. Pippin shuddered as hard cold fingers groped down his back."

    Gah, such a creeper. Do not want.

    • flootzavut says:

      SO EXCITE!

      And the pawing thing is horrible, really makes me cringe…

    • thimbledore says:

      Haha, when the sentence is isolated like that, it looks kind of funny. XD It makes me want to add, "…to paw them and feel them and call them George".

  49. AmandaNekesa says:

    I know! I feel like watching it too, though I can't because I'm on vacation at my sister's, and they don't have the EEs. Darn.

  50. MidnightLurker says:

    Bu tbq. Gbzbeebj naq Sevqnl.


    Znex vf tbvat gb RKCYBQR JVGU UNCCVARFF.

  51. Ashley says:

    "I’m sure that’s probably Tolkien’s commentary on the culture he stole this whole idea from, as it’s a common racist trope. Portray the villains as people with dark skin and funny facial features because they all have non-white customs that are totally weird and foreign oh my god!1!!!!!1!1!"

    I think you have to be careful in assigning such broad allegorical meaning to the orc culture, firstly because Tolkien despised allegory, and secondly because even though the orcs definitely have some racist undertones, they are first and foremost GOBLINS, which yes, are evil and monstrous and completely irredeemible. I don't think orcs=black people. Not at ALL.

    • Ashley says:

      The damning part of race representation in LOTR for me isn't that the orcs are evil, but in the way that gur bayl aba-juvgr phygherf va Zvqqyr Rnegu jbex sbe gur onq thlf. (I rot13'd that, but I don't actually know if it's a spoiler.) V'z guvaxvat zbfgyl nobhg gur Fbhguebaf urer, ohg rira gura gurer vf gung bar cneg va Gjb Gbjref jura Snenzve ybbxf ng gur qrnq zna jub'f whfg snyyra bss bs gur Byvcunhag naq jbaqref jung yvrf yrq uvz gb guvf cynpr, naq vs ur jnf ernyyl ng urneg n tbbq zna.

      Anyway, I guess my thoughts about all of this is that it's hard to ascribe such awful feelings to a dead guy, especially a dead guy who's main goal in life was to create a mythology for his own culture, a culture that did not include other races in the same way that King Arthur did not include other races. Context is important, I think.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      I don't think Tolkien's opinions of his own work hold any more weight than any one else's, probably less. For all he goes on about it not being allegory, it's clear that it only works as a story because we can relate it to our own lives in some way – so all aspects of the relationship between fiction and reality are up for grabs, really.

      The point that Mark was making, which I agree with, is that if you compare the way that ethnic groups are demonised and belittled with how Tolkien describes the orcs, the techniques are basically the same. That's what makes it uncomfortable (although not, in my opinion, irredeemably so). As I said at length in another post I find it disappointed that this is a fantasy world where it's OK to be racist against Orcs because the racists are correct – the stereotypes are true. I like it that reality is anti-racist, I'm not especially keen on fantasies where it isn't.

      And don't assume that a source from folklore is necessarily OK. The European folk tradition is steeped in anti-Semitic and anti-Roma tropes. It's not a huge jump from Goblins to Gypsies as malevolent outsiders.

  52. rissreader says:

    I am an Asian who was born and raised in the US.
    I was an adult when I first read LotR and I didn't know or remember reading that Tolkien had described the orcs as appearing Mongol-like. Now that it's pointed out to me it's easy to pick-up on some characteristics of the orcs that reflect anti-Asian stereotypes of the time. Offhand, the ones that stand out to me are the ideas of "hordes" of orcs, and of orc life being "cheap" and easily expendable.

    I am rather surprised that on the first page of comments here, person after person after person defends Tolkien by saying he didn't mean it, and/or he was sorry he ever meant it — when it is totally clear and obvious that even aside from the orcs, the values of middle-earth are to prize characters who are light, who are fair, who have golden hair etc., and that most of the bad and evil characters tend to be dark or black. This seems to me to be a pretty standard background racism that is quite common in novels, especially fantasy novels.

    This does not ruin LotR for me. I am totally aware that I am reading a fantasy novel written by a white man with a European background during the mid-20th century (a time when my older sister and brother were being bullied, chased, and spit on because of their race). I am not thrilled by the light is good, dark is evil trope, but I think it's important to notice it on some level even when enjoying someone else's wonderful fantasy world.

    As Mark wisely said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking something that has its problems, as long as you’re willing to engage these things…

    You can love Tolkien and LotR but still recognize the (I presume) unintentional racism. For readers who don't see it at all — I urge you to take another look.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      thank you. oh my god. thank you.

      these comments are so upsetting today.

      • rissreader says:

        *Pats you.*
        On the bright side, at least people are so appalled at the idea of being racist that it pings their defensive response.

        • xpanasonicyouthx says:

          I think more people are appalled at being called a racist or being told they did something racist, not the concept itself unfortunately.

          • rissreader says:

            Honestly, I think that these people here, who have gathered around you Mark, are mostly as against racism as they know how to be. The discussion today has shown that there are a lot of people without a very deep understanding of racism and a lot of some people who seem to fear the label of racism so much that they are getting side-tracked to the point that they seem to have heard something different than what you wrote.

            Now that I think of it, consider what a peculiar job you've created for yourself. Your reviews are mostly of fantasy books. Fantasy books we read for the fantasy; for the escapism and for the adventure. Yet, you review from a perspective that is challenging the "isms" of the real world and not letting us escape that. There are gotta be clashes because of that sometimes.

            I wonder how the Markreads community would respond if you reviewed a book that was intended to come from a progressive pov — like the feminist sci-fi of the 1970's for instance.

            I'm just rambling now… but, I'm sending good thoughts your way.

            • xpanasonicyouthx says:

              It's weird because technically His Dark Materials is a fantasy, too, but that one really ISN'T escapism. It's a fantasy as a response to our world.


              • maccyAkaMatthew says:

                I said it elsewhere: Tolkien can deny he wrote allegory all he likes, but fiction only works in relation to reality, otherwise it wouldn't make sense.

                Even escapist fiction has to frame the escape in terms that make sense to people's lives.

              • rissreader says:

                Sorry I can't ramble more. This is the time that I'm usually asleep.

                You're right about HDM. It's an AU (alternative universe) fantasy.

                I used to vastly prefer science fiction to fantasy. I loved that era in the 1970's when there was a group of writers who were writing feminist and progressive (though we didn't use that word) sci-fi. You probably know about them. Ursula LeGuin was probably my favorite. Samuel Delaney was the most well known man in the movement, and the only gay, male, African-American sci-fi writer that I knew of. I've lost track of the sci-fi trends nowadays.

                • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                  ursula leguin is my QUEEN. oh my god i love her so much.

                  • rissreader says:

                    I'm in Portland, Oregon. She and I share the same city! I adore her.

                  • Jenny_M says:

                    I would love it if you read some of her stuff, but seeing as you've read it before that might not make sense in the context of Mark Reads! Maybe one-of reviews, in the mystical future when you have The Time? (Capitalized because you are a busy, busy guy.)

                  • SisterCoyote says:

                    Ursula Le Guin YESSSS

                    Though this saddens me, because I was going to put The Left Hand of Darkness on the Suggestions list.

            • maccyAkaMatthew says:

              I wonder how the Markreads community would respond if you reviewed a book that was intended to come from a progressive pov — like the feminist sci-fi of the 1970's for instance.

              I think I'll get onto some suggestions once Mark has cleared the page (sometime today?). I was thinking of doing some anyway, that's added another avenue to explore.

              I'm by no means an expert though, so others should also suggest. Current thinking: Samuel R Delany; Marge Piercy; Ursula Le Guin; Suzette Elgin; Joanna Russ; Octavia Butler and maybe Thomas M. Disch.

              There are probably newer writers as well.

              And although he's writing from a straight white male perspective, I already had Michael Moorcock in my head as an interesting contrast to Tolkien. However, only Elric seems to be in print in the in the US at the moment, which isn't his most interesting stuff.

              Definitely going to do a Love and Rockets recommendation as well.

              • xpanasonicyouthx says:

                I'm almost done with my last review for next week, so please suggest these!!

                • maccyAkaMatthew says:

                  It's night time here in sunny Yorkshire, so I'll do it sometime tomorrow, I think. As usual with me I have far too many thoughts and it'll probably take me ages to get through them.

                  From your other comments, can I guess that you've already read lots of Ursula LeGuin?

      • maccyAkaMatthew says:

        I'm so glad the tide had turned a bit in the comments. I posted at length early on and then felt compelled to spam a link to that post because it felt like everyone was posting variations on the same, misguided, theme.

        I really hope that everyone gets it now.

    • rubyjoo says:

      I'm obviously sorry that your siblings suffered from racism (although name me one country, in any part of the world, where racist bullying of the "other" does not go on) but I don't think that those who have sprung to Tolkien's defence are necessarily in denial – they just want Mark and others to get the fuller picture before making a decision one way or the other.

      Of course many of Tolkien's characters have white skins and fair hair – because he was writing a mythology for the white, Anglo-Saxon English, based on their blond-haired, blue-eyed ancestors. Even so, Boromir and Arwen have black hair and even some of the families of Hobbits have darker skins than others. The word "horde" may be used in the phrase "Mongol Hordes" but it was also used early in the word's history to describe hordes of white-skinned European tribes such as the Goths and the Gauls. Like you, I didn't notice the word "mongol" the first time I read the book and the Orcs left me with images of monstrous goblins from English fairy tales. Once it was pointed out, I had to admit that this was unfortunate and, in today's terms, racist. No writer today could get away with this and leave with his reputation unscathed, but we're not talking about writers today and we need to see Tolkien as a man of his time – and, as a man of his time, I think he passes the test. I hope you get to read the letter that he wrote and which someone has printed on page 3 where he responded to his German publisher who asked if he was Jewish. I think that defines the man more than his casual and unfortunate use of the word "mongol". However, I'm really glad that this hasn't spoiled the enjoyment of the book for you.

      BTW, I feel as if I'm stepping in where angels fear to tread and I hope I haven't given any offence.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        You haven't, and I'm glad you're commenting, but (I can't believe I'm going to type this) I think you've read really far into what I've said?

        As you said, it's unfortunate. This is all I ask. We acknowledge that it's unfortunate, and then we collectively move on. Just like I did in the review! Like, it is just baffling to me that I spent only two paragraphs criticizing something, and then like 40 celebrating it, and people are acting like I just pooped on Tolkien's grave.

        • Dreamflower says:

          Oh I hope that's not the impression! I certainly don't think you meant any disrespect to him to point out a choice of words that *is* problematical.

          As the poster up above says, there is a fuller picture of the man, and it's a good thing to know he was likely not a conscious racist.– save in the matter of the Normans.

          I think you probably did not realize that you touched on a hot-button topic in many Tolkien forums. There are others who HAVE disrespectfully accused him of deliberate racism, so you have bumped up against what, on reflection are knee-jerk responses to the mention of Tolkien and racism in the same sentence.

          I completely admire your own stance on the use of problematical language in your own forums, and I've learned a lot just reading of certain words that I've never contextualized as problematical before. Truth is, we sometimes even use words without even knowing what they really mean. You do a good service in educating people. (I know that I myself will be much more careful over the casual use of some words that have been called "ablist". That's never anything that ever occurred to me before.)

          Thank you.

      • rissreader says:

        Hmm. Well. I am a bit offended.
        When you say, I'm obviously sorry that your siblings suffered from racism but then follow it by saying (although name me one country, in any part of the world, where racist bullying of the "other" does not go on) I feel as if you are inferring that racism may be sad, but it isn't significant because it's so commonplace. When you challenge me to name you a country that does not have racist bullying it sounds to me as if you expect me to accept it because it is the world-wide norm. If that is what you mean, please avoid replying to my comments in the future.

        Perhaps you meant something else. And, perhaps I wasn't clear about why I added that piece of personal information. I wrote about my brother and sister to illustrate that racism towards far east Asians was more virulent and obvious when Tolkien was writing his epic. Anti-Asian racism was a stronger part of the background noise of the time (although, I don't have specifics on how it manifested in the UK) and as such it is understandable how those prejudices and stereotypes would be reflected in his work.

        If you want to say more about this, please be aware that I probably won't be able to respond for 6-9 hours.

    • tardis_stowaway says:

      Yes to this comment.

      It's possible to love a book (or other media work) deeply and still acknowledge that it has racism or other prejudice, especially when it's a work from historical times. Tolkien used some racist tropes that were common in his time. That doesn't make the book worthless, but the overall worth of the book doesn't invalidate the claims of racism.

      Many people may have the experience of having an elderly relative who they love but who sometimes makes racist, homophobic, or otherwise prejudiced remarks. LOTR is like your grandma who is in many ways an awesome person and a great role model, but bears certain prejudices common in the time and place she was raised. It is okay to love grandma and still acknowledge that she occasionally says awful things! The fact that your beloved granny didn't really mean to be hurtful doesn't make that prejudiced remark okay. You might or might not be able to stop grandma at this stage in her life, but pointing things to your other relatives out can help future generations reduce the prejudice.

    • Theo says:

      I agree there's a ton of racism-related issues with LotR. I'm just saying I don't think the portrayal of the orcs is really one of them. Gur jubyr guvat jvgu cher oybbqyvarf naq fb ba vf zhpu jbefr, sbe vafgnapr.

      I'm in no way looking to absolve Tolkien of unintentional racism, and I'm certainly not looking to take anyone's experiences or impressions away from them. I can sort of see the whole orcs-as-Huns thing, though as has been pointed out by others, them being cheap hordes of cannon-fodder is probably more a reflection of Tolkien's own experience in WWI. Nyfb, jr qb trg npghny "aba-Jrfgrea ubeqrf" yngre ba va gur sbez bs Rnfgreyvatf naq Fbhguebaf, naq gurfr ner ba gur jubyr gerngrq snveyl flzcngurgvpnyyl. Gurl ner cerggl rkcyvpvgyl Fnheba'f pbybavny gebbcf.

    • dasmondschaf says:

      Oh my gosh, thank you SO MUCH for this; I haven't been very active during the LotR posts because I haven't read the books in so long, but so far I've really enjoyed reading everyone else's comments… but dang, today is suddenly a storm of NO U DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY TOLKIEN IS NOT RACIST/WHY I AM NOT RACIST/WHY ORCS ARE NOT RACIST.

      It has made me kind of sad, but your comment (and the ensuing discussion!) is wonderful~

    • BetB says:

      I was searching for a way to comment on this without putting my foot in my mouth. Thank you for posting this since it says a lot of what I was feeling about the story.

      There are racist overtones to the story, period. I love the books, but I don't love some of the themes that lurk in the background. I recognize the racism and I look forward to having things I may have missed pointed out for discussion. Hopefully, the discussions won't be too contentious.

  53. rubyjoo says:

    Please, Mark, read everything that people have posted about Tolkien and racism. If you still think he's a racist after that, then fair enough.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:


      this is so genuinely upsetting to me because nearly every person defending him too me doing one thing, and turned it into me saying he was A racist. I DID NOT SAY THAT.


    • stefb4 says:

      But Mark is NOT saying that Tolkien was a racist. He was saying that the depiction of the evil orcs that have rather racial undertones is problematic. Just because Tolkien was a product of his time (and actually WAS rather progressive in the anti-racism factor), does not mean that we can't look at these problematic depictions and call him out on it. The only way that we can overcome this is if we look critically at beloved works and people (such as Tolkien) and say "Well hey, don't do this." If we continue to defend this with the excuse that "well, he was a product of his time so it's okay" or "he didn't really MEAN it" (even if he genuinely didn't) then we are never going to overcome this issue.

      It's like some people at Watches defending actions of Buffy characters by saying "WELL IT'S THE 90S GIVE THEM A BREAK, GOD." It does not make it okay (even worse with Buffy being a product that is less than 15 years old).

      I personally don't see the Mongol-based influences in Orcs, because I had seen the first movie before reading the books, but that doesn't mean other people DON'T. And it's okay for them to voice their opinions on it and say if it makes them feel uncomfortable and WHY it does. It doesn't mean they suddenly hate everything about Tolkien and LotR, which Mark clearly loves. He's just critiquing one thing he sees as a problem.

    • Raenef_the_5th says:

      Go back and read the review.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        Sorry, this comment made me laugh because it's just so perfect and true.

        <3 you.

        • rubyjoo says:

          Well, I wrote this post some hours ago before things got a bit heated, went away and had dinner and then came back and, reading from page 1, suddenly found an endless discussion on what Mark had said. My comment must have seemed very irritating and superfluous after all that, LOL! I'm sorry about that, Mark and I would remove it if I could but I can't. I think that everyone has expressed themselves very eloquently and very fully and I have nothing left to say.

  54. mulewagon says:

    Mark, I know you didn't want people to try to convince you that you were wrong, but fair is fair!

    To add another point to the "Are Orcs representing Asians?" question, Tolkien never said that the speech or customs of the Orcs were inspired by Asians. And they don't bear any resemblance to any human language or customs. He didn't deal in generics – when he wanted to echo a human culture, he echoed it in precise, scholarly detail.

    A similar example is the assumption by some readers that "Black Riders" somehow refer to black people. But a close reading shows that while most people can only see the Riders' black robes and horses, Frodo sees them as they are – as pale kings.

    It's important to remember that we modern people also have our own preconceptions and prejudices! 😉

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      No, fair is not fair. NO. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

      Tolkien said something unfortunate. I think it's unfortunate and relies on a trope. That's the end of my point. The end. I don't think Tolkien is a racist, I never said he was, and I went out of my way to state that this affects and ruins NOTHING in my reading in this chapter.

      Why are you doing this?

      • Lyra says:

        This probably won't make you feel any less upset by the hundreds of comments trying to explain how you're wrong (or read that wrong, or how it's different in the movies, or what Tolkien said later, or whatever) – but try to remember that this is a pretty old fandom. Some arguments and allegations – including the racism one – have been going on for over 50 years now. People feel very strongly about it (particularly as to those who've been in the fandom for a while, it feels as if they've had to argue their point a hundred times already), so they just can't lay off and shut up. It's like a beehive – once you accidentally squashed one bee, the others will sting you even if it kills them. Or, because we're not dealing with bees here, continue to argue even if the only point it'll serve at this point is to piss you off. 🙁

  55. arctic_hare says:


    I'm so tired of this. This kind of crap is why I'm no longer going to be posting comments on Watches, because I got sick of people doing this sort of thing to me when I'd point out sexist things/implications I saw in Buffy. I am pissed as all hell to see people doing it to Mark here when he sees racist implications in LOTR. Look, I love LOTR too, but that doesn't mean I don't see problematic things in it. As Mark says, it's perfectly possible and okay to like stuff that's problematic. That's pretty much inevitable! Because what show/book/movie/etc. is free of them? None. So yeah. No one is wrong for liking entertainment that has problematic elements, and especially not for pointing them out while still enjoying them. Like it or not, that is what we do on these sites. Deal with it. Stop trying to silence people calling out and criticizing aspects of a work that make them uncomfortable.

    I had stuff I wanted to say about this chapter, about my love for Pippin and Merry and how sad and awful and scary their ordeal was, but I'm too upset now by this shit to do that.

    • SweetVerda says:

      Oh dear. Please don't leave, arguing with you is the best part of re-watching Buffy!

      • jenesaispas21 says:

        And for those of us that enjoy reasoned debate, reading those comment threads is one of the best parts of both Mark Reads and Mark Watches. I hate to think that the people propagating the wank "won" by silencing you…

        On the other hand, I DO understand not partcipating if it causes you distress to fight that uphill battle (I'll just be over here in my selfishly disappointed corner 😉

    • Saphling says:


      As Mark says, it's perfectly possible and okay to like stuff that's problematic…. No one is wrong for liking entertainment that has problematic elements, and especially not for pointing them out while still enjoying them. "


    • Mirima says:

      I had thoughts on the chapter too, but I don't know what they were anymore after reading the comments 🙁

      • Saphling says:

        You're not the only one. I had thoughts I wanted to get down about Pippin's cleverness and resourcefulness in the face of danger, less than a chapter after thinking himself to be little more than luggage for more powerful people than himself, and what sort of moral about self-image and self-worth that's supposed to be projecting to the reader. Also, thoughts on Orc medical practices.

        But… this whole debacle kind of put me off wanting to discuss anything. Bleh. Left a taste in my mouth worse than that fiery medicine Pippin and Merry take.

    • maccyAkaMatthew says:

      Everything you say is true and right and I'm so sorry that the comment flood has been this upsetting for you.

      I'm hoping, with all the repetition, that people will get the idea and things will calm down.

      I hope you manage to come back soon as well – lots of people will miss you while you're not commenting.

    • dasmondschaf says:

      Oh no, I'm so sad to hear that you won't be commenting on Buffy anymore! Even when I disagreed with you, your observations tended to be really great and your comments make an excellent read. I just hate that the end result is basically your voice being silenced; that is, frankly, the opposite of what the Mark Does Stuff community should be about.

    • Becky_J_ says:

      THANK YOU. Good lord. I am so glad that I commented early, about exactly what you said, love for Merry and Pippin and all, and then had an entire day at school to NOT check back…. then I get back here and shit has gone straight to hell. I mean, yes, this is a discussion community…. but PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE SAYING. Poor Mark, I am sure he is so freaking done with this post today. How many times has he said the same thing over and over?? I lost count a long time ago.

      This is why I stick to spouting my love of the characters…. NO ONE CAN MISUNDERSTAND MY LOVE FOR PIPPIN AND MERRY. And also, they can't argue with it, because they would be wrong.

    • platoapproved says:

      Nooo I am going to miss you on Watches, I always 100% agree with what you have to say in your comments, and you say it in a much more articulate and elegant way than I ever could. :c

      Then again, I can hardly blame you for not wanting to post there anymore, considering.

  56. AmandaNekesa says:

    Oh man, today's comments are just exploding about Tolkien's portrayals of race. I try to see it both ways. Every time I re-read LotR I'm rather shocked by the descriptions that are given of the orcs & Uruk-hai, and rfcrpvnyyl gung gurl nccrne gb or veerqrrznoyl rivy. This stuff is clearly problematic.

    At the same time, I can also recognize that Tolkien struggled with his portrayal of the orcs, and that he also demonstrated a forward-thinking attitude regarding race in his time, especially his reaction to the German publishers (love Tolkien's sass there). While it sheds some light on the topic, it doesn't dismiss the issue, either. While Tolkien may have later regretted his depiction of the orcs and Uruk-hai, it doesn't eliminate the fact that there are issues in the text, and it can be extremely off-putting for many people, for good reason.

    Basically all I'm saying is that I agree with what Mark said in this review, that no matter our perspectives, we need to make sure we're not dismissing or trying to change other peoples' opinions or reactions. We are all different people, with different perspectives and experiences; we are not all going to pick up on or take offense to the same things. It's a fact of life, really. So, if a comment or a point can't be made in a respectful way, I tend to think the best thing to do is to hold off, and not comment.

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:

      thank you

      if you would like a hug i have them to give out


    • Mirima says:

      I agree with you.

      In wikipedia there's a mention of scholarly debate about racism in Tolkien's works, which I find really interesting. Here's what is said:

      "Christine Chism distinguishes accusations as falling into three categories: intentional racism, unconscious Eurocentric bias, and an evolution from latent racism in Tolkien's early work to a conscious rejection of racist tendencies in his late work.
      Tolkien expressed disgust at what he acknowledged as racism and once wrote of racial segregation in South Africa, "The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain.""

      Has anyone here read this article by Christine Chism in J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia? I haven't but I'd love to.

      • AmandaNekesa says:

        No, I haven't read that article, I'd be curious to check it out though. It seems clear that Tolkien's perspective towards race/racism, and awareness of latent racism, developed and changed throughout his life. LotR demonstrates one particular point along this line of his life, and, had he written the books later in life, I think we may have had a much different description of the Orcs. Still, the problem is still there in the text, and should be recognized as problematic. I like what Mark has said today, that the recognition of the problem with the Orcs' description is the main point, and from there we can move on to enjoy the story.

    • hpfish13 says:

      A lot of this discussion reminds of a movie my mom Netflixed called Finian's Rainbow. She rented it because it was Fred Astaire's last film, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and had Keenan Wynn in it. The movie (and the stage show it was based upon) were viewed as being progressive at the time that they were made. They addressed issues of racism and other things, but the execution of the ideas kind of ruins everything.

      (I haven't actually watched the movie so my knowledge of it second hand)

      One of the plot lines involves a racist senator (Keenan Wynn) who gets turned into a black man when someone wishes for it to happen while unknowingly standing over a pot of Leprechaun gold (this movie is weird, alright…). The idea was for him to get an understanding of what it feels like to be on the other side of things. The only thing is, to have this character be black, they basically just put Keenan Wynn in black-face for the rest of the movie. o.0

      On top of all this, the movie is full of stereotypes about Irish people and is sexist.

      My mom realized, that in trying to make a movie that was about racism and how bad it was, the people involved had actually made something that was racist. She wasn't saying that Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Astaire, or Keenan Wynn were racist, but that the film they had made used horrible racist tropes.

      tl;dr I agree with you

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:


        I watched it with my parents and it was just SO AWKWARD!!!

        • hpfish13 says:

          Is it as bad as it sounded to me? Because I swear you could see my eyes getting wider and my mouth dropping further open in shock the more she told me about it.

      • AmandaNekesa says:

        Oh wow, yeah that sounds like quite the movie… It's interesting how one generation's version of progressive thought inevitably becomes incredibly inappropriate for the generations to come.

      • notemily says:

        I haven't seen this movie, but one of my favorite Astaire/Rogers movies is Swing Time… except for the scene in blackface. :/ :/ :/ I know it was meant to be a tribute to a dancer he admired, but it still makes me feel like I need a shower.

  57. sixth_queen says:

    Unfortunately, this is going to get a LOT worse when Znex pbzrf gb gur rnfgreyvatf naq gur fbhguebaf naq fjnegul zra naq nyy gung.

    • flootzavut says:

      Lrnu 🙁

      • Jenny_M says:

        Do…do people really argue that gubfr punenpgrevmngvbaf nera'g ceboyrzngvp? Cyrnfr gryy zr ab?

        • flootzavut says:

          Jryy V ernyyl ubcr abg, orpnhfr jungrire crbcyr guvax nobhg gur bepf, naq rira pbafvqrevat gung Gbyxvra xvaqn fbegn yrsg uvzfrys jvgu ab cynpr gb tb gb svaq arj rarzvrf ol guvf cbvag, naq gung ur jnf jevgvat zlgubybtl sbe Abegurea Rhebcr (juvpu znxr vg n _ovg_ yrff vpxl) V guvax vg'f fheryl havirefnyyl… ceboyrzngvp, funyy jr fnl, gung gur bayl CBP va YBGE ner ba gur onq fvqr. Ohg lrnu… V guvax vg pbhyq or synpx wnpxrgf naq gva ungf gvzr vs nalbar qbrf gel gb nethr vg'f cresrpgyl BX.

          Enaqbz gubhtug: V jbaqre vs cneg bs gur ernfba gur bepf/tboyvaf arire obgurerq zr va gung ertneq vf orpnhfr V qvqa'g unir n pyrne cvpgher bs gurz orsber gur zbivrf, naq gur zbivrf qba'g (VVEP) cbegenl gurz nf fynagl rlrq be erzbgryl Nfvna ybbxvat… uzzz… fbeel, ncebcbf bs abguvat zhpu ohg vg whfg bppheerq gb zr o.0

    • calimie says:

      Pretty much. I hadn't read that quote before so I had no problem with Orcs ohg gur bgure pbhagevrf Fnheba rafynirf… Ng yrnfg gurl tbg n flzcngurgvp ybbx naq svany crnpr jvgu Nentbea.

  58. Katarina says:

    The Orcs are just unfortunate all around, aren't they, what with the tying evil to ugly, and ugly to swarthy/slant-eyed, and the whole theological issue of whether something can be evil by design. (On that last point, I feel a similar irritation with Buffyverse vampires, and the waffling on whether they're evil by choice or design. Fcvxr va cnegvphyne. Ubj gur urpx pna lbh fvzhygnarbhfyl pynvz gung n perngher vf rivy ol qrfvta, naq orengr uvz sbe vg?)

    (Yeah, there's a reason I actually wrote an Uruk-Hai Mary Sue once upon a time.)

    But maybe because of that, I do enjoy seeing the Orcs get a bit of personality here, and I am fascinated by how often they use their own names, Uglúk in particular. "I am Uglúk!" Who does that? It makes me wonder if it's a name at all, or some sort of title. Maybe it means "Over-general of your sorry asses, punks."

    • xpanasonicyouthx says:



    • flootzavut says:

      Buffyverse spoilery: V pyrneyl arrq gb jngpu gur frevrf cebcreyl vafgrnq bs va gur cngpul jnl V unir, ohg V unir nyjnlf orra pbashfrq ol gur jubyr Fcvxr guvat – V zrna V gubhtug vg jnf rfgnoyvfurq gung inzcverf ner ONQ naq unir AB FBHYF naq gurersber, gurl ner lbh xabj snve tnzr, naq Natry bayl unf n pbafpvrapr orpnhfr bs n phefr… naq gura Fcvxr pbzrf nybat naq trgf nyy vagebfcrpgvir nobhg orvat n inzcver naq trgf tbg ng sbe vg naq V qba'g haqrefgnaq ubj gubfr gjb guvatf pna pb-rkvfg. Vs gurl'er cher rivy, gura gurl'er cher rivy. Vs gurl'er abg, gura… jung?

      The short way of saying that is that your ROT13 comment I can totally understand your irritation.

      And that fic is brilliant 😀

      • Katarina says:

        Lrnu, vg'f ernyyl zhexl, juvpu jbhyq or bxnl vs gur fubj npxabjyrqtrq gur zhexvarff, ohg vg zbfgyl frrzf gb nibvq zragvbavat vg. Vg trgf rira jrveqre jvgu qrzbaf – Naln nf n qrzba npgf zhpu gur fnzr jnl nf Naln nf n uhzna, lrg vg'f bxnl sbe Ohssl gb xvyy gur qrzba ohg abg gur uhzna? Naq inzcverf ner fb rivy gurl pna or xvyyrq serfuyl sebz gur tenir, ohg Rguna pna'g or xvyyrq orpnhfr ur'f uhzna… VQRX.

        And thanks!

        • flootzavut says:

          It's the inconsistency and then the inconsistency being ignored… Like I said, V arrq gb jngpu gurz cebcreyl orpnhfr V unira'g, naq n ybg bs gur fgbelyvarf nerIREL fxrgpul sbe zr, ohg lrf, gubfr xvaq bs vapbafvfgrapvrf bs xvyyvat fbzrguvat/fbzrbar orpnhfr bs vgf fcrpvrf, vs vg'f npgvat va n jnlgung vf abg gehr gb gung fcrpvrfnaq… vg'f n funzr, orpnhfr vg qbrf pnhfr Ceboyrzf. Vg'f n yvggyr yvxr (gubhtu abg fb onq nf!) ubj Fzrlre znxrf hc ehyrf va ure inzcverirefr naq gura oernxf gurz jvgu ab dhnyzf va beqre gung fur pna znxr fher rirelguvat jbexf bhg sbe Oryyn. Orvat n arjobea vf n avtugzner… sbe rirelbar rkprcg Oryyn. Inzcverf gnxr gvzr gb ertnva uhzna srryvatf… rkprcg Oryyn. Oryyn unf gjb zra vaybir jvgu ure… onz, Wnpbo vzcevagf ba gur oengyvat.

          V guvax yvzvgngvbaf naq ehyrf naq guvatf gung "pna'g" unccra ner bsgra jung znxrf n fgbel vagrerfgvat, fb vs gubfr ehyrf ner tbvat gb or oebxra, gurl arrq gb or oebxra evtug, naq gur vapbafvfgrapl arrqf gb or cneg bs gur fgbel fbzrubj…

          Vg'f irel jrveq…

  59. xpanasonicyouthx says:

    wait can i also just state

    that i don't think i've ever commented so much on one of my own posts

    oh my god so that means the LotR fandom technically wins in the end


    • rabidsamfan says:

      I don't think I've ever seen a post hit 400 comments this fast. It's been what, five hours?

    • Icarus says:

      The LotR fandom is kind of like that. It's got volumes of appendixes, a History From The Dawn Of Time, and Tolkien throws in a set of encyclopedias.

      Welcome to Meta-land.

  60. Raenef_the_5th says:

    Whoa guys, the comments section today I… will skip. I mean I love Tolkien's books, maybe he was progressive in somethings, and acknowledge that some things were the product of his time, but there were still things in there that make me pause. It's not perfect but that's okay?! Jung'f tbvat gb unccra jura Znex ernpurf Unenqevz hu… Gur zbivrf rfcrpvnyyl znxr gur pubvprf bs phygheny frcnengvbaf va gur fgbel pyrne.

  61. I normally don't double-post- especially since I should be revising a paper that's due in an hour or so… but guys. GUYS. You all know this, right?Unfortunate Implications
    What's in the actual text are implications. Which are very, very unfortunate.
    And guess what? The Mongol comparison is a very racist comparison. YOU DON'T NEED TO DEFEND IT. As Mark has said multiple times, he doesn't hate the book for this. So why is this still such an issue? Tolkien said some problematic things in his time. He has some ideas that aren't correct. It doesn't diminish the value or the power of his work, nor is it a knock on his work to point these things out. I think it's interesting to talk about his mistakes, or why he might have thought the way he did, but for the love of God and all things holy, you don't need to justify his mistakes to appreciate his genius! He was human! As in- NOT PERFECT! It happens, and it's not something to get up in arms about, or tell people they're reading too much into it. You can still enjoy an imperfect thing, and there's so much good to take away from LOTR; it won't kill anyone to acknowledge some of the bad.

    Okay, sorry… rant over. I just really wanted to get that off my mind. Back to this paper…

  62. Icarus says:

    Grishnákh's from Mordor, as others have mentioned. It's likely he was involved in the torture of Gollum. He knew too much about the ring, and then when Pippin makes that "gollum, gollum" noise, Grishnákh recognizes it immediately. "Oh, is that what he means?" I suppose listening in on the interrogation of Gollum was weary work, and confusing….

  63. Alexander_G says:

    I had a post ready about a study on baboon behavior being 'inherently violent and evil' that always reminds me of the orks, but seeing the current state of the comments I'll just say:

  64. Eira says:

    (No time to read comments today and I apologize if I am repeating lots of stuff that's already been said.)

    First of all; what is this orc-characters-based-on-prejudice-theory? Is there a source somewhere, or is just speculations? I honestly can't say that I've managed to read anything out of the orch-storyline that gives me the impression that they are based on a real group of people. Not that I'm doubting you guys, as I have far less experience in the meta-world of Tolkien than most of you, but I am curious as I always believed orchs to be based on creatures from fairy tales ect.

    Well I have to say that if this is correct it is fairly disappointing. I don't think it will affect much on how I think about the book in means of quality, because it's a masterpiece with no doubt, but I've always read it in a very optimistic way as to the "anti war and different creatures living and fighting together despite old prejudices, oh well.

    Naq ol gur jnl: JURA ZNEX JEBGR "FJRRG ONOL TNAQNYS, CVCCVA VF NYVIR. BU ZL TBQ. BU ZL TBQ LRF.", qvq nalbar ryfr guna zr ernq gur fragrapr nf "tnaqnys vf nyvir"? V unq gb er-ernq vg gjvpr gb haqrefgnaq gung ur gnyxrq nobhg Tnaqnys nf n svther bs fcrrpu.

    Ohg V pna'g jnvg hagvy gur zbzrag pbzrf! UR JVYY OR FB UNCCL. 😀

    • Mauve_Avenger says:

      In a letter, Tolkien wrote that the physical appearance of orcs is "…squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types."

      In this chapter, the Isengard orcs are described as swart and slant-eyed:

      "The hobbits were left with the Isengarders: a grim dark band, four score at least of large, swart, slant-eyed Orcs with great bows and short broad-bladed swords."

      The orc-chieftain in Moria who attacked Frodo is described in similar terms:

      "But even as they retreated, and before Pippin and Merry had reached the stair outside, a huge orc-chieftain, almost man-high, clad in black mail from head to foot, leaped into the chamber; behind him his followers clustered in the doorway. His broad flat face was swart, his eyes were like coals, and his tongue was red; he wielded a great spear."

      Ugluk (and later all the Isengarders as a group, which I didn't initially catch) also refer to the Rohirrim as "Whiteskins," which doesn't make sense as a descriptor unless the orcs themselves are non-white:

      "'Let the fighting Uruk-hai do the work, as usual. If you're afraid of the Whiteskins, run!'"

      "'Splendid!' laughed Ugluk. 'But unless you've got some guts for fighting, you've taken the wrong way. Lugburz was your road. The Whiteskins are coming.'"

      "'Maggots!' jeered the Isengarders. 'You're cooked. The Whiteskins will catch you and eat you. They're coming!'"

      "'There's only one thing these maggots can do: they can see like gimlets in the dark. But these Whiteskins have better night-eyes than most Men, from all I've heard; and don't forget their horses!'"

      I missed it the first time 'round, but it seems that the first hint that orcs are slant-eyed and sallow happened quite a while back, when the hobbits were in Bree, in the form of one of the southerners. The first description of him:

      "One of the travellers, a squint-eyed ill-favoured fellow, was foretelling that more and more people would be coming north in the near future."

      Then after Frodo's mishap with the Ring after his song. The "swarthy" Bree-lander is the scheming Bill Ferny, who later gets described as a "swarthy, sneering fellow" by Aragorn, and so far is the only other character to get that descriptor:

      "But there was one swarthy Bree-lander, who stood looking at them with a knowing and half-mocking expression that made them feel very uncomfortable. Presently he slipped out of the door, followed by the squint-eyed southerner: the two had been whispering together a good deal during the evening."

      The next morning, when it's found that the stables had been deliberately emptied:

      "The southern travellers had lost several horses and blamed the innkeeper loudly, until it became known that one of their own number had also disappeared in the night, none other than Bill Ferny's squint-eyed companion. Suspicion fell on him at once."

      It isn't until Aragorn and the hobbits leave Bree that the connection becomes apparent, though:

      "The hobbits took no notice of the inquisitive heads that peeped out of doors, or popped over walls and fences, as they passed. But as they drew near to the further gate, Frodo saw a dark ill-kept house behind a thick hedge: the last house in the village. In one of the windows he caught a glimpse of a sallow face with sly, slanting eyes; but it vanished at once.

      "'So that's where that southerner is hiding!' he thought. 'He looks more than half like a goblin.'"

    • ljrTR says:

      I don't know where the orcs as mongols thing came from either. NOT from the book – they are just generic fairy tale monsters there to me. Apparently in some of JRRT's writing somewhere there is a reference to orcs as mongol-like.
      Apparently some people thought I was being condescending or disrespectful when I stated my opinions earlier. I never, never meant to be.
      I probably won't post here anymore – because I really am not condescending & I hate being thought of that way. I love that everyone has their own opinions. Love that so many care about LOTR.

      Anyway "I've always read it in a very optimistic way as to the "anti war and different creatures living and fighting together despite old prejudices, oh well. " – me too.

      and Mark – sorry if my comments were some of the ones that bothered you. really, really didn't mean to. I will continue to enjoy your chapter reviews and I hope you continue to enjoy the book!

  65. divAndRule says:

    I am a long time lurker and first time poster and I posted what may be construed as a defence of Tolkien somewhere earlier on the thread without reading all the comments. The comment was entirely in rot13 and was just meant to add to the ongoing discussion. I truly understand why Mark feels this way and did not have any intention of devaluing his opinion. I feel similarly about the Narnia books and would not like to be told that I was wrong either. I really hope I didn't start off on the wrong foot as a commentor. Despite the rather unfortunate turn the comments have taken I hope you continue to read and enjoy the books, Mark. I love these reviews and they really are the highlight of my day. 🙂

  66. thimbledore says:

    Okay, the idea for this entered my brain wouldn't leave me alone, so I made this in like 10 minutes at work in MS Paint. Please pardon the absolutely pathetic quality. XD

    <img src="; width="500" height="264" alt="anchorman lotr">

  67. gallowsCalibrator says:

    Oh my gog guys. Guys. Guys. Deploying chill pills into conversation in 3. 2. 1
    Now, here is my own opinion on the discussion: I never saw any sort of racism or bigotry in the depiction here (but this could be because I am TERRIBLE at seeing those things in books/movies anyway). In fact this is one of my favourite chapters ever because of the insight into the culture. Hell, I'd read a whole book about just orcs for more stuff. I just read it as what it is: two of the heroes being captured by the enemy.
    And this is not how you should feel. It is my own opinion, and all of your opinions are equally valued and considered.
    Mark, you are awesome.
    Obligatory Homestuck gif to show my feelings of the discussion:

  68. rabidsamfan says:

    I tend to see the orcs as problematic too, which is probably why I've developed odd theories about them being kinda of monochromatic and distorted. And I find myself kind of fascinated by the way they're convinced they're in the right — kind of like looking at a trainwreck in progress! Naq yngre, jura jr zrrg Bepf jub pna erzrzore gur YNFG jne, jura Fnheba ybfg gur Evat, gurl trg rira zber vagrerfgvat.

    But for me, the best part of this chapter is the hobbits. They endure so much, and yet when the opportunity comes to escape they don't panic. They take the time to eat a little and rest before moving away from what must have been a very frightening battle. Now that's adaptability!

    • calimie says:

      "monochromatic and distorted"
      Wow, that's terrifying, I love it!

      • rabidsamfan says:

        When I first ran across the Margaret Thatcher optical illusion thing, I did this huge doubletake because the wrongness of the eyes upside down in the face seemed frighteningly familiar to me. It's only rereading now that I've managed to bring those two things together (I have a rotten visual imagination, so I have to get hit over the head with things sometimes.) Since I knew a little about the origins of orcs, that kind of basic difference from any natural facial configuration just made sense to me, as if gurl'q orra gnxra ncneg naq gura chg onpx gbtrgure jebat.

        • calimie says:

          I have problems visualizing things sometimes: I get an idea in my head and no matter how often the author says otherwise, it's very hard fo me to change it. In this case, I've always pictured orcs with big round eyes, like more traditional goblins and the like. My brain is very good at skipping lines that don't agree with that so I've always ignored all those "slanted eyes" descriptions. Ugh.
          Bep'f onpxfgbel vf fb gentvp. V xrrc ubcvat gung jura gurl qvr gurl ernpu gur Unyyf bs Znaqbf naq pna erfg gurer.

          • rabidsamfan says:

            Mostly it says squinty eyes, which to me always meant that the Orcs were short-sighted (I live in a family full of people who need glasses) until I became aware that other people read that differently. Well, short-sighted or squinting against too much light. Rereading I've only run across slant eyed in the description of how different the Uruk-hai are from the other orcs Boromir killed. But I'll keep watching for it as we go on.

  69. Alice says:

    And now we have Merry's and Pippin's side of the story,and… the nasty Orcs,def not a fun bunch.And they finally get some names ;).It's been already said about Grishnak,so I'm not gonna repeat it.I can't wait for the next chapter. 😀
    As for the art of this chapter,I will repost the image drawn by Alan Lee(someone posted it before me,I know, but this one is high def or smth like that :p )

    <img src=""&gt;

    and another one from the master,the hobbits entering Fangorn Forrest

    <img src=""&gt;

    …and by the brothers Hildebrandt (their orcs are funny and kindda porcupine :p like that Ralf dude from that TV show,or whatever his name was)

    <img src=""&gt;

    No Ted Nasmith for today :D.

  70. Jessica says:

    New here, and this is absolutely delightful. It's been too long since I've read these books, and reading these is like reading them anew… which I should really get around to doing soon. Mark, I adore your concern for the hobbits. Because the hobbits are THE BEST and nobody can take that away from me.

    Anyway, I feel compelled to mention a fanfic that I can dig out if any of the commenters are interested, which deals mainly with orcs and their culture and is really compelling (and super spoilery, by the way, which is why I'm not describing it in full here). I hadn't really thought about the orcs much prior to reading it, and of course, reading this. It's cool watching a perception of orcs through a more mature and incisive reader than I was when I first read LOTR.

  71. xpanasonicyouthx says:


    this is now the #1 most commented post on the site ever

    i'd be more proud if half the comments didn't make me feel sad

    but STILL

    • AmandaNekesa says:

      Does it help that there's a thread with about 70+ comments about the particular attractiveness of certain hobbits?

    • Joshua says:

      What's really weird is that Balrog's wings have not been mentioned.

      • Steve Morrison says:

        Which goes to show that “Balrog wings” is really only the second most controversial topic in Tolkien fandom; “Tolkien and racism” is the real #1 flame generator!

        • Joshua says:

          I remember the Balrog wings arguments on the Tolkien newsgroups back in Usenet days, and no. Just no.

          We are a very long way from that. At least an order of magnitude, at a guess.

          Hooray for the internet.

    • Alice says:

      Huh?Why sad?:(

    • rabidsamfan says:

      *hugs* I hope tomorrow we'll be just as noisy and less sad-making. It's always hard when you stumble into a debate that has been going on for decades, because we've all got things we've been thinking about forever and are just looking for a chance to say.

      Maybe it's because Middle Earth feels so very real, we want it to be *right*.

    • Raenef_the_5th says:

      Reading through the comments now, I'm getting a little cross-eyed in anger at the die-hard Tolkien fanaticism that honestly reads like "how dare you think that" about something they love and have loved for years.

      Anyway, maybe this post will be at 1000 comments by tomorrow!!!! How interesting that would be.

  72. Elanor Pam says:

    You know, Tolkien may have pulled from racist depictions of eastern types, but I don't think he had any problem with their languages. I even read somewhere that he had a passing interest in Japanese. He never studied it but apparently he liked the way it sounded.

    V'z cerggl fher V ernq fbzrjurer gung gur ynathntr bs gur Inyne va uvf yngre abgrf jnf vafcverq ol gur fgebat flyynovp pnqrapr bs wncnarfr (evtug nebhaq gur gvzr ur qrpvqrq gur Inyne fubhyq fcrnx n qvssrerag ynathntr sebz gur Ryqne). Vg unq fbhaqf abg cerfrag va wncnarfr, bs pbhefr. V guvax Urypnenkr jnf bar bs gur svefg jbeqf sebz guvf ynathntr, naq bar bs gur srj gur Ryirf vzcbegrq.

  73. alfgifu says:

    You know, in the UK it's so late that it's early and I really should be asleep, so forgive any muddleheadedness here please, BUT:

    1) I love LotR. Tolkien's works (including the Silmarillion, the various Unfinished Tales, the random translations of ancient verse and basically everything up to and including Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf By Niggle) were part of what helped me through a majorly dark period in my life and deeply influenced my choices about my future (I have two degrees in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic). When I was fourteen/fifteen, I wrote my own language so I could be cool like Tolkien.
    2) I think Mark's absolutely right to pick up on some unfortunate implications. Even without the troubling quote about Orcs and Mongols (seriously, Tolkien?) I've always found the insistent use of 'swart' and 'slant-eyed' – starting with the description of the Easterling in Bree – make me very uncomfortable. And I'm a white woman stuffed with every kind of privilege like and overstuffed turducken monstrosity! How much more uncomfortable must it be for a person of colour?
    3) A lot of people seem to agree that there are some racist implications, but want to play it down or put it in context or somehow say 'it doesn't matter and it isn't important'. Which is a bit weird when you think about it. I mean, yes, context is important and it would be a pity to hate a good book because of a relatively small section that was flawed, but Mark specifically said that he doesn't hate Tolkien and is enjoying LotR. So he's already made it clear that this isn't a massive, massive thing overshadowing his reading experience. Why is it so important to reduce it further?
    4) I'm really late to this party and loads of people have already said pretty much what I'm trying to say much better, but given that there are still piles of new comments on the 'yes, racist comments, but…' pile, I just wanted to add one to the um, other pile? If it is a pile?
    5) Basically, I've drifted into commenting here a bit haphazardly but I've been lurking for ages (since halfway through Twilight) and it's been tons of fun and I wanted to show some support to say thanks. Even if the support isn't that significant, please have all the thanks, Mark! 🙂

    Argh, definitely time for bed. Hope that doesn't ramble too much.

    • Dreamflower says:

      A lot of people seem to agree that there are some racist implications, but want to play it down or put it in context or somehow say 'it doesn't matter and it isn't important'. Which is a bit weird when you think about it. I mean, yes, context is important and it would be a pity to hate a good book because of a relatively small section that was flawed, but Mark specifically said that he doesn't hate Tolkien and is enjoying LotR. So he's already made it clear that this isn't a massive, massive thing overshadowing his reading experience. Why is it so important to reduce it further?

      It isn't. I have realized that my own (rather mild, but automatic) response was a knee-jerk reaction, not to Mark or his observations, but to the idea of Tolkien and racism caused by OTHER people ELSEWHERE. The topic tends to be a hot-button one, and very divisive, on certain Tolkien forums. Because Mark's never read LotR before, and many of the people here have not interacted with other Tolkien fans, they don't realize that they accidentally stepped on a hornet's nest. There have been people who tried to prove Tolkien himself was a flaming racist (something not borne out in fact). The topic is a serious one, and impinges on the Real World in a way that something like Balrog wings or who Glorfindel was do not, and many of us feel obligated to present "all the facts". However, this is not that sort of case, and the response was pretty much inappropriate to the extent that it reached here.

      However, it is a lamentable truth that JRRT exhibited some racist attitudes that were common in his time, probably without ever knowing he was doing so. That doesn't make it less wrong. This is something that can and should be acknowledged. I would hope (and I also believe) that if he had lived into the 21st century he might have come to understand that.

      • alfgifu says:

        Ah, it's been ages since I spent any time on any Tolkien forum (I used to post – more than ten years ago now, before the films came out – on the TORC White Council messageboards as Xatia). I don't remember seeing many arguments about racism then, but I do remember how protective people got of Tolkien against the least little slight so I suppose it does make sense. In a rather depressing way.

        I can see as well that it's frustrating that Mark doesn't have all the information most of the rest of us do. We can't know what he'd think if he had read all the books and all the letters, and it's tempting to assume he'd change his mind and agree with us, and tell him so. And if one person did it that would be an unwarranted assumption but not overly pushy, but when a hundred people do it it becomes a sort of monstrous we-are-Legion demand for the opinion to be changed. Unfortunate because nobody wants to do that, but it becomes very unpleasant to read.

        Also, Dreamflower, can I just say that someone linked to your hobbit fanfiction a month or so back, and I read it with real enjoyment? Thanks! 🙂

    • notemily says:

      All the upvotes for this comment.

  74. dazyndara says:

    I don't know if anyone has already mentioned it, but have people read "The Last Ringbearer"? It's a brilliant fan work by Dr. Kirill Yeskov, published in Russia 10 or so years ago, and it's basically a retelling of LoTR from the side of Mordor. It's super well done, presenting Mordor as a land of reason and scientific progress. Obviously Mark you shouldn't read it till after LoTR as it's super spoilerific, but I highly recommend it after that point! You can find it from the translator's LJ:

  75. AmandaNekesa says:

    Hahaha…yeah that sounds like a pretty sound, scientific solution to the problem of over-blushing! That man can be really terrifying. O_O

  76. Darkside says:

    I’m not sure if anyone else has said anything along these lines, nor am I sure if it counts as a spoiler or not, as it’s racial history of the Orcs from the Silmarillion (which is more or less a book detailing the first two ages of Arda/Middle Earth, with Hobbit and LotR taking place during the Third) as well as some things from Tolkien’s Official Biography, so if you don’t want to read it, feel free to ignore the rest of this comment. The paragraph doesn’t give away anything from the Two Towers or Return of the King, though, just the Silmarillion.

    Bxnl, jnnnnnnnnnnnnl onpx va gur Svefg Ntr, vvep, gur Qnex Tbq Zryxbe, nyfb pnyyrq Zbetbgu, Znfgre bs Fnheba, unq rffragvnyyl xvqanccrq/gnxra cevfbare frireny fpber bs Ryirf, gura xabja nf gur cherfg sbez bs yvsr va Neqn, thneqvat gurz jvgu uvf zbafgebhf perngvbaf, gur Onyebtf. Naq sbe gur gvzr gung ur unq gurz, ur gbegherq gurz va gur zbfg ubeevsvp bs snfuvbaf naq zhgvyngrq gurve irel orvatf hagvy gurl orpnzr fb gjvfgrq gurl jrer nabgure enpr ragveryl, juvpu pnzr gb or pnyyrq Bepf. Guvf arj, oynpxrarq enpr bs perngherf (naq V fb qvfyvxr hfvat zl snibhevgr pbybhe nf fhpu na nqwrpgvir) gura cresbezrq gur fnzr npg bs Rivy hcba gurve byq ynathntr gheavat vagb gur Oynpx Fcrrpu.

  77. SisterCoyote says:

    BuTbqbutbqbutbq… V, hu, V’z rkpvgrq sbe gur arkg puncgre?


    But the comments are making me wince, a lot, because of remembering reading the books for the first time and not noticing any of this subtext, and then suddenly being really, really ashamed that I didn’t, when my older sister pointed it out. And I’m kinda seriously wtf at white people telling a person of color that his opinion about a racist trope is wrong? Because… um, yeah, no. I love Tolkien’s works, and his world means a lot to me, and his description of this world has shaped my writing so very much. But there are some seriously unfortunate things here and there. The casual disappearance of women from so much of the book doesn’t bother me personally, but to tell someone who it does that they’re wrong is… wrong.

    But Anyway!

    V’z cflpurq sbe gur arkg puncgre! Ragf! Gerrorneq! GUR SBERFG BS SNATBEA!

    Anyway, this line: ‘I wish Gandalf had never persuaded Elrond to let us come,’ he thought. choked me up a bit, because who hasn’t had that thought? When all that you do goes amiss, and you just wish you’d never started at all. And especially Pippin! Because he’s awesome, and it is sad to see him thinking otherwise.

  78. Wheelrider says:

    Thank you, Mark, for acknowledging the difficulties surrounding racism and this book! Frankly it's that thoughtfulness that elevates this blog beyond a mere… blog, if you know what I mean.

    If there's one thing the Professor has taught us, it's the importance of language. It's crucial to discuss words and how they're used if we want to improve how we think, and following from that, how we act.

    I hope this commenting process doesn't get too stressful for you…

    Anyway, on a personal level, on the first couple reads of this work I had a different internal explanation for why the Orcs are the way they are, and it had more to do with religion than with race. I'm not sure I can say any more without unintentional spoilers… suffice it to say for now that in Tolkien's world, there is only one Power who has the authority to go around creating new life forms, and if anyone else tries messing with that, bad things result.

  79. Andrew says:

    N erhavba, lbh fnl? Uzz….

  80. platoapproved says:

    I had a bad feeling that there might be a shitstorm like this in the comments for this chapter, even before you posted the review. I tried reading it all, but it is just too depressing.

    Mark you rock.
    This site rocks.
    I honestly think that what you do here is not only entertaining but genuinely valuable.
    Never change.
    Have a GIF:

    <img src=""&gt;

  81. Max (guest) says:

    I wa thinking: Orcs, as presented, are meant to be irremediably evil quite like (most) vampires in Buffy. They have been corrupted by the forces of evil and nobody can to anything about it, except stabbing them to death. Does this comparison hod water IYO?

  82. Smurphy says:

    Wow. I regret being so far behind and missing all the hair pulling (on both sides) that this review caused.

    I forgot how quickly this book moves… I mean seriously.

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