Let's see why this discussion of the skin color of Elves and Dwarves in Middle-earth from the Amazon series The Rings of Power it is sterile and often vehicles racist and antithetical ideas to Tolkien's thinking.
The output of the first promotional images di The Rings of Power and relative teaser trailer has aroused a worldwide jumble of comments, as was to be expected.
In particular it created a real rift in the Tolkien world. Indeed, the presence of the Elf Arondir played by the Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Cordova and a princess of the dwarves, Disa, in whose royal role we find the British actress of African descent Sophia Nomvete, has given rise to an endless quarrel. In it, Tolkien is pulled this way and that, in an attempt to look for textual footholds that prove, once and for all, either that Tolkien spoke of "Black Elves and Black Dwarfs" or that, on the contrary, he explicitly said that Dwarves and Elves cannot be black.
Debate, from my point of view, quite disheartening, for a number of reasons that I will talk about in this article. But most of all, this is a futile discussion, because nothing will be found in Tolkien that gives a definitive word on this subject.
And not because the Professor did not know how to make up his mind in this sense, but for a very simple reason.
Why was Tolkien not interested in the subject of skin color?
Tolkien was of little interest to the issue of skin. Let's see why here.
Let's leave aside the description of the “dark skin” of the traitorous Elf Maeglin, inserted in the very first version of the Fall of Gondolin, strongly influenced by the climate of the Great War (the text is from 1917). In fact, Tolkien very soon had a second thought about it: in the Silmarillion Maeglin is described as having white skin, with the consequent departure from the binomial dark skin-bad.
For the rest, the only hints to the skin, in Tolkien's works, refer to lineages of various peoples whose skin of various colors serves to emphasize either their geographical origin, as is the case with the Sudrons who come from the areas beyond Mordor, or certain events in their history. For example, the white skin of two Elven bloodlines, the Noldor and the Vanyar, derives from the very long years they spent in Valinor, together with the Valar. In this case, the white skin simply demonstrates contact with those holy beings and their blessed land.
The true, definitive distinction that Tolkien sets to diversify one people from another, as a good philologist, was the language. In fact, each people has its own language, even the Orcs.
For him, who in his farewell speech at the University of Oxford in 1959 openly declares that he has "Hatred of apartheid in my bones", there was no interest in emphasizing the color of the skin of any "race" as an element differentiating one people from another from the point of view moral.
This is demonstrated by the description of the fall of Nùmenor, or the narration of the errors and sins of the Noldor Elves. Both of these peoples, described as white-skinned, have been stained with crime, arrogance, haughtiness and titanism, and have caused their own Fall.
Why does the discussion of Elf and Dwarf skin color have problematic overtones?
So, in itself, the discussion that has ignited the Web is in vain. But it is also disheartening, because there are at least three points to underline that demonstrate how the accusation aimed at the production of The Rings of Power you want to “insert the politically correct in Middle-earth ”is disheartening, for i implied which opens this accusation.
So in Middle-earth are non-white people just slaves or antagonists?
First of all, wanting to continually emphasize that in Middle-earth there shouldn't be "black" Elves leads us to think that we don't want them that way, because a black Elf would clash with one's vision of Elves. Beautiful, blond and white-skinned… which is exactly the perfect racist stereotype. An Elf is beautiful, they say. So an Elf who doesn't have white skin is ugly.
I believe that many of the people who, in good faith, argue that Elves in Tolkien are representative of Nordic Europe, lend their side to those who speak openly in racist tones and do not fully realize the implication that this theory carries with it.
Even the opinion that there is no need to include "black" Elves to demonstrate diversity in Middle-earth because "there are Haradrim and Sudrons" falls into this dangerous sphere. It always means that blacks are to be included among the bad guys or, as a consolation prize, among the slaves of Sauron: they can't be anything else.
Associating Middle-earth with Northern Europe is wrong
But, as we know from Tolkien himself, nowhere is it written that the Elves rappedresent Nordic Europe. For the Professor, as can be read in the letter to Milton Waldman, from the year 1951:
my elves are just a representation or concept of a part of human nature.
No association between the Elves and the "white race", therefore.
As well as there is no association between Middle-earth and an alleged "Nordic spirit". The Professor, in fact, in the letter to Charlotte Plimmer of February 8, 1967, affirms with conviction:
Not Nordic, please! It is a word that I personally hate: it is associated, even if it has French origins, with racist theories. Geographically, northern is usually better. However, an analysis will show that this too is geographically and spiritually inapplicable to Middle-earth. This is an ancient word, not invented by me, as can be seen by consulting a dictionary such as Little Oxford. It denoted the habitable lands of our world, located in the middle of the surrounding ocean.
The action of the story takes place in the northwest of "Middle-earth", equivalent in latitude to the coastal lands of Europe and the northern coast of the Mediterranean. But this is not a "Nordic" area in any sense. If Hobbiville and Rivendell are thought (as intended) at the latitude of Oxford, then Minas Tirith, 600 miles further south, is roughly the latitude of Florence. The mouths of Anduin and the ancient city of Pelargir are more or less at the latitude of ancient Troy ”.
Confusion between Primary World and Secondary World
We come now to the second point.
I think in fact that you recognized it likelihood, at the narrative level, of Middle-earth, you too often lead to confusing the planes between the Primary World and the Secondary World, as Tolkien called them. Our world is one thing, and the world of fantasy and invention is another. The two plans cannot and must not be confused. The various characteristics of our world should not be automatically transferred to the Secondary World.
Tolkien himself, in the letter to Amy Ronald of January 2, 1969, when asked to say the elven equivalent of her name, clearly shows that for him the two plans were not to be confused:
About an 'elven' name: of course I could come up with one. But I don't belong to the story I made up: and I don't want to!
So, for an Elf like Galadriel, belonging to the Noldor, we know that there is a precise description of the color of her skin, for the reasons mentioned above. However, there are other elven bloodlines, such as the Miserly, who never went to Valinor, of which they have very vague hints and no description. The world of fantasy and invention is a free world, and certain categories, more or less shareable, of the real world, should not be valid as an absolute rule.
Having said that, continuing to beat the color of the skin is a continuous fall back on considerations that risk leading to moral evaluations that cannot be shared at all on the color of the skin. As far as I'm concerned, in Arondir I simply see an Elf played by an excellent actor, Ismael Cruz-Cordova.
Middle-earth as a global phenomenon, which now belongs to everyone
Finally, we come to the third point.
Middle-earth is now a global phenomenon. It really belongs to everyone, and every person of this world has the right to be able to identify with those who fight against the Shadow who wants to destroy and overwhelm all lands.
Because African, Asian, Latino children or teenagers, when they go to the cinema, watch TV or play with friends, should be told: "You can't be an Elf, you have to be Sudron" or "you can't be Elves. , you have to identify yourself and cheer for the bad guys “?
We all dreamed of being like Legolas, Aragorn and Gandalf, Sam. This is why I believe that Arondir, beyond all philological considerations or not, can be a beautiful sign that says "here this is Middle-earth, and everyone can have their heroes ready to fight against Sauron".
Some conclusive words
Others may see the matter differently. But this is the idea that Tolkien's reading has always passed on to me. And in Arondir and Disa I see nothing unnatural.
The series The Rings of Power it will have to be judged for its script and its consistency with the Second Age described by Tolkien, and for no other reason.