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By Joshua Roberts

On charges of racism against J.R.R. Tolkien


The Guardian (December 2, 2002) John Yatt writes, regarding the Lord of the Rings, "White men are good, 'dark' men are bad, orcs are worst of all." My talk tonight raises one of the criticisms brought against Tolkien (and other Inklings such as C.S. Lewis) that is perhaps the most unwelcome: the charge of racism. Perhaps unwelcome also, because the word is often a byword for hate in todays media driven climate, where the accusation of it can ruin reputations or even make them. So why cover it? For myself, my interest in this topic was particularly roused back in the summer of 2001 (An Australian summer I should add). The release of the first Lord of the Rings movie was approaching and Tolkien was in the news. Rather pleasing for a Tolkien fan such as myself. On one of those long, hot, slow moving Australian summer days I was listening to one of the ABC radio national stations (think of the ABC as the equivalent to the BBC here in Britain). It was the cultural and religious hour and one of the topics was Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings and mentions of other Inklings such as C.S. Lewis. On came some sociologists to give their views about Tolkiens social impact. Some positive things to be sure (such as environmentalism), but the downside to his writings they say is some underlying societal prejudices from the 1930s and 40s that Tolkien reflects in his writings namely religious prejudice and racism. It all seems pretty clear cut; Tolkien could not but help reflect the prejudices of his day. Well I wasnt quite so sure myself, and I wanted to find out; I wanted to see how much truth there was to these claims. Of course, if the truth is to be told, I was also feeling a bit defensive of the old master. That his works could be, well tainted, in such a way seemed particularly wrong to someone who had already, at 23 years of age, read the Lord of the Rings 12 times. It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that my talk tonight will focus on Tolkien, whom often is my primary interest in matters pertaining to the Inklings. But I hope I can also shed some light on the issue in relation to C.S. Lewis as well. In depth and coverage I fear I shall not be as complete as I would like. This seems to me to be a complex issue and the busyness of life keeps my research still incomplete. But even rudimentary research is a worthy starting point -

By Joshua Roberts

something worth looking at, worth considering. And as an issue in relation to an interest in the Inklings racism is an issue that bears looking at, if only to gain some level of clear perspective. To talk and discuss will perhaps help us to dispel in others the ignorance that can be brought to such a complex issue as racism. So lets get the obvious stuff out of the way: in the Lord of the Rings Tolkiens use of descriptions like swarthy or slant-eyed suggest to many that he had racist attitudes (or at the least that he reflected racial prejudices in society at the time into his writings). His entire mythology too is clearly a Europe-centric one. The world of Middle-Earth can seem to some to consist mainly of white, fair-skinned heroes being pitted against a dark Enemy. Or to put it in a more blunt way: an enemy that uses brown and dark-skinned armies of Southrons, Easterlings and Haradim. An even more primitive contention is that the black riders, black trolls and beings such as dark skinned orcs have their counterparts in our world, that they represent Africans and Asians and Middle Eastern peoples. At the very least many contend that Tolkien portrayed races different than his White, European heroes as inferior, corruptible, and deceitful. Lets look at some examples of these types of viewpoints. I draw your attention to Article 1 of the handout:

By Joshua Roberts

Article 1 Lord of the Rings promotes racism, says University lecturer


"Tolkien prefers a mono-cultural ideal of a society that prefers not to ask questions about its past involvement in ethnic oppression."

17 December 2002 -- The Two Towers, Tolkien's second installment of The Lord of the Rings, is rooted in racism and Middle Earth's mythology represents anxieties about the onset of immigration, says Dr Stephen Shapiro, an English Lecturer with the University of Warwick For Dr Shapiro, Tolkien's novels make racial prejudice innocent by presenting bigotry though a fantasy world. In The Lord of the Rings a small group, the fellowship, is pitted against the onset of a 'foreign' dark, unattractive, inarticulate, and psychologically underdeveloped horde, which marks long-standing AngloEuropean anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-European populations. While Tolkien describes the Hobbits and Elves as amazingly white, ethnically pure clans, their antagonists, the Orcs, are a motley darkskinned mass, akin to Africans or Aborigines, The recent films amplify a 'fear of a Black planet' and exaggerate this difference by insisting on stark black-white colour codes. Though Tolkien himself denounced the apartheid of his native South Africa, his writing, nonetheless, relies on a tale of racial war. Dr Shapiro asserts that rather than encourage his readers to celebrate a forward-looking Britain at ease with modern cultural exchanges, Tolkien urges his audience to lament the loss of a past time, when Britain did not have to imagine foreigners as their equals. "Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings because he believed England's original culture and mythology was destroyed by the Norman invasion, and thought his story-cycle would recreate the world of pre-invasion Britain. The concern for a fictional past quickly descends into portraying the encounter with racial and cultural others as an event of terror and apocalyptic threat. For today's film fans, this older racial anxiety fuses with a current fear and hatred of Islam that supports a crusading war in the Middle East," said Dr Shapiro. The trilogy was written on the cusp of decolonisation, when the first mass waves of immigrants from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan came to Britain. The Midlands, Tolkien's model for the Shire, was quickly becoming one of England's most multi-cultural regions. For the first set of his readers, Tolkien's tale of how the small isolated culture of the Hobbits, becomes threatened by the arrival of distant barbarian populations, the Orcs, reinforces the racial hatred in the Britian of the Rings' publication. "Tolkien prefers a mono-cultural ideal of a society that prefers not to ask questions about its past involvement in ethnic oppression", added Dr Shapiro. For more information contact: Dr Stephen Shapiro, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick.

Taken from: http://www.blink.org.uk/print.asp?key=1486

By Joshua Roberts

And from the same academic a month or so later, we find in Article 2 even worse criticisms:

Article 2
The Lord of the Rings rooted in racism: Academic Shyam Bhatia in London | January 08, 2003 14:49 IST

An American academic, who teaches at the Warwick University in the United Kingdom, has described J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy as an 'epic rooted in racism'. Dr Stephen Shapiro, an expert in cultural studies, race and slavery, said the author used his novels to present bigotry through a fantasy world. Following the release in UK of the film The Two Towers, the second in the series, Dr Shapiro told rediff.com that the books represent anxieties about immigration in mid-1950s Britain. He said: "Put simply, Tolkien's good guys are white and the bad guys are black, slant-eyed, unattractive, inarticulate and a psychologically undeveloped horde." In the trilogy, a small group, the fellowship, is pitted against a foreign horde and this reflects long-standing Anglo-European anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-Europeans, he said. This is consistent with Tolkien's Nordicist convictions. He thinks the Northern races had a culture and it was carried in the blood, Dr Shapiro said. While Tolkien describes the Hobbits and Elves as amazingly white, ethnically pure clans, their antagonists, the Orcs, are a motley dark-skinned mass, akin to tribal Africans or aborigines. The recent films amplify a 'fear of a black planet' and exaggerate this difference by insisting on stark white-black colour codes, Dr Shapiro said. He added: "Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings because he wanted to recreate a mythology for the English, which had been destroyed by foreign invasion. He felt the Normans had destroyed organic English culture. There is the notion that foreigners destroy culture and there was also a fantasy that there was a solid homogeneous English culture there to begin with, which was not the case because there were Celts and Vikings and a host of other groups. "We have a pure village ideal, which is being threatened by new technologies and groups coming in. I think the film has picked up on this by colour coding the characters in very stark ways. "For instance, the fellowship is portrayed as uber-Aryan, very white and there is the notion that they are a vanishing group under the advent of the other, evil ethnic groups. "The Orcs are a black mass that doesn't speak the languages and are desecrating the cathedrals. "For today's film fans, this older racial anxiety fuses with a current fear and hatred of Islam that supports a crusading war in the Middle East. The mass appeal of The Lord of the Rings, and the recent movies may well

By Joshua Roberts

rest on racist codes." Dr Shapiro said that the trilogy, which began in the 1930s and published in the 1950s, was written at the onset of de-colonisation, when the first immigrants from the Caribbean and Indian subcontinent came to Britain. The Midlands, Tolkien's model for the Shire, was becoming a multicultural region. A spokesman for Harper Collins, publisher of the trilogy, accused Dr Shapiro of mixing up his dates: "The copyright for The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the series, was 1954. Tolkien would have finished writing the book quite a bit before the mid-50s and certainly the idea would have come a number of years before, given the sheer size of the book. So I think the timing is out. "A number of academics have commented on Tolkien's work and this is the first time anybody has ever seen these issues in it. Of course, if you look hard enough at many great epics, you can extrapolate what you like, particularly if you have academic kudos behind you. "A number of people have said that they think The Lord of the Rings could be an allegory for the Second World War, or indeed the first, as Tolkien fought in it, but it was never a view that he agreed with. His great abiding passion and interest came from the Icelandic sagas and mythology, and this was his version of one of those sagas." Richard Crawshaw, a trustee for the Tolkien Society, said: "There was definitely no racial intent in his work. He detested racism." http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/jan/08lord.htm

Finally I draw your attention to Article 3. The author here is far more sympathetic, but reflects fears that Tolkiens work may have underlying racial prejudice:

Article 3
`Two Towers film reflects tone of book By David Ibata Tribune staff reporter January 12, 2003 Happily for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, director Peter Jackson stayed true to the fantasy authors artistic vision in Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unhappily, in The Two Towers, Jackson may reflect the Rings racial view of the world as well. As the United States wages war against an ominous other currently Al Qaeda terrorists, soon perhaps Iraqis and eventually, North Koreans? its worth keeping in mind Tolkiens stern admonition against viewing his work as allegory In Towers, though the series heroes hobbits, elves, dwarves and people for the first time encounter

By Joshua Roberts

races of human adversaries. They include the Easterlings and Haradrim, denizens of lands in the east and south of Middle Earth who have joined with the forces of evil. The Easterlings can barely be made out under their armor; their faces are covered except for a narrow slit through which glare pairs of coal-black eyes. But their headgear looks like a cross between a Samurai warriors helmet and a cone-shaped Coolie hat. An Asian influence is obvious. The Haradrim are more recognizable. They are garbed in turbans and flowing crimson robes. They ride giant elephants. They resemble nothing other than North African or Middle Eastern tribesmen. A recently released Towers companion book, The Lord of the Rings: Creatures, calls the Haradrim exotic outlanders whose costumes were inspired by the twelfth-century Saracen warriors of the Middle East. The Saracens were Islamic soldiers who battled Christian invaders during the Crusades. The good guys include the human Dunedain, Rohirrim and Gondorians. All fair -skinned, mostly blond and mostly blue-eyed. ( A third group of human foes in the film is white: the Wild Men. The fallen wizard Saruman incites them by reminding them the horsemen of Rohan oppress them and have driven them from their lands. Cavalry against native tribes; does this picture seem familiar?) In the near ly five decades since Lord of the Rings was first published, Tolkien fans were willing to overlook parts of the text some condemned as racially insensitive. In Rings, it was argued, race was never directly addressed in the book, and physical descriptio ns of enemy humans were rare. Things that might strike todays reader as discomfiting were attributed to the intellectual, cultural and social milieu within which Tolkien (1892-1973), an Oxford don, moved. Can anyone recall one white male author before the present literary era other than perhaps the far-seeing Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn who, when the two sides came into conflict, depicted men of color sympathetically and Caucasian men as evil? Better to focus on the Rings main themes: of coura ge, hope and love, of friendship, loyalty and spiritual strength, in the face of a fearsome threat. But like the ghostly faces in the Dead Marshes, that irritating issue of race always lingered just beneath the surface. Amid the pre-release hype of the Two Towers premiere, commentators such as John Yatt of the Manchester Guardian newspaper couldnt resist stirring the water: `The Lord of the Rings is racist. It is soaked in the logic that race determines behaviour, Yatt wrote in a Dec. 2 essay. The book describes evil humans as dark, slant-eyed, swarthy, broad-faced a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a [British National Party] leaflet. The screenwriters who adapted Tolkiens book to film sometimes muddied things further. For instance, they wanted to convey the idea that the threat facing humankind in Towers was not merely defeat in war, but extinction. In film dialogue not found in Tolkiens original text, Aragorn warns King Theoden of Rohan that Saruman has bred an army with a single purpose: to destroy the world of men. It is not explained how Saruman can threaten the demise of humankind when some of his own minions are human. (The human presence will be even more pronounced in the third film, when Sauron unleashes the Easterling and Haradrim upon the West.) Perhaps a more accurate statement would have been that the forces of evil have assembled an army to destroy the world of civilized white men. Of course, Aragorn and the director Jackson cannot say this.

By Joshua Roberts

Parallels with current events With Lord of the Rings seizing the popular imagination, could some see parallels between the film and the current political climate: the fear of and anger against non-white immigration in Western Europe, as evident in the recent election successes of far-right candidates? Or, in the United States, the wholesale arrests and prosecutions of people of Islamic and Middle Eastern origin in the post-9/11 environment? As a Japanese American, I cannot help imagining how the movie Rings would have been received had it appeared in 1942 instead of 2002. It would quickly have been seized upon as allegory, and there would have been no doubt whom the Orcs and Urak-hai represented: The Japs. Consider how closely the non-human adversaries in Rings resemble some of the worst depictions of the Japanese drawn by American and British illustrators during World War II. Japanese propagandists likewise pictured the Allies as goblins and demons from that countrys folklore. Thi s is how all cultures have portrayed a wartime enemy: as less than human. You might ask if Im looking for offense where none is intended. I believe the issue is not whether Tolkien or Jackson intended to offend they did not, I am sure but the authors or filmmakers ability to create images that shape ones view of the world.

The question of racist elements in Tolkien's views and works has been the matter of some wider scholarly debate as well (for example Tolkien scholars Tom Shippey and Michael Drout). Christine Chism, writing in the Tolkien Encyclopedia has distinguished these 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. We can see too that the articles in question also present this gamete of accusation. So we have some stinging indictments then, some less so, but do any of these accusations hold up under greater scrutiny? What did Tolkien himself say about racism? Might he indeed have been blindly reflecting some of the attitudes of racism and prejudice held in his day? Did indeed his attitudes change and evolve in this regard? For myself I shall argue that accusations of racism do not hold up in a deeper consideration of his published works. Look deeper and one finds a more complicated and redemptive idea of humanity; in particular humanity and its relation to the Divine. Now we must of course examine Tolkiens intentions as a writer. In his middle-earth mythology principally the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion we find some overarching themes. In the purest sense, Tolkien meant to bring forth a powerful myth of storytelling. As he and over thinkers had expounded, mythology was argued to hold a most wonderful quality. A quality intrinsic to being human: that indeed

By Joshua Roberts

humanity achieves its most basic expression of numinous truth through myths through its stories about gods and heroes, saviours and catastrophes. As Humphrey Carpenter puts it in his Biography on Tolkien:
Only by myth-making, only by becoming a sub-creator and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.

Tolkiens lifelong literary and interwoven linguistic work was then, profound. Behind the surface of stories about elves and dwarves, hobbits and humans there is much that is applicable to a type of higher Christian philosophy about the nature of being human. Tolkien particularly expounds upon this in his essay, On Fairy Stories, published in 1947. But for the sake of argument, it is enough to say that we know that Tolkien believed that in his hands, beneath his pen (or more accurately his typewriter) he was making sub-creation. As a sub-creator he took his work very seriously. Even if one disagrees with his ideas of sub-creation, thinking that perhaps Tolkien was overreaching in intent and capability, if we understand these goals, we can understand how he went about this myth-making. That first he gave his invented languages a place to flourish. That from this came about the creation of Arda (the Earth), the angelic powers of the Valar, and what would eventually become the mythologies, tales and histories of The Silmarillion, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. We must also understand that Tolkien chose to ground his mythological world in the real world. He sought to use elements in his stories familiar to us. He chose a setting that was appealing to him: a new mythology for England as he claimed. Tolkiens love for the language, the people, the land, and all things English, would inspire his work. Yet he believed that there was a gap, a type of vacuum or hole, in the history of England, that there were no proper myths the people and land of England could call its own. Tolkien actually explains this in a rather long letter to Milton Waldman (No. 131), published in the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien:
I was from early days grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own (bound up with its tongue and soil), not of the quality that I had sought, and found (as an ingredient) in legends of other lands.... I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, .... which I could dedicateto England; to my country.

Tolkiens stories then were grounded in England and Northern Europe. Taken together these stories, this legendarium as Tolkien would call it, would come to form a connected body of tales, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about an imagined world called Arda, and Middle-earth (the lands inhabitable by humans). But this was an "alternative" remote past of our own world, set in a time far gone yet

By Joshua Roberts

still reachable through epic tales, and still distinctly our world. It is this connection to England and Northern Europe that does of course bring with it a connection to culture clashes something hardly unique in human history. It is this choice of setting that puts Caucasian type peoples in all the key roles. In this distinctly Northern European environment the characters are by and large white and steeped in the cultural ideas of the Germanic, Celt, Norse, and English. Inherently to the setting this tends to exclude other cultures. Does it make Tolkien a racist? Surely not! After all if Tolkien had had a strong taste for say North American, Asian or African mythology, he would surely have created stories in a similar vein. In otherwords, he would have created stories based on the perspective of these peoples and their struggles, ideas and conceptions of the world and other cultures. A sensible thing to do one might think. When humans first appear in Tolkiens stories, we can recognize ourselves in them. This at least is true. We see predominantly Caucasian peoples at first, but other ethnicities (or similar ethnicities) of our world start to appear. Geographically as we leave the climes of Northern Europe behind, we start to find to the south and east African, Central Asian, Turkish and Arab peoples. Realistically and sensibly we find this similar equation in Tolkiens middle-earth. There are dark-skinned Southrons who live in the hot climates of the south. Tolkien scholar Michael Martinez, author of Visualising Middle-Earth, puts it this way:
Yes, they come from the south. And people who live in warm regions tend to be dark-skinned. Funny, that. Should Tolkien have portrayed all the southern peoples of Middle-earth as albinos or something?

Slightly rhetorical perhaps but the point is valid. The Easterlings, the Haradrim, the Southrons are devices that help place Middle-earth in the familiar, in the real. Making something realistic to how we know our world does not a horrid stereotype or xenophobe make. Speaking of such, we in fact find some rather definitive statements from Tolkien regarding the making of racial stereotypes and of tremendous xenophobia. Indeed Tolkien was living through a period of history where the application of racial theory of social Darwinism was becoming all too readily apparent. I talk of course of the rise of Nazi Germany and the subsequent 2nd World War. Of the Nazis and their "race-doctrines" (in particular their anti-Semitism) Tolkien describes it (in Letter 29 of the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien) as "wholly pernicious and unscientific". Of apartheid in his birthplace of South Africa, he also writes in Letter 29 to his son, Christopher stationed there,

By Joshua Roberts

As for what you say or hint of local conditions: I knew of them. I don't think they have much changed (even for the worse). I used to hear them discussed by my mother; and have ever since taken a special interest in that part of the world. The treatment of colour nearly always horrifies anyone going out from Britain, & not only in South Africa. Unfort[unately], not many retain that generous sentiment for long. But actually we are just getting started. For a man supposedly reflecting the racial climate of his times, we have some rather strong statements suggesting otherwise. In his valedictory address to the University of Oxford in 1959, I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White. [Published in Monsters and the Critics] For Adolf Hitler, Tolkien had nothing but contempt, I have in this War a burning private grudge--which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler (for the odd thing about demonic inspiration and impetus is that it in no way enhances the purely intellectual stature: it chiefly affects the mere will). Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light. (Letter 45) Tolkien even grew agitated over racial prejudices that had struck nearer home; he denounced anti-German fanaticism in the British war effort during World War II. In 1944, he wrote in a letter to his son Christopher: But it is distressing to see the press grovelling in the gutter as low as Goebbels in his prime, shrieking that any German commander who holds out in a desperate situation (when, too, the military needs of his side clearly benefit) is a drunkard, and a besotted fanatic ... There was a solemn article in the local paper seriously advocating systematic exterminating of the entire German nation as the only proper course after military victory: because, if you please, they are rattlesnakes, and don't know the difference between good and evil! (What of the writer?) The Germans have just as much right to declare the Poles and Jews exterminable vermin, subhuman, as we have to select the Germans: in other words, no right, whatever they have done. (Letter 81) This seems reasonable then. We have strong statements from Tolkien rejecting racism and ethnic prejudice. But still we come to the question of his works being decidedly Euro-centric. In this context we might ask - how do Tolkiens other races relate? Most are of course fantastical: Ents, Orcs, Elves, and Dwarves, but are usually not meant to be directly analogous to the human races of our world; though it is worth noting that Tolkien does claim that these races could have in them applicable analogies to aspects of humanity as a whole as a species. But in any case none of them are represented as disparaging stereotypes. Some critics have pointed to dwarves as representing Jews - a small people with their own secret language and different ways living amongst the

By Joshua Roberts

other races of middle-earth. And indeed Tolkien acknowledges the similarity in Letter 176. But dwarves are of course presented rather positively in the Lord of the Rings and are beings unfairly criticized by other races as Tolkien makes the point. If anything this could be seen as a criticism of how racial prejudice is an unfortunate thing in any world - whereas the relationship of Legolas and Gimli, dwarf and elf, is an overcoming of it. One seemingly prejudiced and explicit statement does come from Tolkien in Letter #210. Here Tolkien describes the Orcs as "degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types". At first look this does seem quite racist, but the importance is the qualifier. To say, "to Europeans" casts it in a very different light: Tolkien explicitly recognizes that different cultures have different standards of beauty, and that his impressions did not reflect any underlying superiority. Moreover, he made it clear that the Orcs were not in any sense actual "Mongol-types", but "degraded and repulsive versions" of humanoid stock. (Of course it is worth nothing that his comment does fall short of modern standards of sensitivity.) But indeed in other matters Tolkien was not so reticent. So opposed, for example, was Tolkien to the antiSemitism of Nazi principles, that he went so far as to refuse the demands of a German publisher in 1938 who wanted proof that he was not Jewish. He risked the opportunity for the first German edition of The Hobbit because he objected so adamantly, saying to Stanley Unwin in a letter:
Personally I should be inclined to refuse to give any [confirmation]... and let a German translation go hang.... I do not regard the (probable) absence of all Jewish blood as necessarily honourable; and I have many Jewish friends, and should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine. (Letter 29)

Still as seemingly precise as such words are, it still may be argued that unspoken, unthought-of prejudices affected the mind of Tolkien and thus his works. And indeed it is possible, but probably of all of us I should think. Certainly one may point to the Elves in Tolkiens works as being depicted as a high race - Fair-skinned, beautiful, and immortal. Well indeed, but they are not a supreme white race as Nazi theory for example espoused. The truth is far more enlightening, for the Children of Ilvatar, the Elves with their beauty and nobility, are really analogous to a lost state of humankind - Adam and Eve before the expulsion from Eden if you will. From Humprey Carpenters Biography on Tolkien we learn that Elves
.... are Man before the Fall which deprived him of his powers of achievement. Tolkien believed devoutly that there had once been an Eden on earth, and that mans original sin and subsequent dethronement were responsible for the ills of the world; but his elves, though capable of sin and error, have not fallen in the theological sense, and so are able to achieve much beyond the powers of men.

By Joshua Roberts

This use of a high race, is theological in its implications, it seems unlikely to pertain to the racism that Tolkiens critics present. But still, underlying all this discussion is the issue of how Sauron, the Enemy, had such influence and sway over groups such the Easterlings, the Wainriders, the Haradrim and the peoples of Khand. And here questions arise: Why were all these ethnic peoples under the control of the Dark Lord? Why are the white people portrayed as noble and heroic while the blacks and browns are a misguided lot underneath Sauron? Fortunately this type of reading is simplistic. For in truth Tolkien presents all of humankind has having been corrupted by Saurons guile for thousands of years, white- and dark-skinned alike. Even earlier the old master of Sauron, Melkor (or Morgoth), had sought to corrupt the very first humans who were awoken in middle-earth. Indeed in Tolkiens world all sentient species are a target for Evil. The great Nmenoreans, gifted with long life by Eru (God) and of half elven lineage are turned to the greatest of evils by Sauron. Upon Numenor they cast down the temple of Eru and build one to Melkor, Saurons master. They seek to invade the home of the angelic powers Valinor. Some of the most wicked of Numenoreans eventually become the ringwraiths the dark riders so feared by the Hobbits in first part of the Lord of the Rings. Even many of the Elves listen to Sauron in Tolkiens mythos indeed they help him to forge the Rings of Power. There are many such powerful examples of Sauron bringing moral weakness and destruction to many peoples. Tolkien never suggests that only the non-white humans were prone to evil. Still there is a philosophical plight to consider here. The very first humans who allied with the High Elves were exposed to the Valar (the Angelic powers or gods of Arda) and their various qualities - beauty, nobility, blessedness and high hope. Sauron however took advantage of the wild Men who had never traveled west in the First Age and never knew the Elves, playing on their fear and mistrust. These Men of the East were corruptible not because of their ethnicity or skin colour but because they had never known the state of unfallen grace found embodied in the Elves. With lies and deceit Sauron turns their ignorance into a hatred of the West. Their hatred and dislike of Gondor and other Northern and Western peoples represents the type of spiritual schism Christians believe humans live in. There is an important and oft quoted passage that seems to tell us how Tolkien feels about this fallen human condition. It is one seen through the eyes of Samwise, the true hero of the book as Tolkien thought. In The Two Towers, during Faramirs attack on a troop of Haradrim, one of the Haradrim actually crashes through the bush, landing dead at Sams feet:

By Joshua Roberts His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword. It was Sams first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the mans name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peaceall in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind.

There is much wisdom here. Tolkien asks us to examine our own feelings about this human Enemy, and what he really is. What forces of fear and hatred have been worked upon him? What has he fallen prey to? This reflects the great success and vision of Tolkiens stories. H is myths reveal greater truths within. As a Christian, as a Catholic, Tolkien believed that humankind has been subjected to the Fall that humanity had been separated from its original state of grace. This is a compelling idea even if one does not agree with the Christian worldview. Tolkien places before us stories that ask us to consider our mortality and potential to be corrupted. Yet, at the same time, we see before us the choices our free will can make. We see a vision of the divine, of the numinous in Valinor and the elves. We see also moments of Eucatastrophe, of great joy and hope as evil is confronted. Does racism, overt or otherwise, really fit into this vision of hope for humanity? The evidence seems to suggest not.

By Joshua Roberts

Article 1 Lord of the Rings promotes racism, says University lecturer


"Tolkien prefers a mono-cultural ideal of a society that prefers not to ask questions about its past involvement in ethnic oppression."

17 December 2002 -- The Two Towers, Tolkien's second installment of The Lord of the Rings, is rooted in racism and Middle Earth's mythology represents anxieties about the onset of immigration, says Dr Stephen Shapiro, an English Lecturer with the University of Warwick For Dr Shapiro, Tolkien's novels make racial prejudice innocent by presenting bigotry though a fantasy world. In The Lord of the Rings a small group, the fellowship, is pitted against the onset of a 'foreign' dark, unattractive, inarticulate, and psychologically underdeveloped horde, which marks long-standing AngloEuropean anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-European populations. While Tolkien describes the Hobbits and Elves as amazingly white, ethnically pure clans, their antagonists, the Orcs, are a motley darkskinned mass, akin to Africans or Aborigines, The recent films amplify a 'fear of a Black planet' and exaggerate this difference by insisting on stark black-white colour codes. Though Tolkien himself denounced the apartheid of his native South Africa, his writing, nonetheless, relies on a tale of racial war. Dr Shapiro asserts that rather than encourage his readers to celebrate a forward-looking Britain at ease with modern cultural exchanges, Tolkien urges his audience to lament the loss of a past time, when Britain did not have to imagine foreigners as their equals. "Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings because he believed England's original culture and mythology was destroyed by the Norman invasion, and thought his story-cycle would recreate the world of pre-invasion Britain. The concern for a fictional past quickly descends into portraying the encounter with racial and cultural others as an event of terror and apocalyptic threat. For today's film fans, this older racial anxiety fuses with a current fear and hatred of Islam that supports a crusading war in the Middle East," said Dr Shapiro. The trilogy was written on the cusp of decolonisation, when the first mass waves of immigrants from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan came to Britain. The Midlands, Tolkien's model for the Shire, was quickly becoming one of England's most multi-cultural regions. For the first set of his readers, Tolkien's tale of how the small isolated culture of the Hobbits, becomes threatened by the arrival of distant barbarian populations, the Orcs, reinforces the racial hatred in the Britian of the Rings' publication. "Tolkien prefers a mono-cultural ideal of a society that prefers not to ask questions about its past involvement in ethnic oppression", added Dr Shapiro. For more information contact: Dr Stephen Shapiro, Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick.

Taken from: http://www.blink.org.uk/print.asp?key=1486

By Joshua Roberts

Article 2
The Lord of the Rings rooted in racism: Academic Shyam Bhatia in London | January 08, 2003 14:49 IST

An American academic, who teaches at the Warwick University in the United Kingdom, has described J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy as an 'epic rooted in racism'. Dr Stephen Shapiro, an expert in cultural studies, race and slavery, said the author used his novels to present bigotry through a fantasy world. Following the release in UK of the film The Two Towers, the second in the series, Dr Shapiro told rediff.com that the books represent anxieties about immigration in mid-1950s Britain. He said: "Put simply, Tolkien's good guys are white and the bad guys are black, slant-eyed, unattractive, inarticulate and a psychologically undeveloped horde." In the trilogy, a small group, the fellowship, is pitted against a foreign horde and this reflects long-standing Anglo-European anxieties about being overwhelmed by non-Europeans, he said. This is consistent with Tolkien's Nordicist convictions. He thinks the Northern races had a culture and it was carried in the blood, Dr Shapiro said. While Tolkien describes the Hobbits and Elves as amazingly white, ethnically pure clans, their antagonists, the Orcs, are a motley dark-skinned mass, akin to tribal Africans or aborigines. The recent films amplify a 'fear of a black planet' and exaggerate this difference by insisting on stark white-black colour codes, Dr Shapiro said. He added: "Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings because he wanted to recreate a mythology for the English, which had been destroyed by foreign invasion. He felt the Normans had destroyed organic English culture. There is the notion that foreigners destroy culture and there was also a fantasy that there was a solid homogeneous English culture there to begin with, which was not the case because there were Celts and Vikings and a host of other groups. "We have a pure village ideal, which is being threatened by new technologies and groups coming in. I think the film has picked up on this by colour coding the characters in very stark ways. "For instance, the fellowship is portrayed as uber-Aryan, very white and there is the notion that they are a vanishing group under the advent of the other, evil ethnic groups. "The Orcs are a black mass that doesn't speak the languages and are desecrating the cathedrals. "For today's film fans, this older racial anxiety fuses with a current fear and hatred of Islam that supports a crusading war in the Middle East. The mass appeal of The Lord of the Rings, and the recent movies may well

By Joshua Roberts

rest on racist codes." Dr Shapiro said that the trilogy, which began in the 1930s and published in the 1950s, was written at the onset of de-colonisation, when the first immigrants from the Caribbean and Indian subcontinent came to Britain. The Midlands, Tolkien's model for the Shire, was becoming a multicultural region. A spokesman for Harper Collins, publisher of the trilogy, accused Dr Shapiro of mixing up his dates: "The copyright for The Fellowship of the Ring, the first in the series, was 1954. Tolkien would have finished writing the book quite a bit before the mid-50s and certainly the idea would have come a number of years before, given the sheer size of the book. So I think the timing is out. "A number of academics have commented on Tolkien's work and this is the first time anybody has ever seen these issues in it. Of course, if you look hard enough at many great epics, you can extrapolate what you like, particularly if you have academic kudos behind you. "A number of people have said that they think The Lord of the Rings could be an allegory for the Second World War, or indeed the first, as Tolkien fought in it, but it was never a view that he agreed with. His great abiding passion and interest came from the Icelandic sagas and mythology, and this was his version of one of those sagas." Richard Crawshaw, a trustee for the Tolkien Society, said: "There was definitely no racial intent in his work. He detested racism." http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/jan/08lord.htm

By Joshua Roberts

Article 3
`Two Towers film reflects tone of book By David Ibata Tribune staff reporter January 12, 2003 Happily for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, director Peter Jackson stayed true to the fantasy authors artistic vision in Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unhappily, in The Two Towers, Jackson may reflect the Rings racial view of the world as well. As the United States wages war against an ominous other currently Al Qaeda terrorists, soon perhaps Iraqis and eventually, North Koreans? its worth keeping in mind Tolkiens stern admonition against viewing his work as allegory In Towers, though the series heroes hobbits, elves, dwarves and people for the first time encounter races of human adversaries. They include the Easterlings and Haradrim, denizens of lands in the east and south of Middle Earth who have joined with the forces of evil. The Easterlings can barely be made out under their armor; their faces are covered except for a narrow slit through which glare pairs of coal-black eyes. But their headgear looks like a cross between a Samurai warriors helmet and a cone-shaped Coolie hat. An Asian influence is obvious. The Haradrim are more recognizable. They are garbed in turbans and flowing crimson robes. They ride giant elephants. They resemble nothing other than North African or Middle Eastern tribesmen. A recent ly released Towers companion book, The Lord of the Rings: Creatures, calls the Haradrim exotic outlanders whose costumes were inspired by the twelfth-century Saracen warriors of the Middle East. The Saracens were Islamic soldiers who battled Christian invaders during the Crusades. The good guys include the human Dunedain, Rohirrim and Gondorians. All fair -skinned, mostly blond and mostly blue-eyed. ( A third group of human foes in the film is white: the Wild Men. The fallen wizard Saruman incites them by reminding them the horsemen of Rohan oppress them and have driven them from their lands. Cavalry against native tribes; does this picture seem familiar?) In the nearly five decades since Lord of the Rings was first published, Tolkien fans were willing to overlook parts of the text some condemned as racially insensitive. In Rings, it was argued, race was never directly addressed in the book, and physical descriptions of enemy humans were rare. Things that might strike todays reader as discomfiting were attributed to the intellectual, cultural and social milieu within which Tolkien (1892-1973), an Oxford don, moved. Can anyone recall one white male author before the present literary era other than perhaps the far-seeing Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn who, when the two sides came into conflict, depicted men of color sympathetically and Caucasian men as evil? Better to focus on the Rings main themes: of courage, hope and love, of friendship, loyalty and spiritual strength, in the face of a fearsome threat. But like the ghostly faces in the Dead Marshes, that irritating issue of race always lingered just beneath the

By Joshua Roberts

surface. Amid the pre-release hype of the Two Towers premiere, commentators such as John Yatt of the Manchester Guardian newspaper couldnt resist stirring the water: `The Lord of the Rings is racist. It is soaked in the logic that race determines behaviour, Yatt wrote in a Dec. 2 essay. The book describes evil humans as dark, slant-eyed, swarthy, broad-faced a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a [British National Party] leaflet. The screenwriters who adapted Tolkiens book to film sometimes muddied things further. For instance, they wanted to convey the idea that the threat facing humankind in Towers was not merely defeat in war, but extinction. In film dialogue not found in Tolkiens original text, Aragorn warns King Theoden of Rohan that Saruman has bred an army with a single purpose: to destroy the world of men. It is not explained how Saruman can threaten the demise of humankind when some of his own minions are human. (The human presence will be even more pronounced in the third film, when Sauron unleashes the Easterling and Haradrim upon the West.) Perhaps a more accurate statement would have been that the forces of evil have assembled an army to destroy the world of civilized white men. Of course, Aragorn and the director Jackson cannot say this. Parallels with current events With Lord of the Rings seizing t he popular imagination, could some see parallels between the film and the current political climate: the fear of and anger against non-white immigration in Western Europe, as evident in the recent election successes of far-right candidates? Or, in the United States, the wholesale arrests and prosecutions of people of Islamic and Middle Eastern origin in the post-9/11 environment? As a Japanese American, I cannot help imagining how the movie Rings would have been received had it appeared in 1942 instead of 2002. It would quickly have been seized upon as allegory, and there would have been no doubt whom the Orcs and Urak-hai represented: The Japs. Consider how closely the non-human adversaries in Rings resemble some of the worst depictions of the Japane se drawn by American and British illustrators during World War II. Japanese propagandists likewise pictured the Allies as goblins and demons from that countrys folklore. This is how all cultures have portrayed a wartime enemy: as less than human. You might ask if Im looking for offense where none is intended. I believe the issue is not whether Tolkien or Jackson intended to offend they did not, I am sure but the authors or filmmakers ability to create images that shape ones view of the world.

By Joshua Roberts

A selection of references

Carpenter, Humphrey (1997) The Inklings: C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends. HarperCollins. Carpenter, Humphrey (1977). Tolkien: A Biography. New York: Ballantine Books. Curry, Patrick (2004). Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity. Letters: Carpenter, Humphrey and Tolkien, Christopher (eds.) (1981). The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. London: George Allen & Unwin. Jensen, Steuard. Was Tolkien a racist? Were his works? from the Tolkien Meta-FAQ, http://tolkien.slimy.com/faq/External.html#Racist. Last accessed 10/10/2007 J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (2006), s.v. "Racism, Charge of", p. 557. Tolkien, J.R.R. (1997) The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays . HarperCollins.

By Joshua Roberts

Some charges of Racism against C.S. Lewis


Pullman called the books "blatantly racist" (Ezard 2002) and in an interview with The Observer, criticised the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by saying, "if the Disney corporation wants to market this film as a great Christian story, they'll just have to tell lies about it." He added, "it's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue," and that the books contained "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic, and reactionary prejudice" (BBC NEWS 2005).

[For Lewis] Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-coloured people are better than darkcoloured people; and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it (Pullman, 1998).

So Why Is She the White Witch?


Tim Cavanaugh | October 20, 2005, 5:35pm Philip Pullman, whose book I can't finish, has been turning thumbs down on Narnia author C.S. Lewis for some time. With the Disney movie of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe scheduled to beat the adaptations of Pullman's His Dark Materials books into theaters, Pullman is turning up the heat, calling the Narnia series "a peevish blend of racist, misogynistic and reactionary prejudice" notable for their "absence of Christian virtue." (This last bit from the anti-religious author is clearly meant to be ironic.) Writes Hit & Run reader Paul Wilbert, who hips us to the news: I haven't read Narnia since I was a kid, so don't remember enough about it to comment on Pullman's views one way or the other... I must say that "reactionary" is one of my favorite words. Like the abuse of "liberal" by the American right, you can tell a lot about somebody by those words he choses to describe someone with whom he disagrees. I don't know if reactionary is the right term, but ostentatiously traditional seems like an apt description. A good question is why so many luminaries of the Anglo-Catholic revival were pretty straightforward bigotsby which I mean more than just that they tweak politically correct sensibilities. Lewis saw the battle for Heaven as a battle with the dark-skinned east. G.K. Chesterton believed Jews were running the world. The works of J.R.R. Tolkien are where I learned the worst thing you can call a guy is "swarthy." (Tolkien may have been somewhat more sympathetic toward Jews, especially short Jews.) In Evelyn Waugh's world, there's nothing more hilarious than a cannibalistic African chieftain wearing a tophat and trying to pass himself off as a gentleman. There's no natural connection between these guys' Christian traditionalism and their distaste for people of other races. Nor is any of this a knock against their writing. I'd like to see some acknowledgment that racism is a big

By Joshua Roberts

part of what makes some writers good. T.S. Eliot is an interesting poet because of his anti-Semitism, not in spite of it. Chesterton's novel The Flying Inn takes swipes at the absurdities of Islam and thus creates a weirdly prescient vision of a multicultural UK where progressives and reactionaries unite to form a pleasure-hating superstate. Instead of hiccuping apologies, actors playing Shylock and Fagin could get more mileage from engaging the full hatred their creators wanted to express. (I understand Ben Kingsley does something like this in the new Roman Polanski joint, which I haven't seen.) Giving free play to racism allows writers to engage their own horrors in ways that would never pass in the classroom. Easy for you to say, Cavanaugh! you say. You're not on the receiving end of that bigotry. True, with some exceptions: If it weren't for Eliot I wouldn't understand that my "apeneck" is really the result of my lousy genes. (Unlike, say, the superior genetic makeup of a sexless anglophile pansy obsessed with masking his roots in the Show Me State.) "Sweeney Among the Nightingales" just would not be an interesting poem if it weren't infused with Eliot's pity and horror of a stupid Irish slob. I don't expect studies of the aesthetic value of bigotry will take off anytime soon, but consider the sort of mealymouthed talk you get when you don't engage this argument: In one of the comments on the BBC's story on Philip Pullman, one reader takes the author to task for "falling into the trap that so often catches the unaware. That of judging past authors using the values of today." This is ridiculous. The Narnia books were written in the 1950s, when the American Civil Rights movement was in full swing and the tide of anti-colonialism was sweeping the earth. What timeline are we using, where a person living in the fifties would not be aware of racism and imperialism as topics worth having an opinion on? (On the issue of imperialism, by the way, G.K. Chesterton, the godfather of twentieth-century Anglo Catholicism, was on the side of the angels.)
http://www.reason.com/blog/show/111419.html

The Dark Side of Narnia


(Annotated by John Gough)
Mon, 12 Oct 1998

Why are we marking the centenary of CS Lewis's birth with parties and competitions? His books were reactionary and dishonest. Philip Pullman

JG: Interesting words. Of course "reactionary" is usually a figment in the mind of the "actionary", surely. What is it that Lewis is alleged to be "reacting" against? Does he urge the burning of suffragettes at the stake? Is he an unregenerate capitalist? And "dishonest" is equally subjective, and needing to be argued carefully if it is to be accepted. But we shall see.

By Joshua Roberts
The Guardian -- Thursday October 1, 1998

The centenary of C S Lewis's birth on November 29 is being celebrated with all manner of hoopla, much of it connected in one way or another with the Narnia books. There will be an adaptation of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company, a 100th birthday party at the toy shop Hamleys, a competition for children to draw greetings cards based on the Narnia stories, and fresh editions of the seven books, with newly coloured illustrations. As if that wasn't enough, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe was recently named their favourite story by such celebrities as Geri Halliwell, Liam Gallagher and Peter Mandelson, and the same book starred in a recent range of pictorial stamps.

So Narnia sells by the lorry-load.

JG: Excuse me. Where is the shockingness in any of this. Am I missing something? Is it dreadful to be popular?

But other aspects of Lewis's life and work have never been neglected.

JG: Perhaps an editor's blue pencil slipped near here. Have some aspects of Lewis's life and work been neglected? I'm sure his last adult novel "Till We Have Faces" has been widely overlooked. Similarly his groundbreaking reader-response theory "An Experiment in Criticism". In fact, generally, lewis, as critic, has been neglected in the age of Leavis, and more recently, post-unreconstructed-deconstructuralist-modernism.

He and his coterie, the Inklings, have been the subject of biographical attention for some time: Humphrey Carpenter and A N Wilson have both written about him, and two years ago, in plenty of time for the centenary, HarperCollins brought out the massive C S Lewis: A Companion And Guide, by Walter Hooper. Then there was the Richard Attenborough film Shadowlands, and only the other day I saw a theatre poster saying that Joss Ackland was to play C S Lewis in a dance spectacular... No, I must have dreamt that.

JG: Ho ho, it is, to be sure. Joss Ackland did star with Jean Simmons in an earlier (pre-Attenborough) television version of "Shadowlands". Indeed Ackland is a rather good resemblance to Lewis.

The interesting question is why. What is there in this tweedy medievalist JG: Ouch! How should a person respond? Who, me? I like tweed! And "medieval"? So what? Is this a reason for sneering. More to the point, does it connect with Lewis, as poet, novelist, fantasist, critic, or person? And if not, why should we pay attention to a tweedless post-modern such as Pullman? Are we to commit the critical sin of "Ageism" - Dark Ages Bad, Modern Ages good - all ages are equal but some ages are more equal than others.

By Joshua Roberts

that attracts such devoted (and growing) attention, not only to the works but to the life? Acolytes know all the facts: how he and his brother Warnie made up stories during their Ulster boyhood; how he promised a soldier friend in the First World War trenches that he'd look after the friend's mother, and maintained a curious relationship with her for years thereafter; how as an unbeliever he wrestled with belief and gave in one famous night after a long conversation with his friends Hugo Dyson and J R R Tolkien, coming to the conclusion that the story of the Gospels was a myth like those he already cherished, 'but one with this tremendous difference that it really happened'; how he went on to write all the books, and how late in life he married Joy Gresham, who soon afterwards died.

JG: Careful, careful. This "soon" after seems too pat. Again, the years of remission of her terminal cancer would hardly have seemed "soon" to her, her children, or Lewis. What if she hadn't died "soon" after. Would that alter Pullman's inuendo? What is he inuending? That marriage is only real when it lasts? Really?

All this is already nearly myth on its own account. In a bookshop recently I heard a customer ask where she could find C S Lewis's "Shadowlands". Perhaps she was ignorant of the fact that "Shadowlands" is about him, not by him; and perhaps it didn't matter, because she'd find it in the same part of the shop as his works anyway; but I felt (not for the first time) as if Lewis was beyond the reach of ordinary criticism, because the facts are becoming less important than the legend, and the legend, as we know, is what gets printed.

JG: If Pullman knew his Lewis he would have immediately said, you don't mean Lewis's "Shadowlands" because that's a dramatisation by someone else, you mean "A Grief Observed", in which Lewis reflects on his sense of loss after his wife died.

To be sure, there is something to be said for him. The literary criticism is, at the very least, effortlessly readable; even a critic such as Stanley Fish, whom one would not imagine to have much sympathy for Lewis in (say) political terms, acknowledges his rhetorical influence.

JG: What are we to make of this expression "rhetorical influence"? The term "rhetoric" usually means two things argument which is regarded as hollow, and argument as a formal process. What did Fish mean by it? Is it his expression? I don't know. But I feel that Pullman uses every bit of his own rhetorical skills to pull down Lewis, whether or not there is critical substance behind his argument.

The psychology in "The Screwtape Letters" is subtle and acute. He said some things about myth and fairy tale and writing for children which are both true and interesting.

But there is no doubt in the public mind that what matters is the Narnia cycle, and that is where the puzzle comes, because there is no doubt in my mind that it is one of the most ugly and poisonous things I've ever read.

By Joshua Roberts
JG: We do in fact have a puzzling difficulty here. Lewis is being judged, like many prolific writers, by one set of books which may or may not be representative, and which probably do not capture the achievement or significance of a life spent in literature, both critically and creatively. Meanwhile, there are many who know Lewis almost exclusively for his adult science fiction fantasy trilogy, and others who know him for his Christian apologetia - which may have only slim connections with Narnia, and may have little overlap in readership. But "ugly" and "poisonous"? State your case, please.

Why the Narnia books are popular with children is not difficult to see. In a superficial and bustling way, Lewis could tell a story, and when he cheats, as he frequently does, the momentum carries you over the bumps and the potholes.

JG: What "cheating"? This is a big claim, that will need carefully chosen examples to make the allegation stick.

But there have always been adults who suspected what he was up to. His friend Tolkien took a dim view of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, particularly disliking Lewis's slapdash way with mythology: 'It really won't do, you know!'

JG: Tolkien would have prefered to keep Father Christmas, for example, away from Greek naiads, Celtic ogres, and Northern giants. Is this what Pullman has in mind by "cheating"? Maybe he will give more examples. If the examples aren't forthcoming, then maybe Pullman's criticism is cheating, by crying stinking fish with nary a fishbone or cacase in sight.

And the American critic John Goldthwaite, in his powerful and original study of children's literature The Natural History Of Make-Believe (OUP, 1996), lays bare the misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence that permeates the whole cycle.

JG: This is familiar stuff. David Holbrook in the early 1970s was one of the first to complain about such alleged faults. (See "Children' Literature in Education" no. 10, 1973 - "The Problem of C.S. Lewis - and I replied in "CLE" vol. 8 no.2 1977 pp 51-62 - "C.S. Lewis and the Problem of David Holbrook".) It is easy to list " misogyny, the racism, the sado-masochistic relish for violence", but harder to offer convincing examples. Holbrook (in my opinion) couldn't do it, without fudging the evidence, or special pleading. Lewis's mother died from agonising cancer when he was about 8 years old. Later his older brother became an alcoholic. Meanwhile Lewis himself never had children of his own, and only married late in life. Moreover, his imagery can be given lurid Freudian interpretations, should anyone be so inclined. (Wardrobe, containing envelopping furs! Towers in the snowy field. Magic wands and swords!) This is hardly a diagnosis of pychiatric pathology. Nor does it amount to a clear critical account of a complex body of work. Meanwhile, Freud has been dismantled by his own critics. What price, then, a Freudian symbol between friends?

For an open-eyed reading of the books reveals some hair-raising stuff.

By Joshua Roberts
JG: Oh yeah? Let's see Pullman do something about almost all the young adult and older children's books written since, say 1990, full of issues such as drug addiction, incest, racism, violence, sexual brutality, ... What I'm getting at is that what is "hair-raising" in some eyes is tame in others. And modern children's books often deserve warnings such as "For Mature Audiences Only", and in the days of the trial of "Lady Chatterly's Lover" or the banning of "Ulysses" would have been prosecuted for obscenity. But the prosecutors would not have blenched at Lewis.

One of the most vile moments in the whole of children's literature, to my mind, occurs at the end of The Last Battle, when Aslan reveals to the children that "The term is over: the holidays have begun" because "There was a real railway accident. Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands dead." To solve a narrative problem by killing one of your characters is something many authors have done at one time or another. To slaughter the lot of them, and then claim they're better off, is not honest storytelling: it's propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology. But that's par for the course. Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-coloured people are better than dark-coloured people; and so on. There is no shortage of such nauseating drivel in Narnia, if you can face it.

JG: Perhaps this is the nub of Pullman's attack. Lewis believes in a Christian afterlife. Moreover he believes that, for those who go to heaven, their heavenly life is preferable to the human suffering of mortal existence. In what way is such a view "vile"? I must stress that such a view is quite different from Pullman's rendering of it: "Death is better than life". No, no. Lewis claims that "Heaven is better than life". Heaven and death are not the same thing. The difference then is one of faith. We all believe in death. But those with faith in an afterlife see more beyond death than non-believers. Don't mistake my own assumptions. I have no personal belief in any afterlife. As far as I'm concerned, we are nothing but well-intentioned chemicals, and when we're dead that's the end of us, except for memories of us retained by our survivors. But that doesn't mean I can't read Lewis with at least wistful sympathy - if only it could be so. Nor does it prevent me from believing that, under some circumstances death, even without any compensatory afterlife, is better than a life of unrelieved misery. But perhaps I'm straying from whatever points Pullman is making.

There is the loathsome glee with which the children from the co-educational school are routed, in The Silver Chair: "with the strength of Aslan in them, Jill plied her crop on the girls and Caspian and Eustace plied the flats of their swords so well that in two minutes all the bullies were running away like mad, crying out, 'Murder! Fascists! Lions! It isn't fair.' And then the Head [who was, by the way, a woman] came running out to see what was happening." There is the colossal impertinence, to put it mildly, of hijacking the emotions that are evoked by the story of the Crucifixion and Resurrection in order to boost the reader's concern about Aslan in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

JG: Oh, how shuddersome. Yet, what is that loathsome glee I hear from Pullman, wielding the anti-Alsan crop and plying the flat of his dis-believer's sword as he assails Lewis - "vile, lothsome, it isn't fair! You sell by the lorry load, and I ...". And on what logical grounds does Pullman object to anyone "hijacking the crucifixion"? Surely he is unlikely to have much sympathy with anything supernatural in the New Testament, or any other part of the New Testament. Why would he find "hi-jacking" offensive? Does he read the New Testament story of the crucifixion, filled with strong positive up-lifting sympathetic emotions, which then turn to feelings of vileness and repulsion when it comes to the resurrection? In what sense is Lewis's story, at this point at its most allegorical ("stealing past whatchful dragons", as he once suggested), any form of hi-jacking?

And in The Last Battle, notoriously, there's the turning away of Susan from the Stable (which stands for salvation)

By Joshua Roberts
because "She's interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations. She always was a jolly sight too keen on being grown-up." In other words, Susan, like Cinderella, is undergoing a transition from one phase of her life to another. Lewis didn't approve of that. He didn't like women in general, or sexuality at all, at least at the stage in his life when he wrote the Narnia books. He was frightened and appalled at the notion of wanting to grow up. Susan, who did want to grow up, and who might have been the most interesting character in the whole cycle if she'd been allowed to, is a Cinderella in a story where the Ugly Sisters win.

JG: This is vapid fluff. Take a Lewis passage out of context and you can turn it to any purpose you want. Yet look at other passages and you find that Lewis was as adult as you could want. Try, for example, the ending of "That Hideous Strength", with a sexuality that may seem startling. Reactionary, I don't doubt. After all, Lewis lived in an age when difficulties (practical, legal and moral) relating to contraception made attitudes to sexuality different from ours. Nowadays sex is as much a sport as anything else. Before the pill it was more "natural" because it was so closely and unavoidably linked with procreation. Pullman's glib explanation of Susan's behaviour, "in other words ..." misses Lewis's point.

Walter Hooper's attitude to the Susan passage, in his Companion And Guide, is forthright: it has "a terrible beauty that makes the heart ache, and which is perhaps only matched by Dante's Paradiso". But Hooper is a devotee, if that word expresses a fervent enough passion. His book is almost a thousand pages long, but it's not as wideranging as it seems. He finds room for several paragraphs about the footling and an irrelevant question of whether a female (a distant connection of Lewis's) could succeed to a baronetcy, but none for a single mention of (say) Victor Watson's or David Holbrook's less-than-favourable views of the Narnia cycle. More seriously, A N Wilson's excellent biography (Collins, 1990) might as well not exist at all.

JG: Hooper, indeed, is a devotee, and needs to be read with caution. He swipes at Holbrook in "Past Watchful Dragons", not even wanting to sully the pages by writing Holbrook's name. But what is at stake with Susan is not that she turns into a woman, as such, but that she stops believing. Dantesque, indeed. Where do the disbelievers go?

But Wilson made the mistake of being fair about Lewis, not partial, and being fair about saints is doing the Devil's work. I haven't the slightest doubt that the man will be sainted in due course: the legend is too potent. However, when that happens, those of us who detest the supernaturalism, JG: Ah, just so! the reactionary sneering, JG: What, no examples? the misogyny, JG: Alleged on the basis of one misinterpretation - even Holbrook did better than that. the racism, JG: Well, come on Pullman - tell us about the Calormene's, those proud cruel pagan pastiches straight out of "One Thousand and One Nights" - don't just allege, without an example.

By Joshua Roberts

and the sheer dishonesty of his narrative method

JG: What, still harping on that, and not a case in sight to support your tirades?

will still be arguing against him.

Philip Pullman is a leading children's author and won the Carnegie Medal in 1996 for his novel Northern Lights. The sequel, The Subtle Knife, is published in paperback this month (Scholastic, 5.99)

JG: Lewis also won the Carnegie. Lewis is still being read. Not all Carnegie winners are so fortunate. John jugh@deakin.edu.au (John Gough) Lecturer in Education http://128.184.132.3:80/sci_dev/Staff/jgough.htm Deakin University SDS, 221 Burwood Hwy,