Orientalism in Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings was my favorite book and movie series growing up. I argue that the series is better than Star Wars and The Godfather by a large margin. That being said, I think all lovers of the trilogy should consider an orientalist perspective when experiencing the power of the one ring.

While it may not have been intentional, J.R.R. Tolkien created a world called “Middle Earth” that resembled a Eurocentric mindset. In Middle Earth, the west part of the map is filled with innocent white people (hobbits, elves, men, dwarves). The most extreme example is the snow-white elves. Further East in the map is Mordor where Mount Doom lies along with thousands of disgusting, uncivilized orcs.

Again, Tolkien most likely did not mean to hide a hate for the East in his books. However, the blatant contrast between the white westerners and orc easterners reflects a regional bias that may be prevalent among Europeans. Subconsciously, westerners may differentiate themselves from other regions, such as the East, based on race.

In the two biggest battles of the Lord of the Rings, there is a theme of everyone coming together in Middle Earth to defeat the orcs. The first battle is Helms Deep, where the men of Rohan are surprised by hundred of elves willing to fight along side them. Even though the idea is that two very different groups come together, both groups are still 100% white. Anyone who is not western is left out of the “good” alliance.

Tolkien had a clear lack of people of color in his book, but there is still no way I will try to cancel Lord of the Rings. But through this orientalist lens, we can see how a Eurocentric viewpoint can influence one of the greatest pieces of media in the last century.

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