Nergal is dissatisfied with the state of "criticism" of J.R.R. Tolkien and his opus, The Lord of the Rings (all three volumes, plus ...). Who out there is actually critical of this boring, relatively minor, elitist author? Where are the voices of dissent against the continued dissemination of Tolkien's ouvre in our cultures? Seriously, where are the critics? If you know of critical perspectives on Tolkien's work, send 'em to Nergal for analysis and possible inclusion here.
So in the interest of Tolkien criticism -- and let me offer my apologies to all those critics of whom I have not yet been made aware -- let us begin: We should purge Tolkien from our libraries on the basis of his racist, sexist, and elitist overtones! So what if this is polemic! Let us read Tolkien and not apologize for his words.
On race: [ITALICS MINE] "'More Men going to Mordor,' he said in a low voice. [muttering under his breath, as it were, as if he wished he didn't have to admit such a thing] 'Dark faces. We have not seen Men like this before, no, Smeagol has not. [displacing the disturbing overtones to the anti-hero, Gollum] They are fierce. They have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears; yes, lots of beautiful gold. [making the dark skinned other the possessor of oh, so many beautiful things which we don't have ...] And some have red paint on their cheeks, and red cloaks; [... overdetermining their otherness ...] and their flags are red, and the tips of their spears; and they have round shields, yellow and black with big spikes. Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger. ...'" (Tolkien, The Two Towers, Book Iv,Iii - p.283) And, of course, let us not forget that classic comment on Orcs: apologizing for Tolkien's rather obvious comparison to a racial other, one reader quotes, "The Orcs," Tolkien continues a little further on, "are definitely stated to be corruptions of the 'human' forms seen in Elves and Men. They are (or were) 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." (Tokien, Letter 210,19). Where do you even begin -- with Tolkien's equivocation of the least lovely (to Europeans) Mongol-types with "corruption of the 'human' forms", or with the oft repeated calculas of swarth whereby the darker one's skin the more likely one is aligned with evil?
Let's leave both possibilities aside for the moment in favor of one at least as disturbing: the discouragement of thinking about one's others' in different terms. Sam Gamgee witnesses a battle between the swarthy, dark-skinned, dark, long-haired men and the light-skinned men of Minas Tirith. Seeing the carnage, Sam reflects: "It was Sam's 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 man's 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 peace -- all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind." For an oliphaunt -- some huge creature -- comes tromping through the scene and hopelessly distracts Sam from any consideration of the other as someone possibly like himself with doubts and fears and yearnings for home. At the very moment when Tolkien might allow the reader a chance to reconsider the swarthy others they are distracted by a