Race Has No Role in Tolkien’s World

The new Tolkien series, “Rings of Power,” stirred up controversy by casting non-white actors. And the casting debate has awakened old claims that racism shapes Tolkien’s fiction. Those accusations rely on misunderstandings of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the other tales of Middle Earth — and of history.

Middle Earth draws on a pre-racial world

J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters and descriptions use terms like “fair” and “light” for good people and “dark” and “black” for evil. That’s led to claims of racism. But race has nothing to do with Tolkien’s words and images.

Gudvangen Norse carving: face of Tolkien's ancient northwest
The face of the ancient northwest, Gudvangen, on the Nærøyfjord, Norway

Race is a relatively new concept. It dates back to the 1400s CE — though some interpretations suggest dates as late as the 1700s or as early as the 1000s. Prior societies had no concept of race. (My new book, Origin Stories, will explore the history of race.) And Tolkien based Middle Earth on ancient and early medieval northwestern Europe. Terms like “fair” for good and “black” for evil come from the early Anglo-Saxons and other distant peoples who had no concept of race — and essentially no knowledge of what we’d call “other races.” Tolkien keeps faith with those people, particularly their words. He dedicated his career to their languages. Continue reading “Race Has No Role in Tolkien’s World”

BookBub Feature & Discount, Jericho River E-books

BookBub has chosen The Jericho River as a featured title! That’s flattering recognition, and it also means you can buy an e-book at a discount, from today through March 19.

In case you don’t know BookBub: members get notices about e-books the staff thinks they’ll enjoy, after a competitive selection process. The members also get a limited-time discount. But you can take advantage of the discount even if you’re not a member, at most or all retailers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and India …

March 12-19, 2016: The Jericho River, A Novel About the History of Western Civilization, U.S. list price $6.99limited time discount:*

I’m excited that BookBub chose The Jericho River. Please spread the word about the discount opportunity, particularly to anyone who enjoys fantasy, history, or unusual fiction. Thanks!

JR.banner-map -- smallerA fantasy novel that’s also a history, The Jericho River has won multiple awards. It’s a magical adventure story that explores the history of Western Civilization, from its roots in the ancient Middle East to the modern world. It’s also a remarkable, light, fun way to learn, for both teens and adults. And it’s an exciting ride for anyone who enjoys stories like Tolkien’s work — or thinking out of the box.

* Prices may vary outside the United States.