The Sandman Creator Neil Gaiman Dismantles Racist LotR Arguments

The Sandman creator Neil Gaiman responds to racist arguments about the Harfoots in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Gaiman responded to arguments from fans on Twitter that casting black actors to play Harfoots, the ancestors of Hobbits, in the Lord of the Rings prequel series goes against JRR Tolkien’s original vision since there were no black characters in his novels. In one tweet, Gaiman stated, “Tolkien described the Harfoots as ‘browner of skin’ than the other hobbits. So I think anyone grumbling is either racist or hasn’t read their Tolkien. Your mileage may vary.”

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When another fan responded to Gaiman saying that “browner of skin means tanned white,” the author replied, “Tolkien didn’t say ‘The Harfoots spent longer in the sun than any of the other hobbits and were a lot more tanned.’ He said they were ‘browner of skin.'” This discussion was sparked by a GQ interview with The Rings of Power star Sir Lenny Henry, who portrays a Harfoot named Sadoc Burrows. In the interview, the actor stated, “They have no trouble believing in a dragon, but they do have trouble believing that a black person could be a member of the court. Or that a black person could be a hobbit or an elf.”

Harfoots were one of the three breeds of Hobbits, the other two being Stoors and Fallohides. Like every people in Tolkein’s original books, the Hobbits have a complex history that wasn’t fully realized in Peter Jackson’s original film trilogy. The Rings of Powerwhich takes place during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, will depict the early age of Harfoots when they first began migrating West. In the books, Tolkien described the Harfoots as “browner of skin” than other Hobbits. They were also the first to migrate Westward and were on particularly friendly terms with the Dwarves.

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In an October 2021 interview, Henry described was it was like to play a “black Hobbit” in a “multi-cultural” tribe like the Harfoots. “We’re Hobbits but we’re called Harfoots, we’re multi-cultural, we’re a tribe, not a race, so we’re black, Asian and brown, even Maori types within it,” he said. Showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have explained how the prequel series will set itself apart from previous adaptations, but also noted that it has “deep roots” in Tolkien’s original work.

Shortly after the two-episode premiere of Rings of Power, Amazon suspended ratings for the series in an effort to combat review-bombing. Generally, fans appear divided on the series. Feedback on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes showing a critics’ rating of 84%, while the audience score is a rotten 37% at the time of writing. The Rings of Power is the most expensive show yet for Amazon’s Prime Video; the first season alone reportedly cost the streamer $465 million.

New episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premiere every Thursday on Prime Video.

Source: Twitter, GQ

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