Home / Robert Farley / Uruk-hai vs. Dothraki

Uruk-hai vs. Dothraki


Charli and I talk about racial representations in Tolkien and George R.R. Martin:

But I have to ask… Uruk-hai vs. Dothraki: Who would win in a fight?

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  • Murc

    Extraordinarily context-dependent.

    In an open battle? Dothraki. Orcs don’t ride and don’t have a lot of formation discipline, even elite ones like the Uruk-Hai, so the Dothraki would shred them apart. Saruman needed extraordinary numeric superiority in order to even have a shot at taking down Rohan and the Dothraki seem like they’re at LEAST as badass as the Rohirrim.

    Things change if the Orcs fort up, tho. It’s established that the Dothraki don’t have any sort of institutional knowledge for conducting a siege.

    • Greg

      Orcs in high fantasy have always been the grunts. They don’t win battles by strategem but rather brute force and overwhelming numbers.

  • MikeJake

    Dothraki can fight with bows, so I’d take them.

    And it’s good that you didn’t pit them against Marlo Stanfield’s crew or anyone else from The Wire. It makes David Simon sad.

    • Murc

      Orcs are actually decent bowmen, in the books as well as in the movies, and they like to poison their arrows as well.

    • wengler

      Uruks fight with crossbows.

  • LosGatosCA

    Is it sexist to say you are not as hot as Charli?

    • Robert Farley

      Not sexist so much as inaccurate.

      • Greg

        LOL. Not to wade in on the who’s hotter Q between Farley and Carpenter, I will only say that I miss Carpenter’s blogging on LGM.

      • joejoejoe

        Your conversation about gender, sex and that special Foreign Policy was one of the best things I’ve ever heard on the topic. I don’t know Dothraki from Pataki but I enjoyed and learned a lot from that segment. Also loved the honesty from Dr. Carpenter about who registers for class when you change the title from ‘Gender + Power’ to ‘Sex + Power’.

        I wonder if we ever had a male candidate with the right credentials like military vet and widely considered smart if we’d get a US politician playing the beefcake card like Putin?

        • Murc

          Didn’t Kennedy used to do that?

          • joejoejoe

            JFK did do it. He had the right credentials, WWII vet, running as a hawk (“missile gap”), nice pecs.

            It’s a pretty effective way to campaign on a superficial level if you’ve got the chops.

    • Manju

      Farley changed his M.O. for this vid.

      The lighting is now head on, not top-down. Usually he’s one intimidating looking MFer but the new angle softens his edgy face. There are no screaming kids in the background this time around and he’s leaning back, not forward like Charli.

      Methinks he rewatched the Lazio v Clinton debate and wasn’t about to take any chances.

      • SEK

        I’m glad to see someone’s reading my visual rhetoric posts.

    • Bill Murray

      I think Farley keeps his house warmer than Charli

    • “Is it sexist to say you [Rob] are not as hot as Charli?” a) yes, and b) to the general point, Uruk-hai. Just thought I’d clear all that up.

      • LosGatosCA

        Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to Mr Farley’s gender.

        • LosGatosCA

          Or his hat.

          • LosGatosCA

            Plus his general shiftiness under non-enhanced interrogation should put him under immediate suspicion of something.

            • LosGatosCA

              Charli’s direct eye contact proved that everything Farley said was a lie which is further confirmed by the books behind him which are arranged in a pattern very suggestive of a schizophrenic spider’s web.

  • Regarding the Dothraki, I actually wrote a blog post about their cultural depiction in GRRM’s Game of Thrones. They’re actually a culturally sophisticated people who are able to not assimilate but rather accommodate to Essos customs while still maintaining their own traditions; they play a crucial integrative role in the military and economic systems of Essos (they’re bribed to attack rival cities, they’re a major supplier of slaves to Astapor, Yunkai, and Mereen); they’re well-traveled (you do come across Dothraki mercenaries in Westeros), etc.

    In terms of a fight, GRRM made one big error with the Dothraki – in general, he describes them as very similar to the Scythians, Huns, Mongols, and other mounted warrior cultures that emphasized curved swords, recurve bows, and whips, which makes sense. However, the big problem is that the Dothraki apparently have a cultural prejudice against flank attacks on infantry – which is a massive flaw in any light cavalry force.

    If we eliminate that, the Dothraki would likely be quite successful on the traditional horse-archer model – although their disdain for armor would be another issue.

    • Murc

      However, the big problem is that the Dothraki apparently have a cultural prejudice against flank attacks on infantry – which is a massive flaw in any light cavalry force.

      You are right to use the qualifier “apparently” in that sentence. This prejudice only comes from a throwaway line uttered by a non-Dothraki (Jorah Mormont) in context that doesn’t make a lot of sense (how WOULD you flank a force of infantry arrayed to defend a city gate? They can array themselves so they LACK a flank) as part of a very old story that has likely changed in the telling somewhat.

      Although, in defense of this prejudice… I don’t get the feeling the Dothraki really have a long history of fighting ‘real’ wars against disciplined infantry who are prepared to receive their charge. They apparently didn’t exist as a culture when Valyrian legions were kicking ass and taking names, and even if they did that was a long time ago. They don’t fight the Slaver’s Bay cities. They maraud around the Nine Free Cities a fair bit, but they tend to be bought off there, and the Free Cities are known to rely very heavily on mercenary forces not known for going all-in, and also to prefer to retreat inside their walls. Qarth and the Jade Sea are a long, long way across the Red Waste, and when Dothraki fight Dothraki its all horse-on-horse action.

      So the cultural prejudice, if in fact it exists, might make a lot of sense if maintaining it doesn’t really cost them anything at all, because they never fight in a context where it would handicap them.

      As a sidebar, I’d like to note that with VERY few exceptions, disciplined, professionalized infantry formations seem to be absent from both Westeros AND Essos, which is a significant chunk of the world. In Westeros men on foot tend to be really shitty peasant levies stiffened by a small core of professional footmen who are good WARRIORS but probably not good soldiers who don’t know much about things like formation fighting; their military forces are largely focused on mounted combat by men in heavy armor with lances. The Free Cities use a lot of mercenary forces, who are going to be focused on staying alive and whose elite formations (such as the Golden Company) will be mounted anyway. The Dothraki are the Dothraki, of course.

      Valyria had its storied legions, but that’s… a long time ago.

      • Except that the story explicitly says the Dothraki could have flanked them and chose not to out of pride – and the Dothraki prejudice still exists.

        I think you’re right in that the Dothraki generally fight only other Dothraki – which is a potential weakness. You exaggerate about the lack of quality infantry – the Unsullied follow the Ghiscari tradition of disciplined phalanxes. As for the levies, let’s not underestimate them – they’ve been described in the past as capable of withstanding enormous punishment, as was the case in the Battle of Redgrass Field.

        The point is – the Uruk-Hai are disciplined infantry. If the Dothraki fight them, they’re likely to go down to defeat.

        • MikeJake

          …Unless the sun is out.

          • McAllen

            Not true. One of the advantages Uruk-Hai have over other orcs is that they can withstand the sun (although they still don’t like it, so maybe fighting in daylight would put them at a slight disadvantage).

          • Greg

            What this post and comment thread has outlined to me is that I simply don’t pay enough attention when I read what I regard as mental floss books.

            • Stag Party Palin

              I knew a woman who, because her husband was a VP at Blue Cross, managed to get an MRI on her pet canary.

      • joel hanes

        disciplined, professionalized infantry formations seem to be absent from both Westeros

        The HBO treatment of Ice and Fire puts this observation into Joffrey’s rant in which he explains to his mother the Queen how a real king should behave.

  • wengler

    Dothraki are humans that are accomplished horsemen, much like the Riders of Rohan. Obviously out in the open in small bands without warg rider auxiliaries, the Uruks are toast just like they were on the edge of Fangorn Forest.

    However, Uruks are foul creatures of the Earth that are birthed and trained quickly. Given enough time they could overwhelm with brute strength and numbers. Also the Uruks had a whole bunch of trees after them .

    So…I would take the Uruks. Eventually the Dothraki would have to besiege a settlement and the Uruks could ambush the Dothraki as a relief force.

    • The Fool

      The real question comes down to logistics: Can the Dothraki remove the food-sources the Uruk-hai would need to survive a siege? If they don’t have enough food/water, the Uruk-hai’s breeding advantage disappears, and even works against them. The Dothraki can just burn everything to the ground and wander off somewhere else, coming back in a few months to mop up the survivors.

  • Heron

    This is a classic heavy-infantry vs light cavalry question, and we know how that always works out. If the Uruk-Hai, with their armor and long spears, march out into the open plain to attack the Dothraki, the Horse-Lords will pepper them with arrows until their formation breaks, then ride them down with whip and sword. That happened to Crassus, and Valerian, and it isn’t terrible rare in military history. If, however, the Uruk-Hai stuck to rough, enclosed terrain which they could improve with trenches and pits, and the Dothraki came charging in after them, the Black Orcs would carry the day.

    Regarding charges that the Uruk-Hai aren’t particularly potent warriors, one needs to remember that the Men we see in Tolkien aren’t men at all; they’re super-humans. Even your common conscript of Gondor is capable of killing dozens of orcs in one-to-one fights. Dothraki on the other hand are not hardier or deadlier than any other men; they’re simply horse archers living on a large, open continent. Before the horse came to the Great Plains, the Comanche were nobodies; a weak and pitiful tribe driven from land to land and disdained by all. Their desperation drove their adoption of the horse, and their mastery of it made them the most fearsome people the West ever saw (other than us Euros, of course). Without the horse, or in a less open environment, the Dothraki would be no different than those poor Comanche ancestors.

    • Murc

      one needs to remember that the Men we see in Tolkien aren’t men at all; they’re super-humans. Even your common conscript of Gondor is capable of killing dozens of orcs in one-to-one fights.

      First of all, that’s not true. The Gondorians have a healthy fear of orcs and their infantry aren’t shown as regarding themselves as supreme badasses.

      Second of all, orcs, in most of the Tolkien source we see, are portrayed as deeply shitty fighters that rely heavily on weight of numbers. Morgoth found orcs so useless in fights against elves and their human allies that he specifically bred dragons in order to have a force that couldn’t be swept away like leaves in the wind. Isildur and his honor guard were ambushed, in the dark, by a prepared force that had numeric superiority and they killed so many orcs that their population took literally centuries to rebound. We see constant references to orcs trying to overwhelm humans and elves and dwarves and just getting mown down. The takeaway there should be that ‘orcs suck’, not that ‘these people are superhuman.’

      There are SOME Men who are superhuman. The Dunedain are known for throwing out the occasional leader who is a super badass. But its hardly standard.

      Third of all, Gondor doesn’t use CONSCRIPTS. Denethor WISHES he had the ability to conscript soldiers, he’d have a lot more of them. The Men of Gondor are feudal levies who provide service to the crown at the discretion of their lords (people like Prince Imrahil or Lord Forlong) or professionalized volunteer formations such as the Tower Guard.

      Eldar, specifically Noldorin Eldar, in Tolkien are supermen; they do things like fight in single combat with literal gods and demons at pretty decent odds. Men are not.

      • jackd

        Isildur and his honor guard were ambushed, in the dark, by a prepared force that had numeric superiority and they killed so many orcs that their population took literally centuries to rebound.

        The disaster at the Gladden Fields wasn’t what depopulated the orcs so thoroughly, that would have been the entire war leading up to the Seige of Barad-dur. The ambush IIRC was only a few hundred orcs at most.

    • Barry Freed

      This is a classic heavy-infantry vs light cavalry question

      Assuming the orcs don’t have warg-riders. Wargs would panic the Dothraki horses.

  • Dave

    Having shitty download speed, I’ll just ask the question the video appears to answer, for the record: what is the acceptable representation of ethnic diversity in a pseudo-medieval fantasy? How far along the line should it fall between what we know people thought in the real middle ages, and what we would like people to think now?

    • Awesome point. In practice, Fantasy usually doesn’t do either. It does third- or fourth-order derivative versions of the first. It should, to the extent that it still fetishizes late-medieval/early-modern European understandings of the 8th-11th centuries, strive for second. GRRM wants to do something like the second when it comes to class and gender, but the fundamental setup is very much the former when it comes to political geography.

  • Paul

    Oh dear not another typical take on JRRT’s epic – So Farley skimmed the LOTR and it offended him, then he went looking for racism and colonialism because it must be there. Of course he likely never actually read the bulk of JRRTs work or considered its implications.

    The men of the west fall into their own civil wars over race (about white people in fact, not swarthy men etc.) face hatred from the locals they ignored (at best) but in reality because they had in the past been as ruthless imperialists (same for Rohan in their own dealing with others). Dwarves and Elves and Elves and Elves had ages of brutality inflicted on each other all by themselves – and it’s the greatest elf who ever lived was also the clearly most evil character in the whole epic cycle (aside from the Melkor the fallen Valar/god character).

    The orcs are broken things made the real fallen ‘god’ they are fantasy creation to provide the Bad Guys with real troops who are unredeemable. I don’t see the problem here on that point. JRRT makes it clear he disliked de-humanizing war propaganda so he had to come up with a bad foot soldier that was not just the work of the day propaganda for the supposed good guys … In reality the fate of the men of the east and the south says nothing particularly about them except the West abandoned them. All men fell originally in the epic and the ’white’ west mostly ignored them (and when in power it was typically no better than Sauron ) and left Sauron alone so there can be little doubt were the fault lies – but remember Sauron himself is from the West in origin. In fact time and time again JRRT makes clear why the men serve the cause of Sauorn, they have no choice, and they have been mistreated by the West or see nothing better just one more overlord. I see no colonial flag waving.

    Beside really ‘Barbarian Other” please the other is perhaps the most tired overused constructed of academia. Hey do suppose those school children back in Mycalessus would have not been hacked to death if they just had not viewed the Dian Thracians as the Barbarian Other (Thucydides 7.29). Sometimes the other is the Other and is content to view other Others the same way.

    • Robert Farley

      Oh dear. I could so see writing a dissertation just about this comment.

      • Murc

        To be fair, Robert, your reading racial issues in the LOTR is very… standard.

        This isn’t to defend Paul, whose comment is barely intelligible. But like many people, it seems like you’re doing a sociological critique of Lord of the Rings based PURELY on the trilogy + The Hobbit. That’s incredibly common, but its a little bit like trying to do an intelligent sociological critique of 20th century America while knowing little, or nothing, about 19th century America.

        I personally think the Quenta Silmarrilion and the Akallabeth, if not Unfinished Tales and large parts of the History of Middle-Earth, should be required reading before you can even BEGIN to intelligently discuss racial and gender issues among the Dunadan-influenced societies of the late Third Age. You have to be able to talk about Aldarion and Erendis before you can talk about Arwen and Eowyn.

        • Robert Farley

          I have indeed done such reading… Again, a dissertation could be written on the topic, but I don’t find the wider universe material transformational on this point. It’s hard for me to imagine how someone could read Akallabeth and not find a bevy of nineteenth/early twentieth century colonial tropes, even if Tolkien maintains some critical distance from some of them.

          • Murc

            On the colonialism tropes in specific, you are correct, the complete canon isn’t transformational at all.

            But I feel like it is when it comes to thinks like race and (especially) gender. LOTR (just the main trilogy) deploys a lot of text and subtext on those scores that looks really, REALLY bad… unless you have the context provided by the wider universe. A lot of people have written a lot of words about, say, the Orcs as an oppressed people, or about the one strong women in the trilogy being sidelined in favor of a trophy bride, and about how the Easterners and Haradrim are largely portrayed as subhuman. Those arguments make a lot of sense… until you’re familiar with the complete cultural contexts and history involved.

            It doesn’t help that Tolkien made some deeply unfortunate descriptive choices (the famous line “black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues” is particularly cringe-worthy) in the main trilogy.

            I dunno. I’ll watch the discussion again, but it really felt like you and Charli were doing a very… surface reading of the whole thing. That said, I might be way too close to the materiel; I’m just an amateur, but the Tolkien canon is something I take very seriously.

            • Paul

              A couple thoughts – sorry if you did not find my post clear (it was a late day). Plus I lost the post twice with accidental page moves…

              It seems to me its a bit harsh to pick out one’s lapses “black men like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues” especially for a person born and raised a long time ago. I modern parlance it be kinda like firing a teacher because she is a slut because some college nude photo showed up on Facebook.

              I not arguing JRRT was enlightened saint and hid a message of profound tolerance and anti imperialism in the LOTR but across the body of work I don’t see any real pro colonialism. The fact is the ‘white’ Atlantis culture given all kinds of direct divine favor and gifts proved to be as harsh and cruel as anyone else in how they ruled and more or less defeated themselves time and time again.

              On orcs as I said its clear from his letters JRRT disliked the dehumanization of war propaganda on all sides so he really did need monsters who were truly dehumanized.

              So yes some racist things do creep into the text, but you need to judge that I thing against say the fact that one the Three tribes of ‘Good’ men was ruled by women with amazon guard, or that in the original draft the muster of Rohan included women, or that the squat ugly pukel men were original part of the enlightened ones who got ‘Atlantis” left before things got bad and were later hunted not by the bad guys but the good guys…

              The rant about the Other was just that it is pervasive, overused and as I see allows one an easy way people tend to think into a per-constructed ideology. The discussion used the Barbarian Other, but for example I did did not see (I admit again perhaps I missed that) any discussion of the fact the Iron Men certainly view rest of white Westros as Others.

            • Paul

              One last thought the Pukel men are interesting – that are squat, unlovely, swarthy. They have been hunted by the very good guys who are about to loose. They have to deal with the good guys explicit racism – questioning thier ability to count for example. On balance they have chose to live the live they have and that is ultimately respected in the LOTR they are neither ruled nor colonized.

              Did they have win that respect sure but than again that is how the world works – but you don’t see Aragorn demanding to send missionaries into there lands for example.

            • Robert Farley

              Doing my best to ignore Paul…

              I’ll give you the point that the wider canon does lend a different appreciation of gender relations, and that there are a number of important stories (Galadriel’s in particular) that are difficult to understand except in context of that wider universe.

              On the racial subtext I’m less convinced, and I think that it’s extremely hard to pull apart the colonial and racial aspects. Even with regard to the orcs, theories of racial supremacy based on some kind of pr-historic “fall” are hardly uncommon to the late nineteenth-early twentieth century understanding of racial and colonial relations. Being able to develop an explanation in-universe for why the Men of the West are different and better doesn’t resolve the racial and colonial issues associated with that position.

              All this is to say that Tolkien doesn’t fully escape the intellectual milieu from which he arises; this is not so much a critique of Tolkien’s character as an observation of the structures that informed his work.

              • Paul

                Fine ignore me – but I think the point is I don’t see the sense that the men of the west are better in the larger work. A very few individuals are perhaps but the fact that even Aragorn is a the product of a Kingdom that proved unable to avoid infighting and worshiping evil.

                I don’t see JRRT having much good to say about the Numenorean colonialism of the second age – even Gondor’s peak of colonialism is correlated with indolence and failure and race war over other white people.

                Yes its a ancient/medieval/per-modern world so I suppose you can make claim it is sexist, or as some kind of racist message but that seems like looking for something that is mostly absent in and meaningful or intended way (By this I mean realistically in an world with no baby formula,where child birth is still a high mortality event, where child mortality is high, without effect birth control, etc. its hard make women in the army seem very credible).
                If anything I thing sexism is the best thing to hit JRRT with since he dodged the implication of his own Elves. Immortals who cannot re-marry since they do not really die in the world, they really should have a large population of single women to do man jobs while married couples should be protected at all costs.

                Again fundamentally the Gods called the elves away on several occasions and more or less expressed displeasure with the imperialism of the special good men (which even in its early form is described as completely self serving and environmentally brutal).

                It easy to manipulate evidence you can make Truman a nasty racist who nuked japs, and when angry or young penned some ugly stuff or point to a man who rose above his upbringing with any number of initiatives (desegregating the army etc).

                With respect to orcs they did not fall they were made and broke by an irresistible force that is the problem I with making some kind of race issue. The Author clearly wanted a foot soldier for evil that was beyond redemption (except presumably by the ultimate god beyond the scope of the world) – not just a mislead human etc. In any of his theories on their origin they are broken and destroyed by the fallen angel/Melkor and they lack free will more or less. To go looking for a racial/colonialism issue is sort of violating the nature of the narrative – they are construct of evil meant to be evil.

                What’s actually more interesting is the Stalinist state Sauron needs to rule his orcs with its distrust, spies and number and reports.

                Compare that to Saruman and his loyal orcs, allowed to have nicknames for their lord, who trust each other and have a real sense of elan.

                Besides where is say the colonialism in the hobbit the supposed special people of the west are on the verge of a pointless war. Sure Gandalf shows up at the last possible minute to save the day, but he is what the only one of five wizards that falls into failure, self interest or evil?

              • gmack

                As it happens, I was just chatting with one of my colleagues who is teaching a course on Tolkien this semester. She is a professor of Medieval literature, who does a lot of work on etymology, Old English, etc. Anyway, she had a large number of really interesting insights that might be germane here: Basically, all of Tolkien’s language is intended to excavate the earliest etymology of the word. So for instance, “black” etymologically did not refer to a color, but to being burnt by fire (so it had linguistic associations with fire, volcanoes, etc, and so all of the associations with Sauron/Morgoth). So when he refers to the orcs as “black,” it means far more than we tend to associate with it. The same apparently holds for basically every one of his key words.

                For instance, she was telling me that the whole scene of the mirror of Galadriel is in effect an etymology of the term “mirror” (or vessel). In short, her suggestion was that the books need to be read mostly through an etymological lens, as a commentary on the history of the English language. Or perhaps we might say that Tolkien thought his mythologies were getting at some deep and primal set of meanings (hence, for instance, his total lack of in the psychology of his characters or even in the “ethnographies” of the peoples populating the world; we know something about, say, the Hobbits or the other protagonists, but even there there is almost not interest at all in their culture in an anthropological sense).

                Anyway, as I’m providing someone else’s thoughts on this, I can’t really elaborate much further (or really defend this reading fully either). I did think her insights were interesting, however.

              • Murc

                On the racial subtext I’m less convinced, and I think that it’s extremely hard to pull apart the colonial and racial aspects.

                That’s entirely true, yeah.

                Being able to develop an explanation in-universe for why the Men of the West are different and better doesn’t resolve the racial and colonial issues associated with that position.

                Different and better than the Orcs, you mean, or different and better than other Men?

                I think the canon makes it pretty clear that being a Dunadan doesn’t actually make you better than other men in an inherent sense; you live longer, as a result of divine favor bestowed upon your ancestors, and that’s pretty much it. Those Dunedain who thought of other races of Men as being lesser or impure blood are clearly portrayed as being wrong and evil; the sympathies of the author and the universal powers-that-be are with Elendil, not with Ar-Pharazon, and with Eldacar, not with Castamir.

                If you mean the Orcs, that’s trickier and has always been harder to unlock, in my opinion. One of the big things in my mind is that typical pre-historic “fall” narratives usually involve some degree of fault on the part of the putative fallen, which then becomes justification for treating them as sub-human. That’s explicitly not the case with Orcs, who were twisted into what they are against their wills. On the other hand, there’s never a path for redemption presented for them either as individuals or as a race, so… it’s tricky, I’ll admit. You’re right about Tolkien not fully escaping the intellectual milieu from which he arises.

                Frankly, I think the most interesting conversations about unpleasant social messages in Tolkien’s work center around religion more than anything else. The portrayal of the Valar and how they interact with the non-divine races under their stewardship is problematic in so very many ways.

                Oh, and Paul, it’s not so much that I’m ignoring you as I find your comments baffling and nonsensical. Seriously. You’re clearly deeply familiar with the materiel but if you have points to make I really can’t discern them.

                • Paul

                  I’m not sure why – I agree my first post was a bit rambling and let’s just allow my aggravation at the overuse of the ‘Other’ as a crutch particularity useful for projecting a current world view on the past. Fine maybe I should not have mentioned it – except that its silly in the context – steppe nomads really did not see themselves as the same as city dwellers and different nations did not see themselves as the same as other people historically. I don’t see any real problem with a fantasy story that makes that point.

                  In Game of Thrones the fact is lots of people see each other as Others and none of them seem all that nice and all are willing to to amp up violence to achieve there goals. I don’t really think that is a problem how many of us live fat and happy on the violence committed in our names?

                  I guess my points seem relatively clear to me.

                  Say with orcs:

                  The thing is we know from JRRT’s letters and notes to his son he was not happy with war propaganda. He was also writing an epic work that required an evil army that had to number in the thousands and such over ages.

                  The result is a broken and evil race but one that is not men or elves or gods (all of whom fall lower as individuals).

                  I think real interesting ideal is that Tolkien never said what the fate of men was or men turned into orcs, or why Eru allowed orcs to have souls or what the fate of his world really was

                • Paul

                  And yes I have always been an bad typist and piss poor at grammar and spelling. So yes I would really like an edit option for this debate on the comment section of this blog – because I can see a multitude of corrections I would have made in everything I posted so far.

                  On balance my point is I think the Barbarian Other argument -> based on the racism is grounded in the most simplistic reading of maybe just the Lord of the Rings or even just the movie and cannot really stand up to a full reading of what JRRT wrote for his whole narrative.

                • Paul

                  Another thought so yes JRRT failed to completely be a saint and did include say the earlier mentioned racist comment (the Varigs). But than he also wrote Faramir a character he explicitly identified with as his favorite; who rejected ends-justify-the-means. thinking to win a war and the defeat that involved.

                  That would in effect be a very strong rejection of Dick Cheney’s logic but hey let’s ignore that in any discussion because we need to rush off to a to make a point of an explicit failure of LOTR to be Earthsea as sin.

      • Paul

        Look I appreciate the concept but (the Other) but like a lot schools of thought it is a crutch I think that is vastly over used.

        In this case the real point is you look to be applying to the LOTR quite without setting the work in its larger Epic cycle and thus making what is a fairly false point about colonialism and the Otherness of Southerners or Easterners.

  • Ben

    The most disappointing thing about this discussion is that no-one brought up the Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky dvd commentary for the Fellowship of the Ring (Part 1, Part 2)and Return of the King (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

    Working within the broad strokes of the critique Farley outlined, Zinn and Chomsky expose and explore the Othering of the orcs, the privileging of narratives which glorify Elf and Human culture at the expense of others, the political economy of Middle Earth which re-enforces those narratives, the racist and hypocritical political machinations which pit the oppressed races against each other, and the possibilities of recovering a discourse of the oppressed which would allow the marginalized elements of Middle Earth to speak on their own terms about their own interests, among many other subtle analyses and critiques of Jackson’s depiction of Tolkien’s society.

    A masterful tour de force which belongs in any serious discussion of critical appraisals of Tolkien and fantasy.

    • Murc

      This comment is tongue-in-cheek… right?

      I… can’t even tell anymore.

      • dave

        One of the main problems with this sort of critique [even, as here, done satirically] is that it boils down to “this cultural artefact clashes with my current policy preferences, and here’s how…” Those who fail to give a shit about said preferences are excluded from the conversation, while those that lap them up form a choir to be preached to.

        How much more interesting, and productive, to see the creation of such artefacts in their historical and cultural context, and to follow that through to their shifting receptions across time and space, in which any number of issues about inclusions, exclusions, oppositions, degradations and exaltations can be explored without feeling the need to rack up points on the goodies vs. baddies scoreboard.

        But I suppose this IS the internet, so what am I thinking?

        • “But I suppose this IS the internet, so what am I thinking?”

          Is it time to mention Hitler yet?

      • Ben

        Yeah, the articles are clearly jokes, and I thought “A masterful tour de force which belongs in any serious discussion” was sufficiently over-the-top to avoid confusion. Guess not.

        That said, just in general dave’s second paragraph is spot on.

  • Fats Durston

    Where was the “letter from a disgruntled Dothraki” piece that Charli mentioned?

    • ajay

      Where was the “letter from a disgruntled Dothraki” piece that Charli mentioned?

      Having read the first couple of books, I am finding it difficult to picture one that is even occasionally gruntled.

  • Kordo

    Uruk-hai, hands down. Heron is right, to a point. It is a classic Heavy Infantry vs Light Cavalry contest, but there are a few twists. One, the Uruk-hai do have ranged weapons (crossbows, shortbows), as well as shields and heavy armor. Two, Light Cavalry is effective against armored infantry formations because of disciplined, coordinated tactics. Absent those, and horse-archers are basically just annoying. The Dothraki are brave and tough, but the Uruk-hai (regardless of terrain) are just gonna knuckle up and pick em off as they come in to shoot.
    Of course, all the above assumes a straight-up battle to the death. Differences in objective (take/hold a piece of ground, capture a fortress, skirmishing, etc.) would change this up a bit.
    As to the modern cultural/racial implications in JRRT’s work, I’ll leave that pointless mental masturbation debate to those more qualified than myself…

    • As to the modern cultural/racial implications in JRRT’s work, I’ll leave that pointless mental masturbation debate to those more qualified than myself…

      Wait, you think that discussing “who would win in a fight” is less masturbatory than discussing race and gender?

      • Kordo

        Hmm, good point…No, I’m just exactly geeky enough to be interested in “Mighty Mouse vs Superman” arguments, but not scholarly enough to give a shit about implied racism in a book about elves and wizards. Not to knock Farley, who is an interesting thinker, and someone whose work I respect. I prolly should have made that clearer.
        Having said that, I wonder what the fight would look like if you factored in Dragons & flying Nazgul…

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