I’m a big fan of The Lord of the Rings, both the books and the movies, but I had never really read about the real life influences of the different races and characters. So it really came as a surprise that the evil enemy in a landmark achievement for fantasy is a racial stereotype, considering how critically acclaimed and popular the series still is today. It’s also surprising to me that it came from Tolkien. From different interviews and other things I’ve seen online I’ve only really seen people praise him, and they have great respect for him and his works, and maybe it’s because I wasn’t specifically looking for it, but I’ve never really seen these criticisms talked about. Then the feeling of disappointment kind of takes over after surprise. Disappointment in the fact that it’s such an amazing story, and you can’t tell me Return of the King isn’t a top 5 movie of all time, but it’s ties with this stereotype origin of orcs that still effects people today kind of casts a dark shadow over it. Like the article says, Tolkien was influenced by a lot of things that perpetuated stereotypes during his time, and he was susceptible to them.
“They are 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.”Orcs, Britons, And The Martial Race Myth, Part I: A Species Built For Racial Terror
When Tolkien describes the origins of orcs, he does at least recognize the bias of Europeans and Western thinking with the disclaimer “(to Europeans)”, but he still used the stereotype as influence for his story. Even if he himself recognized it, fantasy stories and culture were influenced by a really dark, real life stereotype. The article says that things like Dungeons & Dragons were heavily influenced by his orcs. It seems like a lot of this has gone ignored by fans, or there have been a lot of attempts to defend it or refute it.