Re: Tolkien's notion of biology
|From:||Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>|
|Date:||Tuesday, December 16, 2003, 9:28|
Quoting "Thomas R. Wier" <trwier@...>:
> From: Benct Philip Jonsson <bpj@...>
> > A friend commented thus on the link
> > that started this thjread:
> > > I didn't quite see the linguistic element in
> > > this critique of "ethnicity" in Middle-earth.
> > > Given that we have Dunedain (and some Hobbits)
> > > speaking Sindarin, while Elves, Dwarves, Orcs,
> > > Hobbits and Rohirrim are speaking Common Speech,
> > > and that neither "Elf" nor "Orc" maps neatly onto
> > > a single language, and "Hobbit" doesn't map at all,
> > > I have to wonder whether the author is confusing
> > > Tolkien with Dungeons and Dragons. Hm.
> Far be it from me to speak for the author of the blog-entry,
> but I would stop to point out two things:
> (1) It's quite possible that Mr. Liberman was unaware of
> that any mixing of language and race existed at all in
> Tolkien's world.
> (2) Even if he is thus aware, it is surprising that there
> is not significantly more mixing of races and language.
> The so-called races that exist in this world are thoroughly
> and completely mixed: the indigenous people of America can
> be sorted into three distinct genetic grouping (cf. Cavalli
> Sforza 1997?), and yet they are, pace Greenberg, divided into
> no less than many dozens of completely unrelated language
> families. The inverse can also be true: while Africa is
> home IIRC to five of the six major genetic subgroupings of
> _Homo sapiens sapiens_, it is home to no more than four
> major language phyla (Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Congo, Khoisan,
> Nilo-Saharan). Given the length of time humans have inhabited
> Africa, this is perhaps somewhat surprising.
> .. the point to take home being that Tolkien's world does not
> have such a profound mismatch.
I don't see why we should expect it to have. I mean, the "races" of Men,
Elves, Dwarves, Orcs certainly are not "races" in the sense of Caucasoids,
Mongoloids, etc. I rather doubt the concept of "species" in its biological
sense is properly applicable to them either, given the possibility of human-
elf interbreeding, and Orcs' being derived from Elves (or Men in other
Simply, it's another world where other rules apply.