((IMPORTANT: The photoset was acting up last night, so in case that hasn’t been fixed yet, there’s a text-only version of this post coming out in exactly 20 minutes. Super sorry for the weirdness.))
Racism and Middle Earth: Part 4/6: Of Dwarves and Antisemitism
Okay, this is part of an ongoing series, and also a draft (the final, complete version will be offered as a downloadable pdf.) As such there are a couple un-attached pages that you will probably want to know about:
I mentioned this before, but antisemitism isn’t a topic I have a lot of experience with (due to the extremely low Jewish population in all the areas I’ve lived in, it wasn’t a subject that came up much in my own experiences, or something that my professors really focused on.) So if you notice anything that you think I missed or got wrong, please let me know so I can correct it for the final version. Also, many of the major concepts in this section came from "Dwarves are not heroes" by Rebecca Brackmann.
ALSO, good news! I’ve actually already written the rest of this series (just a short section on Tolkien’s personal writings, and an even shorter conclusion), so you should see that posted in just a couple days!
Copying my comments onto this post.
Any feedback from tumblr dwarf nerd Jews? I know I’ve read some really good pieces about the films and Jewish readings of them.
Also, for more talk about ‘Evil Dwarves’ - this post: http://askmiddlearth.tumblr.com/post/81768652522/evil-dwarves
Yes, I must say that I do notice a lot of similarities, though most of them in the movies. Well, first, all points you mentioned above are some I came across are some I agree with (except for the one about speaking the language of the area Jews live in, with their own accent. I have never heard of that and I can’t really say anything about it, since all Jews I know either speak flawless German or have a Russian accent).
When I first watched the movie my cousin pointed out how the ‘reclaim Erebor’ thing reminded her of Jews as well, and zionism. Longing for a country for Jews and ‘going home’ is deeply ingrained in Jewish culture (or at least in the community I grew up in.) Not necessarily the current state of Israel, just a home. I can relate to it a lot, in fact, the way the older Dwarves act in the movies reminds me of my grandpas.
Also, I don’t speak Hebrew or Yiddish myself, but I had teachers who talked in it randomly, and khuzdul speech melody reminds me of it a lot. Same with the Misty Mountains version during the credits. The ‘ah-ya-ya-yay’ sound is one actually sung in certain prayers. I read that this was deliberate for the movie.
oh, and can I add in something that occurred to me recently, about religion? how Aule was ordered to destroy his Dwarves and he really meant to do it, but Eru saw the Dwarves plead for mercy and allowed them to live (under certain conditions). I was taught that Abraham and Isaac were basically the first Jews as such, and Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his beloved son, as prove of his faith. In the last moment an angel stopped him, since his will to do what his god commanded proved him good and there was no need… well, it does remind me of the Dwarf creation
I think it’s also important to mention that nearly all of the bad stereotypes Tolkien used might have seemed harmless to him? Like people have stereotypes along the lines of ‘English people cook bad’ or whatever… Some people just don’t know better, or think it’s nothing bad
Another thing I’d add is the funerals. Dwarves are buried in stone, and having to burn a bodies is somewhat of a tragedy. It’s like that for Jews as well. The dead are buried without damaging the body further, and corpses aren’t removed from the graves anymore. Some very old jewish graveyards have much higher ground because of that. It’s tradition to put stones over the grave, and each time you visit a relative you put pebbles on the headstone. I’m not sure whether it was his personal belief or a tradition, but our teacher said that you’re not supposed to plant anything on the grave, or put flowers there, since they wilt and stones don’t.
The fact that bodies were buried in mass graves or burned during the Holocaust is terrible from a religious standpoint. You’re not supposed to burn the bodies of the dead, and as far as I know rabbis are even discussing what implications this has for the future or the dead who were burned. I’m not sure what conclusions were reached, since everyone has their own opinion, of course.
I’m not sure when Tolkien came up with these traditions for Dwarves, or whether he knew of the same thing in Judaism, but it is a similarity I always think about when somebody mentions it