I don’t know enough to make direct connections to Mandarins, but that’s what they always seemed like when I was a kid.
It doesn’t make much sense:
Orcs, elves, dwarves and humans are supposed to be different species, with major defining genetic characteristics (like elves not aging at all for starters). Trying to make them map human ethnic group is actually as racist as your could go, (as it kind of conveys the message these human ethnic groups work like these fantasy species that have major genetic differences that dominate their cultural differences, and even has very different natural attribute modifiers).
What next, should aliens, ogres and all the species we happily murder in all of these settings also be made “culturally sensitive”?
Because the whole concept of intelligent species whose main purpose is to get murdered could be considered problematic by itself.
Species typically can’t breed, yet there are half-orcs, half-elves, etc. Not sure about half-halflings. (Quarterlings?)
Eh. Sorta. Fantasy tropes like half-elves and half-orcs make this a little less definite.
Elves and Dwarves dislike each other because some Elven King (with Dwarven help) crafted a necklace using a Dwarven artifact…combined with a great gem of Elvish creation. The Dwarves slew the King to claim it for themselves.
Trying to figure out how this maps…
P.S. Lets hunt some orc!
There’s also the other issue of if casual racism generally in whatever form is not acceptable in real life, should it be acceptable in fiction?
I thought Vulcans were space elves, and Klingons were space Mongols.
Eldar of WH40K are the true space elves. They even take the same name. It’s blatant.
The offspring are usually sterile however. I don’t think half-elves, half-orcs, etc. are sterile. (I have no idea actually. You would need to contact the Tolkien estate.)
I remember being a little weirded out back in Warcraft days when the trolls all had Jamaican accents (and danced around totems), dwarves Scottish, etc. (This was even before we were all woke, and I was in high school or college–maybe it was Warcraft 3? but it might have been the case in Warcraft 2 as well.) Mapping human stereotypes onto fantasy races is definitely problematic, in my opinion, and I’d be glad to see it go. This may or may not be an issue in Dungeons & Dragons specifically (I don’t know) and of course a GM-run PnP campaign is going to be whatever the GM/players decide (IIRC popehat on twitter had some pretty ugly stories of straight-up racist campaigns from his youth, but that’s not especially relevant, I guess), but D&D is a pretty foundational member of the modern fantasy ecosystem and I think it’s been an issue from the beginning. I suspect this is because it’s easy to do without thinking much and makes a fantasy world more relatable.
Hobbits, and by extension halflings, are counted among the second children of Eru Iluvatar. So Men AKA Mankind. His favorite, because they also have the gift of mortality and are able to act outside of the music.
Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated.
There are multiple settings (Warcraft, Divinity, Elder Scrolls to name some) that have already done away with the “Orcs are universally evil and unintelligent” trope, I assume for the sake of novelty rather than real-world politics. Of course, the closer you lean into Tolkien, the more you will embrace that trope.
I’m wondering if we’ll now end up with a new trope that’s “Every race is just humans with a different morphology”. Same moral complexity, same capacity for intelligence, all the differences are chalked up to culture. Will we ever get to a point where you can’t have positive racial generalizations like “Orcs are strong” or “Gnomes are smart” either? These could, like the monstrous race tropes, be mapped onto real-world stereotypes like “Blacks are athletic” and “Asians are good at math”, etc.
I’m guessing it will always be acceptable to have differences that can’t be mapped onto any real-world traits, like different lifespans and magical potential.
So, I think James Mendez Hodes breaks down the sort of ongoing issues with evil races pretty well:
https://jamesmendezhodes.com/blog/2019/1/13/orcs-britons-and-the-martial-race-myth-part-i-a-species-built-for-racial-terror & https://jamesmendezhodes.com/blog/2019/6/30/orcs-britons-and-the-martial-race-myth-part-ii-theyre-not-human are really well thought out, and I encourage folks to read them.
I think that a lot of modern D&D descended/Tolkien-lite fantasy is generally thoughtless with how it deploys the idea of different races and species, whether as playable character types or sentient, sapient things apart in the world. A simple change like making orcs obligate carnivores or goblins a eusocial species are much more interesting than inherently evil critters or species-as-faceless-stormtroopers.
So, nobody is really evil or good or anything, it is just a matter of perspective and there should only be the perspective of whatever hate group manages to get enough “buzz” to angle the pendulum their way for the time being.
If Wizards of the Coast (or w.e.) wanted to add more nuanse to their characters for the sake of a story or w.e. sure, good on them, but if they felt pressured to “invent” changes to a storyline “orcs bad, humies good” because of unrelated events outside of their fantasy world, sad - so sad.
These are Telefrog’s words, not D&D’s, but I am totally for this. I have long despised the everpresence of overly simplified evil in all kinds of entertainment. Not because it is racist, but because it pushes people to see evil in such a childish way, that it makes them blind to the banal evil of everyday life Not that I care if some entertainment is that way, but the amount is overwhelming.
Hmmm, not so sure about that. Are we saying that the tenets of liberal democracy are followed in all places and times? Sounds ostrich-like to me. I have definitely known some people who were not at all free to decide who they were and what they did.
I think we should take back Peter Jackson’s LotR Oscars, can’t belive how racist those movies were.
OMG those orcs were just trying to culturally enrich Gondor, share their food and customs with those racist WHITE gondoreans, and that racist Aragorn called on the power of his white privilege (born a king? can you say Privilege?) to kill those poor sweeties.
Gandalf the WHITE? Gimme a break, Tolkien, you racist fascist!
Mapping any real world ethnicity to orcs is…pure hyperbolic projection, and a dire misunderstanding. At least in regards to Tolkien. Orcs are only one facet of “Morgoth’s Ring.”
I would think there would always be much more contention and controversy over the race-mixing aspects involving the Numenoreans…but even that is complex. The people who feared race-mixing lost. Badly…during the Kinstife. And the bless spell from the Valar had long since already worn off…after the downfall of the star island. Just another misunderstanding.
The search for outrage continues.
I hate to see an entire race become a punching bag. But I guess punching bags exist for a reason.