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Science Fiction writer claims the Lord Of The Rings series is ‘racist’

The Lord of the Rings series has been branded ‘racist’ by a science fiction writer who claims orcs are discriminated against and written as inferior.

American author Andy Duncan said British author JRR Tolkien depicted evil creatures such as orcs as ‘worse than others’ and said this had ‘dire consequences for society’. 

The criticism comes despite Tolkien being known as a fierce critic of racism, particularly the Nazi Germany regime in the 1930s and 40s.

US science fiction author Andy Duncan has accused British author JRR Tolkien of racism over his depiction of orcs in the Lord of the Rings series. Pictured are orcs from the Peter Jackson film adaptation of the novels

Duncan, pictured, said it was 'hard to miss' that 'some races are worse than others' in Tolkien's writings such as the orcs

Duncan, pictured, said it was ‘hard to miss’ that ‘some races are worse than others’ in Tolkien’s writings such as the orcs

But Duncan told podcast Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, run by Wired Magazine: ‘It’s hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others.

‘And this seems to me – in the long term, if you embrace this too much – it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.’

In the novels, orcs are ugly, cannibalistic creatures who have a thirst for murder and are used as soldiers by their evil ‘dark lord’ Sauron. 

Duncan has previously written a parody set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth universe called Senator Bilbo about a right-wing Hobbit politician opposing the immigration of orcs into The Shire.


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in January 1892.

After the death of his father Arthur from rheumatic fever, he moved to Birmingham with mother Mabel and brother Hilary until she died in 1904.

The brothers grew up living with relatives and in boarding homes and were looked after by a Catholic priest Father Francis Xavier Morgan, who taught him ‘charity and forgiveness’. 

Tolkien, pictured, is said to have 'despised' racism and previously argued with a German publishing firm when they asked him to 'prove his Aryan heritage' when discussing a German language version of The Hobbit

Tolkien, pictured, is said to have ‘despised’ racism and previously argued with a German publishing firm when they asked him to ‘prove his Aryan heritage’ when discussing a German language version of The Hobbit

Tolkien went on to get his first-class degree at Exeter College at Oxford University in Anglo Saxon and German language and literature.

Tolkien enlisted as a lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1915, having initially delayed joining up to finish his degree.

He fought in the Battle of the Somme and was eventually released from duty after coming down with trench fever 

After the war he became a linguistic teacher at the University of Leeds in 1920 and later Oxford University in 1925, where he began writing The Hobbit.

The book was eventually published in 1937, followed by The Lord of the Rings series in 1954 and 1955, which have gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide and spawned the successful film series adapted by Peter Jackson.  

Along with his literary work, Tolkien was also earmarked as a code breaker in 1939 ahead of World War II and was even asked to attend a course in London, only to eventually be told his services were not required.

He retired from academia in 1959 and died in 1973 aged 81.

Tolkien married Edith Bratt in 1916, with whom he had four children: sons John, Michael and Christopher and daughter Priscilla.   

Speaking about this story to the podcast, he added: ‘I can easily imagine that a lot of these people that were doing the dark lord’s bidding were doing so out of simple self preservation and so forth.

‘A lot of these creatures that were raised out of the earth had not a great deal of choice in the matter of what to do. I have this very complicated sense of the politics of all that.’

Duncan also compared the depiction of the orcs to modern day refugees and appeared to criticise President Donald Trump over the situation at the Mexican border.

He added: ‘It is easier to demonise one’s opponents than to try to understand them and to understand the complex forces that are leading to, for example, refugees trying to cross the southern border [of the US] legally or illegally.

‘It’s easier to build walls and demonise them as “scum”.’ 

Tolkien has previously been criticised for racism by academics, including Dr Stephen Shapiro, a then cultural studies academic at the University of Warwick, in 2003.

He wrote: ‘Put simply, Tolkien’s good guys are white and the bad guys are black, slant-eyed, unattractive, inarticulate and a psychologically undeveloped horde.’

But the criticism was slammed by other experts, including the Tolkien Society who said the author ‘detested’ racism.

Tolkien, who once described Hitler as a ‘ruddy little ignoramus’ previously argued with Berlin publishing house Rütten & Loening in 1938 over publishing a German language version of The Hobbit when the firm asked him to prove his ‘Aryan heritage’.

Tolkien wrote two letters in response, one ignoring the question, and the other confronting the issue head on.

In the second, he wrote: ‘If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

‘My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject – which should be sufficient. 

‘I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. 

‘I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.’ 

MailOnline has contacted the Tolkien Society and the Tolkien Estate for comment. 


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