Erasing Tolkien? What’s that about? Well, the showrunners and actors of Amazon Prime Video’s Rings of Power series have declared that their series is a version of Tolkien’s work that reflects modernity – “To be part of creating accessibility for generations to come. For new generations this is their version of Tolkien, this is what my daughter will see of Tolkien’s works.” That is a direct quote from actress Sophia Nomvete, who plays Disa, the wife of Dwarf king Durin.
Now, the very concept of erasing Tolkien in the name of social justice is flawed. Tolkien intended for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to be the mythology and folk tales of and for the English people. As such, he based much of his stories on European folklore. Which invariably means that the characters in Tolkien’s stories will be Caucasian – this is clear from the very descriptions in Tolkien’s books themselves. Thus for Rings of Power to introduce black dwarves and elves is simply inaccurate to the lore and diametrically opposed to the spirit of Tolkien’s books.
Unfortunately, thanks to contemporary film and TV producers (i.e. “Hollywood”) – who are mainly white themselves mind you – Hollywood has decided to take on the mantle of social justice warriors and deeming somehow that these literary works of a different age should be ‘redeemed’ to represent what the modern world looks like in 2022. Thus we have Rings of Power with its erasing Tolkien agenda.
However, might we suggest that instead of erasing Tolkien, Hollywood should instead consider adapting the many fantasy novels out there based on African culture? Some examples come to mind.
Raybearer (2020) is a young adult fantasy novel written by Jordan Ifueko. Ifueko creates a fantasy set in a world that draws from her Nigerian heritage and incorporates a twenty-first-century twist for her young adult audience. The novel follows Tarisai, a young girl bound by a magical wish by her absent and distant mother: kill the Crown Prince. When Tarisai is sent to the capital to compete to be part of the Crown Prince’s council, Tarisai finally finds what she had always craved: love, belonging, connection.
The Gilded Ones is a 2021 young adult fantasy novel by Sierra Leonean American writer Namina Forna. The novel follows the story of a young female named Deka, who lives in the West-African-inspired society of Otera, in which women live to be of service to men, and their roles in everyday life are grounded in misogyny.
The Rage of Dragons (2019) is an African (Xhosa) inspired epic fantasy debut by Evan Winter, and it is the first installment in The Burning quartet. Described as a mix of Game of Thrones and Gladiator, The Rage of Dragons follows Tau as he attempts to get revenge and become the greatest swordsman to ever live.
Children of Blood and Bone is a 2018 young adult fantasy novel by Nigerian-American novelist Tomi Adeyemi. The book, Adeyemi’s debut novel and the first book in a planned trilogy, follows heroine Zélie Adebola as she attempts to restore magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, following the ruling class Kosidáns’ brutal suppression of the class of magic practitioners Zélie belongs to, the Maji.
A Song Below Water is a 2020 young adult fantasy novel written by Bethany C. Morrow. The book centers on an African-American high school student and siren named Tavia who attempts to keep her identity a secret while living in Portland where magical creatures are oppressed.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. To be fair, many of the above are already being developed into film or TV projects and will do more for accessibility, diversity and representation than Rings of Power’s efforts in erasing Tolkien. Let’s call this out for what it is – culture appropriation and culture destruction. The people behind Rings of Power should be ashamed of themselves for their blatant virtue signalling.
… still there’s more …