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Christine Kelley

Christine Kelley writes about speculative fiction and radical politics from a queer revolutionary Christian perspective. Currently her main project is Nowhere and Back Again, a psychogeography of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Her first project was the now semi-retired blog Dreams of Orgonon, a song-by-song study of Kate Bush.Support Christine on Patreon.


  1. Bog Dob
    August 13, 2021 @ 12:37 pm

    No blue wizards?


    • Christine Kelley
      August 13, 2021 @ 12:49 pm

      Something for the book edition, I suppose.


  2. FezofRassilon
    August 16, 2021 @ 9:11 am

    Are there any fantasy races or monsters that are based on exaggerated features of white people? Elves and maybe vampires? Interesting to see what it would look like from the other direction.


  3. Aylwin
    August 17, 2021 @ 1:37 pm

    Khand is an odd little anomaly, a named and roughly delineated country in a zone where everything else is just a vague gesture at a compass (well, except Umbar, but as a Numenorean settlement that’s a special case), with no substantial narrative role to explain this. Its Variags are also the only human group not aligned with the West who just might be accorded a ethnonym they use themselves, since I don’t think Tolkien ever gave it an etymology, and as a “loanword” into his world it does not have an evident one from his invented languages.

    (I say aligned because the Drúedain (Drughu) did get one, despite being a group based on racialised people and one that is firmly framed as racially other within the fiction – though even they do not explicitly get that name in the LOTR itself, where it’s disparaging exonyms all round. But they are a whole topic in themselves within the complications of Tolkien’s racism, and I imagine we will be coming to Drúadan Forest by and by.)

    I could over-analyse this on the basis of the fact that the real-world name from which it comes is the root for Varangian, i.e. the name for the Swedish settlers who created Russia, and hypothesise that the Variags of Khand are similarly a “Germanic” people, of Northman ancestry, who likewise moved south-eastwards and ended up assimilated by the local people, which could supply a diegetic explanation for this exception, on the grounds that they are accorded a measure of recognition as in some sense “people like us”, though gone to the bad. This hypothesis could also supply a sidelight on the question of whether the Slavic peoples are framed as part of the hostile East or not, which is raised by the possibilty that the Balchoth, with their crude armament and great numbers, echo the early Slavs as portrayed in texts like the Strategikon of Maurice, rather than simply being another Eurasian steppe nomad group like the Wainriders. But probably he just liked the sound of the name.


  4. Chris Brooker
    September 15, 2021 @ 1:57 am

    Tolkien did work in mysterious ways. An obviously intelligent and thoughtful man, he did often, as we know, labor constantly over elements of his mythos, with his realism, intellect and scientific bent often fighting against his essential medievalist and Catholic base beliefs.
    For me this is illustrated best by texts in the later books of the History Of Middle Earth series showing him questioning the basis and underpinnings of his long-standing texts.
    I’m thinking specifically of two particular works: One was a group of articles he wrote where he was trying to include a more rational and scientific sun and moon origin myth, as opposed to that included in The Silmarillion – or his eventual position of deciding The Silmarillion was the Numenoreans misunderstanding what they’d learned for the Elves about these events
    The other work is the one relevant to your discussion here, the very last text in the series – ‘Tal-Elmar’ – in Peoples of Middle Earth is fascinating as he presented the viewpoint of a ‘lesser man’ confronted with Numenorean imperialists landing on his land with conquering intent.
    It’s a fascinating text and view, and shows that Tolkien was prepared to consider that imperialism wasn’t in and of itself a good thing. I’d imagine this was a fairly rare view to hold among an Englishman of his age and class.
    I actually think (and I’m probably wrong, or wearing rose tinted glasses) that Tolkien wasn’t in his works actually reflecting his own views as much as he was doing what he always said – building his mythical history of England, and presenting as a medieval English person would in its references to non-Christians etc as lesser beings.
    Being of his time, he wouldn’t have considered that others would find this offensive or discriminatory, rather it’s a work presented as a mythical work would be in his imagination
    Either way, at the very least, it shows he was aware of, and questioning, the basis from which his stories were presented. It’s a shame he never finished Tal-Elmar (or so many other later works)


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