Racial Stereotypes in Fantasy and David Eddings

Discussion in 'David Eddings' started by Creabots, Oct 20, 2007.

  1. Creabots

    Creabots Member

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    Perhaps this subject has been emphasized to the point of excess, but I still find it somewhat interesting. I notice while I was reading Pawn of Prophecy that racial sterotypes are apparently very prevalent, not only in David Eddings books, but in fantasy literature as well. True, the races are fictional, and I'm not condoning this either, I'm just bringing it up as a subject of interest. Sometimes I think that members of the same fictional race are too conveninently alike. All dwarves are drunkards, all elfs are tree-hugging nobles, etc. I notice that in Pawn of Prophecy (which I consent, is the only David Eddings book that I have read so far), Polgara and many of the main characters carry prejudices against some members of other races, like the murgos. Are all Murgos and thulls "Bad" in David Eddings books? Doesn't this kind of seem to convenient to anyone? What do people think about this and how it relates to diversification?
     
  2. ghost8772

    ghost8772 Well-Known Member

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    Well, Eddings Belgariad peoples are defined by the god they worship, since Murgos, Thulls, Nadraks, and later Malloreans All worship Torak, (evil bad god) they are seen as an extension of their god, Polgara, and Belgarath have both had a long time of being opponents of the Angaraks (their actual race). this all being said, yes, the Eddings' have racial stereotypes. as far as being an author goes, it makes it easier if the people you are dealing with have an underlying set of responses and then as an individual they have variations because of who the author decides they are. in the world of the belgariad these stereotypes are openly discussed. the arends are notoriously thick headed, even stupid, the nyissans are jungle dwelling narcotic addicts who love snakes, the tolnedrans are opportunistic. they will work to put themselves in a place to profit from any situation. not much said about the marags. sendarians are practical, and the alorns...... childish, war mongering, carousing, womanizing..... basic a bunch of kids with no real discipline to speak of. but they are presented as a united people though once one gets closer there are different people who do different things within.
     
  3. devilsgrin

    devilsgrin Well-Known Member

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    i also think that the prejudices of each of the characters, particularly Polgara, Belgarath and the adult companions fleshes them out more. These novels are set in a medievil period where egalitarianism and tolerance were anything but the norm. Racism was common and remains so in all societies - medievil or modern.
    Individuals amongst all of eddings races are shown in both their stereotypical racial characteristics - excellent examples being Yarblek and Urgit - but with wide streaks of individualism. Cases can be made for Urgit - being half alorn, yet he was raised in Taur Urgas palace and was a murgo to the bone - just a very clever one.
    Even Mandorallen and Lelldorin get to prove that idiocy isn't the Arendish curse, nobility is. As though both are utterly impulsive, neither are actually stupid. indeed the particularly Asturian predeliction for intricate, cunning plots proves the opposite.
     
  4. Harleyquin

    Harleyquin Well-Known Member

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    Were going to have to blame Tolkien here for most of the stereo types, sure there’s a host of pre Tolkien books that have the “typical” races in them but it was really Tolkien that defined them in terms as “drunken dwarfs, noble elves, evil orks…”

    Remember the very old westerns the baddie would be wearing the black hat and the goodie the white hat… simple iconography to engender an instant recognition and emotional response to the people on screen – we know to boo the black hats and cheer the white hats. The stereo types as the others have said are little more than a device to give you a “feel” for the character even before you meet them as the others here have said. By maintaining an almost childish view of the races we can easily stamp them with a “defining” character… we know in reality the world doesn’t operate in such absolute – sure there both good and bad people in any society but overall we still even now swallow the racial stereo types that are thrown at us in the media – heck if you where to listen to the media in the middle east every man woman and child practically to a person are all just frothing lunatics waiting to blow you up at the drop of a hat… an insane image but one that the majority are being told to believe.

    If you read Eddings not only does he give racial stereo types, his key plot is West vs East – with the West being the goodies and the east supplying the baddies – we factor in Mr Eddings age and we realise this is little more than a veiled “cold war” story – the Angaracs are the communist block (angular eyes – oh please!).

    I totally understand the use of the stereo types in books, there a simple device to make you think and feel for the characters without having to go into huge detail about each person the characters meet along the way – we KNOW that the nyissans are going to be deviously snake like – the tonledrans are roman in quality – chereks the Vikings etc… all a very simple tool to make you put an instant back story to everybody you meet. Its no a book you read for the high intellectual qualities – more a book to just let your brain get swallowed up in a simple world where good can beat evil and evil is easily identified.
     
  5. ghost8772

    ghost8772 Well-Known Member

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    Harleyquin, I like your logic, the pieces fit nicely, including the one further step of Simplification that Eddings actually put in the book which any of us who want to wander the easy read can understand and feel comfortable with. "them and Us"
     
  6. Wayward Ho!

    Wayward Ho! Member

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    I don't remember any drunken dwarves in Tolkien's books, certainly not enough to make a stereotype. As for noble elves, well the Silmarillion puts pay to that notion too. Noble dwarves and drunken elves are more commonplace. I don't think Tolkien is to blame for these stereotypes at all, rather it was the generic fantasy that came after. Gimli in the Lord of the Rings films, for instance, has more in common with a World of Warcraft dwarf than the Gimli from the book.
     
  7. white_wanderer

    white_wanderer Auditor of Reality

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    If I remember my history correctly, during the medieval period these racial stereotypes asserted themselves in reality here on earth. It is only recently that the peoples of the earth have become more homogenised and almost as one.
     
  8. Talysia

    Talysia Lady of Autumn

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    That's a good point. It may have been one of history's darker hours, but racial stereotypes were common in such an era. Oversimplification does explain a lot of it, too.
     
  9. Harleyquin

    Harleyquin Well-Known Member

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    pedantic I grant you but Gimli in the book often goes on about the carousing of the dwarfs in their halls with Ale - go back to the hobbit and the dwarft there are food eating beer drinkin aplenty. Also we reference elves - at each turn the "younger" races have an awe of elves and THEY give them the "noble" inference... is we futher move on to the silmarillion Tolken correctly ads an "adult" view of the world - never forget theat the hobbit was completely designed as a childrens book so therefor needed the simplistic icons - the lord of the rings I think is fair to say has a foot in both camps of adult and child with the silm going to adult (not massively popular read btw)

    Pre-Tolkien elves and such where seen as more childish in race - mostly not benign but slightly evil in their whims :)
     
  10. The Ace

    The Ace Scottish Roman.

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    Don't blame me, I voted, "Yes."
    I think Eddings tends to actually avoid stereotypes to be honest. Belgarath's opinions of the various races were formed over seven thousand years of observation and form thumbnail sketches which an outsider would be wise to accept.
    When we meet the malloreans in the Belgariad, they behave like the army of occupation they are.
    The Thulls are shaped by brutal treatment by the grolims and a very real fear which dominates their entire waking lives.

    Tolnedrans do have an eye for any chance of profit, Alorns do get drunk and have a punch-up at the drop of a hat, Murgos are arrogant and do despise non-murgos, and Nadraks are the best of a bad lot.

    The grolims are priests who perform human sacrifices on a regular basis, a vile accuracy (Belgarath says in his biography that although he doesn't blame the grolims for instigating human sacrifice, he thinks Torak, should've stopped it).

    The Arends are so caught up in a cycle of atrocity and revenge that they can think of nothing else, to their own detriment.

    Even when we meet individuals of various races, while it's obvious that they are people, these thumbnail sketches are an excellent basis for understanding them.
     
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  11. ghost8772

    ghost8772 Well-Known Member

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    The Stereotype doesn't come from the observations of Belgarath, Polgara, etc... but from the types taken by the eddings to people their nations. The Arends stand out the wildest as Medieval England stereotypes taken right out of Robin Hood. The Angaraks are the Epitome of an extreme caste system. (warrior-Murgo, priest-grolim, Merchant-Nadrak and Slave-Thull being the western ones, the Malloreans though have a variation within their population)

    The point is the Stereotypes introduced were ones that had been chosen. Call them Ready made stereotypes if you want, People can see the Chereks as Norsemen, Vikings whichever, or the Tolnedrans as the Romans, this makes it so they wouldn't have had to spend another two books describing the finer points of the society.
     
  12. Harleyquin

    Harleyquin Well-Known Member

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    its very interesting if you listen to the Audio books - there developed in Spokane Washington and I tell you one thing your mind simply rebels at some of the accents used.

    For instance:

    Mandorallen - I assumed arrends as Medieval English - on the Audio book... Spanish (or comedy french depending on your point of view)
    Tolnedrans - I would gridgingly call this Itallian - but comes across futher eastern than itallian
    Barack - Arnold Swarzinegger :)

    its just a little weird to hear them in different accents than you imagined them in :p
     
  13. ghost8772

    ghost8772 Well-Known Member

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    okay, the maniacal laughter is now settled down. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I grew up with Robotech on the TV, and finally found a dubbed Anime of the same story. had to get rid of it because the tall slavic captain was dubbed at elderly english.
     
  14. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

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    I am sort of split on this, I guess. But I think I'm more on the side of the fence that believes that Eddings was promoting racial stereotyping. I am accept the idea that it makes sense for the people of medieval-ish societies to be racist, and thus it makes sense that even the heroes should harbour such thoughts. However, this argument is somewhat marred by the fact that (unlike all the other races) not a lot of attempt was made to humanize the Angaraks, especially the Murgos. We rarely see things from their point of view, and next to none of them can be considered a noble character.

    Also, I don't like the lighthearted way that references to genocide and torture is used. I am open to black humour, but there's something mean spirited about this. I have a serious loathing for characters like Hettar. Has anyone noticed that the guy is basically a sociopath? He kills Murgos wherever he finds them, and takes a lot of delight at the idea of torturing his enemies. It would have been different if he was portrayed as an anti-hero, but no, Eddings tried very hard to portray him as a sympathetic and heroic person. I really hate this guy.
     
  15. BelgarionOz

    BelgarionOz Writer Extraordinaire!

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    An interesting topic, I believe I shall weigh in.

    Eddings has written from the point of view of attempting to create a "believable" medieval world. Regrettably, as some have mentioned here previously, during the middle ages. If you came from anywhere east of Constantinople you were quite obviously evil because you didn't worship Jesus. We all know this to be nonsense, but that was the attitude of the day. Eddings has attempted to recreate an element of this in the attitudes of the people that exist in his world. "They are our enemies, therefore they must all be evil and cannot possibly be good."

    He talks a bit about this in the Rivan Codex, where he talks about some of the inspirations for what he did. The people of the western kingdoms don't really know the Angaraks at all, thety only really know that they worship Torak, who isn't exactly the most friendly of deities and that they have invaded them in the past. I guess we can forgive them for having a predisposition to not liking them that much.

    A note about the audio books: I haven't listened to any of them so I can speak to the point directly. Do the voice actors use any accents? He mentions different accents, particularly for the Angaraks, but sort of for the others. Again in the Rivan Codex he mentions who the various peoples are based on, and the Arends are supposedly French, not that I recall France being constantly wracked by civil war during the medieval period but dramatic license exists I guess. He does mention that the Algarians are supposedly based on Cossack Russians, which I have to confess I never got, I always saw them more as Native Americans, the whole horse whisperer aspect seemed to suit that infinitely more, and the names had a slightly Asian sound to them, which to me at least would seem to be more consistent with that.

    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
  16. The Big Peat

    The Big Peat Well-Known Member

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    I was on a little Eddings kick today and was searching to see what people made of the Rivan Codex's advice and found this and...

    I don't think Eddings is deliberately advocating racial stereotyping in the Belgariad. He takes too many steps to avoid doing that in later series for me to view that as a likely explanation. But I do feel slightly uncomfortable with how heavy it is in the Belgariad. Reading the Pawn of Prophecy and the whole Arend = Thick innit thing is the sort of thing that would really cause a stir today.

    I don't think it can be excused entirely as trying to show a medieval mindset either when its the narrator himself making the comments; nor as a result of culture and nurture when it comes to Rundorig, who's brought up in Sendaria. Both Rundorig and Urgit show a fairly heavy amount of racial trait which probably didn't come from nurture. That's not people have racial stereotyping, that's the author doling out stereotypes based on a character's race.

    My guess would be that I don't think Eddings was thinking particularly hard about what he was doing.
     
  17. Elventine

    Elventine Trouble

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    I actually find it hard to see what the issue is, there is racism in reality so why should there not be in fantasy as well?

    Yes we have gotten better about openly calling people names but many many religions, sets of people and cultures still view anyone NOT of that religion, set, culture with great intolerance and violence. Look as what is happening with ISIS. That is racial and religious intolerance (racism(and it is all a form of racism in one way or another)) in it's "purest" form. And it is not the only one of it's kind to be found in the world. Closed minded Christians with their views on peoples life choices in the Bible Belt in America, or just look at Africa as a whole. There are genocides and racism in spades there. Even in "civilized" counties there are still tender feet between black people and white people and the issue of racial stereo types and racism come up so often as to be a part of the everyday and popular culture. Marvel makes a black women Iron Man. Everything blows up from every angle.

    First lets deal with the racism and intolerance in the real world, then start pointing fingers at authors who are just reflecting reality.
     
  18. The Big Peat

    The Big Peat Well-Known Member

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    Because authors who appear to be promoting racism in their books help promote racism and intolerance in the real world. Tackling those issues in the real world mean tackling them in popular media. The two shouldn't be divided.

    And an awful lot of things happen in reality. It is an author's choice what they put in their book and what they paint in a positive light and what they paint in a negative light. Authors then get criticised based on those choices.
     
  19. Elventine

    Elventine Trouble

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    No. People take a dislike to a thing because it is in the popular "culture" of the moment to be against this or that. Rarely does it actually have anything to do with the author or how they have presented an ideal. Never not once (and I am sensitive to such things) have I every thought that Eddings promoted racism. Yes it is in him books but it is not being promoted nor is it looked down upon. So he is thrown under the bus because it is simply there.
     
  20. The Big Peat

    The Big Peat Well-Known Member

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    Whether Eddings has promoted it, or given the appearance of promoting it, is irrelevant to my answer to your statement on the order on tackling racism - real world/popular media. Also, the idea that you appear to be stating, that just because something happens in real life its use in fantasy should not be questioned. I apologise if that is not what you meant to say but I have no idea what idea you were trying to convey if that was not the case.

    I answered these things independent of Eddings, because whatever Eddings has done or not done is irrelevant to my disagreement with what you said.
     
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