Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, #1) Pawn of Prophecy discussion


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How racist is this series?

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Jeremy The main reason I dropped this series partway through book two is, it's just bog-standard sword and sorcery. However, I was also getting the impression that Eddings has a cockeyed view of humanity. National origin is an absurdly strong determinant of personality and intelligence in Eddings' world, and it doesn't seem like just part of the fantasy premise.

Now, there is some justification in the mythos, with each "race" or nation having been individually created by different gods, and obviously I don't know how that factor comes into play in the later books. So what's your take? Are all the "Well, he is an Arend" asides grounded in the mythos, or does Eddings really believe whole-hog in ethnic stereotypes?


Neal Simmons I do not see it as racism at all. The different gods left a lasting imprint on their subjects. Some even made it a final command to kill as many of the followers of Torak as possible.

Racism is generally hatred without basis. Believe me, the Arends, Alorns, Tolnedrans, Nyssians, and Ulgo's all had very good reasons to hate and kill Murgos, Thulls, Nadraks, and Malloreans.


Randy I would tend to agree with Neal. Once you get further into the series you find that most of the races have both positive and negative traits. Once you get through the Belgariad and move in to the Mallorean you learn much more about the cultures. Eddings' biggest problem is that he is a cookie cutter writer, he found a format that worked and went with it over and over...all of his series could practically be interchanged.


Rena McGee Randy wrote: "I would tend to agree with Neal. Once you get further into the series you find that most of the races have both positive and negative traits. Once you get through the Belgariad and move in to the..."

This is I feel not quite the case. The Eddings seem to work on the theory that each race had stereotypically recognizable, inheritable personalities, (All Tolnedrans are greedy and like money. All Thulls really are stupid, all Sendars are incredibly sensible and practical, and so on) and then judged them based on that. This is kind of really problematic!


Rena McGee I would not necessarily call it racism as there is no systemic prejudice, unless you count the "we will kill any Angarak we see" policy most of the Alorn kingdoms seem to have. (There are also some creepy "genocide is justified" overtones with the Marags being destined to be destroyed just so there can be a totally necessary "Mother of the Race that Died" in the Child of Light's Posse, and also the Wacite Arends were Destined to be Destroyed etc.)

It is however interesting that the more "western style" cultures in the book being slated as the "good" races while the "evil" or "neutral" races are "exotic." (On the other side of this, the recognizably "good" or at least "sympathetic" characters of other races were more likely to have views and opinions that were generally closer to the good main characters. We also have a thing where the darker skinned races have a tendency to be evil. I also get the feeling that all of the characters good or evil were "default white" in the writer's head.)

The Eddings tended to rely on the different races in the books being EXACTLY like their stereotypes. There is no real depth here! I often found this frustrating with this and other series by Eddings.


LaTrica Rena wrote: "Randy wrote: "I would tend to agree with Neal. Once you get further into the series you find that most of the races have both positive and negative traits. Once you get through the Belgariad and ..."

I agree that this was the main issue with his handling of the different races. However at the very end of the series it was suggested that these cultural personalities were abnormal and would go away.

Were there any dark skinned races in books?


Neal Simmons The Sendar and Tolnedran stuff is just how they are raised. It is part of the national culture. That is in no way racism.


Rena McGee I agree that this was the main issue with his handling of the different races. However at the very end of the series it was suggested that these cultural personalities were abnormal and would go away.

Were there any dark skinned races in books?


Technically yes, if the Nyissans were intended to be pseudo Egyptian (or Indian?) and the Angarak were intended to be Asiatics if the "angular eyes" are any indication. Also, the Morinds appear to have intended to be pseudo Indians of some kind. and the Tolnedrans and Melcene vaguely Mediterranean! Oddly enough, writer default will almost always be white!

I did not read that part about inherent traits disappearing. And for a moment was horrified at the idea of a World Culture homogenizing all of the ethnicities.


Rena McGee Neal wrote: "The Sendar and Tolnedran stuff is just how they are raised. It is part of the national culture. That is in no way racism."

You are missing my point, Neal. Please do not play "I like this writer and therefore they could never write something problematic because I said so!" My point is that each of the races in the book all had a set number of traits that did not vary much from individual to individual. In other words, "any given stereotype will be absolutely accurate." Tolnedrans really are greedy, Thulls really are universally stupid, Sendars are all obsessively sensible and practical, Arends are also universally stupid.

This is not actually how cultures or ethnicity works. If you think that is how ethnicity works, I invite you to say awkwardly stupid stereotypical things to the minority of your choice. Please videotape and post the results on YouTube!

Also! despite different window dressing, there is actually very little actual cultural/language variation except for the Angaraks essentially being orcs and the non-Angaraks being either a) neutral or b) good. Which is fine, given this is Eddings epic fantasy series, and in Epic fantasy series you have black and white with very little gray. However! Eddings makes the same Anglo=good! NonAnglo=bad! division Tolkien and Lewis engage in.

Eddings does this across the board in just about every series of his I have read. His writing is problematic, and while I think he did try, his world building is kind of cookie cutter with a definite bias toward what he considered to be "norms."


Scott (Ozziespur) I did not even consider this when I read these books years ago. But then perhaps I wasn't looking for it.


Sonia I wouldn't see this is racism per se, rather the hallmark of a poor writer. Eddings is without doubt a gifted storyteller, but his characterisation in particular, and writing in general, leaves much to be desired. George RR Martin, for example, manages to integrate masterful characterisation and literary techniques into a captivating storyline, providing for a much deeper experience as a reader and creating an almost believable world.
But at the same time, I really enjoy the lightness of all of Eddings' books- they're perfect for a holiday read for precisely this reason: they require no concentration whatsoever to follow.

And I agree 100 per cent with the comment about how generic the storylines in each of Eddings' series are- that's one thing I found really disappointing about him. The Redemption of Althalus was perhaps the most "different" of his series. That's one thing I love about Brandon Sanderson- he approaches the fantasy genre from an entirely new direction, albeit in the same post-apocolyptic context in all of the books of his that I've read, which is so refreshing!


message 12: by Neal (last edited Jun 18, 2012 01:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neal Simmons Of course culture works like that. We ingrain certain beliefs into everyone through the educational system, familial relationships, and cultural traditions.

In fact, that is exactly how Sendars got their sensibility. Remember, Sendar did not even exist until after Polgara walked away from her duchy AFTER laying the groundwork by breaking up the feudal system, paying wages, etc. In one of the books Belgarath even states that you could trace the Sendar qualities directly back to Polgara.

Also, you have to relize that during the books the races in the west were largely pure. The actual cases of explicit intermarriage largely portray the differences and resistance as fringe factions. Garion and Ce'Nedra run into the issue with the bear cult wanting Garion to take up with a buxom Cherek, but the entire Alorn alliance banded together to smash the dissidents. Durnik is one of the first to tell Garion that he isn't a Sendar, and Durnik knew nothing of his background at the time. I THINK there might have been a scene with Durnik being concerned about Polgara's background, but I know there is one where they are discussing Belgarath's racial background.

There may always be a small contingent that does not represent the norm, but 2-3 percent being different from the other 98-97% does not invalidate the general culture. I have a hard time believing that EVERY Viking was a raider, in fact that would be impossible. Still, would you argue that seafaring was not a cultural part of the Viking people?

There are cultural differences between the US and Arab countries. Is it racism to not like the stoning of women, women requiring permission from their son to travel, women being denied education, forced female circumcision, the killing of a woman after she was raped? I doubt many people would find that racism.

Even inside the US, there are differences between minority groups. They do not always like to admit them, but they are there. Just because Jews, Arabs, Satanists, Atheists, Druids, Wiccans, Animists, Buddhist, etc exist in the country, does that mean that you would classify the US as a country that does not celebrate Christmas?

I doubt any reliable sociologist or anthropologist would argue that there are no differences between Caucasians, Asians, and Africans. Differences exist in culture and physiology just to use the most explicit.


message 13: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel Oh good, from David Eddings to 'Arabs are evil' in only twelve posts. The wonders of the internet.

To answer the original question: I wouldn't say that either Eddings or his books are racist, per se, but I'd agree that they are, as it were, proto-racist. They adopt and promulgate a way of looking the world (ie everybody can be categorised into neat racial categories that perfectly explain every aspect of personality, and it's even suggested that any exception (eg the one good murgo) may have to be the result of miscegenation) that can very easily become racist.

But the question I would ask is whether Eddings does this in a racist way or for other reasons. I think the main reason for this is just to simplify everything, because they're children's books and he's trying to create a very simple narrative that would be tangled by having to introduce a whole load of variety (or, indeed, subtlety). Whether or not he's right to feel he needs to do this, I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt and say that the problematic elements may be an unfortunate side-effect of this simplification, rather than something that's actually intentional, or that necessarily reflects his own views.

[His characters, of course, are for the most part overwhelmingly racists]


message 14: by Neal (last edited Jun 19, 2012 02:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Neal Simmons Nowhere did I say Arabs are evil. There are differences between cultures.

It is not racism in my mind not to like certain aspects of different cultures.

The Murgo king is not the only exception that is mentioned in the books. Polgara and Silk both work with Yarblek at different times. I am pretty sure that Belgarath specifically meddled with his family to get him just like he did with the other major characters. Almost every instance of miscegenation listed is shown to be a good thing. That is hardly racist.

Ce'Nedra is the direct result of breeding Dryads with Humans. There were instances of anti-interbreeding, but they were portrayed as fringe elements with their own agendas.

Zakath is a result of another intermingling. Once Urgas is killed, he is portrayed much differently. He definately had a reason to hate Tar Urgas.

The Ulgo/Marag mixture is repopulating a race that was thought extinct. One god actually ordered his worshipper to marry someone of a different race. That is hardly racism.

One intermarriage brings peace to most of the world when Zakath marries a Dal.

Eriond is to be god of ALL races once he arises. That is as far from racism as you can get.

It could be argued that the hero of the entire 12 book series is a result of interbreeding. His paternal line was Rivan, but Polgara arranged the marriages from all across the west. I do not think it is explicitly mentioned that there was non-Alorn blood though. His son and daughters however are definately mixed over thousands of years. You have Dryad, Tolnedran, Cherek, Algar, and Drasnia blood all mixed. Even if you don't count the Alorns as different races, Dryads are a completely different species.


message 15: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel It's not racist because almost all the miscegenation is positive?
Well sure, but that overlooks the fact that miscegenation is positive in these books BECAUSE it means that members of the objectively evil and inferior race can be given a salvific admixture of white blood that makes them good people.

Imagine a book about America, where every single black man was evil and stupid, except those who had some white ancestry? That would certainly be pro-miscegenation, but it would still be racist. "Racism" doesn't have to equal the KKK's own personal brand of racism.

Again, I don't think Eddings is racist, and I'm not sure the books are either. But "look, other races can be good if they're part-white" isn't a good defence against a charge of racism.

[[[[[And no, Dryads aren't a different species. You can tell BECAUSE they have fertile offspring through breeding with 'humans']]]]]


Jeremy What I found off-putting was not any assertion that one race/nation was better than another, but just the extent to which nationality determined personality and intelligence. Sorry, that's just not how the world works. With real humans, there's a lot more variation within any given population than there is between populations. And I did not get the impression that Eddings was trying to portray his characters as radically different from real humans. It's problematic at the very least, and for me the narrative didn't have enough going for it to offset such a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature.


message 17: by Rick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rick Well, I guess as with all things one finds what one is looking for.

Personally I found the books to be fun and enjoyable, as have others that I shared them with. I remember a great many things from the series, But racism, is not one of them.


Andrew Stunned at some the comments above. If you want to go looking for something, you will eventually see it. Take off the distorted glasses and put on the phantasy ones instead please. Theologically they are quite interesting....


message 19: by Jeremy (last edited Jul 05, 2012 04:58AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeremy I didn't "go looking" for half a dozen references per chapter to the tune of "You know how {ethnicity X} are" and characterization that relied almost entirely on the character's nation of origin. They're not exactly buried or demanding complex deconstruction of the text. If you guys have an alternate explanation for this feature of the narrative or at least want to side with one of the explanations already put forward, feel free to actually contribute to the conversation.


message 20: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel Because yeah, I distinctly remember how when I was six and read these books, I was only REALLY reading them to try to uncover examples of over-broad generalisation that could well be interpreted as instances of latent racism. I was just LOOKING for it. Yeah.


Elise I always thought that while it might read as racist (and yes, while I didn't think it was offensively racist, I can certainly see why anyone could take it that way) it was more about Eddings' lazy writing. So much easier/quicker to use racial stereotypes than have to give individual characteristics to every character in the books.

Although, when I said "always", that was inaccurate, reading them for the first time when I was 10 or 11 (and absolutely loving them), I don't think I really saw any racism, but coming back to them at 16 or 17 I definitely saw it as such (and at the same time decide that it was mostly about laziness too).

Now in my thirties, I have to say that, even though I often re-read and re-read books, these hold no real allure. The stereotyping and the other poor aspects of the writing (some of which also just scream sloppy laziness) would stop me ever going back to them; reading the Polgara and Belgarath books convinced me of that.


Stuart Brandwood To be honest I the factor that it was such a pitifully transparent allegory for the perceived trait of the European nations ruined it for me even reading it as a teenager. Riva the cold by stoic brits, the vikings to the north then the huge eastern bloc with it puppet states then the huge evil empire. I'm put some imagination into it please


Crystiannia Jeremy wrote: "The main reason I dropped this series partway through book two is, it's just bog-standard sword and sorcery.
I think that depends on what year you started reading this. When it was published in the very early 80s, the sword & sorcery genre as we now know it was barely 15-20 years old and not nearly as over saturated as it is currently. Except for a few founding fathers decades earlier, it was a vast playground where not everything had been done yet. If you started the books close to when they came out and still found them “bog-standard” I’d be curious to what you’re comparing them to and what authors you were reading then. No doubt if you started reading these in the past 10 years, there’s probably not a thing in them that hasn’t been seen before – hundreds of times – even in Eddings’ own future volumes. :-p

Jeremy wrote: However, I was also getting the impression that Eddings has a cockeyed view of humanity...."
As for the cockeyed view of humanity, I never got that impression. I looked at the break down and distinctions of cultures and lands as having more in common with the character classes of Dungeons & Dragons. Instead of saying “Clerics do this…” and “All Halflings are inclined to…” it was just specific to the land of origin. At least that was my personal thought. Also, looking back on it now that I’m a polytheist, I think it makes sense. If each gods/goddess in Eddings’ worlds created their people in their own image, it would be logical that those people would follow certain characteristics and personalities – which could later be changed by them engaging the other children of the gods/goddesses.

I’ll add that even though I don’t believe Eddings was a racist or whole heartedly bought into stereotypes being true, he was born and raised in a time when there was a lot of racial and cultural separation, segregation. I think being in the midst of all that and the different schools of thought coming out at that time, his writing would almost automatically reflect that, maybe subconsciously, maybe not.


Michelle Scott (Ozziespur) wrote: "I did not even consider this when I read these books years ago. But then perhaps I wasn't looking for it."

I agree. This didn't even come to mind when I read this series.


message 25: by Will (last edited Aug 08, 2012 02:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV I just finished this book and this was one of my biggest complaints. The first and even second one (I'm only a few chapters into it) are littered with "Well, he IS an Asturian" or "Sendarian's are always" etc. To be fair, I find this sort of thing to be common in fantasy of this nature. That's why I prefer writers like Joe Abercrombie, where everything isn't black and white (good vs evil) or painted in broad generalizations.

And trust me, I didn't go into this book looking for it. I had heard absolutely nothing about the book first and this is merely the impression I got.

Another thing that bothered me to no end was something that was never explained. I don't understand why Asharak was watching Garion grow up, but never snatched him away at any point. That never made any sense why he would just watch him grow up and then, when they are at the palace at Val Alorn, Asharak is there and tries to take him... wut.


message 26: by Jjab (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jjab If you read both series that go with this book all questions are answered. The sereies defenatly close up all loose ends


message 27: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV I hope so. That's one of those major plot points that should have been addressed right away since it was such a big part of the first book, and made it difficult continuing without constantly thinking, "but why...?"


Jeremy I've actually picked these audiobooks up again because they're decent to fall asleep to :P I have to say the story picked up a bit toward the end of the second book, too. The journey through Arendia was the worst of the "everyone of ethnicity X is stupid and impetuous" comments. The depiction of the Nyissans was so over the top and had enough to do with being enslaved to both a supernatural being and some kind of opium analog that it was more fantastical and not as jarring as every single Arend having the same personality and IQ.


Herelt Wow. I thought the series was fantastic. I'd read it again. Sorry to see that it seems so many people disagree. Oh well. It's called an opinion and everyone's got the right to own and express it. /ciao.


Donna Racism has become a battle cry that may or may not apply. It just sounds good. If you read all the books you will find the characters accept each other no matter what traits, racial or personal, they have.

The races in the book are what they are. Each with biological and cultural differences. It is a fictional world.


message 31: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV Yes, the main characters are fairly exceptional people, but that doesn't negate that fact that even they ascribe to national stereotypes. From the fist book alone I can probably point to dozens of lines where even Belgarath, supposedly extremely wise from long age, speaks in stereotypical generalizations like "well, Mimbrates certainly aren't known for their intelligence" etc.

It's just the overall attitude that all characters have that your place of origin largely determines attributes which in a general sense do not determine such attributes. The fact that it's in a fictional world does not make this sort of stereotyping any less disappointing, for even if it was true in that world, I would still find it uninteresting.


Jeremy D wrote: "If you read all the books you will find the characters accept each other no matter what traits, racial or personal, ..."

Again, we're not talking about how the characters view or treat each other, but how the author treats ethnicity as an absurdly strong determinant of personality and intelligence. The issue isn't political correctness, but a lack of human realism possibly betraying a lack of insight (or as some have suggested, a lack of effort) on the author's part. Also, according to the book three prologue I was mistaken; the gods didn't each create a race of people, but instead created all the people together and then picked teams.


message 33: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel Jeremy wrote: "D wrote: "If you read all the books you will find the characters accept each other no matter what traits, racial or personal, ..."

Again, we're not talking about how the characters view or treat e..."


Indeed - the characters don't have to be racist for the book to be racist. [Although, as I say, I'm not sure I'd flat out call it 'racist', more 'proto-racist'. And at a higher level, I'm not sure "well the humans in this world really ARE divided into biological races that can be more or less intelligent" is that much of a defence. After all, if an author chooses to write a book in which, for example, gay people are all biologically programmed to be stupid, I don't think that would help any "i'm not homophobic" campaign he might have. Now, sure, a book can have biological races without being racist, but at the very least I'd say it's proto-racist, in that it supports and to some degree encourages racism. That needn't be a critical flaw, of course - like any other flaw, it can occur in degrees, and can be, or fail to be, outweighed by other virtues].

As it happens, I'd argue that almost everyone in the books IS racist - most of the peasantry seem aggressively racist, and even the enlightened characters seem to adopt noble european paternalist attitudes of "we should love them even though they ARE inferior". It's a sort of separate-but-equal approach to race - which as we know may be a viable theory, but in practice hardly ever turns out to result in genuinely equal treatment. (Heck, iirc Polgara has her own colony at one point, benignly controlling Arendia because they're clearly too stupid to be allowed to rule themselves).

Again, of course, none of this means that you shouldn't read the books, or that they're bad books per se. But you shouldn't have to close your eyes to the flaws of books you like. It's not as simple as liking or disliking something - 'racism' is not an insult, it's an analysis.


Jeremy "Racism" may not be the most accurate term, either, both because the books go farther than just being racist by assigning near-universal traits and behaviors to national or ethnic groups more specific than what we would call races, and because real-world racism has particular historical contexts. Whether that type of racism is present as allegory is a whole other discussion (e.g. a couple posts above mulling whether Angaraks are proxy Arabs).


Cagne Will wrote: " even Belgarath, supposedly extremely wise from long age, speaks in stereotypical generalizations like "well, Mimbrates certainly aren't known for their intelligence" etc.
"


Belgarath is a bitter old drunk you shouldn't trust him with anything :) That said he's also 7000 years old, he has seen 100 generations of men repeating sterotypes one after another.

I was reading this (http://goo.gl/TdDRA) reddit comment about Star Trek and i thought the same could be said about it: authors give common shared traits to a group (specism), but the characters aren't racist and in the end the spectator/reader comes out open to other cultures.


message 36: by C-Cose (last edited Sep 03, 2012 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

C-Cose Daley Sorry, I didn't see any racism at all in this series and I've read all 12 of the related books--I'm not including the "Rivan Codex".

The more often I've read them, I've discovered connections that I hadn't made before. "Polgara the Sorceress" is actually quite good at describing the observations that led to stereotypes presented in the books. Arends ~do~ act like misbehaving children, Tolnedrans do seem to have profit foremost in their minds, Alorns drink, carouse, and tend to bully their way through situations.

I think that part of the reasons that the Eddings' chose to use stereotypes was to highlight the way in which the main characters both reflect and contradict them. Garion and Eriond have mixed heritage but they act very much like Sendars. Taiba and Relg would never have ~connected~ were it not for their stereotypical bahaviour and their differences.

I think the Eddings' choices were spot on for the ~world~ that they created.


message 37: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV I think you're slightly missing the point. Even if, in the world he created, the stereotypes were TRUE, that doesn't make it appealing as a reader. As Wastrel points out, it might not be flat out racist, but it's certainly "proto-racist."

I can understand keeping things simple for kids, but even in a fantasy world, giving credence to stereotypes (even if they are true of that fantasy world) seems like bizarrely lazy writing.


message 38: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV WhiteKanye wrote: "I was reading this (http://goo.gl/TdDRA) reddit comment about Star Trek and i thought the same could be said about it: authors give common shared traits to a group (specism), but the characters aren't racist and in the end the spectator/reader comes out open to other cultures."

Thanks for the link!


C-Cose Daley Will wrote: "I think you're slightly missing the point. Even if, in the world he created, the stereotypes were TRUE, that doesn't make it appealing as a reader. As Wastrel points out, it might not be flat out r..."

With all due respect Will, I'm not missing the point at all. I must have a completely different definition of racism from you and others in this thread. ~IF~ the Eddings' wrote their races as one dimensional that were defined solely by cultural traits ~and~ identified those only as ~negative~ qualities, then I would consider them racist. However, they did not. Drasnians were sneaky ... but made good spies; Arends were block-heads ... which gave them a sense of fearlessness in battle; Nyssans preferred assassination by poison ... direct, to the point and using the resources they had.

I simply don't agree that this equates with racism (as practiced now) where one categorizes a group of individuals by negative traits in order to elevate one's own importance.

I can't comment on "bizarrely lazy writing" as I have yet to publish anything and can't imagine the work that actually goes into doing so.


message 40: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV That might be your oddly strange definition of racism, but the characteristics attributed to a race as blanket statements don't necessarily have to be negative in order to be considered racist.

"Drasnians were sneaky ... but made good spies; Arends were block-heads ... which gave them a sense of fearlessness in battle"

Just because you can think of a positive outcome to a characteristic given to an entire race doesn't make it less racist!

Let's see how this looks in today's world: "Black people are violent, but it makes them good at physical sports," "Jews are greedy, but it makes them good business people," "The Irish are all drunks but it makes them very social," etc. ad nauseam.

Do you see how bad this sounds when you make similar statements in the real world?


C-Cose Daley Will wrote: "That might be your oddly strange definition of racism, but the characteristics attributed to a race as blanket statements don't necessarily have to be negative in order to be considered racist.

"..."


We obviously disagree on this. My point was that the Eddings did not define their characters solely on their racial traits. My examples were to illustrate how ~I~ saw a specific trait and how that was to the characters' benefit. I don't think of sneakiness or block-headedness as necessarily a negative trait either. Violent and greedy are.

I don't see racism ... you do. Our experiences with these books were obviously quite different. That's part of the wonder of reading.


message 42: by Wastrel (new) - added it

Wastrel I don't think it's the experience of the book that's at question - you see the same thing we do. You just call it by a different name.

I'm not sure how "greedy" and "violent" necessarily more negative than "stupid" or "untrustworthy" - and Tolnedrans, of course, ARE greedy, so the Jewish comparison seems fairly apt.

But if you want a stereotype less negative than 'violent' (and which was historically very common), how about "black people are stupid and need others to guide them, but this, combined with physical strength, makes them ideal farm workers"? I don't see how that differs greatly from the stereotypes Eddings is employing.


C-Cose Daley Wastrel wrote: "I don't think it's the experience of the book that's at question - you see the same thing we do. You just call it by a different name.

I'm not sure how "greedy" and "violent" necessarily more nega..."


I see it as this: ~All~ racism includes stereotypes, but ~not all~ stereotypes are racist. I disagree with the premise that the Eddings were writing from a ~racist~ pov. It's that simple.


message 44: by David (last edited Sep 04, 2012 11:41AM) (new)

David Krae This is an interesting question and a tricky one to discuss given the overwhelming political correctness of our culture today, but here goes.

Would you agree that German people as a nation and as a culture are in some ways different than French people? How would you describe these differences? How would they describe their differences?

I would imagine they would agree that they are different in certain ways, not just because of their use of different languages and respective histories as coming from different tribes in ancient times.

The question then follows as to whether it is racist to identify a people by name and make any comments whatsoever about their cultural traits.

Is it fair to make generalizations while acknowledging that there are individuals within every culture who do not conform to the 'norm' of that culture?

Is it fair to describe a people as being 'a certain way' and, if so, what if the traits being described are considered 'negative' by the person doing the observing?

In literature, are stereotypes sometimes created through character comments and perceptions so those stereotypes can then be shown as false or at least having exceptions -- that being an example of how to start with a judgmental (ie. racist) point of view and break it down, thus enlightening the reader who might also be (and probably is, given the realities of the world) somewhat closed-minded or unaware of their own tendency to stereotype.

In the case of Eddings, who wrote at a time when people in general were arguably far less hyper-sensitive about cultural generalizations as they are now, what was his intent?

Asking the question 'How racist is this series?' is really asking 'Was Eddings a racist?' so, let's quit pussyfooting around here.

Was Eddings a racist?

What qualifies someone as a racist? Does there have to be hatred or malice involved? Is a person allowed not to like someone else's culture? Can someone be critical of another culture without wishing harm to befall the people of that culture? Where do you draw the line?

Are we permitted in today's politically-correct culture to make any comments whatsoever about any group of people who live on this planet?

Are we permitted to do so in a fictitious world, involving fictitious people? What about satire or for the purpose of dispelling negative attitudes?

My impression of these books on a 'cultural' level was that the cultures of the different peoples in the stories were based upon the gods that created them and the behavioral traits were deeply ingrained to the point where it was a matter of simply 'accepting' that someone of a certain culture might have a tendency to behave a certain way...though not always as there are exceptions. Acceptance of difference was what I got out of these books, if anything, when I read them at the age of eleven.

Perhaps I will have to go back and re-read them, but I do not recall the stories' main protagoni calling for the death, destruction, subjugation or enslavement of another people based on their cultural/racial identity.

Final question:

Do you like every culture on this planet? What about the French? What about the Iraqis? What about the Native Americans? What about the Caucasians? What about the Afghanis? What about the Germans? What about people from California? What about people from Texas? Are they different from you? How are they different?

If you answered this last question and included anything that wasn't glowingly positive does that make you a racist? Didn't you have to make generalizations in your mind in order to even contemplate a group of people from a certain place and think about what might be their social identity as a group/culture?

Should you stop thinking now? Should you have no opinion? Should everyone just be the same?

Good luck trying to intellectually assimilate all the cultures in the world -- and in books -- under the guise that having any sense of difference or cultural identity is racist.

That appears to be the nature of this topic.


C-Cose Daley David wrote: "This is an interesting question and a tricky one to discuss given the overwhelming political correctness of our culture today, but here goes.

Would you agree that German people as a nation and as ..."


Thank you David!!!

I hadn't considered the passage of time between when these novels were initially written and the possibility of a new audience in the present day.

To answer some of your questions:

I ~don't~ like every culture that I'm familiar with--some scare the crap out of me and others set my teeth on edge. I don't think that makes me racist; it informs my need to be cautious. I make generalizations, but I do try not to judge an ~individual~ based on them. Does that make me racist? I don't think so, but others might.

Were the Eddings racist or did they write from that pov? No.


Jeremy C-Cose wrote: I see it as this: ~All~ racism includes stereotypes, but ~not all~ stereotypes are racist. I disagree with the premise that the Eddings were writing from a ~racist~ pov. It's that simple.

"Racism" may not be the best word, for reasons that have been covered five or six times now. The shocking feature of the narrative, as described in the OP and several times since, is that nearly every nationality or subculture in Eddings' world has a stereotype which holds rigidly true throughout the group. Some of the later groups--Ulgos, Dryads, Nyissans--have more fanciful, supernatural traits, but in the first book and most of the second it's all the kind of stereotypes that real-world nationalities level at each other: they're all stupid, treacherous, impetuous, or greedy (and we're talking about the "good guys").

It's weird. The degree to which stereotypes hold true is far in excess of real-world ethnicities, and even a bit over the line for sword-and-sorcery. Since starting this thread, I've continued the series and the blatant "All x are y" statements have thinned out considerably, but in the first book it's literally several per chapter, and ever character encountered conforms to type. For the main characters (besides the a-racial Bel/Pol lineage) to occasionally break type can only be hoped for and expected--it doesn't change the fact that nationality makes up 80%+ of their personalities, too.


C-Cose Daley Jeremy wrote: "C-Cose wrote: I see it as this: ~All~ racism includes stereotypes, but ~not all~ stereotypes are racist. I disagree with the premise that the Eddings were writing from a ~racist~ pov. It's that sim..."

Greetings Jeremy,

Given that the OP of this discussion admits to stopping the series part way through the 2nd book, I can see how a premise of racism, as defined by him, could be made. However, it's a ~flawed~ premise to assert that the whole series and / or the authors are racist based on ~very~ limited experience with the novels.


message 48: by Cagne (last edited Sep 04, 2012 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cagne Wastrel wrote: "Tolnedrans, of course, ARE greedy, so the Jewish comparison seems fairly apt."

What you said right there is racist, same for bringing in the afroamericans in it. When i read these books i didn't picture no race as jew people or black people (then again i mostly saw black people and jews in tv and most of the stereotypes came from that, now i could maybe pick up the books again and totally be able to think "oh yeah these people are totally jews
").

I guess it would be useful to pinpoint who is this "protoracism" hurting. Is it hurting anyone?

The other thing you can complain about is that is "lazy" i guess but if you stick with it and it gets better, you and the writer are even.

Lazy i assume because the use of stereotypes to get the reader used to picture a set of values when a character's origin is mentioned can be achieved in some other way, maybe?

It bothers me more how in The dreamers series people keep repeating to one another the same stuff but i still find the battles fascinating so i go on.


message 49: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV "I guess it would be useful to pinpoint who is this "protoracism" hurting. Is it hurting anyone?"

Yes, because this is generally considered a childrens or young adult series and it encourages thinking a certain way about other peoples in generalizations that go a little beyond what is realistic and healthy.


message 50: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will IV "Greetings Jeremy,

Given that the OP of this discussion admits to stopping the series part way through the 2nd book"

Jeremy IS the OP, and he said he has since continued reading the series.

Just clarifying :)


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