Explanation and discussion; connection to men of the South, connection to race and depictions of race (600 words)

The least distinctive of the four cardinal directions in Middle-earth. In The Lord of the Rings it is associated with warmer lands and gentler climate than the North for the Numenorean kingdoms. Further South than that are the semi-desert climes of Harad, hot sunbaked lands whose dark-skinned people are hostile to Numenor and the successor kingdom Gondor. The tribes and kingdoms of the Haradrim are allied with, but not dominated by, Sauron at the end of the Third Age.

As a parallel to real historical lands in relation to Northwestern Europe, the South or Harad is Africa and the Near East.

In the Silmarillion, the South is rarely mentioned.

Of the two lamps, Illuin is in the northern half of the world, and several times its existence and former location are mentioned in the early tales of Arda. Ormal, the southern one is never again mentioned after its destruction. (?).

During the march of the Elves westward across Arda to Beleriand, one tribe led by Lenwë turns south and moves down the river Anduin. They are the Nandor, with an affinity for running water and all living things. Later under Lenwë’s son Denethor they too move west into Beleriand. (p. 54)

Ungoliant seeks the South of the world to hide in, for the Valar’s "vigilance had ever been to the north, and the south was long unheeded." The land there is described as "long and mournful shores stretched away to the south, lightless and unexplored". (p. 73)


In the Hobbit the South is both bad (Necromancer) and good (Dorwinion wine civilization)

In LotR, likewise: good (Gondor, greatest surviving civilization) and bad (both Mordor from Eriador’s perspective, and Harad from Gondor’s perspective.

In the lament for Boromir, the South wind represents the Sea: from Gondor’s perspective, the Sea is to the South, not the East.

I realized that in The Hobbit, Laketown’s opposition to Smaug and the Lonely Mountain is South v. North, Men v. Fantasy. In LotR, the opposition would be East-West, good v. evil. (7/17/05)

Aragorn arrives "from the North" with Doom for Rohan, Eomer perceives. Does this mean that Rohan sees itself now as a Southern land? Probably not. Like most independent peoples, they see themselves in the center. North and South, East and West, surround them. This is unlike Gondor, which because of its history as part of a dual Monarchy, sees itself as the "southern" of the two Dunedain kingdoms. But although it acknowledges that it is the South to those from the Shire or Eriador or Rhovanion, it sees Harad as its own "south". (7/17/05) (inspired by Dickerson’s comments on Aragorn carrying the Doom of Choice , p. 89)

The South: Tolkien imagined Egyptian elements in the culture, architecture and iconography of Gondor (Letter 211) – this used as a refutation that he was racist in his political geography. (7/30/05)

The focus of Tolkien’s literary work was the relationship of Northern people with an imagined Paradise to the West. He took inspiration for this from his professional studies of the same topic in Celtic, Anglo-saxon and Norse tales. [Idea gained from reading Shippey, Author of the Century] In this organization, the South represents first exotic people, then the unknown, with an emphasis on warmer and then hotter climate, while the East represents the opposite of Heaven, either the birthplace of the race (opposed to the last resting place) or the home of the Devil (opposed to the home of the Gods). (7/17/05)

  'Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth' - The Debate of Finrod & Andreth, Morgoth’s Ring

Finrod tells Andreth of his brother’s love for her:

"If his heart ruled, he would have wished to take thee and flee far away, east or south, forsaking his kin, and thine." (p. 324)

Here "east or south" represent an indefinite "Away" from the events taking place in the Silmarillion, in the north-west of Middle-earth.


  Hyarmen ‘south’ in Quenya, seen in Hyarmentir, the highest mountain in the regions south of Valinor, p. 74. In Sindarin, har-, harn, harad, (as seen in LotR’s Harad, Haradrim). (The Silmarillion, Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names, p. 360).

Also the Harlond quays on Anduin outside Minas Tirith: har- =south, lond = "land-locked haven" (as in Mithlond, the Grey Havens, which are also divided up into the Harlond and the Forlond in LotR Appendix A.I.iv, p. 331) in LotR. Also in Harlindon, South Lindon in the Elf country around the Mithlond west of the Blue Mountains.

King Ciryaher of Gondor takes the name Hyarmendacil ‘South-victor’ in T.A. 1050 after crossing the River Harnen and defeating the men of the Harad and raising the siege of Umbar. (LotR, appendix A.I.iv, p. 325)

More Vocabulary

   KHYAR- left hand. Q hyarmen south, hyarmenya southern; hyarya left, hyarmaite lefthanded [maз]. N heir left (hand), hargam lefthanded [kab]; harad south, haradren, harn southern. [Added entry. The –y- in the base-stem was a further addition, and at the same time the Q forms were changed from har- to hyar-; see p. 382.] (The Lost Road, The Etymologies, p. 406)

Here we see the derivation of South means Leftward, i.e., a direction taken when traveling Westward!

   The World of Tolkien, by David Day, Gramercy Books, NY, 2003, p. 173. (notes taken 6/25/05, in Borders)

Following his model of matching Aragorn with Charlemagne, the Haradrim are the Moors of Spain and the Saracens of North Africa.

From Wikipedia: article on Arda ( accessed 7/7/05

South of Middle-earth was the Dark Land and east of it was the Land of the Sun.

Tolkien stated many times that Arda was our world in a fictional time, so we can interpret the known regions of Middle-earth as Europe, perhaps specifically the Mediterranean (Mediterraneus is Latin for "Middle-earth"). Tolkien stated that The Shire's geographic location rouhgly corresponded to the Midlands of England, while Minas Tirith in Gondor corresponded roughly to Vienna [JM not sure about this: Vienna, or Venice?] , putting Mount Doom and Mordor in the general region of Asia Minor [JM not sure again, thought he mentioned the Balkans]. However, the entire continent of Middle-earth extends beyond the regions known to Gondor, far into the uncharted East and South, and Middle-earth probably encompassed all of what later became Eurasia. Information regarding both was very vague. To the south were the Hither Lands including Harad, though "Harad" means "South" and while properly used for the region immediately south of Gondor and Mordor was often loosely used to refer to the every land to the south. Near Harad and Far Harad probably corresponded to North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, respectively. The there were many stretches of sun-scorched desert in Near Harad, but like Africa there was supposedly a jungle beyond it which few had ever ventured to, from which the great Oliphaunts were found. Tolkien also said that the Haradrim loosely corresponded to the Berbers (though "Haradrim" refers to a group of many races, not just the one). Men of Far Harad are also described as being black skinned. The vast lands East were collectively referred to as Rhun, though this may have only referred to those immediately east of the Sea of Rhun and River Running. The Easterlings, like the Haradrim, were a diverse collection of many races, ranging from Saracen-like peoples to numerous barbarian hordes form open grasslands that would later become the Russian steppe. There was even less knowledge of the extreme eastern end of Middle-earth, where the land was supposed to stop at another sea. It is known that in ancient times the great chain of the Red Mountains ran north to south near here, and was roughly analogous to the Blue Mountains of the west (all of the world was once symmetrical at the dawn of time). The race of Elves first originated near here, though their original home of Cuivenen doubtlessly no longer existed by the Third Age. It is not known if the Red Mountains themselves survived into the Third Age, either intact or in some reduced form (like the Blue Mountains). The lands of the east between the coast and the Red Mountains probably corresponded to east Asia and the Orient, specifically China and Japan. It is said that the Blue Wizards went far into the east of Rhun and beyond to stir up rebellions against Sauron in the lands he held sway over, though the tales of these struggles never reached the west in detail. It is also said that the Blue Wizards somehow failed in their mission; this is interpreted several ways, either that like Saruman they set themselves up as lords of men, or that like Radagast they started to care more for the local people they were charged with protecting than Middle-earth as a whole and then refused to return. Tolkien did state that many of the "magic cults" and orders that exist today can trace their origins back to the Blue Wizards teaching local peoples of the east the magical arts.

There was also a separate continent south and east of Middle-earth called the Dark Land, which could correspond to Australia. Another separate continent to the east of Middle-earth was the Land of the Sun, so called because when the world was flat the Gates of the Sun were near there, and it would be scorched. After the fall of Númenor, Arda is made round and new lands are created east of Middle-Earth (and west too, now that the world is round and can be circumnavigated), out of these Sun Lands that are apparently meant to be North and South America, though none of Tolkien's mythology deals with what happens there.



From Wikipedia: article on Dark Land ( accessed 7/7/05

In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, Dark Land is a mysterious continent south of Middle-earth. No elves or dwarves live here, but there could be wild men here. The Númenóreans probably visited it on their long journeys, although it is not known if they established dwellings there.

As seen in the Ambarkanta, it occupies a position on Arda much like Antarctica and Australia do compared to Eurasia, if Antarctica and Australia were one land-mass.

Before Africa was visited by people from Europe, it was known as the "Dark Land". It is possible that Tolkien could have been inspired by this.

In the game Middle Earth Role Play by Iron Crown Enterprises, a Sindarin name for the Dark Land — Morenor (probably intended to mean "Dark Middle-earth") — was given, although it does not appear in any of Tolkien's writings. If the name existed in Sindarin at all the form would more likely be Morennor.

  The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien

I am a west-Midlander by blood but perhaps a fact of my personal history may partly explain why the ‘North-western air’ appeals to me both as ‘home’ and as something discovered. I was actually born in Bloemfontein, and so those deeply implanted impressions, underlying memories that are still pictorially available for inspection, of first childhood are for me those of a hot parched country. My first Christmas memory is of blazing sun, drawn curtains and a drooping eucalyptus. (p. 213, Letter 163 to W. H. Auden, 7 June 1955)


   Guide to the Names in the Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien, printed in A Tolkien Compass, ed. Lobdell, 1975.

Swertings. Said by Sam to be the name in the Shire for the legendary (to hobbits) dark-skinned people of the ‘Sunlands’ (far south). It may be left unchanged as a special local word (not in the Common Speech); but since it is evidently a derivative of swart, which is still in use (= swarthy), it could be represented by some similar derivative of the word for ‘black / dark’ in the language of translation. Compare Swarthy Men, the Common Speech equivalent (III 73).

Sunlands. Translate by sense. It is evidently meant as a popular name, in the Common Speech or other languages, current in Gondor and the North-west for the little known countries of the far South.

Sunlending. This is a translation into the language of Rohan of Anórien, the name of the land immediately attached to Minas Anor (originally including that city and inhabited lands as far as the River Erui). It is thus ‘heraldic’ rather than climatic, and related to the heraldic names of Elendil’s sons Anárion and Isildur, being the counterpart of Ithilien. It only occurs in the verses (III 77) purporting to translate the minstrelsy of Rohan, and should be retained. It might well be spelt (indeed more accurately) Sunnlending, as in the Swedish version. But the translation in the Dutch, Zuiderleen ‘Southern-fief’ is erroneous, since the ‘southern fiefs’, also called the Outlands, referred to the sea-board lands south of Anórien.

Here we see a confusion in Tolkien’s terminology between the idea of the South as a hot climate zone in the Mediterranean/African sense (the Westron term translated as Sunlands) – and the idea of the setting Sun as a heraldic device for Anarion and his fiefdom which stands in an east-west mystic and symbolic balance with the rising Moon for Isildur (the Rohirric term Sunlending for Anórien).


N. E. Brigand's notes from Tolkien’s Haradrim and Medieval Constructions of the Other by Margaret A. Sinex, May 5, 2005, at Kalamazoo

Gollum’s description of Haradrim: dark faces, fierce, gold and/or red, spikes, cruel, not nice

These characteristics parallel Medieval ideas about other races

Saracens and Jews had been described as "monstrous races"

Medieval ideas about race and geography were influenced by Pliny the Elder’s "Natural History"

It was thought that moral flaws were exhibited in appearance

"Regional stereotyping:" geography was held to determine traits, with support from astrology and medicine; Tolkien has Sauron religiously dominating people "ever ready to his will"

LotR quote: "Unlike the wild Easterlings or cruel Haradrim"

Other peoples thought to dwell in land not properly "habitable"

Their countries were placed on the edge of the map [Sinex meant this as a negative comment about both medieval European and Tolkien’s views of Easterners and Southerners]

"Swertings" and "swart:" in some Old English texts these words mean "manipulative"

Strickland in Saracens, Demons and Jews cites "common perjorative descriptive vocabulary" from such texts as the Chanson du geste: a dark enemy, a baptized king who turns white

Europeans used idolatrous worship as cause to attack non-Christians

polygamy and lust in hot lands

Harad and Khan have no geography; "Southrons inhabit a blank space"

stars in Harad are disorienting ("strange" per Aragorn)

hobbits have tales of "Big Folk" in the south

there are two kinds of maps from the Middle Ages showing racial distribution: one appeals to classical history, the other offers geographical explanations

four characteristics define races: geography, color, body type and language

Albert the Great [?] had medical theory about races: people were choleric and sanguine in temperate zones but small and feeble with thin blood, but excelling in occult practices, in warm regions

the English identified zodiacal influence with particular countries; e.g. Scotland goverend by Scorpio

yellow and red are perjorative; e.g. Jews dancing in yellow around the Golden Calf [can’t tell if Sinex admitted that hobbits were fond of yellow or if I noted that]

Haradrim are associated only with black, yellow, red

"a giant among the Swertings" – distorted bodies

Gollum arguably mentions their beauty

mingling of men and trolls out of Far Harad, "black men like half trolls," "troll-men"

"harsh, coarse" voices

to conclude, Sinex noted that she was identifying a possible source for Tolkien’s construction and allowed that Tolkien’s themes of healing, forgiveness and assimilation meant that no group was inherently evil in his world

[there wasn’t enough time for questions]


From: "entwifewandlimb"

Date: Thu Aug 18, 2005 12:49 am

Subject: Re: Anna ... (South) entwifewandlimb

Well, I might as well get my money's worth out of my questia subscription before it expires. Here's what I came up with on "South."

Some possible sources from J.R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism

Book by Judith A. Johnson:

"The Novels of J.R.R. Tolkien and the Ethnology of Medieval Christendom." Epstein E. L., Philological Quarterly XLVIII : 4, October, 517-525.

Identifies the place-time of Middle-earth as medieval Europe between 800 and 1200 A.D., with reference to the languages, political situation, and a powerful, technologically advanced neighbor to the south. Defines or identifies many proper nouns, suggesting medieval sources or analogues.

"Narnia and the North: The Symbolism of Northernness in the Fantasies of C.S. Lewis." Patterson Nancy-Lou. Mythlore 4 :2:# 14, December, 9-16.

Discusses Lewis' uses of North/South racial symbolism in The Horse and His Boy, pointing out a similar symbolism in The Lord of the Rings.

"13 Loss Eternal in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth," in J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 177.

"During this "fourth of the Great Battles, Dagor Bragollach," for instance, the siege of Angband is ended by Morgoth's sweeping offensive, which scatters the Noldor as those elves who survive flee south or into the hidden land of Doriath. "

"14 Orcs, Wraiths, Wights: Tolkien's Images of Evil," in J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-Earth, Tom Shippey, ed. George Clark and Daniel Timmons (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 190.

""The Ring Goes South." There the Company's attempted crossing of Caradhras is frustrated by snow and the malice of the elements, and Legolas goes forward to scout out their retreat. He returns to say that the snow does not reach far, though he has not brought the sun with him: "She is walking in the blue fields of the South, and a little wreath of snow on this Redhorn hillock troubles her not at all" ( FR 381). "

"Tolkien's Fantasy the Phenomenology of Hope," Gunnar Urang, in Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, ed. Mark R. Hillegas (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1979), 99.

"Gandalf works primarily with Men, since Middle-earth is becoming more and more their world--especially with the men of Gondor in the South, in whom is the blood of the ancient heroic Númenoreans from across the Sea. "


   Book of Lost Tales 1, J. R. R. Tolkien

...of the Great Lands, and of the dwellings of Men; of the Valar and Valinor; of the West and its mysteries, of the East and its glory, of the South and its untrodden wilds, of the North and its power and strength; or of this island and its folk, or of the old days of Kôr where our folk once dwelt. (p. 18)


From: "Anchises Ghost" Date: Thu Aug 18, 2005 6:48 am

Subject: Re: Modtheow ... (South) anchisesghost

One of the strongest references to the South as a 'thing' (which is not saying much at all, I suspect) is in the Sil (and in the Grey Annals on which parts of the Sil is based). After Ungoliant is driven away for the last time she flees 'into the South that is forgotten'. Taken with these other references I think a case could be made for a vague apprehension of the South as wild and/or forgotten in Tolkien's conception.


   Was Tolkien racist? Were his works? By Steuard Jensen, in "The Tolkien Meta-FAQ", Story External Questions, (copied 8/22/05). This is cited by Anderson Reardick III in Why is the only good orc a dead orc? In Modern Fiction Studies, Winter 2004, Vol. 50, Issue 4, p. 861, 14 pages.

A full discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of this FAQ. Some people find what they consider to be clear indications of racist attitudes in Tolkien's works. It is certainly possible that they are right: racism is notoriously difficult to recognize accurately, and most people harbor at least some level of racial mistrust.

On the other hand, most people who make such accusations seem to do so primarily to stir up controversy and inspire flame wars. In fact, much of the "evidence" presented to demonstrate Tolkien's racism is flawed, and there is reason to believe that Tolkien was less racist than many people of his day. For the sake of diffusing the issue a little, I will mention a few of those mistaken arguments.

One occasional charge is that Tolkien was anti-semitic, presumably because he occasionally compared his Dwarves to Jews. Those comparisons seem to focus on history and language, however: in Letter #176 he says, "I do think of the 'Dwarves' like Jews: at once native and alien in their habitations, speaking the languages of the country, but with an accent due to their own private tongue.....". And he seems to have had a very positive view of the Jewish people in general. For example, when discussing the origins of the name "Tolkien" in the final footnote to Letter #325, he says, "It is not Jewish in origin, though I should consider it an honour if it were." He made very similar comments in a draft of a letter (#30) to a publisher in Nazi Germany who asked about his race, and in Letter #29 he introduced that draft and told his publisher, "I should regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine."

Another seemingly prejudiced statement comes in Letter #210, where Tolkien describes the Orcs as "degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types". At first glance this looks blatantly racist, but the qualifier "to Europeans" casts it in a very different light: Tolkien explicitly recognized that different cultures have different standards of beauty, and that his impressions did not reflect any underlying superiority. Moreover, he made it clear that the Orcs were not in any sense actual "Mongol-types", but "degraded and repulsive versions" of humanoid stock. (Nevertheless, his comment certainly falls short of modern standards of sensitivity.)

Many point to the "hierarchy" of the various groups of humans in the books as clear evidence of cultural elitism or racism, but they seem to forget that most of the Numenoreans (the "highest" humans) fell into deepest evil and were destroyed by God, while the Woses (the "Wild Men" of Druadan forest, who certainly would not represent "civilized" Europeans) were among the most wise and resistant to evil of all peoples (as well as having a complex culture and many skills other Men lacked), to take two of many examples.

Finally, a few people have mistaken the symbolic conflict between "darkness" and "light" in the books for a conflict between "black" and "white", which they then interpret racially (which is already a stretch). They seem to overlook the ghastly white corpse-light of Minas Morgul, the White Hand of Saruman, and Isildur's black Stone of Erech, to name a few exceptions.

As for specific claims that Tolkien linked skin color to good and evil, there are simply too many exceptions for that to hold up. Light skinned characters who did evil things include Saruman, Grima, Gollum, Boromir, Denethor, and the Numenoreans as mentioned above. And it is notable that Tolkien described Forlong's people of Gondor and even the men of Bree as "swarthy", the same term he used for example of the Southrons who were ambushed by Faramir (though to be fair, he may have imagined different degrees of "swarthiness" for those groups). For that matter, Sam's flash of empathy for the fallen Southron he saw during the ambush indicates that many of Sauron's soldiers were likely unwilling slaves, not evil at heart.

In short, while there are racially "suspicious" elements to be found in Tolkien's writings if one hunts for them, closer examination typically reveals the attitude behind them to be benign. That doesn't mean that he was perfect, but it certainly doesn't seem that he should be condemned for intolerance.