Jan 21

Why do I love Sword and Sorcery? It’s a question I have mulled over inside my mind for some time as an adult. I am a black man yet I have read every single one of Terry Brooks’ Sword of Shannara series (over 12 books), I am a huge fan of The Lord of The Rings books, and I grew up reading The Savage Sword of Conan The Barbarian as a child. In my teenage years I was the token black kid rolling a 20-sided die on the table top of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure, even playing DM to a set of adventures in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons realm.

Sword and Sorcery is fun, it depicts larger than life heroes overcoming the harshest of odds. In the table-top games you made up your own identity and lived through your character whether it be dodging fireballs, rescuing damsels in distress or cutting down creatures. One thing that was odd about being black and liking this stuff however was the lack of representation for heroes of my background. For example: My beloved Conan The Barbarian was penned by a man who lived in a time when being a nasty racist was the cool thing to be. He depicted the world in a realistic way but his descriptions and treatment of the darker races was very evident of his opinions even to my young brain.

If you have watched Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings trilogy you will see that it reflects this article in many ways. DO NOT mistake this for me wanting a Negro hobbit, or a chocolate elf or anything; I am just saying that the movie is whiter than a Jennifer Anniston romance comedy… just like most Fantasy Epics are. The original book series was written to be European white people’s mythology so it makes sense, and it was the mother of many other stories that followed. The fantasy realms ideas of race isn’t red, brown, white, black and yellow, it is white people in different forms: White people with ears are elves, white people with hairy feet are Halflings, bearded white people under 3 ft are Dwarves, and everyone else white is just “man”. Nothing wrong with that at all – being serious here, but I just wonder if I am odd for liking it? Greek mythology is beautiful, the stories are some of the best out there and it is Greek myth about Greeks for Greeks – yet I can recite just about every God’s theology to you from the top of my head. I would never argue that Greek mythology should include outsiders since… well it’s called Greek Mythology. Should Sword and Sorcery be called White European Sword and Sorcery then for clarification? I know it’s neither here nor there but it does bring up the question.

The thing I don’t understand is… why do I love these stories that offer me little to no representation? Even in video games where I make myself as the main character (tall and dark), I am one of a kind. Now this isn’t to slight the newer authors and creators that have gone above and beyond to make their worlds reflect ours in its diversity beyond height differentials and ears, it’s just an observation of the genre. In Sci-Fi the racial mix up has always been fair to non-whites and it is even geekier than Sword and Sorcery… and we all know how racist nerds can be.

What about you readers? Are you a huge fan of a genre that under-represents you in a major way? Are you confused by your love for it regardless? Or does it not matter at all that you are ignored within its confines?

See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.
  • Great post as always!!

    I have always thought the same things. I am also a fanstasy sc-fi dude like yourself and always wondered why their couldn’t be a few brothers running around. Even if you want to say it is a European thing. The Moors were there for hundreds of years. I also ask the question is mainstream america able to accept a person of color in a fantasy film or main role?

    • I dunno Diggame, if they cast The Moors in Sword and Sorcery it would be very much like the Persians are treated in 300… the Europeans went at the Moors for the holy land so they would be an ugly enemy… King Xerxes as a tall, freaky, bi-sexual god king was enough for me. I would rather no black people than another 300 to receive critical acclaim…

      • why even have that Persian look why not a look like Morgan Freeman’s character in Robin Hood

      • jwong

        People love these games because it is like
        real life; in real life you have to go on a series
        off adventures to get what you want.
        These RPG games are preparations for the
        real life. Nerds rejoice! Life is not just about

      • I read the Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school and there was a point where they referred to the Ringwraiths as “Black men.” what was up with that?

  • Tony

    You’re talking about something near and dear to my heart there. Growing up I was the same way, except I wanted to play D&D but didn’t have anybody near that even knew what it was much less wanted to play it.

    Most stories are told from the teller’s point of view, which spawns out of their worldview. And unfortunately the time period when many of these genres (fantasy and sci-fi) became popular, people of color were viewed as secondary. Now that’s not an excuse for that to continue, and if Will Smith showed us anything it’s that a black man can carry a Sci-Fi centric movie. However, we got a long way to go. I am hopeful for the Black Panther project that seems to be picking up steam.

    • I wonder for the Black Panther given the nerd rage being spewed on Idris Elba for invading the all-white Asgard in the upcoming Thor… the pasty fanbois accepted Blade but I’m not sure they can stomach the Panther… stranger things have happened though, like The Karate Kid making huge numbers everywhere. I’ll stay hopeful too but if it is amazing yet still manage to bomb, I would not be surprised…. hell even women have it tough when it comes to comic book movies. Still waiting to see one, just one action comic heroine workout on film…

      • Tony

        The best bet is still Wonder Woman, who seems to be getting another TV show.

        Everything old is new?

  • While Science Fiction film has not featured a significant Black presence, there is much more Black representation in Science Fiction literature. Some of the greatest, most successful, and most popular Science Fiction writers are Black. In many Science Fiction literary works, the Black presence shows up often and issues of diversity and multiculturalism are central components of many Science Fiction literary works. I would, therefore, like to see Science Fiction film catch up with Science Fiction literature when it comes to featuring a significant Black presence. I very much enjoyed this piece! Excellent questions!

    • Truth be told Antonio Sci-Fi has done well by us, I think Star Trek originally showed that it was okay to show black people in the future (since the Jetsons damn sure didn’t) and other copycats took the ball and ran with it… I’m talking about tv shows mind you, not movies. Recently in movies specifically black women have been getting roles that impress me, I think of sexy Sanaa Lathan in AVP who earned the warrior’s mark (they should have brought her back for that awful sequel), Angela Bassett in that horrible movie Super Nova and Gina “sexy lips” Torres in FireFly’s farewell movie Serenity. Sci-Fi has black representation as well as Latino and Asian, so I never felt odd nerding it out in full Star Wars fashion (Lando, Windu) but Sword and Sorcery… it’s just shady. Thanks for your insight as usual.

  • i think this a great post. I actually sold off ALL of my fantasy novels simply because i just became disgusted with teh allll white casts. I have only found TWO series tha contain black people..the imaro and shades of memnon books.

    The shades of memnon book tho i have to give low marks as the character doesn;t even stay in africa…he fights alll over europe. Afriican mythology is so rich and varied..i just wish I ha dthe talent to write novels.

  • MAV

    You probably identify more with the personalities and stories rather than the race of the characters. I know that when I read fantasy I don’t picture characters with any particular race in my mind, I’m more interested in the story.

  • I have two answers for you:

    …and there’s more to come. I’m making sure of it.

    • Thank you Milton, yours (and everyone else that writes creatively) efforts are appreciated more than you think.

  • Flynn

    Good post. Sword and Sorcery or just Fantasy period, is mainly going after those areas where it will have a broader audience. If it is trying to make itself marketable for movies or other media, then the best bet is to be based around European or Asian styled fantasy.
    Most of the fantasy or mythology taught in schools is European in nature. Very rarely are there any classes for Native American, Asian, or African mythology to broaden horizons. Numerous Sword and Sorcery movies geared toward European or Asian mythology can be found but African or Black American stories are very hard to come by.

  • I love Sword and Sorcery — always have. As a reader, this was one of the genres I cut my teeth on and it never really bothered me that there were no people of color represented within the genre. The Lord of the Rings movie did trouble me a little, though. I felt that there should been at least a few folks of color (and not just Black people) since this was a major motion picture. But what the hey, it’s what Hollywood does, right? As a writer, I’m glad that we have more and more emerging authors of color, some of them quite brilliant. And I’m certain that in the future, we’ll see more films that reflect our voice.

    Valjeanne Jeffers author of Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal 3: Stealer of Souls

    • Thanks for your comments Valjeanne, I think that like yourself most lovers of Fantasy do look past race and culture when reading and watching Fantasy but it all comes to the surface when you game or move to create a world – as an author I am sure you got a bit of this when you started.

      One thing that bothers gamers (as in video gamers) that are non-white is when we purchase a game and the developer only allows for the humans to be tan, not black, not brown, nothing beyond Caucasian. Despite the tradition of Sword and Sorcery being based in Europe I grew up reading Conan The Barbarian and even a racist like Robert E. Howard managed to fit in different people into his world. This made me less tolerant to the Tolkien purists who make all white world despite their cosmopolitan reality.

      But I am not activist looking to tell authors who and what should be int heir worlds. I wrote this to hopefully bring some attention to it in order to produce more people like yourself that can write tales which do include nonwhite heroes and villains to even the scales a bit. After all Science Fiction has always included us so I see no reason to cut Sword and Sorcery a break just because it’s traditional.

      Thanks for being a writer and thanks again for your comment. I hope your links here will gain you many more readers besides myself.

  • I look at the whiteness of S&S like I look at the Asianess of KungFu movies. The only problem I have with S&S is when racism and antiAfricaness shows up. I can enjoy films without them having Black people (but there has to be some killing in it) but I can take them when they misrepresent African people or go out of the way to diss things that are black. This is an area I hink Hollywood does good. Because of the social pressure to be inclusive we have characters like Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberland in Conan (I’m thinking Idris Alba in Thor also) the movie book there weren’t characters like them in the books. I like this discussion. I think we will see more diversity in the S&S world once the riase of Sword and Soul reaches its proper level. Good work Milton.

    • I definitely hear you and while many S&S movies are guilty of the token misrepresented non-white, I have to defend Conan The Destroyer a bit. The character played by Grace Jones was actually a character in the comics although they completely took liberties with him. Zula was a Kushite warrior that ran with Conan, he was male and a bad-ass but the creators of the movie decided to make he a she and make her savage 🙁 Bumbata was… ugh… embarrassing.

      I would definitely rather an all white movie than to see another savage Zula or a Bumbata again. Then again that movie sucked badly, it was a complete turn for the worse compared to the original. The new movie with Bob Sapp and Conan’s best black friend were more in lines with the comics and the way black people were portrayed. Too bad it bombed.

  • Greg Denmark

    Nice article. I have been reading about mythology and high fantasy since I was old enough to read. The fact that it is usually lily white does not bother me much, despite me being a strong Afrocentrist. I keep a certain perspective when engaging in high fantasy.

    When reading, I enjoy it for what it’s worth, a good story set in a high fantasy world.

    I have never been the token Black and never will(that is the Afrocentrist in me…lol). I have been fortunate enough to find other Blacks who are just as interested in it as myself. As a teen, I played Dungeons and Dragons with two of my brothers and friends of hours, in low income neighborhoods Contrary to popular belief, a so-called ghetto contain a diversity of thoughts and mindsets.

    We palyed D&D/Warhammer FRPG, collected comics, watched fantasy movies/shows and read greek norse myths and later African. I had an epiphany as a child and knew that we had to have myths of our own so I spent my days in the library reading about the Yoruba, Akan, Moorish, Dogon and Kemetic myths. That has become a passion of mine.

    Moreover, when we played D&D, even though we used some Eurocentric names, our characters were always Black. We made the worlds as Black as our young minds could make them.

    I went to a HBCU and again, great diversity amongst the Black populace. There was group of about 10-15 of us that played D&D, read and watched fantasy/sci-fi and played videos games.

    Later on as a young adult, I ran a Warhammer game with 3-4 friends that was based off of the Moorish Kingdoms.

    I want to read and create high fantasy stories that are FUBU. I am not interested at all in someone finding Blacks in Tolken or any other white writer.

    I enjoy reading the lily white high fantasy, but my my prodigious African Spirit compels me to always put myself and culture into it, in some way, if I am active in the story like RPGs and such.

    I deleted a MMO because it didnt give me the option of darkening my skin…lol

    It is a never ending journey this is.

    • Thanks fellow Greg for sharing and letting me personally know that there were others out there banging the table tops and nerding it up in alternate realms.

      I have said a lot on this topic but one thing your comment reminded me of is how important the HBCU experience was in normalizing black people to black people who grew up as tokens (I call it the raisin in a bowl of milk theory). Many readers who have had the privilege of living around people who look them for years may not realize how necessary it is to go into a collective of your own people for a few years in order to detox the false perceptions that come from outside sources. Yes this includes blogs. Going to an HBCU made me realize that I wasn’t some rebellious, standout, weird black person, the problem was the city I grew up in and it was a breath of fresh air to learn this.

      Many folks who argue against HBCU’s see it as some racist institution that segregates us in order to misalign our future with the cosmopolitan world. This can’t be any further from the truth as I and everyone who went to my school (that I know of) fit in, and are doing extremely well in the “real world”.

      But alas this is a subject that is meant for another day. Fantasy rocks and all that good stuff. Thanks again for your excellent commentary.

    • Cutelibrarian

      My HBCU was not as cool as yours, obviously. :>/

  • Paul Savoy

    I came across this article while researching the Lord of the Rings.

    Let me give you a bit of my background, where I grew up as a child, I was considered a white person, but upon coming back to the US, I have been referred to as Latino etc…Which was very strange. I actually have Portuguese, Japanese, and French background, but since I am not Anglo, I am not really white, specially if I say anything 😉
    Anyway, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was about 14 in Rio, Brazil. I was hooked. I love fantasy and sci-fi.
    But I noticed that most books represent Germanic lands and fantasies. Southern Europeans, Iberians, heck even the Southern French, are not represented much. Italians and Greeks deities are played by Englishman!
    Then I started to look at other ethnic backgrounds and the lack of representations of such. For example, in Star Trek, I never saw a ship full of Mexicans, or Chinese. I started to think that in the only Germanic looking people lived in the future, even the alien looked as such.
    I guess it is hard for people that live in a part of society where multiculturalism is the norm, but then when reading books, travelling to places where societies are very homogeneous. Maybe that is why I am a big fan of the Wheel of Time now.
    The cool thing about Tolkien, is that his stories can be transmutated to different lands and peoples , and even time periods, and still have meaning.
    My wife is from Danish-Welsh-German background, so my kids are a bit of everything. Having a multicultural background is great, but finding multicultural characters that is another story. Maybe that is why I am partial to half-elves 😉
    So, I found your articles and comments refreshing and educational to me.

  • There is a good handful of high fantasy works featuring POC in the form of cartoons Avatar:The Last Airbender and Book and comics and manga but when it’s time to get on the big screen suddenly everyone needs to be white.
    Avatar the Last Airbender is a fantasy Asian world similar to LOtR but come movie time the heroes all became white. Neil Gaiman wrote Anansi Boys Anansi is a Ghanaian god that is known through the African diaspora come movie time the producers wanted everyone white. Gaiman rejected the movie he made the book for his good friend a Black actor and comedian Lenny Henry.
    Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea novel were all about people of colour but come movie time all the main characters were white except for a few tokens

    Someone mentioned the 300 and how persian were depicted, they were fucking demons in that film everyone who was not light bright and bloody white looked evil that film was all kinds of wrongs.
    But when the time comes for Persians to be the heroes you have Jake gyllenhall super white guy spray tanned like hell with a british accent for some reason to be The Prince of Persia

    There are man great works out there just need to be able to look because I love High fantasy too.

  • Pingback: The Sports Session – Dont Get It Twisted It Has Always Been About The Game()

  • Stefán

    Conventional Fantasy literature draws on medieval European culture; As such, those of Asian and African ethnicity will be rare, and depicted as exotic strangers at best, or demonic barbarians at worst, reflecting the contemporary viewpoint (racism was after all rampant in the middle ages, along with many other prejudices, so I guess you could safely claim the middle ages racist).
    In regards to Tolkien, his view on this is very eurocentric, and the dark races in his books are all considered under the sway of Sauron, whether they were black or arabic in appearance is left to conjecture. I feel this more reflects the inherent medieval European focus, rather than pure emphasis on color. This goes in some ways for me as well, I don’t much care for native Americans in my S&S, they just feel out of place, and kingdoms with heavily dark skinned people will be remote.

  • Davis

    “Is Sword and Sorcery meant for non-white people?”

    Sure it is, why wouldn’t it be? I just finished up watching Ong Bak 2 (awesome martial arts fantasy film), and everyone in the movie was of Thai descent. Now should I ask, is it for non-south east asians? Again, why wouldn’t it be? I, a “Hispanic” man enjoyed it. There’s nothing wrong with having a one-race cast, I prefer it sometimes, actually.

    I would much rather watch a film set in: Africa having an all black cast, Asia with an all asian cast, Polynesia with an all polynesian cast, etc. etc. One film that really got on my nerves was Prince of Persia. the story being set in ancient Persia with an all- (tanned) white cast (and one black character). It really of brought down the overall “middle eastern” setting of the film for me. Everyone seemed so out of place, even in a fantasy piece.

    The most iconic S&S character, a favorite of yours: Conan the Barbarian, is not white, he is brown with black hair and blue eyes. Most people, of course, will mistake him for looking like a European bodybuilder (Arnold), which is a complete deceptive representation of the character. Jason Momoa is a much more fitting portrayal of Conan.

    I always felt that Middle Earth was loosely based upon Middle Ages-Europe (as are many S&S stories). The Men and Dwarfs were from Britain. The Elves were Saxon/Scandinavian The hobbits being french, and the orcs, uruk-hai, goblins etc. were the black plague. I don’t know, that’s just my interpretation.

    To simply answer your question, S&S is not just meant for white people, it’s for people who love FANTASY!

  • Carl Anderson

    Can it be that no one has mentioned Charles Saunder’s “Imaro” books/stories, or have I just missed that? Well, I’ve mentioned them now, anyways. 🙂 And, yes, the kind of fantasy literature with which we are familiar has clear roots in (Romantically inspired) historical fiction produced by (largely) European authors, and thus the focus on European antiquity and the medieval period, as well as swarms of people who are described as looking European. No big deal, I think: it’s like observing that Chinese wuxia stories are full of people who seem pretty much Chinese, etc. Nevertheless, as someone who grew up and still lives in a fairly multicultural context (more so than, perhaps, did Tolkien or Howard), I _do_ like creative re-imaginings that take their inspiration from more than just the same old European Never-ever-land. Which is not to say that I object to swords’n’sorcery Vikings and Picts and whatnot — it’s all good! But as much as I like a nice shepherd’s pie, I like curry just as well, etc. 🙂

  • A.S

    Action Adventure Stories – I grew
    up reading the Famous Five, Five Find-outers and dog, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys,
    Naughtiest Girl in School, etc. and to be honest I didn’t realise until I was older
    that all the characters in those stories that captured my imagination and
    attention were white. It was only when I talked to my black friends (many of
    which didn’t engage in that world) that they pointed out how unrealistic it
    would be for black kids to go around solving mysteries. When I asked them why
    that was they said if the cops saw a group of black kids ‘investigating’ a
    mystery at night, they’d arrest them and take them in for questioning as they
    would assume they were up to no good…

    I don’t know what your thoughts on that are. I just know I love those stories, I’m
    a fan of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and many other fantasy novels and again
    the writing isn’t necessarily representative of my race.

    I believe it has to do with the author’s background. They write about what they
    know or imagine from their viewpoint of the world. If they’re European then
    they write from a variation of viewpoints with that as the source.

    Yes there are those from European backgrounds who write about Chinese mythology
    or create a fantasy world based on Asian culture but I put that down to
    research conducted and what is ‘acceptable’ within the genre and acceptable to

    Those types of stories have been proven to sell. Would a fantasy or sci-fi
    story with a main black character work? Would it take someone from that culture
    writing it for it to seem authentic? Would you get the same buy in from readers
    if the main character was too ‘different’ from them?

    I’m not voting one way or the other, just raising some questions.

    I’m currently writing a fantasy dragon story where the main character is black
    – not to prove a point, but because I write from my childhood perspective.
    Other races are present, as the 5 kids and their dragon friends go on
    adventures together – The book is in the final stages of development now and I’m
    looking forward to see how this story does in a mainstream setting.

    I actually came across this
    article by running a search on dragon stories with black characters to see if
    there was anything out like what I was doing – but this is all I could find.

    (To me that speaks volumes in itself).

    If you’re interested in finding out
    more about the book – you can follow me on twitter @Alicia_Strong – the first
    few chapters will be available to the public in the next few weeks.

    • Thanks for commenting on this Alicia and it is authors like yourself that can make articles such as this one appear outdated in a few years (hopefully).

      Many books that I grew up reading were void of black characters but this did not take away my enjoyment of them. I think the realization that I was a stranger staring in from the outside came when I discovered the racial undertones of Conan The Barbarian.

      I was a huge fantasy nerd, being an artist I dove right into everything; I developed campaigns for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, read tons of books, and have watched just about every movie that involved blades, magic, elves and monsters. It was only until recent times that the worlds began to expand to include more than Asians in a positive way instead of villains and subliminally racist constructs. Even 8-bit Nintendo had some games where they made fun of black people as certain creatures… game recognize game.

      What I have come to realize in my old age is that for too long we have complained about inclusion as black people and need to really grab the reins ourselves. Support and promote the stories that are inclusive and uplift good writers and creators who can make a black spear wielding badass as amazing as a dark-haired, blue-eyed cimmerian barbian is.

      Like I said I have never found this issue with Sci-Fi which is another genre I am passionate about (actually writing a book of my own with a nice cosmopolitan cast). The nerdosphere has never had an issue with the black space marine saving the galaxy, or the black Jedi Master lopping off the head of bounty hunters so I would not lump the 2 genres into the same argument.

      If Sword and Sorcery was meant to be white I have no issue with that; but for people who want to see themselves reflected in the stories then the rest of us just need to work on developing a Spear and Sorcery that can be just as exciting and amazing as a Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara.

      Looking forward to checking out your book whenever you finish it.

  • Dwimmer

    Ancient warfare using ancient weapons. Magic. gods. monsters. In my opinion, none of these major tropes of the larger fantasy genre are or should be inherently dependent on a eurocentric view. If you read any of the classics, and changed all colour words, how much difference would it make? Don’t forget, RH in his Conan series did this very thing with his Pictish.
    Nothing wrong at all with Eurocentric stuff, but also, why limit yourself? Lets do some cool stuff. In a world where novelty seems to be such a major commodity, why not mine all those untapped cultures for inspiration. In a medieval African kingdom, what’s the equivalent of a runesword? If you happen to possess special insights into cultural paradigms, mine them too! Tell new stories. Broaden our horizons. Just please make them good; there is such a market for good sword and sorcery, and i do not believe it is bound by colour or culture for a second.
    Honestly, if the sword and sorcery genre is largely a white-centric, its just because we haven’t got anything else. yet.

    • Love your reply Dwimmer and I have seen table-top Advanced Dungeons and Dragons do this very thing with various campaign. Weaving in the cultural aspects of our mundane world and people into S&S made for some great takes on weapon, armor, folklore, etc. from places like India, China and even Africa. I wrote this to challenge the popular fantasy that gets into bed with Hollywood but I would not want to ignore the writers who have dared to break form, especially the new writers who are coming up today.
      Thanks for your comment on this.

  • Chi

    I think it has a lot to do with how history is explored in the world. As it stands right now, I can’t tell you what any good books are on African History. I can’t even search and find anything that even looks credible using google.

    As it’s said, those who right history are the victors. And considering Africans didn’t really have a written language in the past, you’d be hard pressed to get anything that someone wouldn’t wave away as pure speculation.

  • mythology

    I don’t understand you Americans… why do you always think fantasy is inspired by medieval europe? It is inspired by ancient germanic mythology. At the time (before the birth of Jesus and christianity) there were many tribes in the continent of Europe but there weren’t any countries, for example England, France, Germany, etc.
    You can google a list of germanic tribes. Also there were slavic tribes and celtic tribes who had their own mythology but most of it is forgotten today. Luckily several roman writers wrote texts and descriptions about the germanic tribes so they could be remembered. The icelandic author Snorri Sturluson wrote the “Edda”, it’s a collection of stories about nordic mythology. Scholars assume that all people who speak some form of indo-european language are connected in a way and their mythologies are connected as well. This was several thousands years ago.

    But Tolkien took most of his inspiration from norse/germanic mythology, which predates christianity and most likely developed even several thousand years earlier. It has nothing to do with medieval Europe, medieval Europe was already christianised. (Sorry about my English, I’m not a native speaker 😉 )

    • Hey mythology, thanks for clarifying that bit in the article. You are right, many of us are ignorant to the origins and lump it all up into a general “European thing”. If you or anyone else would like to contribute an article on the origins of SnS and it’s mythology I would be more than happy to publish it. Thanks for reading.

      • Michael Baytree

        Oh and in response to your article, I enjoy historical, Japanese Medieval Anime which typically don’t have and white characters since they deal with precolonial Asian Culture. But I still enjoy the tales, even when a white in the stories and is made to be an antagonist or a buffoons.

    • Michael Baytree

      You are correct “mythology,” in that there were no countries in Northern Europe just tribes, but elsewhere you had the Roman Empire (ancient equivalent of a country) and before it conquered these others there were Greek Empires and small kingdoms along the Dalmatian Coast and Black Sea. Though it is important to note, it wasn’t until the end of the Middle Ages that Europe was fully Christianized by the Teutonic crusades through Poland and Prussia and later the rest of the Baltic Coast through Lithuania. So Northern and to a lesser extent Northwestern Europe (the parts of the British Isles which were never under Christian Roman Rule, Scotland & Ireland ) were converted over a thousand after Christ died and around 800+yrs. after Constantine’s conversion, so around in the 1100’s, 1200’s, & 1300’s, very nearly to 1400A.D. Rome only controled the lands south of the Rhine and Danube Rivers. These uncivilized lands continued their pagan practices until the start of the Renaissance. The last part of the Baltic states adopted the Faith only a mere 100 years before Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, therefore Northern Europe has been Christain for lee than a thousand years.

      But Tolkien want to create a mythos for the Britons through his writings because aside from the Arthurian Tales England had no mythology to solely call its own. Germanic peoples, including the Scandinavians had Norse Mythology, Greece and Rome had Greco-Roman Mythology. Even the Irish had their own mythology too. So he picked and choose from the original peoples who had merged to become the British: the Celts, the Angles, the Juts, the Saxons, the Viking’s who invaded and setup Danelaw in eastern England, and lastly the Normans who brought Norse and French Culture in 1066 AD.

      So when he looked back at the time all these groups interacted to finally form the stock of modern day British, he looked back to the the Medieval Age. Hence with a strong influence from Celtic, Norse Myths,and Judeo-Christian beliefs the world of Arda was born with Middle-Earth the stage. Tolkien is considered the Father of Modern Fantasy therefore since his stories have a high degree of Medieval influence, most modern fantasy has a high reflection of not just the myths and their creatures, i.e. trolls, goblins, elves, dwarves, giants,etc, but Feudalism too.

    • K

      Great info!

  • cc

    Malazan book of the fallen. Quick Ben is black and hammers dragons, gods, undead, armies and still has time to kick back with his black buddy; one of the best assassins on the continent.

  • Spinoza42

    That’s pretty interesting. I remember some episodes of the podcast “Yo, is that racist” where the host Andrew Ti pretty clearly denounced basically all Fantasy writing but Tolkien in particular as some white dream. It was a wakeup call for me, I had never thought about it in such stark terms though obviously there’s some racially tricky parts in Tolkien.

    I do think your position might be a bit too accepting, but I can see your point. I wonder since you mentioned games, what’s your take on the Elder Scrolls series, where black characters are featured? A tricky aspect to that is that this is a fantasy setting with a couple of distinct and rather fundamentally different “human” races that bear resemblance to real ethnicities. The black people can punch harder but aren’t as clever as the white ones… well, ok not all the white ones cause the same goes for the nords. But the imperials are the “normals” and they’re white.

    Also, say you would like to play a mage in Skyrim, or perhaps the more extreme case, in Morrowind. Would you play a Redguard mage? Or go for a high elf/breton mage after all? Or would you forego the magic and just play the warrior because apparently that’s what your race is supposed to do? Idk, there seems to be some unfortunate implications there.

    • Good points, but on Skyrim you can be anything you want to be despite the setbacks. Most RPGs (as you know) will do that for the races like Dwarfs vs Elves vs Humans but it just makes it so that you can choose between being a vanilla standard, or a challenging offset. Though a Dwarven mage seems like a stretch.

      I rolled a RedGuard and paid little attention to the racial slight. I played a dual-wielding thief turned Dark Brotherhood assassin (not a fan of sorcery) and had a blast… you can check him out here (http://3godkings.com/game/tesv-skyrim-dawnguard-review/). In terms of Tolkien, and any of the old school classic writers, given the time period, the way we were looked at (sigh), and the overall “okayness” of racism, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a bit of underlying prejudice in there. But if we’re talking about authors with a black person problem, I would rather point out the obvious racists like Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft so there is no confusion.

      One thing we must not overlook, and bear with me here, but these stories were written by white people for a white audience, in a white dominated world. We cannot complain about what has been done when we have every right and ability now to play it forward and write our own. Sci-Fi, has always been inclusive, but Sword and Sorcery has not so it’s a brave new world for authors of color to tackle. We can write, and we can publish, so it doesn’t have to stay that way.

  • Cutelibrarian

    As of today, I am still the only black single mother playing D&D. Heck, I am ALWAYS the ONLY black person playing for that matter. Hecky heck, I am usually always the oldest too! In spite of, the games and the fantasy worlds are amazing. I just believe that its time for us black people to now represent ourselves in this genre. Simple as that!

  • Marcus the Weilder

    I do love sword and sorcery. and no, it’s not only for whites. since africa has had many stories of sorcery and sword and spear. We need to revisit these stories, take ownership of them and create our own media forum for them. If we are waiting for others to do it?! good luck with that. lol.

  • CaribGirl

    Bit late to the party here…. you should read Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero with a Thousand Faces’. It explains why stories based on myths travel so well across the world. Or, in other words, why ‘even’ black people really dig Sword and Sorcery. John Truby, a screenwriting guru, theorizes that all Hollywood blockbuster movies of late have been myths precisely because of their worldwide appeal: the structure and elements of most myths, regardless of their ethnic origin, are the same everywhere. Be we white, black, yellow or purple, we see ourselves in these stories. It’s just too bad that Hollywood hasn’t yet discovered the well of non-Norse and non-Greek mythologies. But it will.

  • whaleboneandleather

    I’m black and I love Sword & Sorcery. It’s my favorite genre and I’m pretty obsessed with it. I also love D&D and Warhammer/Warhammer 40K.
    I have found Charles Saunders’ writing and the “Sword & Soul” genre, which is sword and sorcery focused on black characters. I’m also a woman and Robert E. Howard himself, though he normally depicts women as damsels in distress, objects of beauty and sex, actually wrote Sword Woman, who is, what I would argue, one of the strongest, non-stereotypical female characters ever written. And I have found other warrior women though, as with the men, they are 99.9% white. I guess I’ll have to write some non-Euro-centric (so many dashes…) sword and sorcery myself.

  • linda

    I love these type of movies, quests, adventures, trials just plain entertainment. Im black and even though my race isn’t represented racist still exists cause of ear shapes appearently. Sad, but what it seems to imply is people will find a reason to hate . Its telling more about the writers than maybe they intended. However the show is entertaining so I watch with just a touch of humor that maybe also was not intended.

One pingback/trackback