Actor Lenny Henry, who plays the Harfoot Sadoc Burrows in the upcoming The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series, recently claimed that the series finally sees “people of colour taking up space in the centre of a fantasy series.”
Henry spoke with Empire Magazine to promote the series while giving some backstory about his character the tribe of nomadic Harfoots his character belongs to.
First, Henry detailed the tribe, “We’re a nomadic tribe, moving with the weather and the fertility of the crops. We have big caravans on wooden wheels and we’re very good at hiding things, because humans are much bigger than us and bring trouble.”
This might be a nitpick, but usually you have to stay in one location in order to grow crops. It seems odd they would be moving around at the whims of the fertility of the crops. Rather nomadic tribes usually follow migrating animals.
Next, Henry says ,”We’re the traditional Tolkien little guy.”
He explains, “Traditionally, the little people in this world provide comedy but also get to be incredibly brave. You’re going to see us run the full gamut of emotions and actions in this adventure.”
From there, Henry makes what has become the standard marketing plug for Disney especially when it comes to Marvel and Star Wars.
As an example, Obi-Wan Kenobi actress Moses Ingram promoted the show to The Independent telling them, “‘Obi-Wan’ is going to bring the most diversity I think we’ve ever seen in the galaxy before.”
She added, “To me, it’s long overdue. If you’ve got talking droids and aliens, but no people of color, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 2022, you know. So we’re just at the beginning of that change. But I think to start that change is better than never having started it.”
Anyone who has watched Star Wars knows Ingram’s comments is full of crap as there are plenty of “people of color” and have been from the beginning.
James Earl Jones is the iconic voice of Darth Vader. Billy Dee Williams plays the smooth-talking businessman Lando Calrissian. Samuel L. Jackson plays the righteous leader of the Jedi Order Mace Windu. The list goes on.
It appears Amazon is taking a page out of their book as Henry said, “Finally, in this show, kids are going to see people of colour taking up space in the centre of a fantasy series.”
He added, “We’re very visible in this world and that’s very exciting.” He previously indicated, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
As noted above, there have been plenty of black actors that have had prominent roles in one of the most popular fantasy film series of all time in Star Wars.
One of the most popular science fiction and fantasy shows in recent years, Stranger Things, features black actors and characters. Caleb Reginald McLaughlin plays Lucas Sinclair and Priah Ferguson plays his sister, Erica Sinclair.
Game of Thrones also features Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo, one of the leaders of the many tribes of the Dothraki. The show also features Nathalie Emmanuel as Missandei, one of Daenerys’s top advisors. Pedro Pascal plays Prince Oberyn of Dorne while Indira Varma plays his paramour Ellaria Sand. As with Star Wars, the list goes on.
On top of the fact that there is a laundry list of persons of color playing prominent roles in fantasy properties for decades, Henry playing a Hobbit is a direct contradiction to Tolkien’s description of the characters.
While Tolkien notes in the prologue of the The Fellowship of the Ring that Harfoots have browner of skin it’s in comparison to the other two types of Hobbits, the Stoors and the Fallohides, which are described as fairer of skin.
He stated, “The Harfoots were browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides.”
Next describing the Stoors, Tolkien wrote, “The Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were larger; and they preferred flat lands and riversides.”
As for the Fallohides, Tolkien wrote, “The Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer than the others; they were lovers of trees and of woodlands.”
Not only does he describe Harfoots as browner of skin, he also makes it clear they are the dominant type of Hobbit and it’s very clear through official artwork what a Hobbit looks like.
Tolkien wrote, “The Harfoots had much to do with Dwarves in ancient times, and long lived in the foothills of the mountains. They moved westward early, and roamed over Eriador as far as Weathertop while the others were still in Wilderland. They were the most normal and representative variety of Hobbit, and far the most numerous. They were the most inclined to settle in one place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes.”
So even the Harfoots being nomadic is a contradiction to Tolkien’s work as he notes, “they were the most inclined to settle in one place, and longest preserved their ancestral habit of living in tunnels and holes.”
Given this is a playbook out of Disney’s playbook and this playbook is usually deployed before a show or movie is absolutely garbage in order to deflect from the quality of the show or the movie, it’s likely The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be as bad or worse than many Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings expect.
What do you make of Henry’s comments?