In the Guardian today, author Namina Forna wrote about discovering fantasy through The Lord of the Rings and subsequently how disappointed and cut-off she felt on watching the film Trilogy and discovering that it featured no black or African characters. Maybe it’s just the fact that this is appearing in the Guardian, who have to find some means of denigrating any work of creativity that doesn’t conform to Twenty-First Century identity politics and sectionalism, but the piece comes over to me as critical of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien for failing to be more multi-cultural. I don’t think that’s meant to be Forna’s angle but under a sub-heading of ‘As a Black Lord of the Rings fan, I felt left out of fantasy worlds. So I created my own’ the slant is plain to see.
My first response was, what do you expect? This is a book written between 1936 and 1951 by a middle-aged Midlands white male who was a Professor of Ancient Languages at Oxford University and whose lifelong creative impulse stemmed from wishing to give Britain the kind of myth-cycle enjoyed by the Norse and the Greek. Is that a multi-cultural theme. It’s rather me, as a white European male, feeling excluded from the Afro-centric myths of Sierra Leone that she’s used to underpin her own fantasy fiction.
I wish her luck with her work. The thing about fantasy nurtured by myth is that it plays upon people’s unconscious attachment to those myth, upon the sense of resonance with things buried deep in our sub-consciousnesses. I would not expect Forna’s myths to necessarily resonate with me as I haveno cultural connection to the mythology of Sierra Leone or any other part of Africa. That she found resonance in Lord of the Rings probably indicates a broader mind than mine (I hope it doesn’t indicate that ashe may have been subjected, in the worse sense of the word, to European Cultural Colonial dominion).
But the Guardian‘s seeming incapbility to distinguish between then and now pisses me off more and more each week.