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Photo by Nikhil Prasad / Unsplash

Silicon Valley Eye

August 1, 2021

SAN JOSE.  A happy ending in JRR Tolkien's popular story turns out not to be happy after all.

At issue is a chapter known as “The Scourging of the Shire,” in which a band of hobbits (small, half-person creatures) kills and rebels against a group of non-whites.

“Tolkien's last battle scene promotes aggression against people of color,” said Bonnie Mace, a YouTube spokesperson. “That's why video adaptations of 'The Scourging of the Shire' have been removed from our platform.”

Critics disagree with the decision.

“The men who subjugated the Shire weren't black or brown. They were just men,” said John Kramer, a producer of one of the scrubbed videos. “Tolkien merely said the leader, Bill Ferny, was 'swarthy' and said many of the men were 'Southrons.' That doesn't mean 'black' or any other color.”

YouTube disagrees.

“'Swarthy' and 'Southron' imply something different than 'white,'” said Mace, “so even though most of the deleted videos don't use people of color in their adaptations, our company policy is to delete them.”

Still, outrage remains, with some suggesting the scourging of the Scourging isn't related to race at all.

“It's about COVID,” said Kramer. “The hobbits were told to stay in their houses or get thrown in jail. Instead, they rebelled and killed their oppressors.”

Mace said such an interpretation of YouTube's actions is absurd, though she did note that the hobbit actors in the video adaptations aren't wearing masks, which YouTube's curators also found problematic.