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Tolkien's Goblins

I was just looking at _The Hobbit_, particularly when they've been captured by goblins and are about to be presented to the Great Goblin, and noted a couple of things. One, goblins are said to eat horses and ponies and donkeys as well as more dreadful things, and I realized that AIUI English culture has a particularly strong abhorrence of eating horse, so this probably seems far worse to an English child than it did to me. I thought it was sad and practically unfortunate if their ponies got eaten but it wasn't "OMG ewww they eat horse!!!"

And the next paragraph is a decent piece of evidence for anyone who supports the "Tolkien thought technology was evil" thesis; it's also an interesting contrast to RPG goblins and orcs. Goblins are described as making not beautiful but clever things, especially axes, swords, tongs, pickaxes, and elements of torture. So... weapons and tools? They mine as well as the dwarves, if not neatly. They take particular delight in wheels, engines, and explosions, and avoiding work with their hands. So, labor saving devices? Honest Men of the West grind grain and remove rocks by hand, they don't use mills or dynamite! Goblin Industrial Revolution indeed...

(Not that goblins get much grain, I'm sure. "We Do Not Sow.") (And the *Shire* had a watermill. Saruman somehow replaced it with a polluting one...)

Relatedly, I was long impressed by when Merry and Pippin are prisoner: the orcs apply fast-acting (magic?) healing salve and a drink that tastes foul but energizes like miruvor. RPGs commonly treat orcish stuff as crude and badly made, but by the source material it should arguably be as effective as elvish stuff, just unpleasant. Hard to convey aesthetics in an RPG or nethack though, not like you have to taste the stuff your character does. And we see no orcish magical weapons or armor, for all their cleverness.

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Damien Sullivan

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