What on Middle-Earth is going on with the accents in the Rings of Power?

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by | Sep 27, 2022 | Film & TV

Why have the Harfoots got Irish accents

Great cast diversity but…

Amazon have put together a brilliant cast that steps way beyond the whiteness of the misconceptions around Tolkiens works – it’s a sad fact but you know you have got a good diversive cast when the racist twats start bellowing from their gutter. However, what the bloody hell is going on with the accents?

Class and cultural appropriation

Tolkien was a white male academic living in Oxford, he came from a cultural background where class was hard wired into every social interaction. Interestingly the hobbits, who are regarded as his ‘everyman’ characters are beholden to class, Sam constantly refers to Frodo as ‘Master’ and looks after him like a butler come PA.

Peter Jackson brought a little bit more female representation into his films, and Amazon have carried the torch in their multi million dollar TV series The Rings of Power. But their accent/dialect choices are raising eyebrows across the board.

So, we have the aristocratic elves who sound like they went to Eton. Dwarves that are Scottish, or more precisely Scotland via Billy Connoly. Numenoreans who sound like they originate in the home counties. Southlanders who are a bit corrupt so all have a Northern twang. Orcs who originated in the East End of London and drink in the hard pubs. Then, firmly at the bottom of this particular barrel are the Harfoots, the proto hobbits of the tale with their Irish accents.

Simple Country Folk

The writers and producers of the show are echoing many of the beats and themes of the Jackson films and Tolkiens books themselves The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, where the hobbits were the excuse to get exposition in, they were a bit cut off from the affairs of the world, so had to have everything explained to them. Problem is there were no hobbits in the Second Age, just their ancestors the ‘Harfoots’, briefly mentioned in Tolkiens sketching of that Ages events.

What we seem to have is a creative decision to portray these hobbity ancestors as a simpler, more primitive, version of the characters that we are used to. OK so far but then why dress them in rags, put twigs in their hair and use a generic southern Irish accent to hammer home this sense of simplistic country folk?  Interestingly the dialect coach on the series, Leith McPherson, states that “Your language and your use of language is a form of cultural identification, not regional”. Watching them gambol about like leprachauns with cod-Irish accents feels like an unfortunate cultural stereotype.

The general trend of accents tied to a cultural British/Irish stereotype runs through the show. The ‘meteor man’ who many speculate to be anyone from Gandalf to Sauron (but is likely neither), has no speech to start with when he crawls out of his fiery pit, but is learning language from the Harfoots – surely he should end up speaking with an Irish accent? Here’s betting he won’t.

Written by Iain Hazlewood

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