Alf has never met a hobbit and therefore is in no position to judge the merits of a complaint about colour discrimination.
But in principle, he is not very sympathetic to the complaint being aired publicly today by a Pom with Paki whakapapa.
People are apt to become disgruntled when told they are the wrong colour, of course.
And so Stuff today reports:
At 1.5 metres (5ft), Naz Humphreys has the essential requirement to be a hobbit extra, but the British Pakistani has been told she’s not white enough.
“It’s 2010 and I still can’t believe I’m being discriminated against because I have brown skin,” Ms Humphreys said.
If the bloody film-makers want white hobbits, then they should be perfectly entitled to hire white hobbits, especially if their make-up budget precludes the generous use of make-up to turn non-whites into whites for the occasion.
But maybe something else happened.
She travelled from Auckland to Hamilton last Tuesday to an extras audition for The Hobbit. “The casting manager basically said they weren’t having anybody who wasn’t pale-skinned.”
A Waikato Times video of the auditions shows a film company representative telling the crowd: “We are looking for light-skinned people. I’m not trying to be – whatever. It’s just the brief. You’ve got to look like a hobbit.”
There’s nothing in that to prompt Alf to change his mind.
Ms Humphreys, it transpires, is a social policy researcher who is in New Zealand on a working holiday with her husband.
She said it was a Christmas ritual for the couple to watch The Lord of the Rings films.
Alf is bothered by this disclosure. Wanting to watch these tedious movies every Christmas seems to him to bring her wits into question, and this would have given the Hobbit bunch a much better reason not to hire her for the movie.
Still, he can see why she would be disappointed.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime. I would love to be an extra. But it just seemed like a shame because obviously hobbits are not brown or black or any other colour.
They all look kind of homogenised beige and all derived from the Caucasian gene pool.”
She reckons a movie company nowadays should be representing all its viewers.
“It’s not just going to be white people seeing The Hobbit, but people from all over the world.”
Alf is not sure he sees the point here.
If you were casting for someone to play members of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, it would be silly to give roles to darker-skiined people just because darker-skinned people would watch the movie.
Obviously Ms Humphreys disagrees, because she has set up a Facebook page entitled “Hire Hobbits of all colours! Say No to Hobbit racism!”
Sir Peter Jackson, the film-maker with a talent for attracting unfortunate publicity about his latest project, did not talk to Stuff. But he has pots of money and can hire a mouthpiece, and the mouthpiece said Pete was unaware of the casting restriction and described it as “an incredibly unfortunate error”.
Alf had absolutley no inclination to wade his way through The Hobbit (the book) to check out what colour a hobbit should be.
But he did ask Mrs Grumble to check things out at Wikipedia, and she learned that – in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien writes that Hobbits are between two and four feet (0.61 m – 1.22 m) tall, the average height being three feet six inches (1.07 m).
Ms Humphreys, at 5ft, doesn’t pass muster on that score.
Their feet are covered with curly hair (usually brown, as was the hair on their heads) with leathery soles, so most Hobbits hardly ever wear shoes.
The photo of Ms Humphreys at Stuff doesn’t show whether she qualifies on that count.
Hobbits are not quite as stocky as the similarly-sized dwarves, but still tend to be stout, with slightly pointed ears.
Tolkien describes Hobbits thus:
“I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of ‘fairy’ rabbit as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish’; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur. Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak (belonging to a dwarf).”
Dunno if the casting people are looking for Orcs, but Mrs Grumble found that:
Orcs are described as ugly and filthy fanged humanoids. The largest can reach near-human height, but they are always shorter, and some are as small as Hobbits (since Frodo and Sam disguise themselves as such when they enter Mordor).
In contrast, crossbreeds between Men and Orcs are called “man-high, but with goblin-faces.” However, some Orcs are very broad, if not tall.
Many Orcs have long arms, like monkeys or apes. Many of them also have crooked backs and legs. They have black blood, reminiscent of reanimated corpses.
Tolkien describes Orcs explicitly in one of his Letters:
…they are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types.
Not too many people will be rushing to say they fill the bill.
But Alf has a tip for the casting people.
They could go north of the Bombay Hills to Orcland.
But even better, he suggests they check out the Opposition benches in Parliament. Yep. Lots of the buggers there look remarkably similar to the creatures described by Tolkien.