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Isabeau's Journal
The place to discuss my stories and other Tolkien-related topics.



Princes of Dol Amroth

 February, 25 2006

Questions about the life and times of Imrahil and his family can be asked here, including questions about Ultimatums, Kin-Strife and the shorter stories. Discussions about Brand can go either here or in the Best-Loved Son thread, since his stories sort of overlap both cycles.

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292 replies

 [141] Hi Isabeau,

I'm finally back at home and got to read Confirmation! It's always great to read new chapters of your stories, such a treat!

I see this discussion has already touched on Erchirion's rather surprising loyalty to the woman who attempted to kill him and his family, and who'd kind of made a fool of him by being escorted on his arm to do her evil deed. That must be some crush he has, to outweigh the double whammy the pirate wench offered his to life and his pride. Hmm...

I was a little surprised that Brand described Hethlin as "pretty" -- maybe he doesn't have a very broad vocabulary yet, so that was the only word he could find to indicate her attractiveness? Because I always had the impression that Hethlin's beauty isn't the conventional feminine variety that is usually conveyed by "pretty." I could totally see a young boy like Brand being *very impressed* with a woman like Hethlin, but I was kind of surprised that he'd think she was "pretty." But of course, it's a good way to bond with Imrahil!

As ever, thanks for sharing your stories with us!

Posted:Oct 20, 2006 17:37 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [142] Hey, Rebecca,

I thought I'd share one perspective on Brand's description of Hethlin... I was also a bit taken aback by it the first time I read "Confirmation." I asked my husband (who has taught 12 and 13-year-olds for over 15 years) what he thought. His response was that typically, at that age, a woman/girl is usually described as either ugly or pretty. Sometimes "OK" or "good-looking" get tossed around, and the truly exceptional might make it to "beautiful." But basically he agreed with your assessment - most boys don't have a very broad vocabulary yet! :)

Posted:Oct 28, 2006 03:33 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [143] Hey Denise!

Thanks a lot for undertaking that little bit of informal verification! Yeah, it was just this little nagging thing: I don't think that Hethlin is anything close to a Mary Sue, but that one passage kind of jarred me, because I thought it was weird that most of the really good main male characters in the story (Imrahil, Amrothos, Elrohir, Faramir, and now Brand) all think that Hethlin is attractive but her beauty is otherwise unnoticed... I could believe that without batting an eye from the adult males (who, after all, have the benefit of experience to aid their discernment). But in my admittedly limited experience with pre-adolescent boys, I've observed that they seem to recognize the standard versions of beauty that exist in their culture, but aren't usually attuned to more exotic or subtle kinds of beauty in the opposite sex ... and so it just seems kind of weird to me that Brand would notice Hethlin's attractiveness (as opposed to her impressive fighting skills, which of course he'd be all over), and would call her "pretty." Boys' limited vocabulary regarding things of beauty is the best explanation I could come up with(which would be especially true of a boy whose formal education is still quite patchy)... but my doubts remain. Not a big deal really but just thought I'd put it out there.

Posted:Oct 28, 2006 23:42 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [144] I thought it was weird that most of the really good main male characters in the story (Imrahil, Amrothos, Elrohir, Faramir, and now Brand) all think that Hethlin is attractive but her beauty is otherwise unnoticed...

Oh, I see! Now that's an interesting point... *Mulls awhile.*

I suppose I’ve always assumed that it's not that Hethlin's attractiveness is not noticed, so much as I thought her masculine and/or odd traits tend to overwhelm most people, such that they ignore or discount it. Does that make sense? Put another way, I figured that the vast majority of Gondorians, of any class, tend to like their women to be "womenly." With someone like Heth, they have a hard time perceiving her as being at all feminine, and thus have a hard time appreciating that she is, in fact, good-looking - or if they do, it's unimportant given the context in which they view her. It's open to speculation, of course; we don't get too many opinions on her appearance besides the list you noted, except for Mablung calling her a handsome lass, and a comment somewhere that the people of Gondor's court dismissed Hethlin out of hand. (By the way, where does Amrothos comment on her? I'm blanking out on that one. Although you can add Eomer to the list, and Lothiriel seems able to get past Heth's tom-boyishness...)

So anyway, perhaps Brand’s fascination with Hethlin has “opened his eyes” to her physical attributes, since he is actually appreciating her more masculine abilities as opposed to being put off by them. Plus, he has actually seen her in a dress by this point. (“Hey, she is a girl!” *g*)

What do you think? Was that at all convincing? :)

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 03:23 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [145] I don't know, I saw Lara Croft with a group of 12 year olds over the summer at camp, the boys all thought she ws pretty, they then spent the rest of the session attempting some of her more crazy moves.

Maybe it's a boy thing, or perhaps Brand has mislaid a word.

Or even as you've said, nobody else see's it.

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 06:28 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [146] Hm, you might be right about Amrothos, Denise, he might never have commented on Hethlin's beauty ... he's just so keenly observant (and I like him so much!) that I figured of course he could see Hethlin's beauty.

I know that most of what we've been led to believe about Hethlin's relative plainness comes from Hethlin herself, and she's not always a reliable narrator when it comes to her own worthy attributes! But I don't think it would be easy for a more femininely pretty girl/woman to be pass as a boy. Denise, I think you might be very right about many people being distracted by Hethlin's masculine get-up and behavior, so that it doesn't even occur to them to notice that she is, as Mablung says, "a handsome lass." But handsome isn't the same as "pretty," and as we might all recall from awkward adolescence (well, mine was!), the girls that twelve-year-old boys tend to have crushes on from afar tend to be the pretty, obviously feminine girls that conform to twelve-year-old boys' notions of what a "pretty girl" is.

Nargil, your point about Lara Croft is very germane because she's unlike Hethlin -- she is not only kick-ass, she is also very feminine, whether as embodied by Angelina Jolie or as designed in the video game. Large breasts & other very female curves, delicate feminine face. She's tough and masculine in her behavior, but even one glance marks her as thoroughly female.

And the thing about kids, even preadolescent boys, in my experience anyway, is that they notice and label things that fit the classic prototype of a given category. They tend to be very literal and rather rigid in their thinking. There are psychological studies showing that infants and young children prefer "beautiful" faces that conform to certain norms of symmetry, with large eyes, small nose, etc. It's not a coincidence that Disney cartoon characters are drawn the way that they are -- that's what children recognize as beautiful.

So I guess I was just a bit surprised to see Brand "falling" for Hethlin in much the same way that his great uncle has... I don't know. And I'm not a twelve year old boy so who am I to say how keen their eyes might be in detecting unconventional beauty!

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 09:16 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [147] Sorry, i guess I should explain a bit more, I don't know how much Brand has seen of hethlin but at this moment her dress would have been very feminine, dress, pretty circlet, certainley the impression would have been of a woman rather than a man and Brand didn't grow up around ladies in glamorous court gowns, I suspect everyone in the room was at least to him pretty in all thier fineary.

Also he knows about Imrahil likeing Hethlin, and at that point he is a bit scared of Imrahil, maybe he's saying what he thinks the Prince wishes too here. Or he's inherited that lack of saying the right thing at the right time his family members seem to exhibit from time to time.

What Brand and other people at the time consider beautiful might be slightly different to what we see as beautiful now, take Imrahils thoughts of Nimrien's ankels for example and he was well used to the more aluring dress of his lady friends. I don't think Brand will even start looking at curves and breasts as attractive just yet.

What would be really interesting would be too see a mans view on all of this.

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 11:43 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [148] I do agree with your assessments above, Rebecca! (Particularly re: Amrothos. I'm with you - Mr. Gondorian Holmes has undoubtedly observed it.) I think that I might have a slightly different view about a couple of things, is all...

I see Hethlin as having rather androgynous features. (Not that you don't - I'm just laboriously laying out my reasoning, as usual.) She's attractive, but as you have noted, not a classical female beauty in the sense that Lothiriel is. There's her boyish figure and her "hawkish" nose, for example. However, there are also her large, expressive eyes, mobile mouth and unconscious gracefulness. (I'm obviously drawing rather heavily on Musings here! As a side note, one of my favorite humorous moments in Lossarnach Yule is when the narrator comments that Hethlin is the best-looking out of the three Rangers. I always wondered what Lorend would say to that. *g*)

But I think her being able to pass as a male is only partly based on her physical appearance. A good portion of her disguise is that people of that time and place simply don't expect to see a woman dressed in man's clothing, carrying weapons. They see what they want to see, in effect - a fairly good-looking young man with strong Numenorean features. It doesn't mean that she doesn't possess femininity, but she herself suppresses it during the time we've followed her and it is not overt the way that Lara Croft's is. Most people don't expect to see it (and so don't) or if they do, they are so put off by her "oddness" (white hair, masculine behavior) that it is irrelevant to them.

Where I'm going with this (yes, does it have a point, Denise?) is that when you put her in a dress or other position where her femininity is more highlighted, then I guess I see her androgynous features now allowing her to appear feminine. Context is all. Not every woman in court is going to be the vision of beauty and grace that Lothiriel is, and while Heth's looks might be more unconventional, I'm guessing she would still stand out as being among the more attractive members when she allows herself to be presented as such. And of course, someone who is more discerning (like Imrahil or Elrohir) or who is used to women with more masculine talents (like Eomer perhaps, with the Rohirric shieldmaiden culture) can respond to her as a woman in any context. To the crux, then - what about Brand?

You have astutely summed up the usual importance on conformity for the average preadolescent boy, I think. But for Brand, who is not exactly in a conventional situation himself, her oddness may actually be part of what draws him to her, as a fellow "misfit" in a sense. I know, the most awkward teenagers often focus the hardest on the most conventionally beautiful, as part of the strong desire to "fit in," but I remember (very, very dimly *g*) some alternate desires, as it were, for those still-attractive people who might actually have empathy for one's own nerdy state. In fact, even his fascination with her fighting skills strikes me as being part of this. I'm not sure I see most boys in conventional Gondor being any more accepting of that specific unconventionality than their parents are - after all, they have whole companies of Swannies to admire, who surely have greater fighting skills overall. Anyway, given this basis for his infatuation, as you noted previously he then lacks the vocabulary to describe this good-looking woman as anything other than "pretty" when talking about her with Imrahil.

And thus goes my way overly wordy response about Why I Think Brand Loves Hethlin and Thinks She's Pretty, which in future installments of Isabeau's stories shall probably all be proved balderdash anyway. :D

It does make me wonder about the adult Brand we see in The Recall, though. Does he get married? And is this potential Mrs. Brand as unconventional as Hethlin (in her own way), or a regular Gondorian maid?

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 11:47 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [149] Interesting that you mention Mrs Brand Denise, I always figured he marries Heth, or would that be impossible given all the discusion over Tell?

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 11:58 GMT  Reply to this Comment

 [150] Oops! Sorry about the simultaneous post, Nargil. I agree, I do think I tend to see Hethlin in her boyish garb in my mind, and it's important to remember that she's probably been shoehorned into dresses for a while now at Dol Amroth.

Your other points are good ones as well - maybe Brand is responding from a different basis than his infatuation... Although I think that we've seen enough evidence to suggest that the "classically beautiful" standard of our time is pretty much the same one that Gondorians observe. It doesn't mean that someone isn't able to appreciate a different standard, of course! Or ankles, given that ladies of that time and place were probably not supposed to reveal them. *g*

However, given my husband's experiences, I'd have to disagree on what Brand notices... I think a 12-year-old is most likely very aware of a woman's curves. He just doesn't quite know how to express his notice or what to do about it! :)

I wonder what Amrothos thinks of all this? His viewpoint might be the most interesting outside one to me, just because of his keen observation and own unconventional lifestyle. Who's perspective would you like see?

Posted:Oct 29, 2006 12:01 GMT  Reply to this Comment
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