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Princes of Dol Amroth

By:Isabeau
 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


 [61] Ultimatums, ch. 6

"Thank you, Imri, for asking me to help with this."

"Why would I not?" His obvious surprise won him another thoughtful look.

"Many men would not. They would say that a woman should tend to her sewing."

Has Nimrien made any experiences with such men? She seems personally affected. Or is this a more general observation? If so, no wonder Heth rattles Gondorian's high society so much. I do think such a view is largely confined to the upper echelon, at least in your stories so far.

Imhiriel
Posted:Mar 13, 2006 13:27 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [62] I do think such a view is largely confined to the upper echelon, at least in your stories so far.

Hm, I think I see lots of evidence to the contrary. But maybe I'm wrong. What about the fact that Brand's step-father thought nothing of striking his mother? Or that, in Lossarnach Yule, a very young Idren is considered by his mother and by outsiders to be the "man" of the family, the person with whom to negotiate for business, etc.?

In that same story, I got the sense that Emlin, for example, was something of an anomaly when she revealed how much sway she held with her husband and neighbors over their business affairs. I don't think Lathron was expecting defiance from her. Hers was a personal power, resulting from her native, individual strengths and qualities, rather than a power that was afforded to her automatically due to her position as the wife of a well-off merchant.

I get the sense that, as has long been the case in our world, working-class and middle-class women were engaged in work, often out of necessity, that brought them into close contact with the work and world of men, but that in most cases they weren't recognized as being as capable/intelligent/etc. as men. That their upper-class sisters were supposed to stick to their embroidery doesn't necessarily indicate a class difference in how women were viewed, but rather the fact that the upper-class women didn't have to work to support themselves and their families, and so they did not.

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 13, 2006 17:14 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [63] Ultimatums, ch. 6

"Thank you, Imri, for asking me to help with this."

"Why would I not?" His obvious surprise won him another thoughtful look.

"Many men would not. They would say that a woman should tend to her sewing."

Has Nimrien made any experiences with such men? She seems personally affected. Or is this a more general observation?

I think it is a more general observation. She's a woman of intellect whom I don't think has much of an outlet for that intellect. Adrahil respects her intelligence, but as a woman of good, even if impoverished family, she's expected to basically stay at home and be a nurturer. And I think she feels a little stifled by that at times.

Now since I'm also pretty sure that one of her big objections to marrying Imrahil is that she doesn't feel comfortable imagining herself as Princess of Dol Amroth, I'm going to have to find a way to resolve those conflicting issues of hers. I think she would have made an excellent university professor or something like that, but such a role is not available to her.


Isabeau
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 00:46 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [64] Hm, I think I see lots of evidence to the contrary. But maybe I'm wrong.

(snip of good examples)

Upon further consideration, I think I'll retract my previous statement, and agree with you. I think I put too much emphasis on people's reaction to Heth as a warrior, not merely to Heth doing a man's job.

Imhiriel
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 13:37 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [65] Now since I'm also pretty sure that one of her big objections to marrying Imrahil is that she doesn't feel comfortable imagining herself as Princess of Dol Amroth, I'm going to have to find a way to resolve those conflicting issues of hers.

I don't necessarily see this as a contradiction. Yes, as a princess, and especially in the rather liberal Dol Amroth she would have more opportunities to do what she wants. But being a princess involves, I think, more social abilites then studious abilites. I see Nimrien as being rather reserved, and preferring a calm environment, as presiding over social gatherings.

I wonder if this is where she's different from Tirathiel. The latter seems not to have any problems acting as chatelaine and hostess later on for Imrahil.

Imhiriel
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 15:51 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [66] On the women in Gondorian society discussion… It’s funny, because at the end of Lossarnach Yule I was right in the middle of Imhiriel and Rebecca’s opinions. I figured that poor women (Sedryn) typically were given no status because they were almost always uneducated, and that and their position in society relegated them to servile roles both within their families and in the workplace. Whereas noble women were often educated to some degree, but were expected to remain “uncoarsened” and delicate and thus to not work. [Sort of like today, actually, where chauvinism is most rampant (to me, anyway) among the poverty-stricken and in undeveloped countries, and high society still has an alarmingly high number of trophy wives.] In the middle class, however, women had more opportunity to be educated, and still perhaps needing to work to help support the family, would thus have more chances to learn trade skills and gain respect among even their male peers (Mistresses Emlin and Lalaith the Weaver, and even Tirathiel and Nimrien as scholars/archivists).

However, rereading LY, I think that I didn’t account enough for Rebecca’s note of the difference between personal power and power afforded to someone due to his/her station. I still felt that middle-class women have more opportunity to achieve equality of a sort, but now I wonder if it is more specifically tied to the balance of power among the men who run the world. Poor men have little real power, and thus are jealous of sharing any with their wives; rich men have a lot of power but are leery of losing any of it to their wives or anyone else. Paradoxically, the middle-class man is more likely to share the significant but not overwhelming amount of power and control he is likely to have. Thus, Mistresses Emlin and Lalaith the Weaver are “controlled” by their husbands, but it is widely acknowledged that they have considerable – if not equal – voice in their family’s affairs. (For example, Master Doron “forbids” Emlin to sell her bullocks and she gives him “the eye,” and Mistress Lalaith tells her husband he can sleep in the barn, but there is general good-natured humor about the exchanges rather than muttering or disapproval.)

So, only a personal power for the middle-class woman, but more opportunity for her to gain it due to the type of man she would likely find for a husband…. Does that rambling make sense? There would be exceptions in any class (like Imrahil, self-confident enough that a woman of intelligence and/or power would not threaten him). And it is no wonder that Heth upsets the balance for most people, for she is not only supposed to be part of the nobility by virtue of her relation to the King, but she’s making her way without a man attached. (Was this part of another discussion we had, maybe about Heth’s prospective suitors?)

Denise
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 16:09 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [67] Isabeau: ...I'm going to have to find a way to resolve those conflicting issues of hers.
...and Imhiriel's thoughts.


In the last chapter of Ultimatums she made quite a statement about what she would be willing to put up with for duty. And one of Imrahil's first thoughts about trying to win Nimrien over is that a man of power needs people around him who are honest and not afraid to tell him the truth. As it stands, Nimrien seems to be one of the only women his age and status who would support him lovingly, but also tell him when he's being an idiot. I don't think it would take much to bring Nimrien around to accepting the uncomfortable burden of planning/dealing with court happenings, if Imrahil points out how much he needs her in this way - especially if she truly loves Imrahil to boot. And she would have Tirathiel to continue helping her.

(Can't blame Nimrien, though - I would detest that whole public part of Princess life myself. Not that anyone is asking me to bear the burden of it. *g*)

Denise
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 16:20 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [68] Nimrien seems to be one of the only women his age and status who would support him lovingly, but also tell him when he's being an idiot. I don't think it would take much to bring Nimrien around to accepting the uncomfortable burden of planning/dealing with court happenings, if Imrahil points out how much he needs her in this way - especially if she truly loves Imrahil to boot. And she would have Tirathiel to continue helping her.

I completely agree with Denise about Nimrien coming around. As Isabeau said above, she would probably have made an excellent university professor. As someone in an academic environment (not a prof yet though) I can say that in order to be a good professor one not only needs to be a good scholar (Nimrien: check), one also needs to be perceptive about others' strengths and weaknesses, in order to help them along. Nimrien's got that too. But those skills would also serve her well as Princess of Dol Amroth, and while she might find the social obligations tiresome (as many professors do, every year at graduation for example!) if she believed that a) she was doing meaningful, valuable work, and b) was helping someone she loved to do meaningful, valuable work, she'd take it all in stride.

And she'd have Tirathiel!

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 18:03 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [69] Another thought, based on Isabeau's observation: She's a woman of intellect whom I don't think has much of an outlet for that intellect. Adrahil respects her intelligence, but as a woman of good, even if impoverished family, she's expected to basically stay at home and be a nurturer. And I think she feels a little stifled by that at times.

Imrahil also shows in Ultimatums that he has no problem asking for her assistance and/or advice (when he's sitting in judgement on court cases, as well as in Pelargir). Thus, with him she does have some outlet for her intellect too. Being an at-need researcher and a sounding board for her husband is not exactly the same as being asked to sit on a ruling council, of course, but probably the closest thing possible for a woman in Gondor, and certainly qualifies for Rebecca's a) & b) above...

Denise
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 18:24 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [70] Denise, I think you raise some very interesting points about class, sex, and power. I think it's worth considering not only differences between power that derives from status/gender role and that which derives from personal attributes, but also the differences in power that exist for any individual, man or woman, in different spheres of their life.

I think that probably across all classes the difference between a powerful woman and a powerful man will be that, if she wields power (relatively speaking) a woman will do so despite her sex, while for men power is granted because of their sex. Any given man will, relatively speaking, be more or less suited to the power he holds -- whether it's a poor man who only has power over his wife, child, and dog, or a prince who holds power over many people. A man who is ill-suited to power might try to compensate by bullying those around him, or he might allow others to dominate him, effectively surrendering his power. Speaking only in the family milieu, the stereotype of a hen-pecked husband exists across class. But no one ever heard of a "hen-pecked" (rooster-pecked?) wife; because in the "natural order" of things men are automatically accorded power. Downtrodden wife, yes -- and they are commonly viewed with pity, not the mix of pity and derision that hen-pecked husbands receive.

A man who is suited to relative power will not have to try to dominate those around him. And so those around them would have more room to exercise their own will and influence.

So on that ground alone I somewhat doubt that the freedom/power that any given woman might have will be wholly dependent upon her socioeconomic status. Having said that, one must consider the avenues open to women of different classes for influence outside the home, and here is where I see the differences in education making a difference, as Denise has mentioned. An illiterate woman without marketable skills will usually be confined to menial labor that doesn't require a man's strength. Men *can* do that work, and often children can too, so it's not so highly valued; whereas the work that an illiterate, relatively unskilled man can do (in the pre-industrial world in particular) often *cannot* be done by women or children, and so it is more highly valued (and paid). Neither an unskilled man or an unskilled woman wield power over others outside their family, because they have no leverage. But the powerlessness of unskilled women is probably more than that of unskilled men, just because, in the eyes of the labor market, they're more easily replaced. This is just generally speaking, of course a loyal, competent servant would be more highly prized, men can't be wetnurses, etc.

Whereas for middle class men and women, with greater access to capital, the opportunities for each to wield outside influence are greater. If a woman is fortunate enough to be independent, or have a father, brother or husband who is confident enough with themselves to allow her to use her talents, she might well follow a path like Lorend's mother, Emlin, and ultimately have some power and influence in the community. Just as within the home a middle-class woman's power outside the home will also be despite her sex rather than because of it.

So I think what I'm suggesting is that regardless of class, women's ability to wield power in the home will be a function of a) their personal attributes, and b) their husbands/fathers/brother's regard for them, and respect for their abilities. Outside the home, socioeconomic status trumps sex regarding power, but with an interaction wherein for any given socioeconomic group, more external power is likely to be wielded by men than by women, and poor women are extremely unlikely to wield any power at all.

In an aristocratic hierarchy, by default the bulk of political (external) power is held by the upper class, along with, usually, considerable material wealth. There again power is given to men by default, especially when power is inherited via male primogeniture. Denise, I think you suggested that middle-class women might have more opportunity to wield external power than upper-class women, and I suspect that in some ways you're right there. Among the aristocracy, power is a function of bloodline, and unless you want to upset that applecart (which of course the aristos don't) you dont' question the right of the eldest male to hold power. You might question his *ability* (privately, if you're wise), but not his right. So while in the middle-class external power will be at least in part a function of access to capital and an indivdiual's intelligence and skill, and is therefore at least nominally open to women as well as men, power among the ruling class involves martial skills and, explicitly, sex and birth-order.

I don't know that we were specifically addressing these issues in our discussion of Hethlin's marital choice, but it's definitely a big part of why I think she ought to put off having children until she has really established herself as a warrior and military leader. Even among the elves there is an assumption that powerful males might be overly indulgent of the females they love, and that at least mortal women are unlikely to have superb martial skills -- remember how Haldir confessed that he had doubted that Hethlin's skill with a bow was as good as Elrohir said they were? “I will own, I thought his claims of your skill were exaggerated by affection. I find now that that was not so," he told her after her orc-killing feat at the inn.

If the March Warden of Lothlorien, who certainly knows that females can be powerful, had his doubts about the fighting abilities of mortal women, imagine how much more unlikely it will seem to the men of Gondor?

Rebecca
Posted:Mar 14, 2006 19:39 GMT  Reply to this Comment
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