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November, 12 2005
OK, folks-this is the general forum now for questions that don't seem to fit in any of the other threads. I'm going to sort some of the earlier posts into the appropriate forums, but it might take a while, so bear with me. I'll delete the ones that have already been reposted by their authors.
Isabeau wrote-Another good point, and I fear I might be responding to Tolkien's rather one-dimensional depiction of Arwen when I have Elrohir react in this way and not give his sister any credit for having a mind of her own. Arwen has always been difficult for me, and the one thing I absolutely despise is the way that Tolkien makes her sort of go back on her bargain there at the end. I've read various peoples' justifications for it, but it always seemed to be that he totally robbed her of any dignity.
Rebecca replied-I agree. I don't think he really understood why Arwen stayed, or at least he lost sight of it when he wrote that part of her story. He seemed to have a rather idealized notion of women's love -- that love was all they were about, and that once in love all other priorities slipped away. Galadriel was the exception, and he had to re-write her so many times (and still didn't resolve all contradictions). But the thing that I always find the most difficult to reconcile is what I perceive to be Tolkien's misgivings about The Gift of Men. Arwen, the wise and learned daughter of a wise and learned Half-Elf, and granddaughter of wise and learned Elves, ought to have a pretty solid faith in the goodness of Eru, no? I thought the whole point of the Valar was to make it easier to know Eru -- they were intercessors. So if you believe in the Valar and through them in Eru, why would you not think that death and transcending beyond the confines of Arda would be anything other than wonderful?
Yes, Arwen's behavior doesn't seem to gel with what he claims the Elves feel-that they envy Men and their ability to escape the chains binding the Elder Kindred to Arda.
I've always loved that story (can't remember what part of HoME or Unfinished Tales it is in) about the last battle against Morgoth, where the Men come back to help the Elder Kindred and both races live in Arda Renewed together. It is the most hopeful thing of everything he wrote.
But going back for a minute to what I've always thought was Tolkien's rather stilted and unrealistic understanding of women's emotions, motives, and ambitions, that to me seems to be the reason why he never paired a male Elf with a female Human -- only a female of the Firstborn could condescend to give in to love of a Secondborn, because for females love is everything. Males love is less "perfect," and therefore it seems that male Elves couldn't see past the limitations of mortality in order to love a human woman. And if I haven't made it clear already in my wordy rants, I disagree -- I don't believe that love overrides all else for women, and I don't think that the male sex is less able to love deeply and fully, without getting hung up on minor details like one's beloved aging and dying.
I agree with you, but I think that here we are dealing with the fact that the Professor was a product of his age, and tended to put women on pedestals. I also always found it very annoying that his idea of a happy end for Eowyn was that she found the love of a good man (even if it was Faramir!) and immediately wanted to go off and have babies and knit tea cozies.
As for Andrahar, that makes sense. Having spent some time in the Middle East I can personally attest to the surprising beliefs about women that some cultures engender.
I must say I prefer the Professor's pedestal to the cultures who paint us as mindless instruments of temptation or worse.
So with all that said, I think this just makes an even stronger case for Hethlin to not end up with Imrahil. If she goes with him, she might still accomplish things in her own right, but her life will be inextricably caught up in her husband's accomplishments and duties. Another female abandoning her own path in order to follow that of an admirable, worthy, beloved man.
That is very true. Of course, if she were to contribute to the successful ruling of Dol Amroth in some way, I don't know if she would be abandoning her path, per se. At least not totally.
Someone's gotta stand up for womankind in Middle Earth. Eowyn did briefly, but she's going to go the traditional route now of wife and mother to a Prince, a part of his household, supporting him as he seeks his goals. Valuable and important work, no doubt. I don't think there's just one good model of female strength and vitality. But Hethlin is the head of her own house. She can kick ass. I hope she becomes a wife and mother sometime, but I also hope she'll have things that are hers and hers alone.
I do have to wonder if Eowyn will fret over her confinement from time to time. I generally leave her to Una, and so far, Una has not chosen to depict her as anything but happy with her lot.
Thanks Isabeau! These exchanges make a nice break from coding data!
You're very welcome, Rebecca!
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