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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.
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?)
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