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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.
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?
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