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Old 02-10-2006, 01:23 AM   #1
Lush
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Silmaril Don't do me like that

I've been here since 2001.

I've seen a lot of threads about women in Lord of the Rings on this forum.

Yet ever since doing serious research ino the fairy tale, I've discovered that you cannot always apply the rules of the tale to the rules of the real world. Therefore, all those guys talking about "women don't belong in stories of war" and "Tolkien was merely using his own experiences in WWI when it comes to women" need to shut up.

Fairy tale survives through its own logic and its own archetypes. Don't bring in the real world to justify the absence of females in the Fellowship, for example. This is reductive. It doesn't do justice to the fairy tale and to the real world.

I suggest a good dose of Maria Tatar on the subject.

Four years of putting up with reductive discussions on the precense/absence of women in Tolkien's work have taken their toll on me.

Appendices:
Women in fellowship, etc.
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:35 AM   #2
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Lush,

I can sense your frustration and I am not unsympathetic.

The greatest frustration for me is this: we know JRRT could do better. There are female characters in the Silm, most notably Luthien, who are miles above any of the depictions of women in LotR. And what about Andreth in Morgoth's Ring: a stong woman by any standard?

If it worked in the earlier renditions of the Legendarium (and some of the later ones as well), why wouldn't it work in LotR? Here is my take. Lord of the Rings began as a sequel to the Hobbit. It took a long time for the plot and writing to advance beyond that initial mindset and language. But there are certain aspects of LotR which still strongly mirror its Hobbit birth. Some of these are delightful, but others perhaps less so. While the Legendarium as a whole may have had strong female characters, The Hobbit did not. In fact there was not a single female in The Hobbit. I believe that was because he was reading it to his two sons. (Priscilla is not mentioned.)

Lord of the Rings only went a small way beyond the mindset of the Hobbit in terms of its depiction of strong female characters. When Galadriel is imported in from the wider Legendarium, she comes off as the strongest of the lot. Arwen is largely relegated to the Appendix. (Some of her experiences could have been incorporated, I'm convinced of it.) The one exception is Eowyn. Yet there is a curious ambivalence here since she must turn away from her duty to her own people to fulfill herself in a personal sense. This has provoked endless debate and fanficton. The plain fact is that I know of no other "good" character who has this dilemma.

It's not that I don't enjoy the story as it is. But, to be truthful, when I reflect on Middle-earth, I mentally add in the strong female characters who are missing from the written page. When I look at the fanfictions and RPGs on this site, I can see that I'm not the only one to do this, however far outside "canon" such a viewpoint is. (Ooh! There's that awful word again.)
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Old 02-10-2006, 07:25 AM   #3
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To me, it's swings and roundabouts... On the one hand, Tolkien actually did create some amazing female characters (the power hungry Galadriel for one) so a lot of the criticism of his work is not all that valid, but on the other hand he possibly could have done a lot more or developed certain characters to take a more complete role in the story.

I don't know if it is always reductive to bring into the argument the position of the Author. Certainly I think some arguments are a little overdone - such as to bring up the chestnut that Tolkien was trying to represent a 'medieval world' and thus this is the reason that women do not have such an important position. What? Tolkien was creating a secondary world, not recreating our own world, so he could do what the heck he wanted within it, and if that included a race of Amazonians then so be it; and anyway, he has Hobbits and Balrogs, and there weren't too many of those around in medieval times, were there? If Tolkien's work was a true reflection of medieval life than Eowyn may have been locked into a chastity belt and kept under guard to stop her going off to war at all, that's if she hadn't already been married off to Grima at the age of 11.

But I do think that we have to remember that any text is merely the product of a writer, and that writer's experience of the world will have a bearing on what is produced. Tolkien was a conservative man, living in the highly conservative world of Oxbridge academe, and a follower of the again highly conservative Catholic faith. Many writers before him, and many of his contemporaries, were including challenging female characters in their work, but we have to remember what their own political and social experiences and knowledge were like, and whether they exerted a big influence on their 'art' or not.

Today we live in a world which expects everything to be inclusive, even our history, but we cannot accept that sometimes the experience of people of another era, society, age, class, country, etc. will be different to ours. Of course we can critique them, but we cannot expect that they ought to 'have known better'. That way lies the path of being revisionist, altering the history books so that the past is made more palatable to us, changing Lord of the Rings so that Arwen takes a more active role. As a woman I would find it incredibly patronising if literature were rewritten to include more focus on women. As it is, I often find it's a case of going round in circles to discuss why a writer from another era did not include women in his work. Far more fruitful in my opinion would be to discuss where the existing women are placed within Tolkien's world, and what that says about the world they live in. That would do justice to those characters, and justice to the story as it goes beyond that 'barrier' (or glass ceiling!) we get stuck at of just endlessly trying to work out why there are so few women!
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:29 AM   #4
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But why do we have stronger female characters in the Legendarium (some positive, others less so)? Why are such characters not present in LotR to the same degree?
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:48 AM   #5
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Tolkien

Quote:
Originally Posted by Child
If it worked in the earlier Legendarium (and the later ones as well), why wouldn't it work in LotR? Here is my take. Lord of the Rings began as a sequel to the Hobbit. It took a long time for the plot and writing to advance beyond that initial mindset and language. But there are certain aspects of LotR which still strongly mirror its Hobbit birth. Some of these are delightful, but others perhaps less so. While the Legendarium as a whole may have had strong female characters, The Hobbit did not. In fact there was not a single female in The Hobbit. I believe that was because he was reading it to his two sons. (Priscilla is not mentioned.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
. . . .

[I
Far[/I] more fruitful in my opinion would be to discuss where the existing women are placed within Tolkien's world, and what that says about the world they live in. That would do justice to those characters, and justice to the story as it goes beyond that 'barrier' (or glass ceiling!) we get stuck at of just endlessly trying to work out why there are so few women!

I find great merit in both these approaches. One considers each text in light of what the author produced in his other texts, while the second considers the text in and of itself. I think both, together, ultimately would help us reach a better understanding--although, at the same time, I do have to respect young female readers who say they just can't get interested in LotR because there is no interesting strong female character to draw them in.

Child points out that TH appears to be a story Tolkien wrote for his sons. This accords with the experience of many high school teachers and some pedagogical research into young readers: male readers traditionally aren't interested in books with leading female characters. It used to be that female readers could accept both--now perhaps they have taken a miscue from their teen counterparts and stepped down that solipsistic slope?

But this is to get carried away on a tangent. What both these ideas, from Child and Lal make me wonder is--and this is an idea I don't think we've had a thread on--how did Tolkien the author think of his readership? I don't mean a crass pandering to mass appeal, like market-driven commodities, but I do mean what was Tolkien's writerly relationship with the idea of reader? I think most authors have some kind of sense that they are not writing exclusively for themselves, have some idea of the community they wish to appeal to. Child's observations suggests that Tolkien created TH as an ideal kind of "Boy's story". There were magazines abounding in the 19th and early half of the 20th century that were designed just for boys. (See a sample of the Victorian Boy's Own here. Who would Tolkien have conceived of as his audience for the Legendarium? His fellow Inklings? Men who didn't have the flaw of entwives? Does Tolkien's comments on entwives have any bearing on his other female characters and on the absence of female characters in Middle-earth?

It would really be intriguing to see if Tolkien's Father Christmas letters changed as he began to write them to include Priscilla, and then for her alone, since she was younger than the boys.

As for understanding what the role, place and function of female characters is in the cultures of Middle-earth, that is also a rewarding point of view. What, if anything, do Arwen, Galadriel, Eowyn, Rosie, Ioreth have in common? Does each character reflect that commonality or not? Does this commonality have a similar aspect that is shared by the male characters?

Come to think of it, most of the heroes forge successful (we assume) marriages after the end of the War of the Ring--Sam, Merry, Pippin, Faramir, Aragorn. Gimli and Legolas--does their lack of marriage prospects signify something about the fate of the dwarves and elves? And Frodo--is he unable be healed because he cannot find a mate?

Well, I'm sure I'm rambling. Just some ideas that these excellent posts have stirred up in my cauldron of story-making.
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Old 02-10-2006, 09:39 AM   #6
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Note that as I'm a guy I completely understand if I get booted from this thread immediately. Anyway...

Did Tolkien consider more female characters, then shy away as he just couldn't 'see' them? As mentioned, in LotR we have a strong queen in Galadriel, the romantic interest princess in Arwen, the tomboy in Eowyn, the 'auntie' in Ioreth, etc. Did Tolkien consider increasing the involvement of his females characters, but then struggle depicting what the day-to-day interactions with the male ones would look like, and seeing where his prose faultered, back away? What would it be like to be accompanied by Arwen from Rivendell all the way to the Black Gate, if I were Aragorn? Then as Aragorn, how would I react differently but realistically?

Have made attempts (poor) at writing throughout my own life, and, like many others, using 'what I know' as the basis, I can see how my own depictions of female characters has changed/would change from the time that I was a goofy teen to young adult to married man to father of four, three of which are daughters. And considering this, did Tolkien get locked into an early storyline which could only be altered so much which changing the whole story, at least in his mind?

And lastly, I think that the writings in the Sil are more 'mythological,' and so may have provided the distance that Tolkien required to create more and stronger female characters.

I'll shut up now.
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Old 02-10-2006, 10:45 AM   #7
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Eye womanless Fellowship fine with me...

I have no problem with the amount of pages spent on women in Lord of the Rings, because there weren't any women in the Fellowship. If there had been, then I would've expected to see quite a bit of her, but since there wasn't a woman, I can hardly be surprised by the lack of female focus in the story.

Should there have been a female sprinkled into the Fellowship? I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that would've seemed a bit contrived. The Fellowship was already full of males, and none of them could be easily replaced, you see.

The four hobbits- you obviously can't kick any of them out.

Aragorn, the returning King, is definitely in.

Boromir, the heir to the Steward, could not be replaced.

Gandalf- no question about him.

It makes sense that Gimli, the dwarf representative, was male, when you consider that the majority of dwarves were men, and dwarf women rarely seen. Plus, would a dwarf woman really be satisfactory to those desiring a female character? I mean, do you really think the average human female could relate to a dwarf female any better than she could relate to an ent?

Legolas is the Fellowship member that would perhaps be the easiest to replace, but the Fellowship needed an elf, so Legolas would've had to have been replaced by an elf woman. But who? Name me a noble, fair elven lady who would absolutely love to go off into the wilderness with a bunch of men and get all dirty and sweaty and knowing full well that there was a peril of being captured by orcs and such. We had a debate in this forum one time about what exactly befell Lady Celebrian when she fell into the hands of the orcs. Do you think any elf woman would like to risk that happening to her? Do you think any elf men would allow their sister/daughter to step forward and take this risk? No, they would've stepped forward themselves in order to shield their daughters/sisters.

Not to mention the fact that a female in the Fellowship would've changed the journey quite a bit. They'd have to bathe, dress, and relieve themselves separately and such, which would've been a liability because there were times when everyone needed to stay together and no one should've been wandering off alone.

Just for a moment, imagine sticking Eowyn into the Fellowship. Talk about a disaster. She and Aragorn caused each other enough problems in the short time they were around each other. And perhaps Boromir would've taken a liking to her. You never know. Let me tell you, there's nothing like an emotional complication involving a woman to harm a man's judgment. We're dumb like that.

So to sum it up, I don't think a woman belonged in the Fellowship. It makes sense the way it is. And since there is no woman in the Fellowship, you can't expect women to have a huge presence in the book, because the book follows the members of the Fellowship. Make sense?

PS I have this nagging feeling that I'm begging to have my head bitten off. Not that I care. If I stir up a storm of angry posts, at least I've done something.
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Old 02-10-2006, 10:56 AM   #8
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Why does a strong female character necessarily have to be a member of the original Fellowship? For example, I would consider Faramir a strong and well defined character, yet he was not along on the original trek. Gondor, for example, could well have been graced by the presence of a strong woman. I would especially have appreciated a strong female character who was "older". (Yes, I admit, Galadriel was "older" but in a different sense than I am talking about.)

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Old 02-10-2006, 11:16 AM   #9
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Much agreed with both the phantom and Child. In the first case, I can understand the reluctance of having a female character be one of the Nine Walkers. Again, I think that Tolkien walked along with each character, drawing from his own life experiences, and so could not figure out how to present a member of the FotR who was both female and a cohesive member of the group. What does an eight male and one female FotR look like?

Also, I would consider the dynamics of a female in the FotR group considering the other Eight (whichever) remain the same. Gandalf could be changed to a female wizard, as that would simplify things. Legolas could also be female, but that might skew the friendship that develops with Gimli (note how well Gimli reacts to Galadriel). Would someone want to rewrite the entire story, switching the gender of many of the characters?

Assuming one character, does this character fall in love (as seemingly everyone else does) or marry as the other members of the Fellowship (excepting Frodo, of course), and is this person within or outside the Fellowship? If within, how does that complicate the story? And from without, what character would be the mate? Eomer or Faramir or some other?

And so what of female characters outside the FotR? I think that this would be somewhat easier, as Tolkien need not walk with them as far. Théoden replaced with Queen Elfhild? Denethor II replaced with Finduilas as Stewardess? Would Elfhild be more or less prone to Saruman's leechcraft, and could Finduilas send her child on a suicide mission?

Obviously I have no well thought out changes, but maybe others could propose some and we could discuss those.
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Old 02-10-2006, 11:54 AM   #10
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To be quite honest, I have trouble imagining a woman in the fellowship, but knowing that the fate of western Middle-eath was to be decided, I would have no trouble imagining a Dúnedain woman or two in the company of Halbarad - to lend a hand if they could. Though I do suspect it would not fall with in the bounds propriety for that culture.

But in switching various male for female characters in my mind, the whole is changed, so I think Child is right to think an additional character perhaps would have been prefered. A suppose though that any new major character might impact the story making it that much longer. Maybe a minor role, such as a leader who come to the aid of Gondor?

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Old 02-10-2006, 12:13 PM   #11
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Eye

Quote:
Why does a strong female character necessarily have to be a member of the original Fellowship?
I just assumed that people were clamoring for a female Fellowship member, because a strong female character outside of the Fellowship has already been done by Tolkien (Galadriel and Eowyn), and apparently that isn't enough for some people. The only way I can see a way to give a more significant role to a female would be to place one in the Fellowship.
Quote:
Denethor II replaced with Finduilas as Stewardess?
Wouldn't work.
Quote:
Théoden replaced with Queen Elfhild?
It wouldn't be the same.

I'm not trying to be dismissive, that's just what I think. The story seems to work pretty well with characters the way they are. There was never any point in the book where I stopped and said, "What's the deal? This part doesn't work without a female. I expected there to be a female here. It would totally fit. It would be more realistic with a female."

Honestly, did any of you have those thoughts when you first read the book?

Anyway, I say if it isn't broken, don't try and fix it, or you'll probably break it.
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Old 02-10-2006, 12:19 PM   #12
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Now there is an interesting thread, answered by people far better than me at expressing themselves.

I believe that a plausible reason for the lack of compelling females is the overall tone (or mood) of the story. LoTR is mostly a dark, gruesome tale of great heroics in a time of desperation. I hope I don't get labeled as a machist pig after saying this but at least to me, it's much harder to convey a sad mood with the precense of women.

First of all, love is a happy situation in any circumstance. What if Sam had been Lilly Gamgee instead? Madly in love with the brave and "noble" Frodo, who loved her as well. They would help each other move on and the story might soon turn into a tale about "the power of love" to paraphrase a songwriter. I see nothing wrong with that, but I'm not sure that's what Tolkien imagined.

Also, I have found often that women in my life are the ones to cheer me up when my mood is somber. My sister will (in her own way) find ways to cheer me up... talking to my mother is always good and my girlfriend really is a little angel. On the other hand, even when talking to my best (guy) friend, the effect is not the same. Sure, it helps... he's really a great pal and we've had many a talk over coffee, but he does not affect my mood so greatly.

Of course, I'm sure that the ladies here present will say that they too feel sad, stressed and even they have reached the point in which "hope and despair are akin". From a male perspective (one that the Author might have shared), having many women in the story might have altered the mood Tolkien set out to achieve.

Still, in all honesty, I'm playing Devil's advocate here. I do believe that Tolkien could have added more compelling, fully rounded female characters to the story. Not in the fellowship because I think that the sub-story of the fellowship was a story of male bonding (Very different guys coming together to defeat a greater foe) highlighted by Legolas' and Gimli's friendship. Eowyn is a nice start into a well rounded character, but that has been commented on before. A wife for Denethor would not be possible as I believe that he would have not sunk into despair like he did (which is an important part of the story) while she was still alive. After all, he would have had something to live for. If she had been killed during the battle, it would have taken away from Denethor loosing his mind when Faramir is wounded. A female Saruman might have been interesting but then again we have a potential for romance with Gandalf and it would detract from the story.

Maybe you will call me crazy, but Faramir could have been a daughter. It might become "simplistic" as Boromir (The man) would have been the impulsive and power-hungry one and Faramir (The "woman") would have been reflexive and almost poetical. Yet Faramir is a great character, even if he has less of the spotlight than his brother and I don't see how being female would stirr controversy. Of course, he could have not married Eowyn in the end, but something else could have been arranged.

I believe the greatest impediment for more females in the story is the Fellowship itself. If the goal was (as I believe) to portray a case of male bonding to overcome great peril, interactions with women might have had an adverse effect (see Aragorn and Eowyn). That leaves other women to either interact with Frodo and Sam once they peel off the Fellowship (possible female Faramir) or to have a secondary position to the men (see Ioreth).

I think that, other than female-Faramir, maybe other generals could have been women. I'm at school right now so I don't have my books handy and I'm having a bit of a mental lapse, but there is the Prince of somewhere... relative to Denethor if I'm not mistaken... that could have been a woman without detracting from the Felloship (by the time they get to Gondor, they are fairly separated). As well, some of the Dunedain could have been a woman (I can already imagine a comment by Gimli on their skill) and yet again it would have not detracted from what I see is the sub-story of the Fellowship.

We still have Galadriel who is still a woman, even if not quite femenine perhaps. We do have Eowyn, in spite of all her flaws and all her bravery. With a few female generals and a female Faramir, women might have been much better represented in the story, without changing the overall idea.

I still think that the correct "mood" would have been harder to achieve if (for example) Denethor or Theoden had a wife, or if Arwen had ridden with the Fellowship, or even if Sam had been Frodo's wife. But in the right places, some male characters could have been replaced. While it would not make any of the women as prominent as the men in the fellowship, it might have helped to represent both sexes in a fairer way.

To finish off this long rant and speculation, I would say that Tolkien was influenced by his background when writing LoTR and that is why we don't see nearly enough women. The "male bonding" sub-story might have been linked to his experiences in WWI but then, it is a compelling story for any man (I believe) and probably for any woman who will be willing to deal with the fact that her sex will be under-represented. Furthermore, while he could have done whatever he wanted, Tolkien would still be limited by his experience, beliefs and ideas. While it is not an excuse nowadays, it is a plausible reason when LoTR was written and published.

When asking why, then, are there more female characters in the Silmarillion, we should keep in mind that The Sil was never finished by JRR and we don't know how it would have shaped up in the end. Also, while Sil is the "background" for the happenings of LoTR, it is not quite a historical background. What happens in The Silmarillion influences LoTR only as much as Tolkien himself would want it to, it is not quite a cause-effect relation between the two stories, as a history book may be. I guess what I'm trying to say is that The Sil is still an independant story and while paralels between it and LoTR are bound to be made, they should be taken with a grain of salt as ultimately, Tolkien might have been trying to tell two distinct stories. I still think that LoTR is a story about good overcoming evil and bravery overcoming treachery, with a healthy dose of male bonding situations. The Silmarillion is more of a broader, mythological work and while good still overcomes evil (for the most part) the "good" guys can be evil as well (See Feanor's oath and its consequences).

I know I had said before that I was rounding up my post but more things came into mind. Now I must leave, but I hope I was clear enough. I'll probably edit any kinks out (I.E. the name of the prince that I can't recall) when I get home tonight.
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Old 02-10-2006, 01:07 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alatar
Théoden replaced with Queen Elfhild? Denethor II replaced with Finduilas as Stewardess?
Ignoring the book's gender-balance for a moment, this would have altered the story a GREAT deal more than just changing a man for a woman.

It would either have changed the patrilineal dynasties by which the Kingdoms of Gondor and Rohan were ruled, or it would have meant some rather different roles for various characters.

Under the hierarchial structures as they existed for Gondor and Rohan, the throne or stewardship was held by men, and only men. I shan't debate whether that be good, bad, or indifferent, so much as I wish to point out that those are the rules by which they were run, and such rules were quite in keeping with historical models. The Numenoreans, it is true, were "enlightened" enough to allow both male and female rulers, but in Gondor and Arnor- and Rohan- such was not the case.

Now, I don't see Tolkien having changed the ruling structure of Rohan. As many have noted, the Rohirrim are a very Anglo-Saxon-ish culture, and to the best of my knowledge they were a male-led society.

Tolkien MIGHT have changed the Gondorian model, in light of the Numenorean precedent, had "Denethor" been a woman. Or, since he was interested in showing the decline of the Dunedain, and since a lack of female inclusiveness may be perceived as a waning, he may have left it as it was.

On the theory, however, that he would NOT have changed the political structures of Gondor and Rohan, having Queen Elfhild and Finduilas in the place of Theoden and Denethor has some immediate, major ramifications. First, let's look at Rohan.

Elfhild in place of Theoden immediately means that Theodred is King of Rohan. Who is there for Grima to subvert? If Elfhild, then his influence is severely more limited. On the other hand, if Theodred still dies at the Battle of Isen Fords, then Rohan is in much greater turmoil when Aragorn arrives in Edoras. Eomer, the King-Apparent, may have already taken off westwards to face Saruman, or Rohan may be cloven in two as he sits in the King's prison. Furthermore, would it be Elfhild riding with the Rohirrim to Gondor who faces the Witch-king, or is it King Eomer who falls before the Witch-king? Is Eowyn still the one to kill the Witch-king, or is it Elfhild? If Eomer dies, does Eowyn get the throne? Does Faramir? Does Erkenbrand? WHO?

Ignoring that kettle of fish, let's go to Gondor...

Again, assuming the rules of authority haven't changed, then a dead Denethor means a Steward Boromir. This means some massive changes. First of all, could Boromir even be the one who turns up in Rivendell? If not, do we see Faramir or do you get your female Fellowship member? But supposingthat Steward Boromir foolishly turns over the rod for a few months during the war, and goes on a wild goose-chase to Imladris, what then? Think of it: the Aragorn/Boromir showdown intensifies. Now we are not only seeing the Captain-General and Heir of Minas Tirith meeting the man who will be his king, but we are having the STEWARD of Gondor meeting his king. This may, in the end, mean less Aragorn/Steward tensions, but think of the stress at the beginning.

Anyway, moving along to Parth Galen, Boromir dies. Now what? Faramir is now Steward, but does he know it? A lot would depend on who the regent was. If Faramir, who seems to head the list, then he'll go on as regent, and all is well in Minas Tirith, but it's bad news for Frodo and Sam in Ithilien. If Finduilas, then all is well in Ithilien, and possibly things are better in Minas Tirith. But what of when Aragorn arrives? Will Finduilas have burned herself like Denethor? Will she remember and resent "Thorongil"- who just happens to have accompanied her now-dead elder son? Will Faramir, led by his mother, still support his king, or will he uphold the claim of Pelendur against the line of Isildur?

Will the Army of the West even ride to the Morannon?

Theoretical questions, all of them, but interesting ones...

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Old 02-10-2006, 01:20 PM   #14
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Faramir could have been a daughter.
Sure, but then he wouldn't have met Frodo, which was an important event. And there also wouldn't have been the whole Denethor sending his son to die thing, which played an important role in the book.
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maybe other generals could have been women
Oh, sure, if you want to sacrifice some realism for the sake of inclusion.

Notice that Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and Faramir were not just statesmen- they were warriors who led their men out onto the battlefield and traded blows with orcs and dueled swordsmen. Now, I'm not trying to be sexist in this next part, so I don't even want to hear anything about it, I'm just stating facts- men are going to be your best warriors.

Especially in the case of making generals and lords female- the lords were supposed to be the very top when it came to fighting. Aragorn, Boromir, Faramir, Eomer, and Imrahil were all extraordinarily amazing warriors, the best of the best.

Why are there separate events for men and women at the Olympics? Because even the best women cannot compete with the male athletes. If you'll look at world track records, every single record for young high school boys is better than the woman's world record in the same event. Heck, there've been many years in my tiny little state (where track isn't really a big deal) that the women's Olympic champion wouldn't have even placed in the top three. And again, that's just in my not very populous state. There are many many men in the world who are faster than the fastest woman. There are many many men in the world who are stronger than the strongest woman. The simple fact is, the best of the best in a difficult physical contest (like fighting) are going to be males, thus it would be foolish to have female generals running around in Lord of the Rings.

So please, let's not pretend that it would've been normal or realistic to make Faramir or Imrahil into a woman and yet keep the role the same.
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:08 PM   #15
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Broadly speaking, I have to agree that warrior women should be the exception not the rule.

On the other hand, the sketchiness of female characters does allow for wonderful interpretation and fanfiction: see this story, In Brethil's Shade, focussing on Haleth.

But more to the point-while Faramira and Imrahila are rather ludicrous ideas if they are to appear on the field of battle, and a female fellowship member is aesthetically ugly, there is a simple solution.

Explore the world outside the battlefield. Let's play Agamemnon, not Iliad. Let's see Pippin's sisters amidst the Scouring, let's see Arwen and her trusted handmaids talking at Rivendell; let's see Galadriel and her seamstresses at work. This will call for a more War and Peace-like balance of course...

...and Tolkien isn't Tolstoy. So alas we cannot envisage it from his own pen. But that leaves all the more for us!

That's why, in my opinion, fanfiction writers and role-players are vitally important elements of the...study...of Tolkien, particularly when we stray from the beaten path; to the East, into peace and prosperity, and/or in my lady's chamber. The uncanonical writers dabble their fingers in mercury, split the atom, serve on the front line and conduct the cavalry charge.
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:08 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Child of the 7th Age
.

The greatest frustration for me is this: we know JRRT could do better. There are female characters in the Silm, most notably Luthien, who are miles above any of the depictions of women in LotR.
This I have to disagree with.

I am a feminist. It has never stopped me enjoying the Lord of the Rings or indeed "Boy's Own". But every fibre of my being is revulsed by the "Tale of Beren and Luthien". The most "revered" woman in the canon barely speaks. Her "power" is in her beauty and in her "blood" neither of her own making. Despite her power she is passive until motivated my her desire for Beren. I suppose it is at least something that neither party in this relationship is attracted by the other's mind . She allows herself to be imprisoned which shows a lack of self respect and she gets Finrod killed (unforgivable). All just to marry the gloopy Beren and pull one over on Daddy. If that is the summa cum laude of female depictions in Tolkien I would rather have no females at all.

On the other hand, there is a elven princess who is wholly admirable, unfortunately she doesn't get as much attention. She manages to marry her mortal with Daddy's blessing, uses her wits in the common good and ensures that at least some of her people survive. Go Idril! At least Tolkien's blondes aren't bimbos - and they have more fun.

Idril, Galadriel, Eowyn are all strong, feisty politically engaged women - yes they are beautiful and high-born but that doesn't define them in the way it does Luthien and her type Arwen.

Tolkien wrote few satisfying female characters but the ones he did are fabulous. For me Eowyn and her "evil twin" Erendis are the finest. As Lalwende has pointed out, Tolkien was a child of his time and culture. Also, perhaps more than any other really successful author, he was writing for himself above all. He certainly wasn't going to be writing to pander to a feminist movement that hadn't really kicked in at the time of publication . I don't see the point in criticising him for not being Margaret Attwood . You might as well criticise Turner for his failure to do portraiture. The vast majority of Shakespeare's characters are male too but some of his greatest characters are women.

Tolkien wrote what he wrote. It can't be changed. Disliking a certain aspect or a story doesn't mean we have to reject the whole. It is not invalidated. You don't have to reread anything that you dislike...the canon is a buffet not a set menu . Hey it works for me.....I have manage to ignore the existance of Bombadil almost continuously for over 20 years.....
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:17 PM   #17
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I agree with you to an extent about Luthien, Mith, though, despite all my best anti-mortal efforts, I always find myself liking Beren. When I was writing a script for a Lay of Luthien animated film I was always longing to get out of Doriath. The other thing I noticed was that Beren seemed to be almost constantly trying to get away from Luthien while on the quest! Oh yes, for her protection it may have been, but what would Dr Freud have made of it?

I do think that you remarking that she allows herself to be imprisoned is going a bit far though. She was unaware of the magnificent Celegorm and wondrous Curufin's supremely cunning intentions until it was too late...

As for your list of female worthies-Idril, Galadriel, and Eowyn-I would undoubtedly add Aredhel, Haleth, and Melian. Just because things often went wrong doesn't diminish their glory.

Oh, and Morwen.
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:29 PM   #18
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I meant letting herself be imprisoned in the tree by her Dad .... It is the Middle Earth equivalent of being sent to your room

Aredhel rocks, apart from not making a clean getaway, but she wasn't a blonde . Morwen ... her story is so bleak.....
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:37 PM   #19
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But back to the original question, which I think is what character or characters, newly minted or replaced/subsumed, would attract more female readers in 2006?

And I would disagree with some of the posts where it's stated that women could not do certain things (hold the throne, go to war, etc). Umm, unless my library is all skewed, but isn't this fantasy? Sure, it seems realistic, but couldn't a Xena-type Arwen character at least hold her own against Aragorn etc? Peter Jackson seemed to think so.

And was the Balrog male or female?
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:53 PM   #20
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Err could you specify the question then?.... I detected a release of storm but no actual question in the original post ....

And while it is classified as fantasy, it is not random. Tolkien created various cultures with their own rules and norms. In the culture of the Noldor, women fought only in defence therfore a Xena Arwen would be breaking from her culture. If you put such a unorthodox figure as a central character in the story the unorthodoxy is liable to become the story. Tolkien's story was of a small person's quest to save the world ( Eowyn is marvellous but realtively peripheral - and perhaps because of the fact she is not bearing so much of the burden of the plot has such a well rounded character). How many issues are you expecting Tolkien to tackle in his story before it is acceptably politically correct?

Should he have rewritten it with Frodo as a disabled, gay, single-parent from an ethnic minority?
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:55 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mithalwen
How many issues are you expecting Tolkien to tackle in his story before it is acceptably politically correct?

Should he have rewritten it with Frodo as a disabled, gay, single-parent from an ethnic minority?
But I thought he was...
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:58 PM   #22
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Well maybe two of the four .... according to some..
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Old 02-10-2006, 03:09 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Child of the 7th Age
While the Legendarium as a whole may have had strong female characters, The Hobbit did not. In fact there was not a single female in The Hobbit
Well, that is a bit over the edge; beside the general refferences to "women" and "girls", there is an interesting refference in the very first chapter:
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As I was saying, the mother of this hobbit - of Bilbo Baggins, that is - was the fabulous Belladonna Took, one of the three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water, the small river that ran at the foot of The Hill. It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife
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Originally Posted by the phantom
They'd have to bathe, dress, and relieve themselves separately and such, which would've been a liability because there were times when everyone needed to stay together and no one should've been wandering off alone.
Cf the Druedain, UT, many of Haleth's warriors were women, and I doubt they had such problems; women also participated in the Marhwini attack on the Wainriders; the elven nissi also participated in fights (cf Of the laws and customs of the eldar).
Quote:
The most "revered" woman in the canon barely speaks.
She enchants Beren with her singing, she convinces Thingol not to kill him, she puts Melkor to sleep with, again, her singing, she is the _only one_ to change the heart of Mandos... come on .
Quote:
she gets Finrod killed
Why blame her for his death? Maybe Beren for "twisting" his hand into joining him, but not her...
Quote:
All just to marry the gloopy Beren and pull one over on Daddy
The ennoblement of Men by Elven blood is part of the 'Divine Plan', cf Letter #153... so there is more to it ... *feels special defending his favorite hero*; without her, there would have been no silmaril for Earendil to protect him on his voyage, therefore no war of wrath, etc; not to mention the general uplifting of moral her deeds caused .
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Old 02-10-2006, 03:19 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Raynor
She enchants Beren with her singing, she convinces Thingol not to kill him, she puts Melkor to sleep with, again, her singing, she is the _only one_ to change the heart of Mandos... come on .
Why blame her for his death? Maybe Beren for "twisting" his hand into joining him, but not her...
The ennoblement of Men by Elven blood is part of the 'Divine Plan', cf Letter #153... so there is more to it ... *feels special defending his favorite hero*; without her, there would have been no silmaril for Earendil to protect him on his voyage, therefore no war of wrath, etc; not to mention the general uplifting of moral her deeds caused .
Singing is not speech. And we don't know what she sang. We know nothing of her mind Basically she is motivated by lust (like Melkor). And most girls know howto get round their fathers so that is nothing special. She may be part of the plan but she is driven by selfish motives, trails death after her and has zero personality. And she is not revered for her role in the Silmarils such as it is but for her beauty and dying for love *sticks fingers down throat*. I just see her as a slightly less trashy Paris Hilton....

There would have been no Earendil without Idril's brain and foresight ..........
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Old 02-10-2006, 04:11 PM   #25
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And we don't know what she sang.
From the Lay of Leithian, HoME III:
Quote:
Then did she lave her head and sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
profound and fathomless and dark
as Luthien's shadowy hair was dark
each thread was more slender and more fine
...
His dreadful counsel then they took,
and their own gracious forms forsook;
in werewolf fell and batlike wing
prepared to robe them, shuddering.
With elvish magic Luthien wrought,
lest raiment foul with evil fraught
to dreadful madness drive their hearts;
and there she wrought with elvish arts
a strong defence, a binding power,
singing until the midnight hour.
...
With arms upraised and drooping head
then softly she began to sing
a theme of sleep and slumbering,
wandering, woven with deeper spell
than songs wherewith in ancient dell
Melian did once the twilight fill,
profound, and fathomless, and still.
The fires of Angband flared and died
...
Suddenly her song began anew;
and soft came dropping like a dew
down from on high in that domed hall
her voice bewildering, magical,
and grew to silver-murmuring streams
pale falling in dark pools in dreams.
These quotes are proof of the magic in her words - she is the chief enchatress among the elves; but there is more to her merit, since magic itself couldn't move Mandos, only art (or Art maybe) from Of Beren and Luthien, Silmarillion:
Quote:
The song of Luthien before Mandos was the song most fair that ever in words was woven, and the song most sorrowful that ever the world shall ever hear. Unchanged, imperishable, it is sung still in Valinor beyond the hearing of the world, and the listening the Valar grieved. For Luthien wove two themes of words, of the sorrow of the Eldar and the grief of Men, of the Two Kindreds that were made by Iluvatar to dwell in Arda, the Kingdom of Earth amid the innumerable stars. And as she knelt before him her tears fell upon his feet like rain upon stones; and Mandos was moved to pity, who never before was so moved, nor has been since.
Quote:
I just see her as a slightly less trashy Paris Hilton....
I doubt this was Tolkien's impression of his wife
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Originally Posted by Letter #340
I have at last got busy about Mummy's grave. The inscription I should like is:
EDITH MARY TOLKIEN
1889-1971
Luthien
brief and jejune, except for Luthien, which says for me more than a multitude of words: for she was (and knew she was) my Luthien.
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Old 02-10-2006, 04:24 PM   #26
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Silmaril

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Originally Posted by Raynor
I doubt this was Tolkien's impression of his wife
Stole my thunder...
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Old 02-10-2006, 05:08 PM   #27
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I see this thread is off an running in a direction of its own, but I want to specify some things.

Mithalwen, et al, please take not of my original post.

I am not complaining about the fact that Tolkien isn't Margaret Atwood. I am complaining about reductive, reactionary discussion of the subject.

For example. Farael, and I hope you forgive me for picking on you in particular,

You wrote:
Quote:
hope I don't get labeled as a machist pig after saying this but at least to me, it's much harder to convey a sad mood with the precense of women.
This pertains to your own enjoyment of the book, it doesn't have anything to do with the genre of the fairy tale, the work of archetypes, and so on.

For some reason, the second you bring up women in Tolkien's work, the same questions get asked,

"Oh so you don't like the book?" "You can't relate?" "You think he's sexist?" "You think Legolas should have been a Legolasa?"

I'm tired of this. Nobody, for example, is interested in looking at, say, Goethe's representations of the male as a sphere and the female as a cube; his ideas of domesticity and how they relate to fairy tale archetypes.

This is, as I wrote in my original post, reductive.
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Old 02-10-2006, 05:48 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by The Phantom
It makes sense that Gimli, the dwarf representative, was male, when you consider that the majority of dwarves were men, and dwarf women rarely seen. Plus, would a dwarf woman really be satisfactory to those desiring a female character? I mean, do you really think the average human female could relate to a dwarf female any better than she could relate to an ent?
Gimli could be a female dwarf. Well, they do all have beards, so it would be easy for one to impersonate a male. And it makes for something a bit spicier when Gimli falls for Galadreil and then gets close to Legolas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Farael
I believe that a plausible reason for the lack of compelling females is the overall tone (or mood) of the story. LoTR is mostly a dark, gruesome tale of great heroics in a time of desperation. I hope I don't get labeled as a machist pig after saying this but at least to me, it's much harder to convey a sad mood with the precense of women.
You ever read any Plath? And what about Nienna?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anguirel
Explore the world outside the battlefield. Let's play Agamemnon, not Iliad. Let's see Pippin's sisters amidst the Scouring, let's see Arwen and her trusted handmaids talking at Rivendell; let's see Galadriel and her seamstresses at work. This will call for a more War and Peace-like balance of course...

...and Tolkien isn't Tolstoy. So alas we cannot envisage it from his own pen. But that leaves all the more for us!
This is interesting. Tolkien did expect, or at least hope, that others would 'fill in the gaps' and expand upon his story, and writers of RPgs and Fan-Fics have done exactly that, in exploring the 'others' of Middle-earth, the women. Especially the ordinary women. We see the princesses and queens of Middle-earth in the books, the fans provide the ordinary women's stories and I don't doubt for a minute that Tolkien would have disapproved.

Looking at LotR in context, he did write it as a sequel to The Hobbit, which was originally written for an audience of boys. Yet fans included women and girls - and the fanbase of Tolkien's work as a whole must be fairly equally balanced between men and women; Heren's poll says there are more women than men on the Downs (or at least who responded to his poll, anyway...). To me this means that either we respond as women to those female characters who are in the books, or else it doesn't have such a big effect on us, the work may be transcendant. And I also think that Tolkien must have realised after The Hobbit that some of his fans at least were women, as he then included female characters in LotR who were not mere ciphers.

Aside from The Hobbit, Tolkien's works do not actually have a main protagonist. In a way, in LotR, all the characters are the supporting cast to The One Ring. The absence of a 'leading lady' in that respect does not really matter - but what does matter is to consider those diverse female characters on their own merits and not dismiss them as pretty little appendages to the males in the story, because they aren't.

There are actualy quite a lot of diverse female characters: Eowyn, Galadriel, Arwen, Luthien, Rosie, Ioreth, Haleth, Aredhel, Shelob, Ungoliant, Beruthiel, Celebrian, Erendis, Idril, Lobelia, Belladonna, Finduilas, Dis, Elwing, Melian, Elbereth, Nimrodel, Goldberry, Niennor, Andreth, Ancalime, Gilraen, The River Woman, Silmarien, Miriel...........

Anyway, I'm sure the list could be added to. I'd welcome a proper discussion on how such characters (especially Erendis, long overdue thread...) were handled and what they represented, without having to explain them away with old arguments.
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Old 02-10-2006, 06:47 PM   #29
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Fairy tale survives through its own logic and its own archetypes. Don't bring in the real world to justify the absence of females in the Fellowship...
I think I see your point here. I see a point, anyway, though it may not be your point, if you know what I mean. I really am not sure, and forgive me for that.

My only argument to what I believe you have said can be that because a fairy tale survives quite on its own, detatched from boundaries or laws or logic or achetypes or justification of the real world, it could also survive without any genders in it at all! Perhaps the only reason there are two genders in any fairy tale world is to make intimate relationships a little less baffling...

And you of course could simply avoid overly vehement arguing over this by directing any questions to the simple notion that Tolkien created Middle-earth's gender archetypes in a way that did not allow room for a female in the fellowship, and so it must simply be accepted, because, in the end, it is his story. But, not only do I not like the sound of that, but it seems to carry the ghostly visage of a canonicity debate...
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Old 02-10-2006, 07:50 PM   #30
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I'm being vehement? If I am cross, it's mostly with the people who, in my opinion, over-simplify this issue in the book. I didn't start this thread to either defend or attackk Tolkien's choices regarding females in the Fellowship, and females in general. At least that's not what I had in mind. But threads like this tend to have lives of their own...
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:32 PM   #31
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I see this thread is off an running in a direction of its own
Well, if that be the case, I will go back to the very first post and respond to that. Surely that will put me back on track.
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Don't bring in the real world to justify the absence of females in the Fellowship
Why shouldn't I?

If the Fellowship was made up of some species of bug-eyed green martians with six genders, then I would have no business bringing up the real world to justify the members of the Fellowship because there is no real world experience with bug-eyed green martians with six genders.

However, we are dealing with two genders, not six, and those two genders exist in our world. Also, we are dealing primarily with humans, not martians, and humans exist in our world as well. It doesn't matter what genre you are doing- historical drama, fantasy, or sci-fi. No matter what type of book the human is in, a human is a human and male and female are male and female and thus real world rules apply to humans in books unless the author says otherwise.

For instance, it would not be acceptable if Aragorn got his head sliced off in one scene and simply placed it back on his shoulders and continued fighting. Humans don't do that. You can't toss that into a book simply because its genre is fantasy. That's stupid.

Middle Earth has mountains, rivers, cliffs, oceans, and forests just like our world. They fight with the same weapons we have in our world. You see, Tolkien didn't create a totally different world. It's our world with elves, dwarves, dragons, and a bit of magic sprinkled in.

The real world most certainly has a place when discussing things in Tolkien's books if they are things that exist in the real world. The real world is what a normal person uses to define something.
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:50 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Lush
This pertains to your own enjoyment of the book, it doesn't have anything to do with the genre of the fairy tale, the work of archetypes, and so on.
I beg to differ though, because I'm not saying whether I like the book or not, I was trying to explain my thoughts on Tolkien's intentions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lush
Fairy tale survives through its own logic and its own archetypes
I would not say its own but rather its authors. A fary tale, as any tale, is an outgrowth of the imagination of the author(s) and as such, while it might be isolated from the real world, it cannot be isolated from the author. I went on a ramble on what I believed Tolkien might have been trying to do because none of us IS Tolkien. My guess is as good as yours, even when I'm a Biochemistry student rather than English.

Now, please do let me know if I should delete my previous post. I thought I was contributing to the discussion yet perhaps I was not. I don't mind either way, you seem to care much more than me.

No hard feelings,

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Old 02-10-2006, 08:55 PM   #33
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Phantom, you have to look at my statement in context. Feminist literary criticism of fairy tale in general, and Tolkien in particular hinges on several things, in my opinion; one is that, as Toril Moi put it in her "Sexual/Textual Politics," writes that we should not necessarily take literature and expect it to portray 'reality' as we know it. Art is not a transparency, essentially. When I wrote about "the real world" I was referring, primarily to statements made repeatedly in communities such as the 'Downs, ones that, in my humble opinion, do not widen, but reduce our understanding of Tolkien's work and the choices he made. Now, of course we are going to have to be able to respond in a tangible way to what we encounter on the page, otherwise there would be no connection between the reader and the written word, but we should always be aware that our understanding of any text, be it Lord of the Rings or something else, always exists in a particular framework.

In my study of fairy tale, I have encountered the notion that fairy tale conventions should not be taken out of context. There are a variety of approaches in making sense of them: feminist, Freudian, Christian, etc., but I think most readers are coming from a place where a father can't cut off his daughter's hands on the Devil's bidding and get away with it, and a Balrog won't spring out at you from the depths of the Grand Canyon when you're on vacation there with your family. Do fairy tale conventions apply to the real world? Of course. We wouldn't respond to them so strongly if they did not. But if we are not to treat a Balrog in a literalist fashion, why should we treat the gender of the Fellowship's members in the same way? Please understand that this is merely musing, I by no means think that a rule should be made, I just think people ought to step back from their regular points of reference when addressing fairy tale. Stringent interpretation is, in my opinion, reductive and unreasonable.

Quote:
No matter what type of book the human is in, a human is a human and male and female are male and female and thus real world rules apply to humans in books unless the author says otherwise.
What rules in particular are these? Do you think Tolkien addressess any specific rules of gender?

Quote:
The real world is what a normal person uses to define something.
Of course. Though I'm not sure what normal is, or if I am the person to talk to when it comes to normalcy. I am home on a Friday night with a mug of hot chocolate, debating gender in Lord of the Rings, after all.
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:56 PM   #34
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Farael, why would I want you to delete your post? I wouldn't want to see something deleted merely because I disagree. This isn't 1984, right?
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Old 02-10-2006, 09:28 PM   #35
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Lush, you seem to be making this as difficult as possible, but maybe it's just for the sake of encouraging more posts. If that is your intention, then you have succeeded.
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Originally Posted by the phantom
No matter what type of book the human is in, a human is a human and male and female are male and female and thus real world rules apply to humans in books unless the author says otherwise.
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Originally Posted by Lush
What rules in particular are these?
Stuff like humans have two eyes, two ears, two legs, two arms, one mouth, one nose, they bleed when you cut them, the males are larger, the females bear children, etc....
Quote:
But if we are not to treat a Balrog in a literalist fashion, why should we treat the gender of the Fellowship's members in the same way?
Balrogs don't exist. Males and females do. That is a big difference. I can't explain it any simpler than that.
Quote:
I just think people ought to step back from their regular points of reference when addressing fairy tale
No, that should not be the general rule. People should step back from their regular points of view only when addressing a particular thing within the fairy tale that is itself fantasy.

If Aragorn sits down on a chair, it is a chair as it exists in the real world. It doesn't matter that it is a fantasy story in the case of a chair! Fantasy doesn't mean that we need to reconsider everything we know, it just means that the author has added things that we don't know.
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Old 02-10-2006, 11:21 PM   #36
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Lush, you seem to be making this as difficult as possible, but maybe it's just for the sake of encouraging more posts. If that is your intention, then you have succeeded.
Quoi?

Quote:
People should step back from their regular points of view only when addressing a particular thing within the fairy tale that is itself fantasy.
Hmmm. I'd disagree. Once again, I'd cite Toril Moi in this. Reality has just as many interpretations as fantasy. Two different people might have very different takes on the same event, whether in literature or otherwise. And this event does not have to be outside the realm of possibility in my opinion.

Quote:
Stuff like humans have two eyes, two ears, two legs, two arms, one mouth, one nose, they bleed when you cut them, the males are larger, the females bear children, etc....
This doesn't really explain to me the nuances of male-female dynamics, whether in fairy tale, or in real life. After all, the fact the single "females bear children" postulate has as many interpretations as there are opinions. This postulate cannot, and should not, in my opinion, determine the female role in fairy tale, especially since so many fairy tale conventions are gender-neutral. To me, a lot of them do not directly deal with the biological functions of men and women, but rather with more abstract notions, rites of passage, for example, or chemical marriages (yin and yang and so on). Besides that, the very idea of a woman giving birth has different implications. An ancient Indian myth recalls a monk witnessing a woman who gives birth to a child, nurses it tenderly, then grows horrible in apperance, and devours it. Obviously this legend's view of birth is more nuanced.

Quote:
Balrogs don't exist. Males and females do. That is a big difference. I can't explain it any simpler than that.
But males and females do not exist in a vacuum, right?
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Old 02-11-2006, 12:20 AM   #37
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But males and females do not exist in a vacuum, right?
1) Nothing at all exists in a vacuum.
2) None of us live in a vacuum. Therefore...
3) That statement doesn't appear to have value.

All in all, it appears you are telling us that we should disregard realism and cast aside all rationality when it comes to fantasy, and just allow for whatever to happen, and believe that absolutely everything is allowable and understandable somehow. But why do you want us to do this?

Will it make the story better? Will it make the story more accessible to more people? I don't think so, because the average person doesn't throw the real world and everything in it out the window before he reads a book. The whole idea seems rather pointless and silly.

Bleh. I'm getting the feeling that we aren't on the same page, and that everything we are saying is flying straight over our heads. But despite that, I still have the urge to continue posting out of pure stubbornness- or perhaps because I'm getting attention from an attractive blonde with a sexy accent. That's generally reason enough to post.
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Stringent interpretation is, in my opinion, reductive and unreasonable.
Stringent interpretation is, in my opinion, logical and a good use of time.
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Old 02-11-2006, 01:04 AM   #38
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There is a strong that Tolkien went at great lengths to parallel our own world:
-generally
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Originally Posted by 1997 BBC interview
G: I thought that conceivably Midgard might be Middle-earth or have some connection?

T: Oh yes, they're the same word. Most people have made this mistake of thinking Middle-earth is a particular kind of Earth or is another planet of the science fiction sort but it's just an old fashioned word for this world we live in, as imagined surrounded by the Ocean.

G: It seemed to me that Middle-earth was in a sense as you say this world we live in but at a different era.

T: No ... at a different stage of imagination, yes.
Astronomically:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Myths Transformed
At that point (in reconsideration of the early cosmogonic parts) I was inclined to adhere to the Flat Earth and the astronomically absurd business of the making of the Sun and Moon. But you can make up stories of that kind when you live I among people who have the same general background of imagination, when the Sun 'really' rises in the East and goes down in the West, etc. When however (no matter how little most people know or think about astronomy) it is the general belief that we live upon a 'spherical' island in 'Space' you cannot do this any more.
Ethically
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Originally Posted by Letter #64
I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil - historically considered. But the historical version is, of course, not the only one. All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their 'causes' and 'effects'. No man can estimate what is really happening at the present sub specie aeternitaris. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.
closely paralled in:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Myths Transformed
But, if we dare to attempt to enter the mind of the Elder King, assigning motives and finding faults, there are things to remember before we deliver a judgement. Manwe was the spirit of greatest wisdom and prudence in Arda. He is represented as having had the greatest knowledge of the Music, as a whole, possessed by any one finite mind; and he alone of all persons or minds in that time is represented as having the power of direct recourse to and communication with Eru. He must have grasped with great clarity what even we may perceive dimly: that it was the essential mode of the process of 'history' in Arda that evil should constantly arise, and that out of it new good should constantly come.
Also, when in The new shadow he says :"since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good", I am pretty sure he means humans as well..
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Old 02-11-2006, 07:04 AM   #39
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The BBC interview was first broadcast in January 1971.
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Old 02-11-2006, 07:09 AM   #40
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First, I don't think we can compare the Legendarium to traditional tales. The Legendarium has a single author, traditional tales have multiple authors over millenia (some themes/episodes in traditional tales have been traced back to the stone age). These tales (the same applies to traditional folksong, especially the 'magical ballads') are the products of many voices through many ages. They are also the products of oral cultures. This is essential, because the culture(s) which produced the tales would have had a whole store of lore, history, & tradition which would have supplied a lot of background information for the hearers which would not have been present in the tale itself. If a fox appears in a traditional tale the hearers of that tale would have drawn on a whole range of other stories & sayings about foxes as they listened - something we can't do, as most of that lore will have been lost.

As an example of something closer to home, if I mentioned Star Wars here, most people would think of the movies. If I had mentioned Star Wars back in the 80's people might also have thought of Reagan's satelite defence system. Cultural references change so the meaning of tales can also change. This is why feminist or marxist interpretations of traditional tales are at best questionable & at worst completely misleading - we cannot know the worldview(s) of the culture(s) & individuals which produced, adapted & altered them. We cannot know what they meant to our ancestors or what they will mean to our decendants. To state, as some 'experts' do, that this particular tale means 'such & such' & so our ancestors must have believed such & such is nonsensical. 19th-20th century political theories tell us nothing about traditional songs & tales.

I'd say the same thing about such analyses of Tolkien's writings, which are steeped in traditional tales & images. The Legendarium is the Legendarium. Only Tolkien could have produced these tales & he could only have written the tales as he did write them. What would you sacrifice of the Legendarium in order to get more women in LotR? You can't have everything. Complaining that's its not 'perfect' in your opinion is fine, but if it was somehow made more acceptable to you I suspect it would be a damn sight less acceptable to others. Until we can say we fully understand every aspect of the story, every nuance of meaning, have assimilated every meaning & reference of the story (& the very fact that we keep going back to it shows we have not) I think we should take what we've been given.

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