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Old 07-07-2007, 01:04 AM   #1
radagastly
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White Tree Faith and Choices

I hope you forgive the length of this, but it is one of the most moving passages Tolkien ever set to paper:

Originally posted by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King, Appendix A (v) "Here Follows a part of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen":

'"Lady Undomiel," said Aragorn, "the hour is indeed hard, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted. Take counsel with yourself, beloved, and ask whether you would indeed have me wait until I wither and fall from my high seat unmanned and witless. Nay, Lady, I am the last of the Numenoreans and the latest King of the Eldar Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle Earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep."
'"I speak no comfort to you, for there is no comfort for such pain within the circles of the world. The uttermost choice is before you: to repent and go to the Havens and bear away into the West the memory of our days together that shall there be evergreen but never more than memory; or else to abide the Doom of Men"
'"Nay, dear lord," she said, "that choice is long over. There is now no ship that would bear me hence, and I must indeed abide the Doom of Men, whether I will or I nill: the loss and the silence. But I say to you, King of the Numenoreans, not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive."
'"So it seems," he said. "But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring. In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory, Farewell!"
'"Estel! Estel!" she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.
'But Arwen went forth from the House, and the light of her eyes was quenched, and it seemed to her people that she had become cold and grey as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Then she said farewell to Eldarion, and to her daughters, and to all whom she had loved; and she went out from the city of Minas Tirith and passed away to the land of Lorien, and dwellt there alone under the fading trees until winter came. Galadriel had passed away and Celeborn also was gone, and the land was silent.
'There at last when the mallorn-leaves were falling, but spring had not yet come, she laid herself to rest upon Cerin Amroth; and there is her green grave, until the world is changed, and all the days of her life are utterly forgotten by men that come after, and elenor and niphredil bloom no more east of the Sea.
'Here ends this tale, as it has come to us from the South; and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old.'


Obviously, Aragorn is on his death-bed, by his own choice, and Arwen is in despair. Yet, he seem to have an insight beyond that of the Eldar, or at least beyond that of the half-elven. He seems to believe, even at the moment of his death, that Arwen still has a choice, to embrace the immortality of the Eldar, or to be mortal and join him beyond the veils of the world. Granted, she says, "There is now no ship that would bear me hence." but the tale of years says:

In this year on March 1st came at last the Passing of King Elessar. It is said that the beds of Meriadoc and Peregrin were set beside the bed of the great king. Then Legolas built a grey ship in Ithilien, and sailed down Anduin and so over Sea; and with him, it is said, went Gimli the Dwarf. And when that ship passed an end was come in Middle-earth of the Fellowship of the Ring."

Certainly, there was at least that one ship, the one yet to be built by Legolas. After all her trials, and her lineage, she must have had enough forsight to know that the choice was yet before her. She could have sailed across the Sea, even to Valinor, climbed the summit of Tanequetil and paid homage to Manwe, and still have made that choice (maybe I'm pushing it here!).

Now, I realize that the fact that she even had a choice in the matter at all is a large part of what makes this so moving, but Aragorn, whose only choice was in scheduling the date of his demise and not at all whether it would happen or not, seems to have the stronger conviction of faith, at least at the actual moment of his death. Yet, it seems to me that she did not hesitate to follow him into what to her, must have been a Frightening UNKNOWN!.

I'm curious about Tolkien's view of the inherent conflict between love of God and Romantic love. Perhaps "conflict" is not quite the right word. "Difference" might be a better choice. His own love of Edith is as legendary as any of the tales he told, but so is his devotion to Catholicism. He did not seem to be conflicted personally between the two. Do his stories seem to value one above the other, equate them, substitute them for each other, treat them differently from one another or reflections of the same thing?

Please note that I do not (NOT, NOT, NOT) want to spark a religious debate. I've made my religious choices and I have no interest in yours (at least, not in this particular venue). I am, however, very interested in your views and especially your insights on Tolkien's artistic expressions concerning these matters.

I thank you and look forward to your replies.
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Old 07-07-2007, 01:23 AM   #2
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When Arwen says 'there is no ship that will bear me hence' I always take it as not that there is literally no ship, but that she simply would not go there, that she wants to go where her husband has gone. And that underlines just how much this is all about simple love between a couple.

You could take many relationships, including the one between Aragorn and Arwen, where one partner believes one thing strongly, and the other something else, something opposite or nothing at all (not meaning they are a nihilist, that they may be an atheist). Yet for a lot of couples in order to be together one needs to convert or to at least go along with the rituals etc of the other partner. In Tolkien's case, he wanted Edith to convert to Catholicism and she did, though I understand she was never very happy about it - in an Anglican society of which she had been very much an active part it left her somewhat on the margins. But that is what Love does, it often causes partners to compromise. How many of us have seen white women who take the veil when they marry a Muslim man? That's a big step to take, especially bearing in mind the abuse some of these women endure just because of what they wear. But it is love which does this.

Now bearing that in mind, I don't think there is a conflict in Tolkien's work between belief and love - in fact in showing us the example of Aragorn and Arwen he shows us that Love can be stronger and can overcome lifelong held beliefs for good or bad. And Arwen does not simply go against a religion that she has been brought up with but against her very nature. You can only presume that it was love for her husband that made her take the choice to be mortal and to die, and part of that love must have been to believe what he told her - that they would meet again.

What does intrigue me is how it always seems to be the woman who compromises
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Old 07-07-2007, 04:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
Yet, he seem to have an insight beyond that of the Eldar, or at least beyond that of the half-elven.
Arwen already made the choice to become mortal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Many Partings, RotK
I shall not go with him now when he departs to the Havens; for mine is the choice of Luthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.
This is made even more explicit in HoME XII:
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Tale of Years of the Third Age,
At midsummer Arwen came with Elrond and Galadriel and her brethren, and she was wedded with Aragorn Elessar, and made the choice of Luthien.
We also know that this choice was irrevocable:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #153
The view is that the Half-elven have a power of (irrevocable) choice, which may be delayed but not permanently, which kin's fate they will share.
Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
I'm curious about Tolkien's view of the inherent conflict between love of God and Romantic love.
In letter #43, Tolkien tells his son Michael about the dangers of love in modern times. He considers one of the weakness of the then still strong romantic tradition the idealisation of Love and Lady, above or ignoring God; the fault lies in the fact that both partners are fallen beings, and none deserve to be idealised as guiding stars. Instead of this false and make-believe approach, he argues for religious principles, and that "the real soul-mate is the one with you are actually married to", while pursuing divorces to give a chance to "what if" is only illusory (he actually calls divorce to be a "human abuse").
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Old 07-07-2007, 10:15 AM   #4
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At the risk of sounding all "hey man" stories like that of Aragorn and Arwen show how something as seemingly simple as a human relationship can transcend all those human created mental boundaries of race, colour and religion. Love is that powerful. Think about Aragorn - what he must achieve in order to 'win' this woman, and Arwen, what she must endure with him being away and engaged in a desperate and seemingly unwinnable struggle, all the while knowing that in terms of lifespan his is just that of a mayfly compared to that of a centenarian. They remain faithful through long separation (which brings Aragorn's steadfast but kind position over Eowyn positively flinging herself at him into even sharper relief) and it must seem totally against the odds that they will ever be together. But they still manage it because if its real, you will do anything for that other person.
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Old 07-07-2007, 11:52 AM   #5
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This is such an intriguing thread, radagastly!

I'm not the most well-read in Tolkien (only LOTR and the Silm, working on UT), but my first thought was that the love for God, in Tolkien, tests Romantic love and prompts it, sometimes painfully, to grow into it's fullest form or manifest its true strength. While it sometimes seems to be in opposition to Romantic love, it seems that when the lovers are deternined to the point of self-sacrifice, even 'the rules' are bent (never broken) and a solution is found. For example, Elwing following Eärendil ashore; Luthien (and then Arwen) choosing mortality.

Similar, I think, is the .... I don't know if this is quite the right phrase, but the performance of heroic deeds by the men in order to win their ladies honorably; for example. Beren going after the Silmaril when he could have stayed with Luthien in hiding... This reminds me of the choice of Tristan and Iseult to leave their exile in the forest; the choice to 'play by the rules', no matter how dangerous and difficult, rather than take the easy route to be together seems to be a common theme in medieval romances as well as Tolkien; it's an interesting thing because on the one hand, it seems to go against love or imply it is weak, but on the other, to prove it is strong.

I think that maybe religion and society/fathers etc. play a similar role for Tolkien's couples in a sense, by setting up challenges for the couple whereby both their love and honor are tested; however in addition, with the 'religious' themes, like accepting or defying death, there is a sense that, by denying God's will/the nature of things for each other's sake, they couple would ultimately be denying each other and their love, since these are dependant on that same ground (God/universe/reality); so, paradoxically, they must lose each other to remain faithful to each other; themselves, and their love.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwende
What does intrigue me is how it always seems to be the woman who compromises
Not always. What about Eärendil?
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
At the risk of sounding all "hey man" stories like that of Aragorn and Arwen show how something as seemingly simple as a human relationship can transcend all those human created mental boundaries of race, colour and religion.
Well, it wasn't simply their relationship at play; seeing that they are Man and Elf, the intrusion of the One is implied even more strongly in their case than in general:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #153
Immortality and Mortality being the special gifts of God to the Eruhini (in whose conception and creation the Valar had no part at all) it must be assumed that no alteration of their fundamental kind could be effected by the Valar even in one case: the cases of Luthien (and Tuor) and the position of their descendants was a direct act of God. The entering into Men of the Elven-strain is indeed represented as part of a Divine Plan for the ennoblement of the Human Race, from the beginning destined to replace the Elves.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rikae
I think that maybe religion and society/fathers etc. play a similar role for Tolkien's couples in a sense, by setting up challenges for the couple whereby both their love and honor are tested
I can only be reminded of Tolkien's life itself, where he had to wait for three years, until he finished school, at 21 years of age, before he could see his beloved again. He did this in order to avoid "disobeying and grieving (or deceiving) a guardian who had been a father to me, more than most real fathers".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #43, emphasis original
For very nearly three years I did not see or write to my lover. It was extremely hard, painful and bitter, especially at first...But I don't think anything else would have justified marriage on the basis of a boy's affair; and probably nothing else would have hardened the will enough to give such an affair (however genuine a case of true love) permanence. On the night of my 21st birthday I wrote again to your mother – Jan. 3, 1913. On Jan. 8th I went back to her, and became engaged, and informed an astonished family.
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:40 PM   #7
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And Tolkien himself ran a great risk of losing Edith - she was engaged to someone else by the time he wrote to her again. And you can't help thinking he must have been quite a catch for her to break off an engagement to go back to him. The cove.
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Old 07-07-2007, 12:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Letter #43, emphasis original
For very nearly three years I did not see or write to my lover. It was extremely hard, painful and bitter, especially at first...But I don't think anything else would have justified marriage on the basis of a boy's affair; and probably nothing else would have hardened the will enough to give such an affair (however genuine a case of true love) permanence. On the night of my 21st birthday I wrote again to your mother – Jan. 3, 1913. On Jan. 8th I went back to her, and became engaged, and informed an astonished family.
Now, that is incredibly romantic! And it makes me wonder whether such challenges actually make love stronger; test it; or perhaps some combination of the two (allowing it to mature properly, in a way - like the "new think" in horticulture which says you shouldn't stake trees, in order that their root systems can be strengthened by the wind. "New" being rather ironic here, obviously...). Certainly Tolkien seems to have believed that it was more than a test: "however genuine a case of true love".

It also makes my situation look a little less daunting...
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Old 07-08-2007, 09:08 AM   #9
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I'm just imagining what agonies he must have gone through over the five days between writing to Edith and meeting her again (and whether the reunion was awkward or not!) - I must have a look if there was any intervening correspondence?

If you think about it, had he gone ahead and married her while still very young, would this have affected his Oxford career?

It also shows how different relationships were in years gone by, that a woman could expect to eventually be married to any serious suitor - Tolkien was forced to be honourable and effectively give up Edith as there was no sign of immediate marriage on the horizon - she seems to have thought he may have given her up as she was engaged to someone else!
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Old 07-08-2007, 09:38 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
It also shows how different relationships were in years gone by, that a woman could expect to eventually be married to any serious suitor - Tolkien was forced to be honourable
Well, it was Father Francis Morgan's intervention, on behalf of Tolkien's own interest, regarding professional career, that put a stop to their meetings. Even when Tolkien lives up to his word concerning the separation while studying, his guardian is still "not enthusiastic, but accepts the inevitable".
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
she seems to have thought he may have given her up as she was engaged to someone else!
Indeed. In the Chronology made by Hammond and Scull, it is mentioned that Tolkien received a reply from Edith on 3 January, 1913, telling that:
Quote:
she is engaged to George Field, the brother of one of her school friends, Molly Field; but the letter also makes it clear that she had done so because she had not expected that Ronald would still care for her and George was kind and someone she felt she could accept as a husband. Tolkien writes again, and they arrange to meet.
I guess that insight and estel weren't her foremost strong points at that time...
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Old 07-08-2007, 09:59 AM   #11
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Quote:
she is engaged to George Field, the brother of one of her school friends, Molly Field; but the letter also makes it clear that she had done so because she had not expected that Ronald would still care for her and George was kind and someone she felt she could accept as a husband. Tolkien writes again, and they arrange to meet.
It's that bit which is very telling of the times, and relieves Edith of not being so hopeful! What woman nowadays would simply settle for someone 'acceptable'? It sounds like a business transaction. Yet in those days a husband was almost essential as life as a spinster wasn't much fun, and the longer a woman left it the less likely she would be to get married. Granted, spinsterhood was not as bad a prospect as it was in the days of Jane Austen as women now had the option of working for a living and were not beholden to a male relative any longer in terms of property rights etc, but the cultural aspect was still hard to shift!

So I'll not be too harsh on poor Edith
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:15 PM   #12
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I don't think that at that time she had a difficult material situation, as it seems she still has her small properties around Birmingham. She confessed in the letter she felt "on the shelf" and knew no other young man than George. However, the "timing" of her engagement shows complete lack of care for her previous declarations and promises from the days of Duchess Road. If her engagement would have been already consummated by marriage before Tolkien's 21st birthday (or if she postponed any engagement or involvement at all until that date), she would have had a higher standing in this matter . As such, her lukewarmness shows she is simply ... drifting. Compare this to Tolkien's torment, as it appears in the letters. Of course, it all worked out for the best in the end, and that is all that matters.
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:35 PM   #13
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Quote:
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If her engagement would have been already consummated by marriage before Tolkien's 21st birthday (or if she postponed any engagement or involvement at all until that date), she would have had a higher standing in this matter.
Well, I would consider tha fact that she didn't plan to marry before Tolkien's 21st birthday shows fairly clearly that she was not lukewarm; and I can see how a woman might feel rejected in such circumstances and look around for a "backup plan". Imagine, for instance, if he hadn't contacted her after turning 21! No matter how much one is in love, it's not sensible to pin all one's hopes on something as uncertain as Tolkien probably seemed to her, after two years of no contact.
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:45 PM   #14
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I could hardly consider her engagement as a door intentionally left open, an invitation to restart a relation. She appears to have simply discarded the matter altogether from her concerns, with no regard for what he would feel. Could she reasonably expect Tolkien to disregard her engagement and still pop the question? I certainly doubt that. Concerning being sensible or not, I daresay this should not have been the case, if their love had the same meaning for her as it did for Tolkien - there seems to have been no pressing matter for her to be engaged then. A few more months, if she really cared about him, would have hardly made a difference. But I am repeating my own arguments now
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
Could she reasonably expect Tolkien to disregard her engagement and still pop the question?
Apparently, she could.

Actually, I could see it being a matter of indignation, even. "Well, you won't speak to me until you finish school? FINE, then. I will get engaged to someone else."
But in any event, if she truly didn't care, why would she immediately break off her engagement to one man in order to marry another who she hadn't seen for 2 years? Surely it would have been a lot of trouble for nothing, if she was actuallly "lukewarm" as you say.

*is glad, for Edith's sake, that JRR didn't think like Raynor!*
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Old 07-08-2007, 12:59 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Rikae
Apparently, she could.
Well, can you oblige us with some quote that she expected that of him?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rikae
But in any event, if she truly didn't care, why would she immediately break off her engagement to one man in order to marry another who she hadn't seen for 2 years? Surely it would have been a lot of trouble for nothing, if she was actuallly "lukewarm" as you say.
As I said, drifting .
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*is glad, for Edith's sake, that JRR didn't think like Raynor!*
Well, I already made the case that sense (as in reason) shouldn't have anything to do with it when it comes to true love .
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:04 PM   #17
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It seems that the discussion is moving a bit too far into personal speculation now. Perhaps we need a reminder of the original theme of the thread:
Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly View Post
I'm curious about Tolkien's view of the inherent conflict between love of God and Romantic love. Perhaps "conflict" is not quite the right word. "Difference" might be a better choice. Do his stories seem to value one above the other, equate them, substitute them for each other, treat them differently from one another or reflections of the same thing?

I am, however, very interested in your views and especially your insights on Tolkien's artistic expressions concerning these matters.
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:07 PM   #18
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One doesn't "drift" from one engagement into another.

And, regarding the necessity of quotes, there is no reason to assume that Tolkien himself would have been less able to discern her intentions than you are, and he did, after all, propose.

EDIT: X'd with Esty.
And, to link this to the topic; do you think that Tolkien's couples showed any "drifting" of this sort? Could it be that he looked on it differently than we 21st century types do, as Lal suggested?
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:23 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rikae
do you think that Tolkien's couples showed any "drifting" of this sort?
Hm, first to come to mind are Finduilas and Eowyn. And their respective companies ....
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:31 PM   #20
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Good example.... I mean, I wouldn't say that the professor implied any disapproval of Eowyn's shift of affections from Aragorn to Faramir; the implication being that she was not "fated" to be with Aragorn, so her ultimate choice was in accordance with her destiny, and therefore honorable; but on the other hand, I don't see any disapproval in his portrayal of her interest in Aragorn, which seems quite sympathetic...
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Rikae
I mean, I wouldn't say that the professor implied any disapproval of Eowyn's shift of affections from Aragorn to Faramir; the implication being that she was not "fated" to be with Aragorn, so her ultimate choice was in accordance with her destiny, and therefore honorable
Well... what does honor have to do with it? Anyway, I agree that the shift of affection is not disaproved. She actually needed it, it melted the frost in her heart.
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Originally Posted by Rikae
I don't see any disapproval in his portrayal of her interest in Aragorn
Aragorn put it otherwise...
Quote:
Originally Posted by The houses of healing, RotK
...in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan
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Old 07-08-2007, 01:47 PM   #22
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What do you think of my idea that Eowyn's love for Aragorn is almost that of the very young, very naive soldier for his/her Captain? For the inspirational hero who suddenly breezes into their life? I wrote more about this on another thread but I can't remember which one and a search is not proving fruitful.

As this is love from a woman towards a man, it obviously (or should that be obviously?) comes across in terms of romance, but in the words expressed by Eowyn it can easily be read as love from the young man to the hero. And Eowyn does remind me of some of the tragic young men who were too young for enlistment but who lied in order to be signed up to go and fight in the fields of France and Belgium in WWI.
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Old 07-08-2007, 02:02 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
What do you think of my idea that Eowyn's love for Aragorn is almost that of the very young, very naive soldier for his/her Captain?
Hm, I wouldn't say I agree. If it were so, then Aragorn's sorrow and pitty that followed him ever since he left Dunharrow would have been unfounded, based on a wrong perception on his behalf, which I doubt was the case, considering also that Gandalf does not contradict him or the foundation of his feelings.
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Old 07-08-2007, 03:53 PM   #24
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Hm, I wouldn't say I agree. If it were so, then Aragorn's sorrow and pitty that followed him ever since he left Dunharrow would have been unfounded, based on a wrong perception on his behalf, which I doubt was the case, considering also that Gandalf does not contradict him or the foundation of his feelings.
Note I'm not saying that is what she is or that is what she represents, but you can see that in her character and portrayal, especially if reading the work set against the basis of war and what it does to people. And even if Tolkien did feed that idea in (and how would we know, that's just something I can see in her - and he doesn't deconstruct everything! ) it doesn't preclude him feeling regret - either as a Captain might regret having to be harsh on the keen young hero or a taken man might regret having somehow attracted the love of a woman he could not/would not reciprocate.
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Old 07-08-2007, 04:34 PM   #25
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it doesn't preclude him feeling regret - either as a Captain might regret having to be harsh on the keen young hero
Well, being harsh was not the cause of his regret, as he stated. That a soldier would develop positive feelings for his commander, is a cause for contentedness, especially since reciprocating would not interfere with anything else Aragorn might be personally involved in. It would be something he would want to cultivate. While Eowyn could indeed love Aragorn both as man and as a captain, the more the latter is prevalent, the more it would deduct from the substance of their drama, in which they interact as man and woman, not captain and soldier. While the inner workings of her love, her projections, are closer to your idea, she still relates to him as a desired lover.
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Old 07-08-2007, 04:39 PM   #26
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Note I'm not saying that is what she is or that is what she represents, but you can see that in her character and portrayal, especially if reading the work set against the basis of war and what it does to people. And even if Tolkien did feed that idea in (and how would we know, that's just something I can see in her - and he doesn't deconstruct everything! ) it doesn't preclude him feeling regret - either as a Captain might regret having to be harsh on the keen young hero or a taken man might regret having somehow attracted the love of a woman he could not/would not reciprocate.
I would think Eowyn was indeed starstruck (a device used more in the movie than the book, but still evident). I think your analogy of the hero-worship a naive young soldier has for a great captain is apt. A moth drawn to the flame perhaps. The undeniable aura of so formidable a Dunedain warrior must have been very attractive to Eowyn, from both a feminine perspective, and, moreso in Eowyn's case, of a caged shield-maiden who so desparately wished to emulate such a renowned soldier.
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Old 07-08-2007, 05:22 PM   #27
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Perhaps a close look at the particular passage where Aragorn first sees Eowyn would be helpful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The King of the Golden Hall
'Go, Eowyn, sister-daughter!' said the old king. 'The time for fear is past.'

The woman turned and went slowly into the house. As she passed the doors she turned and looked back. Grave and thoughtful was her glance, as she looked on on the king with cool pity in her eyes. Very fair was her face, and her long hair was like a river of gold. Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that she yet felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swfitly she was gone.
The passage is interesting for it implies both sex and power. Aragorn notes her beauty and her virginal aspect--"not yet come to womanhood." Her awareness of him is described as a sudden coming to recognition and all the words connote power and authority--heir of kings, wisdom and age, but especially that mystery of his power and fate. Does she feel he is the king, "hiding a power she yet felt". Or do these puissant words imply sexual attraction?

It is clear what what Eowyn finds attractive is his authority and power. That might be sexualised, but it is very much an important aspect of the relationship. A daughter of kings, bred and raised in a culture that prioritises power and might, sees in Aragorn, his potential power. What is all the more intriguing about the passage is its emphasis on coldness. There is a distinct lack of any warmth or hotness.

What is also very interesting is that many details in her description could apply equally to Galadriel, save for the maidenly aspect. The height, the white gown, the gold hair, the sternness. Nothing here yet speaks of her gilded cage.
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Old 07-08-2007, 07:51 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raynor
Originally Posted by Rikae
I don't see any disapproval in his portrayal of her interest in Aragorn
Aragorn put it otherwise...

Quote:
Originally Posted by The houses of healing, RotK
...in me she loves only a shadow and a thought: a hope of glory and great deeds, and lands far from the fields of Rohan
I think maybe I wasn't clear what I meant by "disapproval". Of course her feelings for Aragorn are going to be, in this sense, a mistake; but the writing does not imply that it is somehow immoral or shameful on her part. At least, it always seemed to me that it was written in such a way that it appears Eowyn's feelings, though unfortunate, are quite understandable, considering who she is and who Aragorn is.
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Old 07-09-2007, 01:48 AM   #29
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I think that you could say Aragorn would equally feel reluctant to encouarge Eowyn as a lover and as a young recruit to the war - not as she is a woman, though you cannot deny that in that culture it would be unusual, not appropriate even in some cases, for a woman to go off and fight. But he would not wish to take control over the ward of the King of Rohan, who clearly has another 'commander' she owes her first allegiance to - especially given that Aragorn has not long since been rebuked by Gandalf over his high-handed attitude towards Theoden!

Quote:
Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood. And she now was suddenly aware of him: tall heir of kings, wise with many winters, greycloaked, hiding a power that she yet felt. For a moment still as stone she stood, then turning swfitly she was gone.
What's clear here is that Aragorn is struck by her beauty, but also her youth, and her coldness. She in turn is struck by his maturity and his power - it's quite a Byronic attraction for her, isn't it? I'm reminded a bit of the way Jane Eyre views Rochester.

The other interesting thing here is the power dynamic is reversed somewhat - Aragorn is obviously the mature one here, whereas with Arwen, he is very much younger and with less status. It's testament to Aragorn's character and his love for Arwen that he is able to resist the temptation of Eowyn!
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Old 07-09-2007, 03:58 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
It's testament to Aragorn's character and his love for Arwen that he is able to resist the temptation of Eowyn!
Well, come on now; does every fair woman represent a temptation for a man? And a cold one at that? This reminds me of Chris Rock saying that a man is as faithful as his options . I don't agree
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë
I think that you could say Aragorn would equally feel reluctant to encouarge Eowyn as a lover and as a young recruit to the war
I wouldn't agree; the problem he sees with her departure is that she would not fulfill an obligation, not that she would be unfit for battle. He points out to her that she fulfills a position that would otherwise be taken by a marshal or a captain, and that soon may come a time when even those with valor but without renown will be needed in the last defense - an obvious reference to her.
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Old 07-09-2007, 04:34 AM   #31
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That's exactly what I mean! Aragorn as a leader himself would well know that it was simply not his place to take away someone under the command of another King!

But as for if Aragorn found Eowyn tempting - he finds her attractive, and she makes it clear she really fancies him, and many lesser (modern?) men would be straight in there.
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Old 07-09-2007, 06:13 AM   #32
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What's clear here is that Aragorn is struck by her beauty, but also her youth, and her coldness. She in turn is struck by his maturity and his power - it's quite a Byronic attraction for her, isn't it? I'm reminded a bit of the way Jane Eyre views Rochester.

You seem to be developing quite a fetish for Yorkshire writers and their likenesses in Tolkien's work, Lal. In this situation, I'm a bit more struck by another Yorkshireman, a bit more of a modern one, one Ted Hughes. After all, Plath was successful at what Eowyn attempted, wasn't she?
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Old 07-09-2007, 07:03 AM   #33
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You seem to be developing quite a fetish for Yorkshire writers and their likenesses in Tolkien's work, Lal. In this situation, I'm a bit more struck by another Yorkshireman, a bit more of a modern one, one Ted Hughes. After all, Plath was successful at what Eowyn attempted, wasn't she?
Am I? I shall have to eat more Black Pudding and Babba's Yeads as I'm in danger of Going Tyke...

Note that on the evening they met, Plath bit Hughes in the face...I would have liked to see how Aragorn would react to that...
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Old 07-09-2007, 07:52 AM   #34
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My, my! Thunderstorms force me to shut down for a day to avoid a power-surge, and look what all has happened in my absence! I'm happy my questions have sparked such interest.

Since my example of Arwen/Aragorn seems to have evolved more toward the example of Eowyn/Aragorn (actually, a much more complicated example in terms of the original questions), what influence did Eowyn's faith (or doubt) have on her feelings towards Aragorn? We know that the Rohirrim had developed a somewhat different belief system than the structure we see in the Sil. They had a profound reverence for their ancestors, a belief neither unwarrented nor inconsistent with the myth of the Ainulindale, but certainly not specified. They seem to have held that personal honor, courage and glory in battle would lead them back to the Halls of their Fathers (how very Nordic of them, or Japanese.) What do we know of a woman's place in this belief system? How would a high-born shieldmaiden, forced into the (to her) ignoble role of nursemaid, beyond any chance of glory, tending a feeble old king, himself seemingly beyond any chance of glory as well, react to the chance of war represented by the arrival of Aragorn? Did his courteous, polite response fuel her feelings for him, or drive her into battle and doom?

I am reminded of the old Judy Garland song:

Dear Mr. Gable, I am writing this to you . . .
You made me love you. I didn't want to do it. I didn't want to do it . . .


To what extent did Eowyn's built-in reverence for her heroic ancestors (Thengel, Helm, Eorl, etc.) translate into her feelings for Aragorn? Did she see them in him? Was she "born again" to the chance of glory and honour, or did she just see a manly man that she wanted to be with? Was it some confusing combination of the two?
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Old 07-09-2007, 08:18 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Lalwendë View Post
[I]Note that on the evening they met, Plath bit Hughes in the face...I would have liked to see how Aragorn would react to that...

This probably belongs more on the Luthien/Thuringwethil thread, no?


Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
We know that the Rohirrim had developed a somewhat different belief system than the structure we see in the Sil. They had a profound reverence for their ancestors, a belief neither unwarrented nor inconsistent with the myth of the Ainulindale, but certainly not specified. They seem to have held that personal honor, courage and glory in battle would lead them back to the Halls of their Fathers (how very Nordic of them, or Japanese.) What do we know of a woman's place in this belief system? How would a high-born shieldmaiden, forced into the (to her) ignoble role of nursemaid, beyond any chance of glory, tending a feeble old king, himself seemingly beyond any chance of glory as well, react to the chance of war represented by the arrival of Aragorn? Did his courteous, polite response fuel her feelings for him, or drive her into battle and doom?
I'm not sure how much could be read into Eowyn's position in terms of a full blown critique of the Rohirrim honour system, although your thoughts are suggestive, rad. It is true that such a system was thoroughly patriarchal. (And it is true that Aragorn walks in in full testosterone get up, providing a dynamic spark in a very wet situation.) Yet Tolkien expends so much thought and care and devotion to the depiction of the Rohirrim love of battle, and to the battle itself, that I'm not sure we can extrapolate to consider whether he meant through the character of Eowyn to provide a critique of such cultures. I think the emphasis is rather on a critique of her character, as she rather easily finds a place post-WotR within the the heroic structure.
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Old 07-09-2007, 09:00 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by radagastly
Did his courteous, polite response fuel her feelings for him, or drive her into battle and doom?
I would say the latter is more likely the truth, that is, at least according to Faramir:
Quote:
Originally Posted by The steward and the king, RotK
But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle.
Quote:
Originally Posted by radagastly
Was she "born again" to the chance of glory and honour, or did she just see a manly man that she wanted to be with? Was it some confusing combination of the two?
Well, a confusing combination of the two, as you say; that is, she loves him because he represents all those things.
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