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Old 12-24-2001, 03:10 PM   #1
Eve
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Sting Gay subtext?

Hi everyone, thought I'd pop in and see if anyone else has been wondering this as well as me. Personally, I reckon there's a fair bit of gay subtext in LOTR. Quite apart from the fact that women, and romances with them, are few and far between (Aragorn's relationship with Arwen must be the most bloodless and sketchy I've ever read), look at the way the males keep pairing up together. Legolas and Gimli (who mysteriously go from being enemies to firm friends during their rest break in Lorien), Merry and Pippin, and as for Frodo and Sam - has anyone else noticed their extraordinary devotion to each other, together with the colossal amount of hugging and kissing and hand-holding that goes on?

I usually think that I'm reading too much into it (queerspotting in literature is a hobby of mine, whether it's actually in the text or not! - and I still don't know how Lawrence got all that stuff in "Women in Love" past the censors), until I thought a bit more about the novel's roots. Epic, right? First obvious example of epic: the Iliad. Ah yes, Achilles and Patroclus, the most famous pair of Greek male lovers I can think of (Alexander the Great and his lifelong partner Hephaistion were always very keen on them, as I recall) spring to mind. Suddenly the whole silly idea seems a lot more plausible...thoughts, anyone?

By the way, before any homophobes jump down my throat, spare me, will you? I've just travelled all the way to Israel, only to be dumped by my boyfriend the day after he arrived when he found out that I'm bi (he'd obviously not listened, I told him months ago), and so I'm a bit short of patience on that one. If the idea upsets you, you daon't have to think about it - this is fiction, you know!
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Old 12-24-2001, 03:29 PM   #2
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Quote:
I usually think that I'm reading too much into it...
You got that right! Though it is a bit of an understatement! Tolkien did not have such a filthy mind.

-rêd
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Old 12-24-2001, 03:41 PM   #3
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and what the hell is that supposed to mean? if you mean there's not much to read from, well, I maintain there's more affection shown between pairs of men than there are between the straight couples who are meant to be falling in love and getting married. though I'm assuming, from what you said, you're just another boring old bigot.
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Old 12-24-2001, 04:04 PM   #4
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Ouch! *cries* [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 12-24-2001, 04:50 PM   #5
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ok, my ability to read exciting subtexts into things failed me on that one; apologies if I misinterpreted what you said originally, by the way. I'm starting to think I should have "Irony may be defined as what people miss" as my signature.

and in case you were wondering, I was hardly implying that they were all having rampant orgies all over the place! Just that, judging by Tolkien's usual way of portraying romantic relationships (if that's the word), the men seem to fit into that almost better than the straight couples do.

though while we're being filthy-minded, has anyone else ever wondered why the Elven population was decreasing (I think someone mentions that somewhere, Tolkien experts will doubtless know where) when they were all immortal and led fairly peaceful lives? whaddya reckon, genetic fertility problems or separate bedrooms? the hobbits certainly made up for it - how many kids did faithful old Rosie bear her Sam again? ouch, he's one of the more attractive propositions in the novel as husbands go, but a lifetime of childbearing has never appealed to me personally. you can just see it: "Elves Hold Family Planning Clinics to help Shire Overpopulation Problem."

actually, now I come to think of it, that's quite an interesting topic. the hobbits are very fertile folk in the way they're portrayed: vital, always eating and drinking, large families, love of gardening, closeness to the earth. Now the elves might also be keen on trees, but they strike you as rather sterile despite that, no? Does anyone know if anyone's actually explored images of fertility (and repressed sexuality, maybe) in LotR? can't be bothered to raid the library and find out right now. and sorry, chaps and chapesses, but when I finish this degree I plan to do my thesis on either gender-bending in Shakespeare (think of the comedies, mainly), or lesbian writing in the seventeenth century (great fun, they spend half the time taking the **** out of those over-inflated male poets), so I'm not planning to research it myself.

and for those who still think that all this discussion is dirty-minded, I have two things to say. One is if you don't want to talk about sex, don't study literature (my aunt, who teaches at uni, told me this when I was whingeing about yet more irritating sexal imagery in Wordsworth). Two, I'm actually fairly restrained, as they go. The number of critics who are so busy making everything ridiculously sexual drives me up the wall (you know, not another book on how Angelo in Measure for Measure fancies Isabella because he thinks she's his mummy). And so few of them seem to have a sense of humour, too.
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Old 12-25-2001, 01:54 AM   #6
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how do you interpret "Snow White and the 7 Dwarves" ?

yeh...forget the evil queen, forget Prince Charming, forget jealousy, betrayal, heroism, devotion...yea, a bunch of old dwarves living alone in the deep woods, just what could they be up to? and when they met Snow White they did nothing???? common, they'd be like sailors on shoreleave unless...of course! [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img]
 
Old 12-25-2001, 05:36 AM   #7
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Oh dear.

My first reaction was "what, do you mean can I se a gay subtext there as well?" (for answer, see the appropriate story in Emma Donoghue's beautifully written collection "Kissing the Witch" in which Snow White has a fairly intense relationship with the step-mother).

Then I realised that it's time to tell you the facts of life. Fairy tales are usually about sex. The versions most current are the little that was left after the Victorians "sanitised" them. Hunt around and you'll realise that there's a lot more to them than that. (I'm interested in fairy tales, oral traditions of literature etc.) usually there's far more sex, violence, seriously dysfunctional families and so forth. The versions we are used to are primarily based on the works of the Brothers Grimm, I believe: European, nothing too exotic, they left most of the violence in but i think they cut the sex. And then we get the versions that have been mashed to shreds and fed to children (no wonder the creatures prefer Roald Dahl's versions, which are actually closer to the original in spirit and content last I checked, if not in style!), including panto. And again, panto has been sanitised big time. pity, I rather like the sound of the way it used to be; but there you go, can't have anything that looks like a fertility festival, now, can we!

Snow White isn't one I've read many traditional versions of, but last I heard Prince Charming woke her up with far more than a kiss. Don't know much about the dwarves (I'm excluding modern retellings here, and looking at traditional symbolism etc.) Story about sexual freezing and awakening, I think (like many of them!) Look at Red Riding Hood (pause to think about the symbolism of her name alone). Look at all that mutilation in Cinderella. hell, look at the Arabian Nights (if you didn't realise there's sex, both of the gay and straight variety, in that marvellous collection, then I suggest you stop reading bowdlerised children's versions.) A lot of them are ways of teaching the youngsters: Red Riding Hood and Bluebeard's Castle (anyone know Bartok's incredible opera about that?) are both warnings about young girls who are just beginning to awaken sexually and are running dangers from various men (watch out for the wolves/magicians who will eat you alive/cut you into pieces).

One good collection to look at is the two volumes of the Virago Book of Fairy Tales, ed. Angela Carter (herself a fairy tale afficionado, read her "The Bloody Chamber" for beautiful, stunningly vivid and yes, erotic retellings of various fairy tales - it's perfectly mainstream stuff). She collected fairy tales from all over the world, being very careful to get ones that were as authentic as possible. Her definition, by the way, which I rather like, is "A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to borrow a cup of sugar."

Anyway, it's fascinating seeing the way different cultures have developed different stories. The Cinderella myth comes up again and again (wish-fulfilment, anyone?): there are some very interesting versions from Egypt, Scandinavia, Russia, trying to remember if one of those feisty Eskimo ones covered it.

fabulous stuff. if you like Tolkien chances are this kind of thing will interest you (interest in the fantastical for starters). didn't mean to be patronising! also didn't mean to be so long, as you can tell I love this stuff.
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Old 12-25-2001, 01:17 PM   #8
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Eve, in reply to your earlier post, Tolkien was brought up and lived in a male dominated society. Most of the people Tolkien knew best were men and it is probably the reason he concentrated on the male character's relationships more than he did the female's.

[ December 25, 2001: Message edited by: Fenrir ]
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Old 12-25-2001, 07:21 PM   #9
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Actually Ive read the books numerous times and there doesnt seem to be sex of any sort in the books. Im not stupid or sexually repressed and Ive recently read a little bit about Tolkien's life and it seems to be he's just not sexually oriented one way or the other. Actually its easier to have a more physical friendship if the "gay" thing doesnt come up. Basically I cant hug a male friend now because of "what if he thinks Im gay?"

Also, you might get a better response if your post didnt have the tone "if you cant see its gay then youre stupid".
 
Old 12-25-2001, 07:22 PM   #10
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Didn't the great Tolkien have a son? And did he not then also have a wife? (Unless some sort of miracle happened...But let's not get into that)
However, I do understand the reasons why females were largely left out of his books; nobody wanted to read about women in a fantasy. But times have changed, and we, as a society, are hopefully inching toward recognizing female characters as more than plot devices and sidelines decorations in all of the artistic mediums. This is why I am glad Arwen had an extended part in FotR. Made me feel a little more included.
As for the homosexual subtext...Well, I hope Legolas isn't gay! I would definitely have a jealousy fit if he suddenly set up house with Gimli.
And by the way, Eve, the sexual undertones of fairy tales are extremely fascinating, I'm glad you brought that up. The pricking of spindles and so on and so forth. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] Quite interesting to see how many references we miss, and how many more have been hidden from us!
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Old 12-26-2001, 08:12 AM   #11
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*cough* Eowyn *cough*
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Old 12-26-2001, 12:00 PM   #12
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Ok guys, I’m typing this offline on Word since I don’t want to clog up my aunt’s phoneline (my cousin was rushed into hospital last night), so I’m replying to what you said from memory.

Firstly, sorry if I sounded shirty, I most certainly did not mean to imply that anyone was stupid. I got more than a little irritated, however, by asking a perfectly valid question and being told I had a filthy mind; I mean, it’s taken about 6 posts before anyone even started answering the question!

Yes, I’d agree that Tolkien’s work is fairly sexless, for whatever reason, and that as far as we know he was straight. Someone said something like “Did not the great Tolkien have a son? And did he not then have a wife?” What, *gasp*, kids before marriage, an ILLEGITIMATE son? Tolkien, you rascal! (joking, assumed that was a typo.) Although being married with kids isn’t necessarily a cast-iron guarantee of strict heterosexuality: look at Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, or come to that some of my friends who are bi and married (and better behaved than Wilde).

I’d also agree that the world he was in, both the literary tradition he was drawing from and the society he lived in, was pretty much male-dominated and women were unlikely to feature much. Though I’m not so sure about “no one wanting to read about women in fantasy”, since I don’t think the genre as we think of it today actually existed before he started writing. I’m getting more and more interested in that side of it, by the way: anyone fancy starting up a thread on, say, concepts of femininity and fertility in Tolkien?

*pause to sulk as I recollect that no one’s laughed at my joke about Gandalf with PMT yet. though possibly that’s in a different thread. ok, might let you off there.*

Still, it’s not as if he left women out altogether. There are, what, three romances on the go – Aragorn and Arwen, Eowyn and Faramir, Sam and Rosie – plus two married couples – Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, Galadriel and Celeborn. They’re all pretty colourless, wouldn’t you agree? Tom does talk a bit about his courtship of Goldberry, but that’s about all I can remember of those two; who, to be honest, are, well, a bit weird, wouldn’t you say? (I mean, Goldberry’s sitting with her feet in bowls of lilies, and Tom spends his whole time talking in verse.) Galadriel and Celeborn seem to be more co-rulers than a couple. Aragorn and Arwen is possibly the most bloodless romance I’ve ever seen: a couple of hints are dropped in Rivendell, then she turns up at the end and marries him, still without a hint of feeling on either side (ok, he turns Eowyn down, but that doesn’t say much). It’s all very stately and seems more like the kind of arranged marriage that would be helpful dynastically than a love match.

Eowyn and Faramir fall in love during the course of the novel (they actually KISS at one point, don’t they?), but I’ve never been totally convinced by that either. Eowyn seems to be intent on falling for a man who does all the things that she, as a woman, is prevented from doing: her attraction, if that’s the word, to Aragorn is a hero-worship type of thing, a possible way of realising her own ambitions. I’m trying to remember what emotions come over when she’s getting together with Faramir. Pity on his side, coming down to earth with a bump on hers. Again, it all seems a bit stately, I don’t remember seeing much sign of actual affection or passion (not that passion seems to be Tolkien’s thing). Sam and Rosie have a nice sweet bit of rustic courtship, and for me it’s the most touching romance in the novel (then I turn to the family trees in the appendix, see how many kids the poor woman had to carry, and shudder!). But it’s pretty short and it’s at the end. Also, I’ve always found the hobbits the most human and emotional people in the book.

Before I forget, the lack of sex thing. Well, nothing necessarily wrong with that, it makes a change from the “dirty old man” style of writing where the author (or critic, critics seem especially prone to this) is busy ferreting about trying to get sex into absolutely everything, usually as sordidly as possible. Austen writes more or less without sex (two offstage elopements, very discreetly covered, and an illegitimate character, but that’s all about the social consequences rather than the original sinning). She does write beautifully about affection, though; admittedly people often complain that she too is rather passionless (personally I reckon that fair enough, she tried it in “Sense and Sensibility” and realised it wasn’t her forte, and sensibly kept away from it afterwards). The relationship between Anne and Wentworth in “Persuasion”, for example, is very moving (had an English teacher who raved about “one of the most beautiful love letters in the English language), or all the little nuances of feeling in “Pride and Prejudice”. Compare the Bennett parents with Galadriel and Celeborn: not the world’s most successful marriage, and there’s quite a bit of caricature in there, but they’re a real couple with real problems and a real relationship going on. Her work may be pretty well sexless (and as Fay Weldon has pointed out, since sex made you very likely to get syphilis and/or die in childbirth at an early age, people had reasons for abstaining), but she could still write about human relationships and feelings.

Oh yes, and just to refute the charge (again) that I have a filthy mind and am delving too deeply into this, I reckon I’m pretty moderate in that department. I don’t see the Mines of Moria as a womb symbol, I’m not going to start talking about phallic imagery every time someone pulls out a sword; I’ve never liked Freud, old goats like D.H. Lawrence get on my nerves, and sexual readings of “Alice in Wonderland” just make me giggle. On the other hand, I am interested in sexuality and so forth in writing, and it’s not always quite that blazingly obvious: “Heart of Darkness”, for example, has some very interesting stuff beneath the surface.

Back to Tolkien. Right, covered the straight relationships. Now for the possible others. As I said earlier, there’s a healthy tradition of gay lovers (often warrior couples) in epic and so forth, Achilles & Patroclus and so on. Haven’t got my copy of the “Regeneration” trilogy to hand, but does anyone remember that bit where there are practically gay witch-hunts going on during WW1 and they’re talking about how on the one hand they’re encouraging this kind of brotherly love between the soldiers, but on the other hand they’re all worried about is it the right kind of love? Siegfried Sassoon (yes, he was gay, actually Wilfred Owen had a bit of a thing for him) wrote a few poems about this sort of ambiguity, carefully phrased of course (gay writers have often had to write in code for their own safety). And as for the English public school system…well, let’s just say that the idea wasn’t exactly unheard of, shall we? I honestly doubt that Tolkien was unaware of homosexuality.

So back to what I said right at the beginning of this thread. Don’t worry, I’m not going to start trying to read orgies into it, I can’t quite see Sam saying, “Hey, Frodo, fancy a quickie while Gollum’s asleep?” I’m talking about emotional relationships, which to be honest are more important anyway (there seems to be this myth going around that sexual orientation is all about sex, when that’s only a small part of it. You know, love, compatibility, feeling right with people of one gender and not with the other.) And you can imply it without actually having sex: look at all the eroticism in “Goblin Market” between the two “sisters”. It was more that kind of thing I was thinking of.

For starters, the men do have a distinct tendency to pair off. Can’t get all that much out of that, but I think it’s interesting. Ever heard of the Sacred Band of Thebes, sworn lovers (some with wives and kids after some years, but they still stayed in the band since it was the highest honour around) who fought side by side and weren’t defeated until Alexander trounced them? I find them particularly interesting considering the fuss they make these days about gays in the military: the idea was that they would be ashamed to do anything less than fight to the death before their beloved, spurring each other on. You can just see the Legolas and Gimli contest fitting in there, can’t you. (not that they’re necessarily a couple: hell, the Elves and Dwarves would be shocked to death at the thought! though they’re certainly Very Good Friends.) There’s a lot of male bonding in there, and it’s more than you see between the straight couples.

The main one is Frodo and Sam. Very deep devotion there, they’d unquestioningly give their lives for each other (well, taking into account Frodo’s commitment to the Ring problem), they know each other very well (while Frodo has slipped off, Sam is the only one to realise where he’s going and to catch up with him even though he’s invisible): the kind of affection you just don’t see in the straight couples in Tolkien. And if anyone put all that hand-holding and kissing into a novel today, everyone would assume they were a couple; I know, people viewed things differently in those days. (“Oh no, they’re just two sweet old maids who’ve been sharing a house together for thirty years!&#8221 [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] In a sense, I think Frodo was never going to be able to enter properly into a relationship with another person once the burden of the Ring was laid upon him; notice how he withdraws from society afterwards, while all the other hobbits are merrily getting married and having lots of kids? There are a lot of times, reading about Sam and Frodo, when I think “that’s love”. I certainly think it’s the most humanly touching part of the whole novel, the relationship between them. Look at the things Sam does for him, despite being scared and exhausted and intimidated by all the Great People making decisions over their heads. If anyone else, or at least the non-hobbits, had found themselves in the position of having to take on the Ring after Frodo’s presumed death, there’d probably have been this great hoo-hah about would they abuse the power, what could they do with it, would they be able to manage it on their own and so forth. Sam just acknowledges that he’s absolutely terrified, and after that it’s the only thing he can possibly do, and you bet he’s doing it mainly out of love for Frodo. I do like Sam.

so can we discuss that side of it now, please?

Lush – at last, someone else interested in fairy tales! have you read much about them yet? The Sleeping Beauty isn’t one I’ve read much about, but you’ve got me interested now. What do you reckon it’s all about? The action of being pricked by the spindle and bleeding would suggest loss of virginity, but I’m also thinking menarche (lots of fairy tales seem to be about women sexually coming of age, as it were: think of all the adolescent girls without mothers there to guide them!), especially considering the context of initiation by an older woman. I’ve recently come to the embarrassing realisation that I was getting this story muddled up in my head with Snow White! You can see why, the long sleep thing. What exactly happens again, doesn’t the whole castle freeze and a huge forest of thorns grow up outside, which the Prince has to battle through before waking her with a kiss? I’m not even sure where to BEGIN trying to work out the symbolism there, it sounds so resonant! high time I got myself a proper book on mythology and folk tales, instead of just reading all the retellings and originals I can get my hands on.

oh dear, I don’t know how long this will appear in the forum, but it’s pretty lengthy on Word. better finish it off here, hadn’t I!

what did you mean by "*cough* Eowyn *cough*", by the way?
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Old 12-26-2001, 05:14 PM   #13
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Eve: I read your first thread and thought that you were right - you are reading too much into nothing and it almost appears that homosexuality might be a problem for you if you find yourself looking for it constantly within books - because it obviously doesn't serve any purposes other than your own. I would have considered the topic and given a serious reply but I am not willing to read the *books* that you posted further down.

Lush - I noticed that there are some great female characters in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordon. Half of the main characters are female and they have strong roles.
 
Old 12-26-2001, 05:16 PM   #14
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Eve: I read your first thread and thought that you were right - you are reading too much into nothing and it almost appears that homosexuality might be a problem for you if you find yourself looking for it constantly within books - because it obviously doesn't serve any purposes other than your own. I would have considered the topic and given a serious reply but I am not willing to read the *books* that you posted further down.

Lush - I noticed that there are some great female characters in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordon. Half of the main characters are female and they have strong roles.
 
Old 12-26-2001, 05:16 PM   #15
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Eve: I read your first thread and thought that you were right - you are reading too much into nothing and it almost appears that homosexuality might be a problem for you if you find yourself looking for it constantly within books - because it obviously doesn't serve any purposes other than your own. I would have considered the topic and given a serious reply but I am not willing to read the *books* that you posted further down.

Lush - I noticed that there are some great female characters in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordon. Half of the main characters are female and they have strong roles.
 
Old 12-26-2001, 05:37 PM   #16
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Eye

First of all, about SLEEPING BEAUTY:
Yes, indeed, the prince does fight through a forest of thorns to get to his beloved. And he does wake her up with a kiss. We can read as much into it as we like, but the whole waking-up-with-a-kiss thing is also present with Snow White. Obviously, as far as we know, these more more than just kisses! Yikes! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
The GAY THING IN TOLKIEN: You know, a true friendship does constitute love, and it is quite possible to experience that with a person of the same gender, or of a different gender (although that's a little less common), without any sexual feeings developing. The history of male bonding within a war-like setting is quite fascinating, but I definitely do not want to think about Legolas and Gimli having the hots for each other. I would die of jealousy!
And as for WHEEL OF TIME: I definitely have to read those some day! And it's not like I like Tolkien less because women didn't have that big of a place in his world- it was just that the expansion of Arwen's character drew me into the story more while watching FotR.
Love,
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(aren't we so cultured here?)
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Old 12-26-2001, 10:16 PM   #17
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Hi Eve, yow, that gave some of my longest posts a run for their money! [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] Don't worry about nasty comments, this forum is for real discussion, not unsupported opinion. Those who don't have a meaningful contribution begin to look a little childish. When an entire argument can be boiled down to one salient point - "I don't like your discussion" - how much have you said and why are you participating? LOL.. discussions end when people stop discussing! By contrast, in a similar topic, our "Hobbitus Emeritus" disagreed with any homoerotic subtext but was polite, had quotes and appendices to back him, and offered another theory.

Because of the controversial subject I propose a rule (similar to your first post, Eve): be willing to participate and be polite, no personal comments or trash talk, join the discussion.

In other words, no posts specifically geared to end the discussion, whether through bullying, cattiness, or petty back-biting. *low growl, balrog-sized fangs bared, slightly, in warning*

As far as I'm concerned, participating in a clearly marked "gay" topic is like walking into a gay club - no matter how much you protest, just stepping in is demonstrating your prurient interest.

Your topic is a fine change from the neverending Balog-wings debate! And great fun. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

-Maril

Regarding Wheel of Time women: product of its time. There are strong female characters, but after six books both male and female characterization remains stick-like. We learned more about Frodo and Sam in two chapters than Nynaeve in six books. It's an addictive serices, though lacks the sheer power of the Lord of the Rings (what doesn't?). I grew weary of the Seanchan finally, which reminded me of an evil version of the clowns they bring in on bad Spanish talk shows. Starting to drag? Bring in the clowns again. The best book is The Dragon Reborn. Don't read the Path of Daggers, in 700 pages he doesn't tie up a single plot line.

[ December 26, 2001: Message edited by: Marileangorifurnimaluim ]
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Old 12-27-2001, 04:16 AM   #18
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Thanks sweetie, but considering most of the responses I've got I think I'll go and discuss this somewhere where people behave like adults. I can't see why I should have to spend all my time explaining things to bigots instead of discussing perfectly valid issues, and quite frankly I've been putting up with enough homophobia recently not to feel the need to bother. The academic communities I've been in aren't perfect, they have their fair share of prejudice, but nothing compared to this. If my university were like this, I wouldn't have been allowed to submit several of my essays (for example on lesbian encoding in Stein and Woolf), and I would certainly be stumped when it comes to the topics I am considering for research after this degree. Thankfully they live in this century and treat queer theory as seriously as it deserves, so that instead of having to spend half my essays explaining that yes, these writers really were queer, and no, that doesn't invalidate their work, and no, my sexual orientation is none of your business, I can actually discuss the serious issues in the texts.

Tolkien fans are obviously a pretty conservative bunch, or at least the ones here.

And yes, there's nothing like an endless discussion of balrog wings to bore me off the board! Why on earth are people so obsessed with them? Did come up with a theory or two, but still, I've never seen anything so boringly pernickety in my life. I reckon that if I actually did start a thread on concepts of femininity and fertility in LotR, I'd have almost the same trouble getting a real reply. Anyway, it's a pretty obvious subject, someone will have written on it somewhere; I'll just check the uni library when I get back home.

(Save yourself the snarky replies, dear bigots, I'm not coming back to read them.)
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Old 12-27-2001, 04:33 AM   #19
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Old 12-27-2001, 01:57 PM   #20
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Sadly, no. I suppose this traces back to the hidden meaning behind the creation of humankind. We are a species defined by our yearning to make sense of our existence, and this yearning translates into all forms of self-expression. When a writer writes a story he engages in exploration of one, or another piece of the great puzzle (unless he's doing it for the money, but let's not go there).
But why should we be ****ed off by all this? We can still enjoy good books, without giving ourselves a headache over their secret meaning! Seems simple enough, if that's the course you wish to take.
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Old 12-27-2001, 03:34 PM   #21
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No secret meaning, Lush - we're not playing records backward to hear "Paul is Dead" [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] -simply exploring implications and undertones. There's no difference between exploring the homoerotic undertones of Frodo's relationship with Sam, or the psych.-socio undertones of the inherent nature of the ring. If you can't explore them, then there's not much to be said that hasn't already been stated clearly in the books. Except to debate balrog wings (I'm pro-wing) and the direction to hang toilet paper (outward of course).

No book strikes such a true chord with readers without having a complete human resonance, even if it's not directly stated.

I think there are a one or two conservatives, who would go away in time. The rest just show their age. Too bad, Eve. I don't like bullies *slow wicked grin* and like it less when they win. For now. [img]smilies/evil.gif[/img]

-Maril

[ December 27, 2001: Message edited by: Marileangorifurnimaluim ]
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Old 12-27-2001, 05:07 PM   #22
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You know what's funny? That no matter which way you put it, whether you
believe that there was, indeed, some gay subtext regarding Frodo and Sam,
or not, one thing is clear: Frodo never returned Sam's love. What they had
can hardly be called a relationship, even less- a friendship. Sam adores
Frodo, kisses him, hugs him, etc..., but does Frodo ever do the same? No.
And I don't buy the 'it's because he's burdened with the ring' explanation.
The feeling here is not mutual, it only goes one way. I personally do
believe that Sam's adoration for his master extended to physical levels as
well, but so what? Frodo didn't give a s***. There's a controversial idea
for you, and I'm sure I'm going to be flamed for suggesting this, both by
pro-gay's and anti-gay's. Oh well.
 
Old 12-27-2001, 05:11 PM   #23
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I don't think it's we Balrog enthusiasts who have the disturbing obsession. It sounds like you ascribe sexual undertones to every story you see, hear, or read, Eve. While that may be your hobby, you can't expect everyone you meet (or even most of the people you meet) to appreciate the relevance or appropriateness of it. I read the exact same Lord of the Rings, and even with your points in mind, I still see nothing anywhere that implies any relationship beyond mere brotherly love between two characters of the same gender. Why are the male-female relationships "passionless"? Because that's inappropriate for Tolkien's story. Where does it fit in to the account of the War of the Ring?

Not only that, but the entire story was written from Frodo's point of view. Nothing was included that he didn't witness or couldn't have found out from others. Would Aragorn have gone into detail about his courtship with Arwen if Frodo had asked him about it? Hah! If Frodo had asked, would Faramir have described the passionate first kiss between he and Eowyn? Or their first night together? Maybe after gazing into Galadriel's Mirror, Frodo got the whole scoop about Celeborn's abilities as a lover?

The point is that the heterosexual relationships of the characters in the Lord of the Rings weren't necessarily bland and emotionless simply because they're not explicitly laid bare for us in the book. And even if there were relationships between the male characters, we certainly didn't read about them in the Lord of the Rings. Would Frodo have included in his book anything that would appear scandalous to those Hobbits who might read it, namely Sam's wife and children? I don't think so.

Nice try at making us all feel guilty, but your "hobby" is simply not appropriate for the Lord of the Rings. Good bye, if you choose to move along.
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Old 12-27-2001, 05:28 PM   #24
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Maril is completely correct. The purpose here is discussion; discussion of theories and viewpoints as well as "facts" (if there can be facts in a work of fiction, no matter how detailed). If you disagree with someone's view or position, feel free to say so and why. However, disagreeing with someone's views should not be mistaken for a license to criticize another person (as opposed to their position) or to disparage another poster. That is what we call "flaming" and it is not allowed on these boards. If you do not like a topic, feel free to not read it, but do not enter into a thread with a figurative knife, ready to stab with it and twist the blade. These boards go (substantially) unmoderated because the vast majority of us play by the rules and discuss only issues, not other posters.

Sam and Frodo certainly loved one another, though their love often seems almost child-like in its innocence. Tolkien experienced male cameraderie both in the military (where he lost several dear friends) and later in his literary groups, such as the Inklings. Rather stodgy actually. Leave the wives at home and meet in a room or at a pub, tilt a few pints and smoke pipes while doing readings, discussions and criticisms. His experiences were almost "institutional" in nature; a part of British culture within his social strata. His wartime experiences likely provided the basis for this aspect of Frodo and Sam's relationship. Bonding during life-threatening conditions is fierce and intense. This is portrayed in literature and in films. A man in distress or wounded is not surrounded by others who shake their heads and say "tsk, tsk, too bad". Their hands are held, their heads cradled and their brows and faces caressed. Men too tired to walk are supported by their friends. So far as the kissing of Frodo's brows, Tolkien's life experience was European in nature, he did not live in puritanical America. I doubt eyebrows would raise in response to Sam's actions.

Tolkien did, by the way, have a fierce love for his wife. The story of their courtship, best conveyed in his Letters, was deeply touching. He was deeply grieved by her later illnesses and death.

Sam and Frodo gay? I don't think so. People of the same sex can love one another without being gay. They were good friends at the outset and suffered through dire circumstances and experiences which further strengthened their bond. I am sure JRRT was aware of homosexuality, but as religious as he was (he introduced Lewis to Catholicism) I strongly doubt that he would insert homoeroticism into his writings. The sections of the books about Sam and Frodo's travels in and about Mordor drew heavily upon his experiences in World War I (as someone commented, I believe, he fought in the Battle of the Somme and was hospitalized for shell shock) and I believe the bonding between the two draws from the same source.
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Old 12-27-2001, 07:05 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally posted by obloquy:
<STRONG>

Nice try at making us all feel guilty, but your "hobby" is simply not appropriate for the Lord of the Rings. Good bye, if you choose to move along.</STRONG>
Dear, you act cold. In more ways than one. I don't believe there is anything offensive about discussions regarding sexuality in Tolkien; as long as they are conducted in a tasteful manner. No one so far has been guilty of purposefully trying to offend anyone else, least of all offend you.
I understand you are made uncomfortable by all this chatter, but we are all different people here, and we should be allowed a little license to express our thoughts. We can only debate the Balrog's wings so many times!
I hope that you will be able to approach such topics with a sense of humor, and take them with a grain of salt.
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Old 12-27-2001, 07:36 PM   #26
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It would be different if I could see any legitimate basis for the question, but I just can't. There is nothing in the text to support it. It's like putting forth the opinion that Frodo was evil from the start and only played along so he could deliver the Ring to Sauron.

Eve comes off as someone merely looking for controversy. She appears to be one of those people who likes to stir things up and then, when she's successful, storms out declaring all whose views differ to be "bigots".

Every post of hers that I saw centered around sex -- something that is strikingly absent from Tolkien's work. The fact that there is no sex in the Lord of the Rings doesn't make Tolkien, or any of his characters, sexually repressed or homosexual. It means, quite simply and plainly, that he chose not to pollute his work with what he most likely viewed inappropriate for his story.

I understand that this topic is a valid one for discussion by those who are interested in it. Maril had already brought it up and the discussion was carried out quite civilly, if I remember correctly. She seems to recognize the difference between "bigotry" and differing moral values.

Eve reminds me of those children who say swear words solely so that when someone gasps they can say, "What? It's only a word!"

[ December 27, 2001: Message edited by: obloquy ]
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Old 12-27-2001, 08:57 PM   #27
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hi, this is my first post here so hello. My opinion is that everyone should be allowed to interpret the story for themselves. If someone said, "Hobbit's are green and have little devil tails" i would agree that there is no room for discussion. However, i believe there is room for discussion about homosexual undertones in the book. Part of reading and enjoying a book is realizing it for yourself; none of us will have the same exact picture of Middle Earth in our imagination. None of us will ever know exactly what Tolkien intended as none of us ever lived inside his brain. I think there are valid arguments in either side of the coin.

I mean, would you say that it's impossible that hobbits, for lack of a better word, poop because nowhere in the book does it describe them going to the bathroom? People make their own connections from the information they are given, and even if we're all reading the same thing doesn't mean we're all going to see it the same way.

Straight, gay, bisexual, etc Tolkien fans should be able to discuss this without resorting to cutting each other down. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t have to be bashing or internalized hatred, though it sometimes can be. I hate the term “agree to disagree” because it’s brought up any time people disagree with each other, but sometimes that’s just what you have to do.
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Old 12-27-2001, 09:38 PM   #28
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My 200 cents:

Quote:
By the way, before any homophobes jump down my throat, spare me, will you?
What? You don’t want any argument, or are you being *gasp* bigoted??? Just because someone holds even a radically different opinion, that fact doesn’t make them evil, does it?

Quote:
I maintain there's more affection shown between pairs of men than there are between the straight couples who are meant to be falling in love and getting married.
Of course there is. This is written of a time when it was unheard of for women to go into battle. Have you ever been in combat? I doubt it, and neither have I, but I recognize the fact that those unfortunate enough to experience such times certainly have the right to camaraderie among those with whom they might lie dying without being assumed upon by “open-minded” people such as yourself. This brings to mind Eowyn, who is mentioned in this discussion. She loves her country so much that she is willing, even longing to die for it if need be, and what do you know?! A battle arises! She stays true to her brave spirit and fights alongside the men. Oh my, she must be a lesbian. No straight woman would love her land and her subjects that much, right? Do you think that because she is ambitious and heroic that she must be homosexual as well? Now who is being bigoted?

Side note: I am not homophobic, I think I am looking at this is a very realistic manner, and it’s all right with me if you disagree. To those of you who are somewhat less involved in this discussion, my seeming irritation is aimed not at the opinion, but the demeanor and execution of arguments of certain persons in this thread. I have no problem whatsoever with homosexuality, my problem lies with reading any sexuality into places where it does not exist.

Quote:
and for those who still think that all this discussion is dirty-minded, I have two things to say. One is if you don't want to talk about sex, don't study literature....
Perhaps you should “study literature” a lot more, and “talk about sex” a lot less. I don’t know if you are assuming with all your references that no one else has read these books, and that therefore no one else knows that three-fourths of the allusions that you make are completely unfounded and ridiculous in every way, but that’s how it certainly seems to me. Well, oops! Looky here, someone who has a more than sufficient past to know that you are wrong, and I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only one.

Quote:
Snow White isn't one I've read many traditional versions of, but last I heard Prince Charming woke her up with far more than a kiss.
This is completely absurd, so much so that I refuse to waste my efforts arguing such a twisting, and your aunt should have told you so.

Quote:
Yes, I’d agree that Tolkien’s work is fairly sexless, for whatever reason, and that as far as we know he was straight.
Tolkien was raised Catholic and was nothing less than as devout as he could be. Public acknowledgement of sexual matters is not exactly a Catholic trait. I think it is also safe to say that, his being so devoted to his religion, perhaps he believed in the Ten Commandments. What with “thou shalt not commit adultery” and the lack of legal gay marriages in those days (not to mention the fact that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible), I would find it far more plausible to make the assumption that the lack of sexuality in his books was a moral matter to him, as few of the characters are married until the end, and wouldn’t it be a bit awkward to throw in a communal orgy at the Grey Havens?

Quote:
I don’t think the genre as we think of it today actually existed before he started writing.
Actually, it did. Tolkien himself drew from such ancients as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, lots of mythology, and of course the Bible.

Quote:
They’re [the romances] all pretty colourless, wouldn’t you agree? ... Aragorn and Arwen is possibly the most bloodless romance I’ve ever seen: a couple of hints are dropped in Rivendell, then she turns up at the end and marries him, still without a hint of feeling on either side.
LotR is not about romance, it is about the forces of good and evil. Luckily for us, Tolkien was such a skillful storyteller that he could weave slight strains of romance into his works that did not overpower the central story but added to the richness of emotions. As for Aragorn and Arwen, read the Appendices. You will be surprised.

Quote:
Compare the Bennett parents with Galadriel and Celeborn
This is where I (or you?) went off the deep end. How can you possibly compare these two couples?! The fact that you even dare to compare Austen and Tolkien is rash. Galadriel shows not a shred of the farcical Mrs. Bennet, and Celeborn has what, maybe the entirety of a whole paragraph in LotR? I cannot help but be harsh here: why don’t you read the book before you use it?

Quote:
(Concerning Legolas and Gimli):(...the Elves and Dwarves would be shocked to death at the thought! though they’re certainly Very Good Friends.) There’s a lot of male bonding in there, and it’s more than you see between the straight couples.
Legolas and Gimli are both main characters. None of the female characters have the predominance on the page that the nine have. Additionally, it would be a very stiff book if the nine did not have and show close friendship and affection. The friendship of Legolas and Gimli is, at most, a racial statement.

Quote:
The main one is Frodo and Sam...I think Frodo was never going to be able to enter properly into a relationship with another person once the burden of the Ring was laid upon him...There are a lot of times, reading about Sam and Frodo, when I think “that’s love”...Sam just acknowledges that he’s absolutely terrified, and after that it’s the only thing he can possibly do, and you bet he’s doing it mainly out of love for Frodo.
This “controversy” is the biggest pile of Freudian trash that has graced the planet. I cannot help but feel that if someone must insist that Frodo and Sam (and other similar literary characters) are in a sexual relationship, that someone must not have such a friend of the same sex. Well, I do. And we don’t have sex. Or want to, even! Do not pervert the relationships of those of whom you know little about. Yes, Sam loves Frodo, and Frodo loves Sam! There is something about going through such hardships together that draws people close to one another for support (not gratification). And no, Frodo was not meant to enter into a relationship with another after experiencing the burden of the Ring. He was not infallible, and he, too, fell to its guiles and longed for it the rest of his days, leaving no room for romantic love.

I know you are “not coming back” to read this, but I have my doubts. I also couldn't keep my mouth shut when faced with such effrontery. I love literature, and I especially love Tolkien, so when people deface his immortal characters, it gets to me!

Quote:
And yes, there's nothing like an endless discussion of balrog wings to bore me off the board! Why on earth are people so obsessed with them?
Heaven forbid someone be interested in something other than sex.

[ December 27, 2001: Message edited by: onewhitetree ]
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Old 12-27-2001, 09:57 PM   #29
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Well said Kate. Couldn't have done better myself.

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Old 12-27-2001, 09:59 PM   #30
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Great post kate, instead of writing 1200+ words myself, I just simply state that I agree with everything that you have said. Whew, I just saved myself an hours worth of work!!!!

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Old 12-27-2001, 10:44 PM   #31
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Whoa! I understand the passionate feelings everyone who has been involved in discussing this subject seems to have, but let's not be cruel and gang up on each other. We're acting like children. Can we not have a conversation without animosity?
I do believe there is plenty of validity in what Kate has said; but may I disagree on one point?
You say that LotR is not about romance, it's about good vs. evil. But is love not the truest antidote to evil? On one side, the filthy orcs, the deluded Saruman, the horrible "eye", the Balrog (with wings or without-however you may like it [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] ) On the other side, love, beauty, and honor. Of course, in the book, nothing is quite as plain as that...What I am trying to say I think Tolkien did speak about love, he just did it in a different way than we are accustomed to. And discounting romantic love as "filth" is not the course I would agree on, in literature, or in life.
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Old 12-28-2001, 12:03 AM   #32
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I don't think that when someone thinks a behavior is wrong, they are "afraid" of the person participating in it. I don't believe in homosexuality, that doesn't mean that I hate those people or think they should die.
I don't wave signs saying "God hates fags"or anything.
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Old 12-28-2001, 08:18 AM   #33
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Both Eve and Lush complain of others ganging up on them, or jumping down their throat. Other than red, who appears to be a genuine homophobe, I didn't see anyone mistreating Eve. I saw a few people disagreeing with her, politely (e.g.,obloquy, not living up to his name), and many other people who simply weren't interested in Eve's premise. One of the great things about barrowdowns is that there is almost no flaming; people are generally polite, and the moderators are ALWAYS polite. (There is a balrog thread in the "New Silmarillion" topic I read, some guy posted there who was, frankly, an obnoxious, arrogant jerk, and Mithadan and Aiwendil simply ignored all of his offensive ranting and with unfailing politeness simply stuck to the topic at hand. They must have "the patience of a saint", as my mother used to say. It was actually amazing to me for an Internet discussion board.)

Anyway, I think that if people like red can't offer anything more intelligent than "homosexuality is dirty", they should clam up, but I also think that Eve should not complain if people simply disagree with her or aren't interested in her topic. In other words, no flaming, and no whining either.

That being said, I think Eve’s premise is fairly typical of literary criticism on college campuses. IMHO, lit-crit essays are like Hollywood movies – the very finest are beautiful and insightful, but the other 90% are dreary stuff. In any case, in the typical college lit-crit, the critic takes whatever agenda he or she has – Marxism, feminism, queer theory, whatever, and finds all sorts of “exciting subtexts” (as Eve puts it) in some unsuspecting author’s works. Hence you end up with “Marxist Underpinnings of Dickens’ ‘Our Mutual Friend’”, or “Inchoate Feminism in Aristophanes” etc. etc. And for anyone with moderate intelligence (and Eve seems quite intelligent), it’s very easy to play this game. If you have the correct preconceptions, you can find subtexts to fit your bias in almost every literary work, just as a conspiracy nut can twist every event to fit the conspiracy premise. No doubt some dark Freudian interpretation of Shelob’s lair, and Sam’s killing of her with his magic sword, has already been written, and is waiting out there in cyberspace somewhere. And isn’t Sharkey’s corruption of the Shire a Marxist allegory of the capitalist oppressor?
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Old 12-28-2001, 08:54 AM   #34
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With apologies to those who are trying to discuss this topic in a reasonable manner, there is way too much negative energy percolating in this thread right now. Before this degenerates into a full-blown flame-fest, I'm locking this thread for six hours so that everyone can take a deep breath and focus on the topic rather than the personalities of other posters.

It seems there are a lot of people who may be owed apologies already, so let's keep our eyes on the ball people! When I re-open this thread, if you want to debate the topic, please do so. If you want to throw darts at other posters, don't bother and please think twice. We take pride in the friendly, tolerant and welcoming nature of these forums and our willingness to discuss theories and viewpoints. Back to basics please!
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Old 12-28-2001, 02:27 PM   #35
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OK, I've opened this topic again. Please do not let this thread serve as a forum for negative comments about fellow members of this community.
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Old 12-28-2001, 03:39 PM   #36
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Mith: sorry for any antagonistic vibes in my previous post - I know they are there. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Quote:
You say that LotR is not about romance, it's about good vs. evil. But is love not the truest antidote to evil?
Yes, I would say that love is at least part of the antidote to evil, but not necessarily romantic love. Love of country, love of companions, love of life, et al. are all more than equal to romantic love, especially in Tolkien’s works.

Quote:
And discounting romantic love as "filth" is not the course I would agree on, in literature, or in life.
I agree, I think romantic love is one of the author’s most foolproof tools. However, Tolkien was a good enough storyteller not to need it as much as some others do, therefore he did not use it as much as some others. It is a mistake to read into his work what is just not there.
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Old 12-28-2001, 08:06 PM   #37
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My turn! My turn!

Quote:
Other than red, who appears to be a genuine homophobe, I didn't see anyone mistreating Eve.
Hmmm... homophobe? Now look who is calling others names. Something which I did not do if you will refer back to my post. I said Tolkien did not have a dirty mind. I nowhere said that anybody did have a dirty mind. Just like many of the above posters do to poor Prof Tolkien’s text, they have done to my post... they have found “undertones” and “subtext” that do not exist.

Quote:
Anyway, I think that if people like red can't offer anything more intelligent than "homosexuality is dirty", they should clam up...
*sighs* In other words, you are saying folk should not respond unless they agree with the original poster. I did answer the question Eve put forth. She asked if anyone espied gay subtext in LotR. I answered. Plus explained that not only did she read too much into the text, but that Tolkien, about whom we have much biographical information, would never consider advocating such a thing. So the only reason I was flamed is I do not agree with Eve. That’s ok with me, though. I did find this thread entertaining. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Back to “homophobe”. I find that term quite amusing. It is, however, not accurate in the least. Homophobe implies fear. I assure you, I do not fear the queer, quite the contrary! There is nothing frightening about them. I simply find their behaviour immensely repulsive and vile. But scary? No. I find my cat’s litter box disgusting too but no one calls me a litterphobe.

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In other words, no flaming, and no whining either.
LOL! And what exactly do you consider your post if it isn’t ‘whining’? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

Ok, I feel better now. [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]

-rêd
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Old 12-29-2001, 12:15 AM   #38
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Here is what I have to say after taking a few deep breaths.
First of all, I am not complaining about anyone "ganging up" on me personally. So far, no one has done so, and I hope no one will. But I didn't like the idea of Eve being slammed so much, so I decided to say something.
Second of all, do I personally believe that there is a homosexual romance between Sam and Frodo? No! Legolas and Gimli? No no no!
Third of all, do I believe that Eve had the right to express an opinion to the contrary? Absolutely! For human beings, thinking alike is quite damning.
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Old 12-29-2001, 12:35 AM   #39
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Tolkien would be turning in his grave [img]smilies/frown.gif[/img] How sad [img]smilies/frown.gif[/img]

[ December 29, 2001: Message edited by: Elrian ]
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Old 12-29-2001, 01:45 AM   #40
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Try the delete button Mith, Tolkien deserves the first apology. I was shocked when my kids told me about this.
 
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