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Old 07-25-2021, 01:49 PM   #21
Legate of Amon Lanc
A Voice That Gainsayeth
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Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
I wonder if you are objecting to patriarchal characters in a patriarchal society written by an author with an essentially patriarchal world view? I could imagine similar objections leveled against 'The Arabian Nights,' along the lines of 'how dare that king keep a harem, one wife ought to do for him.'
Well, I guess you can put it that way, but I do not recall having problems like that with any other Tolkien's stories. That is why it struck me as particularly unusual with the Smith.

I also agree with what you said about Alf, indeed he's a king and an "alien" one at that; maybe that covers it (but for example the king in Farmer Giles is put under quite heavy and obvious scrutiny by the author; yet nothing like that happens to Alf. Is it that Tolkien did not consider it his place to argue against the King of Faery?).

But my main beef is with the Smith himself and I would have expected Tolkien to show perhaps a little more, hmmm, empathy, in the sense that: it is awfully unempathetic of the Smith to just go adventuring and leave the family behind.

Originally Posted by Formendacil View Post
*Actually, given the autobiographical elements of Smith is it perhaps a wistful comment on Tolkien's own children that none of them--including Christopher--have received the Star?
...unless this. I guess the only way out is if we say that the Smith is autobiographic through and through, and that the Smith goes alone simply because Tolkien did. (That however then DOES make the Smith a 100% allegory - say goodbye to your principles, Mr. Tolkien!) So the Smith's treks to Faery that he makes alone are the direct allegory of Tolkien's own treks to Middle-Earth that his wife did not take part in. (But how about the kids? Or is the final discussion of the Smith with his son a sort of explanation of that? The son however still seems to remain a bit "out"; he does not seem particularly knowledgeable of where exactly his father had been going or particularly enthusiastic.)

And anyway, this does not "exonerate" the Smith, it only makes Tolkien himself look worse, if we apply the Smith's tale and what I consider his shortcomings to Tolkien himself.

But yes. Perhaps it is, like you said, LMP, the sort of patriarchal head of the family who is the free man to go and enjoy his hobbies as long as his wife is waiting at home with the meal. I am only disappointed in that case because I sort of expected more.

This is actually related to another thing I would like to mention, but perhaps I'll do it a bit later since we seem to be having a good conversation going on here as it is...

Also looking forward to the continuation of Bethberry's post, because I very much like (and second) the questions and ideas posed there...

Oh, and I still wanted to comment on this:

Originally Posted by littlemanpoet View Post
As for Nokes, he is described as qualitatively different from the other villagers. They are guilty of overlooking Alf as the duly appointed next Master Cook. Nokes is guilty of something other: vanity. Thinking more of himself than is his due. And thinking less of Alf than is Alf's right. So I find it interesting Tolkien speaks of the villagers' wrongfulness matter of factly, in a sense of 'these kinds of things happen all the time and people are just like that.' Whereas with Nokes, Tolkien takes time to especially condemn the man's presumptuous vanity. What does Tolkien, I wonder, find particularly despicable about this kind of vanity as compared to the villagers' presumptuous inconsideration?
I did not mention it but I also very much empathise with the feeling you reflected in one of your earlier posts; that of it being "unfair" of Prentice being skipped over and disregarded by the village and all that. It is in fact so much obviously unfair to me that I considered it unnecessary to mention it. But I very much agree.

I personally always read it the way that the satisfaction eventually demonstrated on the character of Nokes is sort of substitutionary for the whole nameless mob of villagers who had been ignoring Alf. They were doing so possibly to a lesser degree than Nokes himself - I'd say rather passively by letting Nokes hog the spotlight than actively; although not that it is objectively any better, maybe even worse. Or who is worse, the actively bad people, or the people who see them and do nothing...
"Should the story say 'he ate bread,' the dramatic producer can only show 'a piece of bread' according to his taste or fancy, but the hearer of the story will think of bread in general and picture it in some form of his own." -On Fairy-Stories
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