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Old 02-15-2003, 11:56 AM   #1
Carlas
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Sting Are we really like that?

Sorry if something like this has started already, but I havent found yet.

In LOTR Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin the tale of the Entwives, but my dad brought up the idea that Tolkien was trying to say something about how women have to be in charge and have everything in order.

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They did not desire to speak with these things; but they wished them to hear and obey what they said to them. The Entwives ordered them to grow according to their wishes, and bear leaf and fruit to their liking; for the Entwives desired order, and plenty, and peace (by which they meant that things should remain where they had set them).
What does everyone else think?
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Old 02-15-2003, 12:16 PM   #2
The Squatter of Amon Rdh
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Sting

I think that your question ought to be "Did Tolkien think that all women were like that?": wise and learned though he was, he was not the sole authority on the human condition.

The answer to both questions is "no", although I've met many people who are, both men and women. They're extremely annoying people, with whom nobody should be forced to associate.

Tolkien demonstrates in the story of the Entwives that a relationship without give-and-take will not last, and can lead only to misery.

[ February 15, 2003: Message edited by: Squatter of Amon Rudh ]
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Old 02-15-2003, 12:25 PM   #3
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Squatter, at first I was going to consider myself corrected by your sensible post, but on second thought I tend to think that this has to do with the era in which Tolkien lived - as well as - real gender differences. Not that I am saying that ALL women are such and so, and ALL men are so and such. Rather, these are tendencies. Back to Tolkien's era and setting: it was one in which the men were the professors, smoking pipes, going for walks, drinking 'heathily', discussing 'interesting' things, while the women were at home cleaning up, talking about mundane every day things, making the home clean, orderly, and secure as they needed it. So I think the Ents versus the Entwives theme in LotR reflects more than just the Ents and the Entwives and certain tendencies in certain people.
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Old 02-15-2003, 02:58 PM   #4
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What about the other women in LOTR? Rose? Eowyn? Arwen? Ioreth? Do you think that they have to be in charge and have everything in order? I don't.
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Old 02-15-2003, 03:39 PM   #5
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Tolkien

Quote:
In LOTR Treebeard tells Merry and Pippin the tale of the Entwives, but my dad brought up the idea that Tolkien was trying to say something about how women have to be in charge and have everything in order.
and

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What about the other women in LOTR? Rose? Eowyn? Arwen? Ioreth? Do you think that they have to be in charge and have everything in order? I don't.
First of all, Entwives are a different race. They don't share all the values of humans. I believe Tolkien meant the Entwives to be like that, and to make it clear that humans don't share in the Ent's values he made them a different race.
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Old 02-15-2003, 03:45 PM   #6
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Michael Martinez wrote an interesting article comparing the Ents/Entwives and their relationship to Goldberry and Tom Bombadil. It can be read here. Fascinating thoughts!
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Old 02-15-2003, 04:01 PM   #7
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"But looking back analytically I should say that Ents are composed of philology, literature, and life. [...} And into this has crept a mere piece of experience, the difference of the 'male' and 'female' attitude to wild things, the difference between unpossessive love and gardening." (Letter 163)
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Old 02-16-2003, 03:53 AM   #8
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Carlas, you might be interested in this unofficial poll on men and women in relation to Ents and Entwives.

I believe from what I have read in Letters of Tolkien, that JRRT was showing what he thought were differences in relation to how the genders viewed the natural world. Not saying that women in general were bossy - perhaps your dad could look for that kind of thing in another book, maybe Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

The posts on the link above were quite interesting, and showed that a) people don't mind contradicting themselves so long as it suits their ego, and b) that the idea that Men Are From Fangorn, Women Are From the Brown Lands, doesn't hold up either in Middle-Earth or in our own world.
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Old 02-16-2003, 04:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Back to Tolkien's era and setting: it was one in which the men were the professors, smoking pipes, going for walks, drinking 'heathily', discussing 'interesting' things, while the women were at home cleaning up, talking about mundane every day things, making the home clean, orderly, and secure as they needed it.
I can see what you mean, littlemanpoet, but I tend to shy away from these historical generalisations. Tolkien's life and work spanned a very turbulent and rapidly-changing period in history, in which gender roles were just one aspect of society that saw drastic change. When he was born women didn't even have the vote in Britain, yet by the time he died the government was introducing legislation to crack down on gender discrimination in the workplace.

Now, it was my privilege whilst at university to know a man who was studying for his second degree, having found himself at a loose end after retiring from the Civil Service. He began his career in the late 1950s and worked under the formidable personage of the first woman to pass the Civil Service fast-track examination. As I mentioned in another thread last year Oxford was awarding degrees to women long before they were allowed to vote in British elections, and no sooner were women admitted to the bar than there were a number of successful applications.

The upshot of this is that it is difficult to make any sort of judgement at the social pressure of society. Even if we were to accept that women's place in the 1950s was in the home (a roughly accurate view, although by no means entirely representative), I have never believed that one's personality is so thoroughly moulded by society as to allow social status to dictate whether or not one is a gardener or a lover of wild things, or even a mixture of both.

As for the rather broader canvas of this thread's subject, albeit that Shark's quotation from the Letters does tie us down to horticulture alone, some people simply cannot function without being in total control of their environment. We all know that this is a futile ambition, but nonetheless it is one held by many. I maintain that this is not a gender issue.
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Old 02-16-2003, 05:50 AM   #10
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The article by Michael Martinez was most enjoyable and informative, Estelyn. To summarize, Tom and Goldberry represent marriage as Tolkien thought it should be with both partners creating and giving space for each other, completely devoted to each other, and submitting to each other, whereas the Ents and Entwives represent marriage that is doomed, having little or none of the characteristics embodied in Tom and Goldberry. There is far more to the article, and it brought me to tears - re-experiencing those scenes from LotR - so I encourage all of you to read it, too.

Sharku's quote from the letters seems to back me up in terms of gender tendencies in general, and Tolkien's experience of Oxford life specifically. Whereas you, Squatter, are clearly more informed about British culture than I, it seems to me that whereas the possibilities for change that you convey hold true, nevertheless the world Tolkien lived in - during the 30s and 40s epecially when he wrote LotR - was as I have described. Please understand, my friend, that I do not argue for a totality but in terms of tendency, both in general and specifically. And I hope this post isn't too complex and confusing.
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Old 02-16-2003, 06:35 AM   #11
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It's good to be back in a discussion with you, littlemanpoet. As always you make some good points.

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nevertheless the world Tolkien lived in - during the 30s and 40s epecially when he wrote LotR - was as I have described
Ironically, this earlier period, encompassing as it did the Second World War, saw huge numbers of women entering work for the first time: They worked in munitions factories, hospitals, the auxiliary military services and on the land, and an attempt to force them back into the home when the men returned was not popular.

If anything the 1950s were less equal, not more, although I concede that Tolkien's view on this subject was not mine, at least insofar as his definition of the character traits of men and women is concerned. It could equally be argued that men will always seek to control and dominate nature, whereas women are nurturers; but these views are only half-truths. In fact people are individuals, and the broad generalisations invariably fall down when applied to specifics, perhaps excepting Tolkien's own marriage. Neither knowing nor particularly wanting to know about Tolkien's private experiences with his wife, which I have no doubt he would not have liked to see published, I cannot comment any further.
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Old 02-16-2003, 03:40 PM   #12
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littleman, I know you too well by now to seriously accuse you of being obtuse, but I don't think that your interpretation of Tolkien's time is really in sync with the conflict between the Ents and the Entwives. Furthermore, I think the said interpretation isn't worded too well. I could hardly call you sexist, but the quotation I provide below just rubs me the wrong way.

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Back to Tolkien's era and setting: it was one in which the men were the professors, smoking pipes, going for walks, drinking 'heathily', discussing 'interesting' things, while the women were at home cleaning up, talking about mundane every day things, making the home clean, orderly, and secure as they needed it.
Fist of all, women drank back then, of that I have little doubt. In fact, judging from the books I've read on the subject, it seems that women drank more in Tolkien's heyday, than they do today, which doesn't surprise me.

Furthermore, I have serious issue with the statement that housewives of those days held conversations on "mundane every day things." I am willing to bet that some of those scholarly chaps from Oxford were themselves mundane when compared to some witty young thing that ironed their shirt and whatnot. Just because someone is a housewife doesn't mean that she isn't an interesting human being with her own unique perspective on the world. My grandmamn stayed at home to raise four daughters (nevermind that Stalin's need for a workforce gave women ample career opportunities in the USSR), and never had a career, but I have yet to find a better conversationalist and a more passionate connossieur of poetry, and I go to Duke, for crissakes.

Going back to the Entwives; I, myself, doubt that they were some sort of negative commentary on gender per se, rather a commentary on how some relationships, or certain aspects of said relationships, just "don't work out" While I agree with Squatter that Tolkien's experiences in his marriage are mostly none of our business, I would guess that Sharkey's quote is related to them, and it strikes me as both resigned and good-humoured.
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Old 02-16-2003, 04:55 PM   #13
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The first thing I thought of after that description of the Entwives was its relation with "Beowulf." Within that story, as well as a great deal of the others that were created around that time, women are illustrated as the peacekeepers of society. The Queen Wealhtheow makes a toast of peace and order to the men of battle (ll.1167-1186). She also gives gifts to pacify and instill trust (ll.1191-1214). I took the example of the Entwives behaviour to mirror the position the queens take in stories such as the "Beowulf" poem, knowing Tolkien's connection to it.
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Old 02-16-2003, 09:04 PM   #14
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Hi Lush. Heh. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] The quote you highlight is me purposely writing from the point of view OF those men at that time. Sorry for not making that clear. I write a lot of fiction and I guess I can fall into the habit of entering the personae of the characters I describe. A helpful trait, but clarity would have helped more this time. Your points are well taken and yes, I'm not that sexist (never tell someone you're not sexist or racist - they'll always be able to reveal the opposite in you in some way); at least, not on purpose. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img] As to obtuse, well, I consider that to be a positive character trait. Don't you think? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] By the way, I've scanned your Lush-ious topic about Luthien, and enjoyed, but having nothing to add, I haven't.
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