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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
blue wizards -- female?

Maciliel
Tol Eressea

Mar 5 2013, 3:19am

Post #1 of 13 (1039 views)
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blue wizards -- female? Can't Post

does it explicitly say anywhere that all five istari were male? the sources do state that, of the three described, they went in the form of elderly men. but the two blue wizards were never really described.

room to ponder the possibility that the two istari that came from orome's service were female?


squire
Valinor


Mar 5 2013, 4:43am

Post #2 of 13 (721 views)
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Not hardly, I should say [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure what you mean by "the sources" in this matter. Unfinished Tales has a long essay on the Istari, and additional commentary by Christopher Tolkien. On the first page of the essay we read:
[The Istari] first appeared in Middle-earth about the year 1000 of the Third Age, but for long they went about in simple guise, as it were of Men already old in years but hale in body, travellers and wanderers, gaining knowledge of Middle-earth and all that dwelt therein, but revealing to none their powers and purposes. (JRRT & CT, Unfinished Tales, p. 388)
There is no restriction here to just the well-known three who play a part in The Lord of the Rings. In fact, the essay suggests that there were more than five wizards, but that only five were active in the northwest of Middle-earth! In any case, this opening is meant to describe all the Istari, however many there were, and that they were male seems indisputable. Above and beyond the text, in any case, I would say such a thing would be entirely outside of Tolkien's imagination. When he introduces females into his stories, he makes it darned clear that they are females. If there is any place in literature where the default sex is male, it's in Tolkien's books.

I admit I'm surprised by the question, although I suppose I shouldn't be after reading extensive speculation that some of the Dwarves in Bilbo's adventure were possibly female!



squire online:
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Maciliel
Tol Eressea

Mar 5 2013, 11:48am

Post #3 of 13 (673 views)
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but note the use of "Men" (vs. "men") [In reply to] Can't Post

tolkien uses "Men" (uppercase) when he refers to the race of humans/mortals, as he does here, when describing the istari. which is inclusive of females.

while i agree that tolkien, while much more enlightened than most of his contemporaries as regards females, still limited the frequency of their (explicitly mentioned) prominence in middle earth stories, he did see female maiar as generally equal in power to male maiar. also, tolkien has created a world that has a life of its own. some of his thinking about his own creations is conflicted or incomplete (the origins of orcs is a great example).

he definitely provides explicit examples of many, powerful female maiar (melian, arien, uinen, and ilmare, who was one of the chiefs of the maiar), he does not name all the female maiar. they undoubtedly had rich histories of events and power -- because, by definition, they were maiar, regardless of gender.

in the constructs of what he offered us in his writings (sweeping, detailed, but often incomplete and conflicting) i think there is ample room to think of female wizards, and to think of the blue wizards in particular as female.

i understand that this line of thinking may be quite contentious, but i see ample room for plausibility, within the constructs of the world that tolkien has made.


Elthir
Gondor

Mar 5 2013, 1:15pm

Post #4 of 13 (650 views)
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old men and sages [In reply to] Can't Post

In letter 131 Tolkien noted about the Wizards...

'They appear always as old men and sages, and though (sent by the powers of the True West) in the world they suffer themselves, their age and grey hairs increase only slowly.'

JRRT, footnote to the letter to Milton Waldman (probably written late 1951)


squire
Valinor


Mar 6 2013, 7:01am

Post #5 of 13 (601 views)
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It's ultimately a personal decision [In reply to] Can't Post

Since you obviously realize that Tolkien himself would be highly unlikely to agree (to phrase it generously - I would say he would be adamantly, even angrily, opposed) to an interpretation of the Blue Wizards as female, I am curious why you are so anxious to leave the possibility open?

I also, to return to an older subject, am continually amazed at the fascination the Blue Wizards seem to hold for many fans. When I was asked to write the article on "The East" for the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, part of the assignment was explicitly to include a discussion of the Blue Wizards. Since they are at best a marginal feature of the role the "East" plays in Tolkien's geopolitical imagination, I ignored the editors' request in order to stay within the word count. Why? I thought. Why the Blue Wizards?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd (and NOW the 4th too!) TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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FarFromHome
Valinor


Mar 6 2013, 12:55pm

Post #6 of 13 (602 views)
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The word 'wizard' itself [In reply to] Can't Post

is gendered, though, isn't it? It really only refers to males. There are words for a female with 'wizardly' attributes - wise woman, sorceress, witch. But 'wizard' implies male. In the traditional language to which a word like 'wizard' belongs, the concept of 'gender-free' terms for occupations didn't really exist!

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled,
the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Elthir
Gondor

Mar 6 2013, 2:55pm

Post #7 of 13 (578 views)
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My vote is for... [In reply to] Can't Post

... male and seemingly not blue Smile

Tolkien says that he doubts these wizards had distinctive colours, in a letter written after the Istari essay in which we find 'sea blue' and so on (Ithryn Luin) -- and I don't think he again refers to them as blue after that. Corrections welcome on that point however.




Quote
Question 3. I have not named the colours, because I do not know them. I doubt if they had distinctive colours. Distinction was only required in the case of the three who remained in the relatively small area of the North-west. I really do not know anything clearly about the other two – since they do not concern the history of the N.W. I think...'



JRRT, letter 211, 1958


Finwe
Lorien


Mar 6 2013, 4:47pm

Post #8 of 13 (561 views)
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More to the Imagination [In reply to] Can't Post

I think the high level of interest in the Blue Wizards is primarily due to the lack of information that we're given by Tolkien. Most other things within Tolkien's universe are wrapped up with a neat little bow, so when Tolkien left little or conflicting information it's hard not to let the imagination wander. Bombadil's race and balrog wings are similar examples. They're mysteries, and human nature doesn't like unsolved mysteries. Unless you're Robert Stack. Wink

As three great Jewels they were in form. But not until the End, when Fëanor shall return who perished ere the Sun was made, and sits now in the Halls of Awaiting and comes no more among his kin; not until the Sun passes and the Moon falls, shall it be known of what substance they were made. Like the crystal of diamonds it appeared, and yet was more strong than adamant, so that no violence could mar it or break it within the Kingdom of Arda.


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 6 2013, 5:59pm

Post #9 of 13 (559 views)
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Imagination and centrality [In reply to] Can't Post

In addition to all that Finwe said, I'd add that Gandalf is a central character to the trilogy and he remains deliberately mysterious in some ways, so readers always want to know more about his background, including his race. We get to read a fair amount about Saruman and only a little teaser about Radagast, yet they are both distinctly different from Gandalf, which leaves one wondering what was special about the blue guys, and what was common to all wizards. There were only five of them total, so you feel like you can track them all down like each of the Rings of Power. You also try to fill in other blanks: Gandalf remained committed to his mission, Saruman betrayed it, and Radagast appeared to abandon it, so what moral stand did the blue guys take? Gandalf and Saruman both significantly shaped events in the war against Sauron, whereas Radagast did nothing we know of, so were the Blues big event shapers or do-nothings? We don't get any answers, but the way the other wizards are set up, the Blues beg some questions.


dik-dik
Lorien


Mar 6 2013, 10:30pm

Post #10 of 13 (552 views)
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quotes about old men etc. aside... [In reply to] Can't Post

... Their very names have masculine forms, unless I'm very much mistaken. No female name in Tolkien's legendarium ends in '-o', as Pallando's does, and 'Alatar' also sounds highly un-feminine. So unless they changed gender during the passage to Middle-earth... ;)

"A journalist once asked me what I would like my epitaph to be and I said I think I would like it to be 'He did very little harm'. And that's not easy. Most people seem to me to do a great deal of harm. If I could be remembered as having done very little, that would suit me." ~ Paul Eddington


Elthir
Gondor

Mar 7 2013, 2:51pm

Post #11 of 13 (552 views)
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gender in names [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure the ending -r is certainly masculine, but if so a case could be made for ista- 'know' istar 'wizard (*masculine)'. And as far as I'm aware, Tolkien never explains Alatar [the later names Morinehtar and Romestamo are at least explained as to meaning: 'Darkness-slayer' and 'East-helper' if I recall correctly].

I think Alatar could possibly contain 'lord' [as in 'Lord of light' perhaps] as in Annatar 'Gift-lord', or we might have nalata + r [person having to do with light, or more specifically radiance, considering *ñalatâ 'radiance, glittering reflection', referring to the glittering from water, jewels, glass or polished metals. If Quenya however, for this we would have to have maintain the longer form, considering Quenya ñalta, so I think this derivation is less likely].

I have even seen 'Great Dawn' theoried on the interwebs, employing ÁLAT- large, great in size, Q alta, alat- and for the second element, AR¹- day, Q ara dawn [Etymologies]. I would go with 'Lord of Light' myself, but who knows.

Certainly Galadriel's name is feminine with Altariel, Alatáriel, but can we close the book definitively on Alatar or Morinehtar being masculine in form? There seems to be a theory that perhaps we could have *ontar 'parent' but ontaro (m.) ontare (f.) 'parent'.


(This post was edited by Elthir on Mar 7 2013, 3:00pm)


Maciliel
Tol Eressea

Mar 11 2013, 11:47am

Post #12 of 13 (504 views)
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you put words in my mouth that are not mine [In reply to] Can't Post

 
respectfully, you assign emotions to me that i have not expressed.

i am not "anxious" to leave the possibility open.

i saw it as a legitimate question, based on what i knew of tolkein's writings.

additionally, in some places, it seems that christopher tolkien has minimized or expunged some female history and roles in middle earth (for whatever reason; at the moment, i'm thinking of his alterations around the character of nernandel, feanor's wife, which i just read about yesterday). there is ample room to wonder about so much, given the breadth of the writings, the revisions, and the posthumous editing.

and, to your other comment, re the fascination the blue wizards have for many, i do not think this is so surprising, given the key roles that saruman and gandalf played. there were five mentioned and we only got details on three. i think there's also similar, strong curiosity around other missing bits, like the northern kingdoms, who the nazgul were before they were consumed, etc. it's a rich world, that seems so real at times. people just wish to know more.

myself, i'm certainly curious about the missing bits. and it's not just about data. it would have been lovely if some of the histories had had the same sort of narrative style as the lord of the rings. we would have gotten to see more personalities, which is what is so wonderful about lotr. i love the silmarillion, but the style in which it was told distances. i would love to see/feel some of those stories up close, like with the fellowship and related crew.


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Mar 18 2013, 10:54am

Post #13 of 13 (502 views)
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By omitting details of the other two wizards [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien creates a larger world. If we knew everything about all characters then there are less questions remaining. By having these characters referenced but not fleshed out is another masterful stroke. If every character is fully realised and linked to the whole story then it becomes unrealistic. They were probably never fleshed out because there was no need to do so. Authenticity would be lost if they happened to be two more named Maia that also appear in other work.

 
 

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