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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
tolkien's linking of physical beauty with merit
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Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Mar 22 2013, 12:26am

Post #26 of 37 (354 views)
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oh, carp -- [In reply to] Can't Post

  
this was an intriguing thought as well (telain's)...


Quote
or is it merit, then beauty?


... there are so many posts i want to respond to, but i fear to overload the thread.

i wish we all were in a room or a cafe together, having a chat.

better yet, at the green dragon. i would buy the first round.


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel


Brethil
Half-elven


Mar 22 2013, 1:45am

Post #27 of 37 (343 views)
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***Bows!**** [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
x-post! you owe me an ale at the green dragon!

cheers : )
.



Indeed! And gladly! Smile
Thanks for the thread, BTW, a fascinating discussion!

Hell hath no fury like a Dragon who is missing a cup.


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Mar 22 2013, 4:08am

Post #28 of 37 (382 views)
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Good point Elizabeth [In reply to] Can't Post

I always thought fair = fine featured, handsome or pretty.

According to Tolkien Gateway, the Vanyar are sometimes called "the Fair-elves," after the colour of their hair (golden). But that's different than saying "elves tend to be fair," which is not true if the term only refers to hair colour.

Also while over at Tolkien Gateway I came across a character named Tal-Elmar: "Unlike his brothers and the rest of his town, he was tall and slender, fair skinned and had light hair." I don't know if those are Tolkien's own words, but if they are, it seems when fair refers to skin colour, it is rendered "fair skinned." It does seem that it is assumed that the peoples of Middle-earth are white (though not all are called fair) unless otherwise described as "swarthy," "dark-skinned," or "brown-skinned."


ElendilTheShort
Gondor


Mar 22 2013, 11:41am

Post #29 of 37 (322 views)
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Phantom S [In reply to] Can't Post

Elendil was the Tall as he was tallest of the exiles being taller than man high (6'4") by almost half a rangar (19 inches) so he was about 7'9". The greatest warrior of men, Hurin, was short. Gandalf was short, being little more than 5'6" and stooped.


dik-dik
Lorien


Mar 22 2013, 11:41am

Post #30 of 37 (353 views)
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Re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
i am still mightily intrigued with the idea that being farther away from valinor/grace means a physical diminishing. that would seem to explain a lot in tolkien's world. he does mention that, over time, hobbits become shorter and elves "diminish" ('tho he's not explicit with what "diminished" means).

just to note: if we accept that, we'd also have to take a second look at the height/beauty thing at the beginnings of all the races and individuals... if estrangement from grace means physical diminishment, is someone who is less tall or physically beautiful farther from grace (at least to start), in tolkien's world? or would this apply to some races, but not all?


What exactly do you mean by 'grace'? The power of the Valar or the Blessed Realm?

I must say I never quite considered height with regards to distance from Valinor, for me it was always a temporal thing (e.g. the hobbit and human heights that you mention, and the diminishing and fading away of not only Elves, but also the Ainur themselves, as the lifespan of Arda passes.)

@is someone who is less tall or physically beautiful farther from grace (at least to start), in tolkien's world?

Whatever you mean by grace, I'd argue against this - there are some rather tall servants of the enemy (the nazgul as humans, olog-hai, Haradrim...), and then we have Gandalf and the apparently rather short Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, who seem to be among the most powerful and noble beings in Middle-earth in the Third Age. While I agree that most of the admirable characters in Tolkien's universe are tall, Tolkien seems to deliberately include exceptions to avoid this becoming a stereotype. That at least is my perception.

"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


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Mar 23 2013, 4:01am

Post #31 of 37 (310 views)
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grace [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote

In Reply To
i am still mightily intrigued with the idea that being farther away from valinor/grace means a physical diminishing. that would seem to explain a lot in tolkien's world. he does mention that, over time, hobbits become shorter and elves "diminish" ('tho he's not explicit with what "diminished" means).

just to note: if we accept that, we'd also have to take a second look at the height/beauty thing at the beginnings of all the races and individuals... if estrangement from grace means physical diminishment, is someone who is less tall or physically beautiful farther from grace (at least to start), in tolkien's world? or would this apply to some races, but not all?


What exactly do you mean by 'grace'? The power of the Valar or the Blessed Realm?

I must say I never quite considered height with regards to distance from Valinor, for me it was always a temporal thing (e.g. the hobbit and human heights that you mention, and the diminishing and fading away of not only Elves, but also the Ainur themselves, as the lifespan of Arda passes.)

@is someone who is less tall or physically beautiful farther from grace (at least to start), in tolkien's world?

Whatever you mean by grace, I'd argue against this - there are some rather tall servants of the enemy (the nazgul as humans, olog-hai, Haradrim...), and then we have Gandalf and the apparently rather short Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, who seem to be among the most powerful and noble beings in Middle-earth in the Third Age. While I agree that most of the admirable characters in Tolkien's universe are tall, Tolkien seems to deliberately include exceptions to avoid this becoming a stereotype. That at least is my perception.


dik-dik, thanks for the tough question. : ) am ruminating even as i'm composing my reply.

i am definitely not thinking of "grace" as "power of the valar." but, yes, something to do with the blessed realm, or (rather more) something to do with what the valar are ambassadors and stewards +for+ .

what i'm thinking of as "grace," in the context of middle-earth, is a sort of internal peace and wisdom and goodness. being less distracted and ruled by ego-centric compulsions and a static state of self-interest, and more awareness of the value of others, and keeping an spiritual ear out for the messages and guidance of the valar and maiar (the ones faithful to eru). (wow, that was a long, long sentence.)

being in alignment, and working to be in alignment, with eru's designs. (a much shorter one.)

when contemplating my answer to your question, i kept drifting to my own personal definition of grace, as it pertains to our world. it was challenging to stay on target.

i have a return-question for you: i'm not quite understanding what you mean by height being a "temporal" thing. can you clarify?

regarding grace and height, i'm not a proponent of this theory at this point, but i am interested in exploring it, since idrilofgondolin (upthread) mentioned this idea.

i think it doesn't really apply to the servants of sauron or morgoth, as these servants are forms corrupted by them. but bringing them into the mix opens up a delightul/confusticating can of worms, since tolkien never fully settled the question re some of their key aspects. orcs, for example. are they really tortured, genetically manipulated elves? if so, would they not possess their own spirits, 'tho bent to evil purposes? or, are they just flesh-houses for morgoth's and sauron's wills? if the latter, how could they survive the "deaths" of their masters/controllers? i don't have an answer, but i do have the sense that we'll have some lively discussion from our folk here.

re the nazgul, that's a clearer one. these individuals did not begin as servants of sauron. they began as the edain. if the "grace" theory is true, they could have begun life in grace, only to fall, but retaining their physical stature, as a sort of echo of the blessings they once may have had. if the grace theory isn't true, then it doesn't matter.

also, does this grace theory apply only to the humanoids of middle-earth (elves, edain, hobbits, dwarves), or to additional races (if so, the ents would be closer to grace than even the elves)?

tolkien seems to have some themes around height and beauty that i and others see as a particular pattern (and others don't). but he also throws in regular exceptions (one of tolkien's letters had him list gandalf at a slightly bent 5'6", i believe). so, perhaps not a "rule," but a "general pattern, with exceptions."


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel

(This post was edited by Maciliel on Mar 23 2013, 4:10am)


noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 30 2013, 5:13pm

Post #32 of 37 (248 views)
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Associating physical attractiveness with virtue- widespread human error [In reply to] Can't Post

I think that Associating physical attractiveness with virtue goes way beyond Tolkien - think of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella (c.f. The beautiful heroine). Or the statistic that the taller candidate tends to win US Presidential elections. Or this article - http://www.economist.com/node/21551535?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/pe/pp/beautiful from the Economist newspaper about the effects of physical appearance on career.

So as a writer, you either swim with this tide, or consciously go against it. As an example of swimming against, I'm thinking of a scene in Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back- sent to locate the famed warrior Yoda, our hero can't reconcile the small green wrinkled creature he meets with the impressive physical specimen he'd imagined.

I too had always assumed "fair" was meant as the opposite to "foul", not the opposite to "dark".( Oh, we have a whole new area just there - dark to suggest evil, as in Dark Lord).

I think (but I might be wrong) that Tolkien doesn't describe physical appearances all that thoroughly. So it could be that if Peter Jackson had decided to cast Jackie Chan as Frodo, Lucy Lui as Arwen and Will Smith as Gandalf (say), there's nothing in the writings to say that's wrong.

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 6:38pm

Post #33 of 37 (234 views)
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Description of Frodo: Tall and fair: sound familiar? [In reply to] Can't Post

It seems to me that Tolkien usually gives a more general physical description instead of a detailed one, followed by demeanor and clothing. A typical one would be to say the guards at Minas Tirith are tall, grim-faced, and wear sable armor. Or Galadriel is "a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad."

The most detail I can think of comes from Gandalf's description of Frodo to Butterbur, and that skips over features such as "high cheekbones, aquiline nose, almond eyes."

Quote

A stout little fellow with red cheeks...it goes for most hobbits. But this one is taller than some and fairer than most, and he has a cleft in his chin: perky chap with a bright eye.



noWizardme
Tol Eressea


Mar 30 2013, 6:41pm

Post #34 of 37 (226 views)
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So we can have Grace Jones guarding the citadel, then? :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....
Feel free to meddle in the affairs of noWizardMe by agreeing or disagreeing (politely...) with my posts! I may not be subtle, but at least I'm usually slow to anger...


CuriousG
Valinor


Mar 30 2013, 6:43pm

Post #35 of 37 (233 views)
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She's pretty darn intimidating. Which explains why the Nazgul wouldn't land there.// [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Brennil Caladiel
The Shire


Apr 30 2013, 2:00am

Post #36 of 37 (201 views)
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beauty is subjective... [In reply to] Can't Post

and therefore we don't know exactly what Tolkien's vision of beauty was. Someone who is heavily built and maybe not as "attractive" in some people's opinions can still be called beautiful; it depends on how you look at a person. For me, I was never really bothered by any sort of political correctness or lack of-how a character looks doesn't really matter to me.


Maciliel
Tol Eressea


Apr 30 2013, 2:23am

Post #37 of 37 (235 views)
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agreed that beauty is subjective [In reply to] Can't Post

 
absolutely agreed that beauty is subjective.

which is why it's bothersome to me that beauty, in tolkien's world, is framed in a certain way that i assess as limiting. but it's his universe, his writing, and he gets to say what's valued in that world.

to your comment re attractiveness also being found in persons with heavier builds... tolkien's elves, as a race, were said to possess the most beauty of all the children of iluvatar, and were, as a race, tall and slenderly built. by having this as a part of the beauty of the elves, which is in greater part than any other race, he's saying a slender build is more beautiful than a plumper one, or a rounder one, or a stockier one, or a heavier one.

what do you mean by political correctness, btw?

also, welcome to the reading room, brennil caladiel... mae govannen. : )


cheers --

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel

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