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**The Choices of Master Samwise** 2. “Fear her no longer, the fay-woman! Fell fate take her!”
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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 6:57am

Post #1 of 27 (3106 views)
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**The Choices of Master Samwise** 2. “Fear her no longer, the fay-woman! Fell fate take her!” Can't Post


Quote
This discussion would, of course, lead us, if we pursued it, to the nature of language itself and hence to the mysteries of human psychology and what we mean when we talk about such things as "reason," "emotion," "sensation" and "imagination." And this must be left to the philosophers, who are largely in the dark about it themselves. But it is well to remember the mysteriousness of the states with which we respond to the stimulus of works of literature and the primarily suggestive character of the language in which these works are written, on any occasion when we may be tempted to characterize as "nonsense," "balderdash" or "gibberish" some new and outlandish-looking piece of writing to which we do not happen to respond. If other persons say they do respond, and derive from doing so pleasure or profit, we must take them at their word.


If you'd prefer not to bear with me as I ramble a bit, or more than a bit, just skip down to very near the end, with the paragraph that starts "Late in 1966", and you'll soon find some questions to tackle. I had an idea for this post, but digressions kept arising as I developed it, and I've not been able to focus enough to cut it down properly.

If you've read Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth (1982), you may recognize the passage above, a 1931 defense of the "widely ridiculed and seldom enjoyed" writings of Gertrude Stein, and an argument that Shippey turned around to undercut its author's 1956 attack on Tolkien's work.

In last week's chapter discussion, NoWizardMe helpfully reminded us that there is a sexualized interpretation of the encounter with Shelob that was most infamously put forth in Brenda Partridge's "No Sex Please, We're Hobbits: The Construction of Female Sexuality in The Lord of the Rings", a chapter in the 1983 collection J.R.R. Tolkien: This Far Land, edited by Robert Giddings. For more on that interpretation, by all means do follow the links in NoWiz's post, particularly that to the off-forum discussion circa 2005 by several (pseudonymized) TORN participants.

Instead of delving far into that subject in this family-friendly situation, I pause mainly to note that such unexpected sexual and gender interpretations, ridiculous as they may seem in instances like this, are actually commonplaces of serious artistic criticism, and have been for some time, as Tolkien himself would have known. I was reminded of this lately while perusing some film reviews by two of my favorite critics that had appeared just a few years before Partridge's essay. Both were published in popular rather than scholarly publications.

The late Stanley Kauffmann, in a June 18, 1977 review titled "Innocences", which I have in his 1980 collection, Before My Eyes, wrote of Star Wars:


Quote
But I saw at last—after about, say, twenty minutes—that Star Wars wasn't meant to be ingenious in any way; it was meant to be exactly what it is. From Lucas's view, It certainly has not failed. I kept looking for an 'edge,' to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. The picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world's affairs or—in any complex way—sex intruded. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and their peers guard the portals of American innocence, and Star Wars is an unabashed, jaw-clenched tribute to the chastity still sacred beneath the middle-aged spread.


As I noted when quoting part of Kauffmann's review in a post on original reactions to Star Wars a couple months ago, there are echoes here of Edmund Wilson's notorious review of The Lord of the Rings—and Wilson is the writer quoted above who, as Shippey notes, dismissed LOTR as "balderdash". Both critics incline to realism in preference to other modes. In the course of seeking an online text of Axel’s Castle, in which Wilson's comments on Stein and other difficult Modernist writers (including Joyce—and we know that Tolkien at some time at least browsed Joyce's Finnegan's Wake) had appeared, I came upon this essay that traces various periods in Wilson's writing, and was struck by how the Great Depression changed Wilson's outlook, focusing him on economic realities, to the point that he was for a time a strong advocate for communism. This reminded me that Kauffmann, some twenty years Wilson's junior, had written about his shock at the sight of the frozen bodies of homeless men on New York porch stoops, and other depravities of the time, and how it seemed to him and his friends in the 1930s that democracy and capitalism had failed, and that the world was faced with a choice between fascism and communism.

Wilson was a near contemporary of Tolkien, a point that makes me think we don't know enough about how the Depression affected Tolkien's life: very few of his letters from that period have been published. We know that often in life he was short of funds, to which concerns we owe the existence of The Hobbit (whose inception came while Tolkien was grading exams for extra money) and the existence of Peter Jackson's film adaptations (Tolkien having sold the rights outright supposedly to reduce his children's tax burden). From time to time in his published letters he mentions financial challenges (but nothing like what is conveyed in Peter Schickele's Bach Portrait). And we know that his outlook on life did not lead to the dichotomy those two critics felt—although Tolkien did support the fascists in Spain for religious reasons.

However, the foregoing probably vastly oversimplifies matters. A brief skim of Axel's Castle and some other early Wilson writings suggests that he had long felt a dislike for much fantastic writing. (Among the more interesting remarks in that survey of Wilson's work is his explanation, in a 1940 lecture, that literature exists as "an attempt to give meaning to our experience—that is, to make life more practicable; for by understanding things we make it easier to survive and get around among them". I daresay many readers would say that applies very much to Tolkien's work!) Meanwhile Kauffmann had, as noted in the earlier Star Wars comments, found much that was agreeable in science fiction and fantasy throughout his career: not only shepherding Fahrenheit 451 into print and praising Close Encounters of the Third Kind as one of the best films of its era, but also being the editor of the Captain Marvel comic books at the height of their 1940s popularity (Shazam!) and continuing late in life to warmly recommend such fantasy films as Groundhog Day.

So the more important point of connection between Wilson on LOTR and Kauffmann on Star Wars may be sex, and the belief that important "grown up" work ought to address that subject. In Kauffmann's case, that belief, because he also had been a novelist in the 1950s, was one that he put into practice, seriously enough that his British publisher was prosecuted for obscenity due to the content of his book, The Philanderer (The Tightrope in the U.S.) That does make me wonder if Tolkien had ever heard of Kauffmann: there was a flurry of such prosecutions in the fifties, some successful (fines were paid; books were destroyed, including translations of at least one medieval text, Boccaccio's Decameron), some not. Kauffmann's publisher was acquitted after the judge instructed the jury that they must consider the whole book and not just the salacious passages. (History buffs: the prosecutor also had that function in the Profumo trial.) Kauffmann later paid that good fortune forward, if you care to see it that way, by testifying in the U.S. courts on behalf of films, like I Am Curious, Yellow, on the grounds that the whole of human experience ought to be the subject of artistic exploration. But as others have responded to the arguments that this particular aspect is missing from Tolkien: every work need not address every element of life, and plenty of other stories, particularly in the 20th century, tackle these subjects, so why shouldn't Tolkien feel free to consider other ones? Wilson's complaint that Tolkien's "ogreish disgusting orcs . . . rarely get to the point of committing any overt acts" reminds me of the film critic John Simon grumbling about the 1977 James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me (a film he enjoyed while acknowledging it was mere fluff) that Karl Stromberg restrains himself in going no further than merely binding the scantily-attired Anya Amasova. Is it just that critics tend to be dirty old men? (But that doesn't explain Partridge.) Or was there a mid-late 20th century reaction to the slow loosening of Victorian strictures? (Yet even today, some people praise Game of Thrones as more "adult" than Lord of the Rings, just as Wilson preferred James Branch Cabell's fantasies to Tolkien's.)

Speaking of Simon, that leads to the other 1970s film review that lately caught my eye, "Over the Mountains, Beyond the Pale", from Jan. 22, 1976 (collected in Reverse Angle: A Decade of American Films (1981)), which praises The Man Who Would Be King (1975), based on Rudyard Kipling's story and starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Christopher Plummer, as the best film John Huston had made since The African Queen (1951). Simon nonetheless found fault with it for retaining the source material's "Victorian" racism and Kipling's own "misogyny, which, in turn, stems from his fear of sex. Perhaps the nastiest verse in all English poetry is Kipling's 'And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke.'" Simon sees these elements in the tale's portrayal of the heroes' escapades are admirable until "marriage to a native girl—the racist motive harmonizing with the antiwoman one—proves catastrophic". You can read the offending poem here. (Nowadays, a review like that is likely to elicit the complaint of "political correctness!" from some quarters, so I might note that Simon was for about 20 years the film critic at William F. Buckley's conservative National Review, and also that he was notorious, as a film and theatre critic, for being very un-politically correct in his willingness to criticize an actor's physical appearance if he felt that his or her features didn't fit the part; this, in the case particularly of female performers, was often seen as cruel, and in one instance led to an actress (Sylvia Miles, I think) dumping a plate of food on his head when she encountered him at a restaurant.)

Now, I cite this particular review because we know that Tolkien had read at least some of Kipling’s work (a point discussed here and to be revisited below), and I got to wondering what Tolkien's attitude towards Kipling's misogyny might be, and whether Partridge would say that Tolkien's treatment of Shelob was of a piece with it.

Before wrapping up, it occurred to me that there are two other works that we know Tolkien was well acquainted with and that possess overt or disguised sexual imagery that had been criticized, further suggesting that he would realize his work was fair game for such interpretations. John D. Rateliff, author-editor of The History of The Hobbit, has lately had published in Mythlore an article on Charles Williams, a key member of the Inklings from 1939 to 1945, and he is now serializing it at his blog (in eight installments). In the third installment, for reasons of online modesty, Rateliff omits two drawings of Williams's that appear in the Mythlore version. The one I have previously seen features female nudity overlaid on a map of Europe, and while I don't know if Tolkien ever saw these images, it's clear from a funny poem he wrote circa 1943 that he was aware of the "gynocomorphical" aspects of Williams's mythology. For that matter, about a year after Tolkien wrote that poem, he saw and enjoyed a stage production of Shakespeare's Hamlet, a play he knew well enough that he described the production in a letter as "fast and without cuts". If it was indeed complete, like the four-hour film of Hamlet that Kenneth Branagh released in 1996, then, to turn briefly to Stanley Kauffmann again, who had spent much of the 1930s performing Shakespearean on the stage, Tolkien would have heard "Gertrude include a small dirty joke, about 'long purples,' when she tells Laertes of his sister’s death"; for Kauffmann, Branagh's decision to retain that element was a choice "to coddle the lad from Stratford who couldn't always keep rustic humor out of his plays".

Enough digressing. I think I may be far beyond self-parody by now.


Late in 1966, Tolkien was interviewed by Charlotte and Denis Plimmer for the Daily Telegraph. The interview was published early in 1968. In between, the Plimmers sent Tolkien a draft. His comments on it were published in the Letters and have been discussed here, but I don't believe we’ve ever talked about the published article, "The Man Who Understands Hobbits", which the Telegraph made available online about two years ago. As regards this chapter, two quotes in particular ought to be mentioned:


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'Spiders,' observed Professor JRR Tolkien, cradling the word with the same affection that he cradled the pipe in his hand, 'are the particular terror of northern imaginations.'



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Discussing one of his own monsters, a man-devouring, spider-like female, he said, 'The female monster is certainly no deadlier than the male, but she is different. She is a sucking, strangling, trapping creature.'


In the second quote, Tolkien is plainly referencing Kipling! (And contradicting him.)

Is Tolkien talking about just his male vs. female monsters, or about all monsters, or about traits that pertain to females generally?

What does Tolkien believe to be the characteristics of male monsters?

Why does he make this distinction? Do you feel he is right about this essential male-female dichotomy?

How do the characteristics he describes apply to his other monsters, male or female, within The Lord of the Rings or in other works?

Is there a parallel distinction between male and female heroes? What are their shared or differing qualities? (Or are heroes not the contrast to monsters at all?)

And turning to another point in the article, which Las Vegas-based "pop singer" wrote a fan letter to Tolkien?

Oh, and why not, let's throw in a Star Wars question. About ten years ago, I was very pleased with myself when I noticed an interesting similarity between the climaxes of The Return of the King and The Return of the Jedi. Some time after that, I discovered that David Bratman had made the same point more than twenty years earlier in the pages of Mythprint. Many people have of course noticed parallels between the two stories. To mention John Simon again, I believe he once described the Star Wars films as combining the "hardware of 2001: A Space Odyssey" with the "software of The Lord of the Rings". And hasn't Darkstone joked about Tolkien stealing ideas from Lucas?

So what is the equivalent to Shelob in the Star Wars films?

(Thinking of the other 1977 referenced in this post, I wonder if Shelob is like the other Jaws.)

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noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 11:21am

Post #2 of 27 (2996 views)
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"Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you have the slightest idea what it's about?" [In reply to] Can't Post

(The title of my post is a quotation - source at the end)

What a succession of interesting points!

You start with a quote suggesting that someone wouldn't reject a work dismissively because they don't happen to respond to it themselves. I think that's fair enough. And I certainly agree with your next point, that making sexualised interpretations of works has long been academically respectable, and Tolkien probably ought to have been aware that his work might attract analysis along such lines. I think that, just because such a line of reasoning can become silly, it doesn't mean that it is all silly. Anyway who is to decide what is silly? Perhaps all we can say is whether we find a particular line of argument interesting. If my earlier post seemed to dismiss all analysis of sexual themes in Tolkien as silly per se that was wrong of me, and not what I meant to do.

I liked your point that Tolkien's times were pretty calamitous- a world war, a flu pandemic, the Great Depression, another war and a Cold War. Many other deep social and political changes were (and are still) going on. Maybe that did polarize people in all sorts of ways, not only politically. For example, perhaps it encouraged people to polarize into those who wanted art (in the most general sense) to have clear clear meanings - clearly representational visual arts; music with clear and traditional harmonies; none of your tricksy made-up-worlds and applicability, Professor Tolkien, please. And meanwhile, of course there were people making and enjoying the opposite - things where the meaning was slippery or hard to get at. It would be usual for each extremes of such a debate to fuelled by rejection of and annoyance with the other. That polarity transcended the political extremes, I think: both Hitler and Stalin (I believe) detested any art that wasn't clear, or maybe that they couldn't personally understand. And '-isms' tend to want to take over the arts and use them. Perhaps that is because '-isms' see the arts as of no value unless they further the project of fascism/communism/[insert your own stem here]-ism ?

Another thing that happened during Tolkien's lifetime was that some of the movements of literary criticism began to downplay the author's authority to say what his or her work meant. Tolkien of course preferred applicability to allegory and denied that his work had any specific hidden meaning. So in that sense, he seems to be inviting readers to make their own interpretation.

Of course the reader's licence to interpret can be taken far enough to become comical, bringing us back to your first point about not regarding one's own reaction as the only valid one:


Quote
Isaac Asimov repeated in several places an anecdote based on this: He once sat in (in the back of a large lecture hall, so semi-anonymously) on a class where the topic of discussion was one of his own works. Afterward, he went up and introduced himself to the teacher, saying that he had found the teacher's interpretation of the story interesting, though it really wasn't what he had meant at all. The teacher's response was "Just because you wrote it, what makes you think you have the slightest idea what it's about?"

TVTropes article 'Death of the Author' http://tvtropes.org/...ain/DeathOfTheAuthor


I'm amused by the idea here that Asimov 'wasn't a real fan'...

~~~~~~
volunteers are still needed to lead chapters for our upcoming ROTK read-through http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=893293#893293


A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 12:11pm

Post #3 of 27 (2990 views)
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Maybe you don't see a story properly if you spend all your time peering round it? [In reply to] Can't Post

I really enjoyed this criticism of the first Star Wars Movie:


In Reply To
The late Stanley Kauffmann, in a June 18, 1977 review titled "Innocences", which I have in his 1980 collection, Before My Eyes, wrote of Star Wars:


Quote

But I saw at last—after about, say, twenty minutes—that Star Wars wasn't meant to be ingenious in any way; it was meant to be exactly what it is. From Lucas's view, It certainly has not failed. I kept looking for an 'edge,' to peer around the corny, solemn comic-book strophes; he was facing them frontally and full. [*] The picture was made for those (particularly males) who carry a portable shrine within them of their adolescence, a chalice of a Self that was Better Then, before the world's affairs or—in any complex way—sex intruded. Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and their peers guard the portals of American innocence, and Star Wars is an unabashed, jaw-clenched tribute to the chastity still sacred beneath the middle-aged spread.



I feel I can see what he means in the first part of his passage, about the 'solemn comic-book strophes'. I inserted '[*]' at the point where I think Kauffmann makes an unwarranted logical jump - from the question "why would someone make a story with no 'edge,' to peer around ?" to the conclusion that such a story is for children, or those who wish to be entertained as they were when they were children. I detect a somewhat dismissive tone to the idea that adults might want to be entertained that way, but that could be just me. There is of course a lot of snobbery about science fiction, fantasy and allied genres being necessarily an art form for the immature but I'm not going to presume Kauffmann is arguing that from this short quote.

I've read separately that Joseph Cambpell (described as 'an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion' in his Wikipedia article) ran his mythological callipers over the story and found it to be a questing hero story of the kind he'd studied professionally. I've also seen film buffs dissect all the Star Wars scenes that seem to them to quote or homage earlier films. Whether this makes George Lucas a genius or mash-up artist and mere re-arranger of tropes is a debate that doubtless can be read on many forums in galaxies far away. He certainly has entertained a lot of people and made a lot of money.

But maybe the point is that Kauffmann might have been busy looking for complexity in the wrong place - trying to peer round the edge of the 'solemn comic-book strophes' to find a subtext, allegory or irony, under the misconception that these were necessary to make a story 'adult' or deserving of being taken seriously?

I think that critics have made similar mistakes reviewing Tolkien

~~~~~~
volunteers are still needed to lead chapters for our upcoming ROTK read-through http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=893293#893293


A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 3:33pm

Post #4 of 27 (2982 views)
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Helob? Itlob? Glaurungella the dragon? (Let's try other monsters as Shelob substitutes to see what works!) [In reply to] Can't Post

What if we try gender-swapping Shelob or turning her into another monster to see if that works as well? The aim would be to see what is lost or changed, & so to zero in on what makes Shelob 'work'?

This is of course about what works or not for my imagination - mileage may vary and I'm happy to compare mileages with others!

I find I can imagine a 'Helob' (a male version of Shelob) or an Itlob (a genderless spider) without any difficulty. The story seems much the same - hobbits versus big scary monster of the darkness.

I'm wondering now whether this is anything to do with me having first read the story in my childhood, unaware of any symbolic history of spiders being a peculiarly female menace in stories.



Quote
Tolkien's use of the female gender to characterize his spider images (Ungoliant and Shelob) fascinates me -- because I defy you to look at your average spider and think, "Ah, a female. Of course". Spiders are sexless to human eyes. We depend on scientists to tell us that the female is the aggressor, eating its male mates, etc. They probably know what they're talking about. But only through the magic of metaphor does that suggestion make its way to our brains. It's not about the spiders. It's about the human obsession with female sexuality in all its complexity, that allows us to use spiders as stand-ins for what we might fear or admire in human women. Among other consequences, the idea of the dominant female spider has so entered our cultural awareness that both Tolkien and his critics take it for granted.

Squire in an earlier discussion - http://archives.theonering.net/...38BE48000023461.html


Maybe all that cultural awareness was over my head at age 11 (approximately)?

Changing Shelob into another kind of monster - a bear, a snake, a giant - works less well for me. Not as scary. Maybe that's because:


Quote
'Spiders,' observed Professor JRR Tolkien, cradling the word with the same affection that he cradled the pipe in his hand, 'are the particular terror of northern imaginations.'

(Tolkien in the 1968 Telegraph interview you quote)


That's an interesting quote. It makes me think that Tolkien in thinking of a lot of other spiders in a lot of other stories, which I don't know about.

I can, however do Shelob as a dragon. Shelob has some features in common with Glaurung, the dragon from Children of Hurin:

=> horrible, head-turning stench, to do with 'filth' (both Frodo/Sam and Turin nearly faint from it)

=> can gain a mental influence over people. Frodo and Sam seem to struggle against Shelob's malice and will. Shelob has had a lasting effect on Gollum : "in past days he had bowed and worshipped her, and the darkness of her evil will walked through all the ways of his weariness beside him, cutting him off from light and from regret. (my italics). You could pretty much re-purpose that quote for Glaurung, I think. Glaurung causes people to have episodes of madness and amnesia. Not the same, but reminiscent perhaps.

=>both monsters are defeated by being stabbed in the underbelly. Shelob accidentally assists with this by trying to crush Sam while he still has his sword... er...erect. Turin, a notable fighter rather than a hobbit, needs no such assistance.

~~~~~~
volunteers are still needed to lead chapters for our upcoming ROTK read-through http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=893293#893293


A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


No One in Particular
Lorien


Mar 10 2016, 4:12pm

Post #5 of 27 (2975 views)
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He/She/It/Theylob [In reply to] Can't Post

What makes Shelob work for me is not that she is female; in fact, the only indicators we have are the narrator telling us "she" this and "her" that. Change those pronouns, and it changes nothing in the story at all. Shelob is still a giant spidery monstrosity, immensely strong and fast, malicious beyond telling. Gender doesn't really enter into it.

You can make the same argument for Smaúg or Glaurung. Nothing that either of them does in the stories stands out screamingly as "This is something a man would do but that a woman wouldn't". Change all the pronouns in The Hobbit to 'she' and 'her' and you still have the same story in all but the most superficial of details.

Regarding the Game of Thrones comparison; in one of his podcasts Corey Olsen made the point that one of the largest differences was the level of viewing. In GoT you get the in your face, gritty, foul smelling mud of medieval fantasy, where with LoTR you get the shiny, noble, ideal version. The difference is the bodily fluids. In GoT you get descriptions of festering wounds, blood and bone flying everywhere, and the marching armies have to dig trenches for latrines. Tolkien didn't write about those things, because that wasn't the story he wanted to tell, or at least that wasn't the part he wanted to talk about. We all know that these things happened in Tolkien's world anyway; the Ride of the Rohirrim lasted several days. They would have needed facilities, even if those facilities were the nearest tree, and the battles were huge and vicious. We don't care, because it doesn't affect the story.

Anyway, that's beside the point. Spiders are unpleasant. That's the point. Shelob works as a spider, but not as a bear or a wolf, because SPIDERS ARE CREEPY!!! And a male spider is just as bad as a female spider. As to whether Tolkien was afraid of women, or sex, or sexy women, it has always seemed to me more that it simply wasn't the kind of story he was interested in telling. I never got any sense that he was misogynistic; quite the contrary, even more than his desire to restore his line for the sake of honor, Aragorn was driven by a deep and abiding life long love for Arwen. Hardly the act of someone afraid of women.

While you live, shine
Have no grief at all
Life exists only for a short while
And time demands an end.
Seikilos Epitaph


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 5:45pm

Post #6 of 27 (2972 views)
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Yes, there's plenty of nightmare fuel here - and I love the rhythm of these 2 chapters [In reply to] Can't Post

That's working for me too - I don't need Shelob to be female for her to be scary.
Maybe we should ask who Tolkien is trying to scare and how. I suppose that a writer is always his or her first reader, and if your scene doesn't move you the writer then it might belong in the waste-paper basket. But if your scene ONLY moves you, and you wanted to make a story that others could respond to, then perhaps that belongs in the waste-paper basket too? So I think that good storytellers need a feel for what the audience will respond to - it need not be what they personally find really scary/funny/exciting whatever, and so it might or might not be deeply revealing of their psyche.

Last chapter, Tolkien mixed us a potent nightmare fuel cocktail. At the chapter end he gives us a nonchalant grin, stuffs in a burning rag, and throws (or if you prefer, sticks it in you back pocket, pats you on the head and walks off whistling). Different readers would doubtless find one component or another of the nightmare fuel the most scary, depending on their individual imaginations and experiences. But there's plenty of disturbing stuff in the mix:

Betrayal
Darkness
Confined spaces
The Unknown/don't know where you are going
Stench
Feeling of evil/malice - dread
Being watched
Being lost in the dark/getting separated
hunted/chased
Trapped
spider webs
SPIDERS ARE CREEPY!!!
There is something important to do (catch up with/warn Frodo) but you can't
Being eaten

There are probably some I've missed.But plenty of fuel for a psychic Molotov cocktail here, even if one doesn't go for the scary femininity bit.

Strong stuff

[Probably Tolkien doesn't need a Trigger Warning, but perhaps this photo of Roy Rogers and his horse does? Darn, you didn't want to see THAT.... From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trigger_(horse) ]

Joking apart, perhaps someone with a real fear of spiders (or another one of those elements) would find this a tough or impossible read...

Having built all that up, Tolkien has it explode into violence at the end of the last chapter as Sam fights Gollum. Pretty detailed and graphic violence for Tolkien.

Now again! Sam is utterly done with this and wades into Shelob - wielding dual swords (very manga/anime of him don't you think?) I wonder whether it isn't simultaneously the most out-of -character and the most in-character thing he does. Again the fight is described in graphic detail, before violence goes back into the nightmare zone of...

Not strong enough...
Being crushed, smothered
Best friend killed - abandoned
Forced to make an impossible choice

Then of course the ramifications of that choice and its reversal keep us reading wide-eyed to the end of the chapter (and book).

~~~~~~
volunteers are still needed to lead chapters for our upcoming ROTK read-through http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=893293#893293


A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm

(This post was edited by noWizardme on Mar 10 2016, 6:00pm)


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 5:48pm

Post #7 of 27 (2963 views)
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I'm not sure whether Welob (a small Scottish spider monster, I think) would be better or worse. :) // [In reply to] Can't Post

Didn't she accompany Robert the Bruce into battle?

~~~~~~
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enanito
Rohan

Mar 10 2016, 7:20pm

Post #8 of 27 (2961 views)
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Way above my pay grade [In reply to] Can't Post

A couple thoughts from a more casual reader's pov:

One thing about monsters is their monstrosity is often an extension of some inherent characteristic writ large. So taking the basic trait of an animal or person and extending that to become something horrifying. Granted at times a monster can be portrayed as the opposite of what one would expect, but that seems to be an exception and a bit harder to make realistic (100 foot tall Stay Puft Marshmallow Men are comic relief, as well as the manifestation of our friend Gozer).

That said, I think we have a tendency to attribute any natural characteristics we find common to the base object and the monster, and conclude the monster must have been created with reference to that aspect. Since Shelob is female and females have all kinds of sexual aspects, it is likely an easy mark to link Shelob to underlying sexuality. And this may or may not be a proper reading, in the sense that maybe Mr. Tolkien meant it (even if just subconsciously), or maybe it's something truly inherent regardless of JRR's intent, or maybe I'm just determined to read my own interpretation into this monster no matter what.

And as for Adult Literature, I find that there's many equally valid ways to treat Adult Topics. Some of the greatest horror scenes (movies or books) are minimalist, while others can scare the bejeebers out of you with their attention to detail. I've heard piano solos that move me more than many orchestral or operatic movements. I love that Tolkien has found his own effective way to treat Adult Themes, and of course while there are assuredly myriad other ways he might have successfully approached his writing, I find that peering around the story's corners only goes so far with Tolkien.

But that's just me, and I also love that there's others out there who tread where I might not otherwise have trod :)


oliphaunt
Rivendell


Mar 10 2016, 9:15pm

Post #9 of 27 (2948 views)
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I thought it was because of the eating the mates thing. [In reply to] Can't Post


I thought that the choice of the female spiders was because some (including Shelob) eat their mate. That's really scary. So male spiders are a little less scary than the female ones. Furthermore, there aren't any huge old male spiders, 'cos they got eaten. I never thought this had any extension to female characters other than spiders.


"Yet even today, some people praise Game of Thrones as more "adult" than Lord of the Rings" - that must be why I have zero interest in GoT. .



squire
Half-elven


Mar 10 2016, 11:40pm

Post #10 of 27 (2953 views)
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That was an eye-opener, and no mistake! [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for all this work, and thinking, and connecting. Others have already begun responding to the spider stuff at the end. If I may, I’ll offer some off the cuff responses to some of the thoughts and ideas in your prologue.

A. If you've read Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-earth (1982), you may recognize the passage above, a 1931 defense of the "widely ridiculed and seldom enjoyed" writings of Gertrude Stein, and an argument that Shippey turned around to undercut its author's 1956 attack on Tolkien's work.
I haven’t re-read Shippey in some time, and I’d forgotten that he starts off his whole book by ridiculing Wilson’s snide review of LotR, using Wilson’s 1931 words to mock his 1956 words. But as I re-read your quote of Wilson’s comments in Axel’s Castle on Gertrude Stein, the words that leaped out at me were “literature”, “new”, and “outlandish piece of writing”. Wilson, in other words, was defending modernism in literature, especially the absurdist and minimalist ironies for which Stein was famous. If I remember Wilson’s comments in “Oo, Those Awful Orcs!”, he refused to or couldn’t agree that Lord of the Rings was literature at all. Rather than striking him as “new” and “outlandish”, much less as “literature”, the book struck him as the same old, same old that characterizes all genre writing – in this case, the genre of pulpy “Boys Own” adventure romance and medieval pastiches. I’ll offer an artistic metaphor: Shippey is taking a critic’s words, that explain and defend the difficulties of appreciating a Cubist or Surrealist artwork, and using them to accuse the critic of hypocrisy for not also praising the magazine covers of Norman Rockwell.

Shippey is on much more solid ground against Wilson, and all of Tolkien’s modernist critcs, later on – he points out that Wilson was unequipped to read Tolkien because Tolkien was modern in a different way than the writers Wilson liked. But this twisting of critical language is a bit of a cheap shot by Shippey, as far as I can see.

B. I came upon this essay that traces various periods in Wilson's writing, and was struck by how the Great Depression changed Wilson's outlook, focusing him on economic realities, to the point that he was for a time a strong advocate for communism.
Gyrogy’s essay, which rambles and thunders a bit too much for my taste, still reminds me that I have not yet engaged with Edmund Wilson as I have been pledging myself to do for decades. The closing, where he argues that Wilson’s temperament was, in the end, very American and pragmatic rather than Marxist and theoretical, has this interesting comment, which supports your comments about Axel’s Castle showing Wilson’s dislike of ‘fantasy’:
At the end of his very first and still influential collection, Axel’s Castle (1931), observing Rimbaud’s escape from bourgeois culture by going native, Wilson thought modernism which built romantic castles on remote islands, the work’s controlling image, could be pushed too far, become solipsistic, “based on language as a creator of illusions, and not on language as a transmitting of realities.”

I wonder if Shippey, or any of us, could really expect such a reader and critic to appreciate The Lord of the Rings, even if he had conceded its aesthetic status as a work of modern literature? LotR’s modernism is just the kind that Shippey argues for, and just the kind that Wilson fundamentally distrusted.

C. (Among the more interesting remarks in that survey of Wilson's work is his explanation, in a 1940 lecture, that literature exists as "an attempt to give meaning to our experience—that is, to make life more practicable; for by understanding things we make it easier to survive and get around among them". I daresay many readers would say that applies very much to Tolkien's work!)
As I see it, Wilson, and Tolkien and his fans, are at opposite ends of meaning here. I think Wilson is arguing that what we read in literature has immediate application by helping us understand our own everyday lives better, and understand the motives and souls of our everyday neighbors as well, because it offers a mimesis of our everyday reality. Tolkien’s ideas about sub-creation and fantasy involve a literary escape that only “makes it easier to survive” in everyday life once we return, refreshed, from our escape.

D. Perhaps the nastiest verse in all English poetry is Kipling's 'And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a Smoke.'" Simon sees these elements in the tale's portrayal of the heroes' escapades are admirable until "marriage to a native girl—the racist motive harmonizing with the antiwoman one—proves catastrophic". You can read the offending poem here.
That is a remarkable poem: I’ve never read it before, although I’ve known the epigram all my life. I can’t quite tell if Kipling is being satirical – I suspect he is – but certainly as a paean to the idea that women just get in the way of a guy being a guy, it is right up Tolkien’s alley, not to mention Bernard Shaw’s (“Why can’t a woman be a chum?” as Lerner translated him) and a century or two of English club men’s.

E. In the third installment, for reasons of online modesty, Rateliff omits two drawings of Williams's that appear in the Mythlore version. The one I have previously seen features female nudity overlaid on a map of Europe, and while I don't know if Tolkien ever saw these images, it's clear from a funny poem he wrote circa 1943 that he was aware of the "gynocomorphical" aspects of Williams's mythology.
I skimmed Rateliff’s part 3 on Williams and women. Très bizarre. I looked up the famous map, and it’s just absurd. Rateliff redeems himself by not taking the very many cues for further speculation about English predilections, and by his conclusion:
“I would say that a man may either lay claim to being the great Christian theological poet of his time, writing an epic cycle about the failure of the Second Coming, when Arthur and his court missed their chance to transform the world via the Grail. Or he can write, and publish, illustrated bondage poetry. But not both.”
Whoops!

F. Enough digressing. I think I may be far beyond self-parody by now.

“Dare! Dare!”
Blazing Saddles.



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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 12:37am

Post #11 of 27 (2945 views)
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When an author is present for discussion of his work. [In reply to] Can't Post

I've only ever read two papers since graduating from college more than two decades ago, but for one of them, in which I twice cited Tom Shippey, he was sitting in the front row. I wasn't sure what the protocol was, so I added a slight emphasis and nod when mentioning his name.

At the Los Angeles Mythcon in 2009, the authorial guest of honor was James Owen, whose works include some fantasy novels in which Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are the heroes. Accordingly, David Bratman chose to give a paper on stories in which the Inklings are characters. That included Owens' books, whose flaws Bratman did not shy from mentioning, although he seemed nonetheless to enjoy them. Owen was in the audience.

In Owens' speech the following night at the banquet, he said something like, "If David Bratman did not exist, I would have to invent him."

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Al Carondas
Lorien

Mar 11 2016, 4:01am

Post #12 of 27 (2925 views)
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Such interpretations seem like a stretch to me. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
every work need not address every element of life


Exactly. And what more needs to be said, if that is true? Tolkien's work undoubtedly offers brilliant and very subtle insight into many quite adult themes. It has its own style and focus. I don't see any defect in it's not treating the human condition exhaustively. Nor is the treatment of the human condition the book's only purpose.

As for the She-monster: My impression of Shelob is predominantly of something alien, and hideous, and terrifying. In short, of something monstrous, in ways that have nothing to do with its gender. Perhaps Tolkien's choice of gender merely follows directly from his choice of a spider as a monster. It does seem to me that female spiders seem to play the lead role within their species. And, I may be wrong, but doesn't it just seem as if most spiders in myth and literature have been portrayed as females? Certainly many have - from Arachne on down to Charlotte.

"Good Morning!"

(This post was edited by Al Carondas on Mar 11 2016, 4:03am)


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 5:14am

Post #13 of 27 (2925 views)
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Tolkien: "The female monster is . . . a sucking, strangling, trapping creature." [In reply to] Can't Post

I want to make that quote more visible for those who were scared off by the first two thirds of my post.

Tolkien doesn't limit those characteristics to spiders, and indicates that they don't apply to male monsters, which presumably would even include male monster spiders--or would Tolkien not even conceive of male spider monster?

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noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 2:13pm

Post #14 of 27 (2901 views)
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The Tolkien quote is interesting and thoroughly appropriate to address here. But I feel the need to go carefully... [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think anyone is out to cause offence, but the subject matter is tricky.

I think we are going to need to talk about stereotypes about women. Stereotypes are often offensive. Or at least I find them so when people guess about me based on my gender, race etc. And if I hear people using lazy stereotypes about a group to which I belong in argument I can struggle not to take it personally. I can see that stereotypes about women are potentially very difficult to discuss nicely.

We are also going to have to talk about monstrosity. I don't think women are monstrous. Probably nobody in the discussion thinks women are monstrous. I don't see anything specifically and uniquely feminine that could be 'monstorized'. (Well, only for laughs - 'run, Sam, she's going to squirt milk at us!!!' ) Personally I agree with No One In Particular (i.e. the contributor of that name!) who says earlier in this thread:


Quote
What makes Shelob work for me is not that she is female; in fact, the only indicators we have are the narrator telling us "she" this and "her" that. Change those pronouns, and it changes nothing in the story at all. Shelob is still a giant spidery monstrosity, immensely strong and fast, malicious beyond telling. Gender doesn't really enter into it.

You can make the same argument for Smaúg or Glaurung. Nothing that either of them does in the stories stands out screamingly as "This is something a man would do but that a woman wouldn't". Change all the pronouns in The Hobbit to 'she' and 'her' and you still have the same story in all but the most superficial of details.

No One In Particular, earlier in this thread:


Turning to that Tolkien quote, I can imagine male 'sucking, strangling, trapping creatures' as readily as female ones. And I am uneasy about monsters and 'monstering'. To explain that, maybe it would be worth thinking about what a monster is (in Tolkien and elsewhere)?

'Monstrosity is often an extension of some inherent characteristic writ large.' (says enanito earlier in this thread). That's really well put. It has to be evil or frightening inherent characteristics, of course - Galadriel has inherent human characteristics pushed to extremes . But it is hard to see her as a monster - though she would become one if she took the Ring from Frodo.
Emphasise the dark sides of the human character and you get a villiain - a human or anthropomorphised non-human who has a character, but where evil is a prominent (and plot-essential) feature. This essay 'Spotty-Handed Villainesses: Problems Of Female Bad Behaviour In The Creation Of Literature' by Margaret Atwood has lots of examples of and interesting thoughts about villainesses, including the necessity of writing them. http://gos.sbc.edu/a/atwood.html

Push it further and you get what I'd call a monster - true monstrosity is an extension of evil pushed beyond villainy, to the point where character other than evilness is lost and the monster has become The Other - something so alien and different that no understanding or compromise or co-existence with it is possible. The only possible relationship with The Other is a power relationship: kill or be killed, dominate or be dominated, use or be used. Fantasy, science fiction and horror genre fiction often loves monsters where a big body-count is wanted without risking stirring up compassion. In real-life, sadly, out-groups are 'monstered' to get the same effect, often to achieve political goals.

I think we see the monster/villain distinction well in this chapter - we hear Shagrat and Gorbag talking and (as when we heard orc conversations in The Uruk Hai) they stop being so monstrous and start to become more villainous. We begin to understand what makes them tick. Our view of them gains complexity. They have character- the character of insanely violent thugs, but that's character nonetheless. It is possible, if unpleasant, to imagine humans who are like that. I recall there have been several conversations about whether orcs are even in theory redeemable or reformable, and the quasi-theological problems Tolkien seemed to see if they were not.

A quote from a recent newspaper article takes me where I want to go next (especially the middle paragraph of the quote):


Quote
There have been great female monsters – the girl werewolf in the lycanthropy-as-menstruation classic Ginger Snaps, or the Alien Queen of Aliens – but horror could often seem like a genre in which women spent most of their time getting naked, getting killed, or running away.

This is unfair. Horror is catharsis. It’s a primal exorcism of our personal and cultural fears. And it often exorcises the most personal fear of all, by inviting viewers to identify with both the monsters and their victims, and to face down their own dark sides.

As Margaret Atwood has pointed out [in the 'Spotty-handed' essay I cited earlier], if female characters aren’t allowed to have dark sides – if they can be victims or heroines, but never the Big Bad – then women are being defined as less than fully human.

(Rise of female monsters shows horror movies are not afraid of big, bad women by Sady Doyle, the Guardian, Thursday 29 October 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/...aid-of-big-bad-women)


I think that bit about 'inviting viewers to identify with both the monsters and their victims' is important. In LOTR I think we are invited to identify with Saruman and with Gollum, who we could see as our own possible dark sides (or the shadow-self of other characters: Gandalf; Frodo). I don't see at all that we are invited to identify with Shelob. She really is The Other - fight her off and run away!

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noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 2:14pm

Post #15 of 27 (2893 views)
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But (male) Gollum is also a 'strangling, trapping' creature (some might say 'he sucks' too!) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 5:52pm

Post #16 of 27 (2870 views)
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And, trying to go carefully and I hope without giving offence... [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien: "The female monster is . . . a sucking, strangling, trapping creature."

So, thinking sexual stereotypes (which I’ve already argued are unfair) and making them monstrous (doubly unfair); what might ‘the sucking, strangling, trapping’ female monster be about? Throwing fairness, reasonableness and my own views about women aside to try this assignment, I suggest that ‘female monsters’ would be about:

Predation - Mermaids (in one trope) and sirens are predatory species that are seductive as a way of catching sailors who they then eat. The horror element is in imagining not being unable to resist the allure (unless tied to the mast), though I suppose one might also identify with the monster, whereupon the horror element is not being able to resist the unnatural hunger. Sexual lures don’t seem to arise for Shelob (Sam and Frodo are revolted by her, not attracted to her). But she certainly intends to eat them, and elsewhere is described as eating her mates. Thinking of other female monster tropes, female vampires eat their prey after a fashion (Tolkien’s ‘sucking’ perhaps), are sexualized by trope, and can entice their victims by sex appeal. This happens in Dracula, but the vampires there are more complex predators - Lucy Westenra, the first person that Dracula turns into a vampire after his arrival in England - becomes a vampiric predator of children. So that’s probably a trope of horrifically subverted motherhood rather than subverted sexuality. The witch in Hansel and Gretel is a pseudo-maternal predator too, I'd say. She takes the kids in, but only to fatten them up for the pot. If I can decipher one of Tolkien’s more tortuous sentences correctly, I think Shelob is being described as mating with and then eating her sons. So maybe that’s a doubled subverted motherhood - cannibalism AND incest. These things get complicated though: In his excellent introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics Dracula, Roger Luckhurst points out that Dracula stirs up a cocktail of Victorians fears. Maybe, Roger Luckhurst suggests, this multiple appeal (if appeal is the right word) helps explain the novel’s success. One can see the Dracula story as applicable to fears of sex, death, contagious disease, foreigners, or homosexuality; as well as fear of female power, independence and sexuality. Perhaps that is true of Shelob too - multiple fears triggered, or enough fears that many readers will have one?

S-Mothering. In the comic song "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter from Camp)" by Allan Sherman and Lou Busch (1963), a boy writes home begging to be allowed home from his exaggeratedly awful summer camp (http://www.lyricsfreak.com/...fadduh_20214325.html ) The concessions he’s willing to make in order to be allowed home become more and more comically desperate, climaxing in ‘I would even let Aunt Bertha hug and kiss me!’ (CuriousG’s mention of ‘Aunt Betsy’ earlier on reminded me of this). I’m not supposing that Aunt Bertha has sexualized intentions. But unwanted demonstrations of physical maternal-style affection (especially in public) can be horribly humiliating and even frightening to children. Hence Aunt Bertha is the singer’s most desperate throw, before the final verse of "Hello Muddah...” in which the sun comes out and camp suddenly seems alluring. Perhaps, as CuriousG has already pointed out, memories of a bad childhood episode of S-Mothering might be in play when Shelob attempts literally to smother Sam, though that particular situation is clearly not in itself at all affectionate.


But the more I think about it, the more I think Shelob is mostly the inversion of female stereotypes:

=> She’s huge, physically powerful, sadistic and aggressive (monsterized male stereotypes)

=> Motherhood (as a trope) involves giving birth, self sacrifice, nurturing and providing love and food. Shelob is the opposite - she desires "death for all others, mind and body, and for herself a glut of life, alone, swollen till the mountains could no longer hold her up and the darkness could not contain her."

~~~~~~
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A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


squire
Half-elven


Mar 11 2016, 7:01pm

Post #17 of 27 (2872 views)
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Sucking, strangling, trapping apron-strings [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder if you are going in the right direction with regard, not to female monsters in general, but to Tolkien's quote. I immediately saw it as a reference to Tolkien's own belief that men (more precisely, men like him) have an innate fear of over-domestication (or S-mothering, as you do explore). NE Brigand's citation of Kipling's somewhat misogynistic poetry shows the same qualities: women, as mothers and child-rearers, instinctively nurture, feed, and demand emotional response from their charges. As wives, their role in relation to husbands is harder to parse, because of the positive power of adult love, companionship, and sexual intercourse - but the mothering instinct is, for an adult male of a certain disposition, very often felt to be emasculating.

Victorian and Edwardian society in Europe and America took the need for men and women to live somewhat separate lives to an absurd extreme, for fear that each would corrupt or weaken the other. Tolkien came from that world, I think, and we as fans have had a lot of fun trying to deconstruct LotR from the point of view that Tolkien and his chums had an impossibly deep discomfort level with the idea of women being equally adventurous and independent as men. I may be wrong, but I think Tolkien once said that heroes in a story had to be single and without female attachments, otherwise they would never leave home to have their adventures.

In a previous discussion of Shelob we were pursuing a similar line of inquiry, and I posted this image, by James Thurber from the 1930s: a tiny man quavering before a vast threatening house/wife that will devour him if he enters. There's your Tolkienian Female Monster, in my opinion. Thurber has some odd overlaps with Tolkien, along with a lot of differences. One overlap, to my mind, was a highly ambiguous view of the joys of domesticity.





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Al Carondas
Lorien

Mar 11 2016, 11:14pm

Post #18 of 27 (2847 views)
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I read you N.E.B., but [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Discussing one of his own monsters, a man-devouring, spider-like female, he said, 'The female monster is certainly no deadlier than the male, but she is different. She is a sucking, strangling, trapping creature.'


It is not clear to me from this citation that Tolkien's comments are meant as a generalization. The quote suggests that he is referencing 'one' monster in particular. It may even be that Tolkien is referring to spiders in general. But based on the quote, I just wasn't completely prepared to conclude that Tolkien means "the female" in the same generalized way that Kipling intends it.

"Good Morning!"


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 12 2016, 12:11am

Post #19 of 27 (2850 views)
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Good point! Think how Shagrat describes Gollum. [In reply to] Can't Post

He says that Shelob's "sneak" is "like a spider himself".

And of course we are told in The Hobbit that he knows how to "suck eggs".

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enanito
Rohan

Mar 12 2016, 3:01am

Post #20 of 27 (2836 views)
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Female Monster Spider vs Male Monster Spider? [In reply to] Can't Post

Since A.C. responded with a thought similar to my own, I'll add that I had the same type of impression. When I first read the quote, it seemed that Tolkien was stating that there were male and female monsters of the same genus, both just as deadly as the other. But the particular aspects of the female monster "spider" were notably different than the male, in that the male monster "spider" was not a sucking, strangling, trapping creature.

But I can also read it in a more generalized manner, where the spider aspect is relegated and the female aspect takes precedence. As A.C. states, the fragment quoted doesn't seem to be enough to determine exactly what Tolkien meant here.


noWizardme
Half-elven


Mar 12 2016, 9:16am

Post #21 of 27 (2831 views)
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The Homecoming of Beren? [In reply to] Can't Post

Ah, I think I remember that stereotype- still being used in sitcoms of my childhood. So He is theoretically the Lord and master of the house, provided he wipes his feet and doesn't mind the doilies and lacy antimaccassars. (Terrible price to pay for not being expected to do much housework or parenting of coure- no wonder men rebelled! Wink )

A common period sitcom gag (if I recall) would be that He is settled in an armchair and reading the newspaper, while She is vacuum cleaning. They have the routine down so well that without looking up he can lift his feet at exactly the right time to let the hoover pass beneath them. I suppose it could be seen as a simultaneous dig at His laziness and entitlement on the one hand and Her compulsive tidying on the other.

If that's the case though, Shelob is a thorough inversion- her lair is unbelievably squalid.

~~~~~~
volunteers are still needed to lead chapters for our upcoming ROTK read-through http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=893293#893293


A set of links to our Book III discussions can be found here: http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=886383#886383

A wonderful list of links to previous read-throughs is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm


sador
Half-elven


Mar 13 2016, 3:22am

Post #22 of 27 (2772 views)
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Was Gollum aware of being called so by the orcs? [In reply to] Can't Post

And if he was - might that have been the reason he took umbrage at Sam a couple of chapters before?


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Mar 13 2016, 9:46pm

Post #23 of 27 (2692 views)
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The Orcs [In reply to] Can't Post

One notable point about this chapter is that we have another example of a pair of Hobbits been harassed by a group of Orcs. A odd parallel that is. But the Orcs are curious. The Captains talk almost like clever people from a bar or work. Or even the Army! Does this humanise the enemy a little. Or just put us in a false sense of security like with Gollum. After all they quite soon start fighting nastily. Though I suppose that Humans can do that! I also,find their quarrels interesting. A first, in the other group of Orcs, the Uruk-hai were friends. But here they talk about cursed rebel Uruk-hai. And later they talk about rebel Morgul rats! I suppose if Orcs had spectator sports, Orc hooliganism would be a major issue!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 14 2016, 5:31am

Post #24 of 27 (2684 views)
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"why one should quarrel with an animal for having more legs or eyes than oneself" [In reply to] Can't Post

In light of Sam's encounter with a giant spider, the following passage from C.S. Lewis's Perelandra caught my eye. The hero, Ransom, is being pursued in caves by a demon called the "Un-man", when:


Quote
. . . something else came up out of the hole. First came what looked like branches of trees, and then seven or eight spots of light, irregularly grouped like a constellation. Then a tubular mass which reflected the red glow as if it were polished. His heart gave a great leap as the branches suddenly resolved themselves into long wiry feelers and the dotted lights became the many eyes of a shell-helmeted head and the mass that followed was revealed as a large roughly cylindrical body. Horrible things followed--angular, many jointed legs, and presently, when he thought the whole body was in sight, a second body came following it and then a third. The thing was in three parts, united only by a kind of wasp's waist structure--three parts that did not seem to be truly aligned and made it look as if it had been trodden on--a huge, many legged, quivering deformity, standing just behind the Un-man so that the horrible shadows of both danced in enormous and united menace on the wall of rock behind them.


But a minute later, after having fought with the Un-man, Ransom:


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. . . turned to face the other horror. But where had the horror gone? The creature was there, a curiously shaped creature no doubt, but all loathing had vanished clean out of his mind, so that neither then nor at any other time could he remember it, nor ever understand again why one should quarrel with an animal for having more legs or eyes than oneself. All that he had felt from childhood about insects and reptiles died that moment: died utterly, as hideous music does when you switch off the wireless. Apparently it had all, even from the beginning, been a dark enchantment of the enemy's. Once, as he had sat writing near an open window in Cambridge, he had looked up and shuddered to see, as he supposed, a many coloured beetle of unusually hideous shape crawling across his paper. A second glance showed him that it was a dead leaf, moved by the breeze; and instantly the very curves and re-entrants which had made its ugliness turned into its beauties. At this moment he had almost the same sensation. He saw at once that the creature intended him no harm--had indeed no intentions at all.


So not exactly like Shelob! But it got me to wondering about things in Tolkien's writing that might look horrible but really aren't.

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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 14 2016, 5:43am

Post #25 of 27 (2679 views)
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I'm glad you asked that. [In reply to] Can't Post

I also noticed that when Frodo and Sam first realize that Gollum has gone, just after they've been talking about being characters in a story, Sam says, "I don't like his sneaking off without saying"--and Frodo doesn't upbraid Sam for using the term.

On the other hand, in "The Scouring of the Shire", after our heroes have settled in for the night at the Brandywine Bridge, some hobbits warn Hob Hayward of the danger he faces for badmouthing the Chief, to which he "hotly" replies, "He wouldn't hear naught, if some of you weren't sneaks".

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