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Priest, Prophet, and King
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Aug 1 2010, 2:12am

Post #26 of 33 (381 views)
To be honest... [In reply to] Can't Post

When I first read LotR as a teenager in the 70's, I did not catch any Christian symbology or Catholicity (whether or not such ideas were subsumed in the text), nor did I look for any such contextuality, even though I was a Catholic at the time.

Having come at Tolkien's work at first via the Hobbit at age 13, I was more entranced with allusions and direct lifts from Norse and Icelandic literature. It really wasn't until I read the Silmarillion, and the Ainulindale in particular, that I noticed Christian themes (or at least Christian structure) in the almost biblical rendition of the Music of the Ainur.

So, if you are reading Tolkien, you will always find what it is you are looking for; you just may not see what others are looking for. And that's what makes the tales so grand: the multiplicity of meanings for various readers.

"I was crazy back when being crazy really meant something. Nowadays everybody's crazy." -- Charles Manson

Lord of Magic

Aug 1 2010, 3:54pm

Post #27 of 33 (464 views)
Eöl was powerful [In reply to] Can't Post

In his own right, at least powerful enough to ensnare her.

And maybe the only reason he was monogamous was because no one else came along....

Former Duke of Stardock, Overseer of the Paraphysical Army of Tokidoki, High Mage in Service to King Lyam conDoin I of Rillanon, The Absolute Lord, Ruler, and Sovereign of all Tokidoki.

The White Dragon and Arnölé, The Lord of All Magic

Registered User

Jan 26 2013, 9:19pm

Post #28 of 33 (167 views)
And yet [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you for this discussion.
I’m afraid I do not see the logic of the second paragraph. The fact that he is monogamous in a forced marriage (“faithful”) does not make it any less of a forced marriage. If in that world there is no extramarital sex, and the woman does not wish to marry him, that means she does not want to have sex with him either. And since he forces her to marry him and consummates it, then it is rape. Unless by some magic upon being officially married to him, she somehow begins to desire him, which to me seems unlikely. Or if Tolkien simply did not believe in the concept of "marital rape" as many people at the time did not (as some people still don't).
And secondly, Tolkien had said that Middle-earth is not some parallel dimension or another planet, it is our own world at some earlier time. The Elves may have been different from us, in many ways, and it does not seem to me impossible that sexually they may also be different, i.e. monogamous by nature (as seems to be the case with the Valar as well) and also incapable of surviving rape. But even so, Tolkien's Elves, other than being wise, sad and beautiful (which seems to in a large degree entail from their immortality) do seem to be quite "human" in the sense that they get themselves drunk, they can be proud, scornful, greedy, wrathful, jeaolous, petty, etc. They are by far not the embodiment of perfect Christian virtue, they have the desires and reactions a modern human can well relate to - so in that light his writing about how extra-/premarital sex just did not happen, did seem to me as a bit of a stretch to accomodate his own personal morals. I would personally find it more believeable if he said that it was extremely disapproved of in their culture, and rarely known to happen, etc. but not write it off as a complete impossibility.
Now that's for the Elves, I have not seen him address the Edain's sexual tradition as explicitly as he did the Elven (please do correct me if I am wrong). But it does say in LOTR, if I remember correctly, that the people of Rohan were surprised when Theoden did not take a second wife after his forst one died. So that would already imply a difference between the races. Besides, if Middle-earth is indeed our world at an earlier time, then the Men from the books are the same species that inhabit the Earth today. And these men can commit sex out of/before marriage, and rape, and have group sex, and pay for sex, and have gay sex, and you name it, really - there's quite clearly no natural monogamy here.
Basically Tolkien gives us a very conservatively Christian picture, i.e. that sex is only within marriage and pretty much mainly for procreation purposes. Which looks very pure and clean, and sets a very high tone, but in my eyes does not really go hand in hand with all the other ways in which his characters show themselves to be only human – even the Elves.


Jan 27 2013, 12:12am

Post #29 of 33 (134 views)
Very nice [In reply to] Can't Post

I like your point that Tolkien seems to want it both ways: that his characters, Elves and Men, for all their mythic nobility have the same array of passions and ideals that lead to great stories as do humans today - with the apparent exception of the sexual urge. It does lead one to wonder just how he conceived of the human desire for stories!

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Registered User

Jan 27 2013, 1:04am

Post #30 of 33 (137 views)
Especially in inter-racial marriages, hm? [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks :)

Well, this thing that seems an inconsistency to me is a golden fruit for anyone writing fanfiction, isn't it? If you want to write high-tone pure and clean Elven love, you can always go, well Tolkien said so. On the other hand, anything that does not fully conform to that idealised and somewhat sterilised picture, is also easily defensible.

I want even go into Hobbits here, hehe. Sam and Rosy, what was it, 14 children? Apparently they were doing it with procreation in mind, because obviously 13 children just don't give you enough chores to juggle on a daily basis.

But most of all I am curious about those cases where a Man took and Elf-lady to wife. If Elves and Men had different views and expectations regarding this sort of thing, it would be very interesting to see how they were (or weren't) making it work. Also the point that the Man would age very fast for her, while she remained a young woman at the height of baby-making times. Must've been sad... Sometimes I wonder if Aragorn's words about how he wants to go before he falls unwitted and umanned, may have at least in part alluded to this aspect of their marriage.


Jan 27 2013, 2:24am

Post #31 of 33 (137 views)
Yes, no means no, but in forced marriages, [In reply to] Can't Post

as opposed to rape, the wife says "yes." Now one might ask whether that counts if it was under duress, but in Tolkien's world it seems that it does, although it tends to lead to unhappy marriages. It's the closest thing to rape that we see in Middle-earth, but it's a far cry from the typical rape in the Primary World. And it seems like a natural law, rather than a result of the virtue of the inhabitants, since there are many evil men in Tolkien's world whom one would suspect of rape in the Primary World.

There's really no point in analyzing Middle-earth as our world in an earlier time. This isn't history. But if we go with that conceit, then certainly things have changed since that previous time, including, apparently, the laws of nature.

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jan 27 2013, 2:45am

Post #32 of 33 (132 views)
Most astonishing! [In reply to] Can't Post

The three of you, discussing Elvish sex, in a thread that's 2 1/2 years old - old RR discussions never die, they simply "age" for the better!

Good to see you, Curious. Hope everyone's safe and warm, you've got some nasty weather out your way.


"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

Registered User

Jan 27 2013, 7:48am

Post #33 of 33 (144 views)
I think we would have to agree to disagree :) [In reply to] Can't Post

I think we would have to agree to disagree :)

I don't believe that if it's marriage, the wife automatically says "yes". If the marriage was forced, i.e. against her will, why would she fully consent to sexual intercourse? Because she feels she has to? That is called coercion, and legally still rape, even if it's wrapped in the nice-looking package of marriage. She may not struggle physically and demand that he stop, but if he knows that he is doing it against her will, then it is rape - maybe not violent rape, but rape nonetheless.

In regards to your second point - exactly, if we go along with what Tolkien himself had said about Middle-earth being our own world at an earlier time, then it would mean the laws of human nature had changed. And why would they? Yes, magic may have gone away, together with the non-human peoples and creatures that were capable of it, but the fundamental workings of the human mind, body, and heart - why would that change? Tolkien's people want all the same things that we do: happiness, love, security, power, glory, self-respect, acceptance, admiration, excitement, etc. - none of that had become any different over time. Why would sexuality and the nature of love?

Not to mention that this whole notion of "sex can only exist in a life-long monogamous heterosexual married couple, and primarily for making children, and once you stop making children, your interest in sex wanes" - to the best of my knowledge, that is a very Christian thing. Other big religions tend to allow more leeway, and recognise sexuality, even if only male sexuality, as a thing in its own right, connected to but not fully chained to love and marriage. It is only in strict Christianity that sexual desire as such is viewed as sin and a bad thing, a temptation from the devil, etc. Maybe this is why it often embarrasses and outrages Western readers to see sexual interpretations of Tolkien's work - because deep down we still believe that sex is shameful and low and dirty, and somehow degrades the characters and the work's artistic merit. And as Tolkien purposefully made Middle-earth free of religion, other than to show it in negative forms as the Numenoreans' Morgoth-worshipping, it seems a natural course of action for him to ascribe to the laws of nature what in fact is a product of society in general and religion specifically. But that, again, does not connect to the other things we see or he tells us about Middle-earth.

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