I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

May 28, 2014 - 12:05 p.m.

More than Spiders

I spent much of yesterday talking online to a friend that needed someone to talk to. Of course I can't talk about that which leaves me vamping.

While I was talking to her I edited and posted photographs. Since then I've gotten literally hundreds of likes on Facebook. I like likes but it's disappointing and seeing that almost all my alerts are people I don't know liking my photos. Now if I people liked the links to this it would be another matter. Not that I'm hinting. In fact I'm not As in so many things if the reaction isn't spontaneous it doesn't have value.

As you might know I'm still reading The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End. Rateliff pointed out something that I am shocked I never noticed before. The only female in The Hobbit with a speaking role is one of the giant spiders of Mirkwood. I'm surprised as I have often thought about how there is never any mention of orc/goblin women. Now I wouldn't expect any women on the actual expedition but the Bilbo should have met female elves in Rivendell and human women in Laketown. I suspect this had to do with the target audience, Tolkien's two young sons. He told about what interested them. They were obsessed with bears, so there were bears. They were too young to be interested in girls.

This is in striking contrast to the rest of Tolkien's works. Let's start with the Lord of the Rings. Now yes there are more male than female characters but it's largely a war story in a medieval social system. But the thing is the few female characters are not just memorable but powerful. Arwen was a late addition to the story and does largely have the fairytale princess function of being Aragorn's reward. But even she acquires depth in Appendix A, The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen I just wrote about owyn here, Tested by Testing . She performed the greatest martial feat in the book, the killing of the Nazgl.

And then there's Galadriel. So did anyone else get the impression when reading LOTR that she married beneath her? She should have been able to do better than Celeborn. Except perhaps for Elrond, Galadriel is the most powerful elf we meet in LOTR. She's is actually the most powerful character that isn't a Maia, the angelic beings that existed before the creation of the world. Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron, are all Maia. It's made clear in the History of Middle Earth that Galadriel is the greatest of all the Children of Ilvatar , Elves and Men. She competed for the spot with Fanor. Her superiority comes from her greater virtue that come in part from her greater understanding of other people. Galadriel is actually prayed to by Sam and his prayers are granted even if we don't know for sure she is responsible.

You might think that what happened was that Tolkien's views towards women evolved between The Hobbit and LOTR but that's not true. He began The Silmarillion before he started either and it's there that you'll find his greatest heroine, Lthien Tinviel. The tale of Tinviel turns fairy tale convention upside down. Beren doesn't save Lthien , Lthien saves Beren. He's a mortal man, She is not just an elf but her mother is Melian of the Maia. She is the only demigod in Tolkien's universe. She is the Herakles of his legendarium. Her power is not in physical strength but of mind and spirit. Most of all it is in her singing. She has the fairest voice of all the Children of Ilvatar and like the Wiffenpoofs the magic of her singing casts its spell. When Beren and Lthien perform the greatest act of heroism in Tolkien's history, the recovery of a silmaril from Morgoth's Crown, it is she that takes the lead. She transforms their shapes so they can reach Morgoth's fortress Angband. And it's her singing that puts Morgoth, the mightiest being in Arda, to sleep. And when Beren dies it's her singing that gets Mandos to release Beren from death though at the cost of her own immortality.

Aragorn tells the tale in brief to the hobbits in LOTR. This passage has always stayed with me.

So it is that Lthien Tinviel , alone of the Elf-kindred has died indeed and left the world, and they have lost her whom they most loved.
I have always loved Lthien. This story was so central to Tolkien that the graves of he and his wife bear the names, Beren and Lthien .

Lthien's mother Melian is another strong woman. She is a Maia and the only one to marry an elf, King Thingol. Their relationship was somewhat like that of Galadriel and Melian. It is her power that protected Doriath just as it's Galdriel's with the help of one of the three rings that protected Lothlrien. An interesting sidelight in all of Tolkien's mixed marriages the woman was of the greater race. The elves Lthien , Idril, and Arwen married mortal men and the Maia, Melian, married the Elf, Thingol.

Arda, approximately the solar system, was ruled by The Valar who were both male and female. The chief two were Manw and his wife Elbereth. They were equals but Elbereth was the more beloved. She is the one that Elves pray to and sing of.

A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna mriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-driel
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!

A Elbereth Gilthoniel!
o menel palan-driel
le nallon s di'nguruthos!
A tiro nin, Fanuilos!

A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
silivren penna mriel
o menel aglar elenath!

We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

We hear the Elves sing that in the woods of the Shire at the very start of the Hobbits journey. I've sung it myself.

It's become de rigueur to include a woman warrior in heroic fiction now. It usually feels forced to me. Tolkien did it naturally. He wasn't trying to follow fashion or make a point. He was trying to tell a tale and bring characters to life. I always grated that Galadriel had to feed Celeborn's ego and called him the Wisest one in Middle Earth even though she is clearly his superior. Much of owyn 's issues came from the roll a woman was supposed to take even when unsuited to her nature. She was as brave and as assertive as her brother Eomer but was expected to stay at home and perform duties "proper" for a woman.

It's noon already. I was going to write about feminism and woman but now I have to eat. I'll save that for another time.





Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
Late to Bed and Late to Rise - September 30, 2017
On Your Feet or On Your Knees - September 29, 2017
Why Life Doesn't End on Closing Day - September 28, 2017
Anna and King of I Am - September 27, 2017



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Horvendile May 28, 2014
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