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Tolkien vs. Benioff and Weiss: Portrayals of women

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, HoodedCrow said:

 Instead he goes for Arwen

He went for Arwen, given that they plighted their troth about 40-odd years before Éowyn was born. Given the thematic resonances within the greater legendarium of the union, and its close ties to some of Tolkien's personal philsophical views, it's no surprise that Tolkien didn't veer to something more "modern".

I think there's not really as much wrong with the story as you seem to think, because I suspect you're using the wrong frame of reference. Think about what Tolkien intends to convey and, IMO, his success in achieving that is obviously pretty undeniable. 

Edited by Ran

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On 6/7/2021 at 3:55 AM, James Steller said:

Personally, I've begun to take more of an issue with how Tolkien portrays women in his stories. It's not just the passivity which is a problem for me. It's the way that Tolkien looks down on women who try to be in charge of their own fates. 

The two biggest examples are Aredhel and Eowyn. In "The Silmarillion," Aredhel is a headstrong elven woman, sister to a king, who wants to explore Middle-Earth and go wherever she wants. She ignores her brother's warnings and commands, then orders her escort away so she can do exactly as she likes. As a result, she's seduced by the dark elf Eol, wedded under dubious consensual circumstances, and she produces his son Maeglin. When she tries to go back to Gondolin (which she doesn't do until her own son persuades her to leave), she draws Eol after her, which leads to his finding Gondolin, killing Aredhel, and cursing his son for betraying him. Maeglin is thus a cursed being, lusting after his cousin, and ultimately betraying everyone by helping Morgoth destroy Gondolin. All because of a wilful woman's wanderings.

Meanwhile, "The Lord of the Rings" gives Eowyn her big hero moment, but it's framed in a story of a wilful emotional woman finding her proper place in life. It's not just that she settles to live the domestic life with Faramir, what gets me is the scenes she has with Aragorn just before he takes the paths of the dead. First she talks about being bitter over being left behind and Aragorn mansplains about her responsibilities to her people and more importantly, her uncle and brother. Then, when she begs to take the paths of the dead with him, Aragorn condescends her again, saying that even if he did want to bring her along, he'd have to ask her brother and uncle's permission first, and he won't wait for them to ask. It's a truly undignified moment for Eowyn, and it's not like Aragorn is ever made to feel foolish for denying Eowyn's desire for self-agency; Tolkien even implies that her desire to be a warrior is just an excuse to be with Aragorn and win his heart. I'm really glad the movies reshaped Eowyn and Aragorn enough that it wasn't so cringey.

Maeglin has free will.  His misdeeds are on Maeglin.

Serving as Regent of Rohan in the absence of its King and Crown Prince is no light responsibility.  In the absence of Eomer and Theoden she's the most important person in the kingdom.

So, her decision to ride incognito can't be considered wholly right, especially as she's seeking death on the battlefield.  Tolkien admires soldiers who risk their lives for others, but his religious outlook led him to totally reject the idea of throwing  one's life away on the battlefield.  Eowysn's story is ultimately that of someone who chooses life over death.

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I loved Tolkien. He is internally consistent. I created my own alphabet and made up a language. As far as being a modern woman goes, well yuck. There are powerful women so that’s nice, and a change from other books. There is a delightful appropriation / melange of other mythology.  There is no sex and passion is suspicious. Faramir is a consolation prize, that is somewhat forced and rationalized.

 Samwell Gangee does end up married with many children. Hobbits are fertile when they are the marrying sort. You are right that Eomer is just as trapped in this world. There are logically characters that are gay or asexual. It’s fine, if you go along with the worldview. 

The movies do try to fix some things. Arwen gets something to do. ( Do you buy The actress for Arwen and actor for Aragorn together though?) Gollum is fantastic. Tom Bombadil is out, even though he is strongly representative in that world. The Council of Elrond is shortened:)

 

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3 hours ago, SeanF said:

Maeglin has free will.  His misdeeds are on Maeglin.

Does he now, in a world where vows and curses bind you to death and destruction? A world where Isildur's curse could create an army of ghosts? Where Morgoth's curse could ruin Túrin's life, etc.? Maeglin's origin story is what shaped his future. It set him on a dark path. He is the ill-begotten son of an evil man, basically.

3 hours ago, SeanF said:

Serving as Regent of Rohan in the absence of its King and Crown Prince is no light responsibility.  In the absence of Eomer and Theoden she's the most important person in the kingdom.

So, her decision to ride incognito can't be considered wholly right, especially as she's seeking death on the battlefield.  Tolkien admires soldiers who risk their lives for others, but his religious outlook led him to totally reject the idea of throwing  one's life away on the battlefield.  Eowysn's story is ultimately that of someone who chooses life over death.

The interesting fact here is that most of the men are free to do what they want despite the fact that they are also subject to their particular elders and chieftains, e.g. Pippin and Merry who, to our knowledge, never asked permission of the heads of their families to leave the Shire with Frodo. They just did it. Why shouldn't Éowyn be doing the same thing?

And it is not that Éowyn is the only person who can look after a bunch of women and children and old folk. There would be other people who could do that if she had disappeared - and one assumes that she appointed somebody in that capacity when she left, so that chaos would not break out.

Also, keep in mind that part of her motivation was to keep Théoden safe.

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Posted (edited)
47 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Does he now, in a world where vows and curses bind you to death and destruction? A world where Isildur's curse could create an army of ghosts? Where Morgoth's curse could ruin Túrin's life, etc.? Maeglin's origin story is what shaped his future. It set him on a dark path. He is the ill-begotten son of an evil man, basically.

The interesting fact here is that most of the men are free to do what they want despite the fact that they are also subject to their particular elders and chieftains, e.g. Pippin and Merry who, to our knowledge, never asked permission of the heads of their families to leave the Shire with Frodo. They just did it. Why shouldn't Éowyn be doing the same thing?

And it is not that Éowyn is the only person who can look after a bunch of women and children and old folk. There would be other people who could do that if she had disappeared - and one assumes that she appointed somebody in that capacity when she left, so that chaos would not break out.

Also, keep in mind that part of her motivation was to keep Théoden safe.

Turin's story is very much out of line with the tale as a whole, and out of line with Tolkien's own religious outlook.  Ancestral curses that one cannot shake off are a feature of Norse mythology.

The Tooks and Brandybucks are huge clans.  They could survive the loss of Pippin or Merry.  Whilst I think that as a matter of logic, Eowyn must have appointed somebody in her absence, she's all that's left of Rohan's royal family and government if the army is destroyed in Gondor.  We know that thousands of soldiers were left behind in Rohan, so if Theoden and Eomer are killed, somebody is going to have to take charge of them.  

Edited by SeanF

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6 minutes ago, SeanF said:

The men cursed by Isildur made a choice, and they chose wrong.

It still seems that the curse is what turned them into what they were, nothing else.

6 minutes ago, SeanF said:

Turin's story is very much out of line with the tale as a whole, and out of line with Tolkien's own religious outlook.  Ancestral curses that one cannot shake off are a feature of Norse mythology.

Oh, but there are other curses in the story - Frodo basically curses Gollum with the power of the Ring and when he lays hands on him again he is cast into the fire. Is that an accident? Feanor and his sons are bound for all eternity by their blasphemous vow, Mandos' judgments have a curse-like quality, certain divine warnings come back to haunt you if you ignore them (like Turgon did when Tuor delivered Ulmo's message), etc. As a plot device this kind of thing can be found everywhere in Tolkien's works. It is not specific to certain stories.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/7/2021 at 4:38 PM, Annara Snow said:

I haven't read the entire thread, so I don't know if someone else has said it already, but - Cersei's feminism?! Cersei is not a feminist in any shape or form. On the contrary, she is a misgynist. It is an excellent  portrayal of internalized misogyny. She despises her gender and despises other women, and hates the fact that she is a woman. She is bitter because of the lack of opportunities in Westeros relative to males of her social standing, like her father and Jaime, but that's not because she feels it's wrong to discrimiante against women. It's simply because she thinks she is better than everyone else, she is not like other girls, and should have been born a man, so she would have all those opportunities. All other women are weak and despicable and either stupid or malicious, according to her - and she treats other women like crap. 

You might maybe try to compare Cersei to what is pejoratively called White Feminism - but even people who can be said to be White Feminists (those who see feminism only in terms of the rights of women of their class, race and social standing and simply assume all women have the same issues, without thinking about their own privilege as white middle class Western (usually US) women and the fact that women of other races, classes etc. face different issues) at least think of other people besides themselves, even if those are just people of the same social standing as they are,  or think that they think of all women but never stop to understand the difference of experience.

Cersei, on the other hand, only ever cares about herself and her rights. The only time she felt some empathy for anyone else was for Myrcella - because she sees Myrcella as an extension of herself.

Of course, D&D never understood that and seem to have really viewed Cersei as some kind of feminist, giving her statements like "everywhere they hurt little girls"... while giving heroines like Arya and Brienne misogynistic statements that they do not have in the books ("Most girls are stupid", "You sound like a bloody woman" - instead of "craven").

Yes, Cersei’s feminism (bitter dead-ended as it is) exists. She’s pissed that she wasn’t given choices and possibilities on account of her gender (being sold off like brood mare, not getting a sword like Jaime etc). It has a lot of big flaws, but it is still feminism. Feminism/feminists can be misogynic. Misogyny is so deeply woven into everything its almost impossible to not ever do/say stuff that isn’t feministically correct.

The reasoning you have about Cersei’s exceptionalistic tendencies fits better with Dany’s aspacian piedestal, which is DANY has a right to rule everyone because she is so very special and other women aren’t at all like that, so they deserve being ruled over.

Aspasia was a highly intelligent highborn woman in Ancient greece a who won the right to vote but only specifically for HERSELF, other women didn’t matter (maybe it did, to her, but its not recorded to my knowledge).

Edited by Sigella
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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Sigella said:

Yes, Cersei’s feminism (bitter dead-ended as it is) exists. She’s pissed that she wasn’t given choices and possibilities on account of her gender (being sold off like brood mare, not getting a sword like Jaime etc). It has a lot of big flaws, but it is still feminism. Feminism/feminists can be misogynic.

No, it is not. Feminism is belief in gender equality and promotion of women's rights. Cersei believes women are inferior and only cares about her own rights.

 

Quote

Misogyny is so deeply woven into everything its almost impossible to not ever do/say stuff that isn’t feministically correct.

That's BS. That's like saying "Oh, no, Tywin is no more classist than anyone else, because classism is deeply woven into blah blah blah" or "The slavers of Astapor are no more slavers than anyone else, because class society yada yada".

Cersei is a huge misogynist. She despises her gender.

Quote

The reasoning you have about Cersei’s exceptionalistic tendencies fits better with Dany’s aspacian piedestal, which is DANY has a right to rule everyone because she is so very special and other women aren’t at all like that, so they deserve being ruled over.

Oh yes, it would fit, if Dany was actually like that and if you didn't completely make that up, since Dany has never expressed any idea about women being unfit to rule.  

Sorry, Cersei stan, but your fanon is completely different from canon. You're trying to give Dany Cersei's actual characterization, while denying it for Cersei herself. It's very weird. 

Edited by Annara Snow

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15 hours ago, Sigella said:

Yes, Cersei’s feminism (bitter dead-ended as it is) exists. She’s pissed that she wasn’t given choices and possibilities on account of her gender (being sold off like brood mare, not getting a sword like Jaime etc). It has a lot of big flaws, but it is still feminism. Feminism/feminists can be misogynic. Misogyny is so deeply woven into everything its almost impossible to not ever do/say stuff that isn’t feministically correct.

The reasoning you have about Cersei’s exceptionalistic tendencies fits better with Dany’s aspacian piedestal, which is DANY has a right to rule everyone because she is so very special and other women aren’t at all like that, so they deserve being ruled over.

Aspasia was a highly intelligent highborn woman in Ancient greece a who won the right to vote but only specifically for HERSELF, other women didn’t matter (maybe it did, to her, but its not recorded to my knowledge).

Dany has never made such comments about women, internally or to others. I think, like everyone else in this world, she would regard women as inferior to men, but she's never going on about women being "sluts" or "whores" or "praying for a good raping", or lamenting that she was not born a man.

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On 6/8/2021 at 11:22 AM, Lord Varys said:

Does he now, in a world where vows and curses bind you to death and destruction? A world where Isildur's curse could create an army of ghosts? Where Morgoth's curse could ruin Túrin's life, etc.? Maeglin's origin story is what shaped his future. It set him on a dark path. He is the ill-begotten son of an evil man, basically.

 

Túrin is an interesting case, as Tolkien leaves it up in the air whether or not it's Morgoth's curse that causes Túrin so much misery or Túrin's own flaws, like his pride and his temper. He could have chosen to accept Thingol's pardon but did not because he was unwilling to humble himself. He could have chosen to listen to Ulmo's emissaries but did not because he believed that open warfare was the best way to fight Morgoth, leading to the Fall of Nargothrond.

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3 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

Túrin is an interesting case, as Tolkien leaves it up in the air whether or not it's Morgoth's curse that causes Túrin so much misery or Túrin's own flaws, like his pride and his temper. He could have chosen to accept Thingol's pardon but did not because he was unwilling to humble himself. He could have chosen to listen to Ulmo's emissaries but did not because he believed that open warfare was the best way to fight Morgoth, leading to the Fall of Nargothrond.

Of course, but as readers we cannot really say whether Morgoth's curse didn't also affect Túrin's personality. He is a rather powerful individual, after all. The entire crux of the Túrin story is that there is no way to really figure out who is to blame. In the end, though, the idea is that in a world where there is no Morgoth, where Arda isn't marred, no tragedies which would corrupt good individuals would happen. In that sense, Túrin's temper might not just be part of his innate character but rather a consequence of him living in a world co-shaped by Morgoth ... who in addition focused the entire power of his wrath on him.

I also think that Túrin's posthumous promotion to a quasi-deity who would eventually return to slay Morgoth himself in the Last Battle fits very much with an interpretation where one views him as Morgoth's prime victim while still alive ... a man who struggled against impossible odds and never had any chance to succeed no matter what he did. But in the very end Tolkien wanted Túrin to have the last laugh.

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