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Thread: LOTR and men's minds...

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Why can men only show emotion in times of great stress?

'Cos women will think they're poofs if they do otherwise! I don't want a constantly weepy, oversensitive bloke around my neck! Gimme the strong, brash (or silent), burping, farting, drooling type anytime! They're more genuine. If you get one that reads, well it's a bonus. Big Smile Smilie

To tell you the truth, I don't think that Tolkien gave a very accurate portrayal of men. Too many honourable & understanding males, fighting for the common good....but then it is fantasy... Wink Smilie
Illogical Captain, why should one show emotion if it is not imperative and unavoidable? *raises eyebrow* Your female emotions interest me. Fascinating.....
How could he not give an accurate portrayal of men unless he was your atypical man? I don't think Tolkien was all that atypical and find his views quite masculine (to the point where I can hardly stand it at times) and those views coming out in LOTR quite often.

Frodo = middle aged blue eyed cleft in chin tweed wearing pipe smoker
Tolkien = middle aged blue eyed cleft in chin tweed wearing pipe smoker

I think you can draw the inference from that...
Yeah, that's only one - out of probably zillions of male characters in LotR. Besides, Tolkien always said that he wanted to be a it's not surprising that he gave Frodo his physical attributes.

Most of the male characters in there were idealised - the honourable, the wise, the terrible etc. Probably the most balanced and realistic portrait painted was Boromir - the rest were just the typical 'good' vs. 'evil' attributes of men in general. But then it a fantasy novel, so I wouldn't expect to find any answers to what makes the modern man tick in there. Probably what made Tolkien tick, yes - but not men.
Why men characters of Tolkien are as a rule idealised?...
A possible hint:
His men are to some degree similar to characters in the books of Arthur
Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes, Dr Watson and others - for instance Malone.
from "The Lost World").
Both Tolkien and Conan-Doyle were half-orphans: their fathers died when they
were very young. Both were reared by loving mothers with very strong personalities
and very romantic notions about perfect men which should be heroic, but also
gentle and... chaste.
My own father is very very similar - and he had a similar family story...
Wow this is fun!
Firstly if I ever wanted to learn anything about men/masculinity and women/feminitiy, its is HIGHLY unlikely that I would read Tolkien. There are several reasons they call it fantasy.

Secondly if I wanted to understand lmen/masculinity etc....I'm not sure if JRR Tolkien is a role model or had anything interesting to say on the topic.

I I may venture... the reason Tolkien has created monolithic idelistic male/boy figures is precisely becasue he knew nothing about women in the complete sense of complex creatures as opposed to being virgins/girls/Queens/mothers. Eryan's info about a strong mother relationship adds to this.

Tolkien has created BOY's - none of the characters actually become adults (although the debate is open for Frodo). This may have to do with his youth, his social background or simply the male literary universtiy environment.

Tolkien is definitely not a good bedside book on male psychology. If by chance you do use the book to that effect - you're in for a rough ride. Then of course it depends on what age you are and what you are looking for. But ne supposes that if the question is about male psychology, the person asking the question is beyond adolescent.

Great topic! Big Smile Smilie

Tolkien has created BOY's - none of the characters actually become adults (although the debate is open for Frodo).

What about Aragorn then? Or Boromir? Or Gandalf??? Are they boys too? But I suppose you're referring to the hobbits, right? Wink Smilie

I am totally with Ungoliant here. Men are great, just as long they stay men. Big Smile Smilie Women don't want poofs, as Golly said. A guy, solid as a rock, that's what women want. But not the macho kinda type. Men that are able to show their emotions do great as well, but not in public, please! Keep those emotions private, thank you! Smile Smilie

But it's still fantasy... Big Smile Smilie
I think that Tolkien created some remarkable men (non-boy) characters.
In my eyes Aragorn decidedly is a man, with much self-control.
As for what the women desire: many women, especially strong women of the Amazon type happen to fell madly in love with gentle nice Faramirs. Come to the Faramir thread in this Forum and see how many ladies claim him to be a perfect man!!!
I think the cave troll from the movie is typicall Men-ish Smile Smilie
lot off muscles small brains etc... Big Smile Smilie

As for what the women desire: many women, especially strong women of the Amazon type happen to fell madly in love with gentle nice Faramirs. Come to the Faramir thread in this Forum and see how many ladies claim him to be a perfect man!!!

Me included Smile Smilie

But I find that (and don't crucify me for this) that Tolkien's style in LOTR appeals mostly to men because they can relate to it most...
Well, I think I see what Huan's getting at, maybe. Maybe. Only it's not that the characters are necessarily boys, but that their world is "boyish".

Tolkien's world is full of darkness and evil and death, but it doesn't have all the post-modern undercurrents of angst and sexuality and weird psychological twists that you often see or sense in modern fiction. It's "boyish" in the sense that the characters don't really indulge in deep self-analysis. Aragorn's not likely to have a mid-life crisis; he's too busy questing. And the idealized female characters play into this- they, too, are "boyish" because they (mostly) aren't depicted with any real understanding of feminine psychology- they're women seen through the eyes of a boy. Middle Earth is remarkably lacking in sex and angst. It has sorrows, but they're generally heroic sorrows. It has romance, but it's generally chaste and regulated. A lot of the action (and certainly the plot and many of the characters) is Wagnerian in its scope, but LOTR is no grand opera. It has more in common with those "Boy's Own King Arthur" and "Robin Hood"-type books that showed up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Glorious adventures and noble deeds, dastardly villains and righteous heroes (and a bright lady or two whose favor is sought), and little or no interference from Freud, Jung, Derrida, Lacan or any of their ilk.

So I'm not sure that reading Tolkien in the hopes of divining insight into human psychology (male or female) is very profitable. His characters behave as their archetypes behave- Aragorn is noble, Gandalf is powerful and mysterious, Sam is simple, etc. And when they occasionally break out into strange and deep waters, Tolkien pulls them back before they get too far (and the women are rarely even afforded that little luxury). So it comes across as "boyish" in that sense.

That doesn't make it a lesser book, though. It just makes it the sort of book you don't usually see these days.
One more thing- I think you're on to something, swampfaye, when you say that LOTR appeals mostly to men because they can relate to it (even though I wouldn't phrase it quite like that- mostly is a dangerous word). Not exclusively (heck, I'm not a guy!), but the largest segment of fans of Tolkien seems to be men who first encountered the book in adolescence. That's a generalization (very bad of me), and certainly many of the members here are female, but that was much less common before the movie. When I first read LOTR in Junior High, not one other girl of my acquaintance (most of my class- it was a fairly small school) had read it, and many had never heard of it. But most of the boys at least knew what it was. And I think this "boyish" quality may contribute to that. The text provided an exciting story and some snappy scenes (and nice gory bits), but it skated over the top of all the disquieting impulses and shadows that had begun creeping into life with puberty. It showed a world where evil was quantifiable and doomed. Sex wasn't a minefield- nice guys scored, all the girls were beautiful and even the pretty jock-ette just wanted a man. The heroes knew what to do (even if they didn't like it), did it and ultimately succeeded. The guys who encountered it at that age connected with it in part, I believe, because this boyish world was a comfort to them. They escaped to a world where they could slay hundreds of orcs and impress the popular girl, but not have to worry about the existential bulls*** that comes with being a teenager. And the text was sturdy enough to withstand all those messy psychological undercurrents. It was (and is) a comfort to come home to.

They escaped to a world where they could slay hundreds of orcs and impress the popular girl, but not have to worry about the existential bulls*** that comes with being a teenager. And the text was sturdy enough to withstand all those messy psychological undercurrents. It was (and is) a comfort to come home to.
Yup, that's why I still read fantasy: pure escapism from the real world. Smile Smilie And I hate it when fictional characters have to mull over what is going on in their own minds. I don't want to read paragraphs about I they got to their current state with a blow by blow acount of their thought process. If they can do it in two sentences fine; otherwise, I skip the crap and get on to the action.
Rock on Jehanne. Wow. Freud Wagner and Derrida on a Tolkien forum. I'm glad you wrote what you did. I think you have put things much better and far more eloquently than I. But you have, so to speak, hit it on the nail on the "boyish" theme and characterization.

Also, were you a neighbour or a cousin of mine spying on me that you managed to pull my biographical / psychological profile from when I was 11 and first got into this fantasy world. ! We should chat some time and discuss French psyo/philosophy. My kinda gal Tolkien, Derrida and lacan. With a good red wine ? And Eddie Vedder singin? Sorry Grond you can cut this off whenever you like.

OK back to the LOTR "boys". This is one of the reasons I like LOTR Jackson's version because he is defintiely trying to get his male characters into more complex territory. Aragorn in Jackson's film (I know there are several forums on this - just one digression then I'll stop). - is not as one dimesional and "monolithical" (that word again! is it even a word?) he doubts, he desires, he worries, he fights with his demons and will be the most interesting character of remaining two movies - I hope. He will be one of the few to "grow" and "eveolve" into an 'adult".

None of this takes back from what Grond says. I defintely go back to reading LOTR and it provides pleasure, enjoyment and as Jehanne says, a very securizing environment. You just can't lose!

is this the end of this topic or can we keep it going?

Oh yes as for why "women" appreciate the male characters in LOTR? Thats a whole chapter on its own and there is no simple or general answer to that. Somewhere earlier someone mentioned that women want "men to be men". I feel like sudddenly over a 100 years of womens rights has just been jetisoned. Are we talkin about "A man's gotta do, what a mans gatta do?" Somehow sound like a bad 50's film noir or western.

Also why such unanimity for Faramir. Someone said he appeals to the Amazon I think he appeals because some "women" believe that he's no threat - he's a good catch that will be cool, noble sexy and won't bring any unecessary baggage with him. Like a walking talkin livin Ken ! What you get is what you see.

Jehanne this is a huge topic and I'd love to have your insight and get involved in the discussion but my gender happens to mean I get all the slack when talkin about female archetypes. But isn't Faramir basically just Prince Charming? On the larger social aspect, how has the modern woman created modern man and seems to feel they've lost out in the change!
Jehanne, Huan
I like your commennts a lot! Thanks!
Faramir IS Prince Charming of course, but there are men like him in real life, too (when I think about it, I personally met at least five men which resembled him very strongly!).
As for women attracted to strong men... men are often strangely attractive if they are basically strong but temporarily disabled. One of the leading leitmotifs of litterature is the motif of a girl taking care of a male hero in distress - wounded or lost ore exiled or held captive (look at Odyssey for instance!). In the world of Tolkien this motif is frequent, too. The tale of Beren and Luthien is a tale of a woman constantly saving a man who is alone (the sole survivor of his people) then an unwelcome stranger among the Elves, risking to be imprisoned or killed, then a prisoner of Sauron, then hurt by Curufin, then hurt even more badly by Carharoth, and then finally killed - and saved from death and allowed to have a second life.. all thanls to a woman! It's the woman who is the saviour all the time, the man is only loving and loyal.
Of course this compassion and love for men in a state of temporary weakness is a very adaptive trait of human psychology. In our past men were hunters and fighters and as a consequence they kept to land in all sorts of scrapes. And if women would find them attractive only in their moments of glory, and scorn them in their moments of weakness, sickness and defeat... this would markedly lessen the chances of survival of the whole family. Hurt men can yet be healed, and it's the role of women to help them to recover... to profit later from their strength.
I think that many men do not understand this very elementary and archetypal trait of feminine psychology and they try to appear strong all the time... No need really no need!
Of course this does not mean that women adore male whining - a man should endure bravely his temporary weakness...
I also think that the world of Tolkien and his heroes are so attractive for many of us because his heroes are so loyal to friends. This is relatively rare in the modern world and we yearn to it. [Edited on 12/2/2002 by Eryan]
Oh yes as for why "women" appreciate the male characters in LOTR? Thats a whole chapter on its own and there is no simple or general answer to that. Somewhere earlier someone mentioned that women want "men to be men". I feel like sudddenly over a 100 years of womens rights has just been jetisoned. Are we talkin about "A man's gotta do, what a mans gatta do?" Somehow sound like a bad 50's film noir or western.

Are you a closet pc hound, Huan? :P Cos you sure sound like it. Get with it - women's requirements have moved on since the bra-burning '70s. Unless you're talking of the more 'militant' brand of feminism - then I'm not on that bandwagon since I'm suspicious of any group that required the total subjugation of the other/s in order to feel secure of their own position - no matter how good the original intentions were. In fact I'd appreciate a man or woman more if he or she 'does what he/she's supposed to do' - instead of whining about it.

Besides, who said that women's rights only encapsulated Western achievement of the past 100 years or so? Women have struggled (won some, lost some) for thousands of years - I myself come from a thousand year old (or more, dunno) matriachal tradition, where the women called the shots. We inherit everything (sons get nothing), we run the household & businesses - and only kept our men for wars and breeding. I think our situation was slightly weakened when Christianity and Islam reached the Far East, when it requested for equal rights for men, and then when the Portugese/Dutch/British came along - well, it went downhill from there. They 'liberated' our men, allowed them to hold jobs etc. But some remote districts still follow the old practises. Smile Smilie

Saying that, I now consider myself an 'enlightened' female. Weaker than my foremothers perhaps, but I like and respect men - and I like them when they're comfortable with themselves, be it the burping farting type, the Faramirs, the drunken 'lads', the geeky engineer, the macho Gimlis.. whatever. What I can't stand, however, are the pathetic wimps that you see on American prime time or the New Labour zombies parroting whichever politically correct view that is currently in fashion and are being touted as the 'ideal male of the 21st century'. I like strong men, who are confident of themselves, witty, opinionated (it means that they actually think & are brave enough to state it), courageous. Sure, they should in some way be sensitive to my needs too - but then if they're not - it's my job to make sure they do what I expect them to do. Smile Smilie

As for why women like 'strong' men...well, at the risk of sounding conceited, I am very successful, attractive, strong and very, very, intelligent (although some say that I lack a sense of humour). Why would I settle for less in my partner? I want an equal, at the very least - not a doormat.

The Faramir issue - well, in a sense I can see where the attraction is. He is wise, calm, sensitive, yet single-minded in his own way, a warrior-healer. I myself am attracted to his qualities because some of them are different from mine. After all, I don't need someone 'exactly' like me - if I did, I wouldn't need another person in my life, I'd just stand naked in front of the mirror each time I get lonely. Wink Smilie

Sorry for ranting there, and I apologise if it's not as well written as Jehanne's or Huan's arguments. I'm no writer, just an engineer.
Sorry for ranting there, and I apologise if it's not as well written as Jehanne's or Huan's arguments. I'm no writer, just an engineer.

But it's quite well constructed. Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. And tip your waitresses! Big Smile Smilie
I'm enjoying this one.

Hey Ungoliant I really liked that one. Yours too Eryan. But I promise to be brief on this one.
So it rubs off as PC... probably true. I just write these because it's a forum.. ie a debate so I like to throw around ideas; AS to deciding and inferring what or whom a person is from what they write on these forums, well personnally I think I'd pefer get to know someone a little more. But point taken.

Well when you were raised during the 70's it kinda rubs off on you. I'm just surprised that ideas such as masculine, feminine ; men things and female things are still running around. The kinda generalization as what "men and women" are "supposed" to do kinda rubs me up the wrong way. Now agreed, personnally men and women can prefer cetain character traits in their partners, only "natural", but that doesn't mean we can deduce overall theories about all the others.

I was just wondering why given the fact that the political situation for women "evolved" in the 20th century it has helped "liberate" both men and women from cultural stereotypes. And yet more and more in the early 21st century an postAuthorID like Tolkien based on heavy "archetype" characters can have so much appeal. Its a little surprising that as we all come to embrace difference, tolerance, change and freedom of choice, that we hark back to medieval ideas of what men ands women and society should act like.

Seems to me a huge chasm between what we have leigstlated for in politics and society and what goes on in the cultural psyche - seem so far apart. Between what we think and what we feel - and the whole sexual identity /roles is just part of it. Just sit back and think if raciuial stereotyping has really evolved or not. Seems to me we haven't evolved that much from the primate after all - no matter what we say.
PS - i'm not a writer either. I just like to have ideas bounce around.
[Edited on 13/2/2002 by Huan]
I don't know why you two - Ungoliant and Huan - make such a stresst about not being
writers. Your last posts make delightful reading. It's really pure delight!!!
I won't write more this time - anyway I'm glad I popped in before going to sleep, it was
worth while!
Good night folks!
Have to agree with Eryan there. I am a writer, and I couldn't be bothered to have done that! (Probably cos I spend all day typing long stuff on this thing anyway and don't want to do it when I'm having fun)

Btw, I can attest to the fact that Golly has no sense of humour. Wink Smilie
Just two short (or relatively short) comments.
The differences between men and women are not related exclusively to cultural stereotypes: the brains of men and women work differently. This was demonstrated beyuond any doubt, among others, by modern "brain imaging" techniques which enable us to record brain activity of healthy, conscious persons in train of carrying out various activities. That technique revealed, among others, that leading men and women mathematicians use different brain areas when solving the same difficult mathematical problem. Interestingly, men, and not women responded to that situation with an important activation of emotional system! Women were much more detached and rational!
Of course I don't want to tell that these biological differences determine the roles of men and women in the society. As very rightly stressed by Ungoliant, there exists a whole spectre of alternative social systems ranging from matriarchat to fanatic patriarchat.
The same helds true when we consider the importance of genes/hereditary factors/"blue blood" in shaping the personality. Nothing is determined in the strict sense of the word. Moreover, the same genotype (set of genes) may give rise to a whole spectre of various alternative phenotypes (endproducts). This phenomenon is known as the polyphenism.
Switching from one phenotype to another one may also happen during the lifetime of the same individual. Consider the development of a butterfly: larva -> pupa --> adult - they are so differenmt... and yet they all have exactly the same genes!! In humans we may also observe such a serial succession of roles. I seem to remember that in India a man's life was supposed to be composed of 4 main stades, each approximately 20 years long: a youth, a warrior, a father of the family, and a sage.
The same is true also for women. In LOTR Eowyn seems to undergo such a transformation from a virgin Amazon into a mother/healer.

Another remark: is Tolkien's world so very much unlike to our real world, so very much simplified? I think that it is largely a question of perspective. In our real world's history (even the most recent!!) there is so much of material for captivating stories about heroic quests!!!
I will finish by a quote:
Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?"
"A man may do both" said Aragorn. "For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!"
[Edited on 13/2/2002 by Eryan]
I didn't label you as pc Huan - was just asking but if you felt offended then I apologise. Smile Smilie

Hmm, interesting points by you & Eryan there. I can't speak for men or all women since others may disagree, but I think we all find LotR appealing, first and foremost, because of the basic, simple storyline. Good vs. evil - and maybe because of the postAuthorID's talents, we end up rooting for the good characters, and cheering when they win in the end. It's a safe world, full of interesting creatures and fascinating characters, and it was written well.

I also believe that most women nowadays aren't as angry as they were in the '70s. Doesn't make us any less determined...but I don't think that we have a chip on our shoulders anymore. We know we're different from men, and we like being us. We are comfortable in our own skins and are therefore more confident as a group. Again, that's my personal view - one reason that I don't feel offended my male chauvanists is the fact that I fell that I know that I'm better than what they believe me to be. I just feel that I don't have anything to prove to anyone - so ina way that's why I don't feel offended by the lack of serious female characters in LotR. If the postAuthorID didn't put any in - that's fine by me. I can take it and still enjoy the book.

As for the 'men' and 'women' generalisations...well, what's wrong with some of them? There are things that are definitely mostly male, and at the other end, things definitely mostly female. And a lot of overlapping grey areas in the middle. The success of the women's movement (I think) is not the abolition of the mostly 'men' and 'women' things, but instead making the grey areas bigger, that's all.

Something that I find strange though....I find it reassuring that Tolkien doesn't rely on the voluptuous bints in leather bikinis to grab his readers' attentions. Unlike many fantasy novels (the 'modern' ones, check out their covers) where the females are always dressed like medievel Bond girls, Tolkien's females are somewhat 'prudish' in their dress sense. But it still works, and we still love the book! Credit to the postAuthorID, and also to us. In a way, I think that Tolkien 'respects' his women more than most modern writers or directors...he doesn't rely on the amount of exposed skin in order to paint his picture of a fantasy heroine.
Bronze bikinis in Tolkien? The mind boggles. Remember when and where he was writing. Maybe it was respectful for him to dress his women characters, but I think it was more likely it just didn't occur to him not to. He wasn't Edgar Rice Burroughs after all; he was an Oxford don. And since his women tended toward the madonna-eque, he certainly wasn't going to have them running around half-nekkid. I'm sure he would have been appalled by the "chicks in chainmail" stereotype, fusty old scholar that he was.

Other than that, though, good points. Well said.
But that's just it though. Okay, the old fuddy-duddy would have been horrified by what we define as a progressive fantasy heroine, true - but in a sense I appreciate the old dear's sense of propriety - it's quaint and charming.

He had a terribly romantic view of women - and I felt that it was evident in the way he cherished and respected his female characters. I'd rather be a stereotypical Tolkien female (or bug) in his books, rather than an angry half-naked Amazon with 38D cups you see running around in most of today's fantasy movies/tv series/books in the name of 'progress'. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy bikinis as much as anyone - but only on the beach. My skin is far too soft for me to be running around naked in the woods after a monster or villian. I'd still chase after the moster, but in fireproof jumpsuit, safety boots c/w steel toecaps, safety helmet, eye goggles, and a big fat flamethrower.

Oh by the way Jehanne, I do tip my waitresses. I just wish they'd less impatient when we're calculating our individual tabs on our calculators...Wink Smilie
I do not agree that Tolkien's attitude towards sex was typical for the period in which
he published LOTR. After all, this were the fifties!!!!
If I am not wrong, the books of J. Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, E. Hemingway ("Farewell to Arms.."
were published already!!!
And even if we limit ourselves to Fantasy, do not forget Howard and his Conan
books:- they are full of half-naked women and lovemaking among bleeding headless
corpses with their brains spread on the decks of corsair ships. Conan is older than
Aragorn or gentle Faramir!
In my humble opinion Tolkien was highly untypical for his times. I could not
understand why until I learned that he started to create the Silmarillion already during
the First World War. He was "the last dinosaur" (or perhaps "the last Unicorn" of
Heroic Romance. Compare his world with the Never-Never lands of William Morris!
And Morris was even more daring than Tolkien in depicting physical love
(see his delightful romance "Birdalone").
I totally agree with Ungoliant that these half-naked fantasy heroines we see so often on
covers of fantasy books are just poor pitoyable dolls, sexual objects. No question of
respect fora woman here! - they are not women, they are even not humans!
And I love, Ungoliant, what you wrote about the proper equipment for hunting
the monsters in woods! Girls, if ever you'll have to go a-hunting monsters, follow her
sound advice and do not run in bikinis! Big Smile Smilie
Anyway, to return to the principal question - are Tolkien's books a good source to learn
something about men's minds?
Now a quote I like a lot (from "Unfinished Tales"):
Hurin was brought before Morgoth [...] Morgoth [...] offered him his choice to
go free whither he would, or to receive power and rank as the greatest of Morgoth's
captains if he would but reveal where Turgon has his stronghold [...]But Hurin
the Steadfast mocked him saying "Blind you are, Morgoth Bauglir, and blind
shall ever be, seeing only the dark. You know not what rules the hearts of men

I think that in contrast to Morgoth Tolkien knew well (from introspection) "what rules
the hearts of men". What do we need, what do we miss in this modern world, what do
we yearn to.
Tolkien and C.S. Lewis kept telling that they must write books because they cannot get
enough of books they would like to read. In the Foreword to the famous Ballantine edition
of the LOTR Tolkien wrote that when writing LOTR
As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving

And I also think that Tolkien knows a great deal about the anguish of a desperate fight
with an addiction (in the broad sense of that term - encompassing such addictions as
workaholism, Internet addiction, or loving obsessively a wrong person). Wink Smilie
I do not agree that Tolkien's attitude towards sex was typical for the period in which he published LOTR. After all, this were the fifties! If I am not wrong, the books of J. Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, E. Hemingway ("Farewell to Arms..") were published already!!!
(it doesn't really affect my views on Tolkien, but...) Exactly, it was the fifties. Era of repression and things unsaid (in maintream literature, at least). Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce and the rest were published, studied, read... but that doesn't make them mainstream. Part of the burden of genius is its freakishness- if everyone thought and wrote like Joyce, he wouldn't be considered a genius. He'd be John Grisham. The bulk of literature published in the 40's and 50's isn't really comparable to the lofty heights you point to, any more than the bulk of literature published today is comparable to our current geniuses, whomever they may be.

But that's a big tangent. I agree with you that Tolkien was atypical for his times, but I believe he was pretty standard for his genre, in terms of gendered psychology.

By genre I don't mean the modern fantasy corpus of which his works form the foundation, but the body of heroic romances and sagas that he was drawing upon (the various Arthurian texts, Beowulf, the Niebelunglied, the Poetic Edda, etc.) The elements that stand out so strongly in Tolkien's work, such as the grief at the passing away of an former world, the homosocial world of warriors, the untouchable guiding virtue of the feminine, etc. are drawn from this corpus. Even the themes that were prevalent throughout the literature of the era, like the threat posed to good men by the insidious temptations of evil, were couched by Tolkien in this deliberately archaic vocabulary of the romance. So Tolkien wasn't so much a pathfinder as a throwback, although his archaizing was performed with such obsessive attention to detail as to become pathfinding. Blech, circular logic.

The chick in chainmail who still makes her appearance in modern fantasy (who isn't usually considered progressive unless her appearance is used as a subversive tactic) isn't a descendant of Tolkien's ladies; she's a descendant of the pulp postAuthorIDs like Howard and Burroughs. Of course she's not a realistic woman. But Tolkien's women aren't any more realistic. And though the "angel in the home" stereotype is less salacious than the Red Sonja stereotype, it isn't any deeper or more sensitive to the complexities of human nature. A cardboard woman is a cardboard woman, no matter what she's wearing.

[Edited on 17/2/2002 by Jehanne]
I agree with everything. Or almost. I still think that some of Tolkien's heroines are not
entirely cardboard, and if they seem cardboard it's because he does not focus our
attention on their psychology. And in the case when he does, he succeeds in captivating
our attention (see the case of Eowyn!).
Erendis from the tale "Aldarion and Erendis" is not a cardboard female either...
And what you said about Tolkien
So Tolkien wasn't so much a
pathfinder as a throwback, although his archaizing was performed
with such obsessive attention to detail as
to become pathfinding. Blech, circular logic.

is NOT circular logic. He was a throwback in respect to the genre (heroic romance) but
a pathfinder in respect to artistic means of creating a captivating story inducing
visualizations which hold us "under spell".
Do you know the French postAuthorID Le Clezio? He is not a fantasy writer, but in his
stories the descriptions of landscape are so detailed (and beautiful) that you really
feel "inside". At least I felt like that...
Less circular logic than circular phrasing, then. I was picking on myself, not Tolkien.

Yeah, he does fine with characterization on some of his minor female characters, and I think I've pretty well established that Eowyn is my favorite character (though she's not without her faults). But my arguments on those points are in one of my "militant feminista" rants elsewhere (probably under Eowyn or Arwen, dunno), and I was just too tired to go into it again. Sorry if my blanket statement got in the way- what I meant was, most (not all) of Tolkien's female characters are under-developed. But since most of them aren't active movers of events, that isn't really surprising.

Not familiar with Le Clezio. What's he done?

And don't discount Tolkien's genre-ancestors entirely as influences on his ability to create a strongly visual component to his words. Much of his talent for putting readers "under a spell," as you so well put it, comes from his attention to detail (colors, textures, scents, etc.). This preoccupation of his can be arguably interpreted as a logical evolution of his medieval source materials. The various stories of the Arthurian corpus, in particular, often have passages of great visual strength describing the color of fabrics, the texture of a lady's hair, the sparkle of jewels, etc. Poetry and non-fiction sources of the same eras often mirror this interest (descriptions of reliquaries, in particular, sometimes describe the weight of the gold and jewels used, their shine, their temperature, etc.). So Tolkien was a skilled manipulator of this aspect of writing (or a big bore, depending on how much you like him), but he didn't create it out of whole cloth.

Feel free to disagree.

[Edited on 17/2/2002 by Jehanne]
I'd like to disagree... would be much funnier... but... I agree!!!
As for your remarks about Tolkien predecessors... of course you are right.
Imaginary world of William Morris is almost so rich in details as well.
And the same helds true for still earlier romances. Did you read "Rookwood"
(if I am not mistaken, it's a book written by Ainswort???). It's quite "Tolkienish" although
its action is running in England. But we have here various "people" as well: landed
gentry, Gypsies, robbers... and (a very Tolkien-like trait!!!) each "tribe" is characterized
by their own songs and/or poetry. Some parts of that romance are terribly old-fashioned,
but some of them are pretty good. At the very beginning there is a description of a hero
(Luke) running in a forest which is written in magnificent & very "modern" prose (or so
I feel...).
Le Clezio is an postAuthorID of short stories with little action but very very detailed desriptions of
landscape which "held us under spell" as well... at least in my case they induce magnificent and
very relaxing visualizations... He is well known in France and liked by many...[Edited on 18/2/2002 by Eryan]
When I said we like men who act like men, what I meant was "men who act the way we think men should" - the old chivarly thing. I like being protected (I'm thinking that a guy doing a good job providing for his family is very good protection...). I like my children taken care of. I like it when I hear people compliment my sons for opening doors and helping old ladies accross the street.

And thank God Tolkien wasn't Hemmingway, who, not only, had no idea what to expect from women, he was absolutely sexist and it reflected in his writing.

Someone made a comment (can't remember the blokes name or I'd give him credit) that it really wasn't fair women in fantasy could run around in skimpy chain mail and not loose their armour class! LOL - I kinda though Tina Turners armor in Mad Max would work..

As for stereotypes being bad... I don't know... Being nurturing is a stereotype I can live with, and a man being a good provider is a stereotype I wish we saw more of.[Edited on 18/2/2002 by swampfaye]
:o :o :o ladies, ladies, do not feel pressured by the above postings to stop running around in Bikinis. Please, please continue to run in bikinis and make a bored squirrel much happier. Wink Smilie
Oh, alright, since you asked very nicely,


Better? Big Smile Smilie
Thanks, I needed that! Big Smile Smilie
Big Smile Smilie WOOHOO!
*is now happy in his shallow little world*
*dons a bikini and breaks all mirrors within a 2 km radius

Big Smile Smilie
There was some grave misunderstanding here, I am afraid, nobody pressured anybody aboout not running around in bikinis when NOT hunting monsters.
But for those daring ones who want to kill a monster, I still think a fireproof suit of Ungoliant is a safer option!
Well it only works for modern heroines though Eryan. Although I don't know why the more traditional heroines don't invest in more fireproof cloaks or something. I mean if you have magical swords and rings, why aren't magical fire-resistant cloaks more common? Any decent magician/wizard should be able to whip one out.
*takes the hammer from Alyssa's hand before she racks up too many years of bad luck Smile Smilie *
Big Smile Smilie Wasn't actually using a hammer, but thanks anyway Plastic.

Back to topic: Let us not forget the era in which TLOtRs was written. In those days, Eowyn and Luthien were probably very radiacal characters! We cant blame it all on Tolkien being an old fashioned fuddy duddy. I think he did a good job, considering his background and environment.

There is a very fine tradition of spirited ladies in Europe. I wouldnt' say any of them were very placid (look at Lizzy Bennet, Queen Victoria, ..). Some were weilders of swords and some cut throats with their tongues! And if you knew my grandmother, you'd swear some American women were born with swords in their hands and barbed wire in their tongues!
I'm just going to add Boadicea to that list and then shut up. Big Smile Smilie
OK, you ladies wrote some great stuff about us men and boys but lets set the story straight. Swampfaye your question was
Why can men only show emotion in times of great stress?
Not all of this other mumbo-jumbo that came bursting out from this so no so simple topic.

Speaking as a male on behalf of ME!!! I can only say that to answer this question one would have to trace back our male heritage all the way back to time when men where expected to be strong, dominering, bread-winning, throw thier women on the rocks(bed) male shovinistic(sp) pigs. Men were large and in charge. We fought the wars and we died in the wars. We plowed the fields and we reaped what little there was. We died early in our lives. We married young and had children young. Instead of changing over the years and becoming a more sympethetic lot that has managed to become secure in the knowledge that we don't need to be an overbearing male dominating gorilla who has to blast our way through life. We continue to hold onto our ancestorial genes thinking that this is the way women in our society today want us to be. The funny thing about it is that the few of us who have manged to break the mold and go forward are frowned upon for having a problem with our emotions and then we are forced to once agian push them back into that little corner and go on living as if we had only two and they are managed buy our anger and our sex drive. LOL So when you look at Tolkien's work and the period of his birth and life you can't help but realize that it really was amazing that he could show us any emotion at all in his characters such as Sam and Frodo or even Gandalf for that matter. Remember that Tolkien was re-telling a history and that this history had very few important women in it as Tolkien had very few important women in his daily life. Wink Smilie
I don't buy that" we're that way because of thousands of years of programming.." If that were true, women would still be at home! And in times of War, it is a Man's history - so it's natural that there aren't women in retelling of war stories. But do note that when the War is over... everyone goes home to their ladies (Aragorn to Arwen, Sam to Rosie, Faramir to Eowyn) - there must be great comfort in the fact that you are "going home" and that there is a woman waiting for you. Have you seen Castaway? All through that movie he had his ladies picture. It kept him alive. In the wars we have fought there have always been Pin up girls and letters from home to keep morale high.

I don't agree that women aren't as important in history. They may not be as prominent, but just because a woman is a teacher or nurse instead of a Professor or Doctior or because she stays home to raise children, doesn't diminish it's importance in forming society and history.
I don't agree that women aren't as important in history. They may not be as prominent, but just because a woman is a teacher or nurse instead of a Professor or Doctor or because she stays home to raise children, doesn't diminish it's importance in forming society and history.

Very true, faye, and a good point. After all, the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.

I think, jgpoole, that you're conflating "history" and "the past". History is just what got recorded (and what gets taught by poor fools like me- I swear, midterms are some sort of Satanic ritual in disguise). History is wars and taxes and court cases and the like, starring folks like Richard Plantagenet or Stalin or John C. Fremont. It's only relatively recently that History as a discipline has been expanded to include peasants and foot soldiers and the "extras" rather than the big stars.

But... just because these bit players didn't make it into the "history" doesn't mean they weren't there in "the past". If "history" is a unit defined by a historian (ie- a manageable segment of human interaction that can be researched and written about), then "the past" is everything, including "history" as well as everything that doesn't get defined and studied. And traditionally, bit players fell into this category- peasants, cannon fodder soldiers, those who were neither rich nor poor enough to be exceptional, children... and women. So although it is true that men got in the history books and they
...were large and in charge. [They] fought the wars and [they] died in the wars.[They] plowed the fields and [they] reaped what little there was. [They] died early in our lives. [They] married young and had children young.

The two were not necessarily as closely connected as your statement implies. Men didn't get written into history _because_ they they did these things. They were written into history because some historian chose to do so, while simultaneously choosing not to include other aspects of the past, which often included the role of women.* Women did all of these things as well. They may not have fought in wars in historically significant numbers, but they certainly died in them (look into Arab accounts of the Crusades for women dying in wars. It's a pity that the great Western founders of that particular historical genre wrote so little about this, but after all, they were only women, and infidels at that...). Women did just as much plowing and reaping as their men, particularly during times of war. Who ran the farm while he was gone if not the farmer's wife? And while it is true in a general sense that men "had children young", really, who was having those children (and too often dying in the process)?

So to say that men are less inclined to show their emotions because they bore the weight of the world through so many years of human interaction isn't very logical. They didn't do so alone, after all. Women have played just as big a role in the past. They simply haven't received a commensurate share of historical concern.

Even though I don't necessarily agree that men as a group are always less visibly emotional (I believe it depends on the man, and the men I know are pretty darn emotional), to the extent that this is true I believe that it's a function of external cultural pressures, not some sort of genetic programming. To blame some distant warrior past, or even a "men are men and they don't cry" attitude from the 40's or 50's, seems less practical than looking at advertising or action movies or even cartoons and toys aimed at little boys. Although there may be some general biological component to the "manly man" and "girly girl " (note- not woman) stereotype, I believe that, in this case, nurture has more influence than nature.

*In defense of historians, including myself, we are limited by what records are available. Women and other "bit players" are often historically visible only in oblique references and passing glances. Sometimes men alone get written into history because that's all a historian can do. We are supposed to try not to be philosophers and theologians, after all, trying to prove the unprovable.
Tough subject matter. Someone once wrote "You are who you were"..... in the sense you are a product of your history society and family. I've always thought that one of our roles in life is how to create our own unique and individual space in this history, not completely rejecting it and not getting completely overwhelmed by it.

The "manly" debate is difficult because there is no obvious "men's revolution". For want of a better word and not wanting to diminish the enourmous amount of importnat woman who have made and moulded history, the evolution of women in Westerm society really came of age in the 20th century and is often corelated with the advent of the womens vote. And since then the "battle" has been administrative, legal, constitutional, and social.

These are all "visible" landmarks to be taken on by the so called womans movement.

But what can a mens movement do? How can men do an autocritique of men's history"? and go beyond the gender aspect?

Mens emotions. Sampy You mention you like men to earn the bread, open the doors be chivalrous etc, well traditionally part of that same game is "not crying and showing emotions".

Now, personnally I think thats crap not showing your emotions becasue firstly it doesn't mean a thing; Everyone SHOWS emotions, some are less demonstrative than others thats all. Society allows for women to express emotions more explicity than men and think this is normal. A man crying or screaming or being too demonstrative is often frowned upon.

For example at a family funeral recently people come up to me and say Sorry for your troubles; Hang in there - you have to be strong.

What the f;;k is that. You just lost someone you loed and society doesn't offer me a forum to express it because I'm a guy.

Just trying to say that breaking down gender steroetypes for men is also difficult because we have to find an arena where crying is neither a female or male thing but just a natural reaction to loss. Unfortunately these things remain too coded .

Ah I better shut up now . Any way who ever said being demonstrative and showing emotions was such a good thing? So I'll just shut up

Lastly I cannot get used to americans spelling "plough" as "plow". How is O'Caseys "The Plow and the Stars"? LOL
I don't agree that women aren't as important in history.
As women become the writers of history, they will show up with more important roles in that history. As they continue to break away from the cast-iron kitchen-range, they will fill more roles that history deems important. None of this means what they did before was any less important, it just wasn't the fodder of the previous ages' history books. Smile Smilie

Note: I started writing this before Jehanne and Haun made their eloquent postings, but had to go work the chat-room. As one who can't talk and chew gum at the same time--not having the female gene to effectively multi-task--I left finishing it until now. They said it better, but I still felt bound to post my two cents' worth. Big Smile Smilie
All excellent posts and more for my grist mill. I am simply at a point in life where I have to ask: why did god make us so... different? Why can't I understand my husband NOW - why do I have to be married to him for 50 years before I finally "get it?" Okay... admitedly sometimes it's fun discovering things about men and it's even more fun teasing them about their differences. Would we have gotten along better if we did understand each other? Or would that just make us more pissed off when we got on each other's nerves?

"I don't know Frodo... I don't have any answers..."
I started writing this before Jehanne and Haun made their eloquent postings, but had to go work the chat-room.

Work the chat-room? Why, Grondy, you ole glad-hander, you! Shaking hands and kissing babies! Well, I'll vote for you. Big Smile Smilie

Sorry, sorry, I'm just joshin' you. But it sounded very politico for a minute and I had to pick on you.

Thanks for the compliment, btw.
Men and Women will never be able to understand one another, they are just too fundamentally different. If they ever did, there would never be another meaningful relationship again, as there would be nothing to intrigue you into spending any more time with a member of the opposite sex.
The difference between men and women is that women go into relationships hoping that they can change their man, while men go into relationships hoping their women won't change.
Is this a competition for the longest post or what? Man, I'm not going to read all that! Wink Smilie

Who did you quote that from, Plastic? Surely you didn't come up with that yourself? :P

I stick with this: men come from Mars, women from Venus.
Cool Smilie
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