Inclusion of queer characters?

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
It's also the worst thing in the book. Worse than Maedhros hanging by his wrist (worse than the moment where they realize they need to cut his hand off). Worse than the Narn (worse than the moment Morwen jumps).

The reaction of the other Elves.... "Well, you oughtn't to have done what you did, but since you did, I guess you own her forever. Certainly nobody else would ever have anything to do with her, even if she were extricated from the situation, as we all universally practice the virtue of uncompromising monogamy!"
You mean Nienor.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Pick you tragic death. Haha

And perhaps I'm being unfair with Turgon's reaction, I should refresh my memory before ranting hahah
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Pick you tragic death. Haha

And perhaps I'm being unfair with Turgon's reaction, I should refresh my memory before ranting hahah
Yeah, he basically says Stay or Die. He doesn't actually address Eol's claims of familial ownership. Nor does he say that if Eol stays, he can have his wife back. He greets him with honor, but it looks to me that this is just to avoid forcing a confrontation which will end in Turgon being forced to execute him.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
The syntax is ambiguous. Turgon says “This choice only is given to you: to abide here, or to die here; and so also for your son.” Does that mean Eol makes that choice for Maeglin or Maeglin is also to make the choice whether or not to stay or die?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
You are certainly correct that 'remarriage' is not on the table for Aredhel. Certainly not while Eöl is alive, but likely not after he is dead, either. Finwë is meant to be the only elf who ever remarried, and it took a special dispensation from the pope Valar to be allowed. The elves apparently take the 'what God has joined, let no one put asunder' thing very, very seriously.

That does not, however, mean that one must live with one's spouse. There is nothing weird or scandalous about Aredhel returning to Gondolin with a kid but sans a husband. Sure, it's unusual, but her brother isn't going to send her back to her creepy husband, either. When Galadriel decides to get on a boat to Valinor at the end of the Third Age, but Celeborn decides, nah, I'm gonna hang out in Lothlorien and Rivendell instead...no one is scandalized by this. Marriage is permanent, but separation isn't necessarily a problem. So, yes, Aredhel's marriage is a permanent thing, but the elves view it as her choice. Her brother recognizing Eöl as her husband (and thus his brother-in-law) is meant to be out of deference for her wishes. We don't know what would have happened if Eöl had consented to stay in Gondolin -- it is possible that he and Aredhel would have lived separately there, even if she was still considered to be his wife. What we get instead is the intentionally-ironic situation where Eöl, who had forced Aredhel to stay in Nan Elmoth without leaving for the past however many years, now is being put into the same predicament by her relatives and finds he dislikes it so much he'd rather die.

One real-life incident that I would intend to draw on for the story of Aredhel and Eöl is the ordeal of Elisabeth Fritzl. She was imprisoned in the basement by her father, who reported her as a runaway, and forced to be his sex slave. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case
A similar case is that of Natascha Kampusch, who was abducted as a 10 year old and also kept in a basement for eight years. She seemed to have some positive feelings towards her kidnapper, or at least mourned his death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natascha_Kampusch
And lest I give the impression that such crimes only happen in Austria, some American examples as well:
Jaycee Dugard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnapping_of_Jaycee_Dugard
Elizabeth Smart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart
I don't think we want to go so far as Paul Bernardo territory, but figuring out where Aredhel fits on the victim-Stockholm Syndrome-accomplice spectrum is going to be a little bit tricky. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Bernardo

We know that we want Eöl to be controlling. We know that Aredhel is not allowed to leave Nan Elmoth. Certainly, Eöl can use some magic to keep her trapped, but she's going to try to get out, and there has to be some consequence for her attempt. How dark we go with this and how much we choose to depict is up to us. I do not think we portray Eöl as beating her or raping her. We show him coercing her, and somehow convincing her that staying is her only choice. Typically, a domineering spouse does this by making sure the wife has no access to money of her own, and no job, so that she is completely at his mercy to be provided for, and it seems too daunting a task to get away. We won't have that option (money isn't the issue here), so we'll have to depict it differently. Kidnappers often depict dire consequences to any escape attempts. We also know that the typical behavior pattern for someone who sets out to be abusive/controlling is to be extremely charming at first. Whether that's an attempt to overcompensate to hide any less-than-ideal temper issues, or an attempt to convince all the friends/relatives that this is a good guy, it's certainly common. So, we can show Eöl laying on the charm thick when he and Aredhel first meet. The audience will have seen him as his cantankerous/anti-social self previously, so all the red flags will go up. Aredhel will not know any better, and may be deceived by first impressions. I don't think that Eöl is going to threaten harm to Aredhel or Maeglin, but he could (for instance) threaten to kill her horse if she's going to use it to leave the forest. I dunno...I haven't really thought out his entire game of manipulation/coercion/threat yet.
 
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Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
You are certainly correct that 'remarriage' is not on the table for Aredhel. Certainly not while Eöl is alive, but likely not after he is dead, either. Finwë is meant to be the only elf who ever remarried, and it took a special dispensation from the pope Valar to be allowed. The elves apparently take the 'what God has joined, let no one put asunder' thing very, very seriously.

That does not, however, mean that one must live with one's spouse. There is nothing weird or scandalous about Aredhel returning to Gondolin with a kid but sans a husband. Sure, it's unusual, but her brother isn't going to send her back to her creepy husband, either. When Galadriel decides to get on a boat to Valinor at the end of the Third Age, but Celeborn decides, nah, I'm gonna hang out in Lothlorien and Rivendell instead...no one is scandalized by this. Marriage is permanent, but separation isn't necessarily a problem. So, yes, Aredhel's marriage is a permanent thing, but the elves view it as her choice. Her brother recognizing Eöl as her husband (and thus his brother-in-law) is meant to be out of deference for her wishes. We don't know what would have happened if Eöl had consented to stay in Gondolin -- it is possible that he and Aredhel would have lived separately there, even if she was still considered to be his wife. What we get instead is the intentionally-ironic situation where Eöl, who had forced Aredhel to stay in Nan Elmoth without leaving for the past however many years, now is being put into the same predicament by her relatives and finds he dislikes it so much he'd rather die.

We know that we want Eöl to be controlling. We know that Aredhel is not allowed to leave Nan Elmoth. Certainly, Eöl can use some magic to keep her trapped, but she's going to try to get out, and there has to be some consequence for her attempt. How dark we go with this and how much we choose to depict is up to us. I do not think we portray Eöl as beating her or raping her. We show him coercing her, and somehow convincing her that staying is her only choice. Typically, a domineering spouse does this by making sure the wife has no access to money of her own, and no job, so that she is completely at his mercy to be provided for, and it seems too daunting a task to get away. We won't have that option (money isn't the issue here), so we'll have to depict it differently. Kidnappers often depict dire consequences to any escape attempts. We also know that the typical behavior pattern for someone who sets out to be abusive/controlling is to be extremely charming at first. Whether that's an attempt to overcompensate to hide any less-than-ideal temper issues, or an attempt to convince all the friends/relatives that this is a good guy, it's certainly common. So, we can show Eöl laying on the charm thick when he and Aredhel first meet. The audience will have seen him as his cantankerous/anti-social self previously, so all the red flags will go up. Aredhel will not know any better, and may be deceived by first impressions. I don't think that Eöl is going to threaten harm to Aredhel or Maeglin, but he could (for instance) threaten to kill her horse if she's going to use it to leave the forest. I dunno...I haven't really thought out his entire game of manipulation/coercion/threat yet.
Well, I think that Eol has some sort of mind-control, which brought Aredhel to his door in the first place. So he could do the same thing to keep her from leaving and by extension forge the same bonds between himself and Aredhel as husband and wife?
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
There might be one, but I have not come across it. The 'Fall of Gondolin' has him attempt to murder Earendil.

Yes initially Tolkien, had Eol rape Aredhel but he changed his mind later on.

'It is not said that Aredhel was wholly unwilling, nor that her life in Nan Elmoth was hateful to her for many years. For though at Eöl's command she must shun the sunlight, they wandered far together under the stars or by the light of the sickle moon; or she might fare alone as she would, save that Eöl forbade her to seek the sons of Fëanor, or any others of the Noldor. And Aredhel bore to Eöl a son in the shadows of Nan Elmoth, and in her heart she gave him a name in the forbidden tongue of the Noldor, Lómion, that signifies Child of the Twilight; but his father gave him no name until he was twelve years old.'

This is ambiguous, but the text in MR.

'But among all these evils there is no record of any among the Elves that took another's spouse by force; for that was wholly against their nature, and one so forced would have rejected bodily life and passed to Mandos.'
Well, since Idril was already married to Tuor, that would by Elvish laws and customs be rape, to be given to Maeglin if she doesn't want him.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Tuor is mortal. Elves are rather uncertain what happens if an elf marries a mortal. Certainly, Maeglin's take on the subject is that it doesn't count as marriage and that Idril would be free to remarry after Tuor's death. We don't know the final fate of Mithrellas (the elf who was a progenitor to the Lords of Dol Amroth), but she did leave her mortal husband before his death (presumably so as not to have to see him age and die). But in all of the other elf-human unions, we see that their fates seem to be linked. The really questionable one is Dior/Nimloth. He is half-elven (and thus mortal), but she is an elf, and they both are killed before Eonwë can show up and deliver his judgement to Elrond and Elros. So...they are likely separated for eternity, unfortunately.

But, yes, I would count Maeglin's desire for Idril (his first cousin) and his plan to wed her over Tuor's dead body as one of the 'few' deeds of lust referred to in Laws and Customs. Celegorm's kidnap of Lúthien is the other. Neither situation gets as far as rape, but there is certainly intent there.


Eöl does not have mind control. He has Nan Elmoth, the place where Thingol and Melian first met, and thus the residual effects of Melian's proto-Girdle are in effect there. (Explicitly so in our telling of the tale in Silm Film; that is only one possible interpretation of the text, though.)
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Tuor is mortal. Elves are rather uncertain what happens if an elf marries a mortal. Certainly, Maeglin's take on the subject is that it doesn't count as marriage and that Idril would be free to remarry after Tuor's death. We don't know the final fate of Mithrellas (the elf who was a progenitor to the Lords of Dol Amroth), but she did leave her mortal husband before his death (presumably so as not to have to see him age and die). But in all of the other elf-human unions, we see that their fates seem to be linked. The really questionable one is Dior/Nimloth. He is half-elven (and thus mortal), but she is an elf, and they both are killed before Eonwë can show up and deliver his judgement to Elrond and Elros. So...they are likely separated for eternity, unfortunately.

But, yes, I would count Maeglin's desire for Idril (his first cousin) and his plan to wed her over Tuor's dead body as one of the 'few' deeds of lust referred to in Laws and Customs. Celegorm's kidnap of Lúthien is the other. Neither situation gets as far as rape, but there is certainly intent there.


Eöl does not have mind control. He has Nan Elmoth, the place where Thingol and Melian first met, and thus the residual effects of Melian's proto-Girdle are in effect there. (Explicitly so in our telling of the tale in Silm Film; that is only one possible interpretation of the text, though.)
So how else is Eol able to see Aredhel from afar and get her to his humble abode, without something like mind control?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Eöl presumably has some control over the 'mazes' of Nan Elmoth, since he is the rightful master of the place. He creates an 'all roads lead to Rome' scenario where she cannot get out and no matter which way she turns, she winds up at his house at the center of the forest. That's magic, but it isn't mind control. If she's been wandering around lost for awhile, she's going to be very glad to find someone else, and would not necessarily suspect that the person living in the forest is causing the confusing maze effect.

Eöl uses trickery/deception to catch Aredhel. But we are going to have to elaborate on the part of the story where she decides to stay and marry him. That isn't a spell, though it's not exactly a free choice, either.

Obviously, later, she will find out that he knows how to leave the forest...and she's not invited to travel with him.
 

Ange1e4e5

Well-Known Member
Eöl presumably has some control over the 'mazes' of Nan Elmoth, since he is the rightful master of the place. He creates an 'all roads lead to Rome' scenario where she cannot get out and no matter which way she turns, she winds up at his house at the center of the forest. That's magic, but it isn't mind control. If she's been wandering around lost for awhile, she's going to be very glad to find someone else, and would not necessarily suspect that the person living in the forest is causing the confusing maze effect.

Eöl uses trickery/deception to catch Aredhel. But we are going to have to elaborate on the part of the story where she decides to stay and marry him. That isn't a spell, though it's not exactly a free choice, either.

Obviously, later, she will find out that he knows how to leave the forest...and she's not invited to travel with him.
Ok, so he can change the layout of the forest so that it always leads to him?
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Similar to the way Old Man Willow controls the Old Forest, perhaps, though more elvish and less treeish.
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
So, I’ve been a bit leery of this topic until now, but I worry about decisions being made to change characters before I get a say...



So, I’m fine with including queer characters in the show. The lack of queer characters is one of the things about Tolkien’s writing that I don’t love, and I do think that a total, 100% lack of representation of a normal part of human life is a loss. I also don't accept the argument that making a character gay "just to make them gay" is any less legitimate than making them straight "just to make them straight." Characters don't need to be assumed straight until proven otherwise. So, I’m fine with queer characters existing, I think I would prefer some to exist.

But I am also OK with not making this change, because I recognize that it isn’t something the author intended.

I think that Elves, or at least Eldar who have been instructed by the Valar, would not display any of the human prejudice and hatred and violence against queer people (or people who feel “queer” attraction, or however this is perceived/experienced among Elves). Opposition to homosexual relationships is not automatic just because a society is pre-undustrial. [edit/clarification: In Western culture: ] It seems to have to do with the devaluation of women (or valuation of women as property), or with the idea of sex as being a purely physical act with the sole purpose to make as many babies as possible, and especially with a belief that non-reproductive sex is evil and unnatural. Multiple pre-industrial societies have accepted some form of homosexual relationships, and I don’t think there’s any reason why Eldar would not. There are also multiple non-western cultures which recognize genders (or sexes) other than what Westerners call "cis male" and "cis female". Heck, in Chinese culture until relatively recently, the living could legally marry ghosts.

So, it is not at all the case that any acceptence of non-heterosexual relationships, or non-binary genders, is "anachronistic".



On the other hand, I don’t want to make some of the changes asked about so far:

I do not want to change a character’s gender unless they are a very minor character, or their gender wasn’t actually specified by Tolkien. Genders aren’t interchangeable. Gender is a very significant part of a person’t identity, personality, and the role they’re raised for in society. “Gender flipping” really means removing the original character, and recycling their name for a new and different character – that’s really what Tolkien did when he replaced Haleth the Hunter with the Lady Haleth. They’ve got the same name, but they’re not the same person. That is too large a change for us to make to any characters except the most minor ones.


I also very strongly oppose changing any canon relationship of friendship or acquaitance into a romance. If we want to give somebody a romance (homosexual or heterosexual) that didn’t exist in the books, we should make up a new character to be their lover, or else use two canon characters whose relationship isn’t depicted in any detail by Tolkien. I am very opposed to altering the relationships between characters where the author already showed those relationships for us. I really, really don’t like the assumption some fan-artists seem to have that people (especially men) are incapable of being good friends without having sex. I do not want to rewrite clearly platonic friendships between canon characters. Nor is doing that at all necessary to have gay or bi relationships or characters exist: all we would need to do is to give somebody a new character to be their spouse, or lover, or the person they have a crush on. In fact, I’ve heard of characters who were supposedly written so well that some vieweres figured out they were meant to be gay (subtly so, not campy), despite never showing them having an attraction to any other character.

I also strongly believe that if a character is canonically married, or has a lover, we shouldn’t just replace that relationship with some other spouse instead. Mortals do tend to fall in love (or lust) with multiple people, so adding a relationship doesn’t necessarily take away a canon one... but Finwë is the only Elf known to have married twice.

Most Elves don’t seem to even fall in love with more than one person in their life, though it happens occasionally.... I’m not sure if Tolkien meant that most aren’t even attracted to more than one person during their life. That would seem pretty odd to me, but if that’s the case, it would mean that ... if an Elf is attracted to more than one gender, in many cases other people wouldn’t notice (unless they read that Elf’s mind).


Main character Elves who are canonically married or in a romantic relationship with a lover already:
Turgon (Elenwë, died)
Finrod (Amárië, stayed behind – texts differ whether they married before Finrod left)
Caranthir (unnamed wife, stayed behind)
Maglor (unnamed wife, fate unknown)
Curufin (unnamed wife, fate unknown)

Technically Tolkien only said that Maglor and Caranthir were “wedded” so one could argue that their spouses don’t have canonically identified genders. I’m sure Tolkien intended them to be wives, but their spouses are very minor unnamed characters. If everybody wants to make Maglor’s wife a husband instead, I wouldn’t get upset about it.

Incidentally, adding some (non-reproductive) gay marriages to the House of Finwë would help explain why less than half of them ever married, and even fewer had known children. Seriously, so many of Finwë’s descendants are unmarried for... no apparent reason, except it didn’t occur to the author to incorporate a family into the story. You can only say “Elves don’t marry during wartime” so many times before you notice that most could have married in Valinor. Some were fated to fall for somebody in Middle-earth (like Aegnor) but it seems unlikely to be true for all of them. And Gil-galad had centuries of peace during the early Second Age, but no heir. (Although Fingon had a wife and kids in some genealogies, who were deleted from the last one. My headcannon is that they wanted to marry but didn’t during wartime, but finally married after being reincarnated in the West.) On the other hand, maybe gay Elves would marry during wartime because... they’re not going to be raising children in wartime, so the only real problem is whether their relatives are alive and able to attend and officiate the wedding.

Glorfindel does behave like a man who isn’t married (or whose intended/spouse is still in Middle-earth...). But there are a lot of other captains in Gondolin.



Also, note that there is no such thing as pre-marital sex in Eldarin culture. The concept has no meaning for them, because they consider the act of having sex to BE marriage itself. The wedding is the ceremony that sanctifies it. But sex, not marriage, is what is legally and spiritually binding. Sex without a wedding is eloping, and is very rude to your relatives who you didn’t invite to the wedding, but it isn’t even a scandal. (But when your relatives are all dead or sailed away, and you still want to marry, then you do just elope.) An unconsumated wedding is... fake, I guess? (This also means, in my opinion, that if Elves don’t think homosexuality is evil, then gay sex counts as gay marriage.)

Sex with multiple people is very different, of course. For Elves, and probably for Edain who learned from them, that is considered polygamy, not just having an affair. Tolkien made a big deal about polygamy being unacceptable. I really don’t think we should bring polygamy into this, except in the case of widows and widowers remarrying, or if we want to make a plot point about it being wrong and frowned upon, which I don’t see the point of doing.




About Aredhel and rape: In the scene where Curufin confronts Eol, it seems clear to me that the Eldar regard Eol’s behavior as wrong. That wasn’t Curufin being mean -- he's supposed to be the hero in that scene! My guess is that he and Celegorm believed that she was willing to stay with Eol, and could run away at any time -- or weren't entirely certain if she was there unwillingly. So they weren’t sure if an attempted “rescue” would be appreciated by her.

I think Tolkien also later changed the wording of that passage about rape causing instant death, or crossed it out. I know he changed his mind back and forth in the 60s and 70s about whether Aredhel was outright raped: in "Quendi and Eldar" (1960) he says that Eol took her "by force" and that this is considered very wicked by the Eldar. The last version of "Of Maeglin" (1971) repeats the phrase "not wholly unwilling" from the 1951 version. So we could portray it either way, though I lean somewhat towards an extremely creepy, coercive version of “not wholly unwilling”. After all, that also means “not wholly willing” either.

But I don’t think literal mind-control is a thing Elves are capable of. That is, people in Arda can be dominated by fear, threats, deception, illusions, torture, etc. But not controlled directly like puppets, unless maybe if they give themselves over to a Dark Lord.

Outright rape will come up eventually -- Ar-Pharazon rapes Tar-Miriel. Not that I'm suggesting we show it on screen, but she's not the least bit willing.
 
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amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Thanks. There's a good deal in there that is a couple of steps of reasoning farther along than I've managed to get straight in my own mind - you're way ahead of me. But I basically agree top to bottom with the whole thing.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
It seems to have to do with the devaluation of women (or valuation of women as property)
I'll work on a more expansive response later. This, I feel, seems off to me on the outset. The most common cultures people talk about in regards to historical homosexuality are the Greeks and Romans. In these cultures, homosexuality was idealized primarily because of the devaluation of women, and the widespread idea that the male body (and just about everything else male) was superior to that of females. The Sacred Band of Thebes was considered "Sacred" mostly because they didn't sully themselves with women.
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
I didn't intend to say that homophobia is a necessary or automatic result of devaluation of women, in all sexist societies; you're right that it isn't.

I was unclear, and my statement came across as too universal. I was thinking more specifically of the homophobia in modern Western culture, which I'm more familiar with. I'm attempting to say that traditional Western hatred and violence against homosexuals [or against people who feel homosexual attraction] comes from specific historical and cultural sources -- one of them being sexism -- and not from being the only possible way that pre-modern societies can view sexuality. Not being homophobic (or violent) against people in homosexual relationships is not anachronistic, nor specifically Greek. It's just a different culture. There isn't an in-universe worldbuilding need to assume that Elves "have" to have traditional Western values as some kind of inherent or necessary default. (The author's probable values are an out-of universe reason to consider not making such a change to the setting.)

There are certainly multiple Western ideas and beliefs that go into Western homophobia, but sexism is one ultimate/root source of it. Women are valued less than men today in Western culture. Oftentimes (but I do not say "always"), behaviors culturally associated with women -- such as cooperation, sensitivity, and especially showing vulnerability or certain types of emotions -- are devalued and regarded as un-manly. It's often seen as desirable (understandably) for males to avoid being equated or associated with a position of inferiority (being female) in Western society by showing behavior or emotions associated with women. Showing homosexual tendencies or having gay sex is, at its root, associated with acting like a woman/girl, not like a real man, and it is to be avoided to remain "manly". Even intimate but non-sexual friendship between two men is apparently sometimes seen as gayness, perhaps because "real men" shouldn't openly show too much emotion of non-sexual love (though apparently people on this board are saying that's only a U.S. attitude?). One source (among other reasons) of opposing gay relationships, between two equal adults, is if romance or marriage is viewed as necessarily unequal, between a ruler (man) and an obedient woman. In the most sexist version of this viewpoint, if a man can't prove his manliness by finding a woman to sexually dominate, there must be something unmanly or wrong about him.

Another major historical root underlying Western homophobia is a common (I don't say universal) belief that intercourse is dirty, and it's immoral and wrong to have sex unless it's justified by producing babies. By extension, marriage without having (or trying to have) children, especially if it precludes entering a marriage that could produce children, would be unnatural or wrong. In the most sexist view, women are especially dirty if we have sex that isn't for making babies, since making babies on demand (for men) must be our primary purpose in life. Having sex only for pleasure is also associated with adultery, again more for women than for men.

I've studied Greek culture(s) somewhat, but of I'm less familiar with ancient Greeks than with my own society. And sexual relations hasn't been the focus of my archaeological and anthropological interest. From what I recall, in ancient Athenian culture pederasty was not between two equal adults. It was only between an adult man, and a teen or boy, who grew up out of the "woman's" role when he was adult. An adult man acting in the "woman's" role was not viewed positively. They didn't have gay marriage. Ancient Thebes, I am not familiar with at all.

There also exist cultures with less sexism and gender inequality that have been much more willing (than Western culture) to accept non-binary genders, and/or non-heterosexual romances or marriages. But I know nothing about, for example, the Native American concept of being two-spirit. I can't even identify which specific Native American nations/First Nations have this concept, though apparently it's in more than just one. (It would be weird if it was a universal [and uniform] concept across two very diverse continents.)



If we are looking at this question from an in-universe worlduilding standpoint, allowing the possibility that we won't use the author's own views -- then, by trying to examine the historical roots underlying Western homophobia, and if possible the separate historical roots underlying homophobia in other homophobic cultures, we can be in a better position to try to reason logically whether Eldar (or Avari, Dwarves, Ents, or Ainur) would be homophobic as well.

If homosexual attraction is inherently against Eru's laws (which is likely Tolkien's view), then Elves wouldn't experience it. If it isn't inherently evil, then some Elves would experience homosexual attraction, but then the other Eldar would not oppress or murder those people. Gay-but-closeted Eldar don't make sense to me. This is my reasoning:


Eldar have gendered divisions of roles in society, but I don't believe that it makes any sense to imagine that an unfallen species, who are taught extensively by the Valar, would actually regard women as inferior, let alone existing solely to make babies on demand. Therefore, there is no reason to assume a priori that they must have either the traditional Western hatred of (let alone violence against) homosexuals, or the ancient Greek celebration of pederasty (Athenian) or adult homosexuality (Theban) above heterosexual relations. I don't see any reason they would regard one kind of romance or sexual relation as inherently superior, because there's no reason they would regard any one gender as inherently superior, or inferior. Nor do they have a mortal urgency to reproduce. I also see no reason why they would regard non-sexual friendships between two men as weird. And there's especially no reason why people who had never contemplated murder or kinslaying until Feanor threatened Fingolfin, would be so violent against people who feel homosexual attraction that they have to "pass" as heterosexuals for their own safety, or to prove that they're manly.

One illustration of this is that, although most Eldar prefer the more common gendered roles, those roles are described in "Laws and Customs of the Eldar" as being common, rather than universal. There are men who are healers instead of warriors, who bake or play musical instruments, and it isn't shameful to do "women's work". There are women who are smiths, composers, cooks, or hunters, or who take up arms in battle. There isn't a law forbidding one gender from entering the roles usually filled by the other gender -- those roles are tendencies, not requirements. Eldarin women are not required to marry -- they can remain unwed forever, without being uppity by refusing male domination, and refusing to make babies. I think that, if a male Elf can be a healer without any shame or unmanliness, he could just as easily be in a homosexual relationship with no greater shame. If a female Elf can be a hunter, or unmarried and childless for life, she can also be in a homosexual relationship (and by extension, not in any heterosexual relationships).

Another illustration of this is that in Eldarin society, the biggest hardship commonly faced by Western women just does not happen: there is no sexual violence against women -- Eol seems to be the only exception. Women, let alone girls, are not forced to marry or have sex against their will, or forced to have children they don't want to have. It apparently isn't even possible for Elves to get pregnant, or cause pregnancy, without wanting to. I would also think that there is no poverty in Valinor or Beleriand -- again, they are an unfallen race -- so Edarin women are no more likely to be trapped in poverty than men, or and I think it's unlikely they're paid less (if Eldar even use money). I can't imagine Eldarin men ever abuse their wives [or children], and in any case if a married woman doesn't like her living situation, she can easily just move out. Again, Aredhel is the exception, whose situation is viewed as severely deviant.

I also don't think Elves, who are supposed to live in permanent harmonious association with their bodies, and who get married (have sex) decades before their first pregnancy, would regard non-reproductive sex as evil. They also have no mortality or disease driving them to desire huge numbers of children to avoid extinction. So that historical source of homophobia also has no reason to exist among the Eldar.
 
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cellardur

Active Member
Faelivirin I am not sure where you got your information on, but it's not very accurate. Have you read much of the original source material to come upon these views?

I am against disinformation, so I have to reply against your post. Western society for the most part was founded on Greek Philosophy, but to a much greater extent on Christian Theology.

Christian Philosophy was actually shockingly pro gender equality, though admittedly far more so theory than practice. Sex in western philosophy is not viewed as dirty, but the opposite as something sacred. It's so sacred, because it's the act, which causes human life to be created. It is held in the highest honour, that God allowed humans to partake in creation, through the act of sex. However, the sacred act was only to take place in marriage. Historically, therefore sex was not to be separated from the act on creation. Consequently, not to be graphic, but ALL other acts of 'sex', whether between a Man and Woman, Man and Man or Woman and Woman, that don't lead to the creation of life were condemned. It was regarded as a moral good to get married and have children, but it was an even greater moral good for Men and Women to be celibate and devote themselves to God.

The ideas of Catholic and prior to the 1930's ALL Western Christian societies are outlined here.

The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' (11) It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws.

Ironically, you are VERY, VERY wrong about why Western Society thought removing sex from the boundaries of marriage and procreation would lead. The argument is that once you separate Sex, from love, marriage, commitment and the possibility of children you lead to women and men being viewed as just objects to satisfy lust.

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. (Humane Vitae)

When it comes to Men showing emotion or great friendship, once again you are very wide of the mark. Tolkien was culturally as English as they come, but he wrote some of the greatest examples of friendship in fiction. Male friendship, has always been honoured whether it be Arthur and his Knights or Sam and Frodo. It is a very modern and distinctly American notion to view friendships between men as gay.

When it comes to Men expressing emotions, this is a cultural Anglo-Saxon thing, but actually contrary to Western Philosophy in general. Men have always been encouraged philosophically to express their emotions. It's precisely why Tolkien has his male heroes cry so often. Sam is always bursting into tears, Aragorn weeps openly at Boromir's death. C.S.Lewis too has characters crying. Mcduff famously weeps in Macbeth.

Then when it comes to servitude or being in a so called 'inferior' position is one of the greatest virtues. The King in theory was there to serve the people. There was a social hierarchy and it did not make you any less of a man to serve. The LOTR is essentially a book drenched in Western Philosophy. Sam, once called by Tolkien the true hero of the book, is devoted in service to his master.

Lastly we can be pretty sure what views the Eldar had on homosexuality. If we change it then it's a change, but let's be truthful about our intentions and not pretend to be unsure.

The Eldar's views would be in perfect sync with Tolkien's own Catholic views. Any orientation against Eru's will would be viewed similarly to Maeglin's love for Idril. They would view it as due to the influence of Morgoth. The wise would forbid it, but have pity and not persecute the Eldar. If we wish to change that, then it will be done.

In conclusion, I was born into a Catholic family, baptised and well educated in Catholic, Greek and Western Philosophy in general. However, those views are not my own and I have never lived by them. I am against the distorting of arguments even if accidental. It's a straw-man to claim Western society hates women or they considered sex dirty.
 

Haerangil

Well-Known Member
Hmmm... i would say we COULD include queer characters, if they are original characters and their inclusion does make sense and add to the story. I am against making a character queer who was clearly not intended as queer by the author just for the sake of having a queer character to fill the quote. My 5 cent

I'm going for the same with sex scenes in general, there's little open sexuality in jrrts writing, for some reason i think.
 
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MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
If we're going to get into theology, then I would have to add that the church has always emphasized both the unitive and procreative purposes of the marital embrace. The requirements for sexual love to be authentic are that it be free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Actions that fall short of that standard are less than what marriage is intended to be (theologically speaking). For more of an 'intro' to this Catholic theology, one could start here (shortest and least technical commentary I could find!):
http://catholicmutt.blogspot.com/2012/06/free-total-faithful-and-fruitful.html
Unfallen elves should (generally speaking) meet that standard. There can certainly be grief and heartache in our story - we've already shown Finwë's second marriage and the permanent farewell of Fëanor and Nerdanel. We're going to have Aredhel and Eöl test the limits of 'free' with the concept of consent being in question.

Even celibate churchmen who personally did take a rather dim view of sex at least acknowledged that it was useful for the creation of more virgins! While I realize that the value of celibacy and the monastic life is not entirely unique to Christianity, it is certainly a view that is unique and not shared by all cultures. Whereas some concept of marriage and family life is fairly universal, for the obvious reason that you die out if you practice strict celibacy (sorry, Shakers). Celibates within the Church were to live in such a way that their lives demonstrated the marriage supper of the Lamb - a willingness to give up what would be considered the greatest natural good available (ie, marriage and a family) was meant to show that there was something even greater available (union with Christ). So, yes, while you can find examples of Christian theologians who took a rather dim view on sex, you can also find plenty of well-respected examples of...quite the opposite. St. Bernard of Clairvaux's volumes of commentary on the Song of Songs (12th century), or the love poetry of St. John of the Cross (16th century) are two prominent examples of erotic love being interpreted as a metaphor for God's love for the soul. I am not suggesting that we have any elvish monks, nor would there be any reason for our characters to wax poetic about union with Eru. But the idea that all Christians were Puritanical when it came to sex is obviously flawed and limited.



I do agree with you, though, cellardur, that there is an additional possible position for the Eldar's worldview:
  • Elves, being elves, happen to not experience homosexual desire at all. Just one of those things about being an unfallen elf with perfect harmony between body and mind. Lust in general is uncommon to them and this is just...unknown. Or...
  • Elves may rarely/occasionally experience homosexual desire, but it is strongly discouraged by their culture and not acted upon. It can be taboo, but that does not mean that people would be persecuted for it. It could fall under the category of "rare ill chances or strange fates" that served as impediments to marriage. If we went this route, our elvish homosexual characters (if any) would likely be celibate. We have the examples of Aegnor and Finrod forgoing marriage at all when marrying his beloved is not an option. Or...
  • Elves do not distinguish between heterosexual or homosexual relationships. How people partner up is left up to them, as long as they're both adults and willing (and no incest). This last option has been used on the TV show "The 100" (which has lots of couples but no marriages), so it certainly can be done as worldbuilding, but it does call into question the cultural significance of marriage. It would be more appropriate to a post-apocalyptic dissolution of culture than to a high/flourishing culture. It's also rather difficult to suggest that this was what Tolkien intended. I feel like any attempt to pull this off would feel very forced and be an example of the writers looking at the audience over the heads of the characters, but that does not mean it would be impossible.
 

Faelivrin

Well-Known Member
Faelivirin I am not sure where you got your information on
From multiple discussions with men and reading multiple essays by men (about toxic masculinity, especially in Latin America and the U.S.), from multiple discussions with and reading essays written by Christians (about Christian, especially Protestant, views towards sex in the U.S. and Europe), from studying European and U.S. history, and from studying comparative theology. And of course from my own experience being a woman (about sexism and sexual violence experienced by women). Nothing I'm saying is new or revolutionary, and you can read about it at length from a great many sources. You may disagree with their historical analyses, of course. You may not have personally met anyone with sexist, prudish, homophobic, or toxic masculinity attitudes in England, or met a rape survivor, but that does not mean such attitudes and violence do not exist anywhere in any Western society, or that they have never existed in all of Western history.

Did I say that all Westerners are identical and have identical beliefs? No, of course not. I emphasized repeatedly that I was not speaking about a uniform, unvarying attitude of every single individual person in all Western societies, and I also pointed out that some of what I have seen and read about may be particular the U.S. That does not somehow mean there do not and have never existed any trends at all in Western cultures overall (such as sexism, homophobia, and prudishness towards sex). Prudishness is less significant in some Western cultures today than it was historically, but is alive and well in others (at least in the U.S.) and continues to be heavily promoted by some Christian groups in the U.S. Sexism and homophobia are less prominant in many Western cultures than before, but continue to exist.

In any case, homophobia is a cultural attitude in its own right with a life of its own, quite independent of its long-term historical origins. A person certainly doesn't need to be sexist or a prude to be homophobic -- (Edit: for one thing, it's easy to be uncomfortable with or weirded out by homosexuality just because it's unfamiliar and often taboo: that was my attitude for much of my life.) I don't know whether Tolkien was sexist or prudish, despite accusations that Tolkien's [deliberately mythopoetic] stories are sexist. I don't get any particularly strong impression of prudish or sexist views from his stories.

I definitely did not say or imply that sexism is somehow caused by Christianity. Sexism clearly has other origins than that. And "Western culture" is not a synonym for "Christianity", despite the large overlap.


If we change it then it's a change, but let's be truthful about our intentions and not pretend to be unsure.
I am well aware what Tolkien wrote and thought, and have been quite clear all along about all the concepts in this thread being changes. Being able to have a calm discussion about the consequences of making a change does not make me unaware of what Tolkien wrote. I would greatly prefer this conversation to remain calm, non-angry, and respectful to all people posting here, even though many of us will disagree about many things. There is no need to accuse me of disonesty.


Elves, being elves, happen to not experience homosexual desire at all. Just one of those things about being an unfallen elf with perfect harmony between body and mind. Lust in general is uncommon to them and this is just...unknown.
This is most likely the intention of Tolkien, or at least the option closest to his intentions, since he probably viewed homosexual attraction as something unnatural, and/or wrong. In Arda Marred, that would make it like a disease inflicted upon humans. I would rather ignore the existence of homosexuality altogether (in all people, not just Elves) rather than draw any attention to the notion that homosexual attraction is immoral or a disease, by making it something that exists (that we show existing) among fallen Mortals, but not among unfallen Elves. We also don't need to do that, since Tolkien didn't.

Elves may rarely/occasionally experience homosexual desire, but it is strongly discouraged by their culture and not acted upon.
Why? IF homosexual attraction were experienced by Elves at all, that would necessarily require it to be something entirely natural, and not a disease caused by the Marring. [In other words, it would require significantly changing the setting, departing entirely from the concept in your first option.]

If that were the case, what specific, historical, cultural sources would develop into homophobia among Eldar? Homophobia does not manifest out of thin air, magically, for no reason. It is not a genetically determined biological instinct. It has cultural roots, and those roots are unique to any given culture. There would have to be an actual reason. It would need to be an _in-universe_ historical reason, because this option starts by _ignoring_ the out-of-universe views of the author.

Elves do not distinguish between heterosexual or homosexual relationships. How people partner up is left up to them, as long as they're both adults and willing (and no incest). This last option has been used on the TV show "The 100" (which has lots of couples but no marriages), so it certainly can be done as worldbuilding, but it does call into question the cultural significance of marriage. It would be more appropriate to a post-apocalyptic dissolution of culture than to a high/flourishing culture.
Why? Considering homosexual relationships to be valid or acceptable doesn't require eliminating the existence of marriage, anymore than the existence of queer people would make heterosexual cis people stop existing. Leglizing gay marriage doesn't require outlawing heterosexual marriage.

To the Eldar, having sex automatically makes two people married. Always. It wouldn't make a difference what their genders were, if they had sex together they would be married. That doesn't necessarily mean that all types of marriage would be regarded as identical. Women and men aren't considered identical in Eldarin culture, though like I said I see no evidence that either is considered inferior, or subjected to sexual violence. At the least, anyone can tell the difference between couples who have biological children, and those who don't or can't. But Eldar would not be able to distinguish between the concepts of gay sex and gay marriage. They have no concept of sex as something separate from being married.

As regards to the Avari, I have little idea. We don't have a "Laws and Customs of the Avari" to read. We know a little bit about Dwarves and Edain and Hobbits in regard to marriage and sex, but not much. I don't know if there's any info about other Mortals' marriage customs. Regarding Ainur and Ents, I don't know if they even have anything that could be called sexual intercourse, though they do seem to feel some kind of attraction, which appears romantic at least in the case of Ents. Ainur have "spouses", but what that means is murky for everyone except Melian. Ents might reproduce the way trees do, for all I know.

It's also rather difficult to suggest that this was what Tolkien intended.
It's pretty clearly _not_ what he intended at all -- or at least, I would be very surprised if that turned out to be his intention. Depicting any queer characters (especially Elves) would be a significant departure from the author's ideas. If we were to make such a change, it would need to be done with a lot of care and thought -- not casually, just because it fits the values of a majority of the writers here (if that turns out to be the cae). As I said, I'm not going to strongly advocate that we must make such a change in the first place, because I recognize it goes quite outside the author's own views.
 
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