Post Sleeping Pills Midnight Thoughts About Elvish Bloodlines and Tolkien Ladies Girl Power

LadySchmebulock

New Member
Okay right off the bat I am new to learning Tolkien's histories so 2019-2020 is my year of Tolkien reading so pardon any misunderstands I might have.
But I heard on an episode of The Prancing Pony Podcast and if I am remembering correctly it is possible that Elves that have perished their souls or spirits can be reincarnated.
Arwen has been compared to Lúthien so much and her love story parallels to Lúthien's as well. Could it be possible that Lúthien's spirit dwells in Arwen? Maybe not as a complete reincarnation but something of her is akin to Arwen? This is something I always wondered about just how much is stressed that Arwen is so much like Lúthien, and they are, but sometimes it makes me think that that there is more to that comparison than what is on the surface of the text. Is this just an observation that the people are making, is something of Lúthien dwelling inside Arwen or is it a case of Great Great Great (+) Grandmother like Granddaughter?

Also,

I do appreciate that Tolkien writes such strong and admirable ladies in his stories and the villainesses are also fantastically written. In many fantasy novels I've read growing up a majority of the female leads was either one-note characters, a prize for the hero to win, or constant damsels in distress whose character revolved around a man. But with Tolkien, his ladies are fascinating to read and are multidimensional and varied in strengths and weaknesses. My idol growing as a young girl and early teen was Xena Warrior Princess and after watching the trilogy in the 8th grade I added Eowyn and Galadriel to my list of role models and recently Lúthein when I read the Silmarillion. All of them are postive role models for girls especially those who love fantasy stories.
I've heard some people criticize Tolkien's writings being "anti-feminist" or too chauvinistic but I wholeheartedly disagree. Tolkien seems to hold the women in his stories in high regard some of which (Galadriel especially) are incredibly powerful if not the most powerful beings in Middle Earth. Even Rosie Cotton who has a smaller part is still beautifully written and has great strength in her as well. It's a subject I've given alot of thought to and am considering writing a Mythmoot paper about it.

Any feedback on my question is welcome and I can't wait to hear any thoughts ya'll have. I have been gone from class most of this past year due to my job but I'm glad to be again among my Tolkien loving friends.
Love y'all!
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Arwen has been compared to Lúthien so much and her love story parallels to Lúthien's as well. Could it be possible that Lúthien's spirit dwells in Arwen? Maybe not as a complete reincarnation but something of her is akin to Arwen? This is something I always wondered about just how much is stressed that Arwen is so much like Lúthien, and they are, but sometimes it makes me think that that there is more to that comparison than what is on the surface of the text. Is this just an observation that the people are making, is something of Lúthien dwelling inside Arwen or is it a case of Great Great Great (+) Grandmother like Granddaughter?
So, the use of the word "reincarnation" in the case of the Elves can be a bit misleading, though just about everyone does it. Re-embodied elves are not actually incarnated per se, as in they aren't born to parents again. They exit the Halls of Mandos in Valinor in new bodies (and as far as I know, as fully formed adults), but as the same people. This is presumably what happened to Glorfindel, as he was killed fighting a balrog in the fall of Gondolin, but is present to help Strider and the Hobbits in the last leg of their journey to Rivendell.

Also, I don't think that Luthien could be re-embodied anyway, since the "doom she chose" was to "return to Middle-earth, and take with her Beren, there to dwell again, but without certitude of life or joy. Then she would become mortal, and subject to a second death, evan as he; and ere long she would leave the world for ever, and her beauty become only a memory in song." So she chose to leave Arda forever, just as humans do, in keeping with Beren's fate.

One thing that might be involved however, was touched on in @MithLuin 's recent discussion about Elven hair color. We discussed the possibility that Melian's genes are magically persistent/dominant. So Arwen could be so much like Luthien because she is so much like Melian.


As to Tolkien not being an anti-feminist writer, I cannot agree more.
 

Lincoln Alpern

Active Member
Welcome back!

I'm hardly an expert in these things, but I've followed Professor Olsen's podcast for several years, and what Nicholas Palazzo says above matches my understanding of these things (minus the Melian genes stuff, which is all new to me). Somewhere in Lord of the Rings, possibly on Weathertop, it's stated that Luthien, alone among elfkind has died in truth and left the world forever "and so they have lost her, whom they most loved." So no, she wouldn't be coming back from Mandos in the way another elf might.

Human reincarnation (a human soul being recycled in a new body with new memories) is not, to my knowledge, ever addressed in Tolkien's Legendarium. Circumstantial evidence suggests that it doesn't happen, or at least not often: the elves and even the Valar profess no knowledge of what happens to human souls after they die, and if Iluvatar was constantly sending human souls back into new human bodies in Arda, you'd think some clever elf or Ainu would catch on eventually.

Somewhere in the later books, I think 5, Gandalf remarks that the "blood of Numenor runs nearly true]" in Denethor and Faramir (though not Boromir). Corey once also described Aragorn as a "Numenorean throwback." I don't think in either case we're supposed to think Elendil or Isildur or Elros or any other specific Numenorean is reincarnated in Aragorn, Faramir, or Denethor - it sounds more like the inherent greatness of the Numenoreans vis-a-vis ordinary humans is manifested in them. That's the closest parallel I can think of in Lord of the Rings to Arwen having the likeness of Luthien come again.
 

Lincoln Alpern

Active Member
I appreciate your commentary on Arwen and Tolkien's female characters. Feminist (and anti-racist, queer, disability, etc.) theory and media criticism is one of my enduring passions in life. Unfortunately, I expect that for me, at least, this project is going to be largely disappointing in that respect.

I make no claims to expertise, but I'm experienced enough to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others' analyses, at least up to a point. Corey, for instance, I find an above average critic when it comes to feminist/gender analysis, but not much above average. He's generally a little better than what I see as the baseline of commentators who are not themselves feminist scholars, but he also falls into a lot of common pitfalls and misconceptions. In many cases, I think he's basically right - in some prominent cases, I think he could be right, but even if he's correct, the reasoning he uses to reach those conclusions is seriously faulty. His vehement defense of Eowyn's storyline (going off to war, almost dying, and then settling down with Faramir as a healer) is a case in point: his conclusion may be correct, but the arguments he makes to support that conclusion aren't.

I'm also aware of the possibility of a both-and: I think most readers agree Galadriel and Eowyn, at least, are excellently realized characters, but that doesn't inherently preclude the trilogy being sexist in other ways.

I've seen genuinely smart and well informed feminist criticism of the gender politics in Lord of the Rings, and genuinely smart and well informed defenses. (Myself, I often find the critics' arguments more persuasive, and I'm sure we'll get into that more if I'm still around for Eowyn's storyline in Books 5 & 6 in 15-20 years.) I suspect we probably won't get the same level of sophisticated feminist commentary in this course that we do for other dimensions of narrative analysis, and I think that's a shame.
 

MithLuin

Well-Known Member
Yes, regardless of the details of elvish reincarnation (and Tolkien was far from definitive with his conjectures on the subject), Lúthien's fate was different from the fate of other elves, as Lincoln pointed out above. She died indeed and left the circles of the world, which is to say...she shared the fate of mortal men, and her afterlife is not in the Halls of Mandos.

So, no, it is not possible that she is reincarnated in Arwen, even if elven reincarnation did involve being reborn in your children. Dwarvish reincarnation, however, *does* involve being reborn in your descendants, so the similarity between the various Dúrins in Dúrin's line is more the original 'Dúrin the Deathless' being reborn.
 
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