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 Post subject: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 15th, 2014, 9:09 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 15th, 2014, 9:11 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 16th, 2014, 2:39 am 
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That's amazing! I cried several times.. you write beautifully, mellon nin!

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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 16th, 2014, 9:49 am 
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Welcome to AU Laineth. What an entrance!

I really like your essay, its a beautiful defence of Arwen and really highlights that she is a necessary and caring character.

I disagree with the original essay, Arwen is certainly not cold and selfish, and I think she is a necessary character, for the reasons you outlined. But I don't particularly like or dislike her, I find find a bit her problematic. On the blog Ladies of the Rings the author was asked "who is a bigger mary sue luthien or arwen?" and replied " Luthien, obviously. Arwen doesn’t do anything." I don't think this is strictly true (as your essay shows) but then the question does highlight how passive Arwen is. It also seems like Arwen

I feel she doesn't make a choice or take action without it being influenced in some way by Aragorn. She makes the banner for Aragorn, she passes the Elessar onto Aragorn, she for forsakes her immortality for Aragorn, and it's implied that she was hopeless against falling him in love with him and effectively had no choice at all. Yes she gives the white stone to Frodo and her place in valinor, but she's again making a choice because of a male character. It just seems like she has very little personality beyond her love for Aragorn, and to a lesser extent Elrond, and though she is influenced by Galadriel this has little impact. I also don't find her particularly conflicted, as I said above it seems she's powerless against her love for Aragorn and is doomed to suffer a life without him, or the loss of her people and it seems that the difficulties of being a foreign queen in a new kingdom are vastly outweighed by the happiness of being with Aragorn.

In a way I think its slightly understandable, Arwen is a parallel of Luthien who is a tribute to Tolkein's wife Edith, who he clearly adored but unfortunately somewhat put on a pedestal, based on the fact he couldn't propose until he turned 21 ( proved himself). LotR was also written in the 50s which had very pointed views on women's roles, but I just find it frustrating that in a series where we get some great and interesting female characters, who don't fit the 50's dictate, Arwen is a little bit disappointing.

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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 18th, 2014, 5:31 pm 
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Nienor Níniel wrote:
That's amazing! I cried several times.. you write beautifully, mellon nin!


Thank you so much! :hug: They're very tear inducing, aren't they? I always cry at their Tale. But as Gandalf said, "not all tears are evil."


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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 18th, 2014, 5:57 pm 
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Lembas wrote:
Welcome to AU Laineth. What an entrance!

I really like your essay, its a beautiful defence of Arwen and really highlights that she is a necessary and caring character.


Thank you! :hug:

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I disagree with the original essay, Arwen is certainly not cold and selfish, and I think she is a necessary character, for the reasons you outlined. But I don't particularly like or dislike her, I find find a bit her problematic. On the blog Ladies of the Rings the author was asked "who is a bigger mary sue luthien or arwen?" and replied "Luthien, obviously. Arwen doesn’t do anything." I don't think this is strictly true (as your essay shows) but then the question does highlight how passive Arwen is. It also seems like Arwen


Like Arwen... what?

A couple of things here, and I'll try to keep this short. You're hitting at a deeper issue that bothers me greatly when it comes to current thoughts in society.

I don't find Arwen to be a problematic character at all, but I do find the ways people commonly interpret her as very problematic. I'm guessing you're talking about Sandra Miesel's piece? I have huge problems with her assessment of Arwen.

In short, what you're hitting at is one of the most pervasive parts of 'feminism' – which is actually very anti-feminist (and to make things clear, I am a feminist. But over the years I've noticed that a lot of our staunchest enemies also call themselves feminists).

Let's go back a step.

Ignoring the fact that neither Luthien nor Arwen meet the requirements for a Mary Sue, let's talk about the other part. They say Arwen doesn't do anything, you say Arwen is passive.

Let's look at that. Passive means “accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.”

It's essentially the same thing. Arwen does nothing to assert herself, influence events around her, or change her place in life. She is, in short, a trophy bride.

Except that's so much not true, it's not even funny.

I'm going to quote Sandra's piece:

Quote:
The concluding installment, The Return of the King (2003) devises another bit of initiative for Arwen. She requests the reforging of Aragorn's broken ancestral sword to enhance his manhood, aid his military prospects, and strengthen his claim to his throne. The written text has her engaging in a more conventional feminine pursuit -- embroidering his royal banner. In the film, Arwen herself brings the banner to Aragorn's coronation, but it's not specified as her own handiwork.


In the book, the standard does the same exact thing the sword does in the film. Except when it's a sword, people take notice; when it's a standard, people dismiss it as she made him a banner.

No, she didn't. She made a very powerful magical object that has the ability to sway the dead.

However, a standard is more feminine than a sword. And so it gets dismissed and ridiculed as nothing.

This brings me to what is actually very anti-feminist. Feminism means “the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Equality. Equality and the right to be who we are without being judged or stereotyped.

And yet, lots of feminists perpetuate masculinity (and thus misogyny) as the ideal. A 'strong female character' is one who hits people or uses a weapon. I am constantly told by others that I am not a feminist, because I like dresses and skirts. I am told that there is nothing natural about femininity, that it's all a performance. Feminist M. J. Kramer refers to Eowyn as “the warrior and the wimp”, and talks about how irreconcilable they are.

Even the blasted dictionary associates feminine with weak. And it's not just women who are hurt by perpetuating masculinity, as this video shows. “Get Your Anti-Femininity Out of My Feminism” is a clear and poignant article that I agree 100% with. It really says something that in the past it was okay to be a stay-at-home mom and not to be a stay-at-home dad, and now it's not okay for either of them to stay at home!

Back to Tolkien. Why do we say Eowyn is a strong character, or Galadriel? 'Eowyn killed the Witch King!' I hear. 'Galadriel is super powerful and threw down the walls of Dol Guldur!' I hear.

More stereotypical masculinity. Now, I love Eowyn and Galadriel. They are amazing characters. But this is so harmful.

Back to Arwen. She spends 10 years making an extremely powerful magical object. She makes sure Aragorn gets the Elfstone. And in doing so, she cleverly manipulates the dead and the living into recognizing and accepting that Aragorn is their king. Then she makes another powerful magical object, with the ability to heal, and makes sure Frodo has it and the chance of true healing in Valinor. All unasked for. She's asserting herself and doing everything she can to make a difference.

She also has the inner strength to go against her fathers wishes and choose mortality, because she knows it's the only way she'll ever be truly happy. And when Aragorn and everyone else starts to doubt, Arwen's hope and faith stays strong.

She has so much inner strength, I cannot help but be amazed.

The other part of this is that so many people criticize and ridicule the “warrior-princess” Arwen in the FotR film. Like it is completely out-of-character for Arwen to go out looking for her lost lover, know how to wield a sword, and defy the ringwaiths (like she defies the Shadow). She's not a helpless lily or a trophy bride just because she's feminine! And as if Elrond would deny his daughter self-defense skills! (and that's why the film did it perfectly, as they didn't put her into battle).

The Arwen who has the strength to say 'You won't touch him' is the same Arwen who has the strength to fight for Frodo to go to Valinor.

Quote:
I feel she doesn't make a choice or take action without it being influenced in some way by Aragorn. She makes the banner for Aragorn, she passes the Elessar onto Aragorn, she for forsakes her immortality for Aragorn, and it's implied that she was hopeless against falling him in love with him and effectively had no choice at all. Yes she gives the white stone to Frodo and her place in valinor, but she's again making a choice because of a male character. It just seems like she has very little personality beyond her love for Aragorn, and to a lesser extent Elrond, and though she is influenced by Galadriel this has little impact.


I wouldn't say she was hopeless against falling in love with Aragorn, more than any of us are. After all, we don't usually choose who we fall for. Also, it's a stylistic choice – Tolkien loves love at first (in this case, second) sight. She was attracted to him, and fell in love with him in the four months they spent together (and we see her seriously consider the matter of choosing Aragorn or her family).

Aragorn and Frodo are both main characters. It's not so much a question of her personality, but the fact that she is a side character. We get several references that she's smart and has a sense of humor, but we don't really get more than that, because it's not her story.

Let's switch it for a minute. Let's say Arwen is the one in the Fellowship, fighting to reclaim her birthright; and Aragorn is doing his duties to his people at Rivendell. We get to know Arwen very well, she's compassionate, wise, and a great leader; and we learn that Aragorn made/gave several powerful objects to her to manipulate the people to her side, giving her nothing but his love and support.

Would we say that he's nothing beyond his love for her? No, because it's assumed he has a personality we didn't get a chance to see. He's a man, he has a sense of self beyond his lover. We're back to the misogyny.

To quote the “I Hate Strong Female Characters” article:

Quote:
No one ever asks if a male character is “strong”. Nor if he’s “feisty,” or “kick-ass” come to that.

The obvious thing to say here is that this is because he’s assumed to be “strong” by default. Part of the patronising promise of the Strong Female Character is that she’s anomalous. “Don’t worry!” that puff piece or interview is saying when it boasts the hero’s love interest is an SFC. “Of course, normal women are weak and boring and can’t do anything worthwhile. But this one is different. She is strong! See, she roundhouses people in the face.”

[cut]

What happens when one tries to fit other iconic male heroes into an imaginary “Strong Male Character” box? A few fit reasonably well, but many look cramped and bewildered in there. They’re not used to this kind of confinement, poor things. They’re used to being interesting across more than one axis and in more than two dimensions.

[cut]

And what happens when we talk about characters that don’t even fit the box marked “hero”? Is Hamlet “strong”? By the end of the play, perhaps in a sense he is, but it’s a very specific and conflicted form of strength which brings him peace only at cost of his life. Richard II, on the other hand, is not only not “strong”, he’s decidedly weak, both as a human being and a king. Yet some of the most beautiful poetry in the language, the most intricate meditations on monarchy, are placed in this weakling’s mouth. He has no strength, but he does have plenty of agency. The plot of the play is shaped around his (often extremely bad) decisions. In narrative terms, agency is far more important than “strength” – it’s what determines whether a character is truly part of the story, or a detachable accessory.

[cut]

That a female character is allowed to get away with behaviour that, in a male character, would rightly be seen as abusive (or outright murderous) may seem - if you’re MRA minded, anyway – an unfair imbalance in her favour. But really these scenes reveals the underlying deficit of respect the character starts with, which she’s then required to overcome by whatever desperate, over-the-top, cartoonish means to hand. She’s in a hole, and acts that would be hair-raising in a male character just barely bring her up to their level. The script acknowledges and deplores the sexism the character faces in her very first scene – but it won’t challenge the sexist soldier’s belief that women don’t belong in this story by writing any more women into it. Not women with names and speaking parts, anyway.


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I also don't find her particularly conflicted, as I said above it seems she's powerless against her love for Aragorn and is doomed to suffer a life without him, or the loss of her people and it seems that the difficulties of being a foreign queen in a new kingdom are vastly outweighed by the happiness of being with Aragorn.


Wouldn't that make her extremely conflicted, though? She either loses her lover or her family, and she loves both with all her heart. The text makes it clear that this was an excruciatingly painful and difficult decision for her.

As for her people, that is probably what she reminds herself of when it gets too overwhelming. That no matter how strange and alien these people and their culture are, she's with Aragorn, so it's worth it. That doesn't make the strange and alien people and culture easy to deal with.

Quote:
In a way I think its slightly understandable, Arwen is a parallel of Luthien who is a tribute to Tolkein's wife Edith, who he clearly adored but unfortunately somewhat put on a pedestal, based on the fact he couldn't propose until he turned 21 ( proved himself). LotR was also written in the 50s which had very pointed views on women's roles, but I just find it frustrating that in a series where we get some great and interesting female characters, who don't fit the 50's dictate, Arwen is a little bit disappointing.


Disappointing because she's more traditionally feminine? See above. :)


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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 18th, 2014, 8:03 pm 
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Like Arwen... what?

Typo... Unfortunately my ipad is not the best tool for long text posts, it has a tendency to delete what I've written if I change tabs, this was just going to be my lead in for what ended up as the next paragraph!

First to clear things up, I think there's some misinterpretation here, either as a result of me trying to be too brief or the fact that "Strong female characters" seem to be commonly defined as feisty sword wielders, and this generalisation I also find far more problematic than Arwen as a character. I like to think that female characters should be "strong" in the sense they are empathetic, rather than in the Kate Beaton sense. I was referring to a post on the blog ladiesofthering.wordpress.com, who hasn't- yet- written a full post on Arwen herself, but passes judgement on occasion, I actually think she makes some good points on other Tolkien ladies, but is a little too flippant, at least until she writes a full post on them, about Arwen and Luthien. But I'm a fan of snappy quotes.

I certainly don't think Arwen is either 'disappointing' or 'problematic' because she fills a traditionally feminine supportive role, I don't take issue with her actions. I think she's actually a remarkable example of a traditional courtly love-esque princess, she certainly didn't just sit there wishing 'some day my prince will come'. Yes she's supportive but I see her more as a string puller, moving the pieces into place to allow Aragorn's succession and in the role that she fulfils I, personally, feel that she has more in common with Celeborn than Luthien. I daren't delve too deeply into Silm/UFT territory as it's been a while since I've read them, but I'd tentatively say that Celeborn is a traditionally more feminine character than Galadriel- do I think he's a weak character for this fact- no, but I do think it gets him and the role he played in the WotR overlooked.

Where I do find Arwen problematic is in characteristics and motivation, in that she has seemingly none beyond her love for Aragorn, and this to me is problematic because it's not empathetic. I find I just can't relate to having a motivation of a great love like that, maybe it's because I'm cynical and single (!), but then characters like Bella Swan and Sansa Stark ( at least in book 1 of Game of Thrones) are bland and dislikable because they have no personality and purpose beyond the men they love. Arwen dodges the dislikability bullet because we see so little of her, and I have all faith that if Tolkien wrote more of her she wouldn't be a Bella Swan, but then we may have also got to learn more about her beyond her love for Aragorn.

I guess this is why I said I find Arwen disappointing compared to the other female Tolkien characters, I can understand and appreciate her story is painfully beautiful, but I just don't really feel strongly for or against her because I can't relate and that disappoints me as it's not what I hope for in a character- male or female. There are other characters in LotR who are similar examples, Legolas for instance, who I love purely because of Orlando Bloom, has very little personality or motivation at all- is another example of one. Is it wrong to want empathetic female characters over male ones when I'm female myself, I don't think so, and yet in a series with a handful of fantastic women, especially considering the context it was written in, Arwen is a fairly disappointing offering. And yes I get LotR is fantasy, I'm never gonna have to take a Ring to Mount Doom, but I want Frodo to succeed because I can empathise with the need to cherish simple things, I'm not going to kill a Nazgul, but I can relate to Eowyn's desire to prove herself. Maybe I'm not romantically inclined, or maybe it's the effect of modern society with high divorce rates and hookup culture that makes Arwen's motivation of such an intense all encompassing love seem, to me, somewhat wildly aspirational, but not relatable.

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 Post subject: Re: My Love for Arwen Essay
PostPosted: February 19th, 2014, 12:09 am 
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Lembas wrote:
Quote:
Like Arwen... what?

Typo... Unfortunately my ipad is not the best tool for long text posts, it has a tendency to delete what I've written if I change tabs, this was just going to be my lead in for what ended up as the next paragraph!

First to clear things up, I think there's some misinterpretation here, either as a result of me trying to be too brief or the fact that "Strong female characters" seem to be commonly defined as feisty sword wielders, and this generalisation I also find far more problematic than Arwen as a character. I like to think that female characters should be "strong" in the sense they are empathetic, rather than in the Kate Beaton sense. I was referring to a post on the blog ladiesofthering.wordpress.com, who hasn't- yet- written a full post on Arwen herself, but passes judgement on occasion, I actually think she makes some good points on other Tolkien ladies, but is a little too flippant, at least until she writes a full post on them, about Arwen and Luthien. But I'm a fan of snappy quotes.


I understand, and I agree. :) Thanks for the blog address, I looked it up and she seems to have some good points, but I only read a little bit, so I can't say for sure. :)

Quote:
I certainly don't think Arwen is either 'disappointing' or 'problematic' because she fills a traditionally feminine supportive role, I don't take issue with her actions. I think she's actually a remarkable example of a traditional courtly love-esque princess, she certainly didn't just sit there wishing 'some day my prince will come'. Yes she's supportive but I see her more as a string puller, moving the pieces into place to allow Aragorn's succession and in the role that she fulfils I, personally, feel that she has more in common with Celeborn than Luthien. I daren't delve too deeply into Silm/UFT territory as it's been a while since I've read them, but I'd tentatively say that Celeborn is a traditionally more feminine character than Galadriel- do I think he's a weak character for this fact- no, but I do think it gets him and the role he played in the WotR overlooked.


She certainly is a string puller! :D Celeborn is a fascinating character, as is Galadriel. I'm with you on not being able to go too deeply into Silm/UFT territory, as I'm still relatively new to Tolkien (less than a year). I've spent a lot of time on wikis and posts on the internet (found a pdf of the Laws and Customs of the Eldar essay!), but that's the extent of my knowledge. :)

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Where I do find Arwen problematic is in characteristics and motivation, in that she has seemingly none beyond her love for Aragorn, and this to me is problematic because it's not empathetic. I find I just can't relate to having a motivation of a great love like that, maybe it's because I'm cynical and single (!), but then characters like Bella Swan and Sansa Stark ( at least in book 1 of Game of Thrones) are bland and dislikable because they have no personality and purpose beyond the men they love. Arwen dodges the dislikability bullet because we see so little of her, and I have all faith that if Tolkien wrote more of her she wouldn't be a Bella Swan, but then we may have also got to learn more about her beyond her love for Aragorn.


Don't get me started on Bella Swan. That's not somewhere we want to go. ;) As for Arwen, I agree, we would have learned more about her.

I see what you're saying and I see where I got confused. It's totally fine that you can't relate to her, we're all different and we all relate to different characters/things. Usually though, when I see the word problematic used, it's used to say there is an inherent problem with something - that something is harmful or dysfunctional.

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I guess this is why I said I find Arwen disappointing compared to the other female Tolkien characters, I can understand and appreciate her story is painfully beautiful, but I just don't really feel strongly for or against her because I can't relate and that disappoints me as it's not what I hope for in a character- male or female. There are other characters in LotR who are similar examples, Legolas for instance, who I love purely because of Orlando Bloom, has very little personality or motivation at all- is another example of one. Is it wrong to want empathetic female characters over male ones when I'm female myself, I don't think so, and yet in a series with a handful of fantastic women, especially considering the context it was written in, Arwen is a fairly disappointing offering. And yes I get LotR is fantasy, I'm never gonna have to take a Ring to Mount Doom, but I want Frodo to succeed because I can empathise with the need to cherish simple things, I'm not going to kill a Nazgul, but I can relate to Eowyn's desire to prove herself. Maybe I'm not romantically inclined, or maybe it's the effect of modern society with high divorce rates and hookup culture that makes Arwen's motivation of such an intense all encompassing love seem, to me, somewhat wildly aspirational, but not relatable.


There's nothing wrong with not finding her relatable. It's a purely personal thing.

And it's also the reason why I love Arwen so much. I'm a very passionate person, I feel all emotions so strongly. I love with all my being, and it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship. I relate to her on a fundamental level.

But that's just me, which is totally cool. Differences make interactions so much more interesting!

(Funny that you mention Legolas, as he's my favorite male character) :)


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