This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
in Second Life in Alqualonde the Swanhaven. Contact AelKennyr Rhiano in Second Life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mixed Species Unions

Lihan Taifun           
Cristine Wildrose   
AelKennyr Rhiano 
Shawn Daysleeper 
Squeak Barzane      

We have no record of any Dwarves (Khazad) marrying outside their race. But they are so private that we hardly hear of any marriages at all. Dwarves have a high proportion of males, and many do not marry, but we know very little about Dwarf social structures.

There are a total of 4 known Elf/Human unions:
     In Lord of the Rings, Arwen/Aragorn
     In Silmarillion, Lúthien/Beren and Idril/Tuor
     InUnfinished Tales, Mithrellas/Imrazor (first Lord of Dol Amroth, hinted at in Lord of the Rings)
In addition, an Elf maid in Menegroth was interested in Turin, but he turned her down.
In all cases, it was a female Elf and a male Human. And in the four marriages, the genetically-superior children (or genetically-superior line of descent) is an important result of the marriage.

Why do Elves ever find Humans attractive? What did Melian see in Elwë? Although there is generally a hierarchy – Ainur are “higher” than Elves, and Elves “higher” than Humans – there is some overlap.

Dwarves, being “children of Aulë” rather than “children of Eru”, don't fit onto that same hierarchy. We find it harder to imagine a romance across that divide between Ainu/Elf/Human and Dwarf. And any such romance would probably meet social disapproval from both sides. The Dwarves end up in a role of “outsiders” compared to the other races.

Looking at mixed-species pairings brings up issues of race and social status.

Professor Tolkien's attitudes may have been influenced by his Catholic background (with a strongly hierarchal world-view) and his childhood years in South Africa (where race was an important social element).

The Tolkien Reader contains a poem, 'Shadow-Bride', about an Elvish maiden held captive, but we don't remember what race her captor is.

Squeak Barzane:       If no one else has anything to say now about this, i'd like to open it up a bit: Does anyone know of any Khazad marrying outside?
AelKennyr Rhiano thinks
Lihan Taifun:            hmmm, I don't remember any record of that, but would anyone hear about it if such a marriage happened?
Squeak Barzane:       Would any outsider hear about any marriage?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I was thinking that same thing. Would it be something any one would reveal to the outside?
Lihan Taifun:            right, they are so private
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And there is the matter of how that matter would be internally perceived.
Lihan Taifun:            I can't imagine either family being pleased with the marriage
Squeak Barzane:       Men outnumber women 2:1 there, and most men don't marry at all.
Lihan Taifun:            this is true, so how would it affect the attitudes toward marrying outside?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  So...either some do seek marriage outside and we don't know, or they resign themselves to bachlelorhood, or there are other forms of romantic relationships?
Squeak Barzane:       Or, the romance is between the Dwarf and his work.
Cristine Wildrose:    most likely
AelKennyr Rhiano:  that would be another form of romantic relationship :) Could some of the young males be "pushed" out of their clan into seeking something in the outside world? But surely we would know of that?
Squeak Barzane:       Cross-clan marriages probably would be a good thing.
Lihan Taifun:            cross-clan yes, but cross-species would be quite a different matter
AelKennyr Rhiano:  And surely the same demographics would not hold true in every clan? maybe they had
Lihan Taifun:            the high proportion of males? I thought that was typical of Dwarves
Squeak Barzane:       i think so. T. wasn't talking at that level of detail, i don't think.
Lihan Taifun:            it is too bad we know so little about their social structure. There are so many interesting questions.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Why was it typical? or was that Tolkien reflecting the social biases of his time?
Squeak Barzane: was driven by Windows -14, and the crashes explained all.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  hahahah
Cristine Wildrose:    lol
Lihan Taifun:            I'm imagining most Dwarves being horrified at marrying outside their species. Whereas the Humans think Elves are attractive. I've always been unsure what Elves ever saw in Humans. Wouldn't that be like deciding to marry your hamster? and then shortening your own lifespan to match?
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well, then you would have to ask what the Ainur saw in elves? What would attract Melian to Elwe? Why did the Valar help the elves so much and were so fond of them? Was that like a human caring for their pet?
Lihan Taifun:            I didn't really understand Melian and Elwe

Lihan Taifun:            (We are so talkative tonight.)
AelKennyr Rhiano:  hahaha I am :P but these are thought provoking statements, you know?
Cristine Wildrose:    its been a while since I've read the books.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Well...I was thinking..if you continue to follow that train of might as well ask what would the Valar care regarding the Children at all. I think I can see the attraction between Melian and Elwe.
Squeak Barzane:       Does anyone know the poems of Tom Bombadil? i recall a poem that told of an elf-maid who was captured and kept underground; allowed out one night a year. Was her captor a lone elf or a lone dwarf.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh...I would have to look that up...afraid you caught me out on that one....blushes
Cristine Wildrose:    i have it
Lihan Taifun:            oh, I don't know that one
AelKennyr Rhiano:  wooohoo, Cristine!
Lihan Taifun:            ooooh! what is the book?
Cristine Wildrose:    The Tolkien Reader
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I don't think I have that book.
Lihan Taifun:            Once I start my job at the library, I will just have to practice interlibrary loan a lot. *smiles innocently*
AelKennyr Rhiano:  heh heh for training purposes, of course
Lihan Taifun:            naturally
Shawn Daysleeper:  smiles
Lihan Taifun:            while Cristine is looking that up -- I think someone mentioned Turin had an elf who was intrested in him? although he didn't end up marrying her
Squeak Barzane:       Found it. A man and a lady 'clad in grey.'
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Now, am I right? The human character Turin in Tolkien's Silmarillion was in part inspired by Kullervo of the Finnish epic Kalevala.
Squeak Barzane:       It's called 'Shadow-Bride'
AelKennyr Rhiano:
Cristine Wildrose:    oh now i see it
AelKennyr Rhiano:  oh...I had jotted down a website to share tonight...may I? it is germane to the discussion...for once.
Lihan Taifun:            go ahead, while they are looking up the poem
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I thought it was interesting.
Lihan Taifun:            *reading*
Shawn Daysleeper:  it is interesting that all human/elf marriage offspring were quite gifted and important in the stories. I never connected that before
AelKennyr Rhiano:  I thought the article very thought provoking.
Lihan Taifun:            yes, it is
Squeak Barzane:       i think an elf maid in Menegroth fell for Turin and was rejected.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  If you look at interracial couples another way, in comparison to classical mythology, and we know Tolkien was all about mythology..then it puts Elwe/Melian into a classical relationship....mortal/immortal pairing much reminiscent of Greek/Roman mythologies.
Lihan Taifun:            and for almost the same classical reason: to explain the unusual qualities of the offspring
AelKennyr Rhiano:  The Roman gods and goddesses were constantly taking mortal lovers...and were very sexual with humans...So why not an Ainu with an elf? If you also were to put the races into a sort of hierarchy based on either their "nearness " to Eru or to immortality...then you would see the same kind relationship between an pairing between elves (near immortals) and humans (mortals). But then if you extend that hierarchy...the dwarven would not fit ...because they are not children of Eru... they are children of Aule. And that also may be a reason we do not hear of them seeking partners outside their race.
Lihan Taifun:            and the "children of Eru" would not rate them very high on any heirarchy
AelKennyr Rhiano:  that, too, is true. There is no relationship between them and the Children at all. This would really be a case of "apples and oranges."
Lihan Taifun:            which is related to why I thought neither family would approve of a dwarf marrying outside their race one sense...perhaps Tolkien was doing something not easily recognized when you are reading the Silmarillion. Perhaps the dwarfs are Tolkien's "Children of Cain." Outside of the natural order of things...still allowed to share in Eru's creation, but also exiled from true membership with the whole of it at the same time...for a fault not of their making but due to their ancestry.
AelKennyr Rhiano nods in agreement with Lihan. Am I very farfetched?
Lihan Taifun:            I don't know whether Tolkien thought of them consciously and deliberately that way, but I think they ended up in that role
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes It is something to think about when we are looking at relationships between the races?
Squeak Barzane:       But it was given to the Dwarves to help specially in the rebuilding of Arda after the Last Battle.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  Yes, they are not outside Eru's grace, but I think that the difference in their origins may have had an enduring effect?
Shawn Daysleeper:  Their actual role may be quite different. Maybe they are stereo typed into the lesser role we perceive of them, by other races. Unless the Song implicitly states their role
Lihan Taifun:            The Hobbit is about the only time we see Dwarves directly, rather than through other races' eyes, and that, unfortunately, is a children's story, and not very deep or detailed
AelKennyr Rhiano nods
Lihan Taifun:            were Dwarves in the Song at all?
Shawn Daysleeper:  there is Gimli, he as a singular dwarf seemed quite different from other dwarfs. maybe somehow some "elf magic" rubbed on him because of his relationship with legolas and his liking of Galadriel
AelKennyr Rhiano:  or he was a leap in dwarf evolution?
Lihan Taifun:            and perhaps he started out as a more open-minded fellow, and was thus chosen as the one to go to Elrond with a message?
Shawn Daysleeper:  ya could be
Lihan Taifun:            not a very useful leap in dwarf evolution, unless he left a wife and children back home
AelKennyr Rhiano:  ohhh, me on that one :P he was "odd?"
Shawn Daysleeper:  it does not seem like he had a family
Lihan Taifun:            he never mentioned a family -- whatever that proves
Shawn Daysleeper:  he moved to ithilien with Legolas after the war of the ring
Cristine Wildrose:    Gimli was the first and only of dwarven-kind to come to the Undying Lands.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  yes..that is true.
Lihan Taifun:            I was going to wonder whether he was lonely there -- but he might have gotten to meet Aule in person
AelKennyr Rhiano:  true. the more you delve into this topic, thought, the deeper and more complex the issue becomes. it is not just about pairings but also about social place, in the scheme of things, too

Squeak Barzane:       Coming back briefly to the "What did Melian see in Thingol" question, i suggest that, in power, there was overlap between Elves and Ainur. Gandalf at the top of the Mair, was awed at the skill of Feanor..
Lihan Taifun:            so the heirarchy was not as cut-and-dried as we imagine?
Squeak Barzane:       i think not. Or it was more subtle.
AelKennyr Rhiano:  they never are, really
AelKennyr Rhiano blushes. I am sorry, everyone, but I have to go to another meeting and so must leave you.

Lihan Taifun:            where were we?
Shawn Daysleeper:  social places of races, I think
Squeak Barzane:       Yes.
Lihan Taifun:            I do see people -- or maybe JRRT himself -- having that idea of the hierarchy of races, even if it wasn't so clear, in practice
Shawn Daysleeper:  yes, and unfortunately it is often defined by those in power
Squeak Barzane:       i think it may be useful to keep in mind JRRT's devout Catholicism: a version of the Christian faith that is very hierarchical.
Lihan Taifun:            could you explain?
Squeak Barzane:       laity < deacons < priests < monsignori < bishops < archbishops < ? < pope.
? includes cardinals and patriarchs. They saw 9 ranks of angelic beings.
Lihan Taifun:            would that lead to seeing everything as hierarchical?
Squeak Barzane:       Can't hurt.
Lihan Taifun:            so, perhaps he was predisposed to hierarchies
Squeak Barzane:       Being South African in early chilldhood, the racial bias may have been laid down and that is something i think only time can heal. and a desire to be healed and a lot of work.
Lihan Taifun:            hmmmm, I had forgotten that part. that would very likely affect how he thought about mixed-race marriages. and a person might not even be aware of a bias
Squeak Barzane:       Yes. Give him credit: He tried. Think of Frodo's soliloquy on the Haradrim soldiers.
Shawn Daysleeper:  right
Cristine Wildrose:    though he was only in South Africa for 3 years.
Lihan Taifun:            and his admiration of the Big Folk and Little Folk in Bree who got along so well
Squeak Barzane:       That young? Maybe he escaped. i thought he was at least 6.
Cristine Wildrose:    wikipedia could be wrong lol
Lihan Taifun:            lol, Wikipedia wrong -- imagine that!

{Several people have to leave. Farewells. The meeting breaks up without choosing a topic for next week.}