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Rómenna Meeting Report - January 14, 1984
January 14, 1984
Rómenna's first meeting of 1984 was also one of our largest ever (we tied our record of eight attendees). The assembled Tolkien fans were able to delight their senses in many ways: Carol Mally, our host for the evening, played a tape that she had received with the latest issue of Ravenhill (publication of the New England Tolkien Society); titled "Therindel and Daeron," it consisted of two songs, "On Ravenhill: Gimli's Song of Parting" by Tom Osborne (Daeron), and "Apples and Cherries: A Hobbit Drinking Song" by Martha Benedict (Therindel), both of which were good; Per Hollander passed around beautifully rendered coats of arms from the Swedish Tolkien Society of which he was a member, as well as photographs of some of the members in costume; Eileen Campbell Gordon of the Rivendell Bookshop wasn't able to be at the meeting, on account of being too exhausted from manning a table at Esotericon all day, but she had sent along copies of the British edition of The Book of Lost Tales for two members of the group, and that got passed around and drooled over (only figuratively!) (Alexei had gotten and read his copy earlier in the week and kept referring to it, to the exasperation of the rest of the assembly); and there were munchies, chips and dips and dried fruit and mulled cider.
And in the midst of all this we even got around to discussing the assigned chapter, "Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner's Wife." Carol started off the discussion with the comment that Tolkien's women were never really human. Later on it was stated that Tolkien was uncomfortable with women, and a passage from one of the Letters was read in which Tolkien gave his views on women. Some of the differences he saw between men and women also come out in Erendis' speech to her daughter Ancalimë, which appears in one of the notes to the chapter.
As for Aldarion, Alexei noted that he had "a weak father and a doting mother," and that according to the pop psychology of the '20's this should have made him gay. There was some speculation as to what he was doing on that ship for so long with all those other men. Margaret objected to the characterization of Meneldur as "weak." Alexei amended that he was a weak father figure. Aldarion turns to his mother's father, Vëantur, as a substitute father. He may have been using Vëantur against his father, who didn't pay enough attention to him. Other comments on Meneldur included the question "What did Númenorean kings have to be strong about (since they had no wars)?" and the observation that Meneldur, as an astronomer, was as much an explorer, in his own way, as his son.
More commentary on Aldarion centered around his attraction for the sea. Per said that there is something special about the sea; he'd had four friends who were lost at sea, but one keeps going back to it anyway. Aldarion's "sea-longing" was contrasted with that of Tuor and Earendil. In their case it was presented in a positive light, but for Aldarion it seems almost like a drug. It was noted that Aldarion's ships keep getting bigger and bigger. What he had was perhaps not so much "sea-longing" as sheer wanderlust. His parents could never understand his urge simply to travel, not for the purpose of seeing new places but just for the sake of travel itself. It was observed that Aldarion gathered a group of like-minded men around him with whom he shared his activities (the Guild of Venturers). We decided that this was a very fannish thing to do.
The relationship between Aldarion and Erendis is a study of a (particular) unhappy marriage. Margaret made the comment that an interesting paper might be written on Tolkien's views on love and marriage, given on the one side the "ideal" shown in stories like those of Beren and Lúthien or Tuor and Idril, and on the other side the relationships of Aredhel and Eöl, Aldarion and Erendis. It was noted that Tolkien rarely depicts what we would call lust pure and simple; the only example we could think of was Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings, who lusted after Éowyn. The Elvish equivalent may be the sort of possessiveness seen in characters like Eöl and Maeglin (who desired Idril).
It was pointed out that the lot of a mariner's wife really was a hard one, personality problems aside: sea voyages were long (most of Aldarion's were a matter of years at a time), and you never knew for sure that he would be coming home at all. And of course there were the personality conflicts on top of that. Aldarion was the kind of person who sees things (like trees) as means to his own ends, where Erendis would prefer to appreciate them for themselves. Her characterization of Men in her speech to Ancalimë could as well be used to describe the attitude of the 19th-century explorers like Burton and Amundsen. In this matter, especially as concerns trees, Tolkien seems to side with Erendis; the episode of the trees given to the pair as a wedding gift bears out this view, when the Elves tell Aldarion that they would not know whether the wood is valuable or not, since they prize the trees for their beauty as living, growing things.
Aldarion and Erendis did love each other, though that love was slow to develop. Romantic love as Tolkien saw it is a force capable of bringing two such disparate people together, though it may not suffice to keep them together. The treatment of the two wedding gifts once the marriage went on the rocks gave some insight into the differing attitudes of husband and wife. Aldarion originally saw the tree he was given in the "wrong" way, but later he left it standing when all the other trees in his garden were hewed down. Erendis was given the pair of Elven birds, which she cherished at first, but at last sent away. This seems to symbolize that Aldarion at last would have liked to save the marriage, whereas Erendis was ready to cast it away entirely.
Meneldur's reaction to Gil-Galad's letter was discussed. Besides the moral dilemma with which it presented him, it also brought him face to face with the realization that somebody appreciated Aldarion's voyages, that his son really was doing something useful, that he was a responsible adult in his own right, capable of making effective decisions and policies. Meneldur sees that he has lost his sense of perspective, and, feeling himself unfitted to the task of dealing with the problems presented by the letter, hands over the Scepter to Aldarion.
Ancalimë, the daughter of Aldarion and Erendis, also came in for discussion. Carol said she felt bad for her, with the rotten family situation she was brought up in. Her name means "great light" or "very bright," a typically Elvish way of saying that she was very beautiful. Because of the conflict between her parents she spent her early years among women and sheep. At one point she sees a boy and asks, "What is that noisy thing?" Later on she was spoiled by her father (after he had taken over her upbringing), but she never loved him, though he loved her--he just didn't show it early enough. She grew up cold and hard, and eventually made a rather miserable marriage of her own in which she bullied her husband and he got back at her as he could. She became the first Ruling Queen of Númenor (just in time to spite her cousin Soronto), and after Aldarion's death neglected all his policies and sent no more aid to Gil-Galad.
Miscellaneous linguistic observations: Erendis and the other Western Númenoreans habitually spoke Elvish. Aldarion preferred Adûnaic. In Emerië, where Erendis had her secluded house, however, they also seem to have spoken Adûnaic; at least, the local people all seem to have Adûnaic names. Whether these details have any significance could not be determined.
The tale of Aldarion and Erendis ends with the cryptic comment that "Erendis perished in the water." Whether she jumped or was pushed or what, is not made clear. We all agreed that it was a depressing tale, which may be one reason for the frequent digressions that didn't get put into this report, but which were many and varied.
-- reported by Margaret Purdy