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Rómenna Meeting Report - April 14, 1984
April 14, 1984
Rómenna is growing so fast these days that a new attendance record seems hardly a matter worthy of note any more; however, it may be worth a mention that nearly half of the eleven (my fingers keep wanting to type "elven") people who attended the April meeting, despite foul weather, were new faces. After a round of introductions and mulled cider, we started in on our discussion of Galadriel and Celeborn--"and Amroth," as someone said, "who was either their son or not their son."
There are indeed many ambiguities in the Unfinished Tales chapter dealing with Galadriel and Celeborn, and many questions that can arise. One of the first that arose was: Why did Tolkien want to change Celeborn from an Elf of Doriath to a Telerin elf? There seem to be two main versions of Galadriel's story (which we pointed out after a digression on where trolls come from, on "Amazon lesbian Entwives," and the speculation that the Entwives had eventually fled to California). The first version, which is the one that appears, more or less, in The Silmarillion, Galadriel is ranged along with the other Noldor; she is proud and ambitious originally, eventually repenting and being pardoned at the end of The Lord of the Rings. The second version tries to "whiten" her as much as possible, going so far as to pit her against the other Noldor (notably in the battle at Alqualondë).
Reasons for this change were discussed, and it was suggested that Tolkien had fallen in love with his character. Tolkien has two great female characters, Lúthien and Galadriel, that seem to represent ideal women for him at different times in his life. He also had negative female characters, of course; Erendis was mentioned, and somebody called her a shrew. This was hotly contested by several members of the group, who pointed out that Erendis had a lot to put up with and that Aldarion was no prize, either.
Celeborn was seen as something of a nonentity, which is possibly why Tolkien was able to contemplate changing him so much. There is rarely any indication that Galadriel really needs him for anything. About the only character trait ascribed to him is his dislike of Dwarves, for which he has good reason (as long as he's assumed to be an Elf of Doriath, anyway). It was considered characteristic of Celeborn that in the version of the story in which his and Galadriel's rule of Eregion is overthrown by the Gwaith-i-Mírdain under Celebrimbor, Galadriel escapes through Moria into Lórien with the help of the Dwarves (whom she gets along with perfectly well), while Celeborn, refusing such aid, stays behind in Eregion, where he is disregarded by Celebrimbor. Everybody obviously knows who the important one of the pair is . . . . Celeborn and Galadriel were compared to Aillil and Maeve of Irish legend, another royal couple in which the woman is clearly the stronger.
Galadriel's early history was touched on: her birth in Valinor, and her gold and silver hair which captivated Fëanor and may have given him the idea for the Silmarils. Despite his admiration for her, the two did not get along. Tolkien says that Galadriel sensed something wrong in Fëanor, but we agreed that two such strong personalities would inevitably have clashed anyway. Galadriel's kinship with Celeborn was also discussed: in the first version, he is her second cousin (as a grandson of Elmo, the younger brother of Elwë and Olwë), and in the second version he is her first cousin (as a grandson of Olwë of Alqualondë, who was also Galadriel's grandfather on her mother's side). The concern was voiced that the first-cousin relationship seemed a bit close, in the tale of Maeglin, the marriage of first cousins is considered incestuous (here followed a digression on incest).
The discussion then turned to Amroth, who was either the son of Galadriel and Celeborn or of Amdír (also known as Malgalad), king of Lórien. During the Second Age there seems to have been a kind of "back-to-nature" movement among the Sindar especially, which led, more or less, to the founding of the realms of Mirkwood and Lórien. This movement ties in with the story of Amroth because Nimrodel had similar feelings: that the Noldor were the ones who had stirred up all the trouble with Morgoth, and if they'd just leave the Silvan elves in peace, things might be better. The "back-to-nature" theme then led to a digression on Tom Bombadil: when we got back from that, we touched on the story of Mithrellas and the origin of the elvish strain in the princes of Dol Amroth. Parallels were seen between the story of Mithrellas and the many folktales in which a man takes a faerie wife who stays long enough to bear him children and then leaves.
Getting back to Galadriel, the question was posed: Why didn't Galadriel blow the whistle on Sauron when he came to Eregion, since she knew there was something wrong about him? Various answers were proposed. One was that the political system was very loose, and based on individual rather than group action. Galadriel may have considered it none of her business what kind of company was kept by the Gwaith-i-Mírdain. It was noted that Elves rarely acted together except in the direst of circumstances. Also, Galadriel might not have had enough concrete evidence to convince even herself that something actually needed to be done. She might sense that there was something unpleasant about this "Artano" or "Aulendil" or "Annatar" fellow, without realizing that he was dangerous. (Somehow a digression got started at this point on Elvish reincarnation, the two Glorfindels, Finrod Felagund, and the descent of Gildor Inglorion.) Eventually (in one version of the story at least), the Gwaith-i- Mírdain took over the rule of Eregion from Galadriel and Celeborn. Randolph commented that that was "a very Elvish thing to do--let the craft guilds run things."
The ensuing discussion of the eventual fate of Celeborn, Elladan and Elrohir, the way the Elves' sex drive seems to disappear when separated from their chosen spouse (presumably the reason Galadriel and Celeborn were able to remain apart for such long periods without noticeable discomfort), and related matters, led eventually (and unexpectedly) to an answer to the initial question about the change in Celeborn's origin. Tolkien made Celeborn a Telerin prince in order to give Galadriel a motivation to fight against Fëanor at Alqualondë.
(Another digression spun off here, probably sparked by the remark about Elves being "instinctive Catholics," in which someone came up with the notion of an Elf deducing the existence of Ilúvatar by unaided reason. Fëanor was suggested for the role, and rejected on the grounds that he was not reasonable. Though he was an inventor of genius, he had no common sense. Whether or not common sense was really the necessary factor in such a deduction was not discussed.)
The discussion returned to Amroth. Alexei commented that it must have been awfully disillusioning for Amroth to come to the Bay of Belfalas expecting to find the fabled elf-haven and to actually find that pitifully small group of elves with their one little rickety ship. Nimrodel was seen as another of Tolkien's negative female characters, refusing to see Amroth's side of their relationship or to be responsive to his problems. Galadriel as the positive, ideal female figure was discussed once more. It was pointed out that she never led armies (Celeborn did that--one of the few things he did do). Things tend to come to her rather than her going to them: she inspires deeds. Lúthien, by way of contrast, did things herself. She and Beren inspired each other. Tolkien's female characters seem to follow a pattern of sorts: at the one end is the ideal figure of Lúthien, his early ideal woman: this is followed by a series of negative female characters (such as Erendis and Nimrodel), who may have coincided with the real-life difficulties in Tolkien's own marriage: and finally, in Galadriel and the way her story was developing, he seems to have been creating a new ideal female figure. It was noted that (like Erendis), Edith Tolkien had difficulties of her own: the life of a don's wife is not an easy one.
The discussion ended with speculation on the reunion of Elrond and Celebrían in the Undying Lands. ("What have you done with my daughter?" "Well, er, you see. . . .")