LGBT in Middle-Earth?

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LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby WaitingCynicism » Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:07 pm

Hey all,

Apologies if this is too controversial a topic or political for the forum, but I was wondering how an LGBT person or couple would be seen in ME? Is it a sin?
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Otaku-sempai » Sat Aug 18, 2018 5:42 am

I'm not really certain how the concept of 'sin' fits into the cosmology of Tolkien's legendarium. Tolkien was a devout and conservative Roman Catholic, but I don't know exactly how much this affected Middle-earth. I have also known Catholics that are tolerant and accepting towards gays; and I don't know where Tolkien would have fallen on that spectrum; possibly on the 'love the sinner, hate the sin' side. Certainly there are at least a couple of relationships (Frodo/Sam; Legolas/Gimli) that come very close to resembling gay pairings, though that is likely to be coincidental rather than by intention. And plenty of viewers of Peter Jackson's Hobbit films have shipped Bilbo and Thorin.

Ignoring that, I would have to guess that specific attitudes towards LGBT persons and homosexuality in general might vary widely among various cultures and races. Among Dwarves, for example, it might not be openly tolerated; however, given that only one Dwarf in three were female, and it was not unusual for a Dwarf-woman to never marry if she could not have the mate she desired, discrete gay and lesbian relationships might have been overlooked. It might also have been that a male homosexual bonding might have been more acceptable than a lesbian relationship.

Keep in mind that this is all very speculative and I might be completely wrong!
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:16 pm

I certainly ship Thorin & Bilbo, and I have no reason to believe they weren't really in love
My sister also ships Fingon/Maedhros, Sauron/Melkor, Merry/Pippin
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby WaitingCynicism » Sat Aug 18, 2018 12:52 pm

I guess the question is more, would it be a crime for a same sex couple to be married and live openly, or could they even be married.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Sat Aug 18, 2018 1:06 pm

I somehow can't imagine LGBT equality being widespread in Middle-earth (maybe in Gondor, which seems more Greco-Roman to me?) Perhaps also among Elves, who aren't extremely judgmental (I mean, they might be, I don't know, but they don't seem to act particularly bigoted in the books)
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby WaitingCynicism » Sat Aug 18, 2018 7:57 pm

I certainly also can't see it being particularly widespread.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Gadget2 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:45 am

I think the concept would be so alien to most of the cultures and peoples of Middle-earth as to be hard to comprehend. I can't see Tolkien, devote Roman Catholic and member of the generation that he was, as even considering such a thing in his writings, though of course I cannot speak for him or with absolute certainty.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby WaitingCynicism » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:40 pm

True, though at the same time there are a lot of strong male bonds like were mentioned before (Legolas/Gimli. Sam/Frodo, etc.)
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:31 am

Gadget2 wrote:I think the concept would be so alien to most of the cultures and peoples of Middle-earth as to be hard to comprehend. I can't see Tolkien, devote Roman Catholic and member of the generation that he was, as even considering such a thing in his writings, though of course I cannot speak for him or with absolute certainty.


I don't think the concept would be alien in Middle-earth; it is a very realistic world, rich with detail, and certainly there are many types of people there – perhaps Tolkien himself wouldn't have written it with such things in mind, but a book writes itself sometimes, as Tolkien knew, and certainly he wrote that there was a strong love between Gimli and Legolas. Whatever he himself thought of that, statements such as that exist in the book, and it's up to an individual to determine whether they should take the word "love" literally. I personally can't see how a world as vast and diverse as Middle-earth could be completely absent of homosexuality, but that's just my opinion.
I am however biased on this subject, because I ship Thorin & Bilbo :lol:
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Gadget2 » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:03 pm

I don't think the concept would be alien in Middle-earth; it is a very realistic world, rich with detail, and certainly there are many types of people there – perhaps Tolkien himself wouldn't have written it with such things in mind, but a book writes itself sometimes, as Tolkien knew, and certainly he wrote that there was a strong love between Gimli and Legolas. Whatever he himself thought of that, statements such as that exist in the book, and it's up to an individual to determine whether they should take the word "love" literally. I personally can't see how a world as vast and diverse as Middle-earth could be completely absent of homosexuality, but that's just my opinion.
I am however biased on this subject, because I ship Thorin & Bilbo :lol:


There is a strong bond of love between all the members of the Fellowship; I don't think a very modern and specific definition of love, literal or not, is really warranted. And while Middle-earth is an incredibly rich and detailed world, it is also highly idealized. I can't even think of any indications of adultery, co-habitation or similar activity that is quite common in our day, outside actual assault. We could, of course, assume that all these things are going on in background, so to speak, as we would have to assume so many other things that are not explicitly stated by the author, but at some point we have to question how much we are projecting into the story.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:46 pm

Gadget2 wrote:There is a strong bond of love between all the members of the Fellowship; I don't think a very modern and specific definition of love, literal or not, is really warranted. And while Middle-earth is an incredibly rich and detailed world, it is also highly idealized. I can't even think of any indications of adultery, co-habitation or similar activity that is quite common in our day, outside actual assault. We could, of course, assume that all these things are going on in background, so to speak, as we would have to assume so many other things that are not explicitly stated by the author, but at some point we have to question how much we are projecting into the story.


I say, if there are heterosexuals in Middle-earth, which there are, undeniably, then there are also homosexuals, regardless of whether Tolkien himself actually thought about it while writing. The highly idealized world he built also contains many dark and horrible things, and when compared to some of them, homosexuality hardly seems so shocking.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Krypton_Son » Fri Aug 31, 2018 11:20 am

Gadget2 wrote:I think the concept would be so alien to most of the cultures and peoples of Middle-earth as to be hard to comprehend. I can't see Tolkien, devote Roman Catholic and member of the generation that he was, as even considering such a thing in his writings, though of course I cannot speak for him or with absolute certainty.



I have to agree. I don't see any reason to think that it would even exist. I doubt very much that Tolkien would want it in there. The era that he wrote it in wouldn't exactly have been open to it. Besides, there's nothing in the books at all (or the movies for that matter) that even hint at it.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Otaku-sempai » Fri Aug 31, 2018 5:18 pm

Krypton_Son wrote:I don't see any reason to think that it would even exist. I doubt very much that Tolkien would want it in there. The era that he wrote it in wouldn't exactly have been open to it. Besides, there's nothing in the books at all (or the movies for that matter) that even hint at it.


Well, homosexuality exists in the real world, not just among humanity but in the rest of the animal kingdom as well. And, yes, there are passages in The Lord of the Rings that can be interpreted as indicating homosexual relationships--Legolas and Gimli being a prime example. I'm sure that Tolkien never intended that, but that isn't the point here.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Fri Aug 31, 2018 7:08 pm

Krypton_Son wrote:
Gadget2 wrote:I think the concept would be so alien to most of the cultures and peoples of Middle-earth as to be hard to comprehend. I can't see Tolkien, devote Roman Catholic and member of the generation that he was, as even considering such a thing in his writings, though of course I cannot speak for him or with absolute certainty.



I have to agree. I don't see any reason to think that it would even exist. I doubt very much that Tolkien would want it in there. The era that he wrote it in wouldn't exactly have been open to it. Besides, there's nothing in the books at all (or the movies for that matter) that even hint at it.


I have to disagree. As a writer myself, I know that storyworlds write themselves; and Tolkien understood that long before me. He never even knew about Faramir until suddenly "he came walking into the woods of Ithilien". These worlds are only partially sketched out by the author, and then take on a life of their own, becoming deeper and more rich in detail. If Tolkien had continued his "thriller" The New Shadow, whole new aspects of Middle-earth would have been revealed, such as we can only guess at. Simply because Tolkien himself never gave thought to it, or even disapproved of it (and I honestly see no reason to think that of him until I am given clear proof), doesn't mean that these things don't exist in the story. As long as it doesn't go against the inherent logic of Middle-earth (and, given the ease with which people blend homosexual elements into the relationships of Frodo & Sam, etc, I think alternative sexualities are certainly compatible, even if that compatibility sometimes gets out of hand :lol: ), then I think such things can exist there. And as Otaku-sempai (and myself) said, homosexuality exists in our world, so why not Middle-earth? Simply because Tolkien was Roman Catholic and thus, apparently, believed that homosexuality was a sin? That doesn't seem like a good enough reasoning to me, since Tolkien was a very devout man, one who well understood the principle of "love thy neighbour". (Remember Sam's sympathy for the slain soldier of Harad! The man who wrote that touching scene knew that people are people, and says so, even (in a way) of Sauron the Dark Lord.)
And if the reasoning is that Tolkien's generation wouldn't have been open to it, well, I am aware that Mary Renault's historical-novels were very well-received, in the same time period, despite the fact that most of them are openly homosexual in nature! (and interestingly, Tolkien wrote that he enjoyed Renault's work, and that the fan-mail he received from her gave him great pride.)

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying what I said before: if there are heterosexuals in Middle-earth, then there are also homosexuals. :)
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Gadget2 » Sun Sep 02, 2018 5:01 pm

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying what I said before: if there are heterosexuals in Middle-earth, then there are also homosexuals.



Even if we accept the above quote as axiomatic, I have a hard time seeing it depicted in any but a negative light, as a "love the sinner, hate the sin" type of reasoning would most likely apply. But I am hardly empowered to speak for the author, to each their own. I'm just saying in a story where a lot of the troubles are traced to the fact that a parent re-married after a spouse dies (Feanor being so messed up due to his mom loosing the will to live and his father remarrying, to oversimplify to heinous degree), which could arguably be seen as a take on the Catholic view on divorce, it doesn't necessarily mean everything is the same. I mean, Tolkien's relationship with C.S. Lewis cooled considerably when the latter had the temerity to marry a divorced woman.
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Sun Sep 02, 2018 5:24 pm

Gadget2 wrote:I'm just saying in a story where a lot of the troubles are traced to the fact that a parent re-married after a spouse dies (Feanor being so messed up due to his mom loosing the will to live and his father remarrying, to oversimplify to heinous degree), which could arguably be seen as a take on the Catholic view on divorce, it doesn't necessarily mean everything is the same.


It is certainly said in the Silmarillion that it was believed that Finwe's remarriage caused a breach in his family, but I would say Feanor was cursed with his madness and unrestrained anger from birth; his birth was what caused Miriel to give up her will to live, and I feel certain that even more of his rage came from his own guilt at having caused his mother's death. (I know that there's a longer story of this whole incident somewhere in HoME but I don't have it on hand, so I can't go into more detail yet). And it's also said that he already wished to "master minds" by the time he married Nerdanel, before Indis entered the picture.
And also, is it not said that "the children of Indis were great and glorious, and their children also; and if they had not lived the history of the Eldar would have been diminished"? It's never said anywhere that I know of, that Fingolfin and Finarfin were in any way lesser than Feanor – indeed, I would state otherwise. And from them came all the greatest Elven heroes of the First and Second Age; many heroes of the Third Age trace their lineage to the remarriage of Finwe! I can't think of any other case where a parent remarries in Middle-earth, though I may be overlooking somebody.

And after Morgoth slew Finwe, it says of Feanor "who among sons, of Elves or of Men, have held their fathers of greater worth?"
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby darthgandalf999 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:26 am

I should just preface this post to note that I've been a member here since 2006 but unfortunately the board was not recognising my email, so I've had to create a new account to continue to post/view the board (I've been in lurker mode for far too long!).

It seems to me that the acronym LGBT itself (as in LGBT rights, the LGBT movement, an LGBT person and all the linguistic connotations therein) is a more modern concept that probably didn't exist per se when Tolkien was writing.

Obviously, homosexuality exists in the real world and has existed since the dawn of human civilisation (and many historians, anthropologists etc. expect before it; indeed the biological evidence is mounting all the time, someone already mentioned homosexuality in the animal kingdom).

If some of the above posts are to be taken to say that "homosexuality wouldn't even exist" in Middle-earth, that seems a tad far fetched. But I can understand the meaning "LGBT wouldn't even exist in ME" (for the reasons above).

Tolkien himself said that in in ME miles are miles, days are days etc. That's all you need to know to understand that homosexuality would have existed in Tolkien's fictional world. To say there wasn't homosexuality in Middle-earth is a bit like saying, he didn't mention wheat maybe they make their bread another way, or even though butter exists he doesn't describe any cows to perhaps it's different in ME. As another poster said, the existence of heterosexuals implies the existence of homosexuals.

Homosexuality and bisexuality have existed throughout human history (from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Hadrian to most of the Han Chinese Emperors to Edward II to Tchaikovsky to Alan Turing). Just as they exist in all cultures today. If homo/bisexuality don't exist in any cultures today that's because the people who were born that way have been killed or driven out (unfortunately people are still being killed every day because of their sexuality). I think it's probably for the best that "LGBT" themes weren't touched on in Tolkien's work - given that his world is a pagan world where Christ has come I don't imagine a very positive outlook by the moralists of Middle-earth (however, nor do I imagine they would have practiced what they preached, much like James I and his sodomy laws).
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Re: LGBT in Middle-Earth?

Postby Thor 'n' Oakenshield » Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:43 am

darthgandalf999 wrote:Tolkien himself said that in in ME miles are miles, days are days etc. That's all you need to know to understand that homosexuality would have existed in Tolkien's fictional world. To say there wasn't homosexuality in Middle-earth is a bit like saying, he didn't mention wheat maybe they make their bread another way, or even though butter exists he doesn't describe any cows to perhaps it's different in ME. As another poster said, the existence of heterosexuals implies the existence of homosexuals.

I agree completely. LGBT and homosexuality are really two separate things; the former is a much more modern concept, and I can't imagine LGBT rights being discussed in Middle-earth, or the LGBT movement, or even a person regarding themselves as "LGBT". Homosexuality is something else, something that the ancient world would have understood (even if by other names, which might today sound a little offensive to 21stCentury ears; and if Tolkien had had to write about a homosexual, for whatever reason, I can only imagine that he would have innocently used an old word like, say, sodomite to describe them, and then nowadays we would all be hearing about how homophobic Tolkien was, simply because words like gay didn't really have currency when he was alive – for the record, I do not believe he was homophobic :) )
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