Sunday, December 26, 2010

Perp Walk

#11 in the series "J.R.R. Tolkien--Smut Peddler!"

So far we've seen Galadriel's sexual energy encountering--and recoiling from--two of the eight remaining members of the Fellowship. We've got six to go: rather a crowd. Tolkien could line each of them up in front of the elf-queen and give us their reactions (and hers) one by one. Instead, like any good porn-writer he streamlines the process so we can get to the good stuff quicker. What's the "good stuff"? Why, sex, of course: finding out who gets down and dirty with Galadriel.

 To understand Tolkien's streamlining strategy we must divide the Fellowship into two groups: the hobbits and the non-hobbits. Such a division is justified thematic- ally and stylistically, and not just in this instance but throughout the story. The hobbits talk and act very differently from their larger Fellows--they're more like "us," and are thus the point-of-view characters, the reader's portals into the tale. We see the Big People mostly from the outside, as sets of traits and behaviors; the hobbits are made more familiar, easier to identify with. It's hard to visualize Aragorn stopping by the side of the trail to piss on a tree, whereas it's easy to imagine beer-swilling Sam anointing more than his fair share of shrubbery.

Within each group there is, as they said in the Middle Ages, a place for every man, and every man is firmly in his place. Hierarchy is everywhere in Tolkien's writings: we find it even in the Fellowship, his closest approach to egalitarianism. Aragorn as king is the highest ranking non-hobbit; he is followed by Boromir (son of the ruler of Gondor), Legolas (son of a minor elf-king), and finally, as offspring of a mere nobleman, Gimli. The hobbits are similarly arranged, with Frodo as a member of the landed gentry at the top, Merry and Pippin as sons of prominent families next, and lowly Sam, our only peasant, at the bottom.

To the modern nose this insistence on rank smells . . . well, rank. But Tolkien has uses for hierarchy beyond a fondness for medieval sociology. In the Lord of the Rings rank serves, among other things, to structure the movement of libido, to direct our attention to where it "should" go. For example, Aragorn may have sexual access to Arwen only after he has become ruler of Gondor and Arnor, i.e., when he has a rank more or less equal to her own. (I'm assuming, of course, as Tolkien would have, that both are virgins at the time of their marriage.) Knowing a character's rank sets up certain expectations as to whom he or she will find attractive, as well as telling us that when such expectations are NOT met we should sit up and take notice.

And when we first meet Galadriel what we notice is that libido, like Jesus, prefers the hot and the cold. Erotic energy is attracted to extremes, which is why in the scenes featuring the elf-queen the least active, least interesting characters are those in the middle of the Fellowship's hierarchies. Legolas is, in his own words, "an Elf and a kinsman here," making him too incestuously close for comfort, so he's out. Merry and Pippin have not yet developed enough personality within the story to be interesting in much of any way, erotic or otherwise; their time as characters has not yet come. Boromir's macho makes him, ironically, off limits.

As for the extremes, Aragorn is easily identified as also being too close to Galad- riel (although in another way). Frodo as Ringbearer is in a position somewhat like that of Boromir: he's brought evil into Lorien with him, though it's not of his own making as Boromir's is. Boromir in fact grills Frodo about what Galadriel offered to tempt him (thus diverting attention from his own guilty conscience), but Frodo--unlike Sam or Merry--refuses to divulge even the tiniest hint. And this is a hint that

Frodo's sexuality is not going to be an issue. We'll see later what kind of relationship he establishes with the Mysterious Lady; for now we'll treat him as eliminated from consideration.

We've already seen how poor Sam reacts to the elf-queen's telepathic probing, and can easily deduce the sexual nature of his temptation. In fact, his reaction is so powerful we can imagine Sam running away from his own erotic instincts at full speed; the energy of eros is so strong that, though it would like to alight, it can't keep up with its moving target. (At least, it can't until Rose Cotton catches up with it.) For now, at any rate, Sam's also out of the picture.

So who do we have left? Who in the Fellowship does the Lady of the Golden Wood actually bond with on a sensual level? To put it more baldly: who's gonna get a piece of Galadriel? Here's another hint: it's not going to be her husband. . . .

(to be continued)

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