Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sex and the Single Dwarf

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

It's odd that critics who admire irony in literature might also insist on explicit literary sexuality. For when you think about it, sex is in many ways the opposite of irony. Irony separates; sex brings together. Irony is emotionally cold; sex is usually not. To adopt an ironic attitude is to step outside and contemplate from a viewpoint removed from the action; to be sexual is to step inside, to penetrate and be pene- trated, to get into the thick of things. The theme-song of the ironist is "I Am A Rock"; the theme-song of the romantic is . . . well, half of all the songs ever sung. Maybe more. Maybe all of them.

And no one is born an ironist. Children--especially young ones--have little self-consciousness, a lesser sense of separation from the world, and therefore scant capacity for irony. Irony is a learned behavior; one must be trained in it. But we are all born craving touch. Even Dwarves. And no Dwarf has ever been quite as touched as Gimli son of Gloin.

If you've been following the argument up to this point it should come as no surprise that the real Young Man Seeking His Fortune in the Lord of the Rings is Gimli. Irony may be the official emotion of modern literature, and Tolkien may be writing a fairy-tale, but human emotion is notoriously ill-inclined to pay attention to boundaries, literary or otherwise. So Tolkien makes no big deal of the irony of Gimli and Galadriel's relationship. We're given no indication that it's supposed to be funny in any sense, ironic or not. Instead, the Master of Middle-earth con- centrates on what modern novels and ancient fairy-tales do best: explore the secrets of the heart.

When we first see Gimli and Galadriel together the Dwarf's heart is heavy with the loss of Gandalf and the horror of the Balrog. To add insult to injury, Celeborn clearly doesn't approve of Gimli's presence in his realm and says so. Yet Galadriel clearly does approve of Gimli: not only does she stick up for him in front of her own husband, she then directly proceeds to seduce him.

Yes--that's exactly what she's doing. For to judge by Gimli's reaction there is surely something erotic going on here:
"Dark is the water of Kheled-zaram [says Galadriel], and cold are the springs of Kibil-nala, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad- dum in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone." She looked upon Gimli, who sat glowering and sad, and she smiled. And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and under- standing. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer. He rose clumsily and bowed in Dwarf-fashion, saying "Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!"
Base map by Karen Wynn Fonstad, from her wonderful "Atlas of Middle-earth." Note: contrary to the custom of Dwarvish map-makers, who place east at the top, this map is oriented northward.

Whoa--that was quick! And as fine an example of instant intimacy as any you'll find in a porn video. Come now, we've all seen 'em: two total strangers mosey into a bare room and in a twinkling are inserting Tab A into Slot B. Or, if you wish: two total strangers meet a hundred yards up a tree and at once set about penetrating each others' hearts. In the space of perhaps two minutes Gimli has gone from enemy alien to courtly lover. How'd Galadriel do it?

If you're going to score in the romance department like Galadriel does you've got to have that extra something: namely, the ability to answer riddles. And now you can answer mine. Remember? Name a four-letter word that: (1) is common in ordinary English, and (2) ends in "K," and (3) means "intercourse." And now . . . may we have the envelope, please . . . the answer is. . . .

to be continued

No comments:

Post a Comment