Aldarion and Erendis - The Mariner's Wife

A discussion of Tolkien's Unfinshed Tales
Philipa
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Aldarion and Erendis - The Mariner's Wife

Postby Philipa » Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:21 pm

Aldarion and Erendis
The Mariner's Wife


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Image Riv Res.
© Rabbit Ridge Art™.



We move on now to a chapter devoted to Aldarion and Erendis. Here in Númenor we read a tale of passion of the sea,
the desire of adventure and the struggle between two souls driven by different elements of their environment.

Dwelling on Númenor, a race of privileged men who have the rare opportunity to remain on that pedestal but at what cost.
This raises the question can man be truly content in a peaceful environment apart but a part of their past?

There is much to discuss. Enjoy!

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Aiya Earendil Elenion Ancalima!

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Chrissiejane
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Postby Chrissiejane » Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:36 am

Thanks for starting us off on this chapter, Philipa.

Before getting into the details, I just have to say that I was absolutely captivated by this story, it represents everything that I love the best about Professor Tolkein's work. Tales of the individual lives of the children of Ilúvatar, their strengths and weaknesses, their triumphs and disasters, set within his fabulous invented landscapes and histories, are, for me, his greatest strength.

I think he has crafted a great story around two very believable and interesting characters. There is so much in there to talk about, it's hard to know where to start! The duty of kings, the rôle of consorts, the human need to tread into the unknown, father-son rivalries, the place of women in their community, the dangers of non-communication, our legacy to the next generation...it is all there. A wonderful tale.
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....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

Merry
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Postby Merry » Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:00 pm

I agree, and well said, both of you!

I always wonder how much of Tolkien's tension with his own wife finds its way into this story.
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Wed Jun 03, 2009 1:43 pm

I actually find it a very difficult story to read because there is so much bitterness. I must re-read it to refresh my memory before making much comment as the main thing I remember is a feeling that I wanted to bang their heads together :roll: .
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Chrissiejane
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Postby Chrissiejane » Wed Jun 03, 2009 7:00 pm

I hope Merry will enlarge on her comment about the tensions between the Professor and his spouse - this seemed such a realistic tale, I wondered at the source of such graphic writing about the personalities and nature of these two people.

I did sense the bitterness that Iolanthe felt, but also sadness at the horrible misjudgments the two of them made, in what came down to a battle for supremacy between two strong-willed, proud, hard-headed individuals who seemed prepared to sacrifice their relationship, ostensibly to their so-called obligations to country and history, but in reality because they could not - or would not - talk to each other. I guess neither of them could say "sorry" and both could find easy ways to dodge the other and do the dance of "duty calls" to avoid having to exercise humility.

When you look at the effect it had on their child, the next Númenórian monarch, it's such a tragic situation.
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....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

Merry
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Postby Merry » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:59 am

Chrissiejane, some of the stuff about the Tolkien marriage may just be speculation; it's hard to tell. Humphrey Carpenter is the Tolkien family's official biographer, and so I imagine Christopher had control over what appeared in the official biography and the letters that were published, also edited by Carpenter. (One of the letters in that volume, however, does include a long passage written to Christopher about the differences between men and women that is very interesting!) There is another biography, though, by Michael White. It's hard to tell how truthful this is: it is not written in an academic style and the author does not cite his sources. So take this for what it's worth.

White describes a marriage with some of the typical tensions that most marriages face. There were financial problems and Tolkien worked long hours trying to make ends meet and heading out to the garage at night to work on this long fairy book! He also continued to meet his male friends in the pub in the evenings. During WWII:

For Edith, this was a particularly unsettling and depressing time. Her sons were away facing danger and her husband was as involved with his male friends as he had always been. Edith had been forced to accept the fact that a large part of Ronald's life did not involve her. Indeed, in many ways, it excluded her. She did not like many of her husband's male friends and she avoided them. Whenever Jack [C. S. Lewis] visited the house in Northmoor Road, there was a frostiness between him and Edith . . .

She was still resentful of the fact that her husband had forced her into Catholicism and she attended church only rarely. Tolkien grew more pious as he grew older, but he did not try to further impose his beliefs on Edith. Her disinterest certainly frustrated him and their very different religious views remained an issue between them until the start of the Second World War when the couple had a major row and all the resentments and frustrations came out into the open.


Later on, however, during the 1960s, there were some changes. The Tolkiens were in retirement in Poole, where Edith had some friends:

She felt infinitely more at home here than in any other place in which they had lived, and the sort of people who stayed there (including many elderly residents) were Edith's kind of people, from similar backgrounds, similarly unpretentious and non-intellectual. Edith enjoyed playing cards with her friends, joining them for tea . . . The bungalow had a large garden which Tolkien enjoyed tending and the house was of a manageable size. For Edith, the few short years she had in Poole were probably the happiest of her life, but for Tolkien they must have often been torturous. He had no one of his intellectual calibre to talk to, he was gregarious and personable but the constant round of small talk over cream teas must have quickly grown irritating for him. Tolkein though appears to have seen this period as a necessary penance. He felt a deep and genuine love for his wife and in old age he may have grown to realise how unhappy she had been about certain aspects of their lives together.


Christopher tells us that the latest version of Aldarion and Erendis was made in 1965, so it's at least plausible that some of this history made its way into the story.
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:25 am

I knew Edith felt like a fish out of water in Oxford and didn't make many (any?) friends amongst the other academic wives. Without her own social circle her children and Ronald were all she had. The fact that his weekly social life wasn't generally hers must have left her very bored, especially after the children grew up.

After Edith died Tolkien wrote to Christopher (11 July 1972) that writing an 'ordered biography' was against his nature but that someone close to his heart (Christopher) should know 'something about things that records do not record:'

The dreadful sufferings of our childhoods, from which we rescued one another, but could not wholly heal the wounds that later on proved disabling; the sufferings that we endured after our love began - all of which (over and above our personal weaknesses) might help to make pardonable, or understandable, the lapses and darknesses which at times marred our lives - and to explain how these never touched our depths nor dimmed our memories of our youthful love. For ever (especially when alone) we still met in the woodland glade, and went hand in hand many times to escape the shadow of imminent death before our last parting.


So here is a couple who never stopped loving each other despite being rather like chalk and cheese, who had deep bonds forged in their past that held them together through all differences and a husband who saw his marriage realistically, but who also never forgot the romance.

Of course we don't know what Edith would have said, but there are things there that Tolkien believed deeply to be absolutely true and which he felt needed saying to restore some perspective. I wonder why? Did he feel the children had a skewed view of their parents marriage - seeing the surface troubles and not the depths?

I think there has to be some of this in this story of Aldarion and Erendis! Maybe taken to extremes - but Tolkien always wrestled with inner tensions in his writing, academic tensions, religious tensions, historical ones. Maybe we can add 'romantic'.
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Postby Merry » Thu Jun 04, 2009 2:53 pm

Yes, I think that's a good way to put it, Iolanthe. But it isn't just the tension between Professor and Mrs. Tolkien, or Aldarion and Erendis, or the Ents and the Entwives. Like everything else he wrote, this is a mythologizing about the differences between male and female. He wants to be out and about doing things; she wants to stay home. The notable exceptions to this pattern seem to be the man/elf pairings, right? Even Galadriel wanted a place of her own.

The Professor seemed to be willing to do what Aldarion was not willing to do, to pay the penance, as White put it. But you're right, also, Iolanthe: maybe if Edith were talking, she would have put it the other way around!

This all makes me wonder, too, if Tolkien saw his imaginary work as a mariner's adventure!
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Chrissiejane
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Location: Scotland

Postby Chrissiejane » Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:04 pm

The insights into the relationship between Edith and the Professor are very helpful. It sounds to me very much like many another marriage at that time, in an era and a culture where the wife would stay at home, and the husband would earn the money, and often they would maintain quite separate existences in many ways. But he must have had a very deeply felt streak of romanticism, per his writings and imaginings around the story of Beren and Luthien.

As for the mariner issue.....beings going to sea figure so significantly in the Professor's stories that I think he must have felt himself a kindred spirit of seafarers. And indeed, the nature of his stories, the way they carried him into the unknown, into the unexplored, in his imagination - he was an explorer, just like the old seagoing adventurers of previous centuries.
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....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Fri Jun 05, 2009 11:34 am

I think he really was! And he certainly seemed to have been deeply affected by sea fever - remarkable in a man who lived so far inland and who hardly ever travelled far apart from trips to Ireland and, as a young man, France and Switzerland.

He had that recurring dream about land being overwhelmed by a great wave - which gave us Numenor and his whole 'Atlantis' legend. All the elves long to cross the sea, The Teleri are mariners who can't bear to leave its shores, the Numenoreans are mariners, Tuor is afflicted by sea longing in his old age (Lost Tales), Legolas fears to see it because he knows he will never again find rest once he does. Then there are poems like The Sea Bell about geing cast up on strange shores.

I think as well as the adventure of it there is also great romance about the sea. Lost lands, Blessed Isles (all of St Brendan's adventures), great creatures in the depths (the whale and great sea snake in Roverandum). It's so full of possibilities!
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Merry
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Postby Merry » Sat Jun 06, 2009 3:21 pm

As we've said before, this is some fascinating writing by Tolkien, although frustrating because A&E need a good smack and they grow farther apart as the story progresses. So whose fault is this? Both of them? Is one more at fault than the other?

Let's take sides! :twisted:
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Iolanthe
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Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2005 2:21 pm
Location: Washing my hair in the Sundering Sea

Postby Iolanthe » Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:30 pm

Now there's a dangerous thought! I'm not sure I've got one at the moment :lol: .
0 x
Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather...

Chrissiejane
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Postby Chrissiejane » Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:03 am

I think that in the early part of the story, Aldarion has to carry much of the responsibility for the failure of the relationship. I had a strong sense of a guy choosing an "honorable" way to avoid the more mundane responsibilities that awaited him at home. Even acknowledging that he used some of his time well on these voyages, by forging links with other kings, rulers and peoples of Middle Earth, it seemed to be an escape for him from the onerous duties of leadership on Númenor.

He seems to have been a very different character from his father, so there was a lack of rapport and mutual appreciation there, and perhaps the lack of rapport led to such poor communication that Aldarion really failed to grasp the nature of his rôle in life, and, as a result, had no conscious sense of his true duty.

I can't exonerate Erendis completely - she was as responsible for the poor communication between the two of them as he was - and in later life the example she set for their child was appalling in its bitterness and lack of foresight.

I wonder what this tale says to us about the traditional rôles of men and women in Númenor.?
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....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling

Merry
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Postby Merry » Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:47 am

I imagine it does, Chrissiejane. But for the most part, men and women play traditional roles in most of Tolkien and I guess this comes from the mythic nature of these stories. And myths try to explain the way things are. Is it the case that, for the most part, men want to be out doing stuff and women want to stay home? Among my family and friends, this is still a major dynamic and this after a couple generations of feminism.

When I read this story, I get some of the same feelings about Aldarion as I did toward Tuor: a bit immature, too much of an ego, too easily offended. But now that I think about it, Erendis displayed some of these qualities as she become more bitter.

Their long discussion about what things are for is interesting: she thinks the trees are meant to be trees, he thinks they're meant to be ships.
0 x
Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Chrissiejane
Posts: 91
Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2005 9:48 am
Location: Scotland

Postby Chrissiejane » Mon Jun 08, 2009 3:02 pm

Merry wrote:Is it the case that, for the most part, men want to be out doing stuff and women want to stay home? Among my family and friends, this is still a major dynamic and this after a couple generations of feminism.....


Yes, it's clear from this story that these are the expectations, but there are also very strong women operating with power and influence from within that model: his mother, Erendis' mother, Erendis herself.

Another tradition observed - the rôle of Aldarion's maternal grandfather, who is the one to imbue Aldarion with his love of the sea: the one who takes him off on an adventure, with the blessing of Aldarion's father, who is busy with his own interests at the time. That bond between the senior and the junior generation is another familiar one. And Aldarion is a great illustration of the idea that family characteristics can skip a generation, much more at home with his swashbuckling grandfather than his dreaming, cerebral father.
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....her song released the sudden spring, like rising lark and falling rain, and melting water bubbling


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