Forum: Sexuality in Middle-earth

Discussing: Oedipus in Middle-earth

Oedipus in Middle-earth

I don't know if this would be *remotely* interesting to anyone, but is anyone here conversant enough with Freud (or Lacan) to do a psychoanalytic essay on the representation of M-e sexuality as Tolkien wrote it in any one (or more) of the books available to us? Pick a character or family and run with it? Just to see what might drop out the bottom that could be intriguing or revealing?

Alternately, would anyone find it amusing to rewrite, rather than analyze formally, the Oedipal psychoanalytic story using M-e families? So instead of Oedipus, you have the Boromir complex? The Fëanor complex? Would they differ from each other, given immortal versus mortal psychosexual differences? If so, how?

I have no clue as to what either of these things would fall under in terms of category should anyone even choose to take them up. And before you ask, no, not me, I won't be doing it.



Re: Oedipus in Middle-earth

I am familiar with Freud, and barely on speaking terms with Lacan, but I too won't write up a formal essay - no time! No time! Many other projects and RL foaming away. But I do have some ideas to share here.

Tolkien wasn't particularly interested in the Oedipal complex, from what I was able to see in my own sex-focused analysis of his work. There's only one head-smackingly Oedipal moment I can find: Maeglin encouraging his mother Aredhel to flee his father's stronghold and run back to his mother's home, Gondolin. Adding to this, Tolkien said that, when Maeglin fled his father in Nan Elmoth, not only did he take his mother Aredhel with him, he took his father's sword, stealing Eol's blade Anguirel. (This also had me muttering to myself, "Paging Dr. Freud...paging Dr. Sigmund Freud...) The way this engaged me didn't make me want to write an essay about it, though - I wrote some fanfiction instead. Another writer, Maeve, has written a story that fully explores the possibility and repercussions of an Oedipal Aredhel/Maeglin dynamic.

I do think Maeglin's possible Oedipal complex is carried through by his longstanding desire for Idril, who is a female relative (first cousin) and one in a position of authority as the daughter of the King of Gondolin. She is also older than him. The sexual psychology that Tolkien sets up for Elves - the idea that they tend to fall in "true love" when they come of age and be very faithful - might well lock Maeglin into this inappropriate attraction. Being immortal, in this case, denies him a certain maturity - he doesn't have to confront the effects of time or the loss of other sexual opportunities, nor is he under pressure to reproduce and have an heir in static Gondolin, it seems. So he isn't obliged to "grow up" and move beyond his semi-Oedipal lust for Idril in order to have an adult life.

IMHO, Tolkien's main canon attempt to set up an overly familial sexual psychology was with Turin. His trauma of losing his beloved young sister Laleth/Urwen to illness in early life, described in detail in Narn i Hin Hurin in Unfinished Tales, seems meant to be a precursor to his not-fully-realized attraction to Finduilas and to his rescue, then love, of Nienor. And Tolkien seemed to be working with the ideas popular amongst the sex psychologists of HIS time when he did this, specifically the Freudian concept that fetishes and other sexual aberrations come from childhood experiences/traumas. Here, Turin's attempt to "grow up" and put past traumas behind him, moving forwards with a marriage to a lovely stranger, is what snares him into his unhappy cursed incestuous angstful fate.

But on the whole the majority of strong character/character's mother relationships in Tolkien are not Oedipal. There is Aragorn's relationship with Gilraen, for example, which seems as normal as possible. The fact that Elladan and Elrohir might as well both have "Mom" tattooed on their sword-arms doesn't seem to indicate that they had any inappropriate feelings for Celebrian. Might Boromir or Faramir have vague Oedipal yearnings? It's possible, but never explored in Tolkien. Boromir evades sexuality and doesn't get married - perhaps no woman lives up to his idealized memories of his mother? (This may also be why Frodo never married or felt much of an urge to do so - his mother died while he was relatively young.) Faramir turns to a beautiful stranger in need of healing, Eowyn - perhaps living out the wish to heal his mother, who died untimely?



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