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Tolkien & Lewis on Women

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  • Rateliff, John
    ... Actually, I think the evidence is pretty good that Tolkien s views on women were much more enlightened that CSL s. I base this on a lot of things, not
    Message 1 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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      > David Bratman wrote

      > I don't know what Lewis may have written on this subject, but probably the
      > single most dismaying thing Tolkien ever wrote was this: "How quickly an
      > intelligent woman can be taught, grasp his ideas, see his point - and how
      > (with rare exceptions) they can go no further, when they leave his hand, or
      > when they cease to take a personal interest in him." Ridiculous, all right
      > - but not ridiculous to suppose that Lewis shared such a view.
      >
      >
      Actually, I think the evidence is pretty good that Tolkien's views on women were much more enlightened that CSL's. I base this on a lot of things, not least that from the very start of his teaching career at Oxford JRRT was known as someone willing to tutor female students at a time when most dons were hostile to their presence. I'm told that the majority of students in his classes were usually women, which was highly unusual at the time. There's now a JRR Tolkien chair at one of the Oxford women's colleges, which is entirely appropriate given not just the attention he gave to ordinary students from such colleges but the number of women whose advanced degrees he supervised.

      CSL, by contrast, once wrote of a female student that her coming to read him her essay was a waste of his time and she should be giving a good man sport in his bed or telling her beads in a nunnery instead (paraphrased from unpublished letter) -- harsh words, given that he first learned about the work of E.R. Eddison through that student's essay. That can of course be taken as an exception, but his portrayal of a typical woman in "The Shoddy Lands" in utterly negative terms, the uniformly negative characterizations of all the female characters in "Ministering Angels", his casual reference to a woman he met being "a good candidate for the whip" (THEY STAND TOGETHER), his use in PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST of male pronouns for the angels and female pronouns for the humans they speak to as a sign that the superior being must be thought of as male and the submissive inferior being as female, his statement that only pagans can think women could represent God in a sacramental sense, the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main characters in his Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches), &c: these all add up for me to a suspicion that Lewis did not hold women in high regard. There were certainly exceptions, women he did think highly of (his mother, Mrs. Moore, Joy Davidman, and others), but these do not necessarily negate the point: Jonathan Swift, who hated mankind on general principals, had a number of close friends, among them Alexander Pope and Dr. Arbuthnot; H. P. Lovecraft, who was stridently anti-Semitic, married a Jewish woman (when she once interrupted one of his anti-Jewish tirades with a reminder that she herself was Jewish, he replied "Not anymore"; he considered that by marrying him she'd become a New Englander of good family).

      Williams, of course, had more women among his disciples than men, and consistently assigned women major roles in his works.

      In any case, it's a topic I consider open to debate, and a fairly important one. Didn't mean to offend anyone; just using it as an example of something where Lewis's views have to be teased out of his works because he did not address the issue directly in the works in question so far as I recall. My favorite essay on the topic is Jessica Yates' "Male Chauvinist Lions". I've not yet read WOMEN AMONG THE INKLINGS, my copy of which just arrived last week; I hope it'll add some thoughtful comment on the subject.


      By the way, my wife says she thinks it's unfair to call Lewis a misogynist: she thinks he had contempt for women and considered them inferior to men but for her "misogynist" implies someone who HATES women. So in case anyone else took it that way I hasten to add I meant the term in a more general way: a man who thinks women are inferior to men.

      --JDR


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Christine Howlett
      A closer look at CSL s personal life would show that there were damn few women in it. His mother died while he was quite young, he had no sisters, he went to
      Message 2 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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        A closer look at CSL's personal life would show that there were damn few
        women in it. His mother died while he was quite young, he had no sisters,
        he went to boarding schools for his education, then to a private male tutor,
        then to the male-only Oxford, with a brief stint in the army. Mrs. Moore
        was the only woman with whom he had anything like a close acquaintance well
        into his middle age. His life had been segregated from women to a very
        unusual extent, and he picked up the common disease of male clubs, the habit
        of disdaining people whom he didn't know. I have found that disease
        prevalent in the army, in the fire department, and most places where there
        is a 'boys only' sign on the front door. CSL however was able to revise his
        opinion when faced with a woman who compelled his respect, which puts him
        well ahead of many of the boys-only clubbers whom I have met. (And most of
        those BOCs had many more women in their lives than CSL ever did) I don't
        say his attitude was admirable, only that it was probably inevitable.
        Tolkien was fortunate to have many more women in his personal life.
        Williams seems to have been altogether too fond of the company of doting
        women.
        Christine

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Rateliff, John" <john.rateliff@...>

        > By the way, my wife says she thinks it's unfair to call Lewis a
        misogynist: she thinks he had contempt for women and considered them
        inferior to men but for her "misogynist" implies someone who HATES women. So
        in case anyone else took it that way I hasten to add I meant the term in a
        more general way: a man who thinks women are inferior to men. 0
        > --JDR
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
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        >
      • David Bratman
        ... One reason Tolkien tutored a lot of women during his early teaching career is that he was married where most young tutors were not, so female students
        Message 3 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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          At 06:38 PM 3/27/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:

          >Actually, I think the evidence is pretty good that Tolkien's views on women
          >were much more enlightened that CSL's. I base this on a lot of things, not
          >least that from the very start of his teaching career at Oxford JRRT was
          >known as someone willing to tutor female students at a time when most dons
          >were hostile to their presence.

          One reason Tolkien tutored a lot of women during his early teaching career
          is that he was married where most young tutors were not, so female students
          could be sent to his home (he had no college post at the time) without a
          chaperone. There could also be other reasons, of course, but this is one
          we know about.


          >There's now a JRR Tolkien chair at one of the Oxford women's colleges

          Last I checked it was attached to St. Anne's (which, like all but one of
          the colleges, is now co-ed). I don't believe it always was, though.


          >the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the
          >main characters in his Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches)

          I dimly recall characters named Lucy, Jill, and Polly, but possibly I am
          mis-remembering.


          >H. P. Lovecraft, who was stridently anti-Semitic, married a Jewish woman

          Lovecraft could be pretty horrifying on this subject. In a letter of
          September 1933, he wrote of Hitler, "I know he's a clown, but by God, I
          _like_ the boy!" Anyone care to try to find a Lovecraft fiction story
          that's scarier than that?


          >I've
          >not yet read WOMEN AMONG THE INKLINGS, my copy of which just arrived last
          >week; I hope it'll add some thoughtful comment on the subject.

          I found it provocative but not very insightful. Anyone contemplating
          Lewis's expressed distaste for female social company in _The Four Loves_,
          and contrasting it with his relationship with Joy Davidman (which pre-dated
          the book), ought to be able to figure out the explanation for the
          contradiction, but the authors don't.

          David Bratman
        • Walkermonk@aol.com
          In a message dated 3/27/2005 8:39:06 PM Central Standard Time, john.rateliff@wizards.com writes: That can of course be taken as an exception, but his portrayal
          Message 4 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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            In a message dated 3/27/2005 8:39:06 PM Central Standard Time,
            john.rateliff@... writes:
            That can of course be taken as an exception, but his portrayal of a typical
            woman in "The Shoddy Lands" in utterly negative terms, the uniformly negative
            characterizations of all the female characters in "Ministering Angels", his
            casual reference to a woman he met being "a good candidate for the whip" (THEY
            STAND TOGETHER), his use in PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST of male pronouns for the
            angels and female pronouns for the humans they speak to as a sign that the
            superior being must be thought of as male and the submissive inferior being as
            female, his statement that only pagans can think women could represent God in a
            sacramental sense, the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main
            characters in his Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches), &c: these all add
            up for me to a suspicion that Lewis did not hold women in high regard. There
            were certainly exceptions, women he did think highly of (his mother, Mrs. Moore,
            Joy Davidman, and others), but these do not necessarily negate the point:
            ---

            Dr. Rateliff,

            I find it interesting that you list some of Lewis's negative portrayals of
            women in his literary works to bolster your point, but then don't mention any of
            the positive ones (of which there are many). Why?

            Grace Monk


            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Carl F. Hostetter
            ... Now now, David, let s remember the new rules that have been established for this list: you can t ask any questions about Lovecraft s writings or about
            Message 5 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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              On Mar 27, 2005, at 10:25 PM, David Bratman wrote:

              > Anyone care to try to find a Lovecraft fiction story that's scarier
              > than that?

              Now now, David, let's remember the new rules that have been established
              for this list: you can't ask any questions about Lovecraft's writings
              or about anyone else's views or opinions thereof; you have to go off
              and (re)read everything he wrote and answer questions for yourself.
            • Larry Swain
              I might mention an apocryphal story here and hope that someone could clarify it for me. But a female colleague told me sometime ago that she had seen a letter
              Message 6 of 26 , Mar 27, 2005
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                I might mention an apocryphal story here and hope that someone could clarify it for me. But a female colleague told me sometime ago that she had seen a letter from Tolkien about a female colleague (this would have been in the 60s) who was being considered for an Oxford chair in Anglo-Saxon studies, and according to my colleague the letter did not speak highly of the female scholar and was mostly about her femaleness and argued against her holding the chair based in large part on that fact. The female scholar in question is currently a big name in the field.

                I've never been able to find this letter that my colleague supposedly found or saw that presents Tolkien in such a misogynistic light. I'm sure he was no angel, but it seems to me that he was far more open to women than Lewis (himself not a misogynist---his letters to female correspondants do not condescend or reject women or anything of the kind). Even stops at the Bodleian and at Marquette to peruse through unpublished material hasn't yielded it. So I was wondering if anyone here might have seen such a thing or taken note?

                Many Thanks!

                Larry Swain



                >
                >
                > > David Bratman wrote
                >
                > > I don't know what Lewis may have written on this subject, but probably the
                > > single most dismaying thing Tolkien ever wrote was this: "How quickly an
                > > intelligent woman can be taught, grasp his ideas, see his point - and how
                > > (with rare exceptions) they can go no further, when they leave his hand, or
                > > when they cease to take a personal interest in him." Ridiculous, all right
                > > - but not ridiculous to suppose that Lewis shared such a view.
                > >
                > >
                > Actually, I think the evidence is pretty good that Tolkien's views
                > on women were much more enlightened that CSL's. I base this on a
                > lot of things, not least that from the very start of his teaching
                > career at Oxford JRRT was known as someone willing to tutor female
                > students at a time when most dons were hostile to their presence.
                > I'm told that the majority of students in his classes were usually
                > women, which was highly unusual at the time. There's now a JRR
                > Tolkien chair at one of the Oxford women's colleges, which is
                > entirely appropriate given not just the attention he gave to
                > ordinary students from such colleges but the number of women whose
                > advanced degrees he supervised.
                >
                > CSL, by contrast, once wrote of a female student that her coming to
                > read him her essay was a waste of his time and she should be giving
                > a good man sport in his bed or telling her beads in a nunnery
                > instead (paraphrased from unpublished letter) -- harsh words, given
                > that he first learned about the work of E.R. Eddison through that
                > student's essay. That can of course be taken as an exception, but
                > his portrayal of a typical woman in "The Shoddy Lands" in utterly
                > negative terms, the uniformly negative characterizations of all the
                > female characters in "Ministering Angels", his casual reference to
                > a woman he met being "a good candidate for the whip" (THEY STAND
                > TOGETHER), his use in PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST of male pronouns for
                > the angels and female pronouns for the humans they speak to as a
                > sign that the superior being must be thought of as male and the
                > submissive inferior being as female, his statement that only pagans
                > can think women could represent God in a sacramental sense, t
                > he damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main characters
                > in his Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches), &c: these
                > all add up for me to a suspicion that Lewis did not hold women in
                > high regard. There were certainly exceptions, women he did think
                > highly of (his mother, Mrs. Moore, Joy Davidman, and others), but
                > these do not necessarily negate the point: Jonathan Swift, who
                > hated mankind on general principals, had a number of close friends,
                > among them Alexander Pope and Dr. Arbuthnot; H. P. Lovecraft, who
                > was stridently anti-Semitic, married a Jewish woman (when she once
                > interrupted one of his anti-Jewish tirades with a reminder that she
                > herself was Jewish, he replied "Not anymore"; he considered that by
                > marrying him she'd become a New Englander of good family).
                >
                > Williams, of course, had more women among his disciples than men,
                > and consistently assigned women major roles in his works.
                >
                > In any case, it's a topic I consider open to debate, and a fairly
                > important one. Didn't mean to offend anyone; just using it as an
                > example of something where Lewis's views have to be teased out of
                > his works because he did not address the issue directly in the
                > works in question so far as I recall. My favorite essay on the
                > topic is Jessica Yates' "Male Chauvinist Lions". I've not yet read
                > WOMEN AMONG THE INKLINGS, my copy of which just arrived last week;
                > I hope it'll add some thoughtful comment on the subject.
                >
                >
                > By the way, my wife says she thinks it's unfair to call Lewis a
                > misogynist: she thinks he had contempt for women and considered
                > them inferior to men but for her "misogynist" implies someone who
                > HATES women. So in case anyone else took it that way I hasten to
                > add I meant the term in a more general way: a man who thinks women
                > are inferior to men.
                >
                > --JDR
                >
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                >
                >
                >

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              • alexeik@aol.com
                In a message dated 3/28/5 2:39:06 AM, John Rateliff wrote:
                Message 7 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                  In a message dated 3/28/5 2:39:06 AM, John Rateliff wrote:

                  <<the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main characters in his
                  Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches)>>

                  a) Er… what about Lucy (not to mention Jill and Polly)?
                  b) I don't think Lewis meant Susan to be unequivocally "damned". I don't have
                  the exact reference at hand, but in one of his letters [to a child reader, if
                  I recally correctly] he suggests that Susan would eventually find her way
                  back to Narnia in her own good time.
                  Alexei
                • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                  Susan was always a bit different. Lucy was a child, Susan was striving to be a grown-up. Susan was more like a token woman. That is established pretty early
                  Message 8 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                    Susan was always a bit different. Lucy was a child, Susan was striving to
                    be a grown-up. Susan was more like a token woman. That is established
                    pretty early on in LLW.

                    We could look at the children in Magician's Nephew, yes, and consider them.
                    I think though that they are also true children.

                    We were, yes, given the comfort that Susan would find her own way back, but
                    one could take that many ways. I took it to mean that by the time she died
                    as an old grownup, she would have gentled a bit. One could take it also to
                    mean that she rediscovered the child within (or fantasy, or Narnia, or
                    whatever) in her 20s or 30s. One could take it many ways. Remember also
                    the chastising of the noble brat in The Horse and His Boy.

                    I think CSL and JRRT and CW and all the others lived in a different time
                    from now. I agree that CSL was not impressed with my sex (gender is for
                    words) but that is my impression from my reading over the years. I cannot
                    put a finger on any one sentence (and I believe that doing that, as with
                    the Bible, can be misleading anyway). JRRT (aka Beren) may have had a
                    higher regard for women, but he wasn't so keen on planes, trains and
                    automobiles, was he? I personally, with admitted subjectivity and bias,
                    think that JRRT's intellect and imagination was head and shoulders above
                    that of the others, and I say that as a raving fan of Williams' Arthuriad.
                    I almost don't want to know too much about the man, because familiarity
                    breeds contempt... I have discovered unflattering things about CSL, and
                    about CW, and about Winston Churchhill and G.K. Chesterton and others... I
                    don't want my regard for JRRT to be tainted by things that are not relevant
                    to his creation of Middle-Earth and his many other related works.

                    We are fed too much of that these days anyway, at the tabloids and from
                    other sources of media which we can choose not to bring home but which we
                    almost cannot avoid entirely unless we become "Minimites" as I believe they
                    were generically dubbed in a recent book. It has bred in our culture an
                    prurient interest in lazy irrelevancies.

                    Oops, off topic. sorry...

                    Lizzie

                    Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                    lizziewriter@...
                    amor vincit omnia
                    www.lizziewriter.com
                    www.danburymineralogicalsociety.org


                    > [Original Message]
                    > From: <alexeik@...>
                    > To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                    > Date: 3/28/2005 12:42:19 PM
                    > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > In a message dated 3/28/5 2:39:06 AM, John Rateliff wrote:
                    >
                    > <<the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main characters in his
                    > Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches)>>
                    >
                    > a) Er� what about Lucy (not to mention Jill and Polly)?
                    > b) I don't think Lewis meant Susan to be unequivocally "damned". I don't
                    have
                    > the exact reference at hand, but in one of his letters [to a child
                    reader, if
                    > I recally correctly] he suggests that Susan would eventually find her way
                    > back to Narnia in her own good time.
                    > Alexei
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                    > Yahoo! Groups Links
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    >
                  • Rateliff, John
                    ... I might mention an apocryphal story here and hope that someone could clarify it for me. But a female colleague told me sometime ago that she had seen a
                    Message 9 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                      > Larry Swain wrote
                      "I might mention an apocryphal story here and hope that someone could clarify it for me. But a female colleague told me sometime ago that she had seen a letter from Tolkien about a female colleague (this would have been in the 60s) who was being considered for an Oxford chair in Anglo-Saxon studies, and according to my colleague the letter did not speak highly of the female scholar and was mostly about her femaleness and argued against her holding the chair based in large part on that fact. The female scholar in question is currently a big name in the field.

                      > I've never been able to find this letter that my colleague supposedly found or saw that presents Tolkien in such a misogynistic light. I'm sure he was no angel, but it seems to me that he was far more open to women than Lewis (himself not a misogynist---his letters to female correspondants do not condescend or reject women or anything of the kind). Even stops at the Bodleian and at Marquette to peruse through unpublished material hasn't yielded it. So I was wondering if anyone here might have seen such a thing or taken note?"
                      >
                      > Many Thanks!
                      >
                      > Larry Swain
                      >
                      >
                      Larry:
                      I hadn't heard this story before and know of no direct evidence one way or the other. Given what I know of Tolkien and his long history of supporting women's education, I should think it highly unlikely. He may, of course, have had a low opinion of her as a scholar and expressed himself bluntly, but that he would discount her credentials simply because of her sex would go against his overall record. Don't forget his pride that his Aunt Jane was "one of the first women to take a science degree" (LETTERS OF JRRT, letter of 4 Nov 1961), or the fact that his mother was well-educated by the standards of the day, or his admiration for Mary Wright, his mentor's wife. He would not have suggested Elaine Griffiths as a suitable person to revised the Clark-Hall BEOWULF had he not thought well of her scholarly abilities, nor collaborated with d'Ardenne, nor worked so closely with Salu, had he not considered them in some sense peers (even if junior partners). I read the passage David cited more as JRRT's disappointment that none of his students had exceeded him or had a career matching his own.


                      David is right in pointing out that one reason Tolkien tutored so many women is that he was considered "safe", being a married man and all, as someone young women could spend time with without being chaperoned. To this I would add that many of these women became lifelong friends of the Tolkien family (most notably Simone d'Ardenne, who warmly captures what Tolkien was like as a tutor in her essay in Mary Salu's collection). I submit that these friendships would not have resulted had Tolkien viewed these young women with veiled contempt, the way Lewis viewed the unfortunate scholar who introduced him to Eddison's work. If my memory is correct (I don't have the books with me here at work for reference) the various early collections of memoirs of people who were close to Lewis, as colleagues and pupils (LIGHT ON C.S. LEWIS, AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE) did not include a single woman tutored by him among them. If Lewis ever collaborated with a woman I can't recall an example.

                      Re. David & Alexei's point: I did not mean my statement to include girls, only women. There are many heroic girls in Narnia (in fact, they're some of the best characters), but of all the visitors from our world the only one Lewis excludes from salvation at the end of THE LAST BATTLE is also the only one who's grown from a girl into a woman. Possibly I'm reading too much into that; I merely mention it as suggestive, nothing more.

                      --JDR




                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Walkermonk@aol.com
                      In a message dated 3/28/2005 12:25:07 PM Central Standard Time, john.rateliff@wizards.com writes: Re. David & Alexei s point: I did not mean my statement to
                      Message 10 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                        In a message dated 3/28/2005 12:25:07 PM Central Standard Time,
                        john.rateliff@... writes:

                        Re. David & Alexei's point: I did not mean my statement to include girls,
                        only women. There are many heroic girls in Narnia (in fact, they're some of the
                        best characters), but of all the visitors from our world the only one Lewis
                        excludes from salvation at the end of THE LAST BATTLE is also the only one
                        who's grown from a girl into a woman. Possibly I'm reading too much into that;
                        I merely mention it as suggestive, nothing more.



                        ---

                        And what about my question, Dr. Rateliff? Or did you miss it? And out of
                        pure curiosity, what do you define as "woman"? How old are you imagining Susan
                        to be at the end of the Last Battle? And again, you are misremembering what
                        happens at the end of The Last Battle and who is listed among the Kings and
                        Queens of Narnia. So you haven't answered Alexei or David either, not to mention
                        me. But then, I'm a woman. Maybe you are the one who doesn't like to deal
                        with women? I only mention it as suggestive, nothing more.

                        Grace Monk

                        Grace Monk


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Rateliff, John
                        ... I find it interesting that you list some of Lewis s negative portrayals of ... Good question (by the way, John will do). My only excuse would be that I
                        Message 11 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                          > Grace Monk wrote
                          >
                          "I find it interesting that you list some of Lewis's negative portrayals of
                          > women in his literary works to bolster your point, but then don't mention any of
                          > the positive ones (of which there are many). Why?"
                          >
                          Good question (by the way, "John" will do).
                          My only excuse would be that I was making a point in passing, not addressing the interesting and complicated topic of CSL's relations with women, both in his life and in his works, in full. That's a subject worthy of several books. Certainly there are many favorable portrayals of women in his works. It seems to me, however, that most of them fall into two categories: remote idealized figures like Perelandra's Eve or foolish young women who ultimately find happiness by utter surrender to appropriate male authority (e.g., Jane Studdock). The sympathetic minor female characters are mostly those who have already so submitted: their happiness is a result of their having found their appropriate place in what used to be call the Great Chain of Being, properly submissive to their husbands (Mrs. Dimble, Mrs. Badger). Even the notorious passage in AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM where Lewis argues that to truly appreciate a work the reader must be as passive as possible, "as passive as a woman during sex", suggests that the trait he admired most in women was submission. He seems to have exempted girls from this and on the whole treats them with more sympathy than his grown-up women.
                          The great exception to this is TILL WE HAVE FACES, the one full-rounded portrait of a woman in his work. Even there one could make the case that she spends a lifetime in misery precisely because she will not submit herself to a higher authority. That may, however, be pushing it.
                          I would love, by the way, to read a full-length study arguing that Lewis did regard women as equals; if anyone knows of one, please send me the reference so I can try to track it down. If one doesn't exist, will someone who feels that way please write it so we can see all the evidence for that position assembled?

                          > From: Walkermonk@...
                          > Sent: Monday, March 28, 2005 10:41 AM
                          > Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women
                          >
                          > And what about my question, Dr. Rateliff? Or did you miss it? And out of
                          > pure curiosity, what do you define as "woman"? How old are you imagining Susan
                          > to be at the end of the Last Battle? And again, you are misremembering what
                          > happens at the end of The Last Battle and who is listed among the Kings and
                          > Queens of Narnia. So you haven't answered Alexei or David either, not to mention
                          > me. But then, I'm a woman. Maybe you are the one who doesn't like to deal
                          > with women? I only mention it as suggestive, nothing more.
                          >
                          >
                          Actually, I was typing the response given above when your message came; these things take time.
                          --JDR


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Carl F. Hostetter
                          ... Now now, John, you know the rules here. Go (re)read everything Lewis wrote, and everything ever written about him and his work, and find out for yourself.
                          Message 12 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                            On Mar 28, 2005, at 1:51 PM, Rateliff, John wrote:

                            > I would love, by the way, to read a full-length study arguing that
                            > Lewis did regard women as equals; if anyone knows of one, please send
                            > me the reference so I can try to track it down. If one doesn't exist,
                            > will someone who feels that way please write it so we can see all the
                            > evidence for that position assembled?

                            Now now, John, you know the rules here. Go (re)read everything Lewis
                            wrote, and everything ever written about him and his work, and find out
                            for yourself. It will be time much better spent than asking questions
                            and bunfighting and sharpening your shovel.
                          • Carl F. Hostetter
                            ... Now now, Grace, you know the rules of the list: you don t get to ask John this question until you ve read everything ever written about women. It s time
                            Message 13 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                              On Mar 28, 2005, at 1:41 PM, Walkermonk@... wrote:

                              > And what about my question, Dr. Rateliff? Or did you miss it? And out
                              > of pure curiosity, what do you define as "woman"?

                              Now now, Grace, you know the rules of the list: you don't get to ask
                              John this question until you've read everything ever written about
                              women. It's time much better spent than asking John a question about
                              his statements.
                            • Christine Howlett
                              In The Horse and His Boy both Lucy and Susan are grown women (Lucy has become engaged to the villain of the piece) and depicted as strong characters -
                              Message 14 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                In "The Horse and His Boy" both Lucy and Susan are grown women (Lucy has
                                become engaged to the villain of the piece) and depicted as strong
                                characters - despite Lucy's explained lapse of judgment.
                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: <Walkermonk@...>
                                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Monday, March 28, 2005 1:41 PM
                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women


                                >
                                >
                                > In a message dated 3/28/2005 12:25:07 PM Central Standard Time,
                                > john.rateliff@... writes:
                                >
                                > Re. David & Alexei's point: I did not mean my statement to include girls,
                                > only women. There are many heroic girls in Narnia (in fact, they're some
                                of the
                                > best characters), but of all the visitors from our world the only one
                                Lewis
                                > excludes from salvation at the end of THE LAST BATTLE is also the only one
                                > who's grown from a girl into a woman. Possibly I'm reading too much into
                                that;
                                > I merely mention it as suggestive, nothing more.
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                > ---
                                >
                                > And what about my question, Dr. Rateliff? Or did you miss it? And out of
                                > pure curiosity, what do you define as "woman"? How old are you imagining
                                Susan
                                > to be at the end of the Last Battle? And again, you are misremembering
                                what
                                > happens at the end of The Last Battle and who is listed among the Kings
                                and
                                > Queens of Narnia. So you haven't answered Alexei or David either, not to
                                mention
                                > me. But then, I'm a woman. Maybe you are the one who doesn't like to deal
                                > with women? I only mention it as suggestive, nothing more.
                                >
                                > Grace Monk
                                >
                                > Grace Monk
                                >
                                >
                                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                              • Walkermonk@aol.com
                                In a message dated 3/28/2005 1:57:02 PM Central Standard Time, chowlett@erols.com writes: In The Horse and His Boy both Lucy and Susan are grown women (Lucy
                                Message 15 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                  In a message dated 3/28/2005 1:57:02 PM Central Standard Time,
                                  chowlett@... writes:
                                  In "The Horse and His Boy" both Lucy and Susan are grown women (Lucy has
                                  become engaged to the villain of the piece) and depicted as strong
                                  characters - despite Lucy's explained lapse of judgment.
                                  ---

                                  Just a small point of fact, and not as a criticism because I misspell words
                                  regularly, my grammar sucks eggs, and I screw up my citations too often. It is
                                  Susan who is engaged in "Horse" and Lucy fights in the battle, because
                                  basically no one has the power to tell her she can't, not even the High King Peter.

                                  I don't yet have time to address Dr. Rateliff's post. That will have to wait
                                  til this evening.

                                  Grace Monk


                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                • alexeik@aol.com
                                  In a message dated 3/28/5 6:25:49 PM, John Rateliff wrote:
                                  Message 16 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                    In a message dated 3/28/5 6:25:49 PM, John Rateliff wrote:

                                    <<There are many heroic girls in Narnia (in fact, they're some of the best
                                    characters), but of all the visitors from our world the only one Lewis excludes
                                    from salvation at the end of THE LAST BATTLE is also the only one who's grown
                                    from a girl into a woman. Possibly I'm reading too much into that; I merely
                                    mention it as suggestive, nothing more.
                                    >>

                                    That's what Philip Pullman suggested, with the assumption that it was Susan's
                                    awakening to sexuality that Lewis objected to -- that the obsession with
                                    clothes, makeup, etc. was a natural and necessary feature of that awakening. I
                                    think Lewis would not have equated them that way, and that he would have
                                    considered Susan's adolescent behaviour every bit as "girlish" as her more childlike
                                    phase, and in no way representative of mature womanhood. Look at the way Aravis
                                    and Lasaraleen are contrasted in _The Horse and His Boy_: both are
                                    unquestionably "girls" (Lasaraleen is obviously not meant to appear "maturer" than
                                    Aravis), so it's really a contrast between two forms of "girlishness" -- with
                                    Aravis, despite her tomboyish traits, coming across as more "mature" because she's
                                    already focused on moral ideals that are a mark of genuine adulthood, while
                                    Lasaraleen is stuck in the adolescent phase that tries to appear 'grown up" by
                                    imitating superficial characteristics of adult behaviour that aren't essential
                                    to responsible adulthood at all. It looks to me that Susan is being rebuked
                                    for becoming like Lasaraleen.
                                    Of course, a feminine critique would point out that it is male-dominated
                                    culture that has established the "feminine" norms of behaviour that Lewis so
                                    dislikes -- whereby the main concern of women should be to attract and gratify
                                    men, and their only goal in life to secure a successful marriage. I don't see
                                    any evidence that Lewis understood this dynamic, but I think it's clear that he
                                    didn't have an "essentialist" explanation for the behaviour he condemned and
                                    that he believed women could go beyond it. After all, the silly woman in "The
                                    Shoddy Lands" is being urged to repent -- which she could hardly do if she
                                    were biologically programmed to act that way.
                                    Alexei
                                  • alexeik@aol.com
                                    In a message dated 3/28/5 6:53:52 PM, John Rateliff wrote:
                                    Message 17 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                      In a message dated 3/28/5 6:53:52 PM, John Rateliff wrote:

                                      <<most of them fall into two categories: remote idealized figures like
                                      Perelandra's Eve or foolish young women who ultimately find happiness by utter
                                      surrender to appropriate male authority (e.g., Jane Studdock). The sympathetic
                                      minor female characters are mostly those who have already so submitted: their
                                      happiness is a result of their having found their appropriate place in what used
                                      to be call the Great Chain of Being, properly submissive to their husbands
                                      (Mrs. Dimble, Mrs. Badger)>>

                                      On the other hand, you have the relationship between Cor (Shasta) and Aravis
                                      in _The Horse and His Boy_: "Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I'm afraid,
                                      even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up gain: so that years later,
                                      when they were grown up they were so used to quarrelling and making it up again
                                      that they got married so as to go on doing it more convenienty." -- which
                                      suggests a more realistic and maturer view of marriage than a rigidly hierarchical
                                      one where "submission" is the woman's only acceptable role. As others have
                                      pointed out, Lewis's views on women *did* evolve, and Joy Davidman surely had a
                                      lot to do with it.
                                      Alexei
                                    • alexeik@aol.com
                                      In a message dated 3/28/5 8:37:23 PM, you wrote: Sorry, a *feminist* critique. Alexei
                                      Message 18 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                        In a message dated 3/28/5 8:37:23 PM, you wrote:

                                        <<Of course, a feminine critique>>

                                        Sorry, a *feminist* critique.
                                        Alexei
                                      • Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                                        Well, that does make a lot more sense, doesn t it? Thanks. Elizabeth Apgar Triano lizziewriter@earthlink.net amor vincit omnia www.lizziewriter.com
                                        Message 19 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                          Well, that does make a lot more sense, doesn't it? Thanks.

                                          Elizabeth Apgar Triano
                                          lizziewriter@...
                                          amor vincit omnia
                                          www.lizziewriter.com
                                          www.danburymineralogicalsociety.org
                                          >
                                          > Just a small point of fact, and not as a criticism because I misspell
                                          words
                                          > regularly, my grammar sucks eggs, and I screw up my citations too often.
                                          It is
                                          > Susan who is engaged in "Horse" and Lucy fights in the battle, because
                                          > basically no one has the power to tell her she can't, not even the High
                                          King Peter.
                                          >
                                          > Grace Monk
                                          >
                                        • Stolzi
                                          ... typical ... negative ... Of whom there are ... two. And btw, one of the two turns out to be physically unattractive, but kind and nice: one of the
                                          Message 20 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                            ----- Original Message -----

                                            > In a message dated 3/27/2005 8:39:06 PM Central Standard Time,
                                            > john.rateliff@... writes:
                                            > That can of course be taken as an exception, but his portrayal of a
                                            typical
                                            > woman in "The Shoddy Lands" in utterly negative terms, the uniformly
                                            negative
                                            > characterizations of all the female characters in "Ministering Angels",

                                            Of whom there are ... two. And btw, one of the two turns out to be
                                            physically unattractive, but kind and nice: one of the prostitutes who, it
                                            was said to the self-righteous, "shall enter the kingdom before you." I
                                            don't see that as "uniformly negative characterization." And if you want to
                                            include offstage characters, the Captain's wife Clare is very nice, only
                                            she's described mainly as sexually attractive - which may be a sin in the
                                            new world of PC.

                                            his
                                            > casual reference to a woman he met being "a good candidate for the whip"
                                            (THEY
                                            > STAND TOGETHER), his use in PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST of male pronouns for
                                            the
                                            > angels and female pronouns for the humans they speak to

                                            Milton calls Adam "She"? News to me.

                                            >as a sign that the
                                            > superior being must be thought of as male and the submissive inferior
                                            being as
                                            > female, his statement that only pagans can think women could represent God
                                            in a
                                            > sacramental sense, the damnation of Susan (the only woman among the main
                                            > characters in his Narnia stories, unless we include the Witches)

                                            If Susan's a woman, so is Lucy and so's Polly! The other good female
                                            characters I think of immediately, Dr Rateliff could possibly shipwreck
                                            along the lines of "they're not human" or "they're not main characters." Of
                                            course, Mrs Beaver is described as domestic - which may, again, be a sin in
                                            the new world.

                                            Diamond Proudbrook
                                          • David Bratman
                                            ... And which of his male students did? Remember Tolkien wrote this in 1941; he d been teaching for a bit more than 20 years at this time, and his earliest
                                            Message 21 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                              At 10:19 AM 3/28/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:

                                              >I read the
                                              >passage David cited more as JRRT's disappointment that none of his students
                                              >had exceeded him or had a career matching his own.

                                              And which of his male students did?

                                              Remember Tolkien wrote this in 1941; he'd been teaching for a bit more than
                                              20 years at this time, and his earliest students would only be in their
                                              early 40s, a bit young to measure their overall careers unless they were
                                              geniuses for whom no teacher could take credit.

                                              >If my memory is correct (I don't have the
                                              >books with me here at work for reference) the various early collections of
                                              >memoirs of people who were close to Lewis, as colleagues and pupils (LIGHT
                                              >ON C.S. LEWIS, AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE) did not include a single woman
                                              >tutored by him among them. If Lewis ever collaborated with a woman I can't
                                              >recall an example.

                                              Joy Davidman. See Diana Glyer's essay on the subject. (I can't remember
                                              where it was, though.)

                                              Remember that Lewis didn't quite have Tolkien's opportunities to teach
                                              women. Lewis was tied down for thirty years teaching undergraduates at a
                                              men's college, while Tolkien after he returned to Oxford in 1925 had no
                                              such responsibility, and was free to take advanced students from any
                                              college, men's or women's, who wished to study his subject. To the extent
                                              that Lewis had time to take additional students, he 1) never had a free
                                              period in his career equivalent to Tolkien's part-time OED stint; 2) was
                                              unmarried through all this period, and thus didn't have Tolkien's advantage
                                              for female students; 3) already had his plate full by being contracted to
                                              take students from other men's colleges, which was only to a limited extent
                                              his choice.

                                              The acid test, I suppose, would be to ask whether Lewis took on any female
                                              students once he moved to Cambridge, and thus was finally in Tolkien's
                                              position of being free to supervise grad students ad lib. And this would
                                              have to be weighed against any differences between Oxford and Cambridge
                                              culture, or in the effects of the difference between Lewis's and Tolkien's
                                              scholarly subjects. It's certainly true that Lewis welcomed women scholars
                                              studying his own work, like Lindskoog, as he did men doing the same. But
                                              as far as we know he didn't invite any of the women to the B&B as he did
                                              some of the men.


                                              >Certainly there are many favorable portrayals of women in his works. It
                                              >seems to me, however, that most of them fall into two categories: remote
                                              >idealized figures like Perelandra's Eve or foolish young women who
                                              >ultimately find happiness by utter surrender to appropriate male authority
                                              >(e.g., Jane Studdock).

                                              Sorry, but "remote idealized figures" is the sort of cant used to dismiss
                                              Galadriel, Yavanna, and even Luthien from consideration as Tolkien's
                                              examples of favorable women. Then the people who do this twist themselves
                                              into knots trying to dismiss Eowyn as a "foolish young woman who ultimately
                                              finds happiness by utter surrender to appropriate male authority." They
                                              don't discuss Erendis or Andreth, however, because they've never heard of
                                              either one of them.


                                              >The great exception to this is TILL WE HAVE FACES, the one full-rounded
                                              >portrait of a woman in his work. Even there one could make the case that she
                                              >spends a lifetime in misery precisely because she will not submit herself to
                                              >a higher authority. That may, however, be pushing it.

                                              It is pushing it. The authority to which Orual must submit herself is the
                                              one to which all humans must. Lewis is not putting men on a pedestal here.

                                              DB
                                            • Christine Howlett
                                              Thanks - that s right. Unfortunately I m trying to do this from a really shoddy memory... ... From: To: Sent:
                                              Message 22 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                                Thanks - that's right. Unfortunately I'm trying to do this from a really
                                                shoddy memory...
                                                ----- Original Message -----
                                                From: <Walkermonk@...>
                                                To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                                                Sent: Monday, March 28, 2005 3:01 PM
                                                Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women


                                                >
                                                > In a message dated 3/28/2005 1:57:02 PM Central Standard Time,
                                                > chowlett@... writes:
                                                > In "The Horse and His Boy" both Lucy and Susan are grown women (Lucy has
                                                > become engaged to the villain of the piece) and depicted as strong
                                                > characters - despite Lucy's explained lapse of judgment.
                                                > ---
                                                >
                                                > Just a small point of fact, and not as a criticism because I misspell
                                                words
                                                > regularly, my grammar sucks eggs, and I screw up my citations too often.
                                                It is
                                                > Susan who is engaged in "Horse" and Lucy fights in the battle, because
                                                > basically no one has the power to tell her she can't, not even the High
                                                King Peter.
                                                >
                                                > I don't yet have time to address Dr. Rateliff's post. That will have to
                                                wait
                                                > til this evening.
                                                >
                                                > Grace Monk
                                                >
                                                >
                                                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
                                                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                                >
                                              • Rateliff, John
                                                ... E. V. Gordon and A. H. Smith are the two that spring to mind. Gordon s early death prevents us from knowing how much he would have achieved, but it seems
                                                Message 23 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                                  > David Bratman wrote:
                                                  >
                                                  > And which of his male students did?
                                                  >
                                                  E. V. Gordon and A. H. Smith are the two that spring to mind. Gordon's early death prevents us from knowing how much he would have achieved, but it seems at least possible that he would have equaled if not eclipsed Tolkien academically had the achievements of his first fifteen years been matched by similar publications in the next fifteen years of his career (based on the unfinished projects his wife completed and published, I'm inclined to believe they would have). Obviously, we'll never know. Likewise Smith, who moved into the specialized field of place-name research, became a v. big name indeed within his limited range. I don't know if Roger Lancelyn Green should be included in this list or not: he certainly never wrote anything to match "On Fairy-Stories" (but then no one else ever has either) but as an expert on fairy-tales he did pretty well; even Tolkien consulted him and deferred to his expertise.

                                                  re. Tolk & CSL's differing academic positions: good point.

                                                  > The acid test, I suppose, would be to ask whether Lewis took on any female
                                                  > students once he moved to Cambridge, and thus was finally in Tolkien's
                                                  > position of being free to supervise grad students ad lib. And this would
                                                  > have to be weighed against any differences between Oxford and Cambridge
                                                  > culture, or in the effects of the difference between Lewis's and Tolkien's
                                                  > scholarly subjects.
                                                  >
                                                  That's a good point, and I don't have any information on this. Most of the memoirs I've seen have been by people who knew him before his shift to Cambridge, or outside an academic context, and that part of his life (e.g., what the students and his colleagues there thought of him) has been rather stinted in the record.

                                                  > It's certainly true that Lewis welcomed women scholars
                                                  > studying his own work, like Lindskoog, as he did men doing the same. But
                                                  > as far as we know he didn't invite any of the women to the B&B as he did
                                                  > some of the men.
                                                  >
                                                  He did invite Joy Davidman to meet the Inklings at the B&B, but I gather the experiment was not a success and I don't think it was repeated.

                                                  > Sorry, but "remote idealized figures" is the sort of cant used to dismiss
                                                  > Galadriel, Yavanna, and even Luthien from consideration as Tolkien's
                                                  > examples of favorable women.
                                                  >
                                                  True enough, though I don't think of Luthien or Galadriel as submissive.

                                                  > Then the people who do this twist themselves
                                                  > into knots trying to dismiss Eowyn as a "foolish young woman who ultimately
                                                  > finds happiness by utter surrender to appropriate male authority."
                                                  >
                                                  Not so sure Tolkien faults Eowyn for her independence and disobedience, but that's a discussion for another day. He certainly has deep sympathy for her plight.

                                                  > They don't discuss Erendis or Andreth, however, because they've never heard of
                                                  > either one of them.
                                                  >
                                                  More's the pity!


                                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                                • David Bratman
                                                  ... I d forgotten that Gordon was Tolkien s student as well as his colleague. Burchfield came much later, of course. Still, this is not a large sample to make
                                                  Message 24 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                                    At 03:11 PM 3/28/2005 -0800, John Rateliff wrote:

                                                    >> And which of his male students did?
                                                    >>
                                                    >E. V. Gordon and A. H. Smith are the two that spring to mind.

                                                    I'd forgotten that Gordon was Tolkien's student as well as his colleague.
                                                    Burchfield came much later, of course. Still, this is not a large sample
                                                    to make generalizations on.


                                                    >He did invite Joy Davidman to meet the Inklings at the B&B, but I gather the
                                                    >experiment was not a success and I don't think it was repeated.

                                                    I do not believe I have a citation for this. Do you? Some of the Inklings
                                                    met her at a lunch party at Magdalen. Some of them were a bit taken aback.
                                                    Warnie, however - the man who thought himself pathologically shy of women
                                                    - was totally charmed.


                                                    >> Then the people who do this twist themselves
                                                    >> into knots trying to dismiss Eowyn as a "foolish young woman who ultimately
                                                    >> finds happiness by utter surrender to appropriate male authority."
                                                    >>
                                                    >Not so sure Tolkien faults Eowyn for her independence and disobedience, but
                                                    >that's a discussion for another day. He certainly has deep sympathy for her
                                                    >plight.

                                                    I don't think he does, either. But these people do.

                                                    David Bratman
                                                  • Carl F. Hostetter
                                                    ... Now now David, you know the rules for the list etc.
                                                    Message 25 of 26 , Mar 28, 2005
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                                                      On Mar 28, 2005, at 6:24 PM, David Bratman wrote:

                                                      > I do not believe I have a citation for this. Do you?

                                                      Now now David, you know the rules for the list etc.
                                                    • dianejoy@earthlink.net
                                                      ... From: alexeik@aol.com Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 15:45:38 EST To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: RE: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women ... I m
                                                      Message 26 of 26 , Apr 2 10:34 AM
                                                      • 0 Attachment
                                                        Original Message:
                                                        -----------------
                                                        From: alexeik@...
                                                        Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 15:45:38 EST
                                                        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
                                                        Subject: Re: RE: [mythsoc] Tolkien & Lewis on Women



                                                        >On the other hand, you have the relationship between Cor (Shasta) and
                                                        >Aravis in _The Horse and His Boy_: "Aravis also had many quarrels (and,
                                                        I'm >afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up gain: so
                                                        that >years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarrelling
                                                        and >making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more
                                                        >convenienty." -- which suggests a more realistic and maturer view of
                                                        >marriage than a rigidly hierarchical one where "submission" is the woman's
                                                        >only acceptable role.

                                                        Alexei's point extends to older people than Aravis and Cor; I think CSL
                                                        (in THS) had Ransom tell Grace Ironwood and McPhee that if they didn't stop
                                                        quarreling, he'd order them to marry! Being Pendragon, he must have had
                                                        the authority. Doesn't Lewis say that in marriage, the roles are always
                                                        changing, one submitting at one point, the other at other times? I think
                                                        this might be in the "notorious" *Four Loves.* Though I could be wrong, it
                                                        may be elsewhere I read that. It might be in THS too, in one of Ransom's
                                                        talks with Jane. ---djb



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