|"There are many
things that a man feels are legitimate even though they cause a fuss. Let
him not lie about them to his wife or lover! Cut them out---or if worth a
fight: just insist. Such matters may arise frequently--the glass of beer,
the pipe, the non writing of letters, the other friend, etc. etc. If the
other side's claims really are unreasonable (as they are at times between
the dearest lovers and most loving married folk) they are much better met
by above board refusal and 'fuss' than subterfuge."
--Letter to Michael Tolkien, 12 March 1941 (Biography 156-157)
"Still you are my flesh and blood, and
carry on the name. It is something to be the father of a good solider.
Can't you see why I care so much about you, and why all that you do
concerns me so closely? Still, let us both take heart of hope and faith.
The link between father and son is not only of the perishable flesh: it
must have something of aeternitas about it. There is a place called
'heaven' where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the
stories unwritten, and hopes unfilled, are continued."
Letter to Michael Tolkien, 9 June 1941
Tolkien in a lengthy letter to his son
Michael (6-8 March 1941) written in response to Michael's sudden possible
engagement to Joan Griffiths, a nurse Michael had met while in the
Worcester Royal Infirmary during his injury in WWII, set outs some of his
observations and views about marriage:
- Sex should not be the sole way of
dealing with one's wife. A true lover brings the sexual element into
relationship with the other aspects of mind and body.
- Men should fear the dangers of
concupiscence, especially under the guise of friendship with another
woman. Tolkien is not at all convinced that cross-gender friendships
are possible unless they occur later in life or perhaps between
- The chivalric tradition made false gods
out of Love and Lady, though it did mix with piety to combine a
healthy devotion to Mary.
- The chivalric view of marriage has some
positive elements, but it must not create a false reality where the
sexual is unacknowledged.
- Women and romantic love are seeking
other things than men, especially the desire to bear the "young
man's children. " This often ignores the man's brief search for
- Male vocation and friendship go on after
marriage, as does female interest in establishing a home. Women are
far less deceived about men, their faults, and sex in general.
- Monogamy is "for us men a piece of
'revealed' ethic," something requiring mortification and
self-control in a fallen world. A Christian marriage requires men to
take seriously the self-will involved with being faithful in this
- The claims of finding a soul-mate are a
delusion to justify divorce. "[T]he 'real soul-mate' is the one
you are actually married to." The ideal of a great love is
seductive and dazzling, but mostly a crock. Life and circumstances are
the means by which God shapes us in marriage.
- The Eucharist is at the center of what
each person really wants from romance, fidelity, and so on.
Tolkien also in a letter that he had
apparently planned to send to C.S. Lewis, then never did, argued against
Lewis' notion of the acceptable difference between a civil and an
ecclesiastical marriage. He insisted that:
- The Christian view of marriage,
"monogamous, permanent, rigidly 'faithful'" is true for all
humanity, and not simply a Christian doctrine.
- "Toleration of divorce . . is
toleration of a human abuse." Divorce injures the person, the
spouse, and the community.
- This creates a situation where culture
makes it increasingly hard to bring up Christian youth in Christian
understandings of marriage and sex.
- Two sets of vows really implies that the
true vows are civil and the the churchly vows are just private peccadilloes.
Keeping in mind that a more complete
picture of Tolkien's views of marriage and of family would need to account
for his actual practice in both family and with female students and
acquaintances, nonetheless what guidance can his views expressed here give
to how we read his devastating portrait of a marriage turned bitter in
"Aldarion and Erendis"?
- How would you describe the nature of
Aldarion and Erendis' separate characters? How does this give insight
into both their attraction and their desire for different things?
- What is the nature of Aldarion's
relationship with his father, Meneldur?
- How do various events in the story
mirror the state of the Aldarion and Erendis' relationship?
- What is Tolkien seeking to achieve
through their elongated courtship?
- Is there any truth to Núneth's counsel
to Erendis? (cf. 191-192)
- Is Aldarion's desire for the Sea
adulterous? Why or why not?
- Does Aldarion's political involvement in
any way excuse his actions?
- Should we be entirely sympathetic to
- What truth is there in Meneldur's
counsel concerning the nature of betrothment? (cf. 195-196)
- How would you describe their treatment
of their daughter? How does it impact her in the long run?
- In theory, what advice would Tolkien
give Aldarion and Erendis concerning their marriage?