Elf Children in Tolkien

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Some of us, in one of our nerdier moments obv., were wondering about elf children during one of the Tolkien discussions. Here's a fairly lengthy discussion of the topic: https://tor.com/2019/09/09/tolkiens-elves-married-with-eldar-children/

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    Interesting article!

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    Being of a more sceptical nature, as well as nerdy, my inclination is to see this as more like a simple reluctance on JRRT's part to deal in the narrative with the more physical side of relationships.

    He shared this with CS Lewis, who (in Out of the Silent Planet) has a character from one of his Malacandrian (Martian) races make an eloquent speech which basically argues that sex is only for the first few years of marriage - and like JRRT's elves, essentially never outside it. Subsequently, marital partners ought to be blissfully content to remember their conjugal union, and gaze delightedly at the offspring therefrom, without getting it on with each other any more.

    It's an aspect of their world building which, personally speaking, I find implausible, and driven by their religious and philosophical views rather than providing inner coherence to Narnia or Arda!
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    (Malacandra is not of course Narnia, but gives a clearer example of what I think is Lewis's general position)
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    Being of a more sceptical nature, as well as nerdy, my inclination is to see this as more like a simple reluctance on JRRT's part to deal in the narrative with the more physical side of relationships.

    Tolkien was not in the least a modernist, and sex was not something one wrote about at all in his cohort.

    He shared this with CS Lewis, who (in Out of the Silent Planet) has a character from one of his Malacandrian (Martian) races make an eloquent speech which basically argues that sex is only for the first few years of marriage - and like JRRT's elves, essentially never outside it. Subsequently, marital partners ought to be blissfully content to remember their conjugal union, and gaze delightedly at the offspring therefrom, without getting it on with each other any more.

    Lewis is of the same cohort, along with many, many others. I have read the Out of the Silent Plant Trilogy many times, and always thought that passage applied to the species rather than universally. I must re-read it with new eyes.

    It's an aspect of their world building which, personally speaking, I find implausible, and driven by their religious and philosophical views rather than providing inner coherence to Narnia or Arda!

    I don't find it implausible. Not being explicit gives room for the reader to imagine.

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    I think we are saying the same thing - JRRT and CSL had very particular views about relationships, which they wrote consistently into their books. But even among the Inklings there was diversity - Charles Williams in particular had what could best be called unconventional views on sexuality (both then and now), and Barfield was certainly more relaxed about it than the first two. We don't know how much CSL was aware of Williams's activities: we do know that they freely used each others ideas in inter-textual ways,to the extent that That Hideous Strength has been called "a Charles Williams novel written by C.S. Lewis".

    To be clear, I am not suggesting that LOTR or Narnia would be improved by a bit of explicit sex - the choice of how overt to make sexuality in a book is an author's, and I am comfortable with all manner of different choices about it.

    The specific world-building issue I am highlighting is that the presupposition that sex is for the young - in JRRT this emerges with the observation that there are no little elf-children nowadays, and that (so far as we can tell) all elf-pregnancies finished a very long time ago, even when elf-couples were happily married. In Lewis we get the passage I referred to, in which Hyoi, a hross of Malacandra, speaks about the begetting of young, (after a long passage about how the time for this is in youth) "I have heard of [a hross] that wanted to eat earth; there might, perhaps, be somewhere a hross likewise that wanted to have the years of love prolonged. I have not heard of it, but it might be" after which he moved into an "even stranger" tale of a male hross who desired two females.

    My personal view is that the two gents were so keen to promote this religious/social position that it coloured their world-building so greatly that nowadays we feel constrained to write what you might call apologetic texts for the problems implicit in them! Surely the simplest answer to "why are there no elf-children?" is "JRRT was uninterested in writing about them"?

    Now, all that said, I do wonder if Lewis might have changed the way he wrote that passage if he had ever revisited it after marrying Joy Davidman in 1956 when he was 58! (Out of the Silent Planet was published in 1938). One of those what-ifs that we shall never know the answer to.

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