Everything I need to know about romance, I learned from Tolkien (part III): Out of my league? and other questions

This week I received more mail from poor unfortunate souls seeking romantic guidance from Tolkien. These epistles included several variations on the following theme:

I’ve been pining for this guy at work for months. He’s absolutely gorgeous, but he’s also witty, modest, courteous almost to a fault. I’ve thought about how to give him some subtle hint that I’m interested, but I can’t shake this feeling that he’s too good for me, and that it’d be silly for me even to try to catch his eye. Do Tolkien’s books suggest any remedy for my problem?


Out of My League in Omaha

Dear Out of My League,

I suggest a thorough perusal of the story of Eowyn and Faramir in Lord of the Rings book six, chapter five – especially since your man sounds like about as close to a facsimile copy of Faramir (the real Faramir, not the faux-Faramir of Peter Jackson’s movies, also known as Far-from-the-book-amir) as exists in the modern world. Objectively, Eowyn wasn’t in Faramir’s league. And yet, despite having to work her magic in the decidedly unromantic setting of a hospital, she won him over within the span of a few pages. And Eowyn wasn’t even trying, because she still had a crush on Aragorn.

The principle you may distill from these pages of Tolkien, then, is that no one really is out of your league. Eowyn “married up.” And even Eowyn’s “failure” with Aragorn had less to do with his being out her league than the fact that Aragorn was already engaged to “marry up” to someone else.

Which serves as a segue to a final point: since I received several out-of-my-league letters from both sexes, “no one is really out of your league” goes equally for the gentlemen. Aragorn with Arwen, Beren with Lúthien, Tuor with Idril – Tolkien makes it abundantly clear that no quantum of objective superiority of one party over another is a per se impediment to the blossoming of a fine romance between those parties. Depending on how high you aim, you may have to become the equivalent of the hardiest man in Middle-earth, or do something on par with swiping one of the finest jewels in Arda from the Dark Lord.

But then, you gentlemen didn’t really want to do something easy, did you? I mean, if you were looking to pick the low-hanging fruit, you wouldn’t have bothered writing me, right?

One final bit of mail before I put away the mailbag . . .

I’d had a brutally hard life. My father went to a war from which he never came back; I was exiled from my homeland as a boy; I haven’t seen my mother in decades, and I’ve never seen my younger sister. After bouncing about in exile for many years, though, I recently found a decent homeland. And something even more hopeful happened more recently: I met a really sweet woman. Actually, some of my neighbors and I found her out in the woods, where she’d been left for dead – where she certainly would have died from exposure, had we not discovered her in time.

I don’t know how she came to such extreme circumstances; she cannot remember. Actually, she can’t even remember her name. But she’s really quite lovely, and for some reason her countenance brightens in my company.

Is this a portent? Is she the one?


Wondering in Wolf Trap

Dear Wondering:

To your last question: Dude. No.

To your penultimate question: Yes, it is a portent. Your damsel in distress, who can remember neither her past nor her name, is your long-lost sister.

Tolkien is crystal clear on this point: If you have a long-lost sister, don’t marry anyone who can’t remember her own name. If you do, God help you: no matter how hard your life to date has been, it will get worse.

So be Wondering no more. Cease and desist from any and all non-fraternal attentions. As a consolation, Tolkien gives you joy that you have found your sister at last.


Posted on May 26, 2014, in Authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Love this! I’m glad we agree on book Faramir vs movie Faramir 🙂

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