All the elements are there: overprotective father, beautiful and somewhat naive young daughter (well, relatively young in Arwen's case), handsome reluctant hero with a chip on his shoulder... It's a recipe for disaster, actually. We've seen this story before. How did it work out for the little mermaid? Oh right, she threw herself into the ocean when her impossible love could not be. Luthien dies when Beren is attacked by the wolf, forsaking her elven life for a mortal one. This brought up a question of gender roles in class: why is the female always sacrificing herself for her male lover? Are women somehow better equipped to make such a selfless sacrifice? Are they just being naive? Is it even worth it?
With Elf-maidens like Luthien and Arwen, they seem to let love govern over better judgement and sound advice (mostly from their fathers). Is it a coming-of-age, defiance kind of thing? Is it standing up to your dad to show him you're not a little girl anymore and that he has to like your boyfriend or lose you forever? Both Luthien and Arwen seem so sure of their love, how pure and unique it is- you'd think if they really had the love of ages, that other people could see it too. Why then, can't Elrond acknowledge his daughter's love and give her his blessing? Is he right- is she making a huge mistake? Is he being controlling? I think Elrond is selfish in some ways, wanting to keep his daughter safe forever- literally forever.
For Arwen, I think that she makes her sacrifice not fully understanding what it means. She says in "The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen" that "she was not weary yet of her days, and thus she tasted the bitterness of the mortality that she had taken upon her" (ROTK, Appendix A, 343). I don't think Arwen understood when she gave up her immortal life that oftentimes mortal life is not fair; sometimes when people get to the end of their lives, they still aren't ready to go. In this way, Arwen is coming to terms with exactly what it means to be mortal-never having enough time. It isn't fair, but that's the way it is. She also sounds pretty bratty in this scene, calling mortality "bitter", and looking longingly back on her elf life. She's the spoiled princess who got exactly what she wanted, only to realize it wasn't actually what she wanted. Arwen wants mortality- on her terms. Tough luck! It doesn't work like that. We talked in class how it's easy for elves to say that men should have finite lives, as they never have to experience feeling trapped by a mortal life. For Arwen, the shoe's on the other foot now. She says to Aragorn, "not til now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall. As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last. For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men, it is bitter to receive" (344). Everyone must play their role: Elves know what their purpose on Earth is, and will spend their days as long as this world lasts. By contrast, Men do not know their purpose in life, and have mere years to try and find it. Who should envy whom?
We also talked in class about generations of families, and how as a new generation rises, the old one must fade. Arwen and Aragorn's union produces children and future kings of Gondor. They will be special children, both Numenorean and Elven. In this way, Arwen should not feel fear or sadness over her mortal life, but celebrate what she was able to create from it. The story calls mortality "the doom of men", and maybe it is, but mortality isn't a curse so much as a gift. One life to live, with whomever you choose, doing whatever you choose. One chance to create and explore and love and LIVE. Isn't that enough?