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Thoughts on the A/L pairing

Posted on 2005.01.09 at 17:23
Current Music: Mea Culpa, Enigma

I started writing this for Miladyhawke's Shipper's project and then it got too long to post in her comments, so I thought I'd put the whole splodge of thoughts here, in case any one is interested.

Hello Miladyhawke,

Figured I'd contribute my thoughts to your A/L project as that pairing was the first one I wrote when I began writing in the LOTR fandom in October, 2002.  It's funny because I hadn't read any fics with that pairing prior to writing Ohtarnil.  It just seemed a natural one to write and others seem to have agreed as I believe it is the most popular pairing in the fandom. 

I think the main reason for this is the beauty of both actors who portrayed Aragorn and Legolas in the movie. This and the clear chemistry between them is what makes Orlando/Viggo the most popular RPS combo as well. There were a number of scenes between Aragorn and Legolas in the movie that just sizzle, for example, Legolas's emotional defense of Aragorn at the Council of Elrond, and another, what Capella calls "the lovers' tiff" at Helm's Deep, the scene where Legolas brings Aragorn his sword and asks his forgiveness, which certainly has the feel of a reconciliation of a lovers' quarrel.  In fact, I'd say the chemistry was so apparent even to PJ that they didn't dare have Aragorn hug Legolas in the famous "you're late" scene.  Think about it.  Aragorn hugs Gimli and later Haldir.  Why not Legs?  Well, because it would have been JUST TOO MUCH.  LOL.  The wedding scene in ROTK seems to feed into this (I wonder if by then PJ wasn't catering to this underground fandom) because Legolas certainly comes to Aragorn with the look of a bride, stunning in white.  

In addition, the characters seem well-matched. Aragorn and Legolas are both protectors of their respective peoples, both noble, fierce warriors with a sense of duty.  And Aragorn, although a man, has been raised by elves and has studied elvish lore.  Tolkien portrays him as a true man of Numenor, the race that blended elves and men.  Aragorn represents the best qualities of that combination. This makes for a natural attraction between him and Legolas. In addition, Aragorn has a heavy burden, seems moody and uncertain about his fate, which creates a supportive role for Legolas, especially once Gandalf "dies" in Moria and Legs becomes Aragorn's lieutenant for the rest of the journey. Certainly, it is clear, both in Tolkien's book and in the movie that they become good friends.

I think the main factor of their appeal is the sense of limited time, "the few stolen moments" that brings a special urgency to their relationship. The urgency is both romantic and highly erotic.  There are two aspects of this.  The first is that they are of different races, one immortal and one mortal, so ultimately they will be separated by death. The terrible sadness of the ending of the Elder days manifested by the elves leaving Middle Earth is a dominant theme in Tolkien's LOTR which finds an echo in Araleggo angst. The second is the canon problem of Aragorn's marriage to Arwen, which usually means that the affair with Leggy must end.  Both of these factors create an angsty tension-filled relationship that lends itself to story.  And I would guess that 90% of the fics revolve around these issues.

What to do about Arwen?  If one cares about remaining true to Tolkien canon (and I've seen fics that blithely ignore her) then one has to reconcile this issue.  I've seen various approaches to this, ranging from Arwen is merely a cold marriage of convenience because Aragorn truly loves Legolas, to Aragorn is torn equally in his affections, to the kindest and most creative solution in Esmeralda's fics in which Arwen is a full participant in the relationship.  I actually prefer Esmeralda's approach as too often I see Arwen villified in fanfic.  It smacks too much of women-bashing to my taste (but that's an aside).

I came to write Ohtarnil through contemplation of the "what to do about Arwen" issue.  How to get these gorgeous guys with such natural chemistry together and remain true to their personalities and canon?  My solution drew on what I knew of ancient Greek warrior tradition which allowed, and in fact encouraged, homosexual relationships as a form of bonding.  It makes sense as it creates a culturally sanctioned allowance for men's sexual needs in the absence of women, and emotional bonds that make the men all the more likely to protect one another in battle.  Witness Achilles and Patroclus.   So, I invented a similar cultural idea for the elves, that of the Ohtarnil, a warrior-love.  This allowed Aragorn to have a "safe" space in which he and Legolas could have a relationship.  Unfortunately, under this solution, once the war was over and there was no more need for the warrior-bond, it would have to end, as happened in my fic, "Dark to Dawn," in which Legolas despairs on Aragorn's wedding night.  

Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts on the pairing. 
And I've now gone overlong with this post.  Hope it was somewhat helpful to you.




Hermione "Queen Of The Anal Retentives" Granger
scribbling_elf at 2005-01-09 21:46 (UTC) (Link)
This was a lovely, very well-thought and intelligent little essay, dear. :-) I'm especially glad that you addressed the Arwen issue, since that's something I feel quite sensitive to, and one of the things that can tweak me about the pairing if she's ignored.

I would love to read your A/L fic. Where can I find it?
elfscribe5 at 2005-01-09 22:22 (UTC) (Link)
Hiya Pandaimonia. Thanks and glad you liked it. The revised and therefore best version of Ohtarnil:A Warrior Love can be found on Of Elves and Men: http://www.ofelvesandmen.com/StoriesbyAuthor/E/Elfscribe.htm
or on the Mirrormere archive. I will say that it was my first LOTR slash fic - started posting it in Nov.2002 - and probably not my strongest piece. But it has its moments (and includes some Leggy/OC het sex). Hope you enjoy it.
keiliss at 2005-01-10 01:45 (UTC) (Link)
Ooh, interesting! I have never tried to write A/L, mainly because I have been so put off by the 'airy fairy pretty elf' view of Leggie which seems to surface in so many fics. You've got me thinking along very different lines now (not for the first time (lol)
I like 'movie Leggie' (drools), and he has characteristics that combine perfectly with Aragorn's brooding, fate-driven personality, but on one level I think I prefer the 'book Legolas' - a far more mature, steadier elf with an ironic sense of hunour. Somehow I find it easier to see him as a star-crossed lover, accepting a brief time of happiness before stepping back in the name of honour (or whatever)
"wanders off chattering away to herself about the 'Arwen question', a problem dear to her heart---"
elfscribe5 at 2005-01-11 04:10 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, there are good A/L fics, but also quite a number of not-so-good ones (as I guess is true of the fandom in general). Legs, also more than any other elf, suffers from being feminized in a lot of fics. NOT the way I choose to see him. But to each her own. I am a huge Tolkien fan, from way before anyone thought of making the movies and also liked Legolas in the book, but he's not a main character and I can't say I paid much attention to him. There are some things Tolkien has him do (I think to reinforce that he's an elf and therefore different) the business of walking on the snow and sleeping with eyes open, that I always thought somewhat silly. (Gad, elfscribe, how dare you defame canon like that! LOL). But when I was in the movie theatre watching FOTR for the second time and Legolas rode into Rivendell, I distinctly remember sitting up and saying, "hello." And then the Moria battle and that elf shooting a bow. Sigh. I have to admit I fell hard for Orli as Legolas and then Orli as anything. What can I say? I've never been a fangirl before, but he is just one of the most gorgeous men I've ever seen, especially as the elf. [Okay, enough squeeing.]
anary at 2005-01-11 15:39 (UTC) (Link)
Dear Elfscribe,

Thank you for this very good article.

I love to read yours, Capella's and Esmeralda's fics. And you know what, after reading your fics, I cannot bear to read others. As a reader, it's sad though when you three write less or don't write andy aobut them.

I remember the first time I finish reading LOTR in many years ago, and see Legolas sail away, I sit on my bed and cried for a long time. And then I cry everytime when I turn to that page. I always feel that there is something that missed. Untile I read Capella's Call of the Sea, I realized what I cried for and what was missed.

Well, PJ actually did a good job, didn't he? LOL

Moreover, the article is rather short in my eyes. I would love to read more about your thoughts for A/L.
(Deleted comment)
elfscribe5 at 2005-01-13 02:50 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you as always for your kind words. I think you would like Esmeralda's fics as well. They can be found on the Characters in Bloom archive: http://www.charactersinbloom.com./Byauthor.html

Yes, that scene with Legs sailing off is sad but also happy because he takes Gimli with him (that is always the clincher for advocates of Legolas/Gimli, and I must say I agree.) There is a lot in the appendices of ROTK that is really good stuff, such as the whole scene between Arwen & Aragorn, which Tolkien says just didn't fit into the narrative well and so he had to leave it out. I must say though, the first time I read LOTR, when I came to the part where Arwen shows up at Minis Tirith to marry Aragon, I thought, hey what? Did I miss something. So, nice to have that explanation somewhere.

And the article was too short? LOL. Gad, it kept me from writing more Bagoas/Oromedon on Sunday, so I'd say it was long enough. You are nice to say that, though.
Thanks again.
nimfaeriel at 2005-01-11 22:04 (UTC) (Link)
*smiles* interesting. it's true the movies had a great role in the huge amount of aragorn/legolas fics. chemistry, chemistry.
aaah, when i think there was a time i didn't even want to hear about people slashing tolkien's characters! it was just too sacred for me to even consider... how i have changed...

and, as anary said, your stories and capella's portraying legolas and aragorn together are so good, i don't read much of the others. (damn, now i think i didn't read anything by esmeralda! i have to remedy to that soon.)

and about legolas himself, well yes orlando was really dead gorgeous, but there's a new comical side of him in the film that i'm glad doesn't appear in the books *huggles books* and i so liked the "eyes open while sleeping" thing!

anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
take care
elfscribe5 at 2005-01-13 02:40 (UTC) (Link)
Hiya gally,
You know before I was introduced to slash 2 years ago, writing about these characters in sexual situations would never have occurred to me. But I certainly have enjoyed a lot of the stories I've read. I think I just keep them in separate compartments in my head.
Thanks for saying nice things about Capella's and my fics. You might like Esmeralda's also. See link in my reply to Anary above.

I think there was a suggestion of a comical side to Legs in the books, certainly with the counting game he played with Gimli on the battle field. Did you not like the humorous side in the movie?
nimfaeriel at 2005-01-13 07:08 (UTC) (Link)
aah yes, i thought you were going to point the counting game out *smiles* i know, but it was but one moment. and, yes yes yes, i did enjoy the humor in the movie immensely!
the books are still more important to me, and i'm not sure i would have liked a description of legolas taking a mumakil down (ok, that, i probably would have) and sliding down his trunk with this panache. or being cheeky sometimes, you know *lol*

no i don't know, but the book has its funny moments, and it goes along with the writing. i enjoyed reading and watching, i guess the humor can't be exactly the same.

oh, and thanks for the link, i'll go have a look!! *hugs* now i got to run, schoooool!
take care
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