Vague Mountain of Fire spoilers

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14 hours ago, Kjeld said:

So The Lord of the Rings, like Tolkien the man, is complicated, confused, and not perfect, just like the world. I think there's plenty of space for critique, but also plenty of space for creative improvement, ways to play around with the source material to imagine new possibilities for characters and peoples that would seem to be denied by dominant tropes and stereotypes. FFG has, I think, done a remarkable job trying to walk the fine line between creatively doing greater justice to Middle Earth's varied peoples (and, by extension, to fans of the game!) while lovingly representing source material that is at times problematic. Rosie Cotton in the books is, for better or worse, a stereotypical domestic woman, notable mostly for her role in Sam's reminiscences and as a "reward" for him to return home for. As an individual character, there is nothing inherently wrong with this role, I believe. The problem is that this role has become a cage for many female characters, limiting the extent to which writers and game designers are able to imagine and create other sorts of roles and personalities for women. In other words, we see Rosie as problematic in the context of a widespread trope against women into which her character happens to fall. So I would argue that there's plenty of room and reason to critique the trope without necessarily critiquing the character of Rosie Cotton.

I agree with your earlier comments about Sam being the true hero of the LOTR, and Sam in particular (and the hobbits in general) represent the triumph of the ordinary man in a world were the odds are hopelessly stacked against them (with a little help from Eru...).  It's a reasonable claim that Rosie Cotton is a "stereotypical domestic woman" although I disagree in part with this characterization (I'll elaborate in a separate post) -- but the LOTR is not so much lacking in varied women's roles as it is in lacking women, period.  Even if we accept that Rosie is a "stereotypical domestic woman", the work features *very few* domestic women, and the two most prominent females in LOTR (Galadriel and Eowyn) are anything but domestic.  Rosie has little time and attention in the book and little room to elaborate her character; even if domestic women are a stereotype, there is nothing inherently wrong with her being one, and if in the society in which she lives the domestic role is most common (as Eowyn clearly implies), it is natural and logical to have examples of such.  This is a fictional work; no hobbit women were harmed in its making.  Remaking a clearly patriarchal society to fit modern sensibilities creates a different fictional world, and in a licensed work that's not necessarily desirable.  We need not fret that a positive portrayal of Rosie Cotton is inherently reinforcing negative stereotype.  We need not even necessarily agree with Eowyn's apparent position that domestic roles are inherently inferior to the ways of battle.  Faramir would not.

But domestic stereotype asides, the female-as-reward is a trope that certainly *does* exist in Tolkien's works, and hearkens back to a common theme in fairy-stories, an antecedent more relevant to LOTR than Tolkien-imitating high fantasy.  There is no shortage of fairy-stories where a young man (perhaps nobly born, perhaps not) does some great deed and receives a reward including a woman (there are also stories, though less of them, where the lady does great deeds and receives a man as a reward).  However, I think it's a mistake to look at this trope as a stereotype reinforcing traditional gender roles.  The reward-woman is not "domestic", but a granter of status and wealth.  In the society in which these stories were told, the King disposing of his daughter as he wills would not have raised eyebrows; marriage, especially among the nobility, was a matter primarily of contracts rather than love for both sexes.  The truly noteworthy and even subversive trait of the trope is the message is that *deeds* are an acceptable substitute for *birth*, a humanistic sentiment that the rulers of the time can hardly be happy to see.

Consider a classic and well known example -- the Brave Little Tailor. An ordinary person of humble birth, who upon slaying seven flies presents himself as a mighty hero and gains a princess in exchange for vanquishing a Giant.  Some versions of the tale have the tailor talking in his sleep after the marriage, and the princess (realizing to her horror that she is married to a humble tailor) plots to have him murdered.  Warned by a serving maid, he scares off his would-be assassins with the same combination of nerve and wits that got him to this point.  Having finished the tale, it's impossible to reach any conclusion other than that the Tailor who has become a social equal of royalty through his deeds, is their superior in character.  This is a radical sentiment for the era the story hails from!

Tolkien has two classic reward females in Luthien and Arwen -- in both cases, though the man is as nobly born as possible, they are still hopelessly social inferiors to the women they would marry.  In both cases, great deeds that seemed hopeless to achieve allowed them to accomplish their desires.  But in both cases, it's not simply a happily-ever-after ending.  Both Luthien and Arwen made great sacrifices, giving up their rights as elves to embrace the bitter gift of men.  Both did so completely voluntarily, against the wishes of their fathers.  Luthien herself was no small mover in the deeds of Beren, without her he could not have succeeded and she was clearly the greater of the two in their adventures.  Arwen took little active part in the events of the LOTR and except as inspiration can claim little credit -- and in the end she regretted her choice.  Whatever defects you wish to attribute to the trope, they don't fit the classic mold.

Eowyn herself becomes a reward for Faramir -- and he for her.  Faramir was not the reward she desired.  But he was the reward she deserved.

Rosie Cotton, however, I don't think fits into the reward trope at all.  This post is long enough, I'll start a new one to elaborate.

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Why do I say Rosie Cotton does not fit into the reward trope at all?  Simple -- Luthien and Arwen were won by great deeds.  But Rosie Cotton's love was *delayed* by great deeds.  Sam didn't need to leave the Shire to win her love; he needed to *come back*.

On the road, there's virtually no trace of Rosie-as-inspiration, contrary to Arwen driving Aragorn or Aragorn driving Eowyn.  I believe he thinks of her just once in the text prior to returning home; In Mount Doom when he finally accepts that return is impossible, he thinks "But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton and her brothers, and the Gaffer and Marigold and all".  She gets the honor of the first mention in this sentence, but to this point in the text only the Gaffer has appeared, and it is the Gaffer being turned out that most affects him in the Mirror of Galadriel.  (Rosie is not shown; Ted Sandyman is).

Rosie is part of the stereotypical-domestic-bliss of the Shire, something that Sam wants and longs for, but it is exactly this he risks sacrificing forever by embarking on his journey, and even after his return his concern for Frodo, so damaged by his journey, delays his embrace of the domestic life.  Yes, Sam appreciates the praise Frodo gives him in front of Rosie.  But it was not necessary to win Rosie's love.  There's a reason Farmer Cotton grins when he sends Sam to "check on" Rosie and Mrs. Cotton.  As we learn later from Sam, "It seems she didn't like my going abroad at all, poor lass; but as I hadn't spoken she couldn't say so."  Sam acquires no influence in the Shire because of his great deeds saving Middle Earth, any more than Frodo did.  The respect given to Sam and Merry and Pippin (and Farmer Cotton) was from their role in scouring the shire.

While I've characterized Rosie as part of sterotypical-domestic-bliss, in her bit appearance in LOTR she's hardly deferential and submissive.  Here are the words of Rosie Cotton in the text:

"Hullo, Sam!  Where've you been?  They said you were dead; but I've been expecting you since the Spring.  You haven't hurried, have you?"

"Well be off with you!  If you've been looking after Mr. Frodo all this while, what d'you want to leave him for, as soon as things look dangerous?"

"I think you look fine, Sam.  Go on now!  But take care of yourself, and come straight back as soon as you have settled the ruffians!"

"Well, you've wasted a year, so why wait longer?"

That's a surprising amount of spunk captured in four lines -- if anything, Sam's statement that she "couldn't say so" seems out of place; she doesn't seem very restrained to me.  This is no shrinking violent, no paper caricature of a princess-reward to be given to the conquering hero.  This is a real woman (well, hobbit) with a strong personality.  Given the tiny amount of text space available to develop her personality, seeing her as a sterotype reveals more about the reader than the writer, IMO.

Which brings us to the Rosie Cotton card.  Yes, she has no attack/defense -- she has that in common with Keen-eyed Took, Curious Brandybuck, and Bilbo Baggins ally.  There's no textual reason she *should* have attack/defense.  And yet she's given an ability that's actually *useful* is combat, unlike pipe-fetching Bilbo, who actually *has* combat experience.  For this we're supposed to criticize FFG?  Seeing sexism in providing a *useful* Rosie Cotton card that fits her text instead of providing a warrior-Rosie-Cotton with no relation to the original item says more about the commenter than FFG.  I could see the objection if it were Lobelia, but Rosie?  No way.  She's not a warrior.  She *does* have willpower.

Fine card, worthy of praise, not condemnation.

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14 hours ago, Rouxxor said:

They already choose to not apply Tolkien spirit for some of those things, deal with it. Therefore as one of the FFG customer it could be good to me to complain about some of this problem so they know it could make us loose some sells and think about doing it the next time.[...]

It is probably true that Tolkien was a little ahead of his time. But I'm not here to judge about Tolkien. I have no personal grief against him. Just told to actual people what bother me, in his writing and even more in this game. When we use what he have done we should be free to choose what please us and what we don't need. There were never forced to print this Rosie, they choose do it and continue to spread sexism by this way. It is up to you to see if you are ok with that or not. They don't print cards for Tolkien, they print them for us, following OUR need.

*My* need is for Tolkien.  I consider LOTR the greatest literary work in the English language, and one of the things I love about this game is the respect it gives to the lore.  Turning Rosie Cotton into female-hobbit-warrior would show disrespect to the lore.  If FFG wants to make up a female-hobbit-warrior hero and provide a backstory for such an unusual personage, I'm cool with that -- but the saga would NOT be the place to put that imaginary hobbit, and giving us a female hobbit *from the text* instead of a (probably male) Eagle from the text is not "spreading sexism".  The Hobbit faction needs all the help it can get.  (OK, so do the Eagles...)

What I also *don't* need from FFG is for them to look over their shoulder when providing useful abilities for fear that they are displaying an insufficient amount of virtue signaling.

I also object to the idea that "stereotypical women's roles" are somehow inherently inferior to "stereotypical man's roles", although that was certainly Eowyn's view:

"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house.  But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more.  But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman.  I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."

So Rosie, by staying in the Shire and then not grabbing a bow and running off to the battle of bywater, somehow isn't *worthy* of having a card without it giving her imaginary combat skills, while it's just fine for her father to be a hero because he was there?  Rosie's card is dead useful, but that doesn't matter because it's only "willpower", and having willpower makes you have less worth than attack or defense.  (I am speaking of moral worth here -- there's no question in my mind that Rosie is the *top* hobbit ally in utility).  Did you ever consider that perhaps the denigration of traditional women's roles was done because of sexism towards women, not because the role itself was less important, less useful, or less challenging?  Eowyn buys into that narrative and shares the same contempt for the serving-woman.  Faramir does not:

"War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory."

Of course, ally Faramir shares the same "defect" as Rosie Cotton's new card, of exhausting himself to enhance others.  He shares that with hero Dori, with Cirdan or Gandalf exercising Narya, with the event Tale of Tinuviel.  Who knew that ability was unworthy and sexist, at least when done by a female?  It seems proud company to me.

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7 hours ago, phorcys12 said:

Someone knows if the next deluxe is in showcase there ?? Do you think it is too late for an annoucement ?? And when does the spoilers of the gen-con ??

Nope, there's nothing here about the next deluxe. Probably not going to hear anything about it at this point. 

I'm pretty busy with GenCon right now but I'll try to get a quick summary of the quest up here soon (if nobody beats me to it) as well as a more in-depth summary up on my blog next week. 

In short: it's hard. ;)

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Very good statement dalestephenson! Couldn't have said it better myself. In my personal opinion, I think Willpower is the most important of virtues both in the game and in life. It's much harder to stay good than it is to be strong. Trolls, Balrogs, orcs and Nazgul are all arguably stronger or at least as strong as any of the free people. Strength of arms is not what wins but the Willpower of the good people to stay true and loyal. Besides, all of the moral failings in the book are done by "noble" characters who just happen to be men: Boromir, Denethor, Saruman (arguably a Maia but...), Grima and Lotho. Also, all of the oath breakers were men. I guess to make it fair maybe Eowyn should have abandoned Theoden at Pelennor and helped the Witch-king. Oh well, I can't wait to add Rosie and Tom to some hobbit decks! Thanks

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5 hours ago, Authraw said:

We do indeed. I have the box, but haven't had a chance to play it yet. Do you have any specific questions?

Can I ask about the player cards? Any unexpected surprises? Thanks a lot in advance! :D

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