Cathecting to Oakenshield? or, a not-so-brief etiology of Thorinmania — THREE

Part ONE and Part TWO of my journey towards cathexis to Thorin Oakenshield. This is the end, I promise, at least of what’s been on my mind lately. But it doesn’t end very conclusively, I’m afraid. It ends with questions and problems. Note that cathexis is not the same as love. It’s something closer to anxious attachment. This is not a very pretty story.


Did you figure out what it was that cathected me to Thorin at the end of the last part? It was there from the beginning, and although I never would have guessed, in the end, I saw it in just an instant, out of the corner of my eye, as I left my office.

I’ll show you a picture, and you’ll see.

I think it also explains, at least partially, why I didn’t care for the “key” image. Although someone told me recently that there’s a captioned version of that image on tumblr somewhere that has Thorin saying, “This is the key to your chastity belt.” (In which case the picture is saved for me — lol.) The key is not the key for me — it’s the sword.

I didn’t have time to think about it, though, as I rushed out of my office. I was avoiding the feelings that were threatening there. To my own peril.


First day of classes.

After a weekend of struggling to complete syllabuses, I come in very early, needing to photocopy them and prepare myself in other ways. Let the books in the bookcase on the wall remind of who I am, or who I used to be, or who I am supposed to be. Let the introvert remember the extrovert, let the curmudgeon remember the enthusiast, let the silent woman remember the vivacity that the successful professor displays for her colleagues.

How was your summer, Servetus? “Oh, great!” I rehearse saying. “How was yours?” I try to widen my eyes, unclench my jaw, look interested.

I sit down and unclap my laptop, and for some reason the fluorescent lights in the office hit it just so, just at that angle, and I catch a glimpse of my face, and I think, without thinking, without shielding myself from thoughts, “You look old and tired and worn.”

The reflection of my face undoes me.

Cue sobs. I rise, and slam my office door, and plunk back down.

What is this?

Observe the pattern of the avalanche: sorrow, punishment, disgust.

Let yourself cry because there’s no stopping it now.

Tears. Maybe I didn’t cry enough during the summer.

About my secret conviction that my mother is dying sooner rather than later, about the way I swallow every time I see her hand move to her forehead. About how I watch every bite she doesn’t put in her mouth and never say a less than encouraging word as I calculate calorie totals in my mind. About what this is taking out of me. About my reluctance to let it be taken. About what I will do if she dies, what I will do if she doesn’t die, and what I will do about my failure to influence even slightly the fact that we are all dying every second of every day. About my worries that afterward my father will land on me as well and I will have to break either every ethical rule I have or every boundary around my personality that I’ve developed to deal with him in order to come out of the situation halfway honorably. About how I can’t fix any of them even though they keep landing in my lap. About everything that’s going on at home, about my lack of courage in dealing with it, about my guilt for leaving, about my happiness that I could leave, about my fear that I will never leave, about my desire to go back, about my nausea about my desire to go back. About the nausea that seems to accompany every emotional reaction I have now and makes me even shakier because I can’t always make myself eat even when I have to and so I am weak when I need to be strong. About the beginning of term and my inability to get excited about it and my fear of what I will do if I can’t get excited about teaching. About what I will do if I can’t teach. About what will happen to me if I can and keep doing it. About the students who can write and the ones who can’t, about all of the impending pedagogical failures. About what my students deserve from me above and beyond what my contract says, about what my ethics demand, about how I will be ground between my feelings about what I must do and my capacity to do it with particular force this semester. About how being for myself always seems to mean disadvantaging someone else. About my guilt over my resentment and my resentment over my guilt. About my curious lack of resolve in dealing with my career issues, about what’s turning now into a second academic year of fiddling around. About unanswered professional emails from people who’d like to “save me.” About how I can’t figure out whether I want to be saved or why I don’t want to. About the beginning of the job season and asking for reference letters. About what it means if I don’t ask for reference letters. About living alone but not wanting to live with anyone. About living here and wanting to live here and not wanting to live here. About not being able to do the simplest things.

About blogging. About the possibility that I couldn’t blog, that I’ll have to stop. About the possibility that I won’t be able to stop.

Next, punish yourself for your sorrow.

You loser. You suck! You can’t do anything right. You can’t take care of your parents or your nieces or your students or yourself,  you can’t write or teach or keep your professional affairs in order. No one could ever possibly want to employ you. You can’t even keep your office straightened out or your apartment clean and you’re lucky if you can make it through a lecture. You’re a fraud, an imposter, someone who just feigns adulthood for money, to keep yourself off the streets. Forget writing; you’ll never do anything worthwhile. You can’t write, you can’t think, your feelings are a mess. You just need to get with the program like any normal adult and if you can’t …

At this point the self-abuse becomes so intense that the inner Servetus is cringing in a corner, trying to avoid the words that I’m plastering all over her body, lashing at her.

Finally, don’t fail to remind yourself how contemptible you are.

After sorrow and punishment for sorrow comes disgust. Dry, emotionless, pitiless, sneering disregard for the sobbing woman I’ve created, whom I somehow need to take all of this punishment, and who then revolts me when she reacts as anyone would who got this torrent of invective directed at her.

Use the same tone of voice that said to me, when I was a girl, after a spanking, in tones of veiled threat, “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Implication: you think it’s bad now, but I have the ability to make it all much worse if you don’t stop — stop what?

Stop feeling?

Sometimes it’s my father’s voice I hear in this phase, sometimes it’s mine.

Get over it already, shithead, and get your ass in gear. That’s his voice.


No one else I know ties herself up in knots this way.

One final unpleasant thought always comes at the end of this chain of abuse and self-incrimination and disgust. I have The Thought. I note that I’ve had it, and accept it, as I have for over two-and-a-half decades. I try to pretend it’s Not My Thought. The tears slow. I rummage in my desk for some sugary treats. There aren’t any. Beginning of term, and I wasn’t reckoning with this happening quite yet. I wonder how I will combat the sleepiness that usually follows.

And then I see Thorin, and I start sobbing all over again.


You were expecting a more redemptive story.


Cathecting to the image of Thorin and/or Richard Armitage’s observed behaviors while performing Thorin involves the following elements for me:

  • First, the sword. Sharp blade. Always with me. Good for slaying foes, cutting through crap. I have the tool I need to kill the monster. Cutting off things that are pointless, terminating the extension cord to the pain that ties to me to things that are not my responsibility. Steel is cold, decisive. It makes a snicking, slicing sound. It cuts. I can use it, I can control it. I can develop the skill. NO FEAR. FLOW.
  • The boots. Good for standing in muck. There’s a lot of it around. Also useful on long journeys. KEEPING YOUR FEET DRY. FIRST AND SECOND CHAKRA.
  • The gauntlets. People who wield a sword need protection and wrist support. RATIONALITY.
  • The face and the stance. Concentration, precision, knowing what your goals are, moving smoothly to achieve them, dancing your way through it. Do it now, do it well. Strong arms holding it all up. Loving the symmetry, the artistry, of what you are doing. FLOW.
  • The shield. Significant that it is there, but hidden. When you go on the offensive you need offensive protections (gauntlets) and you shouldn’t forget to shield yourself, but the point of getting somewhere is not cowering the whole time behind the shield. Thorin’s shield is special because he ripped it out of the ground. NO FEAR.

Also significantly, as with Mr. Thornton, I think it’s key that I find Armitage’s Thornton extraordinarily beautiful, because it provides the aesthetic rush necessary to open the senses and make the uncomfortable thoughts bearable for contemplation.


But this Thorin cathexis is not unproblematic. I have the following questions / problems, because it’s not clear to me that he’s an ideal. The odds that I would identify with either Gandalf or Bilbo are low, but even so, I have to ask if this identification is going to be helpful to me or destructive.

  • As Fedoralady has noted repeatedly, Thorin is eventually going to need SND status. All of my Big Five end up dead or in disgrace — Thornton’s livelihood is ruined, and Guy, Lucas, Porter all die. Thorin is going to die. It’s going to be hard to get a story of redemption or strength out of this. Of course, as a poststructuralist I tend to think that there are no misreadings, only readings. But some readings are easier to sustain on the basis of particular texts than others. What does it mean that I’m cathecting to the imagery of someone I already know dies?
  • As I admitted in the first post of this series, despite having read the novel repeatedly my memories of Thorin and his plotline are sketchy. There’s a reason for this disinterest — I tend to avoid stories that make me uncomfortable, and it looks like this has been, or is going to be, one of those. What do I remember? That he’s pretentious, and overly proud, and that while he gets his people successfully through their expedition, he dies because of his pride, because he can’t let go of his vision. (Remind anyone of Mr. Thornton?) Is that why I’m making this identification? In other words, is this cathexis not marking a change in my attitude toward my own inflexibility and stubbornness, but just another sort of hole in the dike that I am now going to let the pride of my tenacity run through — rather than addressing it?
  • Saraleee articulates another disquieting problem of the meaning of the Thorin figure: that he can’t get out from under the load of his own possibly undeserved self-criticism. That doesn’t sound familiar to me, oh no. Oh, no.
  • The only text that Thorin speaks that sticks with me from the book is his statement on his death that it would be better to love merriment and food than hoarded gold, but that it’s too late for him. ????

Of all the connections I’ve developed to characters Richard Armitage has played, this one is probably the least obvious. But I hung on with Thornton and all the others and if my stubbornness is a besetting sin, I can at least use it as a virtue. I can be stubborn and hang onto this particular stampeding pony, too.

So this pic also moved me. I think because, despite lack of sword, it involves that same forcefulness and concentration, and maybe something else — the togetherness of it.


We’re on the quest. Just like Armitage said: he was moved when he saw all the guys together who were going on the quest.

Servetus in future?

~ by Servetus on September 4, 2012.

33 Responses to “Cathecting to Oakenshield? or, a not-so-brief etiology of Thorinmania — THREE”

  1. […] To part three (conclusion). Share this:DiggFacebookTwitter […]


  2. Oh, Servetus. I have some idea of what you’ve been going through and just know I care, my friend. I have tried to resign myself to the fact Thorin will inevitably die onscreen, if not in my heart or in my fiction, and hope this will make it all eaiser when I see it happen. Not sure my plan is going to work.

    I think your memories are sketchy because the information Tolkien gives us about Thorin is somewhat sketchy. I feel as if Richard had to do a lot of reading and writing to help flesh out the character more fully. I am sure he will do a great job, we will all fall in love with the flawed but compelling hero and I am sure my heart will be broken once more.


    • In a way, that’s a thing to look forward to — since there’s so little about Thorin in the book, much of what we see of him will be Armitage’s creation.


      • Exactly. I always look forward to seeing what RA does with his characters, and never more than now playing a role in a production as dear to his heart as this is. I am sure he’s going to be captivating.


  3. I have done my own journey through similar mental, emotional, intellectual, and physical terrain. I will not say “I understand” because that is hollow and offers no relief. Yet I survived and I am in no way as strong as you are. Stubborn, yes. And many of the voices in my mind sounded similar to yours. I see why the cathexis with Thorin. I know this life will kill me (just as it kills everyone else) but Thorin reminds me that I can choose to do it with a (figurative) sword in my hands, even if the sword breaks in the end. The choice is not “NO FEAR” but fear chained up, made powerless, and absorbed. The dragons within are much larger and more frightening than those without, but they are not invincible. Keep your booted feet, your shield, your flow, your protection — and love the beauty, because that does offer some relief, even when little else can.


    • Yes, I find that people who’ve been through this stuff don’t say “I understand” because nobody really does.

      What’s that saying, with your shield or on it?


  4. I read your blog – I love your honesty – it echoes my own fears, dreams, mind – I have never ever been brave enought to write anything before now.. I have come so close – but fear and the unknown has always held me back – until now !
    You are so incredibly brave and this last blog has reduced me to tears – I have been and am still going through similiar ‘things’ – but I would never claim to experience the same as you – but I can say – if you so one thing – be true to yourself – love and protect yourself . ..make this a motto – not in a self indulgent way but in a way that makes sure that every night you go to bed you feel that you did the right things for others – but not at the expense of loosing who you are – you are incredible.


    • Thanks for the comment, Finn (and welcome). Thanks for your bravery!

      I hope we can use the Thorin figure to help us be brave.

      One piece of bagging I’m fighting with is all the “me” / “inner child” language of the 1990s. Most of my friends at that point were a lot older than me, and I did in fact see all that stuff as self-indulgent. I’m starting to understand it differently now but it’s really hard to overcome this reflex that preoccupation with the self is self-indulgent. It’s time to stop chasing myself around in circles, but I’m not sure how.

      Hang in there, Finn. We’re all in this together, somehow.


  5. Servetus, you should post a warning sign at your post. Don’t drink coffee while reading ;o) I just took a sip, when I encountered your description of the picture on tumblr. Don’t worry, I merely survived and will make it ;o)
    Yesterday, I would freely have said, I don’t care for “The Hobbit” too much. Today, I received a business magazine and there was an image of the WETA figure in it. Guess what this non-fan and stiff as a stick CD did – I squeed, something I so far never ever did ! (Fortunately I am alone in my office, so nobody witnessed CD in that state ;o)
    I found myself in your descriptions of your knots. Not all are the same, but they revolve around the same circles and seem without solution. They make me immobile with indecision and I hate myself the more for my indecision in all this mess.
    Thorin in all this is very special for me, as he symbolizes an active attempt to solve his problems. Also his shield in a way tells me, he took what options were available to him.
    In the center of the mess, I stop seeing options or too many to be able to act on a single one, which in the end has the same effect as having none. I feel immobile like a hypnotized mouse surrounded by a serpent.
    Thorin appeals to my certain work ethics here, better to try and lose than never having tried at all. This in a way justifies his actions to me, even if he is a grumpy old dwarf 😉 at times and dies defending what he believes in. So I even forgive RA for once again having a role where he dies on screen in the end.


    • A lot of people have had that problem with the coffee. I suggest getting a mug with a lid on it 🙂

      Do I dare disturb the universe? The mental knots are as annoying as the real problems.

      So you see the Thornton – Thorin parallel as well.


      • The mug would have come too late, as the coffee was already safely in my throat and re-considered its way ;o)
        Thornton – Thorin, yes, I see the parallel. I see it as an accepted way for men, much less so for women. I tried to find a role in a film, where such a way was depicted for a woman and could not come up with a clear example. For female roles it is much more burdened with guilt and a certain expectation to fit in.
        I think that also makes their way so exemplary to me, because they are clearer than my own.


        • I struggle to find women in film / tv who have much to say to me — although I think it’s just because it’s too mainstream, what I tend to see.


          • I also don’t have a female role I see as a parallel or example or even, like Thorin, as a bit of a relief to me. (Just recognized that, as always, the context in the last sentence of my previous comment was not clear. I refered to Thorin and Thornton’s way, not the female way. Female ways in film I mostly find so coincidential or guided by outer circumstances/expectations I do not associate with, that they do not work as an example to decide of come to a solution for me.)


            • I did not identify with the passive, reactive, female characters in various media either. I knew I was not that kind of person. It was onlywhen I looked at some real-life models that I realized that being female did not require that path.


              • I fully agree with you, Leigh. I fortunately have real-life models as well who showed me a different way by actively creating and forming their fate and surrounding.
                Though in a way they all had to run against walls of expectations how they should behave and fortunately just ignored them or found a possibility to be able to ignore them.
                From men it is more expected to do what they want and express their inner motivation. Women just have to fight a bit more to gain that option and when they fight, they are seen as cheeky or un-feminine…


          • I once did the Allport test of values with other members of a faculty seminar. All of our results were at least one sigma above the norm for males in the “aesthetic” category, and the partcipants were a mix of gender identities and disciplines. This may be why we generally do not see females with whom we identify in dramatic media.


  6. Thanks for sharing your experience and strength. I really needed to read that this morning. Feeling a little that way myself. Thanks so much for your honesty and insight.


  7. I got up earlier than usual this morning, having some free time on my hands before leaving for work, I checked my emails, and here was your post. What a strange and strong reading to begin the day with ! I “felt” a lot while reading this. I don’t know you, I don’t understand who you are or what your going through, and I’m still waiting for Thorin to “click” for me. But your words moved me and made me feel. Thank your for your honesty 🙂


    • Thanks for keeping on reading — this isn’t exactly prose for breakfast, I fear. That you were moved is the greatest compliment.


  8. Oh Sev thanks for being so human!!! I love you for it. This post makes me think of Saint Teresa of Avalia– she wrote a book about this The Castle. I hope you read it someday. She describes those thoughts as snakes.


    • This Baptist girl’s favorite saint. I read her bio–fascinating. I loved her honesty and her dislike of sour-faced saints. 😀


    • I haven’t read that piece. I did read several of her writings with my students in a relevant class two years ago now. I guess I never would have thought of this experience in that light.


  9. @ Fedora Lady she is my fav saint too. I love her dry sence of humor.


  10. […] Part One she shares her conflicting thoughts on the character, Part Two offers thoughts on the figure,  Part Three had me in […]


  11. Dear Serv,

    This was such a fiercely honest essay finale. Brava!

    Your essay caused me to reflect on several truths of “woman life” as I see them are:

    1) We’re all doing the best that we can–even when it is not our best. And that is okay–something we need to tell ourselves every day.

    2) An anagram of “goals” is “gaols” (or jail). And we shouldn’t let the former become the latter for us.

    3) “Sometimes love means letting go.” Whether we are 21 or 41, we are never prepared to lose our loved ones–especially not our touchstone to the world, our mothers. But we are their legacy in the world–carrying their memories, their lessons, and their voices into the future as they co-mingle with our own.

    You have already been such a gift to your Mom and your family with your caring attention to them all Summer long–and your continuing concern. My heart goes out to you and your mother. I continue to keep you both in my thoughts and prayers.

    Much Love and Hugs! Grati


    • Thanks, Grati. Yeah, future plans have been a trap for me — but just sort of floating isn’t working either. Thanks for continuing to pray for us both.


  12. […] And what’s the end result? This image that reminds me to be strong in certain situations. […]


  13. It’s been awhile since I was able to catch up on your blog and this post was the last one I read almost a month ago. You’ve blogged a lot since then and it looks like you’ve moved on quite a bit from where you where. But there was something I wanted to say in response and even though it’s been awhile I still want to say it:

    I read somewhere that RA said one of the qualities he looked for in a woman was someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. My first thought after reading that was: How can you not take life seriously – after all it’s the only life you have – right?

    But in reality, I would love to be that person who doesn’t take life too seriously because even as a child I was consciously aware that I was more like a serious little adult than a child. Whether it’s due to some sort of children of alcoholic syndrome, being the older sibling or some other reason, I’ve always taken life too seriously.

    And even though I have more responsibililtes now than ever, it’s one of my goals to find the joy I lost somewhere along the way. And RA (or Thorin, John Porter, pick an RA character) is an excellent conduit for finding that joy or whatever you might be looking toward.


    • The thing that brings me joy today is watching RA in The Impressionists. Nobody talks about this series much, but it’s one of my favorites RA roles because he’s so joyful in the series. When he’s outdoors and talks about painting light and shadow…it’s one of his more optimistic roles.


      • Thanks for taking the time to leave a content despite the interval.

        Impressionists is hard for me because I have a hard time seeing Monet in such a positive light as a person. I wrote about this way back in the beginning of the blog. But I can appreciate what you’re saying. He is really tremendously happy.


    • I don’t really understand people who don’t take life seriously either. Part of this was that my parents definitely looked down on people like that. And nowadays, there aren’t many in the circles I frequent, which makes it harder. But yeah, I definitely want to incorporate joy into my seriousness. Because seriousness on its own isn’t cutting it.


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