Love, Pure as the Driven Snow

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Title: Love, Pure as the Driven Snow
Creator: Kass
Date(s): February 27, 2002
Medium: online
Topic: Fan Fiction, Lord of the Rings, perhaps some Huddling for Warmth
External Links: Love, Pure as the Driven Snow/WebCite
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Love, Pure as the Driven Snow is an essay by Kass.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


I'm obsessed with polar exploration. Specifically, with the chronicles of early twentieth-century British exploration of Antarctica -- most of which center around spectacular failure.

In 1912 Robert Falcon Scott was beaten, in the race to the pole, by Norwegian Roald Amundsen; Scott died, with his polar party, en route back to their base, trapped in a blizzard, only eleven miles from a food depot which would have saved them. (Whether they died because Scott planned poorly, or because of weather anomalies he never could have predicted, is the source of much scholarly debate. See Susan Solomon's The Coldest March.)

In 1915, Ernest Shackleton set out to sledge across the continent. He failed, too. His ship, the Endurance, was trapped in pack ice. It was crushed. Shackleton and his men lived on ice floes, then in a pair of rowboats; they performed superhuman feats of survival. Remarkably, they all lived, although none of their actual goals came to fruition. They took some amazing photos (, though, especially considering they had to haul the glass plate negatives with them when the ship sank.

I could go on for days. I read everything I can get my hands on, although I eschew most of the current narrative rehashings in favor of source texts. I'm geeky, almost manic, in my recounting of details which would leave most ordinary people, ah, cold.
What's wacky is that my polar exploration is starting to inform the way I engage with certain slash fandoms. Last fall, along with most of the rest of America, I re-read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in anticipation of the December release of FoTR. I hadn't read the books since adolescence, years before my polar obsession began and years before I had any awareness of either fandom or slash.

I was staggered. The Company of the Ring -- most specifically, the partnership of Frodo and Sam - seems to me clearly patterned after the early-twentieth-century British masculine ideal, as exemplified in the polar explorers whose diaries I reread so avidly. Frodo and Sam face impossible adversity in service of a noble goal; as Ring-bearers, they understand each other in ways that outsiders never can. They protect one another. They are loyal to one another. They love one another. Just like the polar explorers.

ŠWho I feel fairly certain weren't, on the whole, queer. I'm sure some did pair off, in one fashion or another. But I wouldn't venture to guess, and I wouldn't dream of writing about it. I think there's something weirdly repressed about the English male psyche of the early twentieth century, but at the same time I'm charmed by that repression. Scott loved his men; knowing that his party was dying with him was harder than realizing he was dying himself. And not because, as the average slash story would probably have it, he regretted losing somebody's blowjob-perfect lips. To slash the polar explorers would not only be potentially libelous; it would fundamentally alter their heroic narrative.