themergirlandthesea said: A question, because I love your Zinat writings, would you mind describing her relationships with Arwen and Eowyn? I'm just interested to know how you conceive her relationships with such strong, high-born women who are both rulers in their own right? Also, as a side-note, I am SO in love with your recent poems, being a resident of the Great Plains and lover of the wide open spaces of my Nebraska.
I think that Eowyn and Zinat struggle a lot to understand one another, especially at first. Eowyn spent her whole life chafing at the role that Zinat considers her highest duty and greatest gift—Eowyn finds it hard to believe that Zinat is proud to have married Boromir, to be the lady of Emyn Arnen and so manage everything from the household to the surrounding lands and the people living on them. and receive no glory for it. What Eowyn sneers at as a cage is what Zinat has hoped for all her life.
On her part, Zinat cannot fathom the idea of Eowyn as a lauded champion of the war. It’s not like Harad doesn’t have female warriors—there are several female captains among the Corsairs who have been recognized by the emperor, and some of the Variag women are highly-regarded mansabs and mansabdars in their own right. But for the sole daughter of a lord, whose responsibility is to her household and her people, to run off looking for a battlefield…privately, Zinat thinks that Eowyn was selfish and a little reckless.
Honestly, if they had any choice in the matter, they’d probably politely avoid one another. But Boromir and Faramir are as close as two brothers can be, and so Eowyn and Zinat always find themselves in one another’s company whether in Emyn Arnen or Minas Tirith. When Zinat tries to discuss the herbs she knows from Harad (she’s heard that Eowyn is learning to be a healer) and Eowyn tries to be polite about Zinat’s embroidery (she fails, because Eowyn is about as bad at disguising her feelings as Boromir is) and they’re miserable.
They finally find some common ground with horses. Or rather, arguing about them. They end up having a lot of laughing arguments about whether Khand or Rohan raises better horses—Zinat says that Rohan’s horses are too “pretty” and “delicate” and that she’s surprised they don’t twist an ankle mid-battle; Eowyn retorts that they bred them with longer legs to out-race the stubby little Khand breeds. (The horses from Khand look more like Przewalski’s horse, compared to the Andalusian look that the Rohirrim prefer.)
Eowyn learns to respect Zinat for her horsemanship, and Zinat learns about all those years Eowyn spent tending to her uncle, about the death of her cousin and the exile of her brother, the dark shadow of Grima Wormtongue. Zinat begins to understand why Eowyn did what she did, even if it was perhaps selfish. They also gossip about the court at Minas Tirith, laughing about how they stole the royal stewards out from under all those pale, dark-haired ladies who now whisper about “Numenorean blood” when they think the Rohirric and Haradi princesses can’t hear.
I don’t think Zinat would ever consider Eowyn as her sister—they are too different for that—but they are close friends all the same.
Zinat and Arwen are much more similar, and there is an easy understanding that develops between them from the first. They were both the ladies of their father’s house, accustomed to smoothing over and calming tempers, extracting favors, looking after those things which would not otherwise be taken care of. It is still fairly early in King Elessar’s reign, but Arwen already seems like the consummate queen to Zinat. She gathered around her Gondor’s poets and craftsmen, masons and scholars, and then invited the ladies of Gondor to come and discuss Art and Beauty.
How Elvish, the same noblewomen who disdain Zinat say approvingly.
Zinat does not have a clear concept of what that means—the Elves never went as far west as Harad—so it stuns her when one of her maids tells her of how old Arwen is, how steeped in myth. They had not spoke a great deal at that point, but the queen seemed so ordinary. Perhaps a little over-eager, but Zinat had thought that simply a consequence of the desire to be liked. (It’s the only thing Zinat, Arwen, and Eowyn all have in common—they left their people and came to live with strangers in another land.)
Still, Zinat thinks Arwen’s attention merely perfunctory—the kindness of a queen, seeking to maintain an amiable relation with the noblewomen of her court. (Zinat is grateful for it; she cannot imagine how difficult the court would be if she did not have Arwen’s favor in the sight of her detractors.) She has no cause to think otherwise, at least until one morning when all the ladies are gathered, and Arwen asks if there are any Haradi poets or musicians who Zinat would wish for them to see.
It is not as though beauty and art only dwells in Gondor, Arwen says lightly, and Zinat nearly laughs at the faces some of the other noblewomen make.
She has no way to refuse the queen, so Zinat sends for her favorite kanchani, Fathpuri, and nearly cries with delight when she sees another dark face, hears the bells at her ankles and is greeted in her own tongue, with her own title. She does cry when Fathpuri performs for the ladies of Gondor, and the sound of the surmandal makes Zinat’s ribs ache so fiercely she is afraid they will crack.
(Fathpuri sings, come home, wanderer, your country has called you,and Zinat chokes on a sob.)
She then feels Arwen touch her hand gently. The queen is crying too, pale and lovely and sad. Do you understand Haradi? Zinat whispers.
No, the queen says, clasping her hand. No, but I know heartsickness when I hear it.
They are friends after that, trading affection in poetry and song—Sindarin for Haradi, Common Speech for Umbar street slang, Khandian for Quenya. Zinat even teaches Arwen a few dance steps that Fathpuri once taught her. (She is blushing all the while, trying to ignore the voice in her head that says only common women move in such a manner. It sounds like her mother, and if King Elessar fell in love with his queen while she danced, why should Zinat refrain?)
(…Zinat would perform all fifty-five mudras and thirty hastas without a stitch of clothing on if she thought it would get Boromir to love her.)
They do not spend as much time together as they might like—Zinat’s duties often keep her in Emyn Arnen, and Arwen feels the same about Minas Tirith—but they often write to one another. Arwen has a rebellious streak (hidden under the guise of an aloof Elven queen) that keeps Zinat scandalized but amused, and Zinat’s quiet intelligence (and secret cunning) is particularly delightful to Arwen.