It drives me nuts when people whine about Tolkien “not putting enough female characters in The Lord of the Rings” and, furthermore, dare to call him a misogynist because of that.
Sorry, but J. R. R. was a male in a male-dominated world. He had one brother. His mother died when he was twelve, leaving John and his brother to be raised by a priest (another male). He attended King Edward’s School in Birmingham – a boy’s school. His priest guardian forbade him to meet or write letters to his sweetheart (and future wife) until he was twenty-one because he thought John’s schoolwork was failing. I don’t claim to be an expert about Tolkien’s life, but it doesn’t seem like he had relationships with very many women.
And yet, I think it’s fair to say that John admired women very much. All of his female characters are so strong – I can’t think of a single case otherwise (although I look forward to any corrections since I’ve only listened to The Silmarillion on audio book – I haven’t studied it in any depth). Just looking at The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn is a prime example, deciding to go off to war after she realizes Aragorn does not love her. She is not content to stay at home while all the men go to fight for their country. Éowyn declares, “I am no man,” proclaiming her womanhood before she kills the Lord of the Nazgul, a creature who has driven some of Tolkien’s greatest male heroes to sickness, or even death.
Galadriel is more of a supporting character, but her reputation far exceeds her, leading men from far-off countries to whisper about that powerful enchantress. Arwen hardly appears in the trilogy at all, but – surprise! – you can learn much more about her in Appendix A. Arwen, like in the Peter Jackson movies, makes her own choice and decides to stay with Aragorn, even though she knows that she will live long after him and everyone else she has ever known. Gilraen, Aragorn’s mother, also plays a big role in the story of Aragorn and Arwen – she decides to leave the safety and comfort of Rivendell to live the rest of her days with her own people, the Dúnedain.
And there’s so many female characters that pop in from time to time! There’s Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, who goes from spoon thief to heroine, attacking one of the men who has helped take over the Shire with her umbrella. There’s Rosie Cotton, who, when Sam Gamgee returns after the Ring quest, scolds him for disappearing without a word. Ioreth, the oldest woman in the Houses of Healing, is the only person who knows where to find athelas when Aragorn requires some of this special plant to heal his friends – therefore, she is the symbol of the wisdom and learning of the people of Gondor, even though she is one of the common people.
There are many more female characters in The Silmarillion, of course. I don’t know enough about this book do an in-depth study, but I thought it might be worthwhile to mention a few notable characters. There are fourteen Valar (I think of them as demi-gods under Illúvatar [Middle Earth’s God] – I compare them to the Greek gods and goddesses in my mind). But I think the important thing to note is that there are an equal number of male and female Valar. Varda, or Elbereth Gilthoniel, is the Queen of Stars and is highly esteemed by the elves. She appears to be quite important, and I believe she is the only one of the Valar who is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. Yavannah, the Queen of Earth and Fruits, sang the Trees of Light into being and created the ents.
Morwen, the wife of Húrin and mother of Túrin and Niënor, resists the Easterlings who take over her husband’s land and make slaves of the people. None of the Easterlings, however, dare to enter her home because they are afraid of her alleged (and nonexistent) witchcraft. Idril Celebrindal is the only person to realize the dark heart of Maeglin, an elf who works with the evil Morgoth (the Sauron before Sauron, if you wish), before he starts to work for evil. She isn’t just an excellent judge of character, but also very level-headed – she orders the construction of a tunnel out of Gondolin, thereby giving the citizens of Gondolin a way to escape the sack of the city. “She fought, alone as she was, like a tigress for all her beauty and slenderness,” says Tolkien in The Book of Lost Tales.
Galadriel, of course, plays a large role in The Silmarillion, as does the famous Luthien, who was the first elven maiden to choose a human male over immortality (sorry Arwen) and helped her husband Beren steal back the Silmarils from Morgoth.
And so ends my little rant. I absolutely love Tolkien (I have since I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old), but I have gotten altogether too much negativity about him on my tumblr dash lately, thereby inspiring this post.
Anna is a university student who plans on doing her capstone English project on The Lord of the Rings. Therefore, she is planning to read said trilogy and and start research this summer. THEREFORE, you may certainly expect many more meta-like posts about Middle Earth on this blog in the very near future.