Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Women in Tolkien's World

Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan

The age old complaint has reared its head again.

"Why didn't Tolkien write women in his stories?"

"Why aren't there any women in 'The Hobbit'?"

Or rather:

"Why does Tolkien's world lack women characters?"

Here's my answer.

It doesn't.

Tolkien wrote Arwen, the elven princess who Aragorn loved so much his heart nearly broke over her, and who gave up her immortality to be with the man she loved. This meant living several thousand years after Aragorn died; using up every one of her years lived as an immortal.

Tolkien created Galadriel, the elven queen, whose beauty was so unimaginable that Gimli the dwarf begged of her a lock of golden hair. She gave Frodo the Light of Earendil to protect and guide him. She is the most powerful and beloved member of the White Council.

And finally, the beloved Eowyn, princess of Rohan, shieldmaiden who knows how to wield a sword in defense of those she loves. Eowyn, who disguised herself as a man so she could follow her uncle, Theoden King, into combat when they defended Minis Tirith in Gondor against the armies of Mordor.

How can you say there are no women in Tolkien's world?

If anything, Peter Jackson enhanced all of the female roles in Tolkien's world. Galadriel is in The Hobbit, a place she has never before been, and will undoubtedly fight against the Necromancer before the end of the series. Arwen, who had only a brief mention in Tolkien's books, rides to the rescue and carries Frodo on her horse Asfaloth to safety when Frodo cannot protect himself. And Eowyn, she is more magnificent than I ever imagined possible, so cool and beautiful and fierce.

Do not tell me that there are no women in Tolkien's world. If anything, they outshine the men because they are not haphazardly tossed into the story, but each one has a glorious purpose of light.

Written in response to the following article:

Why Does Tolkien's World lack Women Characters


  1. Excellent post! I actually find it offensive that some people assume a book must have female characters in order to have female readers. Also, as you said, Tolkien's female characters are good ones. Surely, to people who really care, that is much more important than "strength in numbers."

  2. There's been a fuss about Galadriel because Philippa Boyd said they brought her into the Hobbit due to its lack of female presence. Well, I say good for them -- I love Galadriel, and I think she ads wonderful things to their extended plot. True, there are no women in The Hobbit -- but this film isn't just about that story, is it? =)

  3. I am always saddened when someone criticizes Tolkien for his lack of women because, though the men may outnumber the women, the women portrayed are all strong and inspiring individuals. The Silmarillion contains some even more amazing women. Luthien, for example, faces the original Dark Lord Morgoth. And Galadriel has a pretty good backstory herself--she was technically part of a rebellion against the rulers of Arda. These are incredible women and their contribution to the stories are immense.

  4. Marian, I rarely like female leads anyway. Writers seem to use the worst of womankind to develop their heroines. So, for me to like all of Tolkien's heroines, speaks volumes. So long as they are magnificently crafted heroines, I don't care if there is only 1 heroine to 15 heroes.

    Charity, I'm ecstatic that Galadriel is in The Hobbit! It was so exciting to see her. She gave Gandalf a strength that he needed. He gained courage just by speaking with her. It was inspiring, and now we have to impatiently wait for the next installment to see more!

    Petra, yes, all of Tolkien's female characters are well-worth reading. They aren't haphazardly created just to add women. Each one has a purpose. Just look at Eowyn, defending her uncle on the battlefield and killing the witchking. How could anyone claim there are no worthwhile female characters? It boggles the mind!


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