8 III Tolkien link

Happy International Women’s Day everybody 🙂 It was not my plan to prepare a special post, but I’ve come upon something very good recently and since it combines the women  question with genre literature… a link to one of the most interesting analysis of women in Middle Earth I’ve read. Women in Middle-Earth, and how bad being one would be by Barbara from Fandom Following .


I don’t care much about the amount of feminism in the culture I consume. Politically, I’m pretty liberal, at least on cultural and societal issues. Although I generally support most of the aerial bombings going on around the world… Still, art that offers painfully stereotypical vision of women is becoming harder and harder for me to enjoy – as is often the case with otherwise cool anime. Sigh. Boobs the size of one’s head and brains the size of a peanut… why? The problem of sexism in genre media was explored by Ola in one of our early posts, but it’s in Polish.

Maybe she will publish an extended cut of that in English one day, I will not repeat our discussion now, but I want to recommend a great text on women in Middle-Earth that, while written from the feminist perspective, appreciates Tolkien enough to let me read entire piece without gritting my teeth 😉

Galadriel – I want her to get her own movie! That’s one character I always liked, but movies made me really pay attention.

Éowyn – rare understanding of how her arc concluded in LotR

Libella – I somehow always remember how annoying she was, not her decency near the end

There are not enough women in The Lord of the Rings by half – we get about four or five times as many male characters of at least some note. Some of it can be chalked up to the setting, but still, it certainly could have been better. But it absolutely needs to be said that all the women are pretty damn impressive, while at the same time each being different, and their femininity is not being called into question in any of their cases. It’s as if, I don’t know, Tolkien thought you can have different kinds of women and they could all still be women and find love – even your typical heteronormative love – in spite of being queens or warriors. Galadriel is clearly more powerful and wiser than Celeborn, and Éowyn’s deed was more heroic than Faramir’s. None of these men seem to mind, somehow.

My conclusion – I wouldn’t agree that Middle Earth should be seen primarily through feminist’s lenses, but it’s an interesting perspective and broadens our understanding of Tolkien. And in this case it’s done with enough knowledge and respect for the source material that it’s worth a look and serious consideration.

Actually, I’m less militant about judging past – and its art – through modern lenses that I used to be. Expecting medieval knight to uphold our vision of universal human rights is still dumb, but expecting female characters of fictional, magical lands to be complex, self-motivated individuals – that’s perfectly reasonable.

There is an outrageous quote from a silly comedy As Good As It Gets:

Receptionist: How do you write women so well?

Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

It’s not how it ought to be done and Tolkien definitely wasn’t one to write like that…

2 thoughts on “8 III Tolkien link

  1. Hmm.. Tolkien and women in Middle Earth… Interesting topic, interesting article, although I have some trouble relating to it fully… Well, maybe because I read LOTR for the first time when I was young enough not to care about gender at all 😉 Still, I think that confronting what Tolkien wrote with who he was is a bit simplistic. Sure, it matters, but it’s definitely not all. Silmarillion was shaped to resemble old mythologies, echoes of Norse myths, Eastern lore, British tales are all there – and those sources weren’t exceptionally gender-cognizant, to put it mildly ;). That is not to say women didn’t play any role – on the contrary; but it was a role within the confines of any of the given societies –> mythology, after all, is about mostly explaining the world people live in, enforcing the rules, etc.
    As for Galadriel, I confess she wasn’t my favorite character 😉 If she’s so strong, why doesn’t she do something about it? It seemed like bragging back then, it seems like bragging now :P. But I understand her lure – she IS an elvish queen, after all 😉


  2. Pingback: George R.R.Martin, Lisa Tuttle, Windhaven (1981) | Re-enchantment Of The World

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