Our Sponsor Sideshow Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Female characters in the Lord of the Rings
First page Previous page 1 2 3 Next page Last page  View All

Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 6 2013, 12:19am

Post #26 of 71 (511 views)
Shortcut
Unfortunately... [In reply to] Can't Post

..I fear I may have hurt demnation's feelings, which I had absolutely no intention of doing.

******************************************
Brother will fight brother and both be his slayer,
Brother and sister will violate all bonds of kinship;
Hard it will be in the world, there will be much failure of honor,
An age of axes, an age of swords, where shields are shattered,
An age of winds, an age of wolves, where the world comes crashing down;
No man will spare another.

-From the Vlusp, 13th Century


demnation
Rohan

Jun 6 2013, 12:38am

Post #27 of 71 (507 views)
Shortcut
I mentioned it, I'm afraid [In reply to] Can't Post

I meant to use it as a blanket term, as in the general denigration of women by excluding them, not necessarily hatred of them. I didn't mean to accuse Tolkien of it, just used it as a way to describe the way some people feel about him. I should of just used a different word. Unsure

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien


demnation
Rohan

Jun 6 2013, 12:41am

Post #28 of 71 (507 views)
Shortcut
Don't worry about it! [In reply to] Can't Post

It was my own fault for using too strong a word in the first place. I thinks it's easy to forget sometimes that other people can't read your mind and see the intent behind your words. No harm done Smile

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien

(This post was edited by demnation on Jun 6 2013, 12:48am)


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 6 2013, 12:41am

Post #29 of 71 (495 views)
Shortcut
think nothing of it [In reply to] Can't Post

 
think nothing of it, demnation.... : ) you can see that we are all on the same, lovely page and we are passing around a flask of miruvor (here, have a sip : ) ).

now, let's get to what really matters --- what kind of sauce do you think goes best with balrog wings?


cheers : )

.


aka. fili orc-enshield
+++++++++++++++++++
the scene, as i understand it, is exceptionally well-written. fili (in sort of a callback to the scene with the eagles), calls out "thorRIIIIIIN!!!" just as he sees the pale orc veer in for the kill. he picks up the severed arm of an orc which is lying on the ground, swings it up in desperation, effectively blocking the pale orc's blow. and thus, forever after, fili is known as "fili orc-enshield."

this earns him deep respect from his hard-to-please uncle. as well as a hug. kili wipes his boots on the pale orc's glory box. -- maciliel telpemairo


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 6 2013, 12:52am

Post #30 of 71 (489 views)
Shortcut
Thank you. [In reply to] Can't Post

You are very gracious.

Smile

******************************************
Brother will fight brother and both be his slayer,
Brother and sister will violate all bonds of kinship;
Hard it will be in the world, there will be much failure of honor,
An age of axes, an age of swords, where shields are shattered,
An age of winds, an age of wolves, where the world comes crashing down;
No man will spare another.

-From the Vlusp, 13th Century


wildespace
The Shire

Jun 6 2013, 10:02am

Post #31 of 71 (497 views)
Shortcut
"Tolkien's view of women is that he thought too highly of them." [In reply to] Can't Post

"(i.e. putting them on pedestals.)" - That's another common view that puzzles me a bit. Yes, there are some powerful, majestic, almost divine females in LotR (Arwen and Galadriel), but there are also many lesser ones, with their feet firmly planted in the common reality, and performing common roles in life in Middle-Earth. For example, the wife of farmer Maggot, who unexpectedly sends the Hobbits a basket full of their beloved mushrooms.

I feel like most readers somehow manage to miss all those little details, or forget about them and let them fade into the background. Next time I'm reading LoTR, I'll be noting down all the female characters and what role they play. I bet there's quite a few of them! Wink



noWizardme
Half-elven


Jun 6 2013, 11:05am

Post #32 of 71 (474 views)
Shortcut
Tolkien mostly avoids female stock characters [In reply to] Can't Post

(Not sure where in this discussion to post this so hope it's OK to start again...)

Welcome to the Fellowship of the Room, wildespace

Its quite surprising, given the circumstances, how readable today Tolkien's female characters are. The period from his birth (1892) to now has co-incided with huge social changes in how women are viewed in western society, and in the fantasy and allied genres of fiction which have become popular during that time (in part because of JRRT's achievements, of course)

I once saw an interesting documentary about women characters in science fiction. It argued that science fiction had more or less co-incided with the rise of feminism, and could, among other things, be viewed as a working out of those social themes. An interesting thought. It suggested that the following female stock roles had always been available:
  • Femme Fatale
  • Damsel in Distress
  • Reward (as in "Half my Kingdom and my daughter's hand in marriage if you rid us of this dragon")

(One could probably add some more stock roles - e.g. "loyal wife", "risible mother in law")

Only later do we get professional characters - the documentary picks out Star Trek's (original show) Lt. Uhura as a character who often is treated as a competent professional officer (who happens to be a darned hot lady in a miniskirt Evil.). And so onwards to hard-nut characters such as Ripley in the Alien movies, or Starbuck in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. Or the now-getting-a -bit-tedious (to me at any rate) "Warrior Princess" stock character (as in Xena, or some early drafts of Arwen in Peter Jackson's films)

It's an interesting exercise to try & pigeonhole Tolkien women characters in this way, because (hurrah!) it mostly doesn't work.

Eowyn is a particularly interesting study I think -neither just a blend of very traditional female stocks (damsel in distress, loyal nurse) nor just a simplistic feminist character ("I wanna fight with a sword and shield like the men").

And at this point my thoughts tun out and I'd like to hear others'...

Disclaimers: The words of noWizardme may stand on their heads! I'm often wrong about things, and its fun to be taught more....

"nowim I am in the West, Furincurunir to the Dwarves (or at least, to their best friend) and by other names in other lands. Mostly they just say 'Oh no it's him - look busy!' "
Or "Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!"


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 6 2013, 11:14am

Post #33 of 71 (481 views)
Shortcut
And Ioreth [In reply to] Can't Post

There's a lovely balance there between showing that she drives everyone bonkers with her nattering, and showing that if you actually pay attention to what she's saying, there is wisdom there which others have lost.

As for Tolkien's male characters, I suspect that one reason why a wide range of women and girls find it easy to identify with them and don't feel the (relative) fewness of women characters to be a put-off, is that they aren't forever flinging their masculinity in our faces by talking dirty, and ogling, courting, seducing - or worse - a succession of women they come across in their travels.


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 6 2013, 11:37am

Post #34 of 71 (461 views)
Shortcut
Also worth listening to [In reply to] Can't Post

Thinking of Ioreth reminded me of Nellas in "The Children of Hurin" - the elf-maiden who befriends Turin in Doriath. It's a similar sort of thing: when she is up in front of the King, at first she is timid and what she says seems silly, but fortunately he has patience with her and she turns out to be the key witness in Turin's defence.

It seems Tolkien recognises that communication between men and women is not always easy, with men often tempted to dismiss the matter of women's speech when the manner of it is not one they respect, but with Ioreth and Nellas he shows that this is a potentially fatal error.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 6 2013, 12:31pm

Post #35 of 71 (462 views)
Shortcut
Very well said on Ioreth [In reply to] Can't Post

 
"There's a lovely balance there between showing that she drives everyone bonkers with her nattering, and showing that if you actually pay attention to what she's saying, there is wisdom there which others have lost."


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 6 2013, 5:16pm

Post #36 of 71 (444 views)
Shortcut
I think Tolkien's own personal preferences show though, as with all authors [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien's writings include women of all kinds. But he puts emphasis on the wise, strong type, because that's the kind of women he liked, and that's the kind of women he wanted to both write and read about.

But every word you say today
Gets twisted 'round some other way
And they'll hurt you if they think you've lied


geordie
Tol Eressea

Jun 6 2013, 8:24pm

Post #37 of 71 (431 views)
Shortcut
quite right - [In reply to] Can't Post

- this is something of a hobby-horse for me. As you say, Tolkien wasn't surrounded only by men at Oxford (nor at Leeds, come to that). There were many women students in the English depts. at both universities, many of whom became friends of the Tolkiens. Some became university teachers in their own right, such as Elaine Griffiths and Joan Blomfield. Elaine was Chair of the English Faculty Board at Oxford for some time. I've seen a copy of a page in a book which is signed by eleven members of a group called the 'cave'. This group was a junta set up by Tolkien and Lewis in the 30s, to back Tolkien's proposed changes to the English syllabus at Oxford. All of the members were teachers at Oxford - of the 11 signatories, five were women. So much for the idea that Tolkien only spent his time in pubs with other men.


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 6 2013, 9:21pm

Post #38 of 71 (451 views)
Shortcut
I think Butterbur is Ioreth's male counterpart. (and other musings on women in Tolkien) [In reply to] Can't Post

Butterbur is well-intentioned, but a bit foolish, a rambler and very slow to remember and get to the point. Not all of Tolkien's males are high and puissant. He does give us some glimpses of "everyday" sorts amid all the high adventure and lofty destinies.

And I agree - the fact that women are often absent is less offensive than constant mention in solely sexual contexts would be. But it occurs to me that the real reason women are largely missing is simply that we have a group of travelers and they do not stay long enough to get involved in the life of the cultures they visit. The women they meet are mostly their hostesses in various stops along the way.

We get plenty of mention of female hobbits. In fact, Bilbo is introduced by a description of his mother - which is far more rounded and developed than that of his father. Bilbo himself is a bachelor, leaving him free to wander off on adventures; I imagine Gandalf would be unlikely to send a husband/father of a family away from his family to face dangers he may not return from, though it is mentioned that he has sent off both lads and lasses on adventures in the wild in the past. Then, aside from the other single hobbits who go adventuring, we have another strong hobbit character in Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. We also get mention of several other hobbit ladies - Aunt Dora, who writes such good advice, Melilot who is just a wee bit vain, and then there is gender parity at his Birthday Party, where everyone is invited and both hobbit lads and lasses get up to play instruments and dance together. And of course, we have Sam's beloved Rosie. So in the only home life of any of the cultures we are really privileged to see, we have plenty of women.

Once we leave the Shire, we have:

Bombadil's House - Goldberry is a gracious hostess, definitely loved and honored by her husband

We meet no women in Bree, as they make a single-night stop in an alehouse which is apparently run by a single man and they (as men) are waited on by males. There may or may not have been unmentioned serving wenches in the bar. There were certainly plenty of women in the town, but our characters had no reason or opportunity to meet them.

Rivendell - again, plenty of Elven women presumably about, but none of them interacted in such a way as to require mention except Arwen, who spends time with Aragorn (he is with her when Bilbo points her out to Frodo). Arwen makes the standard which heralds Aragorn's claim to kingship and becomes his banner in battle and, I assume, continues to be displayed in Minas Tirith and is probably carried with him when he goes on royal progresses about his lands.

Moria - We can assume there were orc women, but when our party only sees orcs to fight with them it is impossible for us (or, probably, them) to distinguish if any of the orcs they saw and fought were women, or indeed what the life of an orc woman would be.

Lorien - Again, presumably equal numbers of women living in Caras Galadhon and some of the Elves who saw to the comfort and housing may have been women (though none, male or female, are mentioned), but the Fellowship only had dealings with their hostess, Galadriel. In addition, it is mentioned that she and her ladies wove the material for the cloaks they gave to the Fellowship and it was considered to be an honor to wear it.

Mordor - again, no orc gender issues explored at all, and Sauron is single. We do get our only female villain in Shelob, who is described as being a Black Widow type who devours her mates and spawns many nasty little children.

Rohan - A single king, whose hall is presided over by his niece, Eowyn. She is dissatisfied with the state of her society, and therefore all the more impatient with her assigned role to the point of preferring to be dead than to continue it indefinitely. This is probably the only culture other than the Shire where the position of women is discussed at all. Since Eowyn is called a shieldmaiden, it may be assumed that were her king and her nation in better days, strong and not oppressed by Saruman and Wormtongue, she might have pride in her position (as indeed she later seems to have as Lady of Ithilien) rather than contempt for it. Wormtongue certainly did his best to promote and deepen her alienation and bitterness.

Gondor - We are told that the women and children have been evacuated from the city on the eve of war, so the only women who remain through the siege are those working in some capacity with the garrison, and of these we only meet Ioreth, a hospital worker with a garrulous manner concealing some important information. When the war ends, the women and children return to the city and bring with it light, laughter and flowers. And then of course, the city gains a Queen in Arwen, who grants Frodo an important gift.

In The Hobbit, we have the same situation in the Shire - though since less time is spent there than in LOTR, we do not get the same descriptions of women and what they were up to. Bilbo and his exclusively male party of travelers, passes through Rivendell (where there is tension between his party and their hosts, so not a lot of mingling there), goes through Goblin Town, meets the Eagles (who presumably include females, although the only gender that's really mentioned is their King's), then meets Beorn, who is single. They are then captured by Elves and imprisoned in the dungeons, meaning that they only Elves they see are guards (no gender given) and though Bilbo is not in a cell, he's too preoccupied with hiding and survival to pay attention to Elvish culture. The only figures important for him to record in his tale were the Elvenking, the butler, and his drinking buddy guard. On to Laketown, where again there are presumably equal numbers of women present but only two figures have an impact on the Quest - the corrupt Master and the "grim" Bard, captain at arms.

So I think the absence of women is greatly due to the road trip nature of these stories, and on that point it is as well to observe that travel in such a time and place as Middle-earth was not generally undertaken for pleasure since it was a major undertaking; slow, difficult, the dangers many, and one could not travel unarmed. Travel was either by backpacking, horseback, or pack train. Nobody went sight-seeing. No one traveled unless they had strong reason - even Sam had never been further than a day's walk from home. This is not unusual in non-industrial agrarian cultures: one cannot just leave a farm or shop untended and wander off for a while. If one is going to set a story in such a time and place, one must either take a realistic practical view (which Tolkien does) and assume only lords, warriors, traders, and the displaced would routinely travel, or one takes a fantastical approach and has people behaving in ways which do not follow the laws of practicality. This is where I think people forget the distinction between Tolkien's "feigned history" and the "magic realm" approach often used by other writers of Fantasy. It might be easy to imbue a magic realm with complete gender equality/indifference but it doesn't fit so well in a feigned history. Arwen and Galadriel travel distances at cause and Eowyn rides to war when the men of her people go (all three are in the "lords" category), but the other women (when not being evacuated), like the majority of non-military men who have no reason to go anywhere, stay at home and get on with life.

Silverlode

"Dark is the water of Kheled-zram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."



Brethil
Half-elven


Jun 6 2013, 10:44pm

Post #39 of 71 (419 views)
Shortcut
This is wonderful Silverlode! [In reply to] Can't Post

I like the underlying point you make, that JRRT saw himself as rediscovering a history, not inventing a fantasy.

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 7 2013, 12:50am

Post #40 of 71 (433 views)
Shortcut
Eowyn [In reply to] Can't Post

Eowyn's story is very revealing, especially when you think what it could have been (i.e. woman thinks she can fight, disobeys her King/father figure and goes to war, ends up dead/defeated/running away in terror; men say "I told you so".)

Although she recognises her own fighting capabilities and is frustrated by being refused a chance to exercise them, she is still thinking somewhat conventionally when Aragorn turns up: she hopes it will be the "Tale of Aragorn and Eowyn", where the hero effectively rides in and rescues her from the doldrums she is in - even though she dreams of fighting at his side rather than darning his socks and having his babies, it's still basically the old pattern.

Instead, Tolkien boots her into a new kind of tale - the Tale of Eowyn and Faramir. One of Faenoriel's posts used the term "gender-bender" to describe their relationship, and indeed the way the story plays out is a switch-round from what one might expect. Although Faramir is a brave warrior himself, and loved and respected by his men, at the point of crisis he is (through no fault of his own) passive, and about to be murdered - a cliche feminine role - while Eowyn is the active warrior - out on the battlefield fighting the Witch-King. Her wounding in this encounter is never construed as "punishment" for daring to go and fight, but just seen as the inevitable side-effect of tackling such a formidable opponent.

Having acquitted herself honourably in battle, her change of attitude after she is healed has been seen as an anti-feminist "cop-out" by some, but if it's seen in the full context of LOTR, I don't think her choice is being flagged up as appropriate for a female in particular. Opting for life and healing and "things that grow" over war, despair and death aligns her with the hobbits, especially Sam the gardener and healer of the devastated Shire (who according to a letter of Tolkien's is the real hero of LOTR) - and with Faramir (who has a key speech about the difference between the cultures of Gondor and Rohan - in Gondor, death and renown in battle is not seen as the highest aim in life) - and with other characters like Tom and Goldberry, Treebeard and the Ents. And, I suspect, Tolkien himself. Fighting is something you do when it is necessary (Tolkien was no pacifist), but it's not the best way to spend a life. Eowyn shows that she can fight, then released from the need to prove her mettle, she can step aside, review the values of the culture she grew up in, and freely make a better choice. A woman making her own decisions from a position of experience. Nice one, Tolkien.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 7 2013, 1:53am

Post #41 of 71 (408 views)
Shortcut
Totally wonderful [In reply to] Can't Post

This is a real keeper, Silverlode. I sometimes think we should have a wiki or hall of fame or some place where we keep definitive essays, and this would be one. Or maybe it's an early entry for the symposium? Cool


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 7 2013, 2:03am

Post #42 of 71 (401 views)
Shortcut
Well, that's wonderful too [In reply to] Can't Post

Thanks for the carefully nuanced post, Na. I liked your comparison of Faramir and Eowyn: I'd never thought of him as the passive female murder victim needing to be rescued, but he was. Or that can also be a standard role for old frail kings who are about to be murdered/poisoned/etc and need rescuing. Either way, it's a role of weakness for the lover-boy, whereas Eowyn proved herself the ultimate warrior, in my opinion, because she was the only one that didn't run away from the Witch-King. Even if she'd lost that battle, I think she proved her mettle in facing, and it wasn't just her suicidal nature that shielded her from fear. I think it was primarily her love of Theoden that fueled her courage, not her death-wish, but I know not everyone agrees with that.

Another good point about choices to heal. I remember quite clearly in my college course on Tolkien how several feminists in the class criticized Eowyn for exactly that cop-out, going from Amazon to nurse/gardener. As you say, it was her choice, and society didn't force it on her, so people ought to respect a woman's right to choose her role in society, even if it's a non-macho one. Plus you point out that most of the men wanted to heal the world too. Really, the beginning of the Fourth Age was all about healing the calamitous end of the Third Age, and Eowyn was just one individual in that big picture.

Anyway, thanks again--very thought-provoking.


Brethil
Half-elven


Jun 7 2013, 2:08am

Post #43 of 71 (394 views)
Shortcut
I agree! [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
This is a real keeper, Silverlode. I sometimes think we should have a wiki or hall of fame or some place where we keep definitive essays, and this would be one. Or maybe it's an early entry for the symposium? Cool




CoolCoolWink

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 7 2013, 2:41am

Post #44 of 71 (388 views)
Shortcut
Symmetry [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you!

Have you noticed how symmetrical (without being a dead, mechanical symmetry) the stories of Faramir and Eowyn are?

Both are motherless younger siblings and underestimated by their father-figure - Faramir through his father's favouritism, Eowyn because she is female.

In true fairytale fashion, both do a kindness to a hobbit on the road - Faramir lets Frodo go, Eowyn brings Merry with her - and end up with the hobbit equivalent of a "magical helper", who is there at the crisis point when they need help - Pippin (with Gandalf) for Faramir and Merry (with his sword from the Barrowdowns) for Eowyn.

Both end up wounded in the Houses of Healing, and in both cases their presence there is connected with the father-figure in their lives - Denethor tries to destroy Faramir, Eowyn tries to save Theoden.


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 7 2013, 2:47am

Post #45 of 71 (383 views)
Shortcut
Well, my addled brain [In reply to] Can't Post

only got far enough to see that they were both the underdogs in their families who were rescued by hobbits--I never filled in the rest. You did quite well! Do you suppose this was deliberate on Tolkien's part? It seems sophisticated enough that it was mapped out, but maybe it just happened as he wrote them, knowing that he wanted them to be similar enough to have a plausible love story together.


Na Vedui
Rohan


Jun 7 2013, 3:03am

Post #46 of 71 (382 views)
Shortcut
Deliberate? [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know whether Tolkien planned it to be symmetrical in advance and on purpose, or whether it just came out of how the story developed - maybe people who are more familiar with the "History of Middle Earth" LOTR volumes might be able to throw some light on this?


demnation
Rohan

Jun 7 2013, 3:16am

Post #47 of 71 (373 views)
Shortcut
Very well put [In reply to] Can't Post

I've always found Eowyn's subplot to be the best and the most fulfilling in the story. You make an excellent point about her relationship with Faramir. As she says, she desires no mans pity.

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien


demnation
Rohan

Jun 7 2013, 4:53am

Post #48 of 71 (369 views)
Shortcut
Absolutely! [In reply to] Can't Post

 I've always thought of Tolkien as having been a wonderful and thoroughly decent human being. And because of that, ( and because he wrote great fiction!) he will always be one of the people I admire most. In fact, I recently came to the realization that he has had more of a positive influence in my life than my own father did.

My Sam Gamgee is indeed a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognized as so far superior to myself- J.R.R. Tolkien


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 7 2013, 5:13am

Post #49 of 71 (377 views)
Shortcut
I agree! [In reply to] Can't Post

You make some points that I have often pondered, especially about the decision to give up dealing out death to embrace dealing out life. Surely that is a far better and healthier life choice, not to mention much more practical in a time of peace! Someday I will get around to writing that essay on Eowyn's inner journey I've had in the back of my mind for years....

Silverlode

"Dark is the water of Kheled-zram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."



Elizabeth
Half-elven


Jun 7 2013, 7:14am

Post #50 of 71 (372 views)
Shortcut
As I recall... [In reply to] Can't Post

...although it's been a couple of years since I read through the HoME volumes on LotR, as I recall at one point Tolkien planned that Aragorn and Eowyn would marry. In another draft, Eowyn would sacrifice saving Aragorn. Finally Faramir came along and solved the problem. Smile

I still remember in my first read of LotR thinking at one point, "For God's sake won't someone please introduce these two before it's too late?!"







First page Previous page 1 2 3 Next page Last page  View All
 
 

Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.