Aug 31 2017, 3:26pm
So many things I like to think about....
You realise that this is, of course like asking Merry to comment on pipe-weed....
A fight certainly provides an exciting point in a story, and can be made to offer a 'winner' and a 'loser'. So perhaps it is not surprising if many stories old and new have ended up with a 'boss battle'. Obviously it isn't obligatory; the Snow Queen (Hans Christian-Andersen's original story) for example has our female hero Gerda get into the Snow Queen's castle to rescue her (male) friend Kai - but the Snow Queen is out at the time and does not show up to resist (for interesting reasons I'll come to later).
Such a 'boss battle' finish does seem nearly obligatory in current action movies. Regarding the film Wonder Woman [and note if you haven't seen the film: this paragraph contains spoilers], personally I found her encounter with Ares rather frustrating: I was finding the explosions and chucking of magic and heavy objects at each other a distraction from what thought was a really good (and possibly quite original idea): Ares thinks that humanity are a mistake because they have free will, and are therefore capable of either evil or good. At least, that was my reading. That interested me more than all the CGI - but that might only go to show that I don't really get action movies or superhero movies.
Is the evil character in fairy stories (and so ending up 'underneath' in the boss battle) really almost always female? I'm not disagreeing with you here, I'm literally saying that I don't know. The Wicked Witch is certainly a folk tale staple, but so are male figures such as the Wolf or the Greedy King, Giant or Ogre.
Certainly when a storyteller invents a human or animal character it will usually have to be a he, she (or possibly nowadays a 'they'). For some readers (both casual and deeply thoughtful or analytical) the character's gender is unimportant: for others that choice is going to lead to a lot of assumptions or conclusions. For example, you may remember that the last 'official' read-through had a good discussion about whether it was significant that Tolkien made Shelob specifically a 'she'. One issue was that most of the LOTR characters (numerically) are male, and so it looks like a deliberate choice.
So - where does this get us:
*The big bad is sometimes (or even often) a female
*To be a big bad you must be a powerful woman (or man) - your role in the story is, after all to prevent the protagonists from getting what they want easily or too soon. For some readers and societies at least, 'powerful woman' is creepy and unnatural anyway, and the storyteller can ride on that.
Which makes me think - stories from cultures that thought 'powerful woman' was creepy might result in us having more female antagonist than protagonists. Again, I don't know, though perhaps someone has done a PhD or two counting these things. Back to Snow Queen again - Gerda is a powerful female, but (in Hand C-A's version) she is powerful in a nineteenth century feminine way that nowadays can seem peculiar. Her power is in being a very Romantic (as in cap. R Romantic Movement) figure. Specifically, I see her as the Eternal Feminine. She doesn't stick a sword in the Snow Queen (c.f. Eowyn), she walks into the SQ's palace barefoot, dispels the demonic guards by reciting the Lord's Prayer, and then releases her friend Kai from the spell binding him by crying. Gerda is all feminine feeling, and Kai has got himself into trouble partly by being all masculine intellect. It's also significant that Hans C-A insisted that Gerda is a child - she and Kai are not lovers, and she does not recover her lover from a romantic (little r) rival. All these themes of feminine (and childhood) innocence and purity risk being weird or even creepy to a modern audience. But perhaps they made Gerda a more acceptable character to Victorian audiences, who might have struggled with an Eowyn or a Luthien.
CS Lewis' Witch bears a resemblance (co-incidental or not) to the Snow Queen. And for Hans C-A's Gerda we maybe have Lucy Pevensie, one of Narnia's best characters, I think. But maybe it is significant that Lucy, like Gerda is a girl (c.f. teenager or woman). Lewis seems to have trouble with writing positive post-pubescent female characters: The White Witch and the Lady of the Green Kirtle are out and out villianesses. Susan Pevensie is pushed into the role of worrywort fun spoiler, before being reported to be, in The Last Battle interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations.' We don't get an Eowyn or even a Galadriel. Maybe that is because of CS Lewis' thoughts and experience about women permeating his story; maybe it's how he felt the stories ought to go, for other reasons.
Another clear Lewis/Tolkien difference is that Lewis (I think) quite specifically wants to use Narnia books as a kind of pulpit, whereas Tolkien has understood that the more understated his moral messages are, the more universal they can be.
You ask "what do we do about those powerful women?"
Eowyn for President, perhaps?
Where's that old read-through discussion?
A wonderful list of links to previous chapters in the 2014-2016 LOTR read-through (and to previous read-throughs) is curated by our very own 'squire' here http://users.bestweb.net/...-SixthDiscussion.htm