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Female characters in the Lord of the Rings
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wildespace
The Shire

Jun 5 2013, 9:44pm

Post #1 of 71 (1446 views)
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Female characters in the Lord of the Rings Can't Post

It's been often said that LotR is almost devoid of female characters. This puzzles me a bit as I remember coming across quite a few of them, albeit briefly. Has anyone ever compiled a list of all the female characters in LotR (human, elf, hobbit, or any other race)? That would interesting to see. I think Rosie Cotton plays a major behind-the-scenes role in what Sam is motivated by. Even the aged female healer in Minas Tirith provided a pragmatic no-nonsense leverage to the incredible events of Return of the King.

What are your thoughts on the various female characters in LotR?


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:00pm

Post #2 of 71 (892 views)
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Do you mean characters who have something to do, or anyone who is mentioned? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd count these as the actual female characters of LotR proper, that is, discounting the Appendixes:

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
Goldberry
Arwen
Galadriel
Éowyn
Ioreth
Rosie Cotton

Not very much, if you compare them to the list of male characters... It's a masculine story in a masculine world, dealing mostly with war which traditionally hasn't been the domain of women. Considering the setting, it's perhaps surprising that there are even this many women, and that they have such an influence on the men.

Galadriel is basically the queen of everything and the secret powerhouse of the Free People; she keeps Frodo on the road. Arwen is Aragorn's motivation. Éowyn gets to join in the action and take down the enemy leader. Lobelia is a strong willed matriarch and ultimately a sympathetic character. Ioreth is a wise woman who remembers forgotten knowledge. Goldberry is an enigma, and the lady of the land, and of Bombadil. And Rosie is the Shire and everything the Hobbits suffered for.

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


CuriousG
Half-elven


Jun 5 2013, 10:03pm

Post #3 of 71 (869 views)
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We had some fun today with how female the females are in Tolkien at this link [In reply to] Can't Post

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But I still think his female characters, while strong, are not really manly the way I think some women in Game of Thrones often seem.



Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 5 2013, 10:04pm

Post #4 of 71 (857 views)
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mae govannen! [In reply to] Can't Post

 
mae govannen, wildespace. : )

while there are plenty of names of females in the genealogical tables, tolkien (father) and tolkien (christopher) don't give them nearly as much ink as the males.

where they do pop their heads up, they are complex, but they are much fewer and farther between. example: when we spend time with the rohirrim, we only get eowyn as a female character. for males, we get theoden, erkenbrand, eomer, grima, gamling, grimbold, etc. +plenty+ of opportunity to explore female characters, even as secondary or tertiary ones. but no.

i think tolkien was ahead of his time in many ways in his thoughts about women and how he portrayed them (he unequivocally states that elvish males and females were +equal+ in all ways). but he did succumb to a very common practice of his generation and era in that his females, while not tokens, are not given (even remotely) equal representation.


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


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 5 2013, 10:05pm

Post #5 of 71 (855 views)
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george rr martin [In reply to] Can't Post

 
does a great job with gender parity, and i'm thankful for that. and his female characters are as equally capable of nastiness or good deeds as his male characters. another realistic expression.


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


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 5 2013, 10:12pm

Post #6 of 71 (875 views)
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i disagree that [In reply to] Can't Post

 
(love your posts, btw, faenoriel)

i disagree that the stories are intrinsically male or that the world described is male. especially the latter. females are about 50% of the population of all the races (except for dwarves, and that and other author contrivances make no sense). so tolkien's world is equally of both genders.

and war is not a male-only story. even if we set aside the shield maidens (eowyn) and the chess masters (galadriel), there are +tons+ of females feeling the effects of war and having to deal with it. in jackson's two towers, a great example of this is the roherric woman who sends her two children off by themselves on a horse, as their village is burning. as treebeard would say, "war affects us all: tree, root, and twig." it's just that the author's lens is choosing a narrow frame, rather than a broader, more complete one.

i certainly don't see any reason why any females couldn't have been part of the fellowship. a hardy female hobbit (or two), a shield maiden, a female tracker, a female elf, a female medic... and so on.

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


demnation
Rohan

Jun 5 2013, 10:22pm

Post #7 of 71 (844 views)
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On the other hand [In reply to] Can't Post

His work reeks of misogyny.(perhaps unintentional. or maybe intentional, for shock value.) Martin has many virtues, but for some reason I don't think his portrayal of women is one of them. In Tolkien's case, his portrayal of women is only a virtue when put in the context of his life and times. Like you've said before, ahead of his time in some ways, badly mistaken in others.

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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:22pm

Post #8 of 71 (851 views)
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True, though it does also reflect the social reality of the age/world being described [In reply to] Can't Post

This is perhaps slightly out of topic, as it's not directly about the amount of female characters, but of their gender roles.

M-E is not some wish fulfillment fantasy, but based on the early medieval, partly even earlier, European societies. Hobbits have 18th Century inspiration in them. The Elves are something of a special case, but they too are ultimately based on past societies. I dislike projecting the reader's time and believes on the society s/he is reading about. If women had smaller politic power in the society described, or even had influence only through their male relatives, then so be it. Tell us of that reality. Turning them into warriors and leaders in a culture where it's not the usual convention pulls me out of the story. It's like they say "history is another land, and has its own culture."

So, the story Tolkien is telling us is about war. And war is the dominion of men. In that light it's only realistic he creates mostly male characters.

Not to mention, I'm not sure he knew the female life well enough to write about feminine life. Jane Austen knew the life of the woman, and wrote books solely about women. Men are always seen through the eyes of women in her books. There doesn't exist a one single scene in her books where a female wouldn't be present. It's the same with Tolkien. You have to write about what you know.

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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:28pm

Post #9 of 71 (859 views)
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The soldiers and war leaders are men [In reply to] Can't Post

And theirs is the story Tolkien wished to tell. The women do exist and form half of the population, but their story is different one, and not the one Tolkien had in his mind.

It's unfair to demand Tolkien to write a book that would have something for everyone. People try to make LotR be about this and that issue, but at the end of the day it's simply an exciting story Tolkien wrote guided by his idea of what kind of story he himself would have wanted to read. It's clearly inspired by his own experiences, also his own war memories. Those memories are from the trenches, from the mud and the barracks and the midst of battle. Not that many women there, only his male comrades and their shared suffering.

Reading real war stories tell very quickly and very strongly how utterly masculine world war is, dominated by the comradeship between males. In it women are present but mostly in talks and dreams about sex, told to strengthen the bond between the guys.

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

(This post was edited by Faenoriel on Jun 5 2013, 10:30pm)


imin
Valinor


Jun 5 2013, 10:28pm

Post #10 of 71 (847 views)
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The effects of war [In reply to] Can't Post

Are felt by men, women and children. But in the past and now to a great extent - most armies were made up of men, they are the ones who did the fighting. Why? They are simply stronger with greater physical endurance (big majority), i know it's annoying but its true. Females in battle would have been more exception than rule.

As for elves - yeah a female elf could have gone and would have been just as good i think. A female hobbit - yeah why not - the only 'reason' is Frodo's best friends are male.

A female ranger - could have, though like i said above would be more the exception than rule.

For me though i wouldn't really mind if some of the characters were female but then it doesn't bother me that none of the fellowship were either. A lot of them are kinda gender neutral anyway so could be thought of as women, the fact they are male is more just a label.

Overall i think the stories are more male than female as lots of the stories are related to war and wars are fought by men - though the effects are felt by both.

In the lord of the rings - the story is about getting the company from A-B with stuff happening in between - most related to war - the stuff that men deal with, if Tolkien were then to stop and tell a story about some of the women in the area he may have felt it would slow the story down or have nothing to do with it, so whilst not something that is itself worthless but for the story just isn't worth developing.

The dwarves having 1/3 popn being female allows the author to show how slowly their population heals after wars and this can show you how they are a dwindling people. He could have just said there are 50 percent female but only 33 percent have kids but i like the idea - separates them from humans. I would be happy if their were only 33 percent males and 66 percent females.

And Iluvatar spoke to Ulmo, and said: 'Seest thou not how here in this little realm in the Deeps of Time Melkor hath made war upon thy province? He hath bethought him of bitter cold immoderate, and yet hath not destroyed the beauty of thy fountains, nor of my clear pools. Behold the snow, and the cunning work of frost! Melkor hath devised heats and fire without restraint, and hath not dried up thy desire nor utterly quelled the music of the sea. Behold rather the height and glory of the clouds, and the everchanging mists; and listen to the fall of rain upon the Earth! And in these clouds thou art drawn nearer to Manwe, thy friend, whom thou lovest.


demnation
Rohan

Jun 5 2013, 10:31pm

Post #11 of 71 (855 views)
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Eowyn, of course! [In reply to] Can't Post

In consider her to be one of the most important characters in the story.

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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:35pm

Post #12 of 71 (849 views)
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I feel a female member would have been something of a disturbance in the Fellowship [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't know how many here have done any hiking, and by hiking I mean that you really wander off into the wilderness for days and weeks, carry your own tent and your own food. In such circumstances you need to be okay about each others's naked bodies and bodily functions. In the modern times we live I and my male friends can see each other like that, sleep next to each other like that. But in the culture of LotR, she would have needed to bath alone and far away from the others, to "go to the ladies room" alone and far away from the others.... unpractical and dangerous. Perhaps they would have managed it, but still.

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


demnation
Rohan

Jun 5 2013, 10:38pm

Post #13 of 71 (837 views)
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You make an excellent point [In reply to] Can't Post

with the Jane Austen bit. I've often thought that the "problem" with Tolkien's view of women is that he thought too highly of them. (i.e. putting them on pedestals.) I think this probably has to with his views on Our Lady and the sacred feminine. ( which I think Galadriel is supposed to be the manifestation of in his story.)

anyway, drifting off topic

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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:44pm

Post #14 of 71 (832 views)
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Tolkien had no sisters, and his mother died when he was very young [In reply to] Can't Post

He and Edith did get to spend some time together in his childhood, but then it was over and he was again surrounded only by other male students, then by other male soldiers. Afterwards he'd be surrounded by other male professors, and I assume most of his students were male too? Not many chances to learn to get intimate with females. Especially in those times, and with his somewhat shy personality. What could he have told us about women, other than love stories, for that he knew from his own experience.

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


elaen32
Gondor


Jun 5 2013, 10:45pm

Post #15 of 71 (823 views)
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Not to mention, Shelob!/ [In reply to] Can't Post

  
You've missed her off the list- certainly a powerful female character and not exactly conventional.Sly

"Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold"


(This post was edited by elaen32 on Jun 5 2013, 10:47pm)


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 5 2013, 10:47pm

Post #16 of 71 (822 views)
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Sauron´s cat? The daughter of Ungoliant, who kicked Morgoth's butt?// [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


Hamfast Gamgee
Grey Havens

Jun 5 2013, 11:04pm

Post #17 of 71 (821 views)
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What about Butterbur's wife? [In reply to] Can't Post

All right, he didn't officially have one. But I have often thought that a man in his position and an Inn like the Prancing Pony would have had a landlady. And Butterbur have a Mrs Butterbur.


demnation
Rohan

Jun 5 2013, 11:06pm

Post #18 of 71 (829 views)
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Of course [In reply to] Can't Post

You have pointed out another side to what is ultimately a rather complex issue. The answer to the question " Why didn't Tolkien write about very many women in his stories?" is not as simple as saying "Tolkien disliked women, but.." or " Tolkien thought very highly of women. On the other hand..." The truth is, we'll never really know.(and this applies to his thoughts on other things like race, class etc.) All I can say for sure is that it is that it's futile to apply modern sensibilities to a man who wasn't modern anyway. And if I'm honest, rather than focusing my complaints about such issues on a man who has been dead for forty years, I'd rather concentrate my anger on the sad, sad truth that misogyny, sexism , racism, etc. are alive and well in today's society.

(BTW, I'm NOT saying people shouldn't talk about these issues and their relation to Tolkien. I'm just saying that we can never have any satisfactory answers. Or, at least, I can't.)

Lots of discussion about this topic today...

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 5 2013, 11:08pm)


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 5 2013, 11:24pm

Post #19 of 71 (871 views)
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According to Mary Renault... [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien sympathized greatly with his female students, and female students in general at Oxford. He would often invite them over to his home and tutor them. (He felt the other professors neglected females in classrooms and that females had a harder time of it in college.) This activity was something Edith could join in on, and it helped Edith out of her shell and into academic society. (Ms. Renault was a student of Tolkien in the 1920s.)

Ms. Renault also said Tolkien encouraged and supported women students who aspired to become writers, critiquing their manuscripts and writing them reference letters to publishers and agents.

Ms. Renault and Tolkien did have a dispute over the publication of her first novel, "Purposes of Love". It was very racy for its time, and had hints of male and female homosexuality. Anyway, Ms. Renault wanted to use a male pseudonym, but Tolkien strongly objected, urging her to publish under her own name, or at least a female pseudonym. Indeed, she says that Tolkien strongly encouraged all the young aspiring female writers he came into contact with to reject the trend of the time for females to write under male pseudonyms and instead use their own names.

(Ironically, in the fifties many critics were convinced that Renault was a male writer writing under a female pseudonym!)

Finally, from Letter 294:

"There are exceptions. I have read all that E. R. Eddison wrote, in spite of his peculiarly bad nomenclature and personal philosophy. I was greatly taken by the book that was (I believe) the runner-up when The L. R. was given the Fantasy Award, 'Death of Grass'. I enjoy the S.F. of Isaac Azimov. Above these, I was recently deeply engaged in the books of Mary Renault; especially the two about Theseus, The King Must Die, and The Bull from the Sea. A few days ago I actually received a card of appreciation from her; perhaps the piece of ‘Fan-mail’ that gives me most pleasure."

Note that like most of Renault’s novels, The King Must Die and The Bull From the Sea dealt sympathetically with male and female homosexual characters.

Ms. Renault died in 1983, renowned as one of the 20th century's greatest authors of gay literature.

******************************************
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 Völuspá, 13th Century

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


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 5 2013, 11:41pm

Post #20 of 71 (815 views)
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thanks for posting this [In reply to] Can't Post

 
thanks (very much) for posting this. it's wonderful to learn of his support for his female students and female writers.

just to note --- has anyone actually stated on this thread that tolkien was a misogynist? i have not.

if others have, i must have missed it.

i think there's room to note the gender imbalance in tolkien and some of the ways in which he doesn't give females quite the same shake and still say (which i have) that tolkien was ahead of his time, and much of the way he depicted females was admirable.


cheers, and thanks again --

.


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


demnation
Rohan

Jun 5 2013, 11:41pm

Post #21 of 71 (815 views)
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Thank You, that was enlightening [In reply to] Can't Post

 BTW, I didn't mean to imply that Tolkien was a misogynist in any way. There are many authors who make me angry with their foolish nonsense (*cough* GRR Martin *cough*), and Tolkien isn't one of them. Now, I better stop before I say something really foolish. Wink

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


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 5 2013, 11:57pm

Post #22 of 71 (813 views)
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Forgive me. [In reply to] Can't Post

I wasn't referring to you, merely referring to the general claim of misogyny that others have made in the past.

Again, my sincere apologies if you felt it was directed at you. (Which in re-reading, it does seem unfortunately to be.)

******************************************
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 Völuspá, 13th Century


Maciliel
Valinor


Jun 6 2013, 12:03am

Post #23 of 71 (803 views)
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ah, no worries.... [In reply to] Can't Post

 
ah, no worries.... (truly, darkstone).

honestly, i was just asking, and trying to ask in a neutral fashion.

and, -- again -- it was really quite wonderful to read what you posted re tolkien and his female students. my heart sang out a bit. : )

i still do wish toklien gave aragorn and arwen's daughters names, 'tho (!).


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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 6 2013, 12:14am

Post #24 of 71 (806 views)
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Tusen tack, Darkstone! [In reply to] Can't Post

That was a wonderful read. How great to learn he took the female students under his wing because they were neglected and had it harder in the university. Such a great, kind, noble, good man he was. All haters can go to the left, their idols don't even begin to compare.

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


Faenoriel
Tol Eressea


Jun 6 2013, 12:19am

Post #25 of 71 (804 views)
Shortcut
Not in this thread, and as far as I know, nowhere in TORn [In reply to] Can't Post

And generally speaking, he isn't usually blamed for hating women, in the contrary.

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

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