Arwen Rich Biography & Facts
The roles of women in The Lord of the Rings have often been assessed as insignificant, or important only in relation to male characters in a story about men for boys. Meanwhile, other commentators have noted the empowerment of the three major women characters, Galadriel, Éowyn, and Arwen, and provided in-depth analysis of their roles within the narrative of The Lord of the Rings.
Weronika Łaszkiewicz has written that "Tolkien's heroines have been both praised and severely criticized", and that his fictional women have an ambiguous image, of "both passivity and empowerment". J. R. R. Tolkien spent much of his life in an all-male environment, and had conservative views about women, prompting discussion of possible sexism. Much of the action in The Lord of the Rings is by male characters, and the nine-person Fellowship of the Ring is entirely male.
On the other hand, commentators have noted that the Elf-queen Galadriel is powerful and wise; Éowyn, noblewoman of Rohan, is extraordinarily courageous, killing the leader of the Nazgûl; and the half-elf Arwen, who chooses mortality to be with Aragorn, the man she loves, is central to the book's theme of death and immortality; and that other female figures like the monstrous spider Shelob and the wise-woman of Gondor, Ioreth, play important roles in the narrative. Tolkien stated that the Hobbit woman Rosie Cotton is "absolutely essential" to understanding the hero Sam's character, and the relation of ordinary life to heroism.
The author of the bestselling fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien, was orphaned as a boy, his father dying in South Africa and his mother in England a few years later. He was brought up by his guardian, a Catholic priest, Father Francis Morgan, and educated at boys' grammar schools and then Exeter College, Oxford, which at that time had only male students. He joined the British Army's Lancashire Fusiliers and saw the horror of trench warfare, with life as an officer made more bearable by the support of a male batman or servant. After the war he became a professor of English Language at the University of Leeds, and then at the University of Oxford, where he taught at Pembroke College. At Oxford, he created an all-male literary group with another Oxford professor of English, C. S. Lewis, called the Inklings.Among Tolkien's influences, he stated that he enjoyed reading boy's adventure stories, such as those by H. Rider Haggard and John Buchan. Tolkien stated in an interview that Haggard's novel She was his favourite. The scholar of English literature Dale Nelson notes that Tolkien "was evidently spontaneously moved by mythopoeic and straightforward adventure romance" as in Haggard's books. On Buchan's influence, Nelson writes that Greenmantle tells "of desperate chances and plentiful good luck, of cross-country pursuit and massive battles ... [and] the heroism of a handful of men". In On Fairy Stories, Tolkien wrote that "Treasure Island left me cool. Red Indians were better: there were bows and arrows ..., and strange languages, and glimpses of an archaic way of life, and, above all, forests in such stories. But the land of Merlin and Arthur was better than these, and best of all the nameless North of Sigurd and the Volsungs, and the prince of all dragons. Such lands were pre-eminently desirable."As seen in a letter to his son Michael Tolkien, he held conservative views about women, stating that men were active in their professions while women were inclined to domestic life. While defending the role of women in The Lord of the Rings, the scholar of children's literature Melissa Hatcher wrote that "Tolkien himself, in reality, probably was the stodgy sexist Oxford professor that feminist scholars paint him out to be".
Roles for women
A story about men for boys
The Lord of the Rings has repeatedly been discussed as being a story about men for boys, with no significant women characters; there are 11 women in the work, some of them mentioned only briefly. Catherine Stimpson, a scholar of English and feminism, wrote that Tolkien's women were "hackneyed ... stereotypes ... either beautiful and distant, simply distant, or simply simple".Robert Butler and John Eberhard, in the Chicago Tribune, stated that all the races from Hobbits to Elves, Dwarves to Wizards, get their due in the novel, but "Women, on the other hand, do not." In their view, "Tolkien didn't think much about the female sex. Yes, he was happily married, and yes, he did have a daughter. But his wife, Edith Mary, and daughter, Priscilla, seemed to have practically no influence on his writing." They quoted the scholar of medieval and Old English literature, Linda Voigts, as defending Tolkien, pointing out that, brought up in a male world and living among male scholars at a time when "Oxford was a boys' club", he could not have been expected to be a modern feminist. Butler and Eberhard wrote that the women in the novel see little action, giving the example of Arwen. In their opinion, a strong-willed woman, Éowyn, was created when the teenaged Priscilla asked her father for a female character.The critics Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride, referencing the all-male Inklings group, wrote that "Middle-earth is very Inkling-like, in that while women exist in the world, they need not be given significant attention and can, if one is lucky, simply be avoided altogether." Melissa McCrory Hatcher, while not discounting the women altogether, writes that Hobbit women like Rosie Cotton and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins serve "only as housewives or shrews", Dwarf women are hardly feminine, the Entwives are lost, and Goldberry "is a mystical washer-woman".
Few but powerful women
The Tolkien scholars Carol Leibiger, in the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, and separately Maureen Thum, replied that Stimpson's charge was definitely disproven by Tolkien's vigorous characterisation of Éowyn (and in The Silmarillion by numerous strong female characters such as Lúthien). Liebiger stated that while Tolkien's female characters appear like "chaste medieval ladies of courtly romance", doing little but encouraging their menfolk to be heroic, the few prominent women in the narrative are in fact extremely powerful in their own right.The theologian Ralph Wood replied that Galadriel, Éowyn, and Arwen are far from being "plaster figures": Galadriel is powerful, wise and "terrible in her beauty"; Éowyn has "extraordinary courage and valor"; and Arwen gives up her Elvish immortality to marry Aragorn. Further, Wood argued, Tolkien insisted that everyone, man and woman alike, faces the same kinds of temptation, hope, and desire.The scholar of English literature Nancy Enright stated that the few female characters in The Lord of the Rings are extremely important in defining power, which she suggests is a central theme of the novel. She commented that even the apparently heroic male figures such as Aragorn and Faramir "use traditional masculine p.... Discover the Arwen Rich popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Arwen Rich books.