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The Women of Tolkien

The Hobbit

Nothing here, except mention of Bilbo's mother, Belladonna Took, and Bilbo's newphews and nieces at the end. And the spiders, but I don't think they're clearly female in the text, or at all, just by extrapolation from Ungoliant, Shelob, and spider biology.

To be fair, there's not that many named characters outside the main party. Elrond, Gollum, Beorn, Bard, Smaug, a thrush, and Dain (who I don't think even has a speaking role, ditto Bolg chief of the Five Armies goblins.) There's a few more by title: the Great Goblin, the Elvenking, the Master.ot giv

Gandalf does bring up Belladonna to compare Bilbo unfavorably to her. There's Interesting History there that AFAIK Tolkien never hinted at.

The Lord of the Rings

Lobelia, Goldberry, Galadriel, Eowyn, Shelob, Ioreth, Arwen, Rosie. More get mentioned: Luthien and Nimrodel. This is out of many more named side-characters; LotR probably has more than the Hobbit just by the birthday party, never mind by the time Frodo leaves Bree.

What's interesting or more damning is to consider the points at which female characters could have been bigger parts of the story without great distortion or 'forcing' martial roles on women. For example, Mrs. Maggot and her daughters bustle around but she's given only one line, unlike Goldberry, or Mr. Maggot's chattiness. If there is a Mrs. Butterbur she's back in the kitchen, again unlike Goldberry. Despite the elves supposedly being fairly egalitarian there are no women mentioned at the Council of Elrond, not even Arwen, nor was one mentioned in conjunction with Gildor Inglorion back in the Shire. Theoden's wife is dead if he ever married; Denethor's wife is dead; Boromir probably never married. Minas Tirith is practically empty of women, because they and the kids have been sent away for safety, but given the nature of the Enemy, was that really safer than being in Minas Tirith? Sauron could have swept the countryside instead... point is, author made a choice that minimized female presence.

The Hobbit is odder: who's to say some of the elven guards and porters, or people in Lake-Town, weren't women? They're just generic people in the text, after all.

Galadriel's a very strong and significant if brief character, Eowyn's strong, Ioreth is, well, memorable, but there's still a lot missing. The Entwives, of course, are literally missing.

The Maiar-Istari were all sent as advisors in the form of old Men, specifically male.

The Silmarillion and other material

A lot of characters in this one, as list here. Another post claims

I've also often wondered if Tolkien became concerned about the lack of important female characters while writing LotR, because when he returned to working on The Silmarillion after writing LotR, he added even more! It emerges from the History of Middle-earth series that Miriel (Feanor's mother), Indis (Feanor's stepmother/Galadriel's grandmother), Lady Haleth (the founder of the Haladin, who was "a renowned amazon with a picked bodyguard of women"), Emeldir the Manhearted (Beren's mother), Turin's friend Nellas, the wise-woman Andreth, and Queen Erendis of Numenor were all created by Tolkien after the writing of LotR. (Also, of course, Galadriel was only introduced into the legends of the First Age after the writing of LotR, for which she was originally created.)

Plus there's frigging Luthien, Melian, Idril, Finduilas, Nienor, Elwing, Aredhel, Varda/Elbereth, Yavanna, and more -- minor Valar or Maiar, various wives at least get names. Not all get great speaking parts but the Silmarillion is a tale of deeds, not a novel, so speaking roles aren't abundant. But they often Do Things, or defy people. Luthien defies her father and the devil, Melian protects a kingdom, Idril saves the remnant of one, Aredhel defies her relatives and later her husband, Galadriel defies everyone, Andreth has a spirited philosophical discussion about mortality with Finrod. Nerdanel restrained and then defied her husband, Feanor(!), as well as being an unusual crafter and *not* an epic beauty.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/346625.html#comments


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 11th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
Is Goldberry the woman in Tom Bombadil's house?

The Maiar-Istari were all sent as advisors in the form of old Men, specifically male.

Are the blue wizards for sure male?
Jan. 12th, 2013 02:08 am (UTC)
Goldberry is Tom's wife, yes. Can't swear for certain about the Blue, but I think the Istari are described as old men.
Jan. 15th, 2013 07:29 am (UTC)
I'm not sure what your point is here. Possibly that there are more female characters than are generally supposed?

Tolkien is often taken to task for being too male-oriented, to which I have to say "welcome to Britain before the Sexual Revolution."

Tolkien may have fewer roles for female characters even than other contemporary authors, but I wonder how he compares with his sources - the Eddas and Mabinogion and Beowulf.

...and then (and this might be just my irritation with a bunch of other online debates coming out, so take it with a pinch of salt) there is the question of whether Tolkien is unsuccessful in any way because of the paucity of female characters/screen time. Commercially the answer is clearly a resounding "no:" voting with our money, we today right now feminists as we may be etc etc approve Tolkien more enthusiastically than just about any other author - except (this year) E L James.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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