MiddleEarthBlog: Women Of The Lord Of The Rings


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Women Of The Lord Of The Rings

  Professor Tolkiens books are for the most part written concerning men or should i say the male gender for we have Elven,Dwarven and Hobbit males as well as mortal males. .You have to remember that Tolkien was a product of the Victorian and Edwardian age. It was quite a different world than ours. Women were treated with a great degree of respect and adoration and placed on a shelf as it were, thought of as  mothers and wives not as Warriors and great leaders. Yet Tolkien included several powerful female characters in his novel The Lord Of The Rings who played quite pivotal roles in the book. I am speaking of Galadriel, Arwen and Eowyn, two Elves and a human woman. In these three characters Tolkien chose to show the truly great virtues of each and the roles they would play in the ring quest. For the most part he would give them roles of support and advice and an idyllic form of love that led men to great deeds.For one he chose to give the opportunity to prove she was as much the warrior as any man and she proved herself at the battle of Pellenor fields when she did what no man could. Let us examine each female character and the role they played in the trilogy.

    Let us begin with Galdriel she being the most senior of the group. She was extremely ancient of age having taken part in so much of the history in all three ages of middle earth. She was the daughter of  Finarfin and Earwen and had been born in the blessed realm when the Noldor ( her Elven race ) still lived among the Valar, the lords of the West, she was the tallest of Elven women and stood about six foot four inches tall ( or about 1.9 meters ) . Her original name was Artanis, noble woman, but she was called by many Alateriel meaning crowned with a radiant garland a reference to her long golden hair the name was later transformed into the now familiar Sindarin form of Galadriel. She was the greatest of the Elven race second only to Feanor the maker of the Silmarils and felt by many to surpass him in wisdom. When Feanor rebelled against the Valar and led many of the Elves back to middle earth she joined him and the others. Wether this showed great wisdom or not is for each one to decide but by doing so she fell under the ban of the Valar and was never to be allowed to return again to the blessed realm.It was in middle earth that she met and married Celeborn and gave birth to their two children a son and a daughter, the daughter would later marry Elrond and give him three chidren two sons and a daughter,Arwen so Galadriel was Elronds mother-in-law and Arwens Grandmother. Her part in The Lord Of The Rings was for the most part and advisory one and really comes into the tale when the company reaches Lothlorien her home.It is while the company is there that Galdriel shows Frodo and Sam the mirror of Galdriel which shows each what may be if the quest fails and it is here that Galdriel is offered the one ring and has to fight great temptation to take it for it was of her nature to be great and mighty and the ring would have made her the mightiest of all but she refuses it and says " I pass the test and will go into the West and diminish and remain Galdriel" In the end it would seem she understood that absolute power would most definitely corrupt absolutely and turned away from it even though she felt that this action was the true end of ambition for her and now all that was left was to diminish so here we have an act of great self sacrifice on her part. Later we learn that while the great battles in Gondor and at the Gates of Mordor the Elves of Lothlorien are attacked by an army sent by Sauron not once but three times with the Elves managing to be victorious in the end then the Elves attacked Saurons old fortress of Barad Dur and with Galadriels help they were able to destroy it completely and end Saurons shadow in Mirkwood forever, It is revealed that Galadriel herself is a ring bearer  having been intrusted with the care of one of the three rings of the Elves made by Celebrimbor. She was given Nenya the white ring and with it's power She was able to cure much of the damage done to her kingdom by the hurts of Sauron. She accompanies Frodo and Bilbo back into the blessed realm, the ban of the Valar being lifted for her mainly for her many actions and advice given in the defeat of Sauron and in my own personal opinion because of her refusal to accept the one ring. She i believe in the story plays a mother like role one of advice coming from wisdom and love. Her gift of the phial of Gadriel is shown as a great and pure light that evil cannot tolerate and is a guide when the darkness surrounds you, what could be a greater example of a mothers love.

    Now let us speak of Arwen daughter of Elrond. In the tale she meets Aragorn the heir of Isildur and thusly the heir to the throne of Gondor. She met him in the year 2951 of the third age when she was 2710 years old.They parted company and she did not see him again for another 29 years. It was then that on the mound of Cerin Amroth they made their vow to marry but that would have to wait until Aragorn regained the throne of Gondor and that would be a difficult and uncertain task indeed. It was Arwen who sent Argorn a great banner that she had woven that none could see what what she had sewn into the banner but when Aragorn revealed it the the Oathbreakers they could evidently read it well for it served to convince them that Aragorn was indeed the true heir of Isildur and could release them from Isildurs curse. After Saurons defeat and Aragorns reclaiming the throne of Gondor  Aragorn and Arwen were wed. Arwen was the first Elf since Luthien ( wife of Beren ) to cast aside her immortality to wed a mortal this being a decision that was allowed her being half-elven. At the time of the wedding Arwen was around 2777 years of age and Aragorn being Numanorean aroud 87 which would make Arwen the greatest cougar of all time. They remained married throughout Aragorns  reign and when he at last died she returned to Lorien and it is said she passed away upon the mound of Cerin Amroth where she and Aragorn had pledged their troth so many years before. Her love was one of great sacrifice, she had given up the gift of immortality to be with the one she loved and would rather have lived what for Elves what was only a brief moment in time with Aragorn as man and wife than to face all eternity without him.Her role in The Lord Of The Rings is one of selfless love a love that was once beautiful and yet in away tragic, possibly the greatest sacrifice in the whole novel. Galadriel could resist the temptation of power but Arwen could give up her life for the one she loved.I'll let you the reader decide which was the greater sacrifice.In an interesting side note Professot Tolkien had inscribed on his and his wifes tombstone the words Beren and Luthien  representing each the other what he felt was the great love of his life.

    Lastly we will speak of Eowyn the shield maiden of Rohan.She was the niece of King Theoden being his Sisters daughter. At the time of the novel she was around 23 ears of age. It was her misfortune to develop affections for Aragorn a man who loved another and so her love was unrequited. She felt herself capable as any man and longed to go into battle at her Uncle the Kings side but Theoden felt her place was caring for the elderly and the children while he and the men rode off into battle so her role was that of a dutiful daughter to tend hearth and home and to leave the mens work to the men. This she bitterly resented and greatly desired to fulfill the ambitions and desires of her heart.When it came time for the horse warriors to depart for the great battle of Gondor she disguised herself as a warrior keeping her face concealed with a helmet and disobeying the command of her Uncle the King rode off into battle with the Rohirrim with the Hobbit Merry who had also been denied permission to accompany the men into battle at her side.It was at the battle of Pellenor fields that Eowyn distinguished herself but the price she would pay for it was great and tragically so. There her uncle the King was unhorsed by the unholy steed of the Witch King on which he sat. There was a prophecy that no man would be able to slay the Witch King the greatest of Saurons lieutenants.It was when Eowyn stood between the Witch King and her Uncle that she had her shield and arm broken by the great mace of the Witch King but at that moment Merry the Hobbit stood behind him and stabbed him with an ancient elven blade and wounding him ,it was then that Eowyn cast aside her helmet and said " I am no man but a woman" and stabbed him with her sword and thus proved the old prophecy true as he was slain not by a man but by a Hobbit and a Woman.Unfortunately she was too late to save the King but he had time enough to recognize her and bid her farewell  before he departed this life. She was later healed by the hands of Aragorn and it was there that she met the true love of her life , Faramir. What was Eowyns part in the story, what purpose did she serve. If i may venture a guess i would say that Professor Tolkien was ahead of his time and very much recognized the equality of women, It is not well known but his wife had actually accepted a proposal of marriage from another but he was able to dissuade her and he won her hand. Maybe that was another reason for Eowyn and he somehow felt guilty for taking her from the original suitor and so gave Eowyn a happy reprieve from unrequited love and into the arms of Faramir. Maybe this is what he hoped for his old rival, this of course is pure speculation on my part and i could be oh so wrong but i guess the romantic in me would like to see it that way.You of course can make your own decision on this.

   So there we have the Women of  The Lord Of The Rings each playing their own particular part in the story.Galadriel the Mother role role ,Arwen the role of pure love and Eowyn as woman equal and partner to man.Each played their part and they played it well and in the end they each gained and sufferred for their involvement in the tale. Galadriel doomed to diminish and leave her beloved middle earth, Arwen to gain the man she loved but in the end to lose him to age and death and eventually that of her own, alone and grieving.
Eowyn alone seems to come out of the tale to the good.She had no immortality to lose and instead gained love and was able to prove her worth to all with her bravery on the fields of Pellenor but she lost her Uncle the King and thus made the victory and fame bittersweet. It seems that with Professor Tolkien that there can be no love that is not in some way punished. That is a part of his story always a conflict between happiness and tragedy that helps to give his great trilogy such majesty and poignancy.

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