Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/11490
I Am No Man. The Strength of Women in J.R.R. Tolkien's Major Works
Two of Tolkien’s major works – The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings – have been criticized for their lack of major female characters, as well as the stereotypical nature of those females present. This essay discusses how far from reality these assumptions are, and how the female characters present in Tolkien’s works are actually very independent, strong, and important to the central plots of each novel. Tolkien’s characters Lúthien, Galadriel, Arwen, Éowyn, and Shelob are good examples of strong females. It is important to keep in mind the background from which Tolkien drew his characters, such as old Germanic and Norse mythology, and Catholicism. If one takes into account these ancient ideas, as well as Tolkien’s personal background, his women actually demonstrate qualities of spiritual and physical power, self-determination, and wisdom.
Some aspects of the five characters discussed in this essay are the importance of their personal sacrifices to the fate of Middle-earth, the importance of fertility and healing in relation to Tolkien’s women, how masculinity and femininity are traits both men and women share simultaneously, and how flawless beauty does not necessitate a weak individual. In Tolkien’s world it is clear that power goes hand in hand with sacrifice, and those who sacrifice the most tend to be the strongest. Lúthien, Galadriel, Arwen, and Éowyn all make sacrifices for the good of Middle-earth, and therefore, they are all very potent individuals. Their involvement with fertilizing the earth as well as bearing children is essential to life in Middle-earth, and Tolkien emphasizes the importance of healing and fertility throughout his works. It is also clear that femininity is not the only characteristic Tolkien’s women bear, but instead they share a range of masculine traits as well. Feminine traits are also attributed to some of the most heroic men of Middle-earth, and Tolkien makes it clear that only by embracing both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ qualities can one be a truly strong individual.