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Is The Lord of the Rings Sexist?

Updated on April 24, 2012

While acknowledging the time at which The Lord of the Rings was written, it should still be noted that Tolkien’s women are not as significant as the men. They never rise above a “serving” level – Eowyn serves her King, Arwen serves her father and Aragorn, and Galadreil serves everyone. Galadreil appears to have the most power in her own right, possessing the ability to both look into people and to show them their possible futures, but she is still undeveloped as a character. Two of the women – Arwen and Eowyn – seem only to consider themselves “complete” when they are in love and marrying. Eowyn especially, after defeating the Ring Wraith, cannot be “healed” until she is in love and married. Obviously, the marriage is wonderful for political reasons, but it appears to have been something written by someone who either had to tie up loose ends or did not understand women.

Arwen and Eowyn are both “corrected” in the movies. They are stronger characters, and while the focus on Arwen is still mostly one of her love interest in Aragorn, at least her role is somewhat expanded and the audience gets to see her fight and rescue Frodo. Eowyn’s role in the movie ends after she saves her King, and this is a great improvement on the book, where she is only fulfilled after falling in love with, and marrying, Faramir. This is a myth from women’s magazines of Tolkien’s time that he either consciously or unconsciously projected in his books.

Whether or not Tolkien consciously projected sexism on the roles of the women in the trilogy is unclear; it is clear, however, that in modern times, the roles of the women were changed and expanded. The changes may have been made due to the changing times and changing views of women, or they may have been made to simply pander to an audience that was sure to include women who would enjoy the new and more important roles taken on by the female characters. Regardless of intent, however, the changes do help to enhance the women and their purpose while drawing more attention to the original issues that existed.


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