16 of Tolkien’s Most Badass Women

Tolkien Reading Event 2018

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.


Spoilers Ahead!

Aredhel

The White Lady of the Noldor is the brother of Turgon, ruler of Gondolin.  When he decrees that she should not leave the secret city, she answers him, “I am your sister and not your servant, and beyond your bounds I will go as seems good to me.  And if you begrudge me an escort, then I will go alone” (The Silmarillion).  She subsequently marries the Dark Elf Eöl, then, tiring of never seeing the sunlight, flees with her son back to Gondolin.

Arwen

Peter Jackson did not have to make Arwen a warrior to make her impressive.  The only daughter of Elrond, Arwen gives up her Elven inheritance in order to marry Aragorn and restore some of the ancient dignity to the ruling house of Gondor.  Her decision is a difficult one.  Most fans understand that she actively chose to surrender her immortality to lead the life she wanted.  However, those who have only seen the films may not realize that the Elves believe that Elves and Men go to separate afterlives.  In choosing to marry Aragorn, Arwen, as far as she knows, is giving up the possibility of ever seeing her parents and brothers again–even after death.

And, as a side note, Tolkien’s original Arwen does not sit around sadly wasting away as Sauron gains power.  We do not really know what she does, aside from making Aragorn a banner, but there is no reason that Arwen, alone in Middle-earth, would possess a weird connection to Sauron that makes her weak as he grows strong.  Nor does book-Arwen prove fickle in love by planning to leave Middle-earth forever while her betrothed is off fighting evil.  In these regards, at least, Jackson actually creates a weaker Arwen than Tolkien!

Elbereth

One of the mightiest of the Valar, Elbereth the Star-kindler is associated with light.  It is said in The Silmarillion that Melkor “hated her, and feared her more than all others whom Eru made.”

Elwing

The granddaughter of Lúthien and Beren, Elwing saves the Silmaril they won by casting herself into the sea when the sons of Feanor attack.  Lifted up by Ulmo and transformed into a bird, she follows her husband Eärendil to the Undying Lands.  There she steps ashore with him in order that she might share with him whatever doom the Valar would decree.  She is the mother of Elrond and Elros.

Emeldir the Man-hearted

The mother of Beren, she leads the women and children of the House of Bëor south after the Dagor Bragollach, when her husband and her son became outlaws.

Eowyn

Eowyn is possibly Tolkien’s most well-known “badass” woman.  Discontent at being left behind during the War of the Ring, she disguises herself as a soldier of Rohan and fulfills Glorfindel’s prophecy that the Witch-king of Angmar shall not fall by the hand of man (with Merry’s help, of course!).  After the War of the Ring, she shows her strength further by turning away from her childish idolization of war.  She decides to devote herself to healing and growth along with her husband Faramir.

Galadriel

In The Silmarillion, Galadriel willingly goes into exile from Valinor that she might rule a land of her own in Middle-earth.  She does not participate in the Kinslaying and, in other accounts, even fights against Fëanor and his sons during the battle. After part of the Noldor are abandoned by Fëanor without ships, she crosses the Helcaraxë or Grinding Ice to reach Middle-earth.  Various accounts have her subject to the Ban of the Valar for revolting against the Valar or not subject to the Ban but choosing to stay in Middle-earth.  In the version of the story where she is banned for rebellion, she earns pardon after rejecting the One Ring.

Haleth

When her father and brother fall in battle against the orcs, Haleth becomes the chief of her people. She rejects an offer by Caranthir to move north and instead moves west to Estolad.  Later she leads her people to the Forest of Brethil.  Of their road The Silmarillion says “It was no road for mortal Men to take without aid, and Haleth only brought her people hrough it with hardship and loss, constraining them to go forward by the strength of her will.  Her people become known as the People of Haleth.

Idril

Idril Celebrindal is the daughter of Turgon, ruler of Gondolin.  When Ulmo counsels Turgon to flee, Turgon’s pride prevents him.  Idril, however, orders a secret tunnel to be excavated from the city, allowing her and her husband Tuor to lead a band of refugees from the ruin of Gondolin.

Lobelia Sackville-Baggins

Lobelia was disliked by much of the Shire for most of her life.  However, she gains acclaim when she dares to defy Sharkey’s men and shake her umbrella them–resulting in a prison sentence.  After her death she bequeaths her money to Frodo to help Hobbits left homeless by the actions of Saruman and her son.

Lúthien

Locked away by her father, Lúthien uses magic to escape her prison and follow Beren on his quest to wrest a Simaril from the crown of Morgoth.  Her enchantments enable them to enter the Dark Lord’s halls disguised and lull Morgoth into slumber so that Beren can take the jewel.  Her tears and song eventually bring Beren back to life so that they can be together.  Suffice it to say that Beren would not have accomplished much without Lúthien at his side.

Melian

One of the Maiar, Melian falls in love with the Elf Thingol and rules with him the realm of Doriath.  She protects her lands with the Girdle of Melian, which confuses enemies and prevents them from entering.  With her foresight, she counsels her husband not to send Beren on the quest for a Silmaril, but is overruled, resulting in the eventual fall of Doriath.  As with many of Tolkien’s matches, the wife here seems to hold the greater wisdom and power.

Morwen

Morwen called Eledhwen or “Elfsheen” weds Húrin, upon whose house Morgoth puts a curse.  After her husband’s capture by Morgoth, the Easterlings take her lord’s lands but fear to touch Morwen.  She sends her son Túrin away to Doriath to save his life, then later travels there herself with her daughter Nienor.  She is lost trying to find Túrin again after he flees Doriath and eventually dies from wandering and weariness.

Nienna

One of the Valar, she is the lady of grief.  The Silmarillion says “But she does not weep for herself; and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope…she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom.”

Ungoliant

Ungoliant’s great hunger makes Shelob’s sport with Frodo look like innocent fun.  She is an evil spirit in the form of a spider.  She sucks the light from the Two Trees of Valinor and spins darkness to hide Melkor’s flight from the Valar.  According to one legend, her insatiable hunger eventually leads her to devour herself.

Yavanna

Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits, is one of the Valar.  She makes the Two Trees of Valinor as well as the Ents, meant to protect her beloved trees.

Honorable Mentions

Tar-Ancalimë

The first ruling queen of Numenor.

Arien

A Maia and spirit of fire, she is chosen to guide the vessel of the Sun because she once tended Laurelin.  She casts off her Elven shape and becomes a burning flame.

Dís

The mother of Fíli and Kíli.  The only Dwarf-woman named by Tolkien.

Shelob

Shelob definitely knows how to terrorize her enemies.  Even the Orcs of Mordor fear to tread her pathways!

Related Posts

Follow us: Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Facebook

Advertisements

31 thoughts on “16 of Tolkien’s Most Badass Women

  1. R.K. Lander says:

    Great post and yes, I agree. I think Peter Jackson did make Arwen look weaker than Tolkien ever did. Jackson did, however, intend to have Arwen at Helm’s Deep but later decided to cut her scenes. I would have preferred him to go deeper into Arwen’s character than give Eowyn all that screen time.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I could never buy into the idea that Elrond is now overprotective of his daughter, but also allows her to ride around with Nazgul on the loose. Arwen at Helm’s Deep would have been even more baffling, considering what Jackson did to Elrond’s character. 😕

      Like

  2. karathehuman says:

    Great post! I love that Tolkien brought in some fierce women to tell his story. I’m always quoting Eowyn to try and trick others into believing I’m just as badass 😅

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I’m really intrigued by Nienna! I wish The Silmarillion gave us more about her. But I like how Tolkien suggests that sorrow, something we think of as negative, can be turned into a positive.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nicky Guerrero says:

    I’m so glad you posted this because a couple of weeks ago I was in a discussion where someone mentioned how they think Tolkien is terrible because he has “no quality female characters” and I was forced to disagree on account of Eowyn and Galadriel. Your post mentions a few that I didn’t even think to bring up. Great post! And I definitely agree about movie Arwen being so much weaker. In fact I think a few of the characters are weak in the movies. My husband teases me all the time (never fails to get a reaction out of me despite me knowing that he’s doing it on purpose) about how Frodo himself is weak because movie Frodo is pretty pitiful.
    I’m currently rereading the Silmarilion for Tolkien Read Day and I’m getting so much more out of it than I did years ago.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think “Tolkien has no female characters/Tolkien is sexist” is one of those criticisms that one person said and then it kind of just caught on because people think it makes sense at first glance. Sure, there are no female characters in The Hobbit. (And whether that’s inherently sexist I think is a debate in itself.) But to say he has no female characters or no strong female characters in general is just inaccurate. I guess you could say he has MORE male than female characters but, again, is that inherently a problem? I don’t think so, personally.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Krysta says:

        Yeah, for me, it’s important to look at Tolkien’s work as a whole. The Hobbit may have no female characters, but that’s one book. I don’t believe every book has to have a balanced gender ratio. Some books are just set in male spaces, like a boys’ boarding school or a army regiment during the American Civil War. The Hobbit is supposed to be part of a mythology for England and the sources Tolkien was drawing on would have had largely male casts. His imitation of them to create a mythology in line with them doesn’t mean he was incapable of thinking of fighting women–as Eowyn, the unnamed shieldmaidens of Rohan, and Galadriel (in some versions) attest.

        When we look at Tolkien’s work as a whole, we can see that he was capable of conceiving of women who ran the spectrum from warrior women to village gossips, healers and nurturers to mighty magic wielders. To me, his ability to depict all sorts of women is a great indicator that he’s not sexist at all, but simply sees women as humans–able to adventurers, homebodies, good, wicked, anything. Just like his male characters.

        Like

      • Nicky Guerrero says:

        It’s funny that you say that because when I heard this person say basically just that, I was annoyed so much and I’ve had a draft for a blog post on the topic sitting for about two weeks 😆 Don’t get me wrong, i love a strong female character, but I didn’t even notice the lack of women in the Hobbit because it’s just a dang good book and I love it.

        Like

  4. Greg Hill says:

    Awesome post. Makes me want to read The Silmarillion again (it’s been years and I think I’ve forgotten a ton). Thanks for helping me to think of some of these things again. 🙂

    Like

  5. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    This is such an awesome post!! I agree that Arwen didn’t have to be a warrior to be impressive. I think her choice to give up her immorality makes her and I didn’t see her as weak for that decision. Eowyn is a great character! And I *love* Galadriel and Luthien!

    Like

Leave a Reply! We'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.