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.
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.
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!
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.”
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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.
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’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, 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.
The first ruling queen of Numenor.
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.
The mother of Fíli and Kíli. The only Dwarf-woman named by Tolkien.
Shelob definitely knows how to terrorize her enemies. Even the Orcs of Mordor fear to tread her pathways!
- Does The Hobbit Need More Female Characters?
- Eowyn: A Feminist Character?
- Ten Reasons You Should Read The Silmarillion