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Old 10-02-2010, 04:11 AM   #1
Lalaith
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Tolkien and the Bechdel test

I recently came across something called the Bechdel test, which is related to how women are portrayed in films. The test is simple:
1. Are there at least two named female characters?
2. Do these female characters ever talk to each other?
3. Do they talk about something other than men?

On the website there is a long list of recent films that either pass or fail: all three in the LotR trilogy fail on question two. The website acknowledges that there are strong female characters that shape the plot, but they don't interact.

Now, I have posted this in the Books thread because it got me thinking about if the actual books would also pass the test.
The Hobbit obviously fails on question one. Lord of the Rings - well I got quite excited about Ioreth and her kinswoman, who do have a conversation, but unfortunately the kinswoman doesn't have a name so it doesn't count. I can't think of any other occasion - can anyone else?
Then I got thinking about Tolkien's other works. I am pretty sure there are conversations recorded between Melian and Morwen, and Morwen and Nienor?
Also, I'm thinking there must have been dialogue between AncalimŽ and Erendis? I don't have all my books to hand so I can't check.

Anyway, I then got to thinking about the role of women in the ancient quest narratives and heroic epics that inspired Tolkien. Interestingly, a lot of them DO pass the test as long as you are flexible about question three. Women talk to each other, sometimes about magic but mostly about vengeance in relation to the menfolk in their families, but don't I think that is necessarily the kind of conversations about men that the Bechdel test refers to.
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Old 10-02-2010, 04:29 AM   #2
Legate of Amon Lanc
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Just from the top of my head, Melian and Galadriel. And they were not even talking about men, even though they were talking about the Noldor, but mostly it was about Galadriel herself and what she was hiding. And it is not a too long dialogue, but I think it's long enough, certainly much more than just one question and one answer, or something like that.

I am quite sure there will be something about Morwen and Nienor, like you said, Lal, and then possibly something about Erendis and AncalimŽ too... but I think the latter two will talk about men And I think AncalimŽ talks to this old woman there, her nurse or whatever should it be called, and they definitely talk about men

But I think it's quite cool that Tolkien would pass in this test. Although I think the main point of the test is really related to the films - because I really can't think of many films which would fulfil the criteria. Even when I imagined films where many characters are women, they actually do mostly talk only about men. I am really starting to see what the person who made up the test had in mind.
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