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Old 02-05-2004, 05:45 PM   #1
Lady Of Light
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Sting Tolkien- For the Love of Eowyn!

I just finished reading the LOTR trilogy for the third (and most delightful) time. And suddenly, as I was reading, I was struck by how incredibly unfounded peoples' accusations are concerning Tolkien's view of women. I know that this has been discussed here before, but I just wonder why no one has stamped out the suspician of sexism!

I think the entire answer to this enigma lies definitely in my favorite character of all time and an upstanding gal, Eowyn. We need to realize that Tolkien was writing back into a time and place much like a more pleasant version of the middle ages. He elevated a few women (such as Galadriel and Goldberry) to a sort of semi-deity stance, but they hold more respect from their magical power and beauty than from anything that a "normal" woman would have. Women are revered, yet kept under wraps for the most part. Some people would have a legitimate problem with this (I personally don't).

HOWEVER- this is not the only way Tolkien portrays women! The lovely Eowyn takes center stage for a while, and says some really remarkable things.

Take this quote, from Eowyn, to Aragorn when he explains why she cannot go to battle for Rohan:
"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the house of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."

Tolkien would not have dared to put these words in the lips of a woman and have her carry out her dream had he been a sexist. He also resolves Eowyn's sad and convoluded story nicely, giving her (and the reader) peace of mind that all turned out okay for the gal who spoke her mind.

So, I really wanted to get that quote out there, and if you want to challenge me on this, let's go! But hey, I fear neither pain nor death.
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Old 02-05-2004, 08:53 PM   #2
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Sting

Bravo! Greetings to a fellow Eowyn admirer!

I deem it highly unfortunate that so fine a character become tainted with the foul stench of sexism. Tolkien was most definitely not sexist. He was heavily influenced by the feminine, mainly his mother and his wife, in both his life and his writings. He celebrated and worshipped the principle of the feminine, and it is the gravest invective to label him a sexist.

Modern readers have become used to the sort of story where female characters come bursting in to save the day with guns flaming, pulchritude straining against the barely-buttoned top of their designer safari suit, and makeup done to perfection. Yes indeed, rather unfortunate, although I do admit, Lady Lara Croft has her attractions. Tolkien was writing an epic for a different time and age. In Middle-earth, women were delegated different niches in their environment. Yes, they were expected to generally remain behind in the home and watch over it. What insult is there in that? As Aragorn said, some of the greatest deeds are done in the last defence (or something to that effect) of one's home and people. In this day and age, we have become so used to empowered women that reading about a seemingly less-empowered woman immediately results in calls to arms. Who says Eowyn wasn't empowered? Who says that Galadriel and Goldberry weren't empowered? If they were intelligent to make the men do the fighting and mucking about, then kudos to them! They made the best of their lives, and in a situation like the one at the end of the Third Age, they should be commended for it, not slighted.
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Old 02-05-2004, 09:18 PM   #3
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Personally, I find Eowyn more believable than some of the "women warriors" of modern fiction. In the culture which Tolkien had in mind, the shield-maiden was not an unknown concept - and hey, there are comments in Roman writing about these scary Northern women fighting along with the men! Nver underestimae Goldberry and Galadriel - Galadriel is a wielder of one of the Rings of Power, not her husband, and is keeping Lothlorien going; once she has gone, he retires to Rivendell. As for Goldberry, have you noticed that on her "washing day" it's raining? The impression I got is that she was *making* it rain, as a sort of minor weather/water goddess, perhaps? Just because they don't wave swords doesn't mean they're powerless - I mean, come on, who has more power and strength, Galadriel or the average Gondorian trooper?
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Old 02-05-2004, 11:58 PM   #4
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Sting

I too have never understood this whole Tolkien being a Sexist arguement. I am a female who does not find these stories to be degrading towards women in any way. The females who are in this story (though they could be talked about more) are powerful, strong, and in control of most of the men! A man who was sexist would never even think about putting females in such powerful, empowered positions. Hey, Galadriel was basically the most powerful, wise, and beautiful being in Middle Earth!

Just because the females are not out there doing the fighting doesn't mean at all that they are not strong. They have strength in a different way, it is inside, and they only use it when at the time it is necessary.
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Old 02-06-2004, 01:11 AM   #5
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Sting

I have not found Tolkien to be sexist, but most people seem to forget that Tolkien was born and brought up in a different era, when a womens role was different, and in that time women did tend to stay at home and run the house and take care of things when the men were away. Most of the women in that era had more power than the men, in a subtle way, just as Galadriel, Goldberry, and Eowyn, and let us not forget Arwen, they all had power in different ways. Galadriel weilded an elven ring that made Lothlorien strong and most people feared her power. You might wonder why i say Arwen had power, If Arwen had not had some power, Aragorn would not have reclaimed the throne of Gondor.
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Old 02-06-2004, 01:45 AM   #6
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Quote:
If Arwen had not had some power, Aragorn would not have reclaimed the throne of Gondor.
Do expound, eldomeldo.

Tolkien is a sexist. It's obvious. Look, he gave credit to killing the most powerful mortal in Middle-earth(I think - I'm referring to the Witch-king) to a woman and a hobbit. The most powerful child of Eru left in Middle-earth by the time of LotR is a woman - Lady Galadriel. If that's not evidence enough, I'm not sarcastic enough.

Those wisecracks who think Tolkien is a male chauvinist are probably the same bunch who thought of the eagles bringing Frodo to Mt. Doom.

Yours, if you want to. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
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Old 02-06-2004, 02:14 AM   #7
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Sting

I've noticed the male-terms in Tolkien's literature consistantly. How did I notice it? [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] Becuase I use Tokinistic-English in my homework and there are little red marks over the paper saying that "sexist term"

[img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] However, that does not mean that Tolkien was a sexist - just that he was a child of his times. Eowyn is portrayed AT LEAST an equal of her brother Eomer. And Galadriel. She actually runs everything in Laurendorian, and Celeborn is HARDLY mentioned.

Some people believe that books portrraying gun-firing women are NOT sex-degrading, but I disagree. Shooting guns are usually done by MEN, and by portraying a women in the very opposite image of what she is THOUGHT to be, it also implies sexism in reverse. MAking sense? [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]

Well...
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Old 02-06-2004, 05:59 AM   #8
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Sting

Finwe, would you say that Eowyn would have agreed with what you are saying about the home-nuturing role of the female? I don't think so...the whole point was that she *didn't* want to leave "the fighting and mucking about" to the menfolk.
I don't use the word sexism very much, myself. It is bandied around so much now, particularly by people saying "I'm not a sexist but..." that I think it has lost meaning.
I have no problem, however, with Tolkien's depiction of women. Some of his female characters are idealised, sure, but then so are many of his male characters. There are plenty of interesting, flawed and complex female personalities in Middle Earth - Morwen, Erendis, Aredhel and even Galadriel as she is depicted in the Silmarillion, UT and so on. (She is a much more idealised figure in LotR, I think.)
And it's important to remember that the early and mediaeval literature which inspired Tolkien was not nearly as hidebound and rigid regarding gender roles as some of you seem to think. The heroic poetry and sagas of Germanic culture feature a plethora of strong female characters: some good, some evil, some in-between.
What both Tolkien and those early writers realised was that literature that merely depicted everyone following traditional social roles and doing exactly what was expected of them would be very boring literature indeed.
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Old 02-06-2004, 07:49 AM   #9
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The question of Arwen's might was raised; I know there's not much about it, even in the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen in Appendix A, but what little there is, I would like to present. As a matter of fact, I have just recently chosen this sentence as my signature quote!
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Arwen remained in Rivendell, and when Aragorn was abroad, from afar she watched over him in thought; and in hope she made for him a great and kingly standard, such as only one might display who claimed the lordship of the Númenoreans and the inheritance of Elendil.
Now, I'm sure it's often been speculated just what this "watching over" constitutes, and it is open to interpretation, since Tolkien (deliberately?) says no more about it. But I would think that she exerts some kind of protective influence over her beloved, who is involved in many dangerous journeys. (Interestingly, even the movie picked up this train of thought.)

Some people speak rather derisively about her (female stereotypical) needlework project, but even that seems to have more behind it than just embroidery. I'd like to speculate that her power gave Aragorn power, combining into what made him the King. The "whole" of those two was definitely more than just the sum of their individual parts.
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Old 02-06-2004, 08:09 AM   #10
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Tolkien was not sexist, if anything he was asexual. In almost no other single work have I found such a high degree of totally absent relationships, unbelievable relationships and plain badly written relationships.

There is not an ounce of passion in the whole book.
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:35 AM   #11
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Lack of passion? What do you call Aragorn's meeting with Arwen? What do you call Eowyn's meeting with Aragorn? With Faramir? Just because Tolkien had no sickeningly romantic scenes in his books doesn't mean that they lacked passion.
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:50 AM   #12
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What do I mean lack of passion? Well let’s see, its not too difficult to pick some examples. In fact I will just use yours.

Aragorn meets Arwen. If by this you mean the scene in ROTK then I can only assume we have vastly different definitions about what constitutes passion. This guy has supposedly gone though endless trials for her, defeated Sauron for her, won a Kingdom for her, and she turns up like a prize in the Price is Right.
I’m sorry but Aragorn/Arwen is passionate in the same sense as Mallory’s King Arthur is.

i.e. Not at all.

Next we have Eowyn meeting Aragorn. Well I don’t really see someone thinking that they love someone but actually being in love with the “lordly” part of his nature that passionate.

And Faramir. The same Faramir who falls in love with Eowyn and she with him in about a week. Sorry but I failed to see any great passion within their chapter. It was more a case of Tolkien saying to himself “well here’s a loose end I can tie up nicely” when he really should have had the balls to have Eowyn die of her wounds.

None of these people know anything of passion. Who of them gives up anything for love? Aragorn? He gives up nothing. So he wins a Kingdom for her. He wanted to win it anyway. Faramir/Eowyn, it’s an affair of convenience.
Arwen giving up mortality for Aragorn, this has more to do with the symbolic echoes of Luthien, the symbolic rebirth of Men than anything else. Certainly we see no sign of the “passion” that could engender it.

It is very illuminating that the most passionate relationships in the book are either same sex (Sam for Frodo) or with objects (Gollum and the Ring). But women?
These guys don’t even know what they are.
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Old 02-06-2004, 10:01 AM   #13
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Honestly, Kronos, what were you looking for in these books? Lara Croft???? Buffy the Vampire Slayer??? Tolkien's world is vastly different from ours. Put up with that. Don't apply modern values to that noble world.
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Old 02-06-2004, 10:23 AM   #14
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Yeah right, because to have passion obviously it has to be Lara Croft or Buffy!?!?

Has your response got anything to do with my post or is going off on tangents somehow relevant?

And the fact that it was not written in the recent past or modern world has nothing to do with it. Achilles shows more passion of Patroclus than does anyone in Tolkien and that is hardly modern.

Or Romeo and Juliet.

Or Tristan and Iseuld.

I could go on but it is clearly a cop-out to use the fact that it’s not a “modern” book as a defence against the near total lack of passion.
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Old 02-06-2004, 10:41 AM   #15
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As I've so recently posted in another thread, we strive for a standard of thoughtful, respectful debate here. So far, this thread is not winning any points in the moderators' hearts.

I don't want to see aggressive posts here or on anywhere else on the board.
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Old 02-06-2004, 03:19 PM   #16
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Sting

Chill out, guys. Listen to some Coldplay. Get a massage.

Lady it's great that Eowyn's character moved you so much. I liked her too. Her marriage to Faramir didn't seem like a match made in heaven to me, but I don't criticize Tolkien for that; Like, Kronos, I rather dislike a story full of neatly-tied ends, especially when they seem forced. I think her future fate was deliberately ambiguous.

Finwe, dude, it's Ok to admit that Tolkien wasn't perfect. I mean, have you read any of his letters? I have, and I distinctly remember a quote about how women learn very well when they're emotionally involved with their teacher and that it might be their only way to grasp complex subjects, or something along those lines. I get good grades, but I don't get emotionally involved with my professors (I might check out their rear-ends when they're writing something on the blackboard, but that's a different story).

Furthermore, it seemed to me that Tolkien was strongly against friendship between men and women, because, in the words of Harry from "When Harry Met Sally": "The sex thing is already out there." I think both Tolkien and Harry were underestimating women when they expressed such similar viewpoints. In Tolkien's case especially, he was afraid of potential sin that might spring from such relationships. I presume it was his sexualized view of women that lead him to this conclusion. Well, if I have the chance to run into the professor beyond the pearly gates, I'll tell him he was wrong, and that the story of my life should be proof enough, and that he was clearly underestimating women's ability to interest men with more than their sexual charms, whether intentionally or unintentionally (I also think he was underestimating men a bit too, but whatever).

Kronos, yeah, romantic passion is lacking in the books (btw, Finwe there's nothing "disgusting" about that stuff, it has its time and place), but the book is choke-full of other nicely drawn elements. Such as Gollum's relationship with the Ring, which you mentioned already.

Anyway, I don't think Tolkien was "sexist" in the strict sense of the word, but neither do I think he was able to understand women nor portray them very well, Eowyn being the one notable exception. I hate to admit this, because it sucks, but perhaps having her die in battle would have made a bolder statement. Though not necessarily a very satisfying one.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:21 PM February 06, 2004: Message edited by: Lush ]

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:21 PM February 06, 2004: Message edited by: Lush ]

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:24 PM February 06, 2004: Message edited by: Lush ]
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Old 02-06-2004, 06:04 PM   #17
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Formerly, I was deliberately abstaining form the discussions of the kind. Yet temptation remains, so here we are.

If I were to add some thoughts of my own (the process I have plunged in head first right now, opening words being preliminary in-breathing, as in sumo wrestling), I should say that all the sexist talk is meaningless by definition, and yet, if I were to judge from what is seen from my Eastern distance as mental weather in the West about the subject, quite right. IMO (without H inside, of course, for what is the worth of having humble opinion?), Tolkien knew very well where did he aim when making Eowyn survive and marry Faramir. For, risking myself being marked sexist, I do follow JRRT in stating that men and women are not equal. I don’t mean status, but abilities as are markedly different, don’t you think? Or, a bit of cryptology to my add, if God wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings.

Well, count to ten (it will help you to build up your anger pressure and than fall down on me with more efficiency) and read on before you start typing.

I do not mean equality before law, or voting or working or any other kind of rights But it is as simple as admitting that in some fields I may be ‘better than thou’ as in others far far behind. It may sound ‘undemocratic’, but democracy on such a level is mere fiction

Eowyn errs, for:

1. She replaced her natural values (feminine and as good as any masculine may be) with what is not natural for a woman (in the circumstances given in ME by the end of TA, we are not talking matriarchies here, which would have been equally good things to live in, I suppose (and are ther in ME as well, nobody never rememers Gollum’s Granny)).
2. Dying in battle defending the house when no man is left to do it is more glorious exactly because there is no one to praise it. Even if I cut out the first phrase (about feminine values), her mental state is far from ideal – she is thirsty after good deeds not because those are good in themselves, but because of glory those are supposed to bring about. If it were some man talking so, the same would apply to him.

Quote:
All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the house of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death
Such a thing said certainly invokes sympathy for her, and I use to sob (ok, at least shed a few tears) over reading the whole passage but if you follow her reasoning, you’ll find that she fears:

Quote:
To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire
I may fear same thing as well, as any human being may, without marking gender differences. I find that most stress here falls on ‘doing greater deeds’ and ‘dying in honour’ than striving for equal rights . She distinguishes herself from other women on the basis of being of the house of Eorl, not on the basis ‘we woman have equal right to fight in the war’. Why naming servant-woman, as a counterweight and not simply servant, than?

And, risking another gale of rotten potatoes in my direction, her survival in a way is just another sample of Tolkien’s Christianity. To remind you of the concept – nothing can live which does not die first, and mortify its un-heavenly parts. In a sense, Eowyn indeed dies on the battlefield, and is reborn in the Houses of Healing to be another person whatsoever. To have her dead on the field would be heathen, and to have her in love with Faramir is far more courageous, for Aragorn at this point of the story is approaching ‘representation of God upon Earth' status. And I would venture further on to say that there are no coincidences with Tolkien, so her rebirth takes place at the precise moment of Eagle coming to Minas Tirith:

Quote:
Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!
which is also full of Biblical reminiscences and, in fact, is religious hymn stating the beginning of the new age and promise of Kingdom to come. Mark words like “your watch hath not been in vain”, and King with capital K, and passage of the Black Gate, and “shall come again” and “all the days of your life”. She is healed.

Eowyn is by far more than she seems, and is a paradigm of all (not only its female part) fallen, yet ‘trying to be good’ humanity, which deems itself following its Lord out of Love, but in fact does it with the other ends in mind, thus having Death, and which is given second chance and help as an act of divine intervention. And ‘incidentally’, Aragorn is the one to pull her out, as well as ‘by coincidence’ a cross-point of hints in the hymn given above. There are no chance meetings in Middle Earth.

As for passionate Frodo, Sam and Gollum, another unnecessary tornado of debate gone amiss. For on a symbolic plane, I daresay, the trio somehow forms itself into one and the same person. Frodo being eternal and Sam and Gollum temporal parts of the personality. If I am allowed to coin an ugly name, I will refer to him as FSG henceforward. So FSG, as well as Eowyn, is part of the fallen humanity (for the Fallen Humanity, refer to Atrabeth Finrod ah Andreth), so he is unable to perform his task and get rid of the Ring. And yet, general principle of all Tolkien is:

Quote:
And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.'
Selfsame principle comes in at the moment, and when Frodo (eternal part) gives in (rendered as claim and than fight with Gollum, mortal and evil part, as contrasted to Sam, mortal and good part), direct Divine Intervention occurs, and Gollum falls down (or, mortal/evil part of the Personality is mortified). And what with Sam representing mortal/good part of FSG, he is also left behind once Frodo goes West. (By the way, whole passage utterly spoiled in the movie, I daresay, for why does Frodo push Gollum in the way he does there?)

Aragorn and Arwen are also highly symbolic, being union of all Free People blood trends into one (except Dwarves, of course, which are another story). Somewhere in the depths of this board archives there is buried good discourse on the subject, so I won’t start developing it again, what with the time being 4 in the morning here.

So there by definition could not have been passionate and erotic relationships in LoTR.

Yet for those holding Tolkien unable to describe man/woman relationship, Kronos, I should recommend Aldarion and Erendis, as found in Unfinished Tales. There is a good read on it.

Yours truly,
H-I

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 7:08 PM February 06, 2004: Message edited by: HerenIstarion ]
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Old 02-13-2004, 08:17 PM   #18
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Most of the points I might make in showing that Tolkien was not a sexist have already been stated; those I shall not elaborate on.

However, in terms of strong female characters, there is one I am surprised was missed. What of Haleth? When both her father and brother died, it was she who led her people. Is this not strong?

HerenIstarion, in one way I agree with you. Men and women are not exactly equal in all ways. For example, the way humans are built, women tend to be weaker in the upper body. However, women also have a longer life expectancy than men.

On one point, though, I disagree. Why should men and women have separate values? Even in worlds such as Arda, surely women and men value some of the same things.
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Old 02-13-2004, 08:43 PM   #19
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They do value the same things. But just like men and women have physical differences, they have behavioral differences. Men "evolved" to find food, fight off predators, etc. Women, having the double burden of children and relative weakness, looked for stability and dependability. That instinct is still present. Men still have a tendency to value honor and glory more than survival. Women value survival more.

Eowyn had grown up in a house full of Men. Her mother died at an early age, so she grew up with very male values. From an early age, she saw that honor and glory were the only things that got attention. Naturally, that is what she would believe. Of course, that whole idea of being better than a serving-woman is natural, since she is of a noble house and brought up to consider herself better than the commoners.

In a sense, I think that Eowyn was stuck in adolescence. She didn't have the opportunity or influences to mentally and emotionally mature into a woman. As an adolescent girl, I completely sympathize with her plight. I understand her fear of being put behind bars until use and old age accept them, until all chance of valor or renown have gone beyond recall or desire, because I go through much the same thing. It is a feeling that many adolescent girls get, that society is trying to cram us into this pretty little box that just doesn't fit. We can't fit into the "ideal" that society forces us into and neither could Eowyn. From a young age she had to tend to her uncle in growing fear. She could see him slowly succumb and what probably hurt her the most was being completely helpless. She was effectively stuck in a cage with nothing to do but watch over an old geezer and put up with a greasy little pervert who was twistedly obsessed with her. How could any woman have remained completely sane? In the year 3014, the year that Grima arrived at Meduseld and Theoden became ill, Eowyn was only 19. Can you honestly expect a 19-year-old to deal with problems like that?

Frodo was Tolkien's message of hope to all those with heavy burdens to bear, and Aragorn was his message of hope to those who were afraid of accepting who they truly were, for whatever reasons. Eowyn was Tolkien's message of hope to all adolescents, telling them that no matter what happens, their day of healing would come.
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Old 02-15-2004, 07:07 PM   #20
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Those wisecracks who think Tolkien is a male chauvinist are probably the same bunch who thought of the eagles bringing Frodo to Mt. Doom.
I completely agree with that.

I have seen this arguement elsewhere, both on the Downs and in the 'real world'. I'll repeat my thoughts here.

For starters, Tolkien lived in a time very different from our own, although it was only half a century ago. Women were not allowed to fight in war, were not allowed to vote (in the U.S) and their career choices were incredibly slim, if they had any at all.

In my opinion, Tolkien had remarkable equalist thoughts with the three Ladies of LotR. All three had incredible power, magically, physically, or simply the prowess of will.

I hear stupid spiels from femminists claiming Tolkien to be sexist because he only has 3 main female characters. (most of these highly enlightened people have only seen the movies; I don't know what they would say if they read the books and saw that the thing all us Downers so abhorred- Arwen made into a Mary-Sue Princess- had never happened.)

One thing some (not all, see above) movie-going femminists did seem to enjoy was the killing of the Witch-King by Eowyn (they like to ignore the fact that Merry was a main factor). They feel like Eowyn is Tolkien's portrayl of a femminist, with her whole "I am no Man!" candor.

But again, a simple look at the pages of Return of the King will tell the curious that this is not the case.

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No man am I! You look upon a woman! Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter...
If Tolkien had wanted her to be a femminist, he would have had her say that she was Theodwyn's daughter, using her mother as the familial line instead of her father.

Anyway, my humble little two cents is that Tolkien was writing a mythological story, one that was supposed to have taken place with all the social order of the middle ages. Three main female roles is staggering, especially when two of them go into battle, Eowyn and Galadriel.
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Old 02-16-2004, 02:06 AM   #21
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Like Finwe, I see Eowyn as a very believable and realistic character in herself, and hardly at all as a paradigm of something. Her healing as symbolical Christian healing strikes no chord with me, because her love story with Faramir is -well laugh if you will,- cute and touching, and this sort of thing does happen in real life. (I agree it is anything but passionate, but then again I think passion may sometimes demean the woman just as much as ignoring her does). Am I really the only one who finds that Eowyn's words
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I will be a healer and love all things that grow and are not barren.
ring oh so true? It is a woman's statement of her womanhood; the passing from rebel adolescent to the understanding of her rightful place in the world. Before, she was brave, now her bravery is not diminished, but she has added wisdom to it. There is bravery also in facing everyday life (I forget who said "Even an idiot an face a crisis, it's the everyday life that wears you down"); if bravery of a different kind (because women and men are indeed not equal in many respects; what would be the fun of it, if they were? ). Tolkien comes close to understanding women through Eowyn, well, as close as any man can. Seriously, what other male writer did a better job? DH Lawrence? C'mon....
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Old 02-16-2004, 04:17 AM   #22
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and hardly at all as a paradigm of something
Point taken, though I suppose that something can be both quite deeply worked out and independent character and yet a paradigm. You don't think I picture Frodo and Sam and Gollum as bodily one person, do you? Just depends on angle of view. Just as married couple is at once merely (I dislike the word 'merely' in this case, yet still) married couple, symbol of Sky Father-Earth Mother union for a heathen and, at the same time, symbol of union of Christ and Church for a Christian.

And one of Tolkien's great gifts is his ability to make his characters symbolise something retaining ther depth and 'believableness' (for a lack of better word) for a reader
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Old 02-16-2004, 07:47 AM   #23
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too true

You know, my fave quote from the WHOLE book is an Eowyn-ism

"Thou fool. No man can kill me." ( Witch King)

"But I am not a man! Eowyn of the Mark stands before you!" (Eowyn)

Eowyn really was one of his most profound and important characters.
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Old 02-16-2004, 11:28 PM   #24
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"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the house of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."
OK, to return to this quote first put forth by Lady of Light in her opening post, I wonder if there is one consideration that has not been touched upon, but may have been implicitly understood by Aragorn. The men of the House of Eorl could certainly fight and die, but if they did die, who would be left to carry on the royal house of Eorl and rule over the Kingdom of Rohan? Certainly there is always the shadow that hangs over any military riding out. If Theoden rides, he risks death. Eomer risks death as well. What hope for the House of Eorl if all are lost? Eowyn, of course!

Heren Istarion's quote:
Quote:
She distinguishes herself from other women on the basis of being of the house of Eorl, not on the basis ‘we woman have equal right to fight in the war’. Why naming servant-woman, as a counterweight and not simply servant, than?
It is precisely because she is of the Ruling House that she has the responsibility to her people, to rule over them, as Theoden bade her do as he rode off to Pelennor. Her exercise of what she calls her "right to fight" is actually a shirking of her responsibility as the last member of the ruling House to maintain the Kingdom in its order and prevent its disintegration should worse come to worst and the Rohirrim fail to win the day. If both Theoden and Eomer had fallen and Eowyn sat in the ruling seat at Edoras, she would have taken up sovereignty of Rohan.

My view of Eowyn's mood at this point is that she has lost hope for not only herself but also her realm. She does not seek even glory in battle; she seeks death. In a way, taking up the rule of Rohan would appear to her to be yet another manifestation of this cage she seeks to escape, where she is trapped in a decaying realm bereft of a future. The poison of Wormtongue penetrated deeply into her soul in this way. It is no wonder the songs of rejoicing affected her the way they did. All was not lost for Gondor, for Rohan and for Middle Earth. When she finally realized Rohan was not a dying realm, she was healed.

As for your other symbolism, HI, the brain reels, and I haven't yet considered it fully. Interesting though!

Cheers!
Lyta

P.S. A final thought on HI's point #2:
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Dying in battle defending the house when no man is left to do it is more glorious exactly because there is no one to praise it.
This is precisely the character of the struggle that Frodo undergoes as he watches the Morgul Host marching out to engage the Men of the West. He watches them and loses all hope, falling into a profound despair because he feels that his task would be wasted because everyone for whom the task was undertaken would be dead. No one would know of what he did. Then, he overcomes this momentary weakness and realizes that the task is necessary in itself, even if no one ever knows, even if he is the last living being.
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Old 02-18-2004, 11:42 AM   #25
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In response to the above ideas of there lacking romance in Tolkien, what about Beren and Luthien? That is a very romantic tale.

Anyway, back to main subject.

Eowyn, as you probably guessed by my avatar, is my favourite character. She was brought up in a male-dominated environment and was probably brought up in the same manner as her brother until she reached maturity and was then treated like a woman. She was cooped up and had to look after Theoden for what must have seemed like a lifetime. Who wouldn't have wanted to be free?

That's my view, anyway.
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Old 02-20-2004, 04:38 AM   #26
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Aldarion and Erendis

Welcome to the Downs, Ellwyn!

Following up on HI's suggestion, I too turned to the tale of Aldarion and Erendis. And I found it interesting that no where in it does Tolkien take sides. Now, this tale was said to have been preserved by the Faithful who escaped from the Downfall of Numenor and thus among the few legends from the Second Age to survive in Gondor; nowhere it is mentioned by whom this tale was written, but I assume it was by a man. Yet it contains some very astute insights into a woman's mind: take for instance Erendis' conversation with Ancalime.
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Old 02-20-2004, 05:11 AM   #27
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a-ha!
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Old 02-20-2004, 11:11 PM   #28
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Tolkien

i believe that tolkien was standing against sexism with the whole eowyn thing. he spoke through the words of the king of rohan that sexism is wrong and that a woman can do so much more.
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Old 02-21-2004, 01:12 AM   #29
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I don't think passion lacks in LOTR it is just that there is no time.
You can't have a full blown romance in the middle of a war that could possibly destroy everything you hold dear. I think there is quite a bit of passion considering everythin that is going on.

I liked Eowyn because I think her character goes against a man's perception of a woman. (or at least one who is sexist) Although at the time I read the book I was too young to understand the whole sexism thing I have re-read the book (DUH) and sexism never came to my mind.

As has been said before I think Tolkien is in a sense is honoring women through Eowyn. The people who claim Tolkien is sexist probably don't realize that it wouldn't fit in the story if a woman was suddenly almost supenatural and saved the day over and over again. If that happened all those cultures Tolkien made would have made no sense and the characters would have lost their reality.

Middle- earth is basically set in a time where society was dominated by the male. Just this simple often mentioned piece of evidence should therefore make all the accustaions false.
If only people had the brains to see that. sigh...

Now I finally got that off my chest
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Old 02-21-2004, 09:56 AM   #30
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Definitely. I think people are used to this modern society with equal rights for men and women. When they are exposed to other kinds of societies, they immediately judge them based on our values, which is an egregious mistake. Societies should not be judged based on others' values. They shouldn't be judged at all.
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Old 03-05-2004, 01:29 AM   #31
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Eye Re: Sexism

The male and female gender never was equal, and never will. I understand the sentiment for political equality, like suffrage and equal education, but nothing more. Nothing could ever change the fact that the two are fundamentally different. Would a woman want the right to have an Adam's apple, or some other things men do? If she would, then that is out of insecurity, if nothing else.

Éowyn was insecure. She thought of herself as of the House of Eorl first, and a woman second. And it pains her to see Théoden, Théodred, and Éomer have all the fun. She thought she was supposed to be their equal. She was not. She was more than that. She was a woman.
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Old 03-05-2004, 09:24 AM   #32
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Prof T... is a Man. But a decent enough one.

I believe in one of the History of Middle-Earth, Prof T mentioned that the Elves are equally talented in both gender. Both could bare arms when needed, but more often, Prof T ascribe the female gender with all the gentler characteristics.

I suppose it would always be true that gender equility is just an illusion, though.
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Old 03-05-2004, 11:53 AM   #33
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Middle- earth is basically set in a time where society was dominated by the male. Just this simple often mentioned piece of evidence should therefore make all the accustaions false.
If only people had the brains to see that
Blimey, you're a bit sure of yourself, aren't you! So what was Galadriel doing with one of the three rings? Why didn't she meekly hand it over to her lord and master, Celeborn?

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Societies should not be judged based on others' values. They shouldn't be judged at all
Hmmm...the moral relativism argument is a bit of a dodgy one...are you saying that we shouldn't judge Nazi Germany, for example, based on our own values that gassing Jews is wrong?

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Nothing could ever change the fact that the two are fundamentally different.
The amazing, fanastic thing about the human race is that we are all different. Pigeonholing people into rigid roles according to what someone else has decreed appropriate for their gender, or height, or skin colour, or whatever, rather than allowing them to flourish according to their own personal skills and talents, tends to make them miserable. Like Eowyn.
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Old 03-07-2004, 09:32 AM   #34
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The 'sexism' argument is always an easy one for people to pin onto something that they do not like. But whether something is indeed 'sexist' is very subjective - after all, are there any rules surrounding what makes a work of art 'sexist'? If you look at it by one person's rules, then LOTR features strong, challenging female characters, by another person's it is sexist simply because it does not have enough female characters.

Now, if Tolkien had set out to write LOTR as a book about relationships, then the argument might stick - but it isn't about that.

I find it irritating that academics (and pseudo-acadmics, i.e. journos) like to search works of art and literature for oblique sexism as a way of criticising them. Far more useful would be to look at the modern media, e.g. women's magazines which are full of so much ephemeral rubbish that we get brainwashed into accepting. Perhaps it's just because I spent years at university listening to the same old lines, but they have become tired arguments to me.

Anyway - Eowyn, she's a complete star in my opinion, one of the most complex and inspiring female characters in literature!
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Old 05-10-2004, 05:20 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lyta_Underhill
It is precisely because she is of the Ruling House that she has the responsibility to her people, to rule over them, as Theoden bade her do as he rode off to Pelennor. Her exercise of what she calls her "right to fight" is actually a shirking of her responsibility as the last member of the ruling House to maintain the Kingdom in its order and prevent its disintegration should worse come to worst and the Rohirrim fail to win the day. If both Theoden and Eomer had fallen and Eowyn sat in the ruling seat at Edoras, she would have taken up sovereignty of Rohan.
Is her responsibility to the House of Eorl and the people of Rohan more important than her survival as a person?
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Old 05-10-2004, 05:37 PM   #36
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White Tree

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Is her responsibility to the House of Eorl and the people of Rohan more important than her survival as a person?
No, but her survival as a person did not hinge upon riding to Pelennor.
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Old 05-10-2004, 05:55 PM   #37
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A cage... To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them...
If you put something in a cage, it withers and dies. And why let Eowyn go in Eomer's place, except that she had not been trained to fight? And why was this? Because she was female. So genetic chance forced her responsibility on her.
And if Eowyn's 'redemption', so to speak, occurred at Minas Tirith, then the survival of her spirit (not soul) required her to ride, to break out. In exersizing her right to fight, she was fulfilling her responsibility to her people as well. What good is there for a ruler if there is no country?
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Old 05-10-2004, 06:30 PM   #38
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In the same mindset, what good is a country with no ruler? "Divided, leaderless." Also, it was possible for the battle to be won (thus Mordor defeated, Rohan safe) but the leaders of Rohan to die still. The leaders' deaths (or even the death of all of the Riders of Rohan) do not guarantee a lost battle and Rohan's destruction - that is a logical fallacy.

It was the obvious choice to make. Eomer or Eowyn... Eomer has been trained all his life, a great soldier. It's not immediately because she was female that he was chosen over her, it was because she was weaker and less-suited for battle (whether this is a consequence of her gender or not). Additionally, her responsibility as a citizen of Rohan is not only to the people of Rohan, but to her king. Whether it turned out for better or worse, she disobeyed him.
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Old 05-12-2004, 10:03 AM   #39
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Quite a thing happened to the English language in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It is astonishing, really, that it happened so quickly and so entirely. I'm talking about the shift from using male nouns and pronouns as generic, to more gender-equal language ("people" instead of "men;" the current morass of pronoun confusion instead of "he" and "his"). We all know, of course, that when Tolkien writes about the race of Men he's not only referring to the ones with Y chromosomes, but the language shift (at least for me) has been so complete that to read the old usage now feels a little jarring. I think that perhaps some people who read Tolkien and find his works to be sexist are reacting not to the portrayal of the female characters but to the language.

It certainly can't be argued that Tolkien wrote women as weak, inferior and/or dependent on men. All of the examples that have been brought up (Eowyn, Galadriel, Goldberry, Arwen, Luthien, Erendis) seem to show the opposite: every time a woman appears in a story she is strong, important, influential. I'd even count Lobelia S.-B. among these ranks--one needn't be pleasant to be influential. It's true that male characters ten to outnumber females: all of the members of the Fellowship, for example, were male (even the pony!), but this too does not imply that women were somehow lesser beings. To turn the argument around: if I write a story in which most of the characters with "screen time" are female, does that make me a man-hater?

And while we're at it, let's not forget Ancalime!
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Old 05-12-2004, 11:34 AM   #40
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I agree, tar-ancalime.
Legolas, of course Eomer was a more obvious choice to go to battle, over Eowyn. But that didn't mean that Eowyn was wrong to want to follow the troops. Firstly, as far as she was concerned the whole thing was over bar the shouting, and she wanted to die with a sword in her hand, rather than a cornered rat in a trap. I'm no fighter, but I can kind of see her point there. Secondly, she was in a very bad way, psychologically, and could not have been expected to make mature, noble decisions.
And if by some miracle the nation of Rohan did survive, there would surely have been someone (a descendant of one of Theoden's four sisters) to take over the reins of government. There had never been a ruling queen in Gondor anyway so why would she expect to take the throne?
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