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An Author’s Journey: Women in Epic Fantasy (1, Where are they in Tolkien & Lewis?)

3.13.14 An Author’s Journey: Some Inspirations & Influences, Part 4.10: Women in Epic Fantasy (1, Where are they in Tolkien & Lewis?)

Éowyn vs. the Witch-King of Angmar (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King; art by the Brothers Hildebrandt)

Éowyn vs. the Lord of the Nazgûl, the Witch-King of Angmar (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King; art by the Brothers Hildebrandt)

Good Evening, Everyone!

The Gondolas of Venice

Clarinda Trevisan’s Home (from A.J. Carlisle, The Codex Lacrimae)

Besides living in 12th Century Venice & waiting for me to discover her story, Clarinda Trevisan, a main character in my book, The Codex Lacrimae, purposefully redressed one of the biggest problems I had as a Tolkien reader — the almost complete lack of women in The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Lady Galadriel (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; art by John Howe)

Lady Galadriel (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; art by John Howe)

Oh, to be sure, women pop up here and there in Tolkien’s works, but you’ll have to get to the appendices in the LOTR, or some myths in The Silmarillion before you find some truly sustained attention to women in Middle Earth!  This fact always bothered me. Even before getting married, I’d wondered where in Middle Earth were the females in Tolkien’s works?  But, it was particularly after my wife and I started raising our daughter (& reading her favorite books from my own childhood) that I became very aware of how male-dominated much of the fantasy genre had been when I was growing up!

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Rings, "The Gift of Galadriel" (The Brothers Hildebrandt)

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Gift of Galadriel” (The Brothers Hildebrandt)

Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens

Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens

Now, when Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, & Stephen Sinclair wrote the screenplay for The Lord of the Rings films, they succeeded in elevating the few females of Middle Earth (Lady Galadriel, Arwen, and Éowyn) to greater roles than they’d performed in Tolkien’s books (although I always loved in every version how Éowyn slew the Witch-King of Angmar!)

Rosie (Sarah McLeod) & Sam (Sean Astin) in The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema, 2001)

Rosie (Sarah McLeod) & Sam (Sean Astin) in The Fellowship of the Ring (New Line Cinema, 2001)

I assume because of pacing, the screenwriters for LotR completely omitted the four hobbits’ visit to Tom Bombadil and his river-spirit wife, Goldberry, but thankfully, even Sam’s girl, Rosie, made appearances at the beginning & end of the trilogy.

Illuvatar's Gift to Beren & Luthien: die alone, or live life together as mortals without any guarantee of happiness..." [Tolkien, The Silmarillion, "Tinuviel Reborn," art by Ted Nasmith]

Illuvatar’s Gift to Beren & Luthien: “Die alone, or live life together as mortals without any guarantee of happiness…” [Tolkien, The Silmarillion, “Tinuviel Reborn,” art by Ted Nasmith]

Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) in The Hobbit (2012-2014, New Line Cinema)

Lady Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) in The Hobbit (2012-2014, New Line Cinema)

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 2013)

Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 2013)

However, as with the inclusion of Aragorn’s story of Luthien and Beren in FotR (remember when he was smoking his pipe and telling the tale to Frodo after the Midgewater Marshes?), even slight or referenced female appearances make it clear to me that the film-makers at least were trying to present a vision of Middle-Earth that invited women into the fantasy realms.  We’re seeing the same retro-fitting currently in The Hobbit trilogy, with Galadriel making an appearance as part of the White Council in An Unexpected Journey, and the elf-warrior, Tauriel — a character wholly invented for the films — playing a prominent lead role in The Desolation of Smaug.

Lucy, Susan, & Aslan (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (art by Christian Birmingham)

Lucy, Susan, & Aslan (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (art by Christian Birmingham)

Susan (Anna Popplewell) & Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Walt Disney Pictures, 2008)

Susan (Anna Popplewell) & Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Walt Disney Pictures, 2008)

Similarly, the Chronicles of Narnia films (thus far) have also presented more dynamic versions of Susan & Lucy than I thought C.S. Lewis had achieved in his novels, and I think that these 21st century films were spot-on in bringing Middle Earth & Narnia “up to date” with respect to gender representation.

Next Time:  Fantasy Women in Literature after Tolkien and Lewis!

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