In light of recent events, the question of women and their role in Middle-earth arises once again. Even though we have only seen a few seconds of Tauriel, a lot of controversy has been built around her character already. Yes, Tauriel does not exist in Tolkien’s version of The Hobbit (and I can understand Tolkien purists that are unhappy with any changes to the original plot), but the amount of hate that people have specifically towards Tauriel is, in my opinion, growing out of hand. I will not focus on Tauriel and the unjustified criticism towards Evangeline Lilly in this article, however Middle-earth News will be devoting an article on this issue alone in the future.
Whether one likes Tauriel or not, one cannot deny that Tolkien’s book, The Hobbit, lacks female characters. Actually, there are very few female characters in Middle-earth in general. Many accused Tolkien (and his books) for that reason, the lack of female characters and their representation, to be paternalistic, misogynist, or chauvinist. I count myself among those who disagree with the aforementioned accusations.
For a news team that consists entirely of women, the issue of women in Middle-earth is of great interest to us at Middle-earth news. However, this subject is far too complex for one article alone. Instead, I want to devote several articles for individual characters.
Before analysing the definitions of misogyny, chauvinism, or any female character in detail, I have to mention one more thing. During my research, I realised that many tend to confuse the author Tolkien with the narrator of the story and characters within the story. What a character says within the story cannot (and should not) be seen as a representation of an author’s opinion. The same thing applies to the narrator; the narrator is not the author (even though many tend to forget that).
I will try to provide various examples that show how the narration of The Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion do not represent women in a degrading way but how individual (male) characters are chauvinistic or misogynist. For example, the German Tolkien scholar Dr. Frank Weinreich already analysed it in more detail, “whenever [paternalism or chauvinism] appears within The Lord of the Rings, it is not only stigmatized as wrong, the behaviour against paternalistic tendencies has positive outcomes” (cf. Fantasy-eine Polemik).
But what are misogyny, paternalism, and chauvinism? The Oxford English Dictionary defines male chauvinism as “the belief held by some men that men are more important, intelligent etc. than women.” Misogyny or a Misogynist is defined as “a man who hates women,” and paternalism is described as a “… system in which a government […] protects the people who are governed […] by providing them with what they need, but does not give them any responsibility or freedom of choice”.
My first analysis will focus on Eowyn, since she has always been among my favorite characters.When reading The Two Towers and Return of the King one cannot deny the impression that Theoden’s ideology appears to be most likely either paternalistic or chauvinistic It is not my intention to imply that Theoden hates Eowyn or women in general, instead I want to show the division of gender roles within the society shape the relationship between Theoden and Eowyn.
Anyway, I do not want to go into too much detail yet. If you want to know more about Eowyn and other female characters you’ll have to stay tuned!