Tolkien News

Middle-earth and Strong Female Characters

With the creation of Tauriel in The Hobbit trilogy, the discussion of female characters within Middle-earth arose once again. In the last decades, various discussions, essays, and even entire books examined Tolkien’s creation and representation of female characters. Middle-earth News has its own ongoing series on this issue (you can read the latest article on Gender in The Silmarillion over here).

A while ago, Kayla Monster raised some interesting facets of Tauriel’s character. Kayla Monster argues, and I agree with her fully, that Tolkien created strong female characters, even if there are not too many of them. And after watching The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, she came, to her own surprise, to the conclusion that Tauriel possesses in many regards similar characteristics of canonically and strong female characters such as Eowyn or Arwen.

Tauriel Evangeline Lilly

Kayla Monster identified seven main points that not only show the similarities between Tauriel (and her implied romance with Kili) and female characters in Middle-earth that are canon, her argumentation also shows why these females can be considered to be strong and well written. For each point, she gives, on her homepage, various examples to affirm her argumentation:

  1.  It’s a cross-species or cross-cultural relationship.  It would actually be easier to count the relationships that are NOT cross-cultural in some way.
  2.  The woman is committing what Corey Olsen calls “an act of grace” – she outranks the man socially but still loves him, at cost to her own position.
  3.  The woman is committing an act of transgression against her father/patriarchal culture. Often she feels trapped, and the romance is a means of escape.
  4. If the man is in trouble, the woman often leaves home to rescue him. If the man does any rescuing, it’s usually by accident or at least with very little planning involved – it’s in the heat of the moment, or he was in the right place at the right time. In the case of Luthien and Beren, she even rescues him from the world of the dead.
  5. The woman is more powerful than the man, particularly in magical power, sometimes in political power.
  6. There’s an element of tragedy in the relationship.
  7. There’s an element of physical and/or mental healing in the relationship. This cuts both ways, with sometimes the man or the woman acting as the healer. The healthiest relationships are the ones with healing as a central theme, and the most tragic relationships are the ones that lack a sense of healing.

Whether one agrees with her argumentation or not, one cannot deny that Tauriel seems to be deliberately created to fulfill many characteristics of Tolkien’s female characters. One common characteristic I like is the point number four. Even nowadays, female characters are far too often portrayed as the helpless ‘Damsel in Distress’. Neither Tauriel, nor characters such as Luthien (and to a certain degree Eowyn) are portrayed as a ‘Damsel in Distress’. They are quite the opposite. I, for one, enjoyed Tauriel on screen and think that she fits right into Middle-earth.

What do you think about these points? Do you have a different opinion about Tauriel? Leave a comment down below!

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2 Comments

  1. Alice Greenleaf says:

    I totally agree with you about Tauriel. She’s not the wise, graceful she-Elf that we were used to see, like Galadriel. She’s more like the elves during the early years, just after the creation of Middle-earth: impulsive, driven by feelings, reckless and so on.

  2. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg says:

    I’m not sure the romance in Hobbit 2 was necessarily supposed to be sexual in nature as most teen fanboys seem to think. It seemed to this observer to be more of an act of tenderness between two enstranged peoples. This certainly is much more in keeping with Tolkiens notion of the nature of elves. (Which certainly shifted over time, as was his prerogative as a writer of fiction.)