The Lord of the Rings contains very few women characters.
The characterization and development of these women figures is fairly limited. But if one considers the context and desired result of the story, this apparent lack can be better understood; although it should be said that many consider the number of women and their presentation to be exceptionally written.
It could be argued from an analytical and psychological point of view that 4 things influenced Tolkien's writing of women characters.
1. The death of his mother when Tolkien was 12.
2. His marriage to Edith.
3. Mythic female personages from other stories.
4. His love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
1. One could certainly argue that the loss of his mother and the resulting lack of a motherly figure, led Tolkien to construct the image of an idealized and perfect woman in his understanding and desire; especially if his lasting impression of her was one of a martyr who died passing on the Faith to her children.
This is pure speculation of course, but is something that can occur when one loses a parent or role model early in life. Obviously the reality of married life would have tempered this attitude [as is also shown in his letters] but it could still have remained embedded in his psyche.
Certainly the principle women in Middle-earth are of an ethereal beauty and nobility and are willing to give either their realm, existence and life for what is at stake in Middle-earth. Though this isn't always evident in the writing itself, they are passionate and wilful which is shown by their actions. Based on the descriptions of Tolkien's mother, these do seems in line with her character.
2. As mentioned earlier [The Man], Tolkien's writing of the love story of Beren and Luthien and that of Aragorn and Arwen, seems to have been influenced by his courtship with Edith Brat who became his wife. The trial suffered by both Beren and Aragorn seems to be a romanticized and idealized reflection of Tolkien's own trial of love for Edith when he was at university.
3. The Lord of the Rings and related back-history [Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales] was intended to be a 'mythic saga', and creation of a world of legend and epic struggle. The women personages in the story fall into this context and represent women of royalty and power; women of stature and images of angelic purity, including Eowyn, the Rohan woman who falls for Aragorn.
4. Tolkien, having been brought up close to an Oratory of Priests never lacked for instruction and teaching in Catholic life and Christian doctrine. He held a love of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and had a strong devotion to her. As already mentioned [see Allegory] he credited anything beautiful in his writing to her and wilfully acknowledged her reflection in the character of Galadriel.
But what is interesting to note is the reflection of Mary in many of the prominent female characters of the Lord of the Rings. And who are these characters?
Once again it is worth stressing that this not an attempt to make an direct analogy of Mary in each of these characters but to point out some of parallels and reflections involved; including some aspects of Marian tradition and Mary-like undercurrents that permeate them.
It is also important to note that Catholics do not worship Mary, but they venerate her and honour her, just they would honour their parents. They can praise her in the sense that she is praiseworthy for having responded to Gods call, in much the same way that we can praise a child for some good work.
Mary cannot heal anybody herself or anything of the sort, only God can do that. She can pray for these things. She can bless us with a Motherly Blessing that is a particular grace God has given her, much like a mother or father blessing their children before bedtime.
Tolkien once wrote of Galadriel;
Was this article helpful?