Some of Tolkien’s critics have chided him for having “conventional” females in his trilogy.
For example, “Why aren’t there more females in Middle Earth?” or “Why are all of the women so virginal and viewed through a soft, fuzzy lens?”
First off, we must remember that Tolkien was a student of early literature, literature which reflects women as more “conventional”. Women’s liberation is, in America, not even a century old and in the course of history, a century is a mere blip on the radar. Either through oppression or choice, women have occupied more domestic roles and the literature of each age surely reflects this.
For Tolkien, it would be no different. He is simply writing in a genre that is usually characterized by submissive, and even at time enchanting females. Females who seemingly walk in slow motion in long, flowy gowns and speak in whispers. Women who
But what of Eowin? What of Galadriel?
Eowin is, where I believe, Tolkien veers from tradition and crafts a female with conventionally male desires – she longs to do battle like the valiant soldiers of her uncle’s army. When she is prohibited, she does not simply resign herself to the declaration, she essentially rebels against it. Oh, you want men? I will make myself a man then. Like great writers such as Shakespeare creating a literary precedence (Twelfth Night, anyone?), Tolkien creates a female of a different fiber. Not only does she dismiss the decree, she hides among her cloaks the hobbit Merry Brandybuck, who has also been denied an opportunity to assist the army.
Here’s the great part: she kills the LEADER of the Nazgul, the Witch-king of Angmar. Not only is her contribution to the fight significant, she strikes the very heart of her enemy. She and Merry, the two characters commanded to stay behind, play a most important role in the battle.
Galadriel, we must also explore. For starters, she is a “co-ruler” of Lothlorien with her husband Lord Celeborn. They rule cooperatively and democratically. Tolkien, in Unfinished Tales claims she is equal even if unlike endowments of Fëanor. She never dons a sword or a pseudonym, but she equips the hobbits with the tools they will need to cross into Mordor and destroy the Ring. Overall, she is honored as wise and kind, beloved of various races of Middle Earth.