Everyone has a role to play in the struggle against evil, according to The Lord of the Rings. So while the battle lines of Middle-earth are filled with more men than women, female characters nevertheless demonstrate their strength and resolve in other ways. In this, they take their inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s wife, Edith Bratt, who is played by Lily Collins in the new biopic Tolkien.
“Edith was a very strong-willed woman. She didn’t go off to war, but she fought for what she believed in,” Collins tells EW. Similarly, “a lot of [Tolkien’s] women are very strong-willed and capable of physical combat, but their main strengths are their wits, their intellect, and their ability to stand firm amongst the turmoil.”
Let’s see how this principle applies to some of Middle-earth’s most famous women.
The name of this fabled elven princess is on Bratt’s real-life tombstone, so strong was the correlation between them. But Lúthien didn’t just love the human Beren (whose name is under Tolkien’s on the shared tombstone). She also rescued her love from a hellish prison and enchanted the Dark Lord Morgoth (Sauron’s predecessor and mentor) in order to steal one of the Silmaril jewels from his crown.
The story of Beren and Lúthien has a powerful presence in Middle-earth, befitting its roots in Tolkien’s own life. Aragorn tells their star-crossed love story to Frodo and the other hobbits early on in The Lord of the Rings, and it frames his own relationship with the elven princess Arwen (who, like Lúthien, eventually gave up her immortal life to be with her mortal lover). The full story is recounted in The Silmarillion, but Christopher Tolkien’s recent book Beren and Lúthien also gives an authoritative account of how it evolved over time.
Though she stays far away from the battlefield, Galadriel preserves and protects the elven kingdoms of Middle-earth with her powerful ring Nenya. With her magic mirror, she gives Frodo a useful vision of Sauron. But she could be a powerful force when the need arose. Her strength was made even more apparent in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films, where she directly drove Sauron from his Dol Guldur fortress.
The exception to the rule, Éowyn pulled off one of the most impressive battle feats in all of Middle-earth when she struck down the Witch-king, chief among Sauron’s evil servants. No man could kill him, but she was no man.
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