My one gripe with Tolkein – and it’s not a unique one – is the lack of chicks in these stories. Here he created a vast mythology, encompassing multiple ages, cultures, and peoples – but his women seem to be an afterthought. It’s as though he figured that in any medieval setting, we’d just assume the women were stuck inside embroidering while the world ended. What gives, J.R.R.?
Samuel Beckett (stay with me now) strenuously objected to casting women as Vladmir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. The justification I’ve heard for this is that he wanted the play to be about a human situation and – like it or not* – in our society the default human is male. That is to say, Lord of the Rings isn’t just about “warrior-bonds** between men,” it’s also about a human struggle to maintain hope in the face of despair. It follows that women don’t need to limit themselves to identifying with Eowyn – we’ve also got the full company of the Fellowship. Which is nice, really – they get more screen time.
It seems like people often limit themselves to identifying with characters of the same gender. I wonder why? I like Eowyn because she, as a woman, takes the risk of fighting in the guise of a man, but I also like Boromir because he struggles with knowing which is the right course of action. I know at least two men who love Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching books, which have a female protagonist – so I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in being able to identify with opposite-gender characters. I still believe that it’s important to have strong female role models in literature (and film and theatre), but after all, Tolkein created a vast mythology, encompassing multiple ages, cultures, and peoples. Maybe I should give him a break. Maybe it’s enough that he created strong human characters.
**Genuine or parodied.