marriages in The Lord of the Rings are not arranged and are all based
on deep mutual friendship and love between the two characters. The societies
of Middle Earth are patriarchal, but women are valued councilors. The women
demonstrate empathic abilities that the men rely on in their final decisions.
Rather than an end for the woman, marriage is shown as a new beginning for both
male and female.
Tolkien does well in treating women as different
but equal to men. Tolkien's women almost all prove more adept in understanding
emotions and emotional motivations than the men. This talent along with strong
convictions, such as Eowyn's desire to fight in battle as her brother Eomer
does, is used in pivotal roles that further the events of the story. Also to
his credit, the female characters that Tolkien does present in the story are
all well-rounded and not just "pretty faces."
Lady Galadriel is intelligent, empathic and beautiful.
Unlike the males who cannot see the emotional damage of the Ring, Galadriel
recognizes the corruptive powers of the Ring on the Fellowship. It is she who
first warns of the the breaking of the Fellowship. Frodo offers her the One
Ring, because he believes she will not fail in the quest. She refuses his offer,
admitting fear and the temptation of power and greed. The character of Lady
Galadriel is developed in one chapter more thoroughly than some of the male
characters such as Gimli and Legolas that are in the Fellowship and are integral
to the entire story.
Lady Eowyn is a beautiful woman, but also courageous,
intelligent and brash. The older, male characters admire those qualities in
her brother Eomer, but seen them as immaturity in her. The only difference between
them is gender. While the other characters cannot get beyond their assumption
that she is a delicate woman to be protected, Merry's childlike perspective
sees a strong and independent character.
When Eowyn reveals herself to the Lord of the
Nazgul on the battlefield, Merry feeds off of her courage and helps defeat the
Lord of the Nazgul. He would have failed if Eowyn had not shown her own great
courage. Tolkien does an excellent job of portraying female characters as independent
and respected, rather than headstrong, stubborn and impractical.