Before anti-masturbation advocate Christine O'Donnell won a Republican Senate primary, she was a Catholic Columnist! And in one 2003 essay, "The Women of Middle Earth," she analyzed the sexy sexy ladies in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. What's her take?
O'Donnell (who, like many Catholic writers, is quite taken with this hobbits-as-great-literature critical subgenre) doesn't buy the conventional, feminist wisdom about the lady characters in these fantasy books. Was Tolkein a sexist, by putting so many of his female characters in such subservient roles to their man-kings? Not at all! says Christine O'Donnell. The lady characters each represent wonderful aspects of "womanly femininity":
The women in Tolkien's trilogy possess such an authentic depth that even the little we do see of them has a profound impact on the whole adventure. Through his female characters, Tolkien offers insight into what it means to be a woman. He strikes a delicate balance between the extreme attitudes of feminism. His female characters, although drastically different from each other in personality, manifest at their core, true womanly femininity.
There's the gentle and hopeful Arwen in whose presence everything becomes peaceful. There's the tumultuous, restless Eowyn, whose free spirit leads her to triumph over her greatest foe. We have the regal matriarch Galadriel whose strength of mind has created a timeless haven for her people. Finally, there's Belladonna Baggins, a hobbit who is mentioned in just four lines out of thousands of pages. Yet, it is from her bloodline that Bilbo Baggins inherits his atypical adventurous streak. This whisper of her presence ignites what has become a legend.
Christine O'Donnell sure doesn't like Peter Jackson's film adaptations, either. Not because they were really fucking long and unedited and could've easily been like twenty hours shorter, which is the truth. But because Jackson squeezed all of the ladies into masculine warrior roles, instead of gentle maidens!
Some critics claim that Tolkien's serene version of femininity is offensive to the modern female viewer. As a modern female viewer, I find the assumption itself offensive. Just because women can be warriors doesn't mean they have to be. Everything about Tolkien's Arwen is tranquil, serene, calming. These qualities are part of the charm of the womanhood she expresses. There are many types of women in the world. Arwen represents one of them. She represents a pillar of calm that is a source of strength for her man. Her great contribution to the war is the strength she provides to the future King.
Peter Jackson's adaptation is contradictory to this image. In Jackson's introduction of Arwen, there is an out of place sauciness that goes against the meekness of her character. It's unnecessary, too much embellishment. It's like putting cheesecake on a lobster tail. Both are great foods, but they do not belong together. Nor is one better than the other.
"Cheesecake on a lobster tail." Okay, we love Christine O'Donnell now. Go on?
This is not to say that Tolkien's ideal woman is necessarily pure and angelic. Consider the significant role he gives to the more down to earth Eowyn, Lady of Rohan. Conflicted and free spirited, one can easily imagine Eowyn with a wicked case of PMS, which is part of why we love her. Still, she remains feminine bearing a sense of pride and dignity.
Do you ladies out there, too, like Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, for her terrible PMS? Discuss. Each Gawker commenter must turn in a 5-7 page single-spaced essay by, say, 4:00 this afternoon? Does 4:00 work? Fine, 3:30 then.
[via Salon; image via Getty]